Pound, Imagism & Sentiment: a Poetic Snare, Part 2

The poems which appear simple and short unnoticeably secrete a plethora of attitude and emotion.  An image depicted with particular words, like a photograph, can enable feeling.  Connotations derived from personal, real experiences creep up on the reader like illness.

Continued from previous post, Part 1

An examination of Pound’s poem, The Garden, unravels an entanglement of ideas and emotions during the depiction of a female in a garden.  A wind of suggestion blown by the words of the poem disperses uneasiness, grief, isolation and illness onto the reader.  The poem takes place in three parts.  It begins with the image of a privileged female in Kensington Garden.  It then ventures in the second stanza to a tangent image of impoverished youth.  The final image quickly depicts the female in the garden once again.  The small poem boxes the reader into associations.  The second image of poverty shocks the reader with its apocalyptic, graphic language.  The large leaps the reader must take from stanza to stanza enable mental projections of emotions and revelations to fill in the spaces of the poem.  To understand this precise process the poem must be examined closely.  Pound states in his manifesto of Imagism, “To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation” (Coffman 9).  Therefore, in the study of Pound, each word must be observed and considered with care and astuteness.

The Garden begins: “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall/ She walks by the railing of a path in Ken-/sington Gardens,/And she is dying piece-meal/ of a sort of emotional anæmia” (Pound 83).  The poem commences with a strong simile.  The subject of the poem, the female, arrives in the second line.  The first line displays the item that the female is “Like.”  This ties the depiction of the female to an object, an object that unquestionably, immediately discharges connotations.  The female is “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall,” (Pound 83).  Firstly, the term “skein” perpetuates the mind to move in the direction of manufactory.  This alliance to fabrication demonstrates a lack of power in the behavior of the female.  A “skein” is used in the assemblage of clothing and cloth.  A “skein” is also only a part, or a component of an item that has not yet been fabricated.  This displays incompleteness in the object to which the female subject is being compared, linking the female subject to immaturity and pliancy.  The image is more precise; she is like a “skein of loose silk.”  The chosen fabric exhibits luxury, expense and delicacy (this is Pound’s divulgement of the subject’s class too).   Silk is a fabric that appears unique and exotic.  It is also not a durable fabric.  Silk is flimsy and easily corrupted with snags.  The image in the simile is even more precise, “a skein of loose silk blown against a wall.”  The subject is compared to a piece of extremely delicate piece of cloth used for manufacture that is “blown against a wall.”  The image of a cloth against the wall conveys a lack of strength, a submissiveness, a weakness, and an entrapment.  Cloth “blown against a wall” cannot escape its destiny without the change of weather, or the stopping of a fan.  The fate of the cloth solely depends on the actions around it.  Thus, Pound conveys the position, the persona of the female subject without overtly displaying adjectives such as weak, compliant, forced, and trapped.  It is through the invisible process in the readers’ minds that the situation of the female is disclosed.  This process supports Pound’s statement: “Beyond this, men think & feel certain things.  & see certain things not with the bodily vision” (Witemeyer 11).

Once Pound evokes the female’s placement in the world with an image in the first line, he continues to paint her actions, “She walks by the railing of a path” (Pound 83).  The picture of a woman walking by the railing directly correlates with her linkage to “a skein of loose silk blown against a wall.”  The attachment to railings arouses connotations to the sickly, the weak or the elderly.  These suggestions toward the feeble accelerate and then pause at the end of the stanza: “And she is dying piece-meal/ of a sort of emotional anæmia” (Pound 83).  The language is a climax of associations.  She not only walks fastened to a railing, but also she is “dying piece-meal/ of a sort of emotional anæmia” (Pound 83).  Immediately the reader associates death and grief.  She dies “piece-meal;” she dies gradually as one that is ill would.  Finally, Pound discloses the profound sickness: “emotional anæmia.”  This is, of course, an Imagist’s invention.  Anæmia is a sickness which arises from a “lack of.”  Pound discloses what she lacks: emotion.  It is the reader’s choice now to decide why.  It is Pound’s intention to impose the truth: the emotional sickness is diagnosed with the cornering of the female subject.

