Ezra Pound: Poet: Volume III: The Tragic Years 1939-1972 - A. David Moody (2015)
PART TWO: 1945
7: A PRISONER IN THE EYES OF OTHERS
The 6677th Disciplinary Training Center was a vast stockade off the dusty main road about 3 miles north of Pisa—the leaning tower could be made out in the distance across the flat plain. A few miles to the east the hills rise up to an 800-metre mountain. The DTC was a concentration camp for the US Army’s own criminals, but with the difference that its aim was to release its prisoners back into active service. The ‘trainees’, as they were called, three and a half thousand of them in 1945, insubordinates, deserters, gangsters, murderers, rapists, thieves, were put through a punishing regime of 14-hour days of drills and exercises, and those who could stand it for a year could be returned to duty and earn an honourable discharge. Those who could not might be shut up for a week or two in the solitary punishment cells, narrow, shallow, and windowless concrete boxes, in which a man could just stand or lie down; or if they were deemed incorrigible they would be penned in one of the row of wire cages before being shipped back to a federal penitentiary. A few who made a run for it were shot down by the guards in one of the towers before theyreached the first barbed-wire. There were guard-towers at each corner of the half-mile square stockade, and a further two towers on each of its four sides.
A brutal military discipline prevailed, the whole idea of the military police in charge of the training being to make life hell for the deviant until they conformed and responded like automatons to even the harshest and most whimsical orders. It was no place for an intensely individual civilian not subject to the disciplines of war. Yet the order was to confine Pound there, according no preferential treatment, and exercising utmost security measures to prevent escape or suicide. To the major of the Corps of Engineers who was temporarily in command that meant caging him with the incorrigibles in the maximum security area within view of the provost marshals’ office, and the camp gate and the road. On second thoughts it seemed best to the major to replace the heavy gauge wire mesh of the ordinary observation cages with lengths of the even stronger steel mats used to make landing strips—there had been an emergency landing field in that place. So for thirty-six hours engineers cut and welded the steel with blow torches to construct a special gorilla cage, as Pound would call it, for this odd prisoner, keeping him awake for that time while they did it. Then they cut away the original wire mesh, leaving just a few inches of it sticking up from the concrete floor, the exposed ends an invitation to suicide, or so the over-stressed prisoner began to suspect. A photograph of the row of ordinary cages shows just a corner of this special one. All have concrete slab floors, about six feet wide and six and a half long, simple timber frames, ¼″ wire netting walls, flat wood and tar-paper roofs, except that for Pound’s the steel grille is about an inch deep with four-inch interstices. The cages were open to the elements, to the summer sun, to wind and rain, to the dust blown in from the road to Pisa or from the drill field on hot windy days; and open too to the constant observation of the guards posted to watch him night and day, and to the gaze of passing military police and prisoners on their way in or out of the camp. All night a bright ‘reflector’ light shone on the cage. For furniture he was at first given just a slop pail and six blankets, and slept on the concrete; after some heavy rain, a cot was put in, and took up half the space; then he was given a pup tent which could be arranged to provide shelter from sun and rain. There was a general order that he was not to be spoken with—anyone could stare at him in his cage, but no one was to have a word with him.
What some saw, or later recollected seeing, was an elderly man in army fatigues unbuttoned at the neck, the trousers hanging loose—no belt, no boot laces either—‘red-bearded’, or ‘with a stubby graying growth of a beard’, and ‘a curly full head of hair’. They would see him pacing back and forth the short length of his cage, or playing what appeared to be ping pong or tennis, ‘making graceful, looping forehands and backhands’, or dancing ‘nimbly about the cage, shadow boxing’ and fencing, or just sitting for hours with his head in his Chinese book. One curious young soldier who sat staring at the poet—he knew who he was and would have liked to talk to him—was startled to find himself spoken to, ‘a good voice’ saying from the cage, ‘Can you get me some boric acid? They won’t let me have it…I use it with water for my eyes.’ The young man did get him boric acid and watched him use it on his eyes which were inflamed by the glare and dust. In the DTC mugshot of ‘Ezra Loomis Pound’ dated ‘May 26 1945’—was he not processed until that Saturday?—those eyes look fiercely back at the lens. The head of hair is tangled, uncombed, the thin beard straggly, the army shirt loose and open at the collar. The face is lean, fined down from its prewar heaviness and defined now more by bone structure than by flesh; the line of the mouth is taut, the lips shut tight; and there is a great tension in the expression, as of a mind concentrated under extreme pressure, challenged, fully alert, at bay.
