Newly Discovered Poems of Ezra Pound

In 1926, Ezra Pound went through the books of poetry he had published up to that time and compiled Personae, all the poems he liked well enough to want preserved, as his definitive “Selected Shorter Poems" volume. Always a rigorous critic of his own work, he eliminated nearly a hundred poems and apparently had lost track of a number of others, either mislaid or sent off to editors who did not return them. Among those recently discovered by scholars working in various libraries are the four previously unpublished poems that follow.

“From Chebar,” probably written between 1912 and 1915, was found by Harriet Monroe’s biographer, Professor Ellen Williams, among the Monroe papers at the University of Chicago. It had evidently been sent to Miss Monroe for Poetry magazine but she did not like it well enough to print it. Here we have Pound speaking through the mask (persona) of an expatriate prophet; the poem was inspired by the first verse of Ezekiel: “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”

The poem to T. E. Hulme (chief theorist of the Imagist movement) and “a certain Fitzgerald,”an obvious parody of Burns, may have been written for recitation at one of the poets’ dining groups which Pound frequented in London around 1910. He had it set in type for his book Canzoni, then cut it from the proof sheets, which are now at the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas.

Both shorter poems were discovered in the Pound archive at Yale’s Beinecke Library by Professor Louis L. Martz and Donald Gallup. They are not easy to date, but the delicate Venetian “Thoughts moving in her eyes . . .” is probably the earliest of the group, since it comes from the holograph San Trovaso Notebook, which Pound began soon after his arrival in Venice in 1908.

The poems are published here by courtesy of the Ezra Pound literary estate and the libraries named above.

—James Laughlin

FROM CHEBAR

Before you were, America!
I did not begin with you,
I do not end with you, America.
You are the present veneer.
If my blood has flowed within you.
Are you not wrought from my people!
Oh I can see you,
I with the maps to aid me,
I can see the coast and the forest
And the corn-yellow plains and the hills,
The domed sky and the jagged,
The plainsmen and men of the cities.
I did not begin aboard “The Lion,”
I was not born at the landing.
They built you out of the woods
And my people hewed in the forest,
My people planned the rails
And devised your ways for water.
Before they found you with ships
They knew me in Warwick and Cornwall,
They knew me at Crécy and Poictiers,
my name was aloud in the East.
Out of the old I was, I held against the Romans,
I am not afraid of the dark,
I am he who is not afraid to look in the corners.
I have seen the dawn mist
Move in the yellow grain,
I have seen the daubed purple sunset;
You may kill me, but I do not accede,
You may ignore me, you may keep me in exile,
You may assail me with negations, or you may keep me, a while, well hidden,
But I am after you and before you,
And above all, I do not accede.
I do not join in the facile praises,
In the ever ready cries of enthusiasms.
I demand the honesty of the forest, I am not
To be bought with lies.
I am “He who demands the perfect,”
I am he who will not be put off,
I came with the earliest comers,
I will not go till the last.
Your personal ambition is not enough,
Your personal desire for notoriety is insufficient.
There is only the best that matters.
Have done with the rest. Have done with easy contentments.
Have done with the encouragement of mediocre production.
I have not forgotten the birthright.
I am not content that you should be always a province.
The will is not enough.
The pretense is not enough,
The satisfaction-in-ignorance is insufficient.
There is no use your quoting Whitman against me,
His time is not our time, his day and hour were different.
The order does not end in the arts,
The order shall come and pass through them.
The state is too idle, the decrepit church is too idle.
The arts alone can transmit this.
They alone ding fast to the gods,
Even the sciences are a little below them.
They are “Those who demand the perfect.”
They are “Not afraid of the dark,”
They are after you and before you.
They have not need of smooth speeches,
There are enough who are ready to please you.
It is I, who demand our past,
And they who demand it.
It is I, who demand tomorrow,
And they who demand it.
It is we, who do not accede,
We do not please you with easy speeches.

TO HULME (T.E.) AND FITZGERALD (a certain)

Is there for feckless poverty
That grins at ye for a’ that!
A hired slave to none am I,
But underfed for a’ that;
For a’ that and a’ that,
The tails I shun and a’ that,
My name but mocks the guinea stamp,
And Pound’s dead broke for a’ that.

Although my linen still is clean,
My socks fine silk and a’ that,
Although I dine and drink good wine—
Say, twice a week, and a’ that;
For a’ that and a’ that,
My tinsel show and a’ that.
These breeks ‘ll no last many weeks
’Gainst wear and tear and a’ that.

Ye see this birkie ea’ed a bard,
Wi’ cryptic eyes and a’ that.
Aesthetic phrases by the yard;
It’s but E. P. for a’ that.
For a’ that and a’ that,
My verses, books and a’ that.’
The man of independent means
He looks and laughs at a’ that.

One man will make a novelette
And sell the same and a’ that.
For verse nae man can siller gel,
Nae editor maun fa’ that
For a’ that and a’ that,
Their royalties and a’ that.
Wi’ time to loaf and will to write
I’ll stick to rhyme for a’ that.

And ye may praise or gang your ways
Wi’ pity, sneers and a’ that,
I know my trade and God has made
Some men to rhyme and a’ that,
I maun gang on for a’ that
Wi’ verse to verse until the hearse
Carts off me wame and a’ that.

ENVOI

A mon bien aimé

Well have I loved ye,
little songs of mine.
Well have I loved the
days that saw ye born.
As frail perfections
blown upon the wing
I bid ye “via!”
And as unconfined be ye
As swallows
winnowing the wind
—before the pale clouds
taste the wine of morn —
While th’ uncrushed
stars still cling upon the vine

UNTITLED POEM

Thoughts moving
in her eyes
as sunset color
shadows
on Giudecca.
The haze
that
doth the sun prolong.