An Octopus: Water & Ice

An octopus is an aquatic creature, living in water. The octopus of Marianne Moore’s poem is a glacier, made of frozen water– which exists on top of a mountain.

That contrast –between what lives in, and what is made of, water– makes one especially aware of the poem’s mentions of the water in its various physical states, particularly when those states are juxtaposed or contrasted.

Some direct examples of that include the eleven eagles of the West which “hear the roar of ice and supervise the water…”, the “peculiar ponies” that drink “ice-water”, and the fact that “rain falls in the valleys while snow falls on the peak.” Less directly, a “sea of shifting snow dunes” suggests a beach’s sand dunes, like the pool “starred with anemones ” suggests one starred with anemones (or vice versa) — and so on. Such considerations argued for the creation of this list.

Water & Ice in An Octopus

… An Octopus/ of ice

sea of shifting snow dunes

… made of glass that will bend… comprising twenty-eight ice fields

… of an anemone starred pool

… stained transversely by iron where the water drips down

… merging in irregular patches in the middle of the lake

… eye fixed on a waterfall that never seems to fall

… black feet, eyes, nose, and horns, engraved on dazzling ice fields

… Big Snow Mountain is the home of a diversity of creatures

… the water ouzel / with ‘its passion for rapids and high-pressured falls‘/ building under the arch of some tiny Niagra

…used to the unegositic action of the glaciers/ and ‘several hours of frost every midsummer night.’

… they hear the roar of ice and supervise the water/ winding slowly through the cliffs

… among the boulders sunk in ripples and white water

… brought up on frosty grass and flowers/ and rapid draughts of ice-water.

… magnified in profile on the moss-beds like moonstones in the water;

… upon which moisture works its alchemy

… not practiced in adapting their intelligence to eagle-traps and snow-shoes

… it receives one under winds that ‘tear the snow to bits

… from the hard mountain ‘planed by ice and polished by the wind’

rain falling in the valleys, and snow falling on the peak/ the glassy octopus symmetrically pointed

… in a curtain of powdered snow launched like a waterfall.

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