What are the main figures of speech in Ezra Pound's ''Portrait d'une Femme'?

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Ezra Pound especially employs the conceit, or extended, central metaphor, of the sea, ships, and related items and actions. He establishes this in line 1 with "Sargasso Sea" and maintains it throughout the poem. Other nautical words and phrases include “bright ships,” “strange spars,” “floated up,” “fished up,” “ambergris,” “sea hoard,” “half sodden,” and “slow float.”

Synecdoche is also employed: the metaphoric substitution of a part for the whole. Pound establishes this right away with "Your mind and you," then continues it, substituting minds for people, in "Great minds" and "one average mind."

Pound deploys alliteration, consonance, and assonance—often in combination for greater effect—throughout the poem. "S" sounds appear frequently. Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound at the beginning of a word, as in "Sargasso Sea," while consonance is the repetition of a consonant anywhere within a word, including the second S in Sargasso, the plural endings, and “gossip” in the first six lines. In those lines as well, Pound uses assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds. Examples are the O, OO, and OU sounds in “your,” “you,” “our,” “Sargasso,” “London,” “about,” “you,” and “score”; although they are not completely identical, their similarity gives a very soft impression, especially in combination with all the “S” sounds. The sounds of this poem resemble a ship’s light motions on the sea. Similar combinations that prolong unity of sound are “old,” “oddments,” and “knowledge,” words using O, L, and D sounds.

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Portrait d'une Femme by Ezra Pound uses many different types of figure of speech.


Allusion: The title refers to Henry James' Portrait of a Lady.

Alliteration: The poem uses alliteration, especially with the letter "s", giving a sibilant effect –
Sargasso Sea, score, Strange spars

polyptoton: Uses multiple forms of the same root in "dull man, dulling"

metaphor: there are many metaphors in the poem. The dominant one is of the woman as a Sargasso Sea. Knowledge or ideas are compared with spars and wares and strange woods. An interesting idea is described as "pregnant with mandrakes". Days are described as a loom.

Apostrophe: "In the slow float of differing light and deep, No! there is nothing! " interrupts the list to address the person directly.

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