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'Portrait d'une Femme' is an essay in something new, but the comparison with Eliot's 'Portrait of a Lady' is to Pound's disadvantage. Like Masefield's 'Quinquireme', the woman is interesting chiefly for her cargo; she is a Sargasso Sea of quaint wrecks, of cultural trophies and memories. Like other ladies in early Pound, Eliot, or Lewis, she is and has long been a hostess in the salon world, the object of ambiguous feeling on the part of the iconoclasts who drink her tea. The lady is a collection of curiosities, not a person; her identity is defined by her trophies. Very good; but Pound is too interested in the cultural rarities, too much the museum visitor. And the pot-hunter is not saved by his irony. His 'brilliant' dismissal of the dear old relic at the end 'falls heavily among the bric-à-brac'; but, unlike Mr. Eliot's young visitor, he doesn't notice.


From The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound. Copyright © 1979 by Michael Alexander.