History of Literature











American literature


 


Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound, in full Ezra Loomis Pound (b. Oct. 30, 1885, Hailey, Idaho, U.S.—d. Nov. 1, 1972, Venice, Italy), American poet and critic, a supremely discerning and energetic entrepreneur of the arts who did more than any other single figure to advance a “modern” movement in English and American literature. Pound promoted, and also occasionally helped to shape, the work of such widely different poets and novelists as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot. His pro-Fascist broadcasts in Italy during World War II led to his postwar arrest and confinement until 1958.

Early life and career
Pound was born in a small mining town in Idaho, the only child of a Federal Land Office official, Homer Loomis Pound of Wisconsin, and Isabel Weston of New York City. About 1887 the family moved to the eastern states, and in June 1889, following Homer Pound’s appointment to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, they settled in nearby Wyncote, where Pound lived a normal middle-class childhood.

After two years at Cheltenham Military Academy, which he left without graduating, he attended a local high school. From there he went for two years (1901–03) to the University of Pennsylvania, where he met his lifelong friend, the poet William Carlos Williams. He took a Ph.B. (bachelor of philosophy) degree at Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y., in 1905 and returned to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate work. He received his M.A. in June 1906 but withdrew from the university after working one more year toward his doctorate. He left with a knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Provençal, and Anglo-Saxon, as well as of English literature and grammar.

In the autumn of 1907, Pound became professor of Romance languages at Wabash Presbyterian College, Crawfordsville, Ind. Although his general behaviour fairly reflected his Presbyterian upbringing, he was already writing poetry and was affecting a bohemian manner. His career came quickly to an end, and in February 1908, with light luggage and the manuscript of a book of poems that had been rejected by at least one American publisher, he set sail for Europe.

He had been to Europe three times before, the third time alone in the summer of 1906, when he had gathered the material for his first three published articles: Raphaelite Latin, concerning the Latin poets of the Renaissance, and Interesting French Publications, concerning the troubadours (both published in the Book News Monthly, Philadelphia, September 1906), and Burgos, a Dream City of Old Castile (October issue).

Now, with little money, he sailed to Gibraltar and southern Spain, then on to Venice, where in June 1908 he published, at his own expense, his first book of poems, A lume spento. About September 1908 he went to London, where he was befriended by the writer and editor Ford Madox Ford (who published him in his English Review), entered William Butler Yeats’s circle, and joined the “school of images,” a modern group presided over by the philosopher T.E. Hulme.


Success abroad
In England, success came quickly to Pound. A book of poems, Personae, was published in April 1909; a second book, Exultations, followed in October; and a third book, The Spirit of Romance, based on lectures delivered in London (1909–10), was published in 1910.

After a trip home—a last desperate and unsuccessful attempt to make a literary life for himself in Philadelphia or New York City—he returned to Europe in February 1911, visiting Italy, Germany, and France. Toward the end of 1911 he met an English journalist, Alfred R. Orage, editor of the socialist weekly New Age, who opened its pages to him and provided him with a small but regular income during the next nine years.

In 1912 Pound became London correspondent for the small magazine Poetry (Chicago); he did much to enhance the magazine’s importance and was soon a dominant figure in Anglo-American verse. He was among the first to recognize and review the poetry of Robert Frost and D.H. Lawrence and to praise the sculpture of the modernists Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. As leader of the Imagist movement of 1912–14, successor of the “school of images,” he drew up the first Imagist manifesto, with its emphasis on direct and sparse language and precise images in poetry, and he edited the first Imagist anthology, Des Imagistes (1914).


A shaper of modern literature
Though his friend Yeats had already become famous, Pound succeeded in persuading him to adopt a new, leaner style of poetic composition. In 1914, the year of his marriage to Dorothy Shakespear, daughter of Yeats’s friend Olivia Shakespear, he began a collaboration with the then-unknown James Joyce. As unofficial editor of The Egoist (London) and later as London editor of The Little Review (New York City), he saw to the publication of Joyce’s novels Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, thus spreading Joyce’s name and securing financial assistance for him. In that same year he gave T.S. Eliot a similar start in his career as poet and critic.

He continued to publish his own poetry (Ripostes, 1912; Lustra, 1916) and prose criticism (Pavannes and Divisions, 1918). From the literary remains of the great Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa, which had been presented to Pound in 1913, he succeeded in publishing highly acclaimed English versions of early Chinese poetry, Cathay (1915), and two volumes of Japanese Noh plays (1916–17) as well.


Development as a poet
Unsettled by the slaughter of World War I and the spirit of hopelessness he felt was pervading England after its conclusion, Pound decided to move to Paris, publishing before he left two of his most important poetical works, “Homage to Sextus Propertius,” in the book Quia Pauper Amavi (1919), and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). “Propertius” is a comment on the British Empire in 1917, by way of Propertius and the Roman Empire. Mauberley, a finely chiseled “portrait” of one aspect of British literary culture in 1919, is one of the most praised poems of the 20th century.

During his 12 years in London, Pound had completely transformed himself as a poet. He arrived a Late Victorian for whom love was a matter of “lute strings,” “crushed lips,” and “Dim tales that blind me.” Within five or six years he was writing a new, adult poetry that spoke calmly of current concerns in common speech. In this drier intellectual air, “as clear as metal,” Pound’s verse took on new qualities of economy, brevity, and clarity as he used concrete details and exact visual images to capture concentrated moments of experience. Pound’s search for laconic precision owed much to his constant reading of past literature, including Anglo-Saxon poetry, Greek and Latin classics, Dante, and such 19th-century French works as Théophile Gautier’s Émaux et camées and Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary. Like his friend T.S. Eliot, Pound wanted a modernism that brought back to life the highest standards of the past. Modernism for its own sake, untested against the past, drew anathemas from him. His progress may be seen in attempts at informality (1911):

Have tea, damn the Caesars,

Talk of the latest success. . .

in the gathering strength of his 1911 version of the Anglo-Saxon poem “Seafarer” :

Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten,

fell on the stern

In icy feathers. . .

and in the confident free verse of “The Return” (1912):

See, they return; ah, see the tentative

Movements, and the slow feet. . .

