Thanks for the link to the Paintings and Poems site.
I always think Auden's line "About suffering they were never wrong, the Old
Masters" is one of his most dishonest - an abuse of the supposed "poetic
licence" to tell "beautiful lies" which was, I'm afraid, rather typical of
him. When Pound writes, for example, "Love gone as lightning and then for
5000 years almost nothing", what he says may not be literally true, but at
least he has or seems to have a discernable rhetorical purpose (I say it is
discernable - I'm not sure I have discerned it!). Auden on the other hand
seems to tell fibs of this sort compulsively.
A much better "beautiful lie" of Auden's is the line from "The Shield of
Achilles": "They died as men before their bodies died". The strength of this
line comes from its being both appallingly true (the victims have lost all
of their dignity and pride by the time they are led out in front of the
firing squad) and appallingly untrue (the victims are still capable of fear,
they are still loved and their fate can still inspire pity and terror).
>From: Jonathan Morse <[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: Pound, Williams, Eliot
>Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 11:51:18 -1000
>At 08:08 PM 3/6/00 -0500, Lucas Klein wrote:
> >is there anything specific (as in, more than just a general
> >sense I get from reading Pound's poetry--Cantos or otherwise) I can
> >mention to argue that Pound's (and Eliot's) writings are more than
> >overeducated and self-impressed mental gymnastics but instead are
> >constituted of vibrant and emotional language that, as part of but not
> >solely existent to the technique, re-INVIGORATES the classics and gives
> >new life to literary tradition?
>In my experience, classes take wonderfully to "Tradition and the Individual
>Talent" and "_Ulysses_, Order, and Myth." Terry Eagleton has scored some
>points against Eliot, of course. Yes, Professor Eagleton, you're right to
>wonder: if "the main current . . . does not at all flow invariably through
>the most distinguished reputations," then what IS "the main current"?
>Still, I'd say Eliot stands a better chance than Eagleton of being read by
>And while we're on the topic of Williams: Emory University's English
>department has a very nice FTP directory of modern poems about paintings,
>illustrated with the paintings. Williams and Auden are there, of course,
>plus some less familiar authors. One of those regards Brueghel's "The
>Harvest" as a piece of gay porn. The URL is
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