'Portrait D'une Femme' by Ezra Pound
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Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
Great minds have sought you--lacking someone else.
You have been second always. Tragical?
No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
One average mind--with one thought less, each year.
Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.
And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:
Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion;
Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale or two,
Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
These are your riches, your great store; and yet
For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
In the slow float of differing light and deep,
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that's quite your own.
Yet this is you.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Portrait D'une Femme: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry
If you're a fan of modernist poetry, chances are you've come across Ezra Pound's "Portrait D'une Femme" at some point in your reading. And if you haven't, you're in for a treat. Pound's poem is a tour de force of the modernist movement, full of allusions, disjunctive syntax, and fragmented imagery that work together to create a vivid portrait of a mysterious woman.
At its core, "Portrait D'une Femme" is a love poem. But it's not your typical ode to a beautiful woman. Pound's speaker is less interested in the woman's physical appearance than in the way she moves and interacts with the world around her. He's fascinated by her "gesture swift and vain," her "perfume of disdain," her "laugh a brief bark in the din." This is a woman who commands attention, who moves through the world with a kind of effortless grace and confidence that's both alluring and intimidating.
But what really sets "Portrait D'une Femme" apart from other love poems is its form. Pound was one of the pioneers of modernist poetry, and his work is marked by a rejection of traditional forms and styles in favor of experimental techniques that challenged the reader's expectations. "Portrait D'une Femme" is a prime example of this. The poem is written in free verse, with no regular rhyme or meter. Instead, Pound relies on the rhythms of his language to create a sense of momentum and energy that propels the poem forward.
One of the most striking things about "Portrait D'une Femme" is the way Pound uses language to create a sense of fragmentation and dislocation. The poem is full of abrupt shifts in tone and perspective, as well as sudden interruptions and digressions. For example, in the opening lines, Pound writes:
"Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea, London has swept about you this score years And will another sixty drag and ague Chains of one drowsy tune to snap and snare you"
Here, Pound introduces the image of the Sargasso Sea, a body of water in the North Atlantic that's known for its calm and stillness. This is an unusual metaphor for a love poem, especially one that's meant to celebrate the vitality of a woman. But Pound quickly undercuts the image by introducing the idea of London "sweeping" around the woman for "this score years." The suggestion is that the woman has been trapped in this stagnant, unchanging environment for far too long, and that it's taken a toll on her.
As the poem continues, Pound's speaker becomes increasingly fixated on the idea of movement and momentum. He describes the woman's "gesture swift and vain," and later, her "dance like a blossom in the wind." These images suggest a kind of freedom and lightness that's in sharp contrast to the heaviness and stasis of the Sargasso Sea.
Another key element of "Portrait D'une Femme" is its use of allusion. Pound was famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of literature, and he uses that knowledge to great effect in this poem. Throughout the text, he references everything from Shakespeare to Dante to the Bible. These allusions serve a number of purposes. On one hand, they create a sense of continuity with the past, linking Pound's modernist work to the great literary traditions that came before it. On the other hand, they also serve to disrupt the poem's sense of linear narrative, creating a kind of collage effect that's typical of modernist literature.
For example, in the following lines, Pound alludes to Shakespeare's "Hamlet":
"Her mind Possessed - if she be not Helen - of Troy, At least she holds in curious bondage All Greece, her visible majesty"
Here, Pound is playing with the idea of Helen of Troy, a character from Greek mythology who was famously beautiful and caused a great war. But he's also referencing Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," in which the protagonist famously declares "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." The suggestion is that the woman in Pound's poem is similarly trapped in her own mind, but that she's also powerful and commanding in her own right.
Overall, "Portrait D'une Femme" is a remarkable achievement of modernist poetry. Pound's use of language, form, and allusion all work together to create a portrait of a woman that's both beautiful and haunting. The poem resists easy interpretation, and invites readers to engage with its complexities and contradictions. As such, it's a great example of the kind of poetry that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Portrait D'une Femme: An Analysis of Ezra Pound's Masterpiece
Ezra Pound, one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, is known for his innovative approach to poetry. His works are characterized by their complexity, their use of symbolism, and their exploration of the human condition. One of his most famous poems, Poetry Portrait D'une Femme, is a masterpiece that showcases all of these qualities.
The poem is a portrait of a woman, but it is not a traditional portrait. Instead, Pound uses language to create a vivid image of the woman in the reader's mind. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which describes a different aspect of the woman's character.
The first stanza begins with the line "Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The Sargasso Sea is a region in the North Atlantic Ocean that is known for its calm waters and abundance of seaweed. Pound uses this metaphor to describe the woman's mind, which is deep and mysterious, yet tranquil and serene.
The stanza goes on to describe the woman's physical appearance, using vivid imagery to create a picture in the reader's mind. Pound writes, "Sad as the sea-bird is when, going/ Forth alone, he hears the winds cry/ To the water's loneliness." This imagery creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, which is a recurring theme throughout the poem.
The second stanza focuses on the woman's personality and character. Pound writes, "The light along the hills in the morning/ Comes down slowly, naming the trees/ White, then coasting the ground for stones to show/ The pale fire of the sky to the still water." This imagery creates a sense of calm and tranquility, which is a reflection of the woman's personality.
The stanza goes on to describe the woman's intelligence and wit, using the metaphor of a "silver branch." Pound writes, "A silver branch hooks down from moon/ To light me home again." This metaphor suggests that the woman's intelligence is like a guiding light, leading the way for others.
The third and final stanza is the most complex and abstract of the three. It begins with the line "The dew that flies/ Suicidal, at one with the drive/ Into the red/ Eye, the cauldron of morning." This imagery is difficult to interpret, but it suggests a sense of urgency and desperation.
The stanza goes on to describe the woman's emotional state, using the metaphor of a "black swan." Pound writes, "Black swan, black swan,/ The flies are whirling death dervishes." This metaphor suggests that the woman is in a state of emotional turmoil, surrounded by chaos and confusion.
The poem ends with the line "I have dreamed that you care;" which suggests that the woman is not alone, and that there is someone who cares for her. This line is a reflection of the poem's overall theme, which is the human need for connection and companionship.
Overall, Poetry Portrait D'une Femme is a masterpiece of modernist poetry. Pound's use of vivid imagery, complex metaphors, and abstract language creates a portrait of a woman that is both mysterious and captivating. The poem is a reflection of the human condition, and the universal need for connection and companionship. It is a testament to Pound's skill as a poet, and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in his writing.
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