A silent heart beats inside one of Pound’s terser works, Alba
Continued from Part III
The title of the poem, Alba, steps away from the function of the previously discussed titles. Instead of sketching an unlikely setting, the title articulates a style, and the reader can rightfully expect what is to come. The poem is named after a type of traditional love poem conceived by one of Pound’s cultural intrigues, the Troubadours of the twelfth century. An Alba is a type of Troubadour poem about lovers parting at daybreak. Pound discusses Troubadour work in his essay, Troubadours–Their Sorts and Conditions from his collection of essays, Make It New. Pound wrote of their style: “The speech is, however, laconic” (29). Pound’s poem, Alba, like a Troubadour’s Alba, consists of “laconic” idiom. Also, Pound’s fixation on the exact and the real correlates with his vision of the Troubadours: “No student of the period [twelfth century] can doubt that the involved forms and the veiled meanings in the ‘trobar clus’, grew out of living conditions, and that these songs played a very real part in love intrigue” (Pound 24). Pound’s inclination to the exact expression of real experience through the art of poetry intertwines with his comments on the Troubadour. The phrases, “grew out of living conditions” and “very real part in love intrigue” elucidate Pound’s preferred combination: reality and emotion (more rightly stated: the emotion born in moments of reality). Pound’s perceptions about the Troubadour merge and amass into a statuette of words with an affinity for both Pound and the Troubadour. The poem is ever so small: three lines.
Regardless of its smallness, the poem, Alba, mirrors the complex of emotions that originates during the disjointing of a romantic union. Again, like The Garden, The Tea Shop and like The Bath Tub, Alba begins with a pleasant image: “As cool as the pale wet leaves/ of the lily-of-the-valley” (Pound 109). The word, “As” compels the mind to think in the mode of comparison, but before the reader can compare, he/she must visualize the image. Again, temperature (“As cool as”) like in The Bath Tub initiates an unavoidable visceral response. Coolness is not discomfort, nor is it warmth though, warmth being the preferred, typical temperature of romance. A lack of warmth, like in The Bath Tub, equals a loss of heat. Heat links to passion in The Bath Tub. A similar implication corresponds in Alba. “As cool as the pale wet leaves” triggers associations of color and touch. Paleness can be associated with newness, but also illness and more usually: death.
“Wet leaves” generates connection with the dew of morning. Also “wet leaves” are flimsy, frail like one wrapped in the arms of death or sorrow. The initial image is multifaceted, camouflaging loss and death of passion in the environment of the morning, all corresponding to the title, Alba, exactly. The image is drawn with more detail: “leaves/ of lily-of-the-valley” (Pound 109). Unlike the hyphens in The Bath Tub, the use of the hyphen in Alba emanates a melodious, lyrical attribute. The repetition of sounds amidst this joining of words pulls sadness out of the reader, once the reader recognizes the beauty of this instant is over and done-with. The final line radiates this sentiment: “She lay beside me in the dawn” (Pound 109). A feeling of closeness and intimacy arouses in the reader. This sentiment is swiftly severed in the context of the rest of the poem. This three line poem, under the leadership of its title, flickers with the sadness of departure. Though the last line completes the poem with image of unity, “She lay beside me in the dawn,” the title, “Alba,” enlightens the reader. A reader recognizes that the stillness and harmony of the instant will immediately dissolve at this moment (“in the dawn”). This poem sophisticatedly shows the power of poetic density. The picturesque instant, as life in a quick death, will disappear leaving only the solitude of the speaker. Sadness, loss, and solitude are not mentioned, yet they fly from the poem like fruit flies out of an old can. Imagism yields sentiment.
To be continued…