Ezra Pound Weirdness

MORE EZRA POUND WEIRDNESS
CANTICO DEL SOLE
(From Instigations, reprinted in Personae; written between 1917 and 1920).
The thought of what America would be like
If the classics had wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the classics had wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant,
Now lettest thou thy servant
Depart in peace.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had wide circulation …
Oh well!
It troubles my sleep.

After WWII when cheap paperback editions of classic literature started to become available (first at Penguin), many intellectuals (including left intellectuals) were profoundly uneasy at the idea of sharing their treasure with the unqualified masses. T.S. Eliot refused to allow his poems to be republished in anthologies sold below a certain price. The apotheosis of this point of view is Bloom’s “Closing of the American Mind”; he clearly believes that “a little learning is a dangerous thing” and that it the masses to should be allowed to continue to wallow in ignorance.

Early Penguin and New Directions books were deliberately drab, to distinguish them from gaudy cheap paperbacks, though at some point Penguin switched and overdid it, putting a nude woman on the cover of “Beyond Good and Evil”. Once in a bookstore around 1960 I remember thinking something like “I WANT TO READ ALL THOSE BOOKS! — but couldn’t those guys lighten up just a little?”.

     Per this poem, despite his decadent elitism, at least early in his career Pound really had hoped for the wider circulation of high culture. During the 30s he also made a considerable effort to sell his Social Credit to such American politicians as Sens. William Borah and Bronson Cutting, along with the demagogue Father Coughlin.
     Around 1910 Chicago was a world center of English-language poetry, thehe place where aesthetes like Yeats and Pound rubbed shoulders with populists like Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg. Only Pound tried to combine elite decadence with populism, however — probably more evidence that he was really insane.
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Published in: on December 11, 2016 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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