In his cage, poetry, lines for cantos, kept forming in his mind—‘The enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant’s bent shoulders…’. ‘It’s terrible to have it coming to you like that and not be able to put it down’, he would recall. But at least the ten lines that would open The Pisan Cantos got written down in pencil on two sheets of toilet paper, then copied again onto the inside cover of his Chinese book.
The regular camp commander, Lieutenant Colonel John L. Steele, returned from compassionate home leave and resumed command on 13 June. The next day a psychiatrist, Captain R. W. Fenner, was assigned to examine Pound and form a view of his mental state. In his report he wrote:
Placed in confinement here at the D.T.C. he had a ‘spell’ about a week ago. This occurred while he was sitting in the sun, and the patient describes it as a period of several minutes during which he had great difficulty in collecting his thoughts.
The ‘patient’ also spoke of recent ‘difficulty in concentration’, ‘easy fatigueability’, and ‘worries a great deal that he’ll forget some messages which he wishes eventually to tell others’. ‘Patient talks a great deal’, he observed, ‘Wanders from the subject easily, and needs to be constantly reminded of a particular question to which [h]is complete answer is sought.’ He detected ‘No paranoia, delusions nor hallucinations’—‘No evidence of emotional instability’—‘no notable personality defect—Memory, ‘good’—‘Insight–good’—‘Apparently very superior intelligence’. And Captain Fenner left it at that. A second opinion was given by another psychiatrist, Captain Walter H. Baer, on 15 June:
1. This 59½ year old ‘prisoner’ was referred for N-P work up because of recent spell of confusion and complaints of ‘claustrophobia’.…His present complaints are temporary periods of confusion, anxiety, feelings of frustration, and excessive fatiguability. There is no evidence of psychosis, neurosis or psychopathy. He is of superior intelligence, is friendly affable and cooperative. He does, however, lack personality resilience, shows some anxiety, restlessness, tremulousness and has had an attack of confusion.
2. Due to his age and loss of personality resilience, prolonged exposure in present environment may precipitate a mental breakdown, of which premonitory symptoms are discernible. Early transfer to the United States or to an institution in this theatre with more adequate facilities for care is recommended.
The psychiatrists’ distancing objectivity and euphemisms—‘the patient’ and ‘care’—wonderfully elide the inhumanity of Pound’s ‘confinement’ and ‘present environment’; but at least Captain Baer suggested that something be done about that. Colonel Steele took the hint at once, and the prisoner was moved on 18 June, after twenty-five days in the cage, into the medical compound, and given one of the pyramidal tents set up there for officer prisoners.
The Catholic chaplain, Father Aloysius H. Vath, told Wendy Flory in 1981 that after a time some of the medical staff became concerned about the consequences of his having no one to talk to. They feared that if this important prisoner went crazy they would be blamed. So he was told he could choose someone to talk to, and he asked, ‘Do you have an RC chaplain?’, and said ‘I’ll talk to him’. Mostly he wanted to talk about the Catholic religion and how it might correlate with his own Confucianism. When the priest gave him a copy of the Catholic Prayer Book for the Army and Navy he copied ideograms in its margins from his Confucian Four Books, and noted that ‘The confucian, qua Confucian, is constantly in the state of mind indicated in the “Directions for confession” (p.34)’. Father Vath remembered their talking as they walked around the prison compound, ‘every day, morning and afternoon…for about an hour’.
The words ‘mental breakdown’ from Captain Baer’s report got back to the FBI and the Department of Justice in Washington, and roused concern about Pound’s ‘mental competence’, meaning his competence to stand trial. On 3 July a message went from the War Crimes Office urgently requesting further examinations and reports from those two psychiatrists, ‘and from some other psychiatrist as well’. Fenner and Baer had already left the DTC, but a higher ranking psychiatrist, Major William Weisdorf, was available to examine Pound on 17 July, and reported at length on his condition. He noted that the prisoner, during his first weeks ‘in rather close confinement’, had developed symptoms ‘of anxiety, fatiguability…difficulty in concentrating…momentary lapses of memory’; however,‘When removed from strict confinement, and given more freedom of movement, and improved physical facilities, the above noted symptoms rapidly cleared up’. To Weisdorf ‘He made few complaints regarding his physical health, stated that he had a good appetite, slept well, and no longer was physically fatigued.’ The psychiatrist concluded:
He shows no evidence of psychosis, or neurosis at the present time. It is the opinion of the examiner that he may be safely kept in confinement in his present surroundings for the time being. However, because of his advanced age, and already demonstrated limited resistance he should be protected from undue physical stress or exposure. Some provision should be made for mental stimulation in the form of reading matter of such variety as may be decreed advisable and appropriate. The counter action of the boredom of confinment [sic] would be good mental hygiene.
