Ezra Pound, from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920, 1921)

During World War I, Ezra Pound was an American émigré in London and the impresario behind imagism and vorticism in England. After many of his friends were killed in the trenches, including the poet-philosopher T. E. Hulme and the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, he described his postwar activities in the following terms: “1918 began investigation of causes of war, to oppose same.” Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, from which the following two excerpts are taken, is one result of Pound’s war-guilt investigations.

 

IV

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.

V

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.

 

 


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