EZRA POUND’S SEMI-COLON. Let me return from Paris crime to Pound’s poem set in a Paris Metro station.

(In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.)

Willard Spiegelman points out that we expect a colon rather than a semi-colon after the word “crowd”. The poem has no verbs and therefore no independent clauses so the semi-colon is not separating and uniting two clauses. But, Spiegelman says, Pound’s semi-colon separates and unites the pairings of the two phrases. “Line 1 shows us people, almost ghostly, and Line 2 what they resemble, petals.”

I have posted on semi-colons before. In this post, I reported on a conversation in which—in response to an attack by Kurt Vonnegut on the semi-colon (“Do not use semi-colons”)— Mary Jane, Annalisa and I agreed that we liked semi-colons. I said that I liked a semi-colon worked into a sentence with balanced clauses, much like an Alexander Pope couplet. Annalisa said that she had heard of a comparison of the clauses joined by a semi-colon as being like a married couple: “We are different, but forever linked.” All of which applies to Pound’s semi-colon.

This entry was posted in Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.