Posts Tagged ‘Ezra Pound’

Lament of the Frontier Guard

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,

Lonely from the beginning of time until now!

Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.

I climb the towers and towers

to watch out the barbarous land:

Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.

There is no wall left to this village.

Bones white with a thousand frosts,

High heaps, covered with trees and grass;

Who brought this to pass?

Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?

Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?

Barbarous kings.

A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,

A turmoil of wars – men, spread over the middle kingdom,

Three hundred and sixty thousand,

And sorrow, sorrow like rain.

Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,

Desolate, desolate fields,

And no children of warfare upon them,

No longer the men for offence and defence.

Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,

With Rihoku’s name forgotten,

And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

— translated by Ezra Pound

“How do you account for Ezra?,” W. B. Yeats once famously asked. Indeed, how do you? How account for the man who edited the Waste Land, brought the classical Chinese poets into English (see this stunning translation), and who wrote a foot-thick epic studded with lines like these?

A blown husk that is finished/but the light sings eternal/a pale flare over marshes/where the salt hay whispers to tide’s change

You can’t really. (And that’s not even mentioning Mussolini, tiger cages, treason trials). But there’s a new Selected out from Faber, and it looks good. The accounting continues.

These are the best books Bat Terrier read this year. (Disclosure: no books by friends on this list.)

Popular Music

Classical Music

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth  Century, Alex Ross

Memoir

Mussolini

“the relationship between Fascism and the literary intelligentsia badly needs investigation…”
George Orwell

“If modernism cut exhilarating loose from exhausted national traditions, it did so, after all, as a deracinated, disorientated elite–One corollary of that was a virulently anti-democratic politics.”
Terry Eagleton

Despite Eagleton’s claim, no one can prove  literary Modernism was overwhelmingly Fascist or anti-democratic. The movement was simply too diverse to be easily characterized, and there were many Modernist Leftists.

On the other hand, Orwell’s caution was sound: There were  a disturbing number of Modernist writers who made common cause with Fascism when it counted. Should you be interested in which writers avowed themselves as fascists, see the following list.

Irving Babbitt (literary critic)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline (novelist)

Martin Heidegger (philosopher)

T. E. Hulme (critic)

F. T. Marinetti (poet)

Henry Miller (novelist)

Wyndham Lewis (writer)

Ezra Pound (poet)

Kenneth Roberts (novelist)

George Santayana (philosopher)

William Butler Yeats
(poet)

Stark Young (drama critic, New Republic)

Ezra Pound Great Modernist Poet Wanted

–Must write the most ambitious, technically accomplished long poem of twentieth century.
–Must edit The Waste Land into masterpiece.
–Must pick Joyce, Eliot, Hemingway, H. D. and Williams as winners when everyone else thinks they’re losers.
–Etc.

Disqualifiers

— Must not publicly support MussoliniItalian Fascism, or other dreadful politics
— Must especially not broadcast over the radio for the enemy during wartime
— O do not, do not, get yourself charged with treason
— And finally, please, please, do not get yourself declared insane and spend twelve years in an asylum
— Etc.