Those appalling final sentences show how little insight the psychiatrist had into Pound’s mind, and that he had not the least idea that what was really keeping him sane was his immersion in the Confucian texts and in the composition of new cantos.
Of course it is quite likely that Pound’s mind had been elsewhere in that interview. At any rate Weisdorf concluded from his ‘voluble’ speech and ‘prodigious flow of thought’—which sounded ‘on the whole relevant and coherent’—that
Mental content is centered about theories relating to money and monopoly as the basis for the ills of world, with the firmly expressed conviction that in expounding these ideas, he had done his utmost to prevent war and uphold the American Constitution. He feels that he has invaluable knowledge and experience with foreign affairs, which the American government could use. He defends his radio broadcasts on the Italian radio as the right of free speech and contends that he was not treasonable. There is no evidence of hallucinations or delusions…
No evidence of delusion? Pound must have spoken very convincingly indeed, something worth noting since he was there rehearsing his defence, and doing so no doubt for the benefit of those to whom Weisdorf would be reporting. It seems not to have occurred to the psychiatrist that the apparently very intelligent object of his observation would have had his own sense of what was going on, and his own agenda, and that he might be using him to make his case to the FBI and the Justice Department.
Colonel Steele sent off the three psychiatrists’ reports as requested by the War Crimes Office, with a note explaining that it was the common practice where there was risk of suicide or escape to place prisoners ‘in a small open cell with walls of steel grating in order that [they] might be under constant observation’. Nonetheless, Pound had been moved on 18 June, and ‘also provided with reading and writing materials’. He gave the assurance the FBI and the Justice Department were wanting, that Weisdorf’s report ‘indicates that Pound has made a satisfactory mental adjustment to his present situation and is mentally competent’.
Steele ‘was walking on eggshells’, someone who had been an officer in the camp reflected years later, ‘It was a career situation: if anything goes wrong he’s done for.’ And Steele himself, also years later, indicated that he had had to worry about ‘ensuring responsible care that was somehow short of the forbidden “preferential treatment”.’ Allowing the prisoner to write had seemed the acceptable ‘defense against mental deterioration, which we certainly did not want to risk’. He was vague about what reading materials might have been provided, if any. ‘The Bible was the only reading material authorized any prisoner’, as he remembered, though ‘The Stars and Stripes and Yankmagazine were probably available’, and the camp personnel would have had other magazines and a surprising assortment of pocket books. (Among these latter would have been the copy of The Pocket Book of Verse which someone left in the latrine, a lucky find for Pound.) But Steele frankly admitted that ‘We had almost no resources to offer’, beyond writing materials—(some US Army standard issue writing pads were found for him)—and allowing him ‘to use a typewriter at the medical building during off-duty hours’. So he came back to their having done what they could for Pound by letting him write, having decided that that ‘would be good therapy and good preventative medicine’. It was the happy solution to the problem of keeping the special prisoner both secure and ‘competent’.
The prisoner could be heard at night typing furiously in the Medical Center dispensary. Robert Allen, who worked there, remembered ‘The constant clanging and banging of the typewriter, which he punched angrily with his index fingers’, and the ‘high-pitched humming sound he made as the carriage raced the bell’—that would have been when he was composing cantos. He also typed up his English version of Confucius: The Unwobbling Pivot & The Great Digest, and dated it ‘D.T.C., Pisa; 5 October–5 November, 1945’. Allen also recalled how ‘He swore well and profusely over typing errors.’
No one was supposed to talk to him still, but he would talk freely to anyone who was near. According to Allen, after typing he would ‘let down completely to rant and rave’ to the Charge of Quarters in the dispensary, ‘about the “dunghill usurers” and “usuring cutthroats”’, about how ‘wars could be avoided if the true nature of money were understood’, or ‘“When”, he would ask, “will the United States return to Constitutional government?”’ To young Homer Somers he tried to explain Gesell. With the medical staff, if he went in for some treatment after the trainees’ sick call, for eye drops or a foot bath, ‘he seemed anxious to discuss the charges against him’. He would exchange banter through the barbed wire with trainees in the adjacent compound, and picked up and parsed the army vocabulary, all forty-eight words of it.