From this struggle there emerged the short, perfectly worded free-verse poems in Lustra. In his poetry Pound was now able to deal efficiently with a whole range of human activities and emotions, without raising his voice. The movement of the words and the images they create are no longer the secondhand borrowings of youth or apprenticeship but seem to belong to the observing intelligence that conjures up the particular work in hand. Many of the Lustra poems are remarkable for perfectly paced endings:

Nor has life in it aught better

Than this hour of clear coolness,

the hour of waking together.

But the culmination of Pound’s years in London was his 18-part long poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, which ranged from close observation of the artist and society to the horrors of mass production and World War I; from brilliant echo of the past:

When our two dusts with Waller’s shall be laid,

Siftings on siftings in oblivion,

Till change hath broken down

All things save Beauty alone.

to the syncopation of

With a placid and uneducated mistress

He exercises his talents

And the soil meets his distress.


The Cantos
During his stay in Paris (1921–24) Pound met and helped the young American novelist Ernest Hemingway; wrote an opera, Le Testament, based on poems of François Villon; assisted T.S. Eliot with the editing of his long poem The Waste Land; and acted as correspondent for the New York literary journal The Dial.

In 1924 Pound tired of Paris and moved to Rapallo, Italy, which was to be his home for the next 20 years. In 1925 he had a daughter, Maria, by the expatriate American violinist Olga Rudge, and in 1926 his wife, Dorothy, gave birth to a son, Omar. The daughter was brought up by a peasant woman in the Italian Tirol, the son by relatives in England. In 1927–28 Pound edited his own magazine, Exile, and in 1930 he brought together, under the title A Draft of XXX Cantos, various segments of his ambitious long poem The Cantos, which he had begun in 1915.

The 1930s saw the publication of further volumes of The Cantos (Eleven New Cantos, 1934; The Fifth Decad of Cantos, 1937; Cantos LII–LXXI, 1940) and a collection of some of his best prose (Make It New, 1934). A growing interest in music caused him to arrange a long series of concerts in Rapallo during the 1930s, and, with the assistance of Olga Rudge, he played a large part in the rediscovery of the 18th-century Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. The results of his continuing investigation in the areas of culture and history were published in his brilliant but fragmentary prose work Guide to Kulchur (1938).

Following the Great Depression of the 1930s, he turned more and more to history, especially economic history, a subject in which he had been interested since his meeting in London in 1918 with Clifford Douglas, the founder of Social Credit, an economic theory stating that maldistribution of wealth due to insufficient purchasing power is the cause of economic depressions. Pound had come to believe that a misunderstanding of money and banking by governments and the public, as well as the manipulation of money by international bankers, had led the world into a long series of wars. He became obsessed with monetary reform (ABC of Economics, 1933; Social Credit, 1935; What Is Money For?, 1939), involved himself in politics, and declared his admiration for the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (Jefferson and/or Mussolini, 1935). The obsession affected his Cantos, which even earlier had shown evidence of becoming an uncontrolled series of personal and historical episodes.


Anti-American broadcasts
As war in Europe drew near, Pound returned home (1939) in the hope that he could help keep the peace between Italy and the United States. He went back to Italy a disappointed man, and between 1941 and 1943, after Italy and the United States were at war, he made several hundred broadcasts over Rome Radio on subjects ranging from James Joyce to the control of money and the U.S. government by Jewish bankers and often openly condemned the American war effort. He was arrested by U.S. forces in 1945 and spent six months in a prison camp for army criminals near Pisa. Despite harsh conditions there, he translated Confucius into English (The Great Digest & Unwobbling Pivot, 1951) and wrote The Pisan Cantos (1948), the most moving section of his long poem-in-progress.

Returned to the United States to face trial for treason, he was pronounced “insane and mentally unfit for trial” by a panel of doctors and spent 12 years (1946–58) in Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C. During this time he continued to write The Cantos (Section: Rock-Drill, 1955; Thrones, 1959), translated ancient Chinese poetry (The Classic Anthology, 1954) and Sophocles’ Trachiniai (Women of Trachis, 1956), received visitors regularly, and kept up a voluminous and worldwide correspondence. Controversy surrounding him burst out anew when, in 1949, he was awarded the important Bollingen Prize for his Pisan Cantos. When on April 18, 1958, he was declared unfit to stand trial and the charges against him were dropped, he was released from Saint Elizabeth’s. He returned to Italy, dividing the year between Rapallo and Venice.

Pound lapsed into silence in 1960, leaving The Cantos unfinished. More than 800 pages long, they are fragmentary and formless despite recurring themes and ideas. The Cantos are the logbook of Pound’s own private voyage through Greek mythology, ancient China and Egypt, Byzantium, Renaissance Italy, the works of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and many other periods and subjects, including economics and banking and the nooks and crannies of his own memory and experience. Pound even convinced himself that the poem’s faults and weaknesses, inevitable from the nature of the undertaking, were part of an underlying method. Yet there are numerous passages such as only he could have written that are among the best of the century.

Pound died in Venice in 1972. Out of his 60 years of publishing activity came 70 books of his own, contributions to about 70 others, and more than 1,500 articles. A complete listing of his works is in Donald Gallup, A Bibliography of Ezra Pound (1963; rev. ed 1983). Most of the writing on which Pound’s fame now rests may be found in Personae (The Collected Poems; 1926, new ed. 1949), a selection of poems Pound wished to keep in print in 1926, with a few earlier and later poems added in 1949; The Cantos (1970), cantos 1–117, a collection of all the segments published to date; The Spirit of Romance (1910); Literary Essays (1954), the bulk of his best criticism, ed. with an introduction by T.S. Eliot; Guide to Kulchur (1938); and The Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907–1941, ed. by D.D. Paige (1950), an excellent introduction to Pound’s literary life and inimitable epistolary style.
 

