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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 8 Aug 1998 14:59:48 +0200
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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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I will agree with you that poets are unreliable critics of their own work
per se - even though there are exceptions. Nothing I quoted however is an
immediate defense of Pound's own work, but rather exposition of theory.
Most of what I quote from Pound is not a standard defense of vers libre,
but rather a standard criticism of second, third and tenth rate vers libre.
Anyway, I wanted to know what Pound thought about quantity, and now I know.
And I still think he's completely right, too. Here's another bit:
-------from TRADITION (Poetry, III, 3 (Dec 1913)):
As to quantity, it is foolish to suppose that we are incapable of
distinguishing a long vowel from a short one, or that we are mentally
debarred from ascertaining how many consonants intervene between one vowel
and the next.
    As to the tradition of vers libre: Jannaris in his study of the Metic
poets comes to the conclusion that they composed to the feel of the thing,
to the cadence, as have all good poets since. He is not inclined to believe
that they were much influenced by discussions held in Alexandria after
their deaths.
    No one is so foolish as to suppose that a musician using  four-four
time is compelled to use always four quarter notes in each bar, or in
 seven-eights  time to use seven eighth notes uniformly in each bar. He may
use =, or <, and one 1/8 rest, or any such combination as he may happen to
choose or find fitting.
To apply this musical form to vers is to employ vers libre.
[Etc.] (93)
------- end quote
For me personally it is interesting to see Eliot employ some of these
principles in what appears to look like metrical quatrains, but in fact
employ quantity as well. As to whether Pound is right or not, I only need
three words to prove him so:
cord - cod - cot
It seems to me that we were on the verge of repeating a mistake from the
The art of quantitative verse had been lost. This loss was due more to
ignorance than to actual changes of language, from Latin, that is, into the
younger tongues. (Troubadours, 1913)
--------end quote
Here Pound talks about Provencal, but, well...
Anyway, sooner or later someone will write a dissertation about
quantitative verse and the modern phonetic and tonic principles. The only
current danger lies in that people might not read it, because so much
nonsense is being written. A half bunch of grapes buried under a barrel of
dust, to twist Pound's words slightly.
-----Original Message-----
From: W. Freind <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Friday, August 07, 1998 4:13 PM
Subject: Re: Pound on metre
There's an even better explanation: as shrewd as he often was about the
work of others, Pound is an incredibly unreliable critic of his own work.
His observations about the Cantos, for example, are all over the board and
even the section which Arwin quotes is a pretty standard defense of vers
Bill Freind