From The Paris Review:
If the authors of Genesis envisioned any one particular fruit dangling from that infamous tree in Eden, scholars argue it was likely the pomegranate. In the Greco-Roman tradition, those same ruby seeds cursed Persephone to an eternal half-life, consigned her to winter after winter with her abductor-husband, Hades, among the pomegranate groves of the dead. From Jerusalem to Athens to Rome, this is the fruit you get when love spoils into lust, when desire goes to seed. This is not a fruit you want to crack open.
Lawrence knows this mythology. His poem is, in fact, a highly compressed commentary on it. He take a tour of three cities—Syracuse, Venice, San Gervasio—and three of their pomegranate orchards. As Lawrence moves among these places, these pomegranates, he moves, too, among the fragments of lost—or soon to be lost—love. (As for his puzzling reference to the “viciousness of Greek women,” maybe he had a bad experience.) The fruits’ imperious grandeur—“barbed, barbed with crowns”—allures and inflames his memory, stoking his violent outcry until it bursts its confines. Literally. One of the wonders of this poem is that it is itself a pomegranate. Its prickly, defensive opening lines call to mind a barbed crown. That crown gives way to a tough rind and bitter pulp, the poem’s central section, with its various fruits and grievances. These, in turn, at long last yield seeds. By his fifth stanza Lawrence is railing about a “fissure,” and pretty soon “the end cracks open with the beginning,” and the poem reveals a prize too ravishing, too delicious, to be anything but the pomegranate’s bejeweled contents:
For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken.
It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.