 


 


Ezra Pound



 

 

Ezra Pound

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (October 30, 1885 – November 1, 1972) was an American expatriate poet, critic and intellectual who was a major figure of the Modernist movement in the first half of the 20th century. He is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry.[1] In the early teens of the twentieth century, he opened a seminal exchange of work and ideas between British and American writers, and was famous for the generosity with which he advanced the work of such major contemporaries as Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D., Ernest Hemingway, and especially T. S. Eliot. Pound also had a profound influence on Irish writers W. B. Yeats and James Joyce.

His own significant contributions to poetry begin with his promotion of Imagism, a movement in poetry which derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry—stressing clarity, precision, and economy of language, and forgoing traditional rhyme and meter in order to, in Pound's words, "compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome."

His later work, for nearly fifty years, focused on the encyclopedic epic poem he entitled The Cantos.

The critic Hugh Kenner said of Pound upon meeting him: "I suddenly knew that I was in the presence of the center of modernism."


Life

Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho Territory, to Homer Loomis and Isabel Weston Pound. His grandfather was the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, Thaddeus C. Pound.When he was 18 months old, his family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 1901 at the age of 15, he entered the University of Pennsylvania, but after studying there for two years transferred to Hamilton College, where he received his Ph.B. in 1905. He then returned to Penn, completing an M.A. in Romance philology in 1906.

During his studies at Penn, he met and befriended William Carlos Williams and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), to whom he became engaged for a time. Afterward, Pound taught at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, but when he allowed a stranded actress to spend the night in his room, the resulting scandal caused him to leave his teaching post after only four months, "all accusations", he later claimed, "having been ultimately refuted except that of being 'the Latin Quarter type.'" He had been taken to Europe by relatives in 1898 and again traveled to Europe and Morocco in 1902. In 1908 he moved to Europe, settling in London after spending a brief stint working as a tour guide in Gibraltar, and several months in Venice, where he self-published A Lume Spento.

London

Pound's early poetry was inspired by his reading of the pre-Raphaelites and other 19th century poets and medieval Romance literature, as well as much neo-Romantic and occult/mystical philosophy. After moving to London, the influence of Ford Madox Ford and T. E. Hulme encouraged Pound to cast off overtly archaic poetic language and forms and begin to remake himself as a poet. Pound believed William Butler Yeats was the greatest living poet, and befriended him in England.[7] Pound eventually became Yeats' secretary, and soon became interested in Yeats's occult beliefs. During World War I Pound and Yeats lived together at Stone Cottage in Sussex, England, studying Japanese, especially Noh plays. They paid particular attention to the works of Ernest Fenollosa, an American professor in Japan, whose work on Chinese characters fascinated Pound. Eventually, Pound used Fenollosa's work as a starting point for what he called the Ideogrammic Method. In 1914, Pound married Dorothy Shakespear, an artist, and the daughter of Olivia Shakespear, a novelist and former lover of W. B. Yeats.

In the years before the World War I, Pound was largely responsible for the appearance of Imagism, and coined the name of the movement Vorticism, which was led by Wyndham Lewis of whom Pound was also a friend. Pound contributed to Lewis' short-lived literary magazine BLAST whose two numbers appeared in 1914 and 1915. These two movements, Imagism and Vorticism, can be seen as central events in the birth of English-language modernism. They helped bring to notice the work of poets and artists like James Joyce, Lewis, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Jacob Epstein, Richard Aldington, Marianne Moore, Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost, Rebecca West and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Later, Pound also edited his friend T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, the poem that was to force the new poetic sensibility into public attention.


In 1915, Pound published Cathay, a small volume of poems that he described as "For the most part from the Chinese of Rihaku (Li Po), from the notes of the late Ernest Fenollosa, and the decipherings of the professors Mori and Ariga."[8] The volume includes works such as The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter and A Ballad of the Mulberry Road. Unlike previous American translators of Chinese poetry, who tended to work with strict metrical and stanzaic patterns, Pound offered readers free verse translations celebrated for their ease of diction and conversationality. Many critics consider the poems in Cathay to be the most successful realization of Pound's Imagist poetics. Whether the poems are valuable as translations continues to be a source of controversy. Neither Pound nor Fenollosa spoke or read Chinese proficiently, and Pound has been criticized for omitting or adding sections to his poems which have no basis in the original texts, though many critics argue that the fidelity of Cathay to the original Chinese is beside the point. Hugh Kenner, in a chapter "The Invention of China" from The Pound Era contends that Cathay should be read primarily as a work about World War I, not as an attempt at accurately translating ancient Eastern poems. The real achievement of the book, Kenner argues, is in how it combines meditations on violence and friendship with an effort to "rethink the nature of an English poem". These ostensible translations of ancient Eastern texts, Kenner argues, are actually experiments in English poetics and compelling elegies for a warring West.

The war shattered Pound's belief in modern western civilization and he abandoned London soon after, but not before he published Homage to Sextus Propertius (1919) and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). If these poems together form a farewell to Pound's London career, The Cantos, which he began in 1915, pointed his way forward.

Paris
In 1920, Pound moved to Paris, where he moved among a circle of artists, musicians, and writers who were revolutionizing the whole world of modern art. He was friends with notable figures such as Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Fernand Léger and others of the Dada and Surrealist movements. He was also good friends with Basil Bunting and Ernest Hemingway, whom Pound asked to teach him to box. (Hemingway would later write, in A Moveable Feast: "I was never able to teach him to throw a left hook.") He continued working on The Cantos, writing the bulk of the "Malatesta Sequence", which introduced one of the major personas of the poem. The poem increasingly reflected his preoccupations with politics and economics. During this time, he also wrote critical prose and translations and composed two complete operas (with help from George Antheil) and several pieces for solo violin. In 1922 he met and became involved with Olga Rudge, a violinist. Together with Dorothy Shakespear, they formed an uneasy ménage à trois which was to last until the end of the poet's life.

