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.

“A girl” – a poem by Ezra Pound

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast –
Downward,
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child – so high – you are,
All this is folly to the world.

The poem is based upon the theme of the myth of Daphne and Apollo .Apollo the sun-god pursues the beautiful Daphne,the daughter of the river-god and Daphne is transformed into a tree in order for her to escape Apollo’s advances.

The first part is what Daphne speaks as she watches the process of her own transformation .The second part is Apollo witnessing the process.

I am struck by the way Apollo the sun god describes the transformation:

TREE YOU ARE/MOSS YOU ARE
Here the sun is merely identifying her as a tree and is recognizing her new identity as a tree with whom the sun god has a direct and intimate relationship with a role in its activities of photo-synthesis.

YOU ARE VIOLETS WITH WIND ABOVE THEM

A continuation of the perspective of the sun-god when he looks down benignly upon all the flowers being instrumental in their blooming , a view from the top at the smiling flowers with the wind gently playing with them.

A CHILD- SO HIGH -YOU ARE

Here Apollo the sun-god has viewed the transformation of Daphne from a mere human child to a tree which has grown so high

ALL THIS IS FOLLY TO THE WORLD

My guess is that Apollo is saying that this whole thing -the sun-god pursuing a girl may look like a folly to the world. The world is apparently not aware of the transformation that such a pursuit has brought about.