Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
by Ezra Pound
The expression "sea-green eyes" only comes up once in the poem, and it's in French ("Yeux Glaucques). But the fact that Pound returns to this image in the final line of the poem (topaz eyes) definitely suggests that it's something we're supposed to pay attention to. So why are sea-green eyes so important? Well when Pound mentions them at first, he connects them with a woman named Elizabeth Siddal, a female model who posed for a 19th-century painting called King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid.
Pound holds up Elizabeth as a great example of classic beauty, and pays special attention to her eyes. More importantly, though, he admires how the painting of her has managed to "preserv[e] her eyes," even after Elizabeth has grown old and died. For Pound, then, these green eyes stand as a symbol of how great art can preserve something beautiful for hundreds or even thousands of years. The fact that Pound returns to this image in the poem's final line suggests that he wants modern art to take up his call and do its best to reconnect with timeless beauty.
- Title of Part One, Section VI: Pound uses the French version of "Sea-Green" eyes to title the sixth poem, or section, of "Mauberley."
- Line 103: One of the reasons art is so great is that it can preserve human beauty even after the human body has gotten old and died.
- Line 111: Time may have taken its toll on certain parts of the painting, but Elizabeth's sea-green eyes still look out from the thing as if they were alive. Just make sure that they don't follow you as you pass by your computer screen.
- Line 397: In the final line of the poem, Pound looks down at a book underneath a lamp and see the eyes of a drawn woman turn topaz, which is like a sea-green. The image takes our attention back to the earlier references to sea-green eyes, and reminds us one last time about the power of art to preserve beauty.