01 March 2012
Expatriates in Paris: Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound was born in Idaho Territory to parents of a British (and Quaker) background. He was educated in Quaker schools and ultimately migrated to Pennsylvania where he attended college. He began traveling to Europe during his PhD work, and after an unhappy teaching stint in Indiana he made the decision to relocate to Europe. Pound lived first in London and then moved to Paris after World War I. He eventually settled in Italy. After World War II, Pound got into trouble with the American government for his activities in Italy. He was then transferred to a prison in the United States, which he found oddly beneficial: sitting in a cell all day gave him the chance to write. After his release, he returned to Italy.
One interested feature of all the expatriates in Paris is that most of them didn't really live in Paris all that long. And yet Paris made an impact on them, and they on the literary world. Pound was no different. Here are a few of his poems:
Sing we for love and idleness,
Naught else is worth the having.
Though I have been in many a land,
There is naught else in living.
And I would rather have my sweet,
Though rose-leaves die of grieving,
Than do high deeds in Hungary
To pass all men's believing.
Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth,
Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes.
"In a Station of the Metro"
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Love thou thy dream
All base love scorning,
Love thou the wind
And here take warning
That dreams alone can truly be,
For 'tis in dream I come to thee.
Come, or the stellar tide will slip away.
Eastward avoid the hour of its decline,
Now! for the needle trembles in my soul!
Here we have had our vantage, the good hour.
Here we have had our day, your day and mine.
Come now, before this power
That bears us up, shall turn against the pole.
Mock not the flood of stars, the thing's to be.
O Love, come now, this land turns evil slowly.
The waves bore in, soon they bear away.
The treasure is ours, make we fast land with it.
Move we and take the tide, with its next favour,
Under some neutral force
Until this course turneth aside.
"In the Old Age of the Soul"
I do not choose to dream; there cometh on me
Some strange old lust for deeds.
As to the nerveless hand of some old warrior
The sword-hilt or the war-worn wonted helmet
Brings momentary life and long-fled cunning,
So to my soul grown old -
Grown old with many a jousting, many a foray,
Grown old with namy a hither-coming and hence-going -
Till now they send him dreams and no more deed;
So doth he flame again with might for action,
Forgetful of the council of elders,
Forgetful that who rules doth no more battle,
Forgetful that such might no more cleaves to him
So doth he flame again toward valiant doing.
More poems by Ezra Pound here.