He was seen moving freely around his compound where his regular walk wore a circular path in its grass. Allen mentions that he found an old broom handle and used it as a stick ‘which he swung out smartly to match his long stride’. The stick also became a tennis racquet, or a rapier, or a bat to hit small stones with. When the chaplain walked with him there was always a guard close behind; and guards would move him to the mess to collect his food in an army mess kit, or to the showers. There were usually two men to a tent, but Pound had his to himself. Allen remembered his having an army cot and a small packing crate, and later ‘a second packing crate and a table’. That was where he would write during the day, or read. He read ‘everything that was given to him’, according to Allen, and ‘The Mediterranean edition of The Stars and Stripes and the overseas editions of Time and Newsweek were his sources of news.’
For months, through June, July, August, no one outside the camp apart from Frank Amprim was permitted to see or to communicate with the prisoner, nor even to know where he was being held; and he was not permitted to communicate with anyone, not with his wife, nor with legal counsel. The American Consulate in Rome would only refer Dorothy Pound to the US Army authorities, who would defer to the FBI on this matter; and Amprim told John Drummond in July, when he interceded on Dorothy’s behalf, that there could be ‘no communication whatever’ between Pound and his family.
All the while US Army Headquarters in Italy, following up the second psychiatrist’s recommendation, were urging Washington to transfer Pound to the United States without delay. They wanted him off their hands. But the War Crimes Office wanted him held in Italy in case there was a need for ‘reinterrogation in connection with any statements which may be made by prospective witnesses’. Amprim was still at work on the case. In June he had sent to the Director of the FBI in Washington a sampling of the material he had gathered, including ‘summaries and short items which were announced on the Fascist Radio by various announcers employed there’, and Hoover had written back on 4 July:
From an examination of the documentary evidence submitted in this case, it is noted that considerable handwriting and typewritten material evidently prepared by Pound is included. However, in order to have available adequate known specimen’s of subjects handwriting and specimens from his typewriter for comparison purposes, it is desired that you reinterview Pound and secure the following:
(1) Typewritten specimens properly identified by competent witnesses, that is, specimens identified by you and one other person who would be competent to testify regarding them. In this connection, it is suggested that [name blacked out] Counter intelligence Agent of the 92ndDivision, U.S. Army, be utilized if possible inasmuch as he has previously identified a considerable portion of the documentary evidence in this case and in all probability will be called as a witness. The typewritten specimens should be secured from all typewriters available to Pound. There should be numerous specimens in similar wording to that in Pound’s documents and if possible the documents should be prepared on paper similar to that used in Pound’s original manuscripts. With regard to the taking of the specimens, you should use light, medium, and heavy touch and the specimens so taken should be properly designated as being light, medium, or heavy.
Amprim carried out this instruction to the letter. He confiscated Pound’s Everest portable typewriter, Model 90, serial no. 27780, on which the ‘t’ had become misaligned, and interviewed the salesman from whom Pound had bought it in February 1938, to have proof that he had owned that typewriter. He also confiscated an Olympia office typewriter found in the Ministry of Popular Culture in Rome and identified as one Pound had used. He selected specimens of the scripts, articles, and letters Pound himself had typed, and had him initial and date them to acknowledge them his. And he had specimen pages typed as directed, not only with light, medium, and heavy touch, but also in blue and in black ink. In August he had Pound certify that he was indeed the author of the books and pamphlets that named him as author. Through to November he kept on gathering more and more potential evidence, from Sant’Ambrogio, from the former Fascist Ministries in Rome and Salò and Milan, from Mussolini’s files, from interviews. In the end he assembled thousands of pages, ‘enough to fill up the better part of fourteen volumes of FBI files’.
All this was in order to establish doubly and triply and to unmanageable excess what Pound was altogether happy to confirm. Convinced that the more evidence there was the more it would prove that he had intended only good to America, Pound was comforted by Amprim’s zeal, and delighted that he had ‘collected far more proof…than I or any private lawyer could have got at’. He seems not to have internalized the fact that Amprim’s mission was to gather evidence that could be used against him. ‘My instinct all along has been to leave the whole matter to the U.S. Dept. of Justice,’ he would write to Dorothy’s lawyers in October, demonstrating, if nothing else, his certainty that he was not guilty of treason, and his simple faith that the Department of Justice wanted only to establish the truth.
But the Justice Department needed still more evidence. Amprim had been sternly instructed in June that there was an ‘Absolute need for 2 witnesses to each overt act treason’, and that the
information and documentary material you furnished shows only general data. Nowhere have 2 witnesses been developed to same overt act treason. Concentrate on development 2 witnesses to same overt act and discontinue all general investigation.
