Literary Musings

Favorite Poem

My favorite poem is he River-Merchant’s Wife by Ezra Pound.

This poem is my favorite for probably a silly, prideful reason. Let me set you up with a little story. In my senior year of high school I was in AP English with a teacher that quite a few students hated because she was pretty tough. I liked her though because she loved literature and so did I!

I have some very fond memories of that class. Except for the assignment where we were asked to pick a poem and dissect it for the class. I chose “The River-Merchant’s Wife” (I think I just randomly found it in our anthology and I liked the flow and the imagery) and I really sunk myself into it, examining each line very thoroughly. I reached the conclusion that the narrator in the poem was forced into an arranged marriage but by the end of it she truly did love her spouse.

But my teacher disagreed even when I explained why I had reached that conclusion. I was so disappointed! (Though I did feel a little better when most of my classmates admitted they had read into it the same way I had.)

So when I got a chance to complete the same type of assignment in a college course I chose the same poem with the same conclusion that I had reached in high school. And guess what? My professor told me he thought I was spot on!

That’s why this poem has always had a soft spot in my heart (though every time I think of it I have to spend forever trying to find it because I can never remember the title). It’s the poem that proved to myself that, even though I’m not really a fan of poetry, I can still critically look at and understand poetry. Plus, I think it also goes to show that meanings in poetry can be subjective.

Here’s the poem for your perusal: “The River-Merchant’s Wife” by Ezra Pound

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?
At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-tō-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
                        As far as Chō-fū-Sa.
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