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Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance

Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance

Scott Hamilton
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv2d0
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    Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance
    Book Description:

    In this revisionary study of Ezra Pound's poetics, Scott Hamilton exposes the extent of the modernist poet's debt to the French romantic and symbolist traditions. Whereas previous critics have focused on a single influence, Hamilton explores a broad spectrum of French poets, including Thophile Gautier, Tristan Corbire, Jules Laforgue, Remy de Gourmont, Henri de Rgnier, Jules Romains, Laurent Tailhade, Paul Verlaine, and Stphane Mallarm. This exploration of Pound's canon demonstrates his logic in borrowing from the French tradition as well as a paradoxical circularity to his poetic development. Hamilton begins by explaining how Pound read Gautier's poetry as an example of Parnassianism and of the "satirical realism" of Flaubert and the modern novelistic tradition. He reveals, however, a crucial blind spot in Pound's poetic vision that facilitated his return to precisely those romantic and proto-symbolist elements in Gautier that were celebrated by Baudelaire and Mallarm, and that Pound, as a modern poet, felt obliged to repress. Arguing that Pound's response to symbolism was not specifically modernist, Hamilton shows how his dual attraction to the lyric and prose traditions, to symbolism and realism, and to the visionary and the historical helps us better to understand our own post-modern sensibility.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6269-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction EZRA POUND AND THE SYMBOLIST INHERITANCE
    (pp. 3-29)

    Pound’s 1914 polemic championing imagism and its later offshoot, vorticism, over “‘symbolism’ in its profounder sense” has more or less shaped subsequent critical debates about his poetry and about modernism in general. According to Pound, such Symbolists as Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Mallarmé, poets who decisively shaped the English Decadent and Aesthetic movements out of which Pound himself evolved, were improper models for modern poets and could only lead to a derivative poetry. In a September 1913 letter to Harriet Monroe, for example, he severely criticizes the two French poets who had perhaps most influenced late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century English...

  6. Chapter One POUND’S GRADUS AD PARNASSUM
    (pp. 30-57)

    Gautier soon became Pound’smiglior fabbro, serving both as a personal inspiration and as a germinal master anticipating his own version of modernism. Gautier’s influence begins to be felt as early as 1912 and continues unabated throughout the twenties. In the 1913 letter to Harriet Monroe where Pound criticizes Baudelaire and Verlaine, he continues by saying that “Gautier and de Gourmont carry forward the art itself’ (SL, 23). Later, in a 1920 letter to James Joyce, Pound writes, “I cling to the rock of Gautier, deluding myself perhaps with the idea that he did journalism for years without becoming an...

  7. Chapter Two POUND’S GRADUS A PARNASSO: MISANTHROPY, POUND, AND SOME FRENCH SATIRE
    (pp. 58-90)

    Although Pound reverently returns to the Parnassians in his later critical writings,¹ his poetry afterRipostesdemonstrates the fruits of his interest in the satirical Théophile Gautier, in Tristan Corbiècre, Laurent Tailhade and, still later, Jules Laforgue.² This manifest influence of the French satirical poets on Pound’sLustranecessitates that we at least ask ourselves whether Pound’s critical conjunction of heterogeneous, if not irreconcilable, poetic modes has shaped the extreme tonal swings and the diverse subject matter inLustra. In other words, the consideration of the new “masters” in Pound’s ideogram of good writing might help to explain the change...

  8. Chapter Three THE CITADEL OF THE INTELLIGENT: POUND’S LAFORGUE
    (pp. 91-130)

    Pound discovered Laforgue surprisingly late, considering his familiarity with modern French poetry and his interest in Eliot’s poetry beginning in late 1914. He first mentions Laforgue in two letters dated August 1916, where he compares him to an eighth-century Chinese poet, Wang Wei, and he writes his first of a series of articles on him in November of 1917.¹ This time lag is all the more remarkable given his esteem for Corbière, whoseLes Amours jauneswas seen by many to have anticipated Laforgue’s own innovations, so much so that the latter felt compelled to attack Corbière in his angry...

  9. Chapter Four THE WOBBLING PIVOT: SURFACE AND DEPTH IN THE EARLY CANTOS
    (pp. 131-165)

    We have traced up to this point a clear progression from Pound’s ParnassianRipostes, to the satirical realism ofLustra, to the quasi-irony ofPropertiusandMauberley, the last of which founders, as we saw, in the illicit return of Gautier’s romanticism. Unfortunately, as a result of this strange turn, it might seem that this teleological account has prepared us somewhat inadequately for a study of Pound’s “long poem including history,” for, given that theCantoshave been variously considered “the only kind of long poem that the Symbolist aesthetic will admit,”¹ a vorticist or a cubist collage,² and a...

  10. Chapter Five L’ÉTERNELLE RITOURNELLE IN THE LATE CANTOS
    (pp. 166-193)

    ThePisan Cantospresent Pound in propria persona, a “lover murmuring name upon name,”¹ as the historical circumstances in which he finds himself break through into his consciousness in an endless chain of immaterial presences and disembodied voices: “Only shadows enter my tent/as men pass between me and the sunset” (80/529). Undergoing this “nox animae magna from the tent under Taishan” (74/451), Pound must, like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, decipher and name the shadows and sounds passing outside his tent, proceeding by degrees from the darkness and shadows to the sunlit world and, finally, the empyrean:

    or Anchises that...

  11. Conclusion ROBERT DUNCAN’S REVISIONARY RATIOS: REWRITING THE SPIRIT OF ROMANCE
    (pp. 194-210)

    For better or for worse, Pound has left his indelible mark on American poetry. But if we are looking for a worthy successor to the Poundian countertradition described in the preceding chapters, we need not range outside that family of poets who claim Pound as their poetic forebear. Pound’s symbolist inheritance finds its fitting culmination in Robert Duncan’s extension of, or, more accurately, his return to, what he sees as the true Poundian tradition. Introduced to Pound’s poetry just as he was entering his own vocation as poet, Duncan, with his concern fortechne, faithfully adhered throughout his career to...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 211-254)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 255-257)