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

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

58 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    THIS POEM CAN BE DESCRIBED AS NON OTHER THAN A WORK OF JENEUS.

  2. Sheryl Skoglund says:

    “The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough”.
    The poet is saying the apparition of their faces is in the faces of the crowd. They are us and we are them. Petals on a flooded earth in a black death tree.

  3. Troy Legato says:

    Ezra Pound achieves more in two lines than a loser like Daniel Schoch will ever achieve in his miserable little life. You really think this poem is “Gay,” cupcake? What a creative critique. What are you, a 6th grader?

  4. shosho ali says:

    im really like this poem alhtough im hating poetry

  5. Jamie Smith says:

    Daniel Schoch: Maybe you should check your facts. Ezra Pound is a MAN not a WOMAN!!!

  6. Daniel Schoch says:

    THIS POEM IS SO GAY. I HATE IT. ITS NOT EVEN A POEM, THIS GIRL EZRA POOND IS A MORON.

  7. alanna says:

    When i read this poem i see Pound retelling the tale of Persephone and Hades/Pluto. Persephone is trapped in hell with apparitions or ghosts all around her in a crowd. When she is gone all the plants stop growing and die. (her mother, Demeter, is the goddess of vegetation and when she is sad nothing grows) Then she comes back up to earth and with her return, there is the first petal on a wet, black bough.

    ezra Pound is really just retelling the story of Persephone and Pluto.

  8. Rob Cameron says:

    When I read this I find myself imagining I’m at a wake. I put myself in the perspective of the recently departed staring out at the onlooking crowd of mourners. The petals and bough are both part of the floral surroundings brought in memory, the wetness naturally from tears.

  9. StevieWonder says:

    What do u ppl see in this poem that is interesting? This is a measely 2 lines that if I wrote in 2nd grade, my teacher would yell at me

  10. Celeste says:

    This is my all time favorite poem. Pound’s poignant writing evokes so much emotion. Another poet that wrote almost during the same era was William Carlos Williams, The Red Wheel Barrow and some of his other poetry use their short seemingly trivial words to paint a picture of a much more emotive quality than email or response we write here. W.C.Williams has a poem that was derived from an apologetic note he wrote his wife about eating some plums she had been saving. A moment of day to day life puts forth so much beauty that it’s hard for us to see, but Pound shows that he can find it, even among the drab commuters in the Metro station.

  11. Frank says:

    tomorrow I’m gonna have a test in this ugly poem

    struggling to make up.

  12. Betty says:

    When I read it closing my eyes and got these feelings:
    Time was stopped.And these faces was trapped in this very motionless space.Tose faces come from the places I never know and they will go to a place I will not know.In a society with quicken social mobility,these faces seems to be strangers I once familar with.It contains a feeling of uncertainty.But at the same time,those faces are so beautiful like “Petals on a wet,black bough”,and I’m lost in the very cross as if many souls are moving towards evere directions carried wiyh their different dreans,cultures,ideas,enmotions and so on.I just watch and wonder”Where shoud I go?”.Slowly these faces fade like flowers,finally disapper,then go to a death.I feel deperate and be astonished about the beauty built on death.

  13. Chris says:

    I’ve written several poems myself of this style by using intense imagery. You can actually read the title as a line; it works perfectly. Imagine when everyone wore black suits and had white faces. This poem is dead on.

    To Comment 45, keep in mind the apparition is not the contrast, so much as the portrayal of all the faces. They might not be contrasting, and in my opinion, probably not contrasting with each other so much as the background bough.

  14. Ignatius says:

    Pound the genius shines forth in this epigram. Like JM Coetzee said, a world of feeling can be compressed into one line. for a full representation of Pound, read the Cantos (with the help of Kenner’s books).

  15. N_I_K_K_I says:

    this poem is okayy i have read better tho.

