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Short poem

Ezra Loomis Pound (1885-1972)

H. S. Mauberley (Life and Contacts) [Part I]

"Vocat aestus in umbram"
Nemesianus Es. IV.

E. P. Ode pour l'élection de son sépulchre
          1.1For three years, out of key with his time,
          1.2He strove to resuscitate the dead art
          1.3Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime"
          1.4In the old sense. Wrong from the start --

          1.5No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
          1.6In a half savage country, out of date;
          1.7Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
          1.8Capaneus; trout for factitious bait:

          1.9"Idmen gar toi panth, os eni Troie
        1.10Caught in the unstopped ear;
        1.11Giving the rocks small lee-way
        1.12The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

        1.13His true Penelope was Flaubert,
        1.14He fished by obstinate isles;
        1.15Observed the elegance of Circe's hair
        1.16Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

        1.17Unaffected by "the march of events",
        1.18He passed from men's memory in l'an trentiesme
        1.19De son eage; the case presents
        1.20No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.

          2.1The age demanded an image
          2.2Of its accelerated grimace,
          2.3Something for the modern stage,
          2.4Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

          2.5Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
          2.6Of the inward gaze;
          2.7Better mendacities
          2.8Than the classics in paraphrase!

          2.9The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
        2.10Made with no loss of time,
        2.11A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
        2.12Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.

          3.1The tea-rose, tea-gown, etc.
          3.2Supplants the mousseline of Cos,
          3.3The pianola "replaces"
          3.4Sappho's barbitos.

          3.5Christ follows Dionysus,
          3.6Phallic and ambrosial
          3.7Made way for macerations;
          3.8Caliban casts out Ariel.

          3.9All things are a flowing,
        3.10Sage Heracleitus says;
        3.11But a tawdry cheapness
        3.12Shall reign throughout our days.

        3.13Even the Christian beauty
        3.14Defects -- after Samothrace;
        3.15We see to kalon
        3.16Decreed in the market place.

        3.17Faun's flesh is not to us,
        3.18Nor the saint's vision.
        3.19We have the press for wafer;
        3.20Franchise for circumcision.

        3.21All men, in law, are equals.
        3.22Free of Peisistratus,
        3.23We choose a knave or an eunuch
        3.24To rule over us.

        3.25A bright Apollo,

        3.26tin andra, tin eroa, tina theon,
        3.27What god, man, or hero
        3.28Shall I place a tin wreath upon?

          4.1These fought, in any case,
          4.2and some believing, pro domo, in any case ..

          4.3Some quick to arm,
          4.4some for adventure,
          4.5some from fear of weakness,
          4.6some from fear of censure,
          4.7some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
          4.8learning later ...

          4.9some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
        4.10Died some pro patria, non dulce non et decor" ..

        4.11walked eye-deep in hell
        4.12believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
        4.13came home, home to a lie,
        4.14home to many deceits,
        4.15home to old lies and new infamy;

        4.16usury age-old and age-thick
        4.17and liars in public places.

        4.18Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
        4.19Young blood and high blood,
        4.20Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

        4.21fortitude as never before

        4.22frankness as never before,
        4.23disillusions as never told in the old days,
        4.24hysterias, trench confessions,
        4.25laughter out of dead bellies.

          5.1There died a myriad,
          5.2And of the best, among them,
          5.3For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
          5.4For a botched civilization.

          5.5Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
          5.6Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

          5.7For two gross of broken statues,
          5.8For a few thousand battered books.

Yeux Glauques
          6.1Gladstone was still respected,
          6.2When John Ruskin produced
          6.3"Kings Treasuries"; Swinburne
          6.4And Rossetti still abused.

          6.5Fœtid Buchanan lifted up his voice
          6.6When that faun's head of hers
          6.7Became a pastime for
          6.8Painters and adulterers.

          6.9The Burne-Jones cartons
        6.10Have preserved her eyes;
        6.11Still, at the Tate, they teach
        6.12Cophetua to rhapsodize;

        6.13Thin like brook-water,
        6.14With a vacant gaze.
        6.15The English Rubaiyat was still-born
        6.16In those days.

        6.17The thin, clear gaze, the same
        6.18Still darts out faun-like from the half-ruin'd face,
        6.19Questing and passive ....
        6.20"Ah, poor Jenny's case" ...

