Ezra Pound

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Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound (October 30, 1885November 1, 1972) was an American expatriate poet, musician and critic who was a major figure of the Modernist movement in early to mid-20th century poetry. He was the driving force behind several Modernist movements, notably Imagism and Vorticism.



  • Poetry is a sort of inspired mathematics, which gives us equations, not for abstract figures, triangles, squares, and the like, but for the human emotions. If one has a mind which inclines to magic rather than science, one will prefer to speak of these equations as spells or incantations; it sounds more arcane, mysterious, recondite.
    • The Spirit of Romance, p. 5
  • It is better to present one image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous work.
  • Image…that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.
  • One discards rhyme, not because one is incapable of rhyming neat, fleet, sweet, meet, treat, eat, feet but because there are certain emotions or energies which are nor represented by the over-familiar devices or patterns.
    • "Affirmations: As for Imagism", The New Age, January 1915
  • Poetry must be as well written as prose.
    • Letter to Harriet Monroe (January 1915)
  • Hang it all, Robert Browning, there can be but the one "Sordello."
    • From Draft of XXX Cantos (1933), No.2
  • Make it new!
    • Book title (1935)
  • But the one thing you shd. not do is suppose that when something is wrong with the arts, it is wrong with the arts ONLY.
    • Guide to Kulchur (1938)
  • Who brought this to pass?
    Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
    Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
    Barbarous kings.
    A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
    A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
    Three hundred and sixty thousand,
    And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
    • 'Lament of the Frontier Guard' (From Cathay, 1915)
  • Our own consciousness is incapable of having produce the universe. God, therefore, exists. That is to say, there is no reason for not applying the term God, Theos, to the intimate essence
    • Axiomata (1921). Quoted in Witemeyer, Hugh (1951), The Poetry of Ezra Pound, University of California Press, p. 26
  • My worst mistake was the stupid suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism, all along.
    • A dinner table conversation quoted in Composed on the tongue, "Encounters will Ezra Pound" by Allen Ginsberg
  • The art of letters will come to an end before A.D. 2000. I shall survive as a curiosity.
    • Quoted in A Serious Character (1988) by Humphrey Carpenter

The Cantos[edit]

  • If a man have not order within him
    He can not spread order about him
    And if a man have not order within him
    His family will not act with due order;
    And if the prince have not order within him
    He can not put order in his dominions.
    • Canto XIII
  • "And even I can remember
    A day when the historians left blanks in their writings,
    I mean, for things they didn't know,
    But that time seems to be passing."
    • Canto XIII
  • Without character you will
    be unable to play on that instrument
    • Canto XIII
  • The blossoms of the apricot
    blow from the east to the west,
    And I have tried to keep them from falling.
    • Canto XIII
  • With usura hath no man a house of good stone
    each block cut smooth and well fitting
    with usura
    hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
    no picture is made to endure nor to live with
    but it is made to sell and sell quickly
    • Canto XLV
      • Note: Regarding usura, in 1972 Pound wrote in the foreword to "Selected Prose, 1909-1965":

I was out of focus, taking a symptom for a cause.
The cause is AVARICE."

  • What thou lovest well remains,
    the rest is dross
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
    What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
    • Canto LXXXI
  • Pull down thy vanity, it is not man
    Made courage, or made order, or made grace,
    Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
    Learn of the green world what can be thy place
    • Canto LXXXI
  • How mean thy hates
    Fostered in falsity

    Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity
    • Canto LXXXI
  • To have gathered from the air a live tradition
    or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame
    This is not vanity.
    Here error is all in the not done,
    all in the diffidence that faltered . . .
    • Canto LXXXI
  • "You damn sadist!" said mr. cummings,
    "you try to make people think."
    • Canto LXXXIX
  • The temple is holy because it is not for sale.
    • Canto XCVII
  • Pride, jealousy and possessiveness
    3 pains of hell
    • Canto CXIII
  • And of man seeking good,
    doing evil.
    • Canto CXV
  • But the beauty is not the madness
    Tho’ my errors and wrecks lie about me.
    And I am not a demigod,
    I cannot make it cohere.
    • Canto CXVI
  • Many errors,
    a little rightness.
    • Canto CXVI

ABC of Reading (1934)[edit]

  • The author's conviction on this day of the New Year is that music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.
    • Preface
  • Literature is news that STAYS news.
    • Ch. 1
  • Any general statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.
    • p. 25
  • The man of understanding can no more sit quiet and resigned while his country lets literature decay than a good doctor could sit quiet and contented while some ignorant child was infecting itself with tuberculosis under the impression that it was merely eating jam tarts.
    • p. 33
  • AT ABOUT THIS POINT the weak-hearted reader usually sits down in the road, removes his shoes and weeps that he 'is a bad linguist' or that he or she can't possibly learn all those languages. One has to divide the readers who want to be experts from those who do not, and divide, as it were, those who want to see the world from those who merely want to know WHAT PART OF IT THEY LIVE IN.
    • p. 42
  • Real education must ultimately be limited to one who INSISTS on knowing, the rest is mere sheep-herding.
    • Ch. 8

Instigations of Ezra Pound (1967)[edit]

  • Artists are the antennae of the race but the bullet-headed many will never learn to trust their great artists.

External links[edit]

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