Eliot’s Modernist Manifesto
What were Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot fighting about in the captain's . to have mentioned the editorial relationship between Eliot and Poiund. Full text, THE LITERARY RELATIONSHIP OF T. S. ELIOT AND EZRA POUND AFTER THE WASTE LAND by Christina Carolina Stough A Dissertation Presented. Même si, à l'ère post-moderne, ce texte n'a plus une valeur de référence, 3 On the tension between origin and novelty, see also Ezra Pound “The Tradition,” Poetry, vol. 3, no. In connection with the idea of tradition, Eliot elaborates on the doctrine of 4 See especially “T.S. Eliot: The Death of Literary Judgment,” 35
What is of particular interest about this question is that it points up a major ambivalence within Anglo-American modernism, an ambivalence which turns on the relation of the modern to the decadent, and which is focused on exactly this issue of linguistic self- sufficiency and verbal "materiality".
This strand of modernism derives much of its power from such ambivalence: If it's not always easy to see precisely what Pound took from Laforgue it's partly because he seems to have seized on the poet's irony as a sort of mediating term between these two ways of writing. Irony offers the necessary escape from sentimentality and romantic expressivism, providing a strategic means by which to affirm the self as strong and authoritative-"modern" as opposed to "decadent" in Pound's sense.
Pound would never actually be much of an ironist, lacking both the delicate touch of Laforguian humour and the related interest in the minutiae of social behaviour.
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The connection exceeds simple analogy, reminding us that this privileging of intellect above emotion, along with its related activities of "seeing" and "knowing", leads not to forms of rigorous self-scrutiny but rather to an often aggressive objectif ication of the other. This, then, was the first phase of Laforgue's influence on Pound, a phase in which values of surface and "hardness" seemed to provide a means of moving clear of "softer", more introspective and decadent modes.
Such values would shape the ostensible technical protocols of The Cantos, though Pound would actually never lose his attraction to the "softer", Swinburnian poetics which characterised many of the visionary sequences of the poem, early and late. In the sense in which I've already used the term, we might say that a strand of decadent style runs through The Cantos, with the specially heightened lyric mode drawing attention to verbal and phonic values in a way which the ideologically clearer parts of the poem would dismiss as fetishistic.
These richly ornamental passages exploit linguistic density and sound-patterning to produce effects quite removed from Laforguian logopoeia as Pound had defined that in his essay.
As far as the eye can see, meadows enameled with white sea anemones, fat ripe onions, bulbs with violet membranes, bits of tripe straying here and there and seeming to make a new life for itself, stumps with antennae winking at the neighboring coral, a thousand aimless warts; a whole fetal, claustral, vibrating flora, trembling with the eternal dream of one day being able in whispers to congratulate itself on this state of things Ezra Pound and the Persistent Attraction of Laforgue Eva Hesse and Donald Davie have both observed that the deeps which Laforgue discovered in the Berlin aquarium offered Pound "the motif of nature in reverse, an immutable anti-world" which figured the transformation wrought by art upon the real.
For in these "deeps", he tells us: Loving, dreaming without moving, in the cool of imperturbable blindness. O satisfied world, you dwell in a blind and silent blessedness, while we dry up with our superterrestrial pangs of hunger. Why aren 't the antennae of our own senses bounded by Blindness, Opacity and Silence?
Why must they seek out what is beyond their proper domain? Why can't we curl up, encrusted in our little corners, to sleep off the drunken deaths of our own little Egos? In becoming "opaque" in this way, language provides the poet with a luxurious freedom, a freedom from the obsessive self-consciousness which characterised Laforgue's genius but which he also felt as a constant affliction.
So, "the ideal things", he observed in another account of the Berlin aquarium, "are these sponges, these star-fish, these plasmas, in the opaque, cool, daydreaming water. And Lewis in Time and Western Man had memorably condemned this failure of the will, observing that "our only terra firma in a boiling and shifting world is, after all, our 'self. That must cohere for us to be capable of behaving in any way but as mirror-images of alien realities, or as the most helpless and lowest organisms, as worms or as sponges.
The experience of profound mental and physical debility which Pound underwent during his years at St. Elizabeths arguably made him responsive to several new things in Laforgue's writing: In the closed regions of this dreamlike, subaquatic world, words no longer had to cleave to things but could be relished for themselves; and furthermore, Pound might have been led to notice that Laforguian word-play wasn't just a matter of active social satire-it was also intensely reflexive and internalised, a matter of intricate cross-reference and echo.
What is particularly intriguing about this possibility is that it connects with one of the principal psychological tensions in the later sections of The Cantos, a tension between the constructive urge to create and continue, on the one hand, and a fitful desire for silence and withdrawal, on the other.
From the Pisan sequence on, the idea of "deeps" and depth is strikingly ambiguous: Yet if this is another version of the "dance of the intellect" it is so in a very specialised sense: Pound's ascent from the depths is, it seems to me, partly enabled by a new willingness to allow language to work its own magic, to function without the constant appeal to some external ground.
As I suggested when talking about the Swinburnian passages in the earlier sections of the poem, I think Pound was always tempted by this possibility, though he managed to curb his desire by a certain ideological self-discipline. And it's perhaps in this way that his rediscovery of those "deeps" in Laforgue epitomises a willingness to surrender will to language. I want to conclude by looking briefly at the opening of Canto CX, the first of the new sequence, which provides the best example of this sort of moment.
