A Girl, Ezra Pound, Summary, Analysis and Mythological Background

A Girl by Ezra Pound: Text of Poem

The tree has entered my hands, 
The sap has ascended my arms, 
The tree has grown in my breast- 
The branches grow out of me, like arms. 

 Tree you are, 
Moss you are, 
You are violets with wind above them. 
A child - so high - you are, 
And all this is folly to the world.

Summary in Mythological Background

According to the myth, Apollo the god of archery, the sun god killed a monster snake named the Python, and became arrogant. Eros (known as "cupid" in Roman mythology) who is known as winged god of love (often depicted in valentine's day cards nowadays, as a winged boy with arrow) was made fun of by Apollo. As mentioned in Ovid's metamorphoses.

“Impudent boy, what are you doing with a man’s weapons?”
Apollo thought Eros was stealing his glory by making people fall in love with his bow and arrow. Perhaps, people considered Eros better at Archery than Apollo.
“I can hit wild beasts of a certainty, and wound my enemies, and not long ago destroyed with countless arrows the swollen Python that covered many acres with its plague-ridden belly. You should be intent on stirring the concealed fires of love with your burning brand, not laying claim to my glories!”
This raged Eros and he replied
“You may hit every other thing Phoebus, but my bow will strike you: to the degree that all living creatures are less than gods, by that degree is your glory less than mine.”

Note: Apollo is named Phoebus in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Eros shot Apollo with a golden arrow of love which didn't injure him physically and shot the second arrow of lead at Daphne, a nymph of god Artemis (goddess of hunt who demanded chastity and virginity). Apollo with effect of the golden arrow fell head over heals in love with Daphne who loathed him because of the "lead" arrow. Eros' revenge was cruel, Apollo fell madly in love with a woman who could not stand him. Apollo kept chasing Daphne, daughter of Peneus the god of the river and she kept running away.

“I who am chasing you am not your enemy. Nymph, Wait! This is the way a sheep runs from the wolf, a deer from the mountain lion, […] but it is love that is driving me to follow you! Pity me!”
Apollo finally caught Daphne and held her fast in his arms, while she screamed as soon as she caught sight of her father's river:
“Help me father! If your streams have divine powers change me, destroy this beauty that pleases too well!”
As his daughter was now in Apollo's arms, Peneus assisted her. The metamorphoses began and her limbs turned into branches, her legs became roots, and her hair into leaves. She had already left before Apollo could get a good look at her face. A lovely laurel tree was the only thing left standing where Daphne was.

Ezra Pound details this metamorphosis and Apollo in the poem accepts Dephne as a tree but regrets her deciscion of transformation in last couplet.

"A child—so high—you are/and this is folly to the world."

Source of Myth
Parthenius, a Greek poet who flourished in the first century BCE, is credited with being the first source of this well-known metamorphosis tale. Pausanias, a Greek travel writer from the second century CE, is a noteworthy additional source. The Roman poet Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, a compilation of Greek tales composed in 8 CE, made the most poetic attempt to tell the tale of Apollo and Daphne.

Analysis of the Poem

  • The first stanza is written in first person point of view, which implies as if Daphne is expressing her feelings at the time of transformation.
  • The second stanza is written from third person point of view, which suggests the perspective of onlooker, that is to say, Apollo.
  • This poem can also be interpreted in multiple figurative ways. Modern women desiring to break free. Man's lust transforming women into a commodity. Modern objectification of women. Expression of the way children's imaginations run wild. Depiction of how the society looks at imagination and creativity and so on.
  • Note: If you have any different interpretation please share it with us below!
  • The poem is written in free verse, which is denial of structure and a sense of freedom, rebellious as the refer "child" in the poem.

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