Hugh Selwyn Mauberly [excerpt]
For three years, out of key with his time, He strove to resuscitate the dead art Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime" In the old scene. Wrong from the start-- No, hardly, but seeing he had been born In a half-savage country, out of date; Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn; Capaneus; trout for factitious bait; [idmen gar toi pant, hos eni Troiei] Caught in the unstopped ear; Giving the rocks small lee-way The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year. His true Penelope was Flaubert, He fished by obstinate isles; Observed the elegance of Circe's hair Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials. Unaffected by "the march of events," He passed from men's memory in l'an trentuniesme De son eage; the case presents No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.
The age demanded an image Of its accelerated grimace, Something for the modern stage, Not, at any rate, an Attic grace; Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries Of the inward gaze; Better mendacities Than the classics in paraphrase! The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster, Made with no loss of time, A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.
These fought in any case, and some believing, pro domo, in any case . . . Some quick to arm, some for adventure, some from fear of weakness, some from fear of censure, some for love of slaughter, in imagination, learning later . . . some in fear, learning love of slaughter; Died some, pro patria, non "dulce" non "et decor" . . . walked eye-deep in hell believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving came home, home to a lie, home to many deceits, home to old lies and new infamy; usury age-old and age-thick and liars in public places. Daring as never before, wastage as never before. Young blood and high blood, fair cheeks, and fine bodies; fortitude as never before frankness as never before, disillusions as never told in the old days, hysterias, trench confessions, laughter out of dead bellies.
There died a myriad, And of the best, among them, For an old bitch gone in the teeth, For a botched civilization, Charm, smiling at the good mouth, Quick eyes gone under earth's lid, For two gross of broken statues, For a few thousand battered books.
Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.
Ezra Pound is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry.
Date Published: 1956-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/hugh-selwyn-mauberly-excerpt