Thursday Poem: Ezra Pound, Alba

Alba (Dawn Song)

As cool as the pale wet leaves
of lily-of-the-valley
She lay beside me in the dawn

Ezra Pound

Brief Bio-He really wanted to get out of America.  To London first, as the father of modernist poetry, and eventually Italy where he made pro-Axis rants on Italian radio during World War II.   When American troops finally got him, they put him in a box for 25 days.    He was never quite the same after that, though not exactly stable to begin with.  Stable in his art, perhaps.

18 thoughts on “Thursday Poem: Ezra Pound, Alba

  1. My own first impression from the poem Alba was that of a lover’s feelings towards their partner, however that changed at the second reading when I began to see that there are many other ways that the “cool…. wet leaves” can portray. Blood-stained leaves rather than my own first interpretation (dew-covered leaves).

  2. Thanks for reading.

    I was thinking of dew-covered leaves because it’s dawn as well. I never thought of the poem that way. Maybe there’s some other intent. Could she be dead?

    Bleeding? Who, or what, is “she” anyways?

  3. The flower; “Lilly-of-the-valley” is pure white. This can be symbolic of purity and innocence, and since the poet compares this woman with the Lilly, we can assume that the voice of the poem considers this woman to be pure as the flower. The Lilly-of -the-valley can be used to portray heavenly things so a possible image that the poem can give to the reader is that of a heavenly light is emitting from this woman from the dimness of the “Dawn.” This plays well with the gentle rhythm of the poem.

    The lady could possiby be named “Dawn” its a little strechy but hey, it’s my interpretation isn’t it. xD

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  5. Alison, thanks for your comment.

    That’s a good point to make about Pound.

    Do you think Dove is as inclined to the image, or perhaps more to a feeling that one or many images could help to realize in the reader’s mind?

  6. pound describes laying beside her in the dawn. in this poem, the dawn seems to mean both that she is first sign of light or good in his life after the dark night, and that it is a beginning of a relationship. also, he is comparing her to the purity and beauty of nature.

  7. politics aside, pound is one of my poetic heros… he almost single handedly created American (/UK) literary modernism. Profound intellect…. viva le imagiste! 😛

    • Robert,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I agree. Managing to help create, foster and lead some of the best poets as well as a new school of poetry is certainly a significant achievement.

  8. I think this poem highlights one’s ability to see only what’s on the surface.
    While lily-of-the-valley, with its bright white bulbs, appears to be pure and innocent, its beauty is only a veneer. The plant is in fact very poisonous. This person is presumably lying next to someone that is beautiful appearance but not in substance. They, casted in the hopeful light of a coming sun is too blind to see the true character of the person that lies next to him.

    This idea can be extended and further extrapolated but I just wanted to share my initial thoughts.

    • Sorry for the grammatical errors.
      I got excited and didn’t proof read lol.
      Hopefully theres a coherent idea in there….somewhere.

      • I think so. It never would have occurred to me!

        Also, it’s quite a deep idea, that we live on the surfaces of things, and that beauty may/may not be a part of what things are, and that we can easily see something only through beauty, and miss important truths…

    • Riley,

      Thanks for commenting. That’s a very interesting reading, and certainly a deeper truth about life possibly expressed in the poem, with some backing in fact (the poisonous quality of the plant).

      I know that the Imagists were especially focused on well…images, and they certainly are striking images. ‘True’ character can be hard to see in anyone, and always involves risk, so maybe I would stop short of assuming the character is definitively bad, but, you’ve got a case.

      Really interesting….you could run with that. Beauty may be a window to the transcendent, but we so often stay on the surfaces of things, and can be blind other truths in pursuit of beauty.

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