What visual images does Pound employ in "River Merchant's Wife: A Letter"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As one of the founders of Imagism, Pound of course relies heavily on clear, precise images in his poems.  Instead of obtuse metaphors or complex, hidden meanings, he uses simple, concise mental pictures to advance his themes. In "The River Merchant's Wife," Pound illustrates a young bride's maturation process and her longing for her absent husband whom she grew to love.  Some of the most effective images are categorized below.

1. To demonstrate the speaker's maturation, the poet uses phrases such as "my hair was cut straight across my forehead" and the future husband coming by "on bamboo stilts" to portray the girl's and boy's childhoods.  Later, he refers to her stopping "scowling" and her desire to mingle her dust with her husband's. These portraits illustrate her growing love and acceptance of her husband.

2. Images which relate to the speaker's longing and waiting for her husband appear in the poem's last stanza.  Pound writes that "the moss is grown, the different mosses,/ Too deep to clear them away" showing that the speaker notices even the small elements of nature which have changed since her lover left (lines 20-21). The young wife also talks about the "paired butterflies . . . already yellow in August" to show the seasons changing and passing in her husband's absence.

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The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter

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