Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yeats #2 On Pound

This from the Intro to The Oxford book of Modern Verse (pxxv-xxvi)


The Cantos:

Ezra Pound has made Flux his theme; plot, characterizaton, logical discourse, seem to him abstractions unsuitable to a man of his generation. He is midway in an immense poem in ‘vers libre’ called for the moment ‘The Cantos’, where the metamorphosis of Dionysus, the descent of Odysseus into Hades, repeat themselves in various disguises, always in association with some third that is not repeated.  Hades may become the hell where whatever modern man he most disapproves of suffer damnation, the metamorphosis petty frauds practiced by Jews at Gibralter. The relation of all the elements to one another, repeated or unrepeated, is to become apparent when the whole is finished. There is no transmission through time, we pass without comment from ancient Greece to modern England to medieval China; the symphony, the pattern is timeless, flux eternal and therefore without movement. Like other readers I discover at present merely exquisite or grotesque fragments. He hopes to give the impression that all is living, that there are no edges, no convexities, nothing to check the flow; but can such a poem have a mathematical structure? Can impressions that are in part visual, in part metrical, be related like the parts of a symphony; has the author been carried beyond reason by theoretical conception? His belief in his own conception is so great that since the appearance of the first canto I have tried to suspend judgement.

Pound as Poet.

When I consider his work as a whole I find more style than form; at moments more style, more deliberate nobility and the means to convey it than in any contemporary poet known to me, but it is constantly interrupted, broken, twisted into nothing but its direct opposite, nervous obsession, nightmare, stammering confusion; he is an economist, poet, politician, raging at malignants with inexplicable characters and motives, grotesque figures out of a child’s book of beasts.  This loss of self-control, common in uneducated revolutionists, is rare-Shelley had it in some degree-among men of Ezra Pound’s culture and erudition. Style and its opposite can alternate, but form must be sphere like, single. Even where there is no interruption he is often content, if certain verses and lines have style, to leave unbridged transitions, unexplained ejaculations, that make his meaning unintelligible. He has great influence, more perhaps than any contemporary except Eliot, is probably the source of that lack of form and consequent obscurity which is the main defect of Auden, Day-Lewis and their school, a school which, as will presently be seen, I greatly admire. Even where the style is sustained throughout one gets the impression, especially when he is writing in ‘vers libre’   that he has not got all the wine into the bowl, that he is a brilliant improvisator translating at sight from an unknown Greek Masterpiece.


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