Pound's "The Return" is a free verse poem that, most critics agree, is the poem that incited the free verse movement that was so prevalent in poetry at the beginning of the 20th century.
The poem is about a speaker who summons others to witness the return of...
old gods (some say pre-Judeo Christian), "Gods of the winged shoe" and "the "Wing'd-with-Awe, Inviolable."
Or, it could be about the retreat of a once-powerful army who, with their dogs, were once a powerful hunting team. Now, it looks like the dogs are walking them. Irony.
The poem shifts from present "See" to past "were" as if the speaker has witnessed, expected, or is relishing in this change and loss of power. So says Enotes:
Line 1 suggests that the persona was present when these hero-gods were at the zenith of their power or that he is at least knowledgeable about their former glory; the fact that they have “returned” implies an earlier journey. If these are indeed the ancient gods who held sway before the advent of modern religions, then the assumption is that monotheism has conquered but not yet destroyed them. The less mysterious interpretation—that these are warriors returning after years of hard campaigning—would also account for the persona’s description of the defeated, but still awe-inspiring, host.
The poem is all about rhythm, imagery, and the loss of power. The sound and look of it are analogous to its meaning. It's much ado about a nothing: the return of a bunch of ghosts. Its exclamation points show excitement, but then poem just runs out of gas--a real dichotomy. Bittersweet.
The other crucial formal device in “The Return” is its vivid sensory imagery. In fact, the poem is an example of Imagist method; Imagism was a poetic theory, largely created by Pound himself, that sought to emphasize highly charged visual, tactile, and olfactory impressions instead of distinct subject matter, so that the images themselves would join directly to tell the poem’s story. Here, the persona carefully describes the “trouble” of the returnees’ “pace,” their “pallid” appearance, and their straggling, isolated march. The snow metaphor in stanza 2 reinforces this collection of images. In contrast, the “silver hounds” of stanza 3 and the hounds’ keen scent in stanzas 3 and 4 bolster the once-glorious appearance of the gods, while the dogs’ slack leashes of the final stanza mirror the enervation of defeat.