The title character of the poem "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly," Hugh is a representation of Pound himself. He is a struggling poet who appreciates aesthetics and the beauty of poetry in a modernized world that does not view his literature in the same light. Pound uses the character of Hugh to embody his poem's message: beauty and art are just as vital to culture as politics and power.
Whitman was a real-life American poet who is the subject of Pound's poem "A Pact." In the poem, Pound admits that he has criticized Whitman for the "crudity" and rawness of his writing and acknowledges the older American poet's influence on Pound's own poetry.
The Woman, "Portrait d'une Femme"
Pound compares the female subject of "Portrait d'une Femme" to the Sargasso Sea. Great minds seek her out and offer her secrets, ideas, and knowledge in exchange for her shallow, gaudy tales and useless facts. Despite this ongoing ephemeral exchange, however, she does not truly have anything to call her own. Scholars have suggested that Pound's inspiration for this character was Florence Farr, a British actress.
The River Merchant's Wife
The River Merchant's wife narrates Pound's translation of the Chinese poem. She is only sixteen, and her husband left her to go down the river and trade with other villages. He has been gone for five months, and she longs for him to return.
The River Merchant
The husband of the narrator of "The River-Merchant's Wife." He is a trader who sailed off down the river to trade with other villages and has been gone for five months. He and his wife met as children, when he walked by playing horse on stilts while she was pulling flowers at the front gate.
"A Girl" tells the story of Apollo and Daphne. Per the Greek myth, when Daphne turns into a tree, Apollo vows to hold her sacred even though he thinks her decision to change from a woman to a tree is foolish. Alternatively, the Apollo character could be interpreted as an adult man speaking to a child who imagines that she is a a tree. The man encourages the child to explore her imagination even though the world thinks it foolish.
In Greek mythology, Daphne elects to transform herself into a tree in order to escape Apollo (the Sun God)'s romantic pursuit. The first part of "A Girl' details Daphne's transformation. An alternate interpretation is the Girl is a child who imagines that she is a tree despite the societal pressure on older children to abandon such fantasies.
The Speaker, "A Virginal"
The speaker in "A Virginal" is enamored with a young virgin girl who has "bound" him with her "magic," and as a result, he can't even stand to be in the presence of another woman.
The Girl, "A Virginal"
This young girl is the love interest of the speaker and subject of the poem "A Virginal." The speaker describes her as pure, innocent, and very beautiful.
John Adams was the real-life second President of the United States. Pound dedicates an entire section of Cantos to Adams because he saw him as the model of a good political leader. Pound also associated John Adams with other leaders he revered, notably Mussolini.
Throughout the Cantos, Pound uses Odysseus, the mythological hero, as a metaphor for himself. The Cantos begin and end with Odysseus's journey, which Pound meant to represent his own journey towards affecting change in the way society perceives art.
Pound centered the Leopoldine Cantos around the 18th century Habsburg Archduke of Tuscany and his reforms.
Ezra Pound: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Ezra Pound: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.