        6.21Bewildered that a world
        6.22Shows no surprise
        6.23At her last maquero's

'Siena Mi Fe', Disfecemi Maremma'
          7.1Among the pickled fœtuses and bottled bones,
          7.2Engaged in perfecting the catalogue,
          7.3I found the last scion of the
          7.4Senatorial families of Strasbourg, Monsieur Verog.

          7.5For two hours he talked of Gallifet;
          7.6Of Dowson; of the Rhymers' Club;
          7.7Told me how Johnson (Lionel) died
          7.8By falling from a high stool in a pub ...

          7.9But showed no trace of alcohol
        7.10At the autopsy, privately performed --
        7.11Tissue preserved -- the pure mind
        7.12Arose toward Newman as the whiskey warmed.

        7.13Dowson found harlots cheaper than hotels;
        7.14Headlam for uplift; Image impartially imbued
        7.15With raptures for Bacchus, Terpsichore and the Church.
        7.16So spoke the author of "The Dorian Mood",

        7.17M. Verog, out of step with the decade,
        7.18Detached from his contemporaries,
        7.19Neglected by the young,
        7.20Because of these reveries.

          8.1The sky-like limpid eyes,
          8.2The circular infant's face,
          8.3The stiffness from spats to collar
          8.4Never relaxing into grace;

          8.5The heavy memories of Horeb, Sinai and the forty years,
          8.6Showed only when the daylight fell
          8.7Level across the face
          8.8Of Brennbaum "The Impeccable".

Mr. Nixon
          9.1In the cream gilded cabin of his steam yacht
          9.2Mr. Nixon advised me kindly, to advance with fewer
          9.3Dangers of delay. "Consider
          9.4          Carefully the reviewer.

          9.5"I was as poor as you are;
          9.6"When I began I got, of course,
          9.7"Advance on royalties, fifty at first", said Mr. Nixon,
          9.8"Follow me, and take a column,
          9.9"Even if you have to work free.

        9.10"Butter reviewers. From fifty to three hundred
        9.11"I rose in eighteen months;
        9.12"The hardest nut I had to crack
        9.13"Was Dr. Dundas.

        9.14"I never mentioned a man but with the view
        9.15"Of selling my own works.
        9.16"The tip's a good one, as for literature
        9.17"It gives no man a sinecure."

        9.18And no one knows, at sight a masterpiece.
        9.19And give up verse, my boy,
        9.20There's nothing in it."

     *         *         *

        9.21Likewise a friend of Bloughram's once advised me:
        9.22Don't kick against the pricks,
        9.23Accept opinion. The "Nineties" tried your game
        9.24And died, there's nothing in it.

        10.1Beneath the sagging roof
        10.2The stylist has taken shelter,
        10.3Unpaid, uncelebrated,
        10.4At last from the world's welter

        10.5Nature receives him,
        10.6With a placid and uneducated mistress
        10.7He exercises his talents
        10.8And the soil meets his distress.

        10.9The haven from sophistications and contentions
      10.10Leaks through its thatch;
      10.11He offers succulent cooking;
      10.12The door has a creaking latch.

        11.1"Conservatrix of Milésien"
        11.2Habits of mind and feeling,
        11.3Possibly. But in Ealing
        11.4With the most bank-clerkly of Englishmen?

        11.5No, "Milésian" is an exaggeration.
        11.6No instinct has survived in her
        11.7Older than those her grandmother
        11.8Told her would fit her station.

        12.1"Daphne with her thighs in bark
        12.2Stretches toward me her leafy hands", --
        12.3Subjectively. In the stuffed-satin drawing-room
        12.4I await The Lady Valentine's commands,

        12.5Knowing my coat has never been
        12.6Of precisely the fashion
        12.7To stimulate, in her,
        12.8A durable passion;

        12.9Doubtful, somewhat, of the value
      12.10Of well-gowned approbation
      12.11Of literary effort,
      12.12But never of The Lady Valentine's vocation:

      12.13Poetry, her border of ideas,
      12.14The edge, uncertain, but a means of blending
      12.15With other strata
      12.16Where the lower and higher have ending;

      12.17A hook to catch the Lady Jane's attention,
      12.18A modulation toward the theatre,
      12.19Also, in the case of revolution,
      12.20A possible friend and comforter.

