What would you say is the theme of the poem "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is about the pursuit of art for art's sake.  Pound, an expatriate and a imagist, was himself trying to find new ways of creating poetry and expressing emotions.  It was his belief that art should be created without reference to "purpose", but simply for the joy of creation.  These lines from "Hugh" reflect this:

He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain “the sublime”
In the old sense.

However, there is a conflict for the artist.  How does one create without purpose in a world that is chaotic, driven by politics, and obsessed with its own materialism? 

frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.

I never mentioned a man but with the view
“Of selling my own works.
“The tip’s a good one, as for literature
“It gives no man a sinecure.

In the first quote above, we see the truth of the world's condition pressing upon the artist.  In the second, we see the materialism of other artist's, creating for profit and not for craft.

Ultimately, in the end, the poet who wishes to become more socially involved - to comment on social issues - must leave some of the pure aestheticism of the craft behind. 

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Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

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