Italy
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Ezra Pound's annotations on his copy of James Legge's translation of the Book of Poetry (Shih Ching), in the Sacred Books of the East.On 10 October 1924, Pound left Paris permanently and moved to Rapallo, Italy. He and Dorothy stayed there briefly, moving on to Sicily, and then returning to settle in Rapallo in January 1925.] In Italy he continued to be a creative catalyst. The young sculptor Heinz Henghes came to see Pound, arriving penniless. He was given lodging and marble to carve, and quickly learned to work in stone. The poet James Laughlin was also inspired at this time to start the publishing company New Directions which would become a vehicle for many new authors.

At this time Pound also organized an annual series of concerts in Rapallo, where a wide range of classical and contemporary music was performed. In particular this musical activity contributed to the 20th century revival of interest in Vivaldi, who had been neglected since his death. Pound also became alarmed at the importation taxes levied by the United States on what Pound believed to be works of art.] In addition to lobbying the US Customs and the House of Representatives, Pound wrote an essay in 1928 entitled "Article 211", where he related a trial to the recent decision to categorise the Nassak Diamond as a work of art, and therefore let it into the United States without payment of an import duty.

Pound made his first trip back home to the U.S. in many years in 1939, on the eve of World War II, and considered moving back permanently, but in the end he chose to return to Italy. "Pound was a passionate supporter of Mussolini." He had a personal audience with Il Duce in 1933. In a radio broadcast in June 1942 he would say "Every man of common sense, including the odd British MP, knows that every man of common sense prefers Fascism to Communism, from the moment that he learns a few concrete facts about both of them."

Pound also had personal reasons for staying in Italy. His elderly parents had retired to Italy to be with him, and were in poor health and would have difficulty making the trip back to America even under peacetime conditions. He also had an Italian-born daughter by his mistress Olga Rudge: Mary (or Maria) Rudge was a young woman in her late teens who had lived in Italy her whole life and who might have had difficulty relocating to America (even though she had American as well as Italian citizenship).

Pound remained in Italy after the outbreak of World War II, which began more than two years before his native United States formally entered the war in December 1941 after Pearl Harbor. He became a leading Axis propagandist, but also continued to be involved in scholarly publishing, and wrote many newspaper pieces. He disapproved of American involvement in the war and tried to use his political contacts in Washington D.C. to prevent it. He spoke on Italian radio and gave a series of talks on political and cultural matters. Pound believed that economics was the core issue at hand. Specifically, his talks were largely about usury and the notion that representative democracy has been usurped by bankers' infiltration of governments through the existence of central banks, which made governments pay interest to private banks for the use of their own money. He maintained that the central bank's ability to create money out of thin air allowed banking interests to buy up American and British media outlets to sway opinion in favor of the war and the banks. Pound was not the first prominent American to make this assertion; for example New York City Mayor John Hylan had publicly said the same thing back in 1922 when he said "these international bankers control the majority of the magazines and newspapers in this country." Pound believed that economic freedom was a prerequisite for a free country. Inevitably, he touched on political matters, and incorporated Antisemitism into his denunciations of the war.

It is not clear if anyone in the United States ever actually heard Pound's radio broadcasts, since Italian radio's shortwave transmitters were weak and unreliable, though obviously his writings for Italian newspapers (as well as a number of pamphlets) were read in Italy. However, according to his biographer Humphrey Carpenter "The broadcasts were 'a masterly performance'.". Carpenter wrote "Certainly there were Americans who, in 1941, would have agreed with virtually every word Ezra said at the microphone about the United States Government, the European conflict, and the power of the Jews." The broadcasts were monitored by the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service of the United States government, and transcripts, now stored in the Library of Congress, were made of them. Pound was indicted for treason by the United States government in 1943.

On July 10, 1943, the Allied forces landed in Sicily and rapidly began to overrun the southern part of Italy. On July 25, 1943 King Victor Emmanuel III summoned Mussolini and dismissed him as the premier of the Kingdom of Italy. Upon leaving the palace, Mussolini was arrested and sent to Gran Sasso, a mountain resort in central Italy (Abruzzo). About two months after he was stripped of power, Mussolini was rescued by the Germans in Operation Oak and relocated to the north, where he declared himself the President of the new Salò Republic.

Pound played a minor role in cultural and propaganda activities in the new puppet republic, which lasted till the spring of 1945. On May 3, 1945, he was arrested by Italian partisans, and taken (according to Hugh Kenner) "to their HQ in Chiavari, where he was soon released as possessing no interest." At his request, he was then brought to the U.S. command in Lavagna, whence he was driven to the C.I.C. in Genoa. On May 24 he was transferred from Genoa to a United States Army detention camp north of Pisa. He spent 25 days in an open cage before being given a tent, and appears to have suffered a nervous breakdown. He drafted the Pisan Cantos in the camp. This section of the work in progress marks a shift in Pound's work, being a meditation on his own and Europe's ruin and on his place in the natural world. The Pisan Cantos won the first Bollingen Prize from the Library of Congress in 1949.

St. Elizabeths
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After the war, Pound was brought back to the United States to face charges of treason. The charges covered only his activities during the time when the Kingdom of Italy was officially at war with the United States, i.e., the time before the Allies captured Rome and Mussolini fled to the North. Pound was not prosecuted for his activities on behalf of Mussolini's Saló Republic, evidently because the Republic's existence was never formally recognized by the United States. He was found incompetent to face trial by a special federal jury and sent to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remained for 12 years from 1946 to 1958. His insanity plea is still a matter of controversy, since in retrospect his activities and his writings during the war years do appear to be those of a sane person.