In mid-July he was told again, ‘Department wishes to know that you have developed 2 witnesses to same overt act of treason by subject before final plans made for his return.’ A further message the following week was more specific:
Though people named could testify they handled POUND’s manuscripts in normal course business, there is no evidence they have personal knowledge POUND prepared manuscripts. Thus these witnesses would not fulfill statutory requirement of 2 witnesses to same overt act.
This requirement best solved by finding at least 2 people who personally saw POUND make specific recording on specific date. Develop as many overt acts this kind as possible to which these witnesses can testify. Also if possible develop other sets 2 or more witnesses to other similar overt acts treason.
ARMADO GIOVAGFOMI and WALTER XAHETTI who recorded some POUND’s talks are suggested witnesses.
Amprim reported that neither two technicians whom he had interviewed as potential witnesses, nor ‘two other witnesses [who] had [also] jointly seen and heard Pound make recordings on at least ten different occasions’, could recall the dates of those recordings, or ‘identify the subject matter of the talks as they do not understand the English language’. On 21 August he was sent further instructions on exactly how to ‘develop’ potential witnesses:
Reinterview jointly MAUCERI and BADOLOTTO plus BRUNI, DE LEONARDIS, and ZACHETTI making all out effort ascertain more specifically as many times as possible when they saw POUND make recordings. Try tie these occasions with known event as Allied landing at SALERNO or other event prominent in their memory. Interrogate all 5 exhaustively regarding possibility other persons who saw POUND make recordings.
Examination “Report of Registration Form” for 14 January 1943 shows operator was LUSSI and Engineer of Service was MELODIA. More information on LUSSI in last paragraph page 2 of your letter 20 June 1944. Find and interview these 2 as possible witnesses and others listed in same letter.
The search for witnesses went on into October, but at the end of that month an internal FBI memo to J. Edgar Hoover recognized that even two witnesses who could testify had yet to be found, and a Washington paper reported that Justice officials had admitted that ‘Without such witnesses it is “doubtful” conviction can be obtained.’ Nevertheless, as Pound read in November’s Stars and Stripes, six of these ‘witnesses’ were being flown to Washington to testify against him. In the Justice Department’s revised indictment five witnesses would be named—Armando Giovagnoli, Giuseppi Bruni, Fernando de Leonardis, Walter Zanchetti, and Fernando Luzzi—all former EIAR radio technicians who had been ‘developed’ and found wanting as witnesses. None of them understood English, and none of them could testify to any specific ‘overt act of treason’.
Dorothy Pound wrote again on 31 July to the Office of the Provost Marshall General—‘an enquiry requesting news of welfare and whereabouts of Ezra Pound’, as an internal memo described her letter as it was passed from one section to another of that Office. The section concerned sent back a note to the effect that it had ‘no objection to providing Mrs POUND the requested information’, nor would it ‘interpose any objection to a personal visit to Ezra Pound by Mrs Pound’, and that they had ‘checked with the FBI who are in agreement’. Mrs Pound was then advised, in a letter from the Provost Marshall General dated 24 August 1945,
that your husband is at present located at the MTOUSA Disciplinary Training Center, APO 782, c/- postmaster, New York City, N.Y., located near Pisa. He is enjoying a good state of health.
If you desire a personal visit with your husband, suggest a letter be written to Provost Marshall, Peninsular Base Section, A.P.O. 782, U.S. Army.
Dorothy Pound wrote as suggested, and received this reply dated ‘18 September 1945’ on 26 September:
1. This letter will constitute your authority to visit your husband, Ezra Pound, at the MTOUSA Disciplinary Training Center, north of Pisa, on Highway #1, subject to the normal rules governing visits to confinees at that installation.
2. Clothing which is the property of your husband may be brought to him.
3. Correspondence between yourself and husband is authorized subject to usual censorship in effect.
4. Arrangements for travel and lodging must be made through whatever channels are available to civilians.
At the DTC Lieutenant Colonel Steele informed Pound of these permissions in a formal memo dated 20 Sept. 1945, adding
If Mrs. Pound arrives for a visit arrangements will be made for you to see her at Post Headquarters, outside the stockade. Our regulations require that an officer of the organization be present during such a visit and limit the time of each visit to approximately one-half hour.
Pound at once dashed off a note in pencil to Dorothy, and that evening typed a longer note to her, excited by the prospect of reconnecting with his former life.