     *         *         *

      12.21Conduct, on the other hand, the soul
      12.22"Which the highest cultures have nourished"
      12.23To Fleet St. where
      12.24Dr. Johnson flourished;

      12.25Beside this thoroughfare
      12.26The sale of half-hose has
      12.27Long since superseded the cultivation
      12.28Of Pierian roses.


1.1] H. S. Mauberley: the name of a fictitious poet of limited ability contemporary with Pound.
epigraph: from the 3rd-cent. B.C. Latin poet Nemesianus, eclogue IV.38 (Mopsus): "the heat calls [you] into the shade"(Némésien, Œuvres, ed. and trans. Pierre Volphilhac [Paris: Société d'édition, 1975]: 59). PA 6514 N4A38 Robarts Library.
E. P. Ode pour l'élection de son sépulchre: The initials identify Ezra Pound, and the rest associates him with Pierre de Ronsard, whose Ode IV of Book IV begins so (Œuvres complètes, ed. Gustave Cohen [Gallimard, 1950]: 535-38).

1.3] An allusion to Longinus' treatise "On the Sublime."

1.6] a half savage country: Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho.

1.8] Capaneus: one of the seven against Thebes (in Aeschylus's play of that name), he was struck down by Zeus on the walls of Thebes for impiety.
factitious: inclined to form parties or factions, seditious.

1.9] The Sirens in Homer's Odyssey (XII, 189) sing, "because we know all things [suffered] in Troy": a line heard by Odysseus (the "him" at 1.12) but not his companions, whose ears were plugged with wax to protect them from the Sirens' words (cf. 1.10).

1.13] Penelope: Odysseus' spouse, who waited for him throughout his travels and rejected suitors. Flaubert: Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), whose novel Madame Bovary well illustrates his insistence on an author finding "le mot juste" (the right word).

1.15] Circe: enchantress who turned men into beasts and whose companion was Odysseus for a time.

1.18-19] An allusion to the first line of "Le Testament" by François Villon, "En l'an de mon trentièsme âge" (Poésies, ed. Jean Dufournet [Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1984]: 65).

2.4] Attic: of Athens.

2.7] mendacities: lies.

2.11] kinema: cinema.

3.2] mousseline of Cos: muslin cloth of Cos (the Greek island).

3.4] Sappho's barbitos: the lyre of this 7th-cent. B.C. Greek poet of (lesbian) love.

3.7] macerations: mortifications, actions intended to quell the flesh.

3.8] In Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero employs the services of a spirit, Ariel, whom he freed from imprisonment in a pine tree (where he was placed by the witch Sycorax), to recapture his kingdom and torment an earthy creature -- the son of this witch -- who sought to kill Prospero and rape his daughter Miranda.

3.10] Heracleitus: the philosopher of Ephesus who argued that flux and change dominated life.

3.14] Samothrace: Greek island associated with a cult of beauty; the Winged Victory was recovered here.

3.15] "the beautiful" (Greek).

3.19] the press: journalism, the printing press.
wafer: the communion bread.

3.20] Franchise: freedom and the vote.

3.22] Peisistratus: the 6th-cent. B.C. tyrant of Athens, and patron of the arts.

3.26-28] "what god, what hero, and what man [shall we celebrate]?" from Pindar's Olympian ode 2, for Theron of Akragas, winner of the chariot race in 476 B.C. (Pindar, Olympian Odes; Pythian Odes, ed. and trans. William H. Race [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997]: 62-63; PA 4275 E5R33 Robarts Library).
tin: a pun on the Greek "what".

4.2] pro domo: "for the home" (Latin).

4.10] From Horace's ode III.ii.13 -- "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," i.e., "Sweet and proper it is to die for your country" (The Odes of Horace, trans. and ed. David Ferry [New York: Farrar, Straus, 1997]: 160-61). Cf. Wilfrid Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est", composed before his death in 1918 but only published in 1921.

4.16] usury: charging interest on loans of money -- the very basis of modern banking and the stock market.

6.1] Gladstone: William Ewert Gladstone (1809-98), classical scholar, Liberal politician.

6.2-3] The first chapter in Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (1865, 1871).

6.3] Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909).

6.4] Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882).

6.5] Fœtid Buchanan: R. W. Buchanan (1841-1901), who attacked the so-called "fleshly" school of poets (e.g., Rossetti and Swinburne) in Contemporary Review (Oct. 1871).

