Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
Great minds have sought you- lacking someone else.
You have been second always. Tragical?
No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
One average mind- with one thought less, each year.
Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.
And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:
Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion;
Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale for two,
Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
These are your riches, your great store; and yet
For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
In the slow float of differing light and deep,
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that’s quite your own.
Yet this is you.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Ezra Pound's poem Portrait d’Une Femme


  1. Sheryl Skoglund says:

    Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
    London has swept about you this score years
    Sargasso Sea

    — n
    a calm area of the N Atlantic, between the Caribbean and the Azores. It seems to me the Sargasso Sea is lucky to be if London was sweeping around the sea. No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
    Nothing thats quite your own.
    Yet this is you.
    The Sargasso Sea is lucky London said there is nothing!

  2. mkj says:

    How could this be about Jean Rhys? It was written in 1912 – she wrote her book in 1966. I doubt that she would take an extract of the opening line of a poem insulting her and use it was a title for her book 5 decades later.

  3. Jessica says:

    According to an article published in 2002 in Modernisim/modernity 9.3 pp 389-405 by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, the woman is more likely Florence Farr [Emery], an actress, a socialist, a theosophist, and a feminist. A more general interpretation of it helps one’s understanding of his muse and his regard toward her.

  4. Ez says:

    This is a great poem. He is definitely talking about someone he knew closely. “seen you sit for hours,” “your mind and you are our sargasso sea.” This person has no substantive thoughts of her own, but she can be an interesting person to talk to because of her unique (“this is you”) ability to regurgitate gossip or tidbits of knowledge even with an incompetence about the things she is forwarding on. She is ignorant, but is a social tool. That is her purpose; uniquely her. The sargasso sea is known for its floating pieces of ship debris and other flotsam, randomly acquired throughout time. A great metaphor for this dull woman who seeks social aptitude.

  5. David Montes says:

    I think that it is more likely that the woman in this poem is Amy Lowell who Pound had a falling out with after leaving the imagists. He found that that style was stagnant and quickly being passed by, by the rest of the world behaving in much the same way that the Sargossa Sea behaves.

  6. Junetta B. Gillespie says:

    This surprised me, a blank verse poem by Pound, whom I have always known best as the author of the Cantos.
    In the context in which it was presented to me, I am wondering if it was actually written for Jean Rhys; certainly it suits her. Glorious blank verse, which is especially what surprised and delighted me. It testifies to the truth that an artist needs to learn his or her craft before embarking on experimentation.

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