Ezra Pound: Poems

The Sargasso Sea Femme

In "Portrait D'une Femme", Ezra Pound contrasts the female inclination towards fragmentation, inertia and subservience with the corresponding male characteristics of spontaneity, wholeness, and dominance in an effort to underscore the threat posed by women who seek to drag the "man's world" down into the depths of a cultural Sargasso Sea. However, Pound also recognizes that women are, ultimately, their own individual entities, and uses the shifting female figure to reveal the emptiness of the chaos that characterizes the metropolitan "new" world.

Unlike Eliot, who considers both sexes to be "hollow", Pound sees women as binary opposites of men. The sexes are the "differing light and deep" (27), the "nothing" and the "whole" (28), the "dimmed wares" and the "brighter stuff" (5, 26). Unlike his spontaneous, emotionally fulfilled man, Pound's woman is a stationary, empty being, incapable of progress because there is no trajectory point inside her vacant frame. She is Galatea to Pygmalion, a "wonderful old work" (22), an "idol" preserved with ambergris (23), unable to move, breathe, or think independently of...

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