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Poetry Analysis - Pound & Eliott

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Many modernist poems deal with disappointment and disillusionment experienced at the beginning of the 20th century, as the result of the mindless pace of industrialization and the inhumane distruction during the First World War. Both Lament of the Frontier Guard, by Ezra Pound, and the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot display a feeling of disappointment and lack of hope and purpose that people felt after the war. Both poems use rich imagery, fragmented language, and repition to express their reaction to the destruction and deterioration that they whitness, and display the sadness and defeat that comes with the passage of time, aging, loneliness, and being forgotten.

Pound uses imagism in Lament of the Frontier Guard to give his reader a sense of the emptiness and isolation that is common to the human experience. Imagism is the use of images instead of narrative to convey meaning (Ramazani, Introduction). The poem is mainly composed of a series of snapshots. Many lines in the poem are short and fragmeneted, forcing the reader to stop and contemplate the meaning and connections between the images. For example in line 6, “Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert”, gives us three brief pictures that are not connected in a coherent sentence, but give us a clear idea of the speakers feelings. Although there is no narrative, the speaker gives us a sense of the passage of time by showing that the “desolate fields” (line 19) were once a village with people until there was a war. “There is no wall left to this village / bones white with a thousands frosts...Who brought this to pass?...Barbarous kings”(lines 7-13). Through imagery the speakers gives us a sense of desolation and sadness over a long period of time. Pound’s decision to use short images instead of a long narrative or argument shows that he trusts his reader to have had similar experiences and feel similar emotions.

Like Pound, Eliot also uses fragmentation and juxtaposition to convey similar feelings; different parts of his life are juxtaposed in “Prufrock” with no order or sequent flow. The beginning of the poem takes place in “half-deserted streets”, (line 4) and then moves into a wealthy cocktail party and ends in the sea with mermaids. As the fragmentation of these juxtaposed lines suggest, the journey that is promised in the opening line, “let us go then, you and I,” (line 1) is not a physical journey but a journey into Prufrock’s mind, revealing his internal thoughts and desires and anxieties. Thus, the fragmentation suggests the speakers jump from thought to thought. The “you and I,” (line 1) suggests that the speaker is including the reader in his journey, so it seems that like Pound, Eliot is trusting peoples common feelings will help them make sense of his fragmented language.

The first three lines of Lament of the Frontier Guard indicate a repetitive cycle. The lines “Wind blows full of sand...Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn,” is referring to the aging of the speaker and his lonliness.



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