Poetry Review: “Ballad of Mulberry Road” by Ezra Pound

For awhile postings at MontanaWriter will be sparse by necessity, and I will be re-posting –with new content and edits– some older posts that were written and posted before readership here really began to grow. Soon, “and very soon,” there will be enough time again… for new directions and trajectories. But for now, patience is the order of the day.

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound is famous for many things: the man who discovered T.S. Eliot; an influence on and supporter of the generation of writers known as “The Lost Generation;” an influential literary critic; a traitor to his country in World War II. Above all, though, Pound was a poet.

As a poet he was a lyricist, greatly influenced by a love of China and the many works and writers that he translated and introduced to a Western audience. The poem “A Ballad of the Mullberry Road” shows this Eastern influence quite well.

Pound is another poet whose reputation has diminished with time. I do not know why. Leafing through a volume of his poetry, I quickly lose count of the poems I would like to feature here… the many lines I have loved since I first read them decades ago….


A Ballad of the Mullberry Road

The sun rises in south east corner of things
To look on the tall house of the Shin
For they have a daughter named Rafu,
(pretty girl)
She made the name for herself: ‘Gauze Veil,’
For she feeds mulberries to silkworms.
She gets them by the south wall of the town.
With green strings she makes the warp of her basket,
She makes the shoulder-straps of her basket
from the boughs of Katsura,
And she piles her hair up on the left side of her headpiece.

Her earrings are made of pearl,
Her underskirt is of green pattern-silk,
Her overskirt is the same silk dyed in purple,
And when men going by look on Rafu
They set down their burdens,
They stand and twirl their mustaches.


Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

And when men going by look on Rafu
They set down their burdens,

They stand and twirl their mustaches.


The theme of the power of feminine beauty is as old as Homer and Helen… as old as Adam and Eve. It is the theme of my favorite Ezra Pound poem as well, “Tame Cat.”


Tame Cat
“It rests me to be among beautiful women.
Why should one always lie about such matters?
I repeat:
It rests me to converse with beautiful women
Even though we talk nothing but nonsense,

The purring of the invisible antennæ
Is both stimulating and delightful.”