He wrote that he was ‘famished for news, personal gossip anything’, and asked that people be told they could write to him now, though for the present he could write only to her. She was to tell Olga and Mary, and ‘Jas, Possum, Duncan—Angold if alive’. He wanted Laughlin and Eliot to be readied to bring out his ‘“One day’s reading, the Testament of Confucius”’, and ‘There wd/ be enough cantos for a volume’. In fact he had ‘done a Decad 74/83 (about 80 pages this typescript)’, and he began at once to send batches of typescripts to be sent ‘up the hill’ for Olga and Mary to make clean copies for passing on to Laughlin and Eliot. The first batch, five pages containing canto 81 and the opening of 82, took over a fortnight to reach Dorothy instead of the usual week or so, possibly because Colonel Steele, who was personally acting as censor of Pound’s mail, had difficulty deciding whether they were allowable or not.
Dorothy, for her part, responded to Pound’s instructions, fed him news of friends, was sardonic about his aged mother with whom she was living and for whom she had to cook, let him know that she was keeping clear of Olga, also of Mary about whose appearance she was disparaging, and managed to include in nearly every letter some positive news of Omar. She may have thought that an emphasis upon Omar’s being a devoted son now in the US Army would count in Pound’s favour with the camp authorities.
The most significant preoccupation of the correspondence emerges at the end of Dorothy’s first letter, dated ‘Sept. 25. 1945’, a long newsy letter in which she mentions being ‘in correspondence with Moore’ and that Drummond was proving ‘a true friend’, and then concludes simply, ‘Please have counsel, & don’t try to defend yourself’. Evidently Pound had declared that he would conduct his own defence and Dorothy had been seeking advice and assistance from A. V. Moore, the senior law clerk of her father’s old firm, Shakespear and Parkyn, who acted as her legal adviser in London though he was not a qualified solicitor, and from John Drummond who was with the Allied Headquarters in Rome and who was helping both Dorothy and Olga. Everyone was being adamant that Pound should be dissuaded from conducting his own defence, but they had yet to light on any likely defender.
Drummond, prompted by Olga Rudge, had asked Elihu Root, known to Pound both as a fellow graduate of Hamilton College and as a fellow recipient of an honorary degree there in 1939, if he would take on the case, and Root, a successful corporate lawyer, had replied that it was not his kind of case, and besides Pound was merely an acquaintance and ‘not a very sympathetic one’. He did however suggest Lloyd Stryker, who had been a contemporary of Pound’s at Hamilton and was now a well-known criminal lawyer. The suggestion was put to Pound who responded, ‘I have very cordial recollections of Lloyd Stryker, [but] he is now I believe one of the best known big lawyers in the U.S. whose fees are far beyond anything I could pay.’ Dorothy argued, ‘We can manage the cash side, one way or another,’ and felt ‘sure you’d better let someone used to the job, defend you’.
Pound was inclined to think that no lawyer could have a sufficient knowledge of his case to represent him. When Arthur Moore, writing in the name of Shakespear and Parkyn, formally advised him that he should not address the Court but take Lloyd Stryker as his counsel, Pound explained his hesitations at length. First he questioned whether ‘your advice is given in full knowledge of certain essential facts of my case’, such facts, for example, as that ‘I was not sending axis propaganda but my own’; and that he was never ‘asked to say anything contrary to his conscience or contrary to his duties as an American citizen’. Beyond that, did Moore know what he actually said on air, or that the economic enlightenment he had been calling for in his broadcasts and long before was now being enacted all over the place? How could Stryker possibly know enough about his efforts to spread a ‘better understanding of certain economic fundamentals’? After all, ‘The agent of the Dept. of Justice started by saying that they proposed to consider my past 30 years work,’ and unless Stryker were prepared to do the same ‘I do not know how he could tell the Court what the case is about’. Pound modestly left it to Moore to see how this led to the conclusion that no one could be so well-qualified as Pound himself to tell the Court about his thirty years’ work. But on another occasion, in response to Omar’s asking ‘What KIND of man will he be’, he was more explicit, ‘Tell Omar I favour a defender who has written a life of J. Adams and translated Confucius. Otherwise how CAN he know what it is about?’
One weak link in Pound’s chain of argument was the belief that the Department of Justice was seriously considering his ‘30 years work’. In fact what held Amprim’s interest about this time was ‘a sheaf of documents found among Mussolini’s files pertaining to Ezra Pound’, documents which he expected to be ‘of extreme importance…and of great aid in the prosecution of the subject’ and ‘the securing of proof in the case’. Neither the John Adams cantos, nor the ‘Testament of Confucius’ which Pound sent to Moore ‘as an integral part of my defence’, were likely to enter into the Justice Department’s idea of their case against him.
