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Short poem

Ezra Loomis Pound (1885-1972)

Portrait d'une Femme

              1Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
              2    London has swept about you this score years
              3And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
              4    Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
              5Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
              6    Great minds have sought you -- lacking someone else.
              7You have been second always. Tragical?
              8    No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
              9One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
            10    One average mind --  with one thought less, each year.
            11Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
            12    Hours, where something might have floated up.
            13And now you pay one.  Yes, you richly pay.
            14    You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
            15And takes strange gain away:
            16    Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion;
            17Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale for two,
            18    Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
            19That might prove useful and yet never proves,
            20    That never fits a corner or shows use,
            21Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
            22    The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
            23Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
            24    These are your riches, your great store; and yet
            25For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
            26    Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
            27In the slow float of differing light and deep,
            28    No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
            29Nothing that's quite your own.
            30            Yet this is you.


1] The title is French for "Portrait of a Lady."
Sargasso Sea: area of the North Atlantic ocean clogged with floating seaweed.

4] Ideas: "Ideals" in Umbra (London, June 1920).

6] someone: "something" (other editions)

17] tale for: "tale or" in Personae (New York, Dec. 22, 1926).

18] mandrakes: forked man-shaped plants thought to possess aphrodisiac powers and to increase fertility.

23] ambergris: substance produced by sperm whales that is used in perfumes.

25] deciduous: losing its leaves every fall.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Ripostes of Ezra Pound (London: Elkin Mathews, 1915): 17-19. P685 R566 1915 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1912
Publication date note: Ripostes (1912). See Gallup A8
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/4/15

Form: Blank Verse

Other poems by Ezra Loomis Pound