Portrait d'une Femme
by Ezra Pound
Analysis: Form and Meter
Blank Verse, or Unrhymed Iambic Pentameter
Pound is often called one of the first promoters of free verse (or, as they say in French, vers libre). His "In a Station of the Metro" recalls the haiku form but takes a big step in the free verse direction. This doesn't mean, however, that Pound didn't appreciate traditional poetic forms. When the guy wanted to write a sonnet or a sestina, he could do it as well as the best of them. His "Treatise on Meter," found at the back of his book The ABC of Reading, shows just how much he studied and thought about traditional meter and form.
"Portrait d'une Femme" is a single-stanza, 30-line poem written chiefly in blank verse. Although the names sound similar, blank verse is different from free verse in that blank verse is composed of iambic pentameter lines. This means there are approximately ten syllables in each line and every other syllable is stressed (it makes the sound da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM). Like free verse, however, blank verse doesn't follow a regular rhyme scheme.
Let's take the poem's first line as an example:
Your mind and you are our Sar-gas-so Sea
Ten syllables? Check. Every other syllable stressed? Check.
We should say here, however, that while the poem is generally blank verse, a few lines stray from the iambic pentameter format. Try to identify which ones. Why do you think these exceptions occur?
So who is the big name associated with blank verse? William Shakespeare. Do you see any reason Pound might want to link his poem with Shakespearian poetry? Are there any other allusions to Shakespeare in the poem? Do you think the form works to associate this particular poem with a longer history of poetry?