The Drama of Reason
Chapter 6: Pound’s ‘epic blague’
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Pound’s ‘epic blague’
In Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor, Donald Davie contends that ‘Pound has made it impossible for anyone any longer to exalt the poet into a seer’.1 Davie’s argument is that Pound’s example exposes as pathologically eccentric his aspirations towards predictive or diagnostic social analysis, and relegates poetry to a realm in which its evaluations have no intelligible relation to the real world. ‘[O]ut of the Bohemia he is condemned to’, writes Davie, ‘the poet cannot truthfully see or investigate public life at all’.2 Pound’s increasingly irrational and racist diagnosis, in the thirties and forties, of the economic causes of political injustice, motivates not just the poetry written during that time, but the journalism and letters to friends and eminent politicians, in America and Italy, which form the far greater bulk of his written output in that period.3 In them we see chastening evidence of Pound’s quixotic belief that he could instigate policy reform by dint of energetic, if vague, reaffirmations of what he saw as fundamental economic facts, guaranteed not by anything so empirical as sociopolitical analysis, but by his status as poet. As we have seen, ‘Our Word Is Our Bond’ shows that Hill was aware of this exaggeration of status. More recently he has diagnosed Pound’s failure in some curt lines in Al Tempo de’ Tremuoti: ‘When Pound said I cannot / Make it cohere, his burden was the poet / Primus inter pares,...
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