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Portrait d'une Femme

Portrait d'une Femme


by Ezra Pound

Analysis: Speaker

The speaker doesn't reveal a lot about himself in this poem. The first time he mentions himself, he uses the first-person plural, "our" (1), which places him in a group, rather than setting him off as a distinctive individual. We have to wonder whether we are getting one person's perspective on the woman or a broader, shared impression of her. Rather than saying much about himself, the speaker is focused primarily on describing the woman, who is also the person he seems to be speaking to in the poem. So basically what we learn about him are his attitudes toward the woman.

We say "attitudes" (plural), rather than "attitude" (singular), because we're not sure the speaker is consistent in how he feels about her. Sometimes he seems sympathetic; other times he is condescending. Sometimes he seems to admire her; other times he could even be angry.

What do you think is the speaker's attitude toward her? What tone of voice does he use to describe her? What does his relationship to her seem to be? Is he a rejected lover, a protective member of her family, or a classmate who competes with her? Or is their relationship left deliberately unclear?

The speaker's style of speech also gives us some clues about him. The title suggests he knows French, and he uses a rather strange and sometimes obscure collection of objects to describe the woman, such as ambergris, mandrakes, and the Sargasso Sea. The speaker is knowledgeable, even cultured, but he also sounds like he could be a bit stuffy or stuck up.

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