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A Short Analysis of Ezra Pound’s Canto II

A summary of Pound’s poem

Ezra Pound’s colossal work of modernist poetry, The Cantos, runs to over 800 pages and took him over half his life to write – and even then, he never finished it. In Canto II, Pound does something which he had previously done in his long 1920 poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: that is, he analyses and considers the status and role of poetry, and the poet, in the world.

In summary, Pound opens Canto II by mentioning four different versions of the 13th-century troubadour poet Sordello: Pound’s version of the poet, Robert Browning’s version from a work of 1840, Sordello the real man, and the version of Sordello that can be gleaned from the biographical fragments appended to his poems. (Browning’s Sordello wasn’t particularly well-received when it was published in 1840: Jane Carlyle famously said that when she finished reading it she still wasn’t sure whether Sordello was a man, a city, or a book.) Which one of these – Browning’s, or Sordello’s own version of himself – is the ‘true’ Sordello? Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’

A reading of Rossetti’s classic poem

‘Goblin Market’ is probably the most famous poem Christina Rossetti (1830-94) wrote. It’s a long narrative poem about two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, and how Laura succumbs to temptation and tastes the fruit sold by the goblins of the poem’s title. In this post, we offer a very short analysis of ‘Goblin Market’ in terms of its language, metre, meaning, and themes. This is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis, by any means – more of an introduction to one of the most critically acclaimed and widely discussed poems in all of Victorian literature. You can read Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ here.

What is ‘Goblin Market’ about? The fruit in the poem which the goblins sell has been interpreted in various ways: critics have long seen the eroticised description of the exotic fruit as symbolic of (sexual) temptation, with Laura as the fallen woman who succumbs to masculine wiles and is ruined as a result (though she is, of course, happily married at the end of the poem). Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Ezra Pound’s Canto I

A summary of Pound’s poem

Ezra Pound’s colossal work of modernist poetry, The Cantos, runs to nearly 800 pages and took him over half his life to write – and even then, he never finished it. Pound himself said that the structure of The Cantos could be analysed as follows: ‘Live man goes down into world of dead. “The repeat in history.” The “magic moment” or moment of metamorphosis, bust through from quotidian into “divine or permanent world.” Gods, etc.’ This structure can be observed in the poem which opens The Cantos, predictably but perhaps inevitably titled Canto I, which is an English rendering of a Latin translation of the ancient Greek poem The Odyssey, specifically that section which involves Odysseus and his crew travelling down to Hades, the Underworld. You can read ‘Canto I’ here.

The content of Canto I can be summarised as follows: Odysseus narrates how he and his crew sailed to Hades to have their fortunes told by Tiresias, the blind seer. Read the rest of this entry