Following his release, Pound was asked his opinions on his home country. He famously quipped: "America is a lunatic asylum." Subsequently he returned to Italy (first to Castle Brunnenburg near Merano, in Bolzano-Bozen, then later to Rapallo and Venice). He remained in Italy until his death in 1972.

E. Fuller Torrey believed that Pound was given special treatment by colluding authorities, specifically Winfred Overholser, the superintendent of St. Elizabeths. According to Torrey, Overholser admired Pound's poetry and allowed him to live in a private room at the hospital, where he wrote books, received visits from literary figures and enjoyed conjugal relations with his wife. The reliability of Torrey's allegations has been questioned; other scholars have presented Overholser as behaving solely in a humane way to his famous patient, without allowing him special privileges. At St. Elizabeths, Pound was visited by poets and other admirers and continued working on The Cantos as well as translating the Confucian classics.

Pound was also frequently visited by his protegé, a Library of Congress researcher named Eustace Mullins. Pound commissioned Mullins to write a book about the history of the Federal Reserve and to tell it like a detective story. Pound believed that the bankers in charge of the Federal Reserve and their associates in the Bank of England were responsible for getting the United States into both World Wars, in an effort to drive up government debt beyond sustainable levels (the national debt indeed rose astronomically because of the wars). The book, Secrets Of The Federal Reserve, charges that bankers hide behind the screen of the central banks and pull political strings to drive countries into the war, creating immense profits for themselves as the principal beneficiaries of wartime debt. Pound advocated an abandonment of the current system of money being created by private bankers. He favored government issued currency with no interest to pay, preventing the need for an income tax and national debt, much like the system used by the Pennsylvania Colony from 1723 to 1764. Pound argued that his views on money aligned with those of Thomas Jefferson, as well as with Benjamin Franklin's Colonial Scrip.

Pound was also befriended there by Hugh Kenner, whose The Poetry of Ezra Pound (1951) was highly influential in causing a reassessment of Pound's poetry. Other scholars began to edit the Pound Newsletter, which eventually led to the publication of the first guide to The Cantos, Annotated Index to the Cantos of Ezra Pound (1957). Pound had many friends and admirers among his fellow poets, like Elizabeth Bishop, who recorded her response to Pound's situation in the poem "Visits to St. Elizabeth's", and Robert Lowell, who visited and corresponded extensively with Pound. The artist Sheri Martinelli, meanwhile, is believed to have inspired the love poetry in Cantos XC–XCV. Both William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky were among Pound's visitors, as was Guy Davenport, who subsequently wrote his Harvard dissertation on Pound's poetry (published as Cities on Hills in 1983), and the Colonial French nonfigurative painter René Laubies, the first translator of the work of Pound into French (Cantos et poèmes choisis / Ezra Pound, Paris: P.J. Oswald, 1958. 77 pages). In his Portraits et Aphorismes (2001) Laubies writes that he did not remember having any "difficulties returning to visit Pound at the Asylum of St. Elisabeths." He asked Pound whether the surroundings obstructed him: "Not at all, they are the only acceptable Americans." When Laubies told Pound that he was born in Saigon: "Ah, that's why! Only Europeans with a master key to the Suez Canal are worth something...." Charles Olson was a frequent visitor (Pound wrote in a note to his attorney that "Olson saved my life" by providing sane conversation). Olson eventually became disgusted with Pound's anti-Semitic statements and stopped his visits. Pound was finally released after a concerted campaign by many of his fellow poets and artists, particularly Robert Frost and Archibald MacLeish. He was still considered incurably insane, but not dangerous to others.

Rudd Fleming, a professor at the University of Maryland, visited Pound often. They collaborated on a translation of Sophocles' Electra, which was published by Princeton University Press in 1989. Fleming stated, when asked about Pound's anti-semitism, that Pound considered it a mistake. A statement from Pound's foreword to a collection of his prose writings (written on July 4, 1972) would seem to support Fleming's assertion: "In sentences referring to groups or races 'they' should be used with great care. re USURY: I was out of focus, taking a symptom for a cause. The cause is AVARICE." Pound also declared in 1967, "The worst mistake I made was that stupid, suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism."

Death

Grave of Pound on the cemetery island of San Michele, Venice.On his release, Pound returned to Italy continuing work on The Cantos. In 1972, two days after his 87th birthday, Pound died in Venice, where he is buried.

Poetry
Pound's The Cantos contains music and bears a title that could be translated as The Songs—although it never is. Pound's ear was tuned to the motz et sons of troubadour poetry where, as musicologist John Stevens has noted, "melody and poem existed in a state of the closest symbiosis, obeying the same laws and striving in their different media for the same sound-ideal - armonia."

In his essays, Pound wrote of rhythm as "the hardest quality of a man's style to counterfeit." He challenged young poets to train their ear with translation work to learn how the choice of words and the movement of the words combined. But having translated texts from 10 different languages into English, Pound found that translation did not always serve the poetry: "The grand bogies for young men who want really to learn strophe writing are Catullus and François Villon. I personally have been reduced to setting them to music as I cannot translate them." While he habitually wrote out verse rhythms as musical lines, Pound did not set his own poetry to music.

In 1919, when he was 34, Pound began charting his path as a novice composer, writing privately that he intended a revolt against the impressionistic music of Claude Debussy. An autodidact, Pound described his working method as "improving a system by refraining from obedience to all its present 'laws'..." With only a few formal lessons in music composition, Pound produced a small body of work, including a setting of Dante's sestina, "Al poco giorno", for violin. His most important output is the pair of operas: Le Testament, a setting of François Villon's long poem of that name, written in 1461; and Cavalcanti, a setting of 11 poems by Guido Cavalcanti (c. 1250–1300). Pound began composing the Villon with the help of Agnes Bedford, a London pianist and vocal coach. Though the work is notated in Bedford's hand, Pound scholar Robert Hughes has been able to determine that Pound was artistically responsible for the work's overall dramatic and acoustic design.

