Dance Figure, Ezra Pound, Analysis, Summary & Critical Overview

Overview: "Dance Figure" is a short poem by the modernist poet Ezra Pound. First published in 1916, the poem is known for its use of vivid imagery and its exploration of themes such as the transience of life and the beauty of the natural world. The poem is notable for its brevity, consisting of only eight lines, but it is also considered to be one of Pound's most powerful and evocative works. Through its use of striking imagery and powerful symbolism, "Dance Figure" invites readers to contemplate the beauty and fragility of life, and to consider the ways in which we can find meaning and purpose in the world around us.

Dance Figure Poem: Text

O woman of my dreams,
Ivory sandaled,
There is none like thee among the dancers,
None with swift feet.

I have not found thee in the tents,
In the broken darkness.
I have not found thee at the well-head
Among the women with pitchers.

Thine arms are as a young sapling under the bark;
Thy face as a river with lights.

White as an almond are thy shoulders;
As new almonds stripped from the husk.

They guard thee not with eunuchs;
Not with bars of copper.
Gilt turquoise and silver are in the place of thy rest.
A brown robe, with threads of gold woven in patterns,
hast thou gathered about thee,
O Nathat-Ikanaie, “Tree-at-the-river.”

As a rillet among the sedge are thy hands upon me;
Thy fingers a frosted stream.

Thy maidens are white like pebbles;
Their music about thee!

There is none like thee among the dancers;
None with swift feet.

Ezra Pound

Stanza-wise Summary

Stanza 1: The speaker addresses a dark-eyed woman who appears in his dreams. He admires her and describes her as wearing ivory sandals and being an exceptional dancer with swift feet.
Stanza 2: The speaker hasn't been able to find this woman in real life. He hasn't found her in the tents or among the women at the well-head.
Stanza 3: The speaker describes the woman's physical attributes. Her arms are compared to a young sapling, and her face is like a river with lights. Her shoulders are white like almonds just stripped from the husk.
Stanza 4: The woman is not guarded by eunuchs or bars of copper. Instead, she rests on gilt turquoise and silver. She wears a brown robe with golden threads woven in patterns. The speaker addresses her as Nathat-Ikanaie, which means "Tree-at-the-river."
Stanza 5: The woman's hands on the speaker are compared to a small stream running through the sedge, while her fingers feel like frost.
Stanza 6: The woman's maidens are white like pebbles, and their music surrounds her.
Stanza 7: The poem concludes with the repetition of the first stanza. The speaker reiterates that there is none like the woman among the dancers, none with swift feet.

Critical Analysis

  • The poem is written in free verse with irregular line lengths and no rhyme scheme.
  • The speaker is addressing a woman of his dreams, describing her physical appearance and presence.
  • The woman is described as unique among the dancers, with swift feet and ivory sandals.
  • The speaker has not yet found her in certain places, implying a search for her.
  • The woman's arms are compared to a young sapling, and her face to a river with lights.
  • Her shoulders are described as white as almonds stripped from the husk.
  • The woman is not guarded by eunuchs or bars of copper but by gilt turquoise and silver in the place of her rest.
  • She wears a brown robe with gold woven patterns, and her name is Nathat-Ikanaie, meaning "Tree-at-the-river."
  • The woman's hands on the speaker are compared to a small stream among the grasses.
  • Her maidens are described as white like pebbles, with their music surrounding her.
  • The poem ends with a repetition of the woman's uniqueness among the dancers, emphasizing her swift feet.

Overall, the poem can be seen as a celebration of the woman's beauty and grace, with nature imagery and references to luxury and richness woven in.
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