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Portrait d'une Femme

Portrait d'une Femme

by Ezra Pound

Lines 11-15 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 11-12

Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.

  • Just because the woman doesn't want to get stuck with one dull man doesn't mean she's not patient. She's willing to sit tight, as long as there's the possibility of some interesting fact or piece of knowledge might come up.
  • She almost sounds like a magpie, ready to pounce on any piece of shiny metal that appears.
  • The word "floated" brings us back to the sea/water imagery established in the poem's first few lines.

Lines 13-15

And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:

  • It turns out that the "femme" doesn't just receive fees, she also pays them. And apparently she pays well. What is she paying for? Maybe once the coveted fact, gossip, or piece of knowledge actually does float up, she reciprocates by producing something in kind.
  • The speaker clearly doesn't think the woman is boring. She is intriguing and interesting enough that people visit her and take something away with them.
  • What these people get from her is hard to tell. We have a colon again, after "away," so maybe another list is coming up. In the meantime, we're left with pretty ambiguous descriptions, such as "some interest" and "strange gain." OK, there's something there – but what, and how good is it?
  • Notice that line 14 contains fourteen syllables and line 15 has six. This seems to move away from our iambic pentameter rule. But add up those syllables: you end up with a total of twenty, which is the same as what you would get if you added up the syllables of two iambic pentameter lines (each line being ten syllables). So technically we haven't really lost or gained any syllables overall, and the lines all average out to still being blank verse.
  • This is a pretty interesting idea of what a "blank verse" poem can be – each individual line doesn't have to go by the rules and be strictly iambic pentameter, as long as the poem as a whole sounds like it's made of iambic pentameter lines.
  • Isn't it interesting that the six-syllable line occurs when the speaker describes the "strange gain" received from the woman? Do you think the shortness of the line suggests that the gain is a bit short, too? In other words, maybe we're supposed to feel a sense of lack associated with whatever payment the woman gives.

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