The Individual in the Crowd.
In a station of the metro by Ezra Pound is a poem of two lines. It reads,
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
This poem is written in a Japanese poetic language called Haiku and uses only fourteen words. This poem is a classic imagistic poem. This means that the author is trying to create images through the language he uses. He is very economical in terms of the words he uses. It almost feels like he is restricting himself on what words to use. The reader is expected to get a visual image from the words written. The intense of emotion can also be felt through the words that are used. These emotions feel the gap that few words leave.
Firstly, the setting is a Paris metro station. A metro station is a railway station that serves people through underground tunnels. In this part, we expect to find scores of people, some who are arriving and others leaving. A metro station is a perfect scene for chaos. There is noise everywhere and you cannot hear what others are saying due to the noise made by people and the trains. It must have been the author’s first visit to the metro station. This is why this image was so important to him. He even makes it the title so that the reader can capture the image that he wants to create. People are always walking in all directions trying to locate their relatives and friends and there is confusion everywhere. His choice of words is perfect to set the scenery, and leave the reader expecting more.
The first line conjures another image in the mind of the reader. He uses the word, “apparition” which is the key word in this line. It means the sudden, mysterious appearance of images upon one’s face. This means that what he saw appeared suddenly and in a mystic way. This is already forming an image in the mind of the reader. It may be frightening or angelic and the choice of that word was meant to bring out this image. At a metro station, it is difficult to take note of specific people because the place is so filled up but a ghostly image cannot go unnoticed. The author continues to say, “The apparition of these faces in the crowd”. This means that the faces appeared suddenly and in a mysterious way. This is the reason why he noticed them. In big crowds like those found in a metro station, it would be difficult to take note of anyone if you do not know them, but the author noticed these faces. The instant that he notices these faces is of absolute importance because another image is formed and the reader wants to know what kinds of faces the author had seen. Were they ghostly or angelic?
The next line answers this question, “petals on a wet, black bough.” The use of the word, “petals” has a very specific meaning in this poem. Petals as we know them are a part of a flower and are usually soft, beautiful and give the flower a glow that is wonderful. Petals are not usually found in areas that are crowded but are found in soft, peaceful areas. In this poem, it means that the faces that the author saw were sweet and soft. It gives a feeling of feminism. Some readers may even say that the faces were female. Petals are usually colorful and are out in the sun for all to see. This is the image that appeared suddenly in the author’s eyes. When something as beautiful as petals comes up in a chaotic crowd, a person has no other option but to notice it. This part of the line gives the reader a sense of wild beauty, splendor and magnificence. The manner in which the author expresses, it portrays intense emotion since the setting is so different from this. Beauty and peace is the least expected in a place like the metro station. The other part of this line brings out another aspect of this poem. The line says that the petals appeared on a wet black bough. The use of the word “bough” is of importance, because it usually means a large branch of a tree. In this poem, the author says that the petals appeared on a wet, black bough meaning that the wonderful beauty appeared in a place that was not as striking as expected. The author describes the metro station as a wet black bough to show how unattractive the place was.
This poem creates a lot of tension and contrast in just a few words. It creates intense emotions and then dilutes them. In the title of this poem, we already expect that the metro station will be like any other station with a lot of noise. A person is always in a hurry to leave it. The author has already created images in the mind of the reader that he is in a place that is not pleasant at all. Then he brings in the aspect of apparition. This changes the mood altogether. The reader starts to wonder what kind of images appear so suddenly and catch the attention of the author so fast in such a crowded place. Suspense has been raised and the reader wants to read more and get answers to what has been left hanging. Then the author brings in the petals, which almost creates a smile on the readers face. This is because he now knows that the author saw faces that were so beautiful, that they caught his attention. The author of this poem has succeeded in creating different emotions with such few lines.
In conclusion, the author wants to bring an overall message that beauty and excellent things can be found in places where one least expects. This experience is breathtaking because, it is almost like the reader was expecting a tragedy because of the setting given at first. However, the mood has totally changed by the end of the poem, giving the reader a sigh of relief. The author gives the impression that perfect beauty can be found in the midst of imperfection. In real world, people assume that good things or people can only be found in areas that are labeled as high class or expensive. Nevertheless, the author of this poem gives the reader a lesson to learn from. Beauty, love and peace can all be found in areas that one least expects. The poem evokes so many emotions in so few words. The author’s choice of language is perfect for the images he wants to create. He truly achieved his goal in writing such an imagistic, inspirational poem.