6.6] that faun's head: perhaps an allusion to "Tête de Faune" by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), a French "decadent" poet.

6.9] Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, a painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98), still hangs in the Tate Gallery in London.
cartons: cartoons.

6.15] The English Rubaiyat: published by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) in 1859, and remaindered until Rossetti discovered and praised it.

6.20] Jenny: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem, "Jenny," on an English prostitute.

6.23] maquero: pimp.

7.1] The title, from the words of La Pia de' Tolomei in Dante's Purgatorio (V, 134): "Sienna gave me birth, Maremma death."

7.4] Monsieur Verog: Victor Gustav Plarr (1863-1929), poet and Librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons, whose catalogue (7.2) he compiled.

7.5] Gallifet: Gaston Alexandre Auguste de Gallifet (1830-1909), a French general in the Franco-Prussian war.

7.6] Ernest Dowson (1867-1900).
the Rhymers' Club: an informal group of late Victorian poets ca. 1890-91 who met regularly in the Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street, London.

7.7] Johnson (Lionel): a member of the Rhymers' Club, Johnson (1867-1902) was a friend of W. B. Yeats, a Cathlic convert, and an alcoholic. The tale of his death at 7.8 is not true.

7.12] John Henry Newman, Cardinal, author of The Idea of a University and the Apologia.

7.14] Reverend Stewart Duckworth Headlam (1847-1924), a cleric-poet whom the Church forced to resign his curacy because of his professed interest in dance and drama.
Selwyn Image (1849-1930), another cleric-poet. See his Art, Morals, and the War, a lecture delivered in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Oxford University Press, 1914; Pamph HMod I Robarts Library).

7.15] Terpsichore: the muse of dance.

7.16] "The Dorian Mood": Plarr's book of poems was entitled In the Dorian Mood (1896).

8.1] Brennbaum is thought to refer to Max Beerbohm, humorist and man of letters (1872-1956).

8.3] spats: buttoned cloth or leather pieces worn by men to cover their ankles and the upper part of their shoes.

8.5] Horeb, Sinai: Moses witnessed the burning bush on Mount Horeb (Exodus 3.2) and obtained the ten commandments from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19.20).

9.1] Nixon is associated with Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), the English novelist.

9.21] Bloughram's: alluding to Gigadibs, the journalist in Robert Browning's poem "Bishop Blougram's Apology."

10.1] This poem is said to describe Ford Madox Ford, the English novelist.

11.1] A phrase from Remy de Gourmont's "Stratagèmes," in Histoires Magiques (1894), quoted by Poundin "De Gourmont: A Distinction," Little Review(Feb.-March 1919): 7. It refers to those who conserve knowledge of lost Greek erotic or "Milesian" tales of sexual biting.11.3.
Ealing: termed the "queen" of the London suburbsin the 1890s, much expanded by inexpensive housing developmentsearly in the 20th century.

11.3] Ealing: termed the "queen" of the London suburbsin the 1890s, much expanded by inexpensive housing developmentsearly in the 20th century.

12.1] Translated from "Le Château du Souvenir" by Théophile Gautier, "Daphné, les hanches dandsl'écorce, / Etend toujours ses doigts touffus" (Poésies,ed. René Jasinski [Paris: A. G. Nizet, 1970]: III, 103).

12.22] From "Complainte des Pianos" by Jules Laforgue (1860-87), quoted by Pound in Little Review [Feb. 1918]: 11-12): "Menez l'âme que les Lettresont bien nourrie."

12.24] Dr. Johnson: Samuel Johnson (1709-84), poet and lexicographer.

12.28] An allusion to Sappho's

When dead you will lie forever forgotten,
for you have no claim to the Pierian roses,
Dim here, you will move more dimly in Hell,
flitting among the undistinguished dead.
See Sappho: Lyrics in the Original Greek with Translations by Willis Barnstone (New York University Press, 1965): 66-67. The muses were worshipped at Pieria.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: E. P. [Ezra Pound], Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (London: The Ovid Press, April 23, 1920): 9028. del P685 H84 1920 Fisher Rare Book Library (no 42. of 200).
First publication date: 1920
Publication date note: Gallup A19
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/4/15

Rhyme: varying

Other poems by Ezra Loomis Pound