Once the reader reaches the culmination of the first image, the reader is thrust into a new image sans delicacy or flowery tongue.  The second stanza depicts an opposed image: “And round about there is a rabble/ Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable, infants of the very/ poor./ They shall inherit the earth” (Pound 83).  The isolated image of the first stanza is juxtaposed by the second stanza’s illustration of a mob of impoverished infants.  Indeed, the typical images associated with infants are disposed of in this poem.  Pound not only paints a new image, but also he paints a realistic image.  The infants are not feeble, like the female subject.  The infants, on the contrary, are “filthy, sturdy, unkillable.”  The adjectives evoke alarm.  An “unkillable” baby descends into the fear of society’s upper crust; it enables coalition with the supernatural, the immortal, and the inexplicable.  This terrifying image peaks in the final line of the stanza: “They shall inherit the earth.”  Immediately preceding this final line is a line which consists of one word: “poor.”  The isolation of the word allows the reader to dive into mental organization.  It is as though the word “poor” itself collaborates with Pound, doing the work of exposing societal situation, demonstrating the fear of poverty as an authority.  Indeed, Pound, aware of all the involuntary mental connection that will occur in the mind during the reading of this line, uses this poetic state of affairs to his advantage.  The poor, human as any upper-class person, will also, “inherit the earth.”  The choice of the word “inherit,” not only evokes matters of death, but also it is typically a word used amongst the wealthy, for it is the wealthiest of folks that “inherit” items and money.  In this stanza, Pound pulls from the web of word connotations to evoke fear in the context of reality.

Finally, Pound plays with the image relations of the first two stanzas to end the poem with an exhibition of emotional juxtapositions.   The final stanza terminates the poem with a more direct linkage to emotion: “In her is the end of breeding./  Her boredom is exquisite and excessive./  She would like someone to speak to her,/ And is almost afraid that I/ will commit that indiscretion” (Pound 83).  In the same way that Pound ends the second stanza with juxtaposing language, associating the “poor” with the term “inherit,” he associates this aristocratic female with the term “breeding.”  The word, “breeding,” is technical in meaning.  It implies the reproduction of a preferred type of being.  An unexpected schema of ideas flourishes in the reader’s mind.  “In her is the end of breeding,” induces another connection to apocalypse, evoking an “end,” a termination of her kind.  Pound then describes her mental state: “Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.”  “Boredom,” a typically immeasurable word, is described as an object: “exquisite and excessive.”  “Exquisite” and “excessive” are usually associated with luxurious items.  Pound endorses the mental state as a calculable object.  In doing so, a complex idea emerges.  Aristocratic aspiration s to appear a certain way (bored) are revealed as an impossibility with the depicted of something intangible as tangible (boredom cannot be measured, yet there is no limit to how bored this upper-class woman should appear).

In the terminating lines of the poem, Pound finally incorporates words of emotion: “She would like someone to speak to her,/ And is almost afraid that I/ will commit that indiscretion” (Pound 83).  Here, Pound overtly shows the impracticality of the aristocratic ambition, the futility of attempting to appear one way, but to think otherwise.  The female subject of the poem remains caught in an awkward state of uncertainty and fear.  She longs to step outside the loneliness, “She would like someone to speak to her,” but is paused with fear to enact upon this desire, “And is almost afraid that I/ will commit that indiscretion.”  While, the reader does not exactly know what causes this fear, the reader does have a rich collage of images that Pound has gathered in the poem.  The reader can associate the reasons for his/herself.  The female, after all, is “blown against a wall,” is “dying piece-meal,” and contains within her “the end of breeding.”  The image of the feeble, fearful female as a “skein of loose silk” encompasses an inclination for the extravagant and the manufactured.  The contradictory, unnatural state of the poem’s female subject exposes the pointlessness of the contrived.  The female, herself, is dissembled, alongside the virtues of flowery delicate representations.  Also, the title of the poem, “The Garden,” exemplifies the counterfeit virtue of the flowery.  A garden typically would attract a reader looking for a poem about the constructed beauty of a garden.  A garden is lovely in an unnatural way.  Each plant is planted to fit someone’s particular schema of how nature should be and not what it is.  Pound deconstructs a viewer’s impulse to see something beautiful in a garden.  After reading The Garden, the typical vision of a garden is shattered.  The image of the garden comes to represent the futility of itself, the unnaturalness of it. The poem begins with an image of something beautiful and ends with the exposure something unnatural and juxtaposed, the upper-class female’s state of mind in the contrived atmosphere of Kensington Garden.

It should be noted, that while Pound expresses the female subject’s emotional state in the end of The Garden, he does not impose the mentioned emotions onto the reader.  The feelings that are meant to be felt (isolation, apocalypse, grief, unnaturalness, illness, revelation) by the reader are the ones that are not overtly mentioned, but invisibly displayed through Pound’s assemblage of images.

Part 3 soon (hopefully!) to come…

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One thought on “Pound, Imagism & Sentiment: a Poetic Snare, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Pound, Imagism & Sentiment: A Poetic Snare, Part III | productiveprofessor

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