In a Station of the Metro

Original Text: 
Ezra Pound, "Contemporania," Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 2.1 (April 1913): 6. Ezra Pound, Lustra (London: Elkin Mathews, 1916) 45 PS 3531 O82L8 1916 Robarts Library. See also Ezra Pound's Poetry and Prose: Contributions to Periodicals, prefaced and arranged by Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz, and James Longenbach (New York and London: Garland, 1991), I (1902-1914): 137. PS 3531 O82A6 1991 Robarts Library.
2Petals on a wet, black bough .


1] the metro: the Paris subway system.
See Pound's commentary on this poem in his article "Vorticism," The Fortnightly Review 571 (Sept. 1, 1914): 465-67 (AP 4 F7 Robarts Library):
"Three years ago in Paris I got out of a "metro" train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child's face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion. And that evening, as I went home along the Rue Raynouard, I was still trying, and I found, suddenly, the expression. I do not mean that I found words, but there came an equation ... not in speech, but in little spotches of colour. It was just that -- a "pattern," or hardly a pattern, if by "pattern" you mean something with a "repeat" in it. But it was a word, the beginning, for me, of a language in colour. I do not mean that I was unfamiliar with the kindergarten stories about colours being like tones in music. I think that sort of thing is nonsense. If you try to make notes permanently correspond with particular colours, it is like tying narrow meanings to symbols.
"That evening, in the Rue Raynouard, I realised quite vividly that if I were a painter, or if I had, often, that kind of emotion, or even if I had the energy to get paints and brushes and keep at it, I might found a new school of painting, of "non-representative" painting, a painting that would speak only by arrangements in colour.
"That is to say, my experience in Paris should have gone into paint ...
"The 'one image poem' is a form of super-position, that is to say it is one idea set on top of another. I found it useful in getting out of the impasse in which I had been left by my metro emotion. I wrote a thirty-line poem, and destroyed it because it was what we call work 'of second intensity.' Six months later I made a poem half that length; a year later I made the following hokku-like sentence: --
'The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals, on a wet, black bough.'
"I dare say it is meaningless unless one has drifted into a certain vein of thought. In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.
"This particular sort of consciousness has not been identified with impressionist art. I think it is worthy of attention."
See also a republication of this essay in Pound's Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1916; London: New Directions, 1960): 86-89).
The lines have no spaced words in 1916. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
See Gallup C76
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.