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 … What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee .. But to have done instead of not doing this is not vanity To have, with decency, knocked That a Blunt should open To have gathered from the air a live tradition or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame This is not vanity. Here error is all in the not done, all in the diffidence that faltered … from Ezra Pound’s Canto LXXXI
Ezra Pound – now there’s a contradictory, flawed individual, is ever there was one! But what a creative talent, like many giants of our literary and music world, indeed the arts in general. (I’ll return to this theme in the future). An admirer of fascism (the Italian version) and an anti-Semite. T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ (widely regarded as one of the most important poems of the 20th century) would not have seen the light of day without Ezra’s awesome editing – and that’s another story! Some would argue that he co-authored ‘Wasteland.’
Are these words from Canto 116 a sort of confession?
I have brought the great ball of crystal,
who can lift it?
Can you enter the great acorn of light?
but the beauty is not the madness
Tho my errors and wrecks lie about me.
and I cannot make it cohere
If love be not in the house there is nothing,
The voice of famine unheard.
How came beauty against this blackness,
Twice beauty under the elms –
“You cannot write the history of twentieth century literature without giving Pound a starring role,” writes Daniel Swift. Look behind any significant work of 20th Century literature, and there lurks Pound. He co-edited T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and helped e.e. Cummings develop his signature style. He mentored Ernest Hemingway and arranged for the publication of James Joyce’s work. T.E. Lawrence solicited from Pound advice on writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom; heiress-activist Nancy Cunard sparred with Pound over politics. There’s scarcely an American or British literary figure of the early 20th Century on whom Pound didn’t leave a mark.
Hated by many in the US establishment, remarkably, the Library of Congress awarded Pound the Bollingen prize for The Pisan Cantos in 1949.
The Bollingen Prize for Poetry is a literary honor bestowed on an American poet in recognition of the best book of new verse within the last two years, or for lifetime achievement. It is awarded every two years by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. In fact it was the inaugural prize, chosen by a jury of Fellows in American Letters of the Library of Congress, to five them their full name.