Monday, July 23, 2007

Ezra Pound 5

This is not my video; it was done by a talented young man who posted it to YouTube and I found it there...

Here, Pound is at the end of his life, having been imprisoned during the War for making radio broadcasts deemed "anti-American" and then kept for several years in an insane asylum, where he wrote some of his greatest work.
This is not an Entry for Judi Heartsong's Artsy Essay Contest, but her topic did start me thinking. This is a poem from Ezra Pound that our class will be studying in the Fall, and I think it expresses my thoughts on possessions. I think we can't know what our dearest possession is until we are brought to nil, until we have come close to or have lost everything we thought our lives were built on. For most of us, this happens not just once but perhaps many times. Each loss (or near-loss) is an opportunity to rebuild ourselves and deepen our lives. What we love best "remains," says Pound, and the rest is "dross." Nothing that is man-made can "remain," for these posessions are mere "vanity." Only the spirit, the soul, the capacity to endure is worth keeping: the rest is "dross."
What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee

The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.
Pull down thy vanity, it is not man
Made courage, or made order, or made grace,
Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
Learn of the green world what can be thy place
In scaled invention or true artistry,
Pull down thy vanity,
Paquin pull down!
The green casque has outdone your elegance.

‘Master thyself, that others shall thee beare’
Pull down thy vanity
Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail
A swallen magpie in a fitful sun,
Half black half white
Nor knowst ’ou wing from tail
Pull down thy vanity
How mean thy hates
Fostered in falsity,
Pull down thy vanity,
Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity,
Pull down thy vanity,
I say pull down.

But to have done instead of not doing
this is not vanity
To have, with decency, knocked
That a Blunt should open
To have gathered from the air a live tradition
or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame
This is not vanity.
Here error is all in the not done,
all in the diffidence that faltered.

Ezra Pound. Canto 81.


ggw07 said...

Thanks so much for posting this!
Good luck with Pound in class and with your own run of writing.

Erin said...

Watching this video and reading this poem make me realize that when I read Pound in college, I just wasn't ready for him. Now, six years later, I appreciate his words much more. I wish I could retake my modern poetry class.



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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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