Ezra Pound and the Persistent Attraction of Laforgue and stone which revives echoes of the very earliest Cantos. But there's an interesting tension in the lines-a tension between the usual posture of authority "I am all for Vekehr without tyranny" and a sort of handing over to language which is quite different from Pound's more usual concern with the "welding of word and thing".
The dense allusiveness of the text interweaves different moments from a remote past, but this intense cultural regard is complemented by a non-referential word-play which dramatizes language as event, as an autonomous temporal structure. There's a new kind of reflexivity in the writing here which works against the sort of finality and closure which is epitomised in the Chinese characters of the Pisan sequence.
The lines open with a complex sense of immemorial time. The Madonna's "house", the Basilica, is "quiet", but carries the mark, or "curve", of the Bishop's staff. This image is then connected with the Middle English word "harl", meaning fibers, filaments, the crest of a bird, perhaps-an association Pound then develops in "featherwhite".
This in turn is like foam on a wave, leading us sinuously to the dolphin, a classical symbol of immortality, here glimpsed on "sea brink". Or on "wave exultant": Then we have "caracole", an unusual word with a range of meanings: This is, one might think, a strange intrusion into the seascape of the lagoon, but after another allusion to "crest", in turn recalling the feathers of the "harl", Pound pursues it further, giving us "panache", another word with rich etymological associations: With "paw flap" and "wave tap" familiar rhythmic figures are echoed from the earliest Cantos, further connecting the water's movement with metamorphosis and the motion of animals.
The salute to Toba Sojo, a Buddhist painter whose "limpidity" of style Pound admires, both gives the network of allusions a specific cultural signature and adds to the mood of humour and gaiety Toba Sojo, Fenollosa tells us, met the decadent atmosphere of his time with satire; "The work," he says, "was dashed off in almost pure line, but with a racy vigour and sweep of motion that make it live".
For what happens is a kind of displacement away from the resources of a knowable past toward an idea of language as a discontinuous temporal medium. Hence Pound's way of emphasising the functions of inscription here-the trace left in the wall by the boat's "wake", a word which may remind us too that the "quiet" of the Basilica is also the quietness of absence and of death.
And aptly so, since the things about which we read in these lines aren't acually there in any simple sense. There's an instability or evanescence which parallels the complex mood of the passage as it conjoins "gaiety" with death. So the partially quoted Italian phrase, "Che paion' si al vent [esser leggieri]"-"who seem so [light] upon the wind"-alludes to Dante's Paolo and Francesca whose illicit desires have doomed them to the Inferno, while the phrase which follows refers to the ceremonies that the Na Khi people of Western China used to expiate the spirits of suicides.
Without these so-called "Wind sway" rites, the spirits were believed to become dangerous wind-demons. Yet what is most striking about the lines is that they strive to capture not some epiphanic release from time, but a far more complex sense of speaking simultaneously from within and beyond time; of speaking, as it were, from the horizon of mortality-something which is obliquely thematised, as it had been in The Pisan Cantos, by the allusion to suicide, but which is more richly figured in a sense of the passing away of language, of its yielding up of any willed anchorage in some notion of nature or the mythic "real".
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In more Heideggerian terms, perhaps, we might speak of a certain "withdrawal" in place of reference. Such an acknowledgement-reminiscent, perhaps, of Laforgue's will- less Nirvana-distracts the poem from its complementary thematics of authority and humility, with the figures of natural process allowing-unusually-a postponement of Poundian moralism.
We find here a sort of yielding of the self to writing, which suspends the rhetoric of "faith" and authority which had dominated the middle stretches of The Cantos. Were these, finally, the "deeps" which so late in the day Laforgue revealed to Pound? The "deeps" of language, perhaps, where the mind might move once more, freed momentarily from the burdens of self-hood and "history". New Directions, OUP, and N. Southern Illinois P, Ezra Pound, Selected Lettersed.
Faber,40 Pound's emphases. Faber, Eliot notes this aspect of Pound's construal of the French tradition: The high praise for Pound doesn't end with James Joyce, however.
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So what were Ezra Pound and T. Eliot fighting about then? The Beast gives no hints regarding the rest of the story. Wikipedia offers a more complete picture. Ezra Pound was an American who had gone overseas and played a central role in literary circles in London and Paris.
His influence brought numerous significant writers to the attention of a wider public including Hemingway himself, Robert Frost, Joyce and T.
The literary relationship of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound after "The Waste Land"
Wikipedia cites Hemingway as stating, "He defends [his friends] when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying At this point, Pound appears to be a truly heroic character.
What came next significantly stained his reputation. World War I, the Great War as it was called, not only scarred the countrysides of Europe, it left open wounds in the souls of men. Pound was one of these so wounded. It is normal to ask "why" questions when something so momentous and disruptive happens, and Pound was no exception.
The conclusion he came to was that international capitalism was the root cause of this horror. Having lost faith in England, he moved to Italy where he embraced Fascism and threw his support behind Mussolini and Hitler. During World War II he wrote and recorded radio broadcasts against England and the Allies, possibly hundreds of ten minute pro-Axis propaganda pieces.
When the war came to a close, Pound was arrested, turned over to authorities to be tried for treason. At one point he purportedly compared Hitler to Saint Joan of Arc and stated that Mussolini was simply "an imperfect character who lost his head.