Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
From the beginning, Ezra Pound’s problem was how to re-create what he found meaningful in the past in a way that would yet sound new to his contemporaries. He solved the problem partially in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and completely in Cantos (1948). That he did solve it is attested by the enormous influence of his poetry and criticism on the poetic idiom, an influence felt even by those who find it difficult to understand his works. The solution to what was essentially a problem of form meant, inevitably, any number of false starts that the later Pound sought, quite humanly, to ignore.
In Personae, his 1926 collection of shorter poems, Pound notes that the collection includes all of his poems up to that date except for the unfinished Cantos. The statement is misleading, however. The volume contains a relatively small selection of the very early Pound, the poet who, with no difficulty, had two of his poems published in The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse (“Ballad for Gloom” and “The Portrait,” neither reprinted in Personae), and the Pound who bears such clear resemblance to the Pre-Raphaelites, Algernon Charles Swinburne, the poetry of the 1890’s, William Butler Yeats, and Robert Browning. Of the 145 poems printed in Pound’s first volumes—A Lume Spento (1908), A Quinzaine for This Yule (1908), Personae, Exultations (1909), and Canzoni...
(The entire section is 1540 words.)
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