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Ezra Pound's A Pact: Analysis

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Whether returning to the poem or reading it for the first time, the analysis of 'A Pact' by Ezra Pound in this lesson will help you understand the imagery and context behind this declaration of poetic independence!

'A Pact' by Ezra Pound

Warring countries or feuding friends might not use poetry to call their truces, but when the hard feelings are between one poet and another, it only makes sense. Published as part of his Contemporania ('Contemporary Works') in the April 1913 edition of Poetry Magazine, Ezra Pound's 'A Pact' calls a ceasefire between himself and the work of Walt Whitman.

Since the 'terms' of this poetic treaty are so concise (only nine lines), let's take a look at the poem itself before we jump into analyzing it:

'I make truce with you, Walt Whitman--

I have detested you long enough.

I come to you as a grown child

Who has had a pig-headed father;

I am old enough now to make friends.

It was you that broke the new wood,

Now is a time for carving.

We have one sap and one root--

Let there be commerce between us.'

Growing Pains: Analyzing Pound's 'A Pact'

It's an unfortunate fact of growing up, but many of us have probably been at odds with our parents at some point in our lives. Maybe they don't like our friends or don't want us doing something we have our hearts set on; either way, we almost inevitably end up feeling at least a little animosity toward our parents for some reason. In 'A Pact,' Ezra Pound expresses his own parental pains in growing up - not as a person, but as an artist.

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) American poetic innovator
Photo of Ezra Pound

*Poetic Parentage

Just as some of us might reconcile with our parents after years of harboring hurt feelings, Pound opens his poem by calling a truce between himself and Walt Whitman, claiming he's 'detested (him) long enough.' Of course, Whitman and Pound weren't actually related at all, but Ezra sees the older artist as his poetic predecessor. So, much like a parent, Pound views the elder poet as an authority figure: in this case, on the subject of their shared craft.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) Fundamental American poet and father of free verse
Photo of Walt Whitman

When it comes to poetry, Walt Whitman was certainly one of the foremost authorities of the 19th century. His recombination of the verse styles and contexts of various cultures led him to create a truly American style of poetry and he's often touted as the 'father' of free verse - a form of poetry with no regular meter or line length. As a prolific user of free verse himself (i.e. in 'A Pact'), Pound acknowledges his poetic parentage; however, he wants to do his own thing. But, like 'a grown child / Who has a pig-headed father,' Ezra finds it difficult to gain acceptance for his own poetic ideas.

*New Growth

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