In a Station of the Metro

by Ezra Pound

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What two things does Pound compare in the poem "In a Station of the Metro"?

In “In a Station of the Metro,” the two things Ezra Pound compares are the faces of Paris subway riders and petals on a branch.

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"In a Station of the Metro" seeks to capture a deeply moving experience that Ezra Pound encountered in Paris when exiting the metro. As he surveyed his surroundings, a beautiful face emerged from the crowd. Then another. And another. Women, children—beauty surrounded him. He really struggled, he has said, to adequately capture what this experience meant to him. He finally did so in a poem consisting of only 14 words.

In the poem, Pound compares the faces of the crowd to petals on a wet, black bough (of a tree). The poem is devoid of any verbs, and even the implied looks like is missing from the transition between objects in the comparison.

By doing so, Pound pares down to the visual basics of the comparison. The faces appear as if an "apparition," connoting that the image is fragile and fleeting. They stand out in the crowd like petals, also fragile, but in a colorful, bright contrast to the "wet, black bough" of background scenery.

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What two things does Ezra Pound compare in the poem "In a Station of Metro"?

In Ezra Pound’s short poem “In a Station of the Metro,” Pound compares the apparitional faces of subway riders in Paris to “petals on a wet, black bough.” In other words, he compares the ghostly faces of Paris commuters to wet petals on a black branch.

Though Pound’s poem, as previously mentioned, is small (it consists of only two lines and 14 words), much has been said about the comparison.

Some have said that Pound’s comparison was inspired by Japanese poetry, particularly the haiku. Pound’s poem doesn’t follow the official haiku form—a proper haiku is three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. However, Pound’s poem embraces the general spirit of the haiku. The poem presents a striking image and a peculiar metaphor, which is what many haikus set out to do. The comparison might also have been inspired by Japanese prints, which regularly bring the human world and the natural realm into close contact, just as Pound’s poem does.

Whatever the inspiration, the comparison between the commuters and the petals is continually held up as an excellent example of Imagist poetry. The Imagist movement was led by Pound. He advocated for poetry that presented clear images, and it’s hard to argue that the comparison in “In a Station of the Metro” doesn’t provide its reader with a concise, vivid picture.

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