Portrait d'une Femme
by Ezra Pound
So let's go back to how the speaker says, sort of strangely, "Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea" (1). The fact that the woman's mind is singled out here seems pretty significant, and we should try to figure out what the speaker is saying about that mind in this metaphor. Above, we discussed the poem's sea motif, and how the speaker basically describes the sea as a cluttered mess. So if ships, ambergris, and soggy wood clutter the sea, what kinds of things clutter a mind? Snippets of conversation, of course. In this poem, conversation seems to have an almost tangible presence; it fills up space and can be stored like cargo. Man, if that were really the case, we probably all know some people who could sink a freighter!
- Lines 3-5: The speaker describes ships sailing through the Sargasso sea, leaving as their toll "Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,/ Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price." We generally think of ideas, gossip, and knowledge as things transmitted through speech, but the speaker talks about them as if they are commodities or valued goods – in other words, concrete objects that can have a price.
- Lines 7-8: We assume the "you" in the poem is the woman, but is the speaker actually saying these words to her, or is he just having this conversation in his head? After all, we've all rehearsed conversations in our heads, thinking all the things we don't really have the guts to say out loud. In these lines, the speaker asks, "Tragical?" and answers, "No." This suggests some sort of dialogue, but it's hard to tell. The speaker could be repeating "Tragical?" from a question someone asks him, or he could just be posing it as a rhetorical question.
- Lines 16-17: Among the things the woman offers to the "bright ships" and "great minds" that visit her are "some curious suggestion;/ Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale or two." Again the speaker transforms these types of speech into concrete objects, particularly when he associates them with "trophies fished up" or something that "never fits a corner or shows use" (20). Describing the woman's tales as "pregnant with mandrakes" is a particularly strange metaphor, since mandrakes are roots shaped like human bodies. Are the tales being associated with soil, which could be filled with these roots, or are the tales being personified, as pregnant women with mandrake babies?