Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yeats #3 on Wilfrid Owen and Hopkins

Yeats on Wilfrid Owen

‘My anthology continues to sell & the critics get more & more angry. When I excluded Wilfred Owen, whom I consider unworthy of the poets' corner of a country newspaper, I did not know I was excluding a revered sandwich-board Man of the revolution & that some body has put his worst & most famous poem in a glass-case in the British Museum-however if I had known it I would have excluded him just the same. He is all blood, dirt & sucked sugar stick (look at the selection in Faber's Anthology-- he calls poets 'bards,' a girl a 'maid,' & talks about 'Titanic wars'). There is every excuse for him but none for those who like him. . . .’ (from a letter to Dorothy Wellesley of December 21, 1936)

From The Oxford Book of Modern Poetry.

I read Gerald Hopkins with great difficulty. I cannot keep my attention fixed for more than a few minutes; I suspect a bias born when I began to think. He is typical of his generation where most opposed to mine. His meaning is like some faint sound that strains the ear, comes out of words, passes to and fro between them, goes back into words, his manner a last development of poetic diction. My generation began that search for hard positive subject matter, still a predominant purpose.(pxxxix)

(And the end of the 1890s)
"Then in 1900 everybody got down of his stilts; henceforth nobody drank absinthe with his black coffee; nobody went mad; nobody committed suicide; nobody joined the Catholic church; or if they did I have forgotten. (pxi)

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.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yeats on Eliot

This from the intro to The Oxford Book of Verse (1936:1939. pxxi)

Eliot has produced his great effect upon his generation because he has described men and women that get out of bed or into it from mere force of habit; in describing this life that has lost heart his own art seems grey, cold, dry.  He is an Alexander Pope, working without apparent imagination, producing his effect by a rejection of all rhythms and metaphors used by the more popular romantics rather than by a discovery of his own , this rejection giving the work an unexaggerated plainness that has the effect of novelty.   He has the rhythmical flatness of The Essay on Man…later, in The Waste Land, amid much that is moving in symbol and imagery there is much monotony of accent:
When Lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone
She smooths her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramaphone.

I was affected, as I am by these lines, when I saw for the first time a painting by Manet. I longed for the vivid colour and light of Rousseau and Courbet, I could not endure the grey middle tint-and even today Manet gives me an incomplete pleasure….
Murder in the Cathedral is a powerful Stage play because the actor, the monkish habit, certain repeated words, symbolize what we know, not what the author knows…..Speaking through Becket’s mouth Eliot confronts a world growing always more terrible with a religion like that of some great statesman, a pity not less poignant because it tempers the prayer book with the results of mathematical philosophy. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pound and the Publication of 'Prufrock'.

From letters from Pound to Harriet Monroe

London, 30th September 1914
I was  jolly well right about Eliot. He has sent in the best poem I yet had or seen from an American. PRAY GOD IT BE NOT A SINGLE AND UNIQUE SUCESS. He has taken it back to get ready for the press and you have it in a few days.

London October

Dear H.M.: Here is the Eliot Poem. The most interesting contribution I've had from an American.
P.S Hope you'll get it in soon.

London, 9 November
Dear H.M.: Your letter, the long one to hand is the most dreary and discouraging document that I have been called upon to read for a very long time.
Your objection to Eliot is the climax.
London, 9 November

Dear H.M.: No, most emphatically I will not ask Eliot to write down to any audience whatsoever. I dare say my instinct was sound enough when I volunteered to quit the magazine quietly about a year ago. Neither will I send you Eliot's address in order that he may be insulted.

Coleman's Hatch, 31 January 1915

....Now, as to Eliot: 'Mr Prufrock" does not "go off at the end". It is a portrait of failure, or a character which fails, and it would be a false art to make it end on a note of triumph. I dislike the paragraph about Hamlet, but it is an early and cherished bit and T.E won't give it up, and as it is the only portion of the poem that most readers will like at first reading, I don't see that it will do much harm.
    For the rest; a portrait satire on futility can't end by turning that quintessence of futility, Mr.P into a reformed character breathing out fire and ozone.
    I will let the unfortunate Ficke pass without a complaint if you get on with "Mr Prufrock" in a quiet and orderly manner. I assure you it is better "more unique" than any other poem of Eliot [sic] which I have seen. Also that he is quite intelligent (an adjective which is seldom in my mouth.)

London 10 April
...Do get on with that Eliot