  16. Zen says:

    I think this is a great nice and short poem. Btw for those who cant understand it, cmon what u talking about? “Apparition of these faces in the crowd”=the contrast of the faces in the crowd, must be talking about color. What sort of contrast? Now think about “petals, on a wet black bough” and it’s easy to imagine what kind of faces on what kind of background. Not only the color, I bet the faces ‘ve gotta be beautiful too (adding its contrast to the bg) it will look even prettier. Like petals on wet black bough indeed.

    so much for just two lines.

  17. Dustin says:

    How would you all inturpret the poem if Pound was actually on the train if it had been entering the station?

  18. Sharon says:

    I think this was a pretty good poem, though short. It provides us with good imagery.

  19. F. Philip Holland says:

    This poem is like looking at a slide in a laboratory with the naked eye and then putting it under a microscope. To those who can’t see anything in this poem, keep on looking, you will. Or try going on the metro/tube-train/underground-railway and just stand there and watch. Memorize the three lines, say them to yourself as you observe the faces you may never see again. Think of Spring, all the millions of petals of blossom actually on the boughs. Think of people’s lives, transient and fragile as petals. Birth, blooming, dying, getting on and off at different stations in their lives, in your life, ghosts, memories, all aboard the train of life, all clinging precariously for a brief moment on the tree of life. Are you getting there? Buy the ticket, take a ride, you’ve nothing to lose but your blindness!

  20. Katie says:

    Poems don’t matter on quantity but on quality.
    Ezra Pound wrote a poem comparing two different, concrete things. This poem can have a million different
    interpretations but this is what I believe is the literal level.
    First, I read the Title, In A Station of the Metro; how to describe the Metro? Dark, dingy, isolated, underground.
    Then something comes by..a dark, speeding, dingy train and he sees something not so dark, crowds of peoples faces, bursts of color everywhere.
    This reminds him of bright petals on ebony limbs, and he emphasizes the darkness by saying the bough was wet.
    So Ezra is comparing two things but the fun part is when you try to think of what his “hidden” meanings are.

  21. Misael says:

    The author of “In a station of the Metro” is not Langston Hughes, as I said. It was Ezra Pound of course

  22. Misael says:

    When I 1st read this poem I didn’t liked it at all because it seemed too confusig and short of a good ending. In fact, it doesn’t even has a good start. But then again, when I read it like 4 times more, I realized the power this poem has. It can send you to see what the author was thinking, imagine a full scene of what’s happening. Later I ended liking the way Hughes wrote his poems. You just have to read it more than once to get that feeling.

  23. kasp says:

    This poem may be short, but it really only needs two lines because it’s deep. For the readers who claim it’s to short and confusing… your ingnorant and need to take the time to read into it instead of just whinning and complaining because your to lazy to try and figure it out.

  24. Maureen says:

    This poem like many of Pounds work is interesting. He was the father of imagism and the poem speaks directly toward that. The original poem was much longer but he couldn’t quite come up with the words he wanted to use so its not like he came up with this instaneously. If it requires thought to write then it requires thought to read. He wants us to read exactly between the lines.

  25. lauren says:

    I have to do a project on this!!!!

  26. Jessica says:

    i did not really like his poetry…..

  27. oliver says:

    I am not going to launch into an analysis of the poem, or why and how I like it. I just think it’s a little sad that some people feel like saying things like “two weak ass lines can’t really be a good poem”, then have the arrogance to accuse likers of the poem of being ‘losers’. I thought the idea of this exchange of comments was to agree and disagree -yes, give different opinions, perspectives and ideas, but not actually insult people who have different opinions. To insult people who do not have the same opinion of a poem as you do is to have a fairly immature idea of poetry.

