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Richard Edwards <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 28 Mar 2000 10:41:54 GMT
text/plain (110 lines)
Many thanks for this. What is the title of the Berryman book? And why do you
say it is indefensible?
In asking you to be more specific I perhaps ought to be more specific myself
about the passage I referred to in case any other list member wishes to
follow it up. (Yesterday I did not have the book with me). It is on page 50
of Davie's book *Ezra Pound* (University of Chicago Press 1975) and it goes
like this:
"But about this poem, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, it is best to be brief. This
poem is, and has proved to be, the most accessible of Pound's longer poems,
the one that it is easiest to start with. For just that reason it is a poem
that one must grow through and grow out of though the literary world is full
of people who got this far and no further - for whom, accordingly, this is
Pound's best poem, or the only one of his poems that is 'an assured
achievement'. Pound's word for it, when he sent it to Hardy, was 'thin' -
'the Mauberley is thin'. And 'thin' may well be the right word, which
explains why thin and constricted and rancorously distrustful sensibilities
can respond to this poem by Pound as to no other."
In a footnote to the passage Davie says "Many commentaries are available,
including two I have written myself, the first of which I now want to
disown." He then directs the reader to the Pelican Guide and to "Poet as
"Thin and constricted and rancorously distrustful" conveys real animus. I
wonder whether Davie really felt that about his earlier self as represented
in the Pelican Guide. As I do not have a copy of that book I would be
interested to know what evidence there is of rancour, constrictedness and
general emaciation in Davie's contribution to the Pelican guide.
Davie's reference to "rancour" is perhaps ponderable in the light of a
passage from "The Enemy's Country" which I regard as one of the best pieces
of criticism on HSM.
"The kind of ironic enjambment in 'to kalon | Decreed in the market place',
the conflation, in the last line of the same poem, of the Olympian
victory-wreath with the tin cache-sexe for nude statues cited in the brusque
note to his nervous publisher Elkin Matthews, is a style designed to mime
and master a particular ambience. He describes such circumstances, in his
obituary on AR Orage, as the 'quicksand of obfuscation, the ignorance, the
non-correlation, the irritation of the jostled, the gross silence of hired
concealers ...' One of the discoveries of 'modernist' poetry has been the
technique of transposing the hopeless 'irritation of the jostled', 'the
gross silence of hire concealers', into the kind of rapid juxtapositions and
violent lacunae that one finds in the third and fourth poems of Hugh Selwyn
Mauberley - phrase callously jostling with phrase, implication merging into
implication ('pli selon pli'), sentientiae curtly abondoned. These become
key instruments of the intelligence at bay."
This passage may contain a clue to the Zachary Dempster's question about the
influence of HSM on other modern poets. If so, one wonders how Davie could
so vehemently turn his back HSM without turning his back on much else that
is accounted part of the modernist "canon".
Incidentally, the passage Hill quotes from Pound's obituary of Orage seems
to me to exemplify the way in which Pound's thinking tumbles sometimes from
the acute observation such as "the irritation of the jostled" to the
near-paranoia of "the gross silence of the hired concealers". For an example
of a hired concealer consider the inventor in Canto (I forget which) who is
paid for his invention precisely so that the competitors won't get their
hands on it, though the purchaser has no intention of putting it into
production. As Terrell notes in his Companion, the identity of the inventor
has never been discovered. Terrell thinks this doesn't matter, as it's the
thought that counts. I am not so sure. If one is going to make accusations
one had better make sure that one's facts can be checked. A casual
indifference to factual accuracy, beginning with the misrepresentation of
documentary evidence in the Malatesta Cantos (I would certainly *not*
include the so-called "inaccuracies" in the Homage to Sextus Propertius) and
spreading like a rash through the historical parts of the Cantos, is perhaps
one of the things which help us to account for Pound's blindness to the
reality of what was happening around him immediately before and during the
war. Distracted by what he took to be the "luminous detail" of Mussolini's
project he overlooked those details which belonged to a different order of
things. Hence "Your gunmen thread on moi dreams".
Richard Edwards
>From: "s.j. adams" <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine
>  <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Henry James in Canto 7
>Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2000 13:22:54 -0500
>On Mon, 27 Mar 2000, Richard Edwards wrote:
> > Donald Davie in the later of his two books on Pound (1975) rather
> > HSM and remarks rather cryptically that people who are interested in it
> > to be emotionally thwarted types or words to that effect. I entirely
> > disagree with him but I wonder who he could have had in mind?
>I think he had in mind his own early misreading of HSM as a dramatic
>monologue, which it isn't (Pelican Guide to English Lit), which he later
>to redeem, only making matters worse.  His misreading resulted in an
>indefensible book by his protege, Jo Brantly Berryman.
>                                 Stephen Adams
>                                 Department of English
>                                 University of Western Ontario
>                                 London, Canada  N6A-3K7
>                                 [log in to unmask]
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