William Butler Yeats
The Wind Among the Reeds. 1899
6. Breasal* the Fisherman

Although you hide in the ebb and flow
Of the pale tide when the moon has set,
The people of coming days will know
About the casting out of my net,
And how you have leaped times out of mind
Over the little silver cords,
And think that you were hard and unkind,
And blame you with many bitter words.

* Breasal the Fisherman - Yeats seems to have employed the name "Breasal" as a generic term for the genus "fisherman". In the 1903 North American Review version of his play The Hour Glass, the Fool tells the wise man: "Bresal the Fisherman lets me sleep among the nets in his loft in the winter-time because he says I bring him luck... (VPI, 584). But his poem may be inspired by Echtra Bhresail or "Bresal's adventure" recorded in The Book of Leinster and referred to in O'Grady's Silva Gadelica. "On adventure bent, "Bresal "dived down into Loch Laoigh, under which he abode for fifty years."
Wherever Yeats found the name, Breasal is a man on a quest and the object of the quest is a mysterious fish. Grossman makes much of the fact that Yeats later shifted the emphasis of the poem from the persona to the object by retitling it "The Fish", thus calling attention to the fish as the alchemical symbol for "the prima materia, the lapis philosophorum, the ultimate identuty of the self..." Th fish is also a Celtic symbol of perpetuity or reincarnation as recorded in "The Wisdom of the King" (SR, 21; VSR, 31), a symbols for Christianity.

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