Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Analysis of Ezra Pound's "The Garden"

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Ezra Pound, an imperative imagist poet and fascist supporter (Gray), may have alluded to his personal support of fascism and condemnation of democracy (and his anticipation of its downfall after World War II) through his poem “The Garden.” In Pound’s eyes, the demise of aristocracy would be paralleled with the hopeful downfall of democracy, and the rise of the next era (tyranny) would correspond with the encouraged ascension of fascism. This theme of the disintegrating aristocratic class is illustrated through meaningful similes, allusions, puns, and paradoxes.

The first stanza introduces the poem by conveying the noblewoman as beautiful and fragile, but immediately shatters the illusion of beauty in the next two lines “And she is dying piece-meal /of a sort of emotional anemia” (-4). The word anemia, meaning lack of vitality, is the first depiction of the theme of the poem, in that it suggests the death of the upper class. Pound’s diction in line 1 (silk) establishes the woman as noble, as well as shows the reader in the simile (also in line 1), “Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall,” that she is greatly restricted in both her social, and later her romantic life.

Stanza two introduces the “rabble” of the lower class. Through these three lines, the theme of the dying aristocracy is further conveyed by the contrast to the “unkillable infants of the very poor” (6). The powerful allusion in line 7 foreshadows the domination of the earth by the lower class “They shall inherit the earth.” In the bible, the line reads verbatim as, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Meek, of course, refers to the lower class of the very poor and the prophesy that they shall be rewarded later in life (Froula).

In the third stanza, the theme is finally established with the pun in line 8. The phrase “end of breeding” illustrates both the woman’s ill fate of being unable to give birth to a child, as well as the end of the era of privilege and aristocracy.

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Using a paradox, the fourth stanza clearly rationalizes the theme of the depleting aristocracy by recognizing the accepted philosophy of the noble class “She would like someone to speak to her, /And is almost afraid that I /Will commit that indiscretion.” While the lonely woman is longing to speak to someone, it is morally and socially unacceptable for a woman of noble stature to associate with anyone outside her own class. This stanza establishes that the ancient ritual of courtship will expire along with the aristocratic society, and also fully elucidates the reasoning behind the theme of the poem.

In Pound’s words, “The Garden” was compose[d] in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome(Gray). As a result, “The Garden” can be defined as a prominent imagist literary work in terms of its free verse meter and its direct approach to the theme of the dying aristocracy (Froula). Pound’s contributions to the world of poetry through such distinctive poems as “The Garden” were unprecedented. Although he abandoned the Imagist movement only two years after its birth for Vorticism (Gray), Pound’s instigation of the Imagist movement spawned the discovery of many remarkable poets, including William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and T.S. Eliot, each of whom would follow in Pound’s footsteps, making Imagism a prominent literary movement in the early 100’s (Gray).

Froula, Christine. A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems. New York Doubleday &

Co., Inc., 16.

Gray, Richard. American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. New York Longman Inc.,


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