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Ezra Pound reads Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

Publié le par Jean Helfer

Ezra Pound reads Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
Ezra Pound reads Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
Ezra Pound reads Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley [Part I]

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(Life and Contacts)

“Vocat aestus in umbram”
Nemesianus Ec. IV.


For three years, out of key with his time,

He strove to resuscitate the dead art

Of poetry; to maintain “the sublime”

In the old sense. Wrong from the start—

No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born

In a half savage country, out of date;

Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;

Capaneus; trout for factitious bait:

Idmen gar toi panth, os eni Troie

Caught in the unstopped ear;

Giving the rocks small lee-way

The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

His true Penelope was Flaubert,

He fished by obstinate isles;

Observed the elegance of Circe’s hair

Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

Unaffected by “the march of events,”

He passed from men’s memory in l’an trentiesme

De son eage; the case presents

No adjunct to the Muses’ diadem.


The age demanded an image

Of its accelerated grimace,

Something for the modern stage,

Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries

Of the inward gaze;

Better mendacities

Than the classics in paraphrase!

The “age demanded” chiefly a mould in plaster,

Made with no loss of time,

A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster

Or the “sculpture” of rhyme.


The tea-rose, tea-gown, etc.

Supplants the mousseline of Cos,

The pianola “replaces”

Sappho’s barbitos.

Christ follows Dionysus,

Phallic and ambrosial

Made way for macerations;

Caliban casts out Ariel.

All things are a flowing,

Sage Heracleitus says;

But a tawdry cheapness

Shall reign throughout our days.

Even the Christian beauty

Defects—after Samothrace;

We see to kalon

Decreed in the market place.

Faun’s flesh is not to us,

Nor the saint’s vision.

We have the press for wafer;

Franchise for circumcision.

All men, in law, are equals.

Free of Peisistratus,

We choose a knave or an eunuch

To rule over us.

A bright Apollo,

tin andra, tin eroa, tina theon,

What god, man, or hero

Shall I place a tin wreath upon?


These fought, in any case,

and some believing, pro domo, in any case ...

Some quick to arm,

some for adventure,

some from fear of weakness,

some from fear of censure,

some for love of slaughter, in imagination,

learning later ...

some in fear, learning love of slaughter;

Died some pro patria, non dulce non et decor” ...

walked eye-deep in hell

believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving

came home, home to a lie,

home to many deceits,

home to old lies and new infamy;

usury age-old and age-thick

and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.

Young blood and high blood,

Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,

disillusions as never told in the old days,

hysterias, trench confessions,

laughter out of dead bellies.


There died a myriad,

And of the best, among them,

For an old bitch gone in the teeth,

For a botched civilization.

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,

Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,

For two gross of broken statues,

For a few thousand battered books.


Gladstone was still respected,

When John Ruskin produced

“Kings Treasuries”; Swinburne

And Rossetti still abused.

Foetid Buchanan lifted up his voice

When that faun’s head of hers

Became a pastime for

Painters and adulterers.

The Burne-Jones cartons

Have preserved her eyes;

Still, at the Tate, they teach

Cophetua to rhapsodize;

Thin like brook-water,

With a vacant gaze.

The English Rubaiyat was still-born

In those days.

The thin, clear gaze, the same

Still darts out faun-like from the half-ruin’d face,

Questing and passive ....

“Ah, poor Jenny’s case” ...

Bewildered that a world

Shows no surprise

At her last maquero’s



Among the pickled foetuses and bottled bones,

Engaged in perfecting the catalogue,

I found the last scion of the

Senatorial families of Strasbourg, Monsieur Verog.

For two hours he talked of Gallifet;

Of Dowson; of the Rhymers’ Club;

Told me how Johnson (Lionel) died

By falling from a high stool in a pub ...

But showed no trace of alcohol

At the autopsy, privately performed—

Tissue preserved—the pure mind

Arose toward Newman as the whiskey warmed.

Dowson found harlots cheaper than hotels;

Headlam for uplift; Image impartially imbued

With raptures for Bacchus, Terpsichore and the Church.

So spoke the author of “The Dorian Mood,”

M. Verog, out of step with the decade,

Detached from his contemporaries,

Neglected by the young,

Because of these reveries.


The sky-like limpid eyes,

The circular infant’s face,

The stiffness from spats to collar

Never relaxing into grace;

The heavy memories of Horeb, Sinai and the forty years,

Showed only when the daylight fell

Level across the face

Of Brennbaum “The Impeccable.”


In the cream gilded cabin of his steam yacht

Mr. Nixon advised me kindly, to advance with fewer

Dangers of delay. “Consider

”Carefully the reviewer.

“I was as poor as you are;

“When I began I got, of course,

“Advance on royalties, fifty at first,” said Mr. Nixon,

“Follow me, and take a column,

“Even if you have to work free.

“Butter reviewers. From fifty to three hundred

“I rose in eighteen months;

“The hardest nut I had to crack

“Was Dr. Dundas.

“I never mentioned a man but with the view

“Of selling my own works.

“The tip’s a good one, as for literature

“It gives no man a sinecure.”

And no one knows, at sight a masterpiece.

And give up verse, my boy,

There’s nothing in it.”

* * * *

Likewise a friend of Bloughram’s once advised me:

Don’t kick against the pricks,

Accept opinion. The “Nineties” tried your game

And died, there’s nothing in it.


Beneath the sagging roof

The stylist has taken shelter,

Unpaid, uncelebrated,

At last from the world’s welter

Nature receives him,

With a placid and uneducated mistress

He exercises his talents

And the soil meets his distress.

The haven from sophistications and contentions

Leaks through its thatch;

He offers succulent cooking;

The door has a creaking latch.


“Conservatrix of Milésien”

Habits of mind and feeling,

Possibly. But in Ealing

With the most bank-clerkly of Englishmen?

No, “Milésian” is an exaggeration.

No instinct has survived in her

Older than those her grandmother

Told her would fit her station.


“Daphne with her thighs in bark

Stretches toward me her leafy hands,”—

Subjectively. In the stuffed-satin drawing-room

I await The Lady Valentine’s commands,

Knowing my coat has never been

Of precisely the fashion

To stimulate, in her,

A durable passion;

Doubtful, somewhat, of the value

Of well-gowned approbation

Of literary effort,

But never of The Lady Valentine’s vocation:

Poetry, her border of ideas,

The edge, uncertain, but a means of blending

With other strata

Where the lower and higher have ending;

A hook to catch the Lady Jane’s attention,

A modulation toward the theatre,

Also, in the case of revolution,

A possible friend and comforter.

* * * *

Conduct, on the other hand, the soul

“Which the highest cultures have nourished”

To Fleet St. where

Dr. Johnson flourished;

Beside this thoroughfare

The sale of half-hose has

Long since superseded the cultivation

Of Pierian roses.

Envoi (1919)

Go, dumb-born book,

Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:

Hadst thou but song

As thou hast subjects known,

Then were there cause in thee that should condone

Even my faults that heavy upon me lie

And build her glories their longevity.

Tell her that sheds

Such treasure in the air,

Recking naught else but that her graces give

Life to the moment,

I would bid them live

As roses might, in magic amber laid,

Red overwrought with orange and all made

One substance and one colour

Braving time.

Tell her that goes

With song upon her lips

But sings not out the song, nor knows

The maker of it, some other mouth,

May be as fair as hers,

Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers,

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.

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