  28. Geoff says:

    This kind of poem may well be based on haiku, but readers need to know that there is a valuable form called a “matchbox poem” or “Ezra” (yes, specifically named for what Ezra Pound developed and most often quoted as this example). The key to the form is two lines; the first is from experience of the world, the second is a reaction from the imagination. Realistically, the interpretation is that Pound has walked down into the station of the subway (called the Metro in Paris) and been struck by the contrast of the pink faces against the backdrop of the dominantly dark plain clothes that the commuters would have been wearing (I am not certain, but I think that it dates to 1926.Although there are many African-French people there now, there would then have been few non-white faces around then.) The word “apparition” is perfect, conveying the sense of a sudden, almost ghostly appearance. The second line is how poets “work”. To be a poet means to see the same things as others do, but see them differently, or to have a desire to capture the difference in words. Perhaps it was Spring. It doesn’t matter, but what Pound sees is an image that reminds him of petals against – well, he even thinks of the boughs being wet because that will make them look darker. It is quite easy to get even young children to write similar styles of poem. Just focus in one line on observing with one particular sense, and then respond in a second line to how it might be interpreted in the imagination. Of course, the whole thing can be scaled up into larger pieces, but they might not fit in a matchbox.

  29. judith says:

    As far as I know, this poem is the reduction of a very much longer one; that’s perhaps the reason why it is that short and why the term haiku doesn’t seem to fit really…Pound seemed to have put a rather “complex” feeling or impression into the shortness of its moment-length.

  30. TjB says:

    The poem is in fact three lines long in this context. The title is the first line–at least that’s what I’ve been told since haiku do not have individual titles. This is not a traditional haiku either since it does not fit into the 5-7-5 syllable scheme. I think it gives this haiku much more freedom. This seems to me to be very characteristic of Pound. As for the meaning, I wouldn’t suggest trying too hard to interperet it. The meaning has great depth, but is not meant to be too elusive to the reader. I feel that the “petals” refer to the shortness of life which can be connected to “apparition”–an illusion, or vision that can be fleeting–and to the length of the poem. “Petals” is plural, which shows that there is no particular individual being described in this poem. “Apparition” is singular, which unites the “faces” into one single body. It gives the feeling of conformity to these faces. In a way, the figures described at the Metro are conformed and lack individuality–walking ghosts. The petals described in the last line are revealed to be individualists. It is interesting. There seems to be restriction in urban society and freedom in nature. The haiku is not a joining of two similar subjects, but it is a comparison of two unlike subjects in this case. At least, this is what I can gather from the haiku.

  31. marie says:

    this is a gorgeous poem. yes it is a poem. length is not a qualifying characteristic of poetry. i’ve seen one line poems. and it was quite effective. (my poetry professor saw one that was only a title.) poetry is creating art, just with words. paper and words are a poet’s media.
    for those of you who hate it and think it has no meaning, look past the black ink on the pages. there is a meaning woven between and into the words. its there. i can feel it.

  32. Jeremiah Josiah says:

    I agree with the haters, this poem was weak … two weak ass lines cant really be a good poem. what was he thinking, was he high? The poem didnt even ryhme or make sense… for those of you who think this poem is really good, u must be some kind of loser…

  33. Karen says:

    After reading all the comments that ppl left for this poem i still dont even get it. How the hell can u get so much from 2 little lines??? In a couple minutes me and my partner Andrew have to explain this crappy poem to the class and we dont have a clue as what to say!!!

  34. Geoff says:

    If you think the poem “sucks” and there’s no meaning, read it again, and read between the lines. Pound is simply telling his audience to stop and smell the roses. That’s why it’s so short; it doesn’t need to be any longer. Originally the poem was 40 lines and he cut it down to two, because those two lines were the “essence” of the poem. Then again, you could probably pick this poem apart so much that you find about 1, 000, 000 different meanings.

  35. Brother Geo says:

    It seems to me that no one has yet tumbled to the true meaning of this poem. Pound specifically says the “apparition” of faces….in short, the faces in total combine to make an apparition. This apparition is, of course, the future spector of Death….i.e., the “petals” on the “black bough,” with the black bough being Death itself. Way to go, Pound!