During his years in Paris (1921–1924), Pound formed close friendships with the American pianist and composer George Antheil, and Antheil's touring partner, the American concert violinist Olga Rudge. Pound championed Antheil's music and asked his help in devising a system of micro-rhythms that would more accurately render the vitalistic speech rhythms of Villon's Old French for Le Testament. The resulting collaboration of 1923 used irregular meters that were considerably more elaborate than Stravinsky's benchmarks of the period, Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) and L'Histoire du Soldat (1918). For example, "Heaulmiere", one of the opera's key arias, at a tempo of quarter note = M.M. 88, moves from 2/8 to 25/32 to 3/8 to 2/4 meter (bars 25–28), making it difficult for performers to hear the current bar of music and anticipate the upcoming bar. Rudge performed in the 1924 and 1926 Paris preview concerts of Le Testament, but insisted to Pound that the meter was impractical.

In Le Testament there is no predictability of manner; no comfort zone for singer or listener; no rests or breath marks. Though Pound stays within the hexatonic scale to evoke the feel of troubadour melodies, modern invention runs throughout, from the stream of unrelenting dissonance in the mother's prayer to the grand shape of the work's aesthetic arc over a period of almost an hour. The rhythm carries the emotion. The music admits the corporeal rhythms (the score calls for human bones to be used in the percussion part); scratches, hiccoughs, and counter-rhythms lurch against each other—an offense to courtly etiquette. With "melody against ground tone and forced against another melody", as Pound puts it, the work spawns a polyphony in polyrhythms that ignores traditional laws of harmony. It was a test of Pound's ideal of an "absolute" and "uncounterfeitable" rhythm conducted in the laboratory of someone obsessed with the relationship between words and music.

After hearing a concert performance of Le Testament in 1926, Virgil Thomson praised Pound's accomplishment. "The music was not quite a musician's music", he wrote, "though it may well be the finest poet's music since Thomas Campion. . . . Its sound has remained in my memory."

Robert Hughes has remarked that where Le Testament explores a Webernesque pointillistic orchestration and derives its vitality from complex rhythms, Cavalcanti (1931) thrives on extensions of melody. Based on the lyric love poetry of Guido Cavalcanti, the opera's numbers are characterized by a challenging bel canto, into which Pound incorporates a number of tongue-in-cheek references to Verdi and a musical motive that gestures to Stravinsky's neo-classicism. By this time his relationship with Antheil had considerably cooled, and Pound, in his gradual acquisition of technical self-sufficiency, was free to emulate certain aspects of Stravinsky. Cavalcanti demands attention to its varying cadences, to a recurring leitmotif, and to a symbolic use of octaves. The play of octaves creates a surrealist straining against the limits of established laws of composition, history, physiology, reason, and love.

Pound's statement, "Rhythm is a FORM cut into TIME", distinguishes his 20th century medievalism from Antheil's SPACE/TIME theory of modern music, which sought pure abstraction. Antheil's system of time organization is inherently biased for complex, asymmetric, and fast tempi; it thrives on innovation and surprise. Pound's more open system allows for any sequence of pitches; it can accommodate older styles of music with their symmetry, repetition, and more uniform tempi, as well as newer methods, such as the asymmetrical micro-metrical divisions of rhythm created for Le Testament.

 


CANTOS
 

Туре of work: Poetry
Author: Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
First published: Canto I, 1925; Canto CXX, 1969
 

 

