HAPPY BIRTHDAY EZ.

The Daily Growler reminds us that today is the anniversary of the birth of Ezra Pound, one of my favorite poets ever since I came across “Ancient Music” (“Winter is icummen in,” quoted in the Growler’s post) in college. You can read perhaps the best of his short poems, “The Spring,” here; today I’ll quote “The Gypsy,” which for some reason has stuck in my head for almost 40 years:

        THE GYPSY
“Est-ce que vous avez vu des autres—des camarades—avec des singes ou des ours?”
               A Stray Gipsy—A.D. 1912
That was the top of the walk, when he said:
“Have you seen any others, any of our lot,
“With apes or bears?”
        — A brown upstanding fellow
Not like the half-castes,
        up on the wet road near Clermont.
The wind came, and the rain,
And mist clotted about the trees in the valley,
And I’d the long ways behind me,
        gray Arles and Biaucaire,
And he said, “Have you seen any of our lot?”
I’d seen a lot of his lot …
        ever since Rhodez,
Coming down from the fair
        of St. John,
With caravans, but never an ape or a bear.

Comments

  1. Leave us not forget Daniel Davies’ fine essay, The Economics of Pound’s Canto XLV.

  2. I love Ezra Pound. I’ve lost more copies of his collections than I’ve owned of almost any other poet. But… but… given his biography I always stumble and fall over words like “half-caste.” The same happens when I read Eliot and come across the word “jew.”
    But yeah… he wrote my favorite Christmas poem in any language:
    Villonaud for This Yule
    Towards the Noel that morte saison
    (Christ make the shepherds’ homage dear!)
    Then when the grey wolves everychone
    Drink of the winds their chill small-beer
    And lap o’ the snows food’s gueredon
    Then makyth my heart his yule-tide cheer
    (Skoal! with the dregs if the clear be gone!)
    Wineing the ghosts of yester-year.
    Ask ye what ghost I dream upon?
    (What of the magians’ scented gear?)
    The ghosts of dead loves everyone
    That make the stark winds reek with fear
    Lest love return with the foison sun
    And slay the memories that me cheer
    (Such as I drink to mine fashion)
    Wineing the ghosts of yester-year.
    Where are the joys my heart had won?
    (Saturn and Mars to Zeus drawn near!)
    Where are athe lips mine lay upon,
    Aye! where are the glances feat and clear
    That bade my heart his valor don?
    I skoal to the eyes as grey-blown meer
    (Who knows whose was athat paragon?)
    Wineing the ghosts of yester-year.
    Prince: ask me not what I have done
    Nor what God hath that can me cheer
    But ye ask first where the winds are gone
    Wineing the ghosts of yester-year.

  3. I have an old vinyl record of EZ reading his work. Late: when he was sequestered for psychiatric reasons. Remarkable presence, unique energetic style of presentation. An individualist and a half. Pity about the politics. (I wrote a sonnet about him a long time ago, but that’s just my own idiosyncratic way with things.)

  4. Hey, I wrote a whole “Homage to Ezra Pound” (“So he turned himself in/ And they locked him up in a cage…”) almost 30 years ago now, in which I predicted the overexpansion of credit and the collapse of the economy!

  5. Let us sometime compare encomia of the great man, LH. (Now, as I seem to recall, my sonnet was not in iambic pentameters: “… / Where yours and the sifted dust of Eliot are one.” Whát the héy, ás they sáy.)

  6. I’like Ezra too

  7. Noetica, here’s a page with many recordings by Pound:
    http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Pound.html

  8. Thanks, bertil; a great resource to know about.

  9. Thanks Bertil. A page of treasures, which I’ll bookmark and explore more. I think mine must be part of the Caedmon recording, 1958. I’ll listen, and compare when I can check the vinyl (at my other place). “The case presents no adjunct to the Muses’ diadem.” Ach! They don’t write like that any more. Nor like this (though they should, for our times):
    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; …
    (And so much more.)

  10. I have high regard for his ABC of Reading & his editing of Fenollosa’s Chinese Written Character as Medium for Poetry, but his politics always color him for me just as with Richard Strauss’ music and his politics.

  11. Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
    she walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
    and she is dying piece-meal
    of a sort of emotional anemia.
    And round about there is a rabble
    of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
    They shall inherit the earth.
    In her is the end of breeding.
    Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.
    She would like some one to speak to her,
    and is almost afraid that I
    will commit that indiscretion.

    Not his most admirable poem–but that sense of atmosphere, the Vile Bodies late-imperial languor!
    No offense to you, Doc Rock, but in my experience, one thing that separates really interesting people from tedious people is that the latter are unable to see past Pound’s politics. This may not hold true for you.

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