  36. Jennifer says:

    Pound cleverly states where the poem is taking place. The meaning I take from the poem is a deep one. “The apparition of these faces in the crowd;” perhaps he is simply stating as we walk the earth or in this case a bus station we don’t pay attention. Most people keep to themselves in a bus station not wanting to call attention or looking into anyone’s eyes. So people become ghost, an apparition because we are seeing faces, but not really acknowledging anyone. Perhaps, “petals on a wet, black bough,” are the feet of people walking, on the dark pavement and the wetness is from the steam of the train.

    To me the entirety of the poem means we don’t pay attention to “strangers” instead of giving a courteous nod or wave, we look without seeing and we all become apparitions in a crowd.

  37. Lang Le says:

    I am on the same ground with Danzig (comment #16), with one difference. The “wet, black bough” may be the impression of a rain-drenched crowd instead of the dark subway station. The connection from people’s faces to petals is masterful in that it calls up a storm of feelings and senses.

  38. sara says:

    this poem was inspired by traditional japanese haikus but it is adapted to express the alienation of modern society…I hope it will bring me luck at my exam next saturday!!

  39. Instien says:

    My first opinon (sp?)on the poem was. Wow it is way to short, how can you get a poem out of this. But reading more deeper i seen that he had more meaning and had a great way of words. The symbolisim and everything was wonderful. I see why my english teacher recomended his poem to me

  40. Clarence says:

    The poem was bad there was no meaning and was way to short

  41. Kyle says:

    I am doing an english report on Pound and i do not take any thing from this poem, he needed to think a little more it is not powerful at all! Some of the comments I think are horrible- but pound is an ok poet

  42. Thomas says:

    This poem is very powerful and moving, despite its short length. It proves that poems are not about how much you can write, but how well you can right with fewer words that mean more.

  43. Fred Hayibor says:

    ‘In A Station Of The Metro’ is a masterpiece of imagism.
    One important thing that no critic should forget is that works of this kind are highly subjective. But Pound by the title of the poem teases us into the situation. I immediately find myself by the roadside after school, waiting to board a bus home. The crowd is thick; there is no order;the last to arrive want to be first to get on board; no one seems to be pathetic or to respect natural justice. Taking the first line of the poem, the keywords “apparition” “faces” and “crowd” will be meaningful when considered at a literary level. “Apparition” suggests that every event of the scene is phantasmagoria. “Faces” is a strong symbolic tool. The face is a mirror of the innerman. It reflects our emotions. A smiling face signifies a happy soul; a sad soul will imprint melancholy in the face; a scowl signals anger. “Faces” therefore suggest the variety of persons and their feelings. “Crowd” suggests a population of these people and faces. It also suggests a link between a face and another. Implicit in this is that the transient and illusive expressions you see on each face is influenced by the environment.

    The next line concludes it all. “Petals” are conspicuous and standout in any collection of colours. It seems to contradict the writers us of “apparition” and “crowd”, as it suggests that individuals could be recognised. But no! It’s perfect. All the horror – “black” and stillness, lifelessness, hopelessness, weary, misery and pessimism expressed on the faces – “wet” are deceptive of their true identity. Behind these “ills” hides a beauty that conquers all and makes lives thrive.

  44. kk says:

    im trying to midel pounds poem by writing one of similar likeliness( the 2 line dealio)
    1.
    children giggleing in a park,
    a single snow flake set on fire

    or 2.
    children giggling under a star filled sky,
    the ice cold snow turns into a blazing fire

    please comment if i posted this twice im sorry i couldnt get my computer to work

  45. Danzig Farmington says:

    The image of the petals on the black brough appears very contrasted in my mind (I’m thinking of a vivid pink petal on a black branch in the middle of winter). Similarly, the faces of the people next to the backdrop of a dull, dark subway station also appears strikingly similar

  46. Rao says:

    I think this poem is unattached observation of the poet

  47. xiekan says:

    I like it cos it’s simple, and I like it cos it’s in-depth. The use of imagism enables the auther to fuse his feeling and environment together perfectly. All in all, it’s a short but nice one worth reading.