The common conceptions of Ezra Pound's Cantos, that they are obscure exhibits in the museum of Pound's prodigious memory rife with references to archaic cultures and unfamiliar languages, or that they are fatally infected with the pox of Pound's Fascist politics, are not entirely without truth but are also oversimplifications which distort the much greater truth that the Cantos contain some of the finest poetry and most fascinating and influential literary experiments of the twentieth century. Just as Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855) is a kind of epic of nineteenth century American life and a demonstration of the origins of poetry in American English, the Cantos are an epic of modernist thought in American life in the twentieth century and a measure of the growth of American poetic form to the middle of the century.
Building on Whitman's realization that an epic conception of a legendary hero was no longer viable, and acting in accordance with the Romantic emphasis on the creating artist as a cultural exemplar and heroic focus of a song of himself, Pound envisioned a work that would record the collision of an evolving poetic sensibility with the crucial historical events of his time. He believed that his essentially self-directed education was sufficient preparation for the project, and he believed as an article of faith that his mental energies were of significant proportions equal to the implicit demand that the mind of an epic poem is a concentration of the voices of history. Both "detesting" and admiring Whitman, he wanted to reach beyond the autobiographical vortex of Whitman's poem so that the convergence of scholarship, cultural theory, and poetic imagery in his own consciousness would range beyond an examination of the self not only to record history and its consequences but also to shape it. As a result, the Cantos have an open-ended aspect; Pound, unlike Dante, one of his most important precursors, had no specific charts for the unknown country he was entering.
Yet, even without a definite map in mind, Pound had extensive experience in a variety of poetic forms by the time he started, and he was convinced that structure was possible through, as Hugh Kenner explains, "the electrification of mute experiential filings into a manifestation of form." In addition to what Pound called "a coherent splendor" reachable through a poetic process that stressed the juxtaposition of related images, Pound was intensely aware of the work of painters, composers, and sculptors in Europe whose techniques led him to develop a method akin to what filmmaker Sergie Eisenstein called "ideological montage," in which diverse materials and languages are arranged so as to coalesce into new patterns of meaning. The organizing principle behind Pound's data-collages derived from what Kenneth Rexroth describes as a "radical dissociation and recombination of elements," and while the connections between the various elements sometimes depended on a logic of association inherent in Pound's mind and not clear to anyone outside, from the perspective of an entire sequence of cantos, unifying patterns are clearly discernible. Another method of structural arrangement involves the use of voice—a prophetic voice that is primarily visionary in form and a pedagogic voice that is essentially summary in substance. Among the various insertions of speeches by historical figures, Pound also employs a kind of maverick Yankee dialect to contrast with the staggering erudition of the epic, and in moments of special feeling, what Kenner calls "lyric passages of intoxicated vision." The use of these different voices controls the tone of the poem and permits Pound to modulate mood and develop dramatic tension, another means of establishing structure within an essentially elastic frame.
The first announcement of Pound's intention to begin the Cantos came in 1915, when he wrote in a letter, "I am also at work on a cryselephantine poem of immeasurable length which will occupy me for the next four decades." Drafts of the three cantos were published in Poetry magazine in 1917, and much of what originally appeared in Canto III was revised into the opening lines of Canto I in the early 1920's. The poem begins with a descent into an under or inner world patterned after book 11 of Homer's Odyssey; the beginning of a mental voyage back into myth to recapitulate literary and cultural sources, which also moves inward toward the center of the poet's subconscious mind, the source of his image-making power. The poet's journey is intersected in medias res, specifically in the continuation of a sentence with no preliminary part ("And then went down to the ship ..."), suggesting a mid-life launching. Canto II introduces key figures in Pound's cultural pantheon (Dionysus), crucial techniques (his use of the ideogra-matic method for fashioning images), and special texts (Ovid's Metamorphoses). Canto III deals with the flow of history and visionary moments in time, anticipating other important moments in later cantos, while Canto IV extends this idea by examining the ruins of ancient cities with archaeological insight. Cantos V and VI consider the intersection of sexual power and political action, an important psychological theme, in Renaissance Europe and ancient Greece, while Canto VII establishes an autobiographical connection to the historical material by shifting the focus to the London that Pound and T. S. Eliot knew during the years of World War I. The first six cantos are primarily designed to establish a context and generate an energy field—to place the poet's consciousness into a realm in which an epic assessment of an epoch might become possible.
Pound published Cantos VIII to XI in Eliot's The Criterion in 1923 under the title "Maletesta Cantos" after Sigismundo Maletesta, a Renaissance artist and economic planner whose aesthetic integrity and political principles Pound saw as a model for an exceptional man living amid mundane times and hostile forces. Pound's admiration for Maletesta foreshadows his almost blind obeisance before other men of power and will, but in the poem, his questionable judgment was often balanced by an instinctive interest in figures who provided correction and balance. In Canto XIII, Pound introduced Confucius (Kung-fu-tsu) as another model of reason, insight, and refinement. This canto is one of Pound's clearest, an inventive translation of the Chinese classic The Great Digest, in which a just society is carefully and soberly described in stately cadences:

If a man have not order within him
He cannot spread order about him
And if a man have not order within him
His family will not act with due order;
And if a prince have not order within him
He cannot put order in his dominions.

As the canto concludes, Kung warns, "Without character you will be unable to play on that instrument" (in other words, the poet will not be able to write), and he shows some of the consequences of a world in which character is notably absent among social leaders by describing a version of hell which he told his friend Wyndham Lewis was "a portrait of contemporary London." The urban landscape is full of people who represent the worst of the modern world—their names included in Pound's original manuscript but inked out to avoid libel suits— exploiters, speculators, and avaricious financiers who have produced an economic inferno that Albert Gelpi calls "a fetid, cloacal nightmare of oozing mud, pus, and excrement." These demons are the first in a long list of "obstructors of distribution" or "liars and loan lice" who have perverted Western economic systems so that commerce was not an extension of a natural process. They are, instead, the promoters of usura, Pound's root cause for economic malfunction, and are depicted in a nightmare region, since for Pound usury is " the power of hell." Cantos XV and XVI further illustrate this growing obsession, while Cantos XIII and XVII, which bracket the hellish modern world, offer alternatives. Canto XVII is an elevated vision of Venice, a city presented in positive images of light, air, water, and clean crafted stone, where a dream of Utopia enters history, actualized by Venetian artisans who temporarily overcame the usurers who tried to exploit their work. That canto concludes, however, with another return to the course of a history in which usurious oppressors ruin the efforts of craftsmen.
The poem continues with a rough alternation of groups of cantos documenting the effects of usury and groups illustrating heroic resistance to it. Throughout the 1930's, Pound, acting in what he considered to be the spirit of Confucius, celebrated early American politicians (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in Cantos XXXI and XXXII) who governed with wisdom and direction or those (John Quincy Adams in Canto XXXIV, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren in Canto XXVII) who acted with practical sense, and he described responsible monetary institutions which made credit available to all citizens (the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena in Cantos XLIII and XLIV). Paralleling his accounts of heroic action by virtuous men, Pound celebrated the powers of light, which he often used as a symbol for the powers of love, in lyric paeans (almost prayers) to Aphrodite or Artemis, and investigated what he believed were both the destructive and the restorative powers of the feminine in passages concentrating on Odysseus and Circe. In one of the most famous sections of the poem, Canto XLV. he delivers a kind of sermon against usury, a rhetorical statement of what Gelpi calls "sustained outrage that usury has corrupted both economic and natural process, both Confucian order and Dionysian creativity." The field of the poem narrows here, as it did in the Kung canto, as it will in future cantos which concentrate energy into very specific concerns. With mounting intensity. Pound chants in bardic indignation:

with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.
Stone cutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom
WITH USURA

