'Ancient Music' by Ezra Pound

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Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
and how the wind doth ramm,
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm,

Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Ancient Music by Ezra Pound: A Deep Dive into the Poem

Have you ever read a poem and felt like you were transported to a different time and place? Like the words on the page were more than just words, but a portal into another world? That's how I felt when I first read "Ancient Music" by Ezra Pound.

This poem, written in 1913, is a masterful work of imagism. It's a short poem, only twelve lines, but each line is packed with meaning and imagery. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes and symbolism in "Ancient Music" and how they relate to Pound's broader body of work.

The Poem

Before we dive into the analysis, let's take a moment to read the poem in its entirety:

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm,
Sing: Goddamm, sing Goddamm, DAMM.

At first glance, the poem seems nonsensical. The spelling is archaic, and the language is crude. But when we look closer, we can see that there is a method to Pound's madness.


The Title

Let's start with the title: "Ancient Music." Pound was known for his interest in ancient literature and music, and this poem is no exception. The title sets the tone for the entire piece, evoking a sense of timelessness and tradition.

The First Line

The opening line of the poem is "Winter is icummen in." The spelling is old English, and the word "icummen" means "come." This line sets the scene for the rest of the poem. We can imagine a cold, bleak winter landscape, with the wind howling and rain falling.

The Second Line

The second line is where things start to get interesting. Pound writes, "Lhude sing Goddamm." The word "lhude" means "loud" and "Goddamm" is an obvious reference to "God damn." The juxtaposition of these two words is jarring, and it sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Pound is not interested in traditional poetry; he wants to shock his readers and make them think.

The Third and Fourth Lines

The third and fourth lines are a vivid description of the winter rain. "Raineth drop and staineth slop" is a perfect example of Pound's imagist style. He doesn't just say "it's raining"; he gives us a sensory experience of the rain, with its drops and stains.

The Fifth Line

The fifth line brings us back to the wind. "And how the wind doth ramm!" The word "ramm" means "strike," and we can imagine the wind striking against the windows and doors.

The Sixth through Eleventh Lines

The next six lines are a repetition of the second line, with slight variations. Pound wants the reader to focus on the word "Goddamm." By repeating it, he emphasizes the blasphemy and irreverence of the poem.

The Final Line

The final line, "DAMM," is a final punctuation mark on the poem. Pound wants to leave the reader with a sense of shock and confusion. The poem doesn't end with a neat resolution; it leaves us with a sense of discomfort and unease.

Themes and Symbolism

Now that we've looked at the poem line by line, let's explore some of the themes and symbolism in "Ancient Music."

Religion and Blasphemy

The most obvious theme in the poem is religion and blasphemy. Pound uses the word "Goddamm" six times in the poem, and it's clear that he's not a fan of organized religion. Pound was an atheist, and he believed that religion was a tool used by the powerful to control the masses. By using such a vulgar word in his poem, he's making a statement about his rejection of traditional religious values.

Nature and the Seasons

Another theme in the poem is nature and the seasons. Pound uses vivid imagery to describe the rain and wind of winter. The natural world is a powerful force in "Ancient Music," and it serves as a counterpoint to the religious themes of the poem. The seasons are cyclical, and they remind us of the passage of time and the impermanence of all things.

Tradition and Modernity

Finally, "Ancient Music" is a commentary on tradition and modernity. Pound was part of the modernist movement, which rejected the traditional forms of poetry and art. In this poem, he's using archaic language and themes to subvert the traditional form of the sonnet. Pound is saying that the old ways are not necessarily better than the new ways; in fact, they can be just as vulgar and profane.


In conclusion, "Ancient Music" is a masterful work of imagism. Pound uses vivid imagery and archaic language to explore themes of religion, nature, and tradition. The poem is a commentary on the modernist movement and a rejection of traditional forms of poetry. Although it's only twelve lines long, "Ancient Music" is a powerful and thought-provoking work that continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Ancient Music: A Timeless Ode to the Power of Art

Ezra Pound's "Ancient Music" is a poem that speaks to the timeless power of art. Through its vivid imagery and evocative language, the poem explores the transformative potential of music and poetry, and the ways in which they can transport us to a higher plane of existence.

At its core, "Ancient Music" is a celebration of the beauty and power of art. Pound begins the poem by describing the "wilderness of mirrors" that surrounds us, a metaphor for the confusion and chaos of modern life. But amidst this chaos, he suggests, there is a source of order and harmony: the music of the past.

The poem's title itself is a nod to this idea. By calling the music "ancient," Pound is emphasizing its timelessness and universality. This is not just music from a specific era or culture, but a kind of music that transcends time and place.

Throughout the poem, Pound uses vivid imagery to evoke the power of this music. He describes the "flutes of Arcady" and the "lutes of Carthage," conjuring up images of ancient civilizations and their music. He also speaks of "the singing of Mount Abora," a mythical place that represents the pinnacle of artistic achievement.

But it's not just the music itself that Pound celebrates. He also emphasizes the transformative power of art, and the ways in which it can transport us to a higher plane of existence. He writes:

"An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress,"

Here, Pound is suggesting that without art, life is meaningless and empty. But when we engage with art, we can transcend our mortal limitations and connect with something greater than ourselves.

This idea is further emphasized in the poem's final lines, where Pound writes:

"Pull down thy vanity, Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail, A swollen magpie in a fitful sun, Half black half white Nor knowst'ou wing from tail Pull down thy vanity How mean thy hates Fostered in falsity, Pull down thy vanity, Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity, Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down thy vanity, Learn of the green world what can be thy place In scaled invention or true artistry,"

Here, Pound is urging us to let go of our egos and embrace the transformative power of art. He suggests that our vanity and our petty concerns are nothing compared to the beauty and power of the natural world and the art that it inspires.

Overall, "Ancient Music" is a powerful ode to the beauty and power of art. Through its vivid imagery and evocative language, the poem celebrates the transformative potential of music and poetry, and the ways in which they can transport us to a higher plane of existence. It's a timeless message that speaks to the enduring importance of art in our lives, and a reminder that even amidst the chaos and confusion of modern life, there is still beauty and order to be found.

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