Let there be commerce between us: A pact -A poem by Ezra Pound


I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman –
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root –
Let there be commerce between us.

I like this nice little poem of Pound about his friend and fellow-poet Walt Whitman. Two or three metaphors used in the poem are fairly simple, atleast not complex enough to intrigue a new reader. Of course, a child with the pig-headed father refers to Pound himself as he had grown from a young poet to a mature poet. Refer to William Wordsworth’s Child is father of Man, in the all too familiar poem The Rainbow. It only refers to the transformation within Pound himself as he had progressed in his poetic vision. There was of course initial hatred for Whitman’s “wood breaking” free verse from a poet who swore by an almost classical purity ,by his technique of imagism. Now that Pound is wiser by the years he wants to make a pact, an agreement with Whitman which will end the sworn hostilities between them. Note the play on wood, that Whitman broke and Pound wants to join him in the act of carving.

His own poetic technique finely fits in with the exquisite carving that poets can now hope to make of the wood, already broke by Whitman. After all both the poets are of the same sap and the same root.

I am intrigued by the use of the commercial metaphors in projecting a future relationship between the two poets : “pact” is of course a military term denoting cessation of hostilities but is also used to describe a commercial agreement for the joint use of common resources. “let there be commerce between us” is of course a commercial expression ,out and out. It is so exquisitely final.

The phoenix prefers to die in her fragrant bosom and by a complicated math, rise from its (own) ashes

“A song” by Thomas Carew

Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
When June is past, the fading rose;
For in your beauty’s orient deep
These flowers, as in their causes, sleep.

Ask me no more whither doth stray
The golden atoms of the day;
For in pure love heaven did prepare
Those powders to enrich your hair.

Ask me no more whither doth haste
The nightingale, when May is past;
For in your sweet, dividing throat
She winters, and keeps warm her note.

Ask me no more where those stars light,
That downwards fall in dead of night;
For in your eyes they sit, and there
Fixed become, as in their sphere.

Ask me no more if east or west
The phoenix builds her spicy nest;
For unto you at last she flies,
And in your fragrant bosom dies.

Thomas Carew of the Elizabethan times had little better to do than indulging in fantastic hyperbole for his favorite mistress because that was how it was then and that was what one was expected to do in those times.None of the complexity of a post-modern poet indulging in difficult imagery .It is with this frame of mind I approached the poetry of Carew but once in a while you do find some interesting uses of imagery.

For instance I find this interesting image of the golden atoms of the day,which were powder prepared to enrich her hair. The visual beauty of the image comes home if you imagine the beloved sitting with her tresses against the setting sun,a gentle breeze lifting her hair against a soft sunlight. Powder is a nice image drawn from alchemy ,so popular in those times , the science for transmuting baser metals into gold. No doubt Carew indulges in hyperbole but there is a method in all this.

The other “science” image that has captured my fancy is the falling stars. The stars are falling at the dead of the night because they are out of their sphere.But now that they have fallen they are rehabilitated in her eyes and become as fixed there as they have been in the stellar world.

The phoenix ,the legendary bird ,has to rise from its ashes and what better place to die for this than her bosom! A common image of those times but with an interesting twist, a sensual one at that ! Her bosom is so warm that the bird can easily die by its fire only to rise from its ashes again! Complicated math indeed!

“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

My own take on the poem is as under:

When the poet says so much depends on a red wheelbarrow, he is speaking of a red wheel-barrow, the one he is seeing right now. Not the red wheel-barrow, in the way one makes a universal statement.

Once we have decided the context, i.e. the one the poet is referring to, the rest is merely a description of the red wheel-barrow as an object in the specific context of the poet’s seeing it.

Thus we are concerned ,basically, with the visual aspects in the poet’s perception.

The visual aspects emerge by looking on the key words: “red”, “wheel” separated from “barrow”, “glazed with rain” , “rain “separated from “water”, “beside”, “white” separated from “chickens”.

Red wheel-barrow : Red makes it prominently visible from a distance, from which the poet is presumably seeing. The red of the wheel-barrow contrasts with the white of the chickens. Wheel is separated from barrow to emphasise their independent existence from barrow. Wheel is capable of moving independently but imparts motion to the barrow. Red wheel-barrow is a static-visual image with possibility of movement., the potential to turn a static-dynamic image.

Glazed with rain: Red of the wheel-barrow sports a glaze by rain-drops, a white of glistening. “Glazed “ is from rain already happened but drops are its potential for movement. Hence rain and drops are separated.

Beside: Beside is positional with reference to the white chickens, defining the locus of the red wheel-barrow in the poet’s visual map. But “beside” has a mystical quality, with a potential for escape, for dodging . The chickens will not stay there long. How does one define the locus of the barrow ?

So much depends upon the poet’s perception, the reader’s own.