Christine Froula: On "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter"

This is one of the most delicate poems in Cathay, a verse "letter" in which the speaker communicates indirectly, by means of vivid images and shifting tones, the history of her feelings for the absent husband to whom she writes. First, she remembers their friendly play as children. In describing their feelings then as being "without dislike or suspicion," she implies that she did have those feelings at a later time, and they carry over into her description of her unhappiness in their first year of marriage. "At fifteen," she begins to love him, though her imagery and ceremonious language convey a certain reserve: to stop scowling is not to smile, and the image of their mingling dust looks past desire to death. Only in the last section, in which she remembers his departure and voices her present feelings, do we see how that timeless love has changed. In his absence, she has become conscious of time passing and of the preciousness of love in the natural world where nothing can last "forever." Now, his absence makes her miss him, and a language of natural imagery expresses, with eloquent reserve, her desire for his return.

From A Guide to Ezra Pound's Selected Poems. Copyright © 1982, 1983 by Christine Froula.

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Criticism Overview
Title Christine Froula: On "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Christine Froula Criticism Target Ezra Pound
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication A Guide to Ezra Pound's Selected Poems
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