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The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter

The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter


by Ezra Pound

Stanza 4 Summary

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

Lines 15-18

At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

  • So, apparently, just a year later, the husband left and went to another village. 
  • (Geography note: Ku-to-en is actually the name of a river, even though Pound pretends that it's a place or a region. Ku-to-en is also known as Kaing in Japanese and Ch'üt'ang in Chinese.) 
  • We don't know much about this place, other than that it's far away, by a swirling river ("eddies" are just currents of water, typically moving in circles).
  • The husband has been gone for five months now, so we can assume that our speaker is lonely. Interestingly, though, she doesn't tell us that herself. We get that sense in the reflected mood of the sad monkeys. Helpful! But sad. 
  • It's as though the husband's absence has affected her entire environment.

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