Pound’s less delusive line of resistance to the advice that he should ask Stryker to defend him was to refuse to be rushed into doing anything until he had canvassed old friends, in particular Archibald MacLeish. He told Moore, ‘I should much prefer to see Mr McLeish before deciding on so important a matter as NOT speaking on my own behalf.’ Or if he could not see him, ‘the simplest plan would be for him to write to me as my lawyer (if I am correct in supposing that he is a lawyer) at any rate he has known my work for 20 years and has some concept of what I have been driving at’. MacLeish, distinguished poet and playwright, Librarian of Congress from 1939, then an assistant secretary of state under Roosevelt in the last year of the war, was indeed in a position to give an opinion of Pound’s work, but it would not have been what he was hoping for. In 1943 MacLeish had sent Pound’s old friend Ernest Hemingway transcripts of some of the radio talks with the comment, ‘Poor old Ezra! Treason is a little too serious and a little too dignified a crime for a man who has made such an ass of himself, and accomplished so little in the process.’ Hemingway had written back, ‘He is obviously crazy…It is impossible to believe that anyone in his right mind could utter the vile, absolutely idiotic drivel he has broadcast. His friends who knew him and who watched the warping and twisting and decay of his mind and his judgment should defend him and explain him on that basis. It will be a completely unpopular but an absolutely necessary thing to do.’ It had to be done because, crazy as he had become, Pound had ‘a long history of generosity and unselfish aid to other artists and he is one of the greatest of living poets’. MacLeish agreed that Pound should not be hanged for his broadcasts, but the most positive thing he would say about them was that the ‘misinterpretation of the American people…could only be justified on the ground that Pound knows nothing about them’. Otherwise what he had heard seemed ‘a toadying attempt to please the Fascist government by beastly personal attacks on President Roosevelt, [and] by a recurrent anti-Semitism’.
Jas. Laughlin warned Pound in early September, having just heard from Drummond where he was and that he could be written to, that the above was the kind of support he must now expect from his friends:
I should hardly say I suppose that I hope to see you soon, because I’m afraid that things are going to be kind of tough for you here, but rest assured that though you have many spiteful enemies, you also have a few friends left who will do their best to help you. No one takes your side, of course, in the political sense, but many feel that the bonds of friendship and the values of literature can transcend a great deal…
Laughlin had his own view of the complexity of Pound’s predicament. On 4 November he wrote to Dorothy Pound about the anti-Semitism in the broadcasts:
That angle, of course, is the one which makes it all so difficult. You simply cannot say those things publicly. I have heard only a few of the broadcasts but there is nothing in there which is indefensible on political grounds—very little that was not said openly here and accepted as free speech.
But if those outbursts of intolerance are publicized I can see no way out of the mess. Public opinion will force a conviction on the court…
To be as helpful as he felt able, Laughlin put forward the name of Julien Cornell as a possible defence counsel, recommending him as a lawyer with ‘a good record in civil liberties cases and those involving conscientious objectors’. He told Drummond, who passed on the information to Pound via Dorothy, that Cornell was ‘A Quaker, a man of the highest refinement & character’, and that he ‘has known him for some three years & has every confidence in his integrity & good judgement’. ‘Jas pathetically insists on the “refinement” of his candidate’, Pound commented, and held off from definitely accepting him.
Eliot wrote to him, ‘Ez, you are not good at explaining yourself to the simple-minded,’ and told him that he must ‘talk only when [your lawyer] wants you to talk’. But he agreed that ‘It must be a lawyer who is prepared to read all your works and try to understand them.’ Dorothy told him, ‘I don’t believe in yr. trying to defend yrself, yourself—You always have such a rush of ideas & go off so far to the edge—trying everybody’s patience and exhausting them!’ That seems to have been the reaction of one of the officers who accompanied him when he was flown to Washington. Pound evidently talked a lot, hoping to enlist the officer’s assistance, but what the latter made of it was that ‘Mr Pound…is an intellectual “crack pot” who could correct all the economic ills of the world and who resented the fact that ordinary mortals were not sufficiently intelligent to understand his aims and motives.’ Pound’s friends clearly feared that he would fare no better with a jury. Yet in his parallel universe he remained intent on conducting his own defence, right up to the moment when the judge told him the charge was too serious for that.
