Ezra Pound: Poems

Ezra Pound: Poems Summary and Analysis of "A Virginal" (1912)


The speaker of this poem is a man shouting at someone, most likely a woman, because he already has a virgin lover who has "bound [him] straitly." He says he will not spoil this happiness by loving another, then goes on to describe his love, the magic surrounding her, and what she has done to him. He is adamant, and in the second half of the poem, he tells the first woman to go away again because she will never be as good as his virgin girl.


"A Virginal" is named for a small keyboard instrument played by young girls in the 16th and 17th centuries. Pound wrote this poem in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet, with fourteen lines and two distinct parts. The first part is called the octave, and the second part is called the sestet. The octave always has an "abbaabba" rhyme scheme, but the sestet can vary; in this case, Pound uses "cdeecd." The break between the octave and the sestet occurs after line 8, after which Pound begins again with the speaker's cry of rejection, "No, no! Go from me."

Pound places a great deal of emphasis on the purity of the speaker's beloved. The title clearly indicates suggests that she is a virgin, and Pound peppers the rest of the poem with additional images of purity. This virginal woman has brought a new lightness into the speaker's life; she is "soft as spring wind" and there is "magic in her nearness."

Furthermore, the final line of the poem associates her with the color white, which commonly symbolizes purity and innocence. Pound also associates her with several images of spring, which is the season of new growth and budding flowers. Virgins are often associated with buds that have yet to bloom.

However, the speaker is pulled in two different directions. He is so besotted with his virgin that he feels pain while in the presence of another woman. He describes his virgin as having "bound" him with her "magic." He even uses sexual imagery, referring to his "sheath", but claiming that he cannot "spoil it" with "lesser brightness." This indicates that while the virgin herself is pure, the speaker is wrestling with his sexual urges.

At the end, speaker describes the past as "winter's wound," and says his virgin staunches it, bringing springtime's shoots and branches. The speaker ultimately finds this virginal, blossoming springtime more alluring than seasons of "lesser brightness," or pursuits that are less than pure. He believes that his virgin will be able to erase his past sins.