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I have some lines from my dad's favourite poem, but they’re jumbled as he was 94. The lines may not be in the correct order. He couldn’t remember the writer, and several internet searches have not helped, except they landed me here. We’d like to find it so we can read it at his remembrance service after covid. Here’s the lines I have:

Today I saw 10,000 fish observing me with solemn eyes. In the aquarium.

And fish that floating on the tide transparent show their whole inside. Not Ray fish these but should you wish they may be termed the X-ray fish

The salamander whose sole desire to be an axolotl fills its bosom with (?)exotic thrills

His life's ambition forced to throttle
It still remains an axolotl

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This was already identified by Quassnoi here!

The poem is ‘The Water Zoo’ by “Evoe” (a pseudonym for E. V. Knox), published in Punch, 9th April 1924. The fragments your father remembered were well-recalled! Here’s how they correspond to the original lines:

  1. “Today I saw 10,000 fish observing me with solemn eyes. In the aquarium.”

    To-day I have seen all I wish,
    For I have seen four thousand fish,
            Inscrutable and rum,
    Oberving me with solemn eyes
    That hold no anger or surprise,
            In the Aquarium.

  2. “And fish that floating on the tide transparent show their whole inside. Not Ray fish these but should you wish they may be termed the X-ray fish”

    And fish that, floating on the tide
    Transparent, show their whole inside:
    Not ray-fish these, but, should you wish,
    They might be termed the X-ray fish;

  3. “The salamander whose sole desire to be an axolotl fills its bosom with exotic thrills”

    And salamanders dark and dire,
    And axolotls, whose desire
    To be a salamander fills
    Their bosom with ecstatic thrills;

  4. “His life’s ambition forced to throttle It still remains an axolotl”

    His life’s ambition forced to throttle,
    He still remains an axolotl.

The full text of the poem is available via archive.org.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you so much!! I did see the previous link but when I clicked it all I got was something I think written in Greek!?!?? – Tilly Sep 30 at 15:50
  • But that’s brilliant, I’m sorted now for his remembrance service - I wonder where he got it as he was born in 1924 when it was published... – Tilly Sep 30 at 15:54
  • The poem was collected in several anthologies. – Gareth Rees Sep 30 at 16:46

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