ABC of Reading

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According to Ezra Pound, great literature is “simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree,” (Pound 28) and “news that stays news” (29). In his book, ABC of Reading, Pound explains that one can “charge words with meaning mainly in three ways, called phanopoeia, melopoeia, logopoeia” (37). The way he wrote his book is analogous to the way any writing should be: clear rather than abstract and very concise. The poetry appended to the volume, too, tends toward the clean, precise and concise. John Donne’s, “The Ecstasy” is one of many that Pound classifies as “great literature” and therefore part of the canon of great literature.

In “The Ecstasy,” John Donne manages to express what he means without “hunting for sentiments that fit his vocabulary,” (140) according to Pound. Pound indicates that Donne’s choice of words is merely a vehicle, which he uses to convey his message or meaning to the reader. When he writes, “we like sepulchral statues lay,” (Donne18) Donne particularly chooses the word “sepulchral” (18) for several reasons. Sepulchral refers to a tomb so this describes the physical state of the statues. In addition to that, sepulchral can be used to express a gloomy tone, and here, Donne personifies the statues by giving them a feeling of emotion. Although one among many, this example perfectly testifies to how Donne uses single words to represent multiple ideas. Pound classifies this as one way of “charging words with meaning,” (Pound 37) known as logopoeia. Furthermore, this poem meets Pound’s requirement of being a “concentrated form of verbal expression” (36) because, the sepulchral statues can also refer to monuments. In writing this poem, Donne attempts to build a monument out of words rather than m...

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...ucture, one endangers the entire structure of falling apart. Likewise, when one omits even a single word from Donne’s poem, the poem crumbles and loses its meaning.

The above mentioned ideas prove that Donne successfully conveyed his meaning to the reader in a concise manner where every word was loaded with profound ideas. Pound includes this particular poem as an example of great literature because it follows his logic—one has to be very well read to understand the poem its full extent. Furthermore, it satisfies all the criteria to be classified ‘great literature’ by Pound, but the reader is left with the task of understanding why Pound believes what he does.

Works Cited

Donne, John. "The Ecstasy." ABC of Reading. By Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions Pub., 2010. 137-40. Print.

Pound, Ezra. ABC of Reading. New York: New Directions Pub., 2010. Print.

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