  48. Ty Hunkin says:

    I would recommend reading this poem and then walking in a crowded square with the words still fresh in your mind. I did this while in school and the poem truly resignated with the experience. The many people passing by instantaneously gone as soon as one has looked upon their features, their faces as apparitions in time. A singular part of a great life tree that has at times been of the blackest sorrow and yet with spring can come fresh beauty and tremendous joy. Perhaps interpreting a poem such as this really does require ‘hands on’ use of its words and imagery. Just an opinion of course.

  49. 阎漫漫 says:

    short but deep, imagery is important. it seems to be the infinity in a minute in one’s eyes.

  50. Lauren says:

    Of course, the scene is placed at a subway station in Paris…the “metro.” I believe he is traveling to this new town, and as he looks around he sees all these “faces in the crowd” who are strangers that are coming into view and being accepted (what “apparition” means”). I believe Pound is a little frightened in the subway with all the new surroundings. Then, he notices and accepts the beauty of these faces just like we would accept petals blooming in the spring.

  51. Che' says:

    I think this poem is an ode to the randomness of life…the many people you meet on the subway in some way contribute to you life in just the fact that they cross your path…if you’re like me you’ll wonder why the weary looking woman is really as old as she appears, or is her life hard and taking away her youth? The petals are black, but they are still petals nonetheless, so it is still beautiful.

  52. Cassie says:

    This poem makes you think and leaves it up to you to decipher what Pound is trying to portray.
    A metro is a subway system in Europe/ France, generally.
    Read the poem with the title as that is truly the first line. The subway is crowded and the people arfe stuck, they cannot move because it is so crowded, like petals stuck to a wet tree branch or tree stump,

  53. wilson says:

    that is a good poem, but chinese ancient poet Ma Zhiyuan could be the teacher of pound. If you don’t believe you should go to reade the poems of ma, such as 天尽沙.秋思

  54. salim says:

    Poem, I belive, should not be a puzzle; when you solve a puzzle, it is no longer atractive or is a puzzle; no usefullness, trash it. Hovewer, a poem should be read again and again; every time you read and evertime one should enjoy reading it again; poem should not give a feeling of burden to a reader; Writing a compasition is a high-school students puzzle, but a poem also should not even be closer to a composition which I am afraid saome of the poem embeded along. Since poem is a sinthesis of a subjective protest that connects protester and protested, than, I think poem achieves its goal, Additionaly, without harmony and ritm how could be a wrting could be considered a poem.

  55. jayel says:

    who knew that three lines could be so inspirational? the level of imagism used in Ezra’s work is phenomenal… just reading over the comments that have ben left here prove it. personally i find this type of poem to be thought-provoking, and i think the author wrote it this way to be very open-ended and free to interpretation

  56. Stephanie says:

    well it is simple still there a special meaning…. waw!! that is so beutifull!!;)o_O

  57. J.T.PARREIRA says:

    Este poema de Ezra Pound é o corolário de todas as teses sobre a estética na poesia que Pound escreveu. É a perfeita imagem do imagismo, é a perfeitíssima sintese da metonímia colocado em prática. Jamais na poesia anglo-saxónica moderna houve um poeta que, com duas estrofes apenas tenha criado tanto ( William Carlos Williams fez o mesmo mas com mais estrofes no poema The Locust Tree.. ), e o que Pound criou foi a perfeita exaltação da solitude dos rostos, de todos os rostos, na multidão, metaforizando-os como um ramo húmido de flores tristes.

  58. Michelle says:

    Can’t understand it? Read Yeats’ ‘The Two Trees’. He wrote this in a time when imagism was emerging in place of symbolism. He uses Yeats’ words and molds them to his liking and changes the meaning of everything. The black bough could represent death, while the petals could represent what was left of a life or someone’s life he once knew, hence the apparition in the crowd. He could be reflecting on a memory.

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