It is CONTRA NATURAM, a plague against the natural order, Pound proclaims. This canto is followed by further examinations of the psychic voyage of Odysseus, as the archetypal explorer seeks knowledge that will permit self-expression through his encounters with Circe (sexual passion) and Tiresias (reflective wisdom). Odysseus continues to be a symbolic figure for Pound, his adventures a reflection of Pound's personal struggles with the artistic, intellectual, and social circumstances of his life.
The first fifty-two cantos move toward a kind of reconciliation, a state of calmness (or still point) in which the processes of the natural world provide the poet with images of visual beauty and psychological truth to be used against destructive external events and disruptive inner forces. In his own life, however, the fracture between the situation of the poem and Pound's personal turmoil as World War II approached prevented him from moving beyond a momentary serenity toward the projected Par-adiso that would balance his Inferno. The Fifth Decad of Cantos (1937) was followed by three years of almost frantic poetic and political activity as Pound tried to influence the direction of American involvement in the flux of history by arranging an audience with Franklin Roosevelt so that he could explain to the president how to handle events in Europe. In 1940, Pound published Cantos LII-LXXI, ten cantos on Chinese history and ten on John Adams. Drawing on Joseph de Mailla's Histoire Generate de la Chine (1777-1785), Pound tried to explain how throughout Chinese history, whenever Confucian order controlled government, the state prospered. When Pound's enemies (militants, merchants, financiers) opposed order, "decadence supervened." In roughly parallel fashion, Pound yoked John Adams to Kung, Adams who left a "line of descendants who have steadily and without break felt their responsibility" and instituted Confucian principles in the American republic. The relatively undistinguished quality of the writing detracted from Pound's attempts to make Adams a pivotal figure in the middle of the entire sequence. The Kung and Adams cantos, though, while not covering new ground, are a kind of attempt to establish a strong historical foundation for the projected paradisiacal conclusion.
By 1940, Pound believed that the poem was essentially complete, lacking only a section that dealt with his spiritual beliefs. At the same time, he had doubts about the unity of his vision, writing, "As to the form ofThe Cantos: All I can say or pray is: wait till it's there." Yet his determination to convince Americans not to support capitalist corrupters against Benito Mussolini's new economic order turned, as Gelpi observes, "the prophet into a crank, if not a dupe, if not a crackpot." Pound spent the World War II years in Rapallo, making broadcasts on Rome radio which were considered treasonous by American authorities, and at the conclusion of the war he was incarcerated in a detention camp in Pisa for six months. A psychiatric evaluation in Washington determined that he was not sane enough to stand trial for his actions, and he was placed in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the next thirteen years. During the first three years of his confinement, he wrote The Pisan Cantos (1948), in which he stepped out from behind the various literary and historical masks through which he spoke to become the undisguised protagonist of his epic.
The Cantos had been derailed by the war. Aside from two unpublished cantos, LXXII and LXXIII. which he wrote in Italy, Pound's literary productivity was subordinated almost entirely to political invective from 1940 to 1945, a period in his life that could accurately be designated by his later term for the entire poem, "a botch." In St. Elizabeths, however, chastened by his treatment and forced to consider the dominant role of his ego in his life, he began to rebuild both his mind and his poetic vision. In his first descriptions of his life in prison, he identified with slaves and criminals, an unprecedented act of humility and compassion. He confronted the need to recognize, admit, and confess his failures and mis-perceptions, most prominent among which was his inability to offer love unselfishly, and recognized vanity as a cause for his blindness—an especially adept formulation, considering his previous equation of love with light. As the sequence concluded with Canto LXXXI, in one of his finest passages, Pound offered the wisdom he had drawn from his experiences in a hell he deserved:

What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
Learn of the green world what can be thy place
In scaled invention or true artistry,
Pull down thy vanity,

In accordance with one of his earliest and firmest precepts, the operation of the poet's mind over the material of his life lifts him "out of hell, the pit/ out of dust and glare evil" in the direction of paradise, the early goal of the entire poem.
The next two segments of the Cantos were written while Pound was still in prison, and Section: Rock-Drill (1955) and Thrones (1959) recall his early attempts to outline an ideal society. "I've got to drill it into their beans," Pound wrote to his publisher James Laughlin, and in an unusually explicit explanation of his plans for Thrones (Cantos XCVI-CIX), he said, "The thrones in The Cantos are an attempt to move out from egoism and to establish some definition of an order possible or at any rate conceivable on earth." Ironically, these two books did not reach out very far, but represented Pound's enclosure within the proscribed bounds of his mind and vast educational experience. The pattern of arcane references and inward-directed linkages tended to seal the material away from easy external scrutiny. Pound may have realized that, and that realization, combined with the other frustrations of his life, may have led to a radically different style in the last cantos, which he called Drafts and Fragments and which he did not present for publication until 1969, several years after their completion.
Pound had returned to Europe after his release from confinement, but he found a very different land from the one he left. "The shock of no longer feeling oneself in the center of something is probably a part of it," he remarked. Combined with his awareness of how conventional critics had misunderstood and dismissed his work and the encroachments of old age, Pound offered the last cantos as hesitant and tentative gestures. "I cannot make it cohere," he lamented in Canto CXVI, and in the 1960's
he settled into almost complete (but attentive) silence. Throughout the final, fragmentary poems, a feeling of placidity, of the calm vision of the ancient seer, balances the moods of discouragement. The questions he asks in Canto CXVI—"I have brought the great ball of crystal;/ who can lift it?/ Can you enter the great acorn of light?"— are answered by implication when Pound asserts, "it coheres all right/ even if my notes do not cohere." In other words, even if the poem did not fulfill the epic aim of explaining order on earth, the effort itself leads to a vision of beauty in poetic light. Moments of lyric radiance ("the great acorn of light") exhibit cohering propensity, just as there is a version of unity in "the replacement of paraphraseable plot by rhythmic recurrence," as Kenner comments. The final canto, the shortest of the entire poem, is like a summary prayer of farewell and forgiveness:

I have tried to write Paradise
Do not move
Let the wind speak
that is paradise.
Let the Gods forgive what I
have made
Let those I love try to forgive
what I have made.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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