The last weeks of Pound’s six months in the prison camp were strained and overshadowed by the uncertainties of his inevitably approaching trial. His mind had found its freedom during the summer months of July, August, and September in composing the new decad of cantos. Now, in October, to keep his mind under control, he occupied himself with finishing up his English version of Confucius. The Unwobbling Pivot & The Great Digest—‘They got me my “Ta Seu” and the Odes out of “supply” today’, he informed Dorothy on the 9th. At the same time he was trying to get his personal vortex going again through such visits and correspondence as he was being allowed. When Dorothy managed the difficult feat of getting down to Pisa on 3 October, and had ‘a long hour’ with him, he told her all the things he wanted done, and as soon as she had gone dashed off a note to remind her to let ‘all and sundry…know I was sending MY OWN stuff and that I was not taking orders from anyone’. He then got on ‘with the Confucius Chung Yung, while this typewrite is free’. The next day he wrote, ‘I think I got the first slab of the Chung Y rather well done yester e’en’, and gave her several messages to pass on, one for Duncan’s wife who had tuberculosis, about a new miracle drug, ‘Pencellin’; another for Eliot about his Confucius and cantos; and another to go with ‘the Dolmetsch verses’ from canto 81 to Agnes Bedford and the Dolmetsch family, ‘as suggestion for harpsichord’. He then typed for the attention of ‘the Prison Office’ and Colonel Steele a ‘Report on the prisoner POUND, suggesting that he be sent to Rapallo on parole’. 1 On 5 October he wrote his long letter to Shakespear and Parkyn, mainly on the matter of his defence, but also with questions for Eliot at Faber about publishing his new works. And so it went on for a fortnight, nearly every day a letter with instructions, suggestions, requests for information, essential points for people to understand, until Major Lucree, who had replaced Colonel Steele as camp commander and was no doubt ‘protecting his butt’, ordered his ‘OUT correspondence rationed and Cantos must go via base censor’. Pound then made his rationed letters longer and more charged with his agenda for action, and sent ‘another batch of Canto ms/’ with a covering ‘Note to Base Censor’ declaring that ‘The Cantos contain nothing in the nature of cypher or intended obscurity’.
When Dorothy visited him again on 11 November, they ‘talked mostly of publications, etc.’, though after she left the place felt ‘much emptier’ and he was ‘a bit elegiac’. But this letter continued their talk, about who would publish his Confucius since Faber would not, and about persuading Faber or someone to publish Bunting’s poems, and Angold’s. Then there was a great rush of ideas about what ‘Possum might realize’, what [Harriet Shaw] Weaver should do, what ‘The Bells and M. Boddy’ should know, and Swabey realize, and Omar read, and ‘Send out copies of Introductory Text Book in all your letters. Mary will send you a packet’. It was as if he were reaching out from his imprisoned state to every one who came into his mind, wanting to be in touch with all his contacts at once, and to be again an acknowledged driving force among them. But what stayed with Mary after she and Olga had visited him on 17 October was the image of her father, ‘grizzled and red-eyed in a U.S. Army blouse and trousers, in unlaced shoes without socks, with his old twinkle and bear-hug’.
Towards the end of October the various authorities concerned at last set in motion the transfer of the prisoner to the United States. US Army Headquarters in Rome issued an ultimatum on October 22:
EZRA POUND , American expatriate in ITALY, indicted 1942 [sic] for TREASON, has been in Military custody since May 1945 while FBI Agents investigated the case.
All FBI Agents will have departed for the UNITED STATES by end of October.
No instructions for disposal of POUND have been received from either the War Department or the Department of Justice.
Urgently desired is information concerning disposal of subject otherwise this Theater will release him.
The response was dated 5 November 1945:
The Department of Justice will shortly ask for return to the UNITED STATES of EZRA POUND, 14 November probable target date. We will give you about 3 days notice of date for Pound’s arrival here Legal Jurisdiction requires that plane returning prisoner land at Bolling Field in the district of COLUMBIA and NOT at National Airport or other Airports in the UNITED STATES.
Arrangements to be made here for relinquishing POUND to Federal Bureau of Investigation upon arrival at Bolling Field.
Advise this office of destination of plane and time of departure of 6 Italian witnesses in EZRA POUND case.
The effective order from the Secretary of War, dated 16 November, directed that Pound be transported under military guard ‘on regular flight leaving ROME 17 November’.
Two officers at the DTC received orders on the 16th to ‘escort Ezra Loomis Pound, American civilian’ to the Ciampino Airport at Rome. That evening Pound was in the dispensary talking to the Charge of Quarters about Mission to Moscow, a best seller by Joseph Davies, a former US ambassador to the Soviet Union—he had typed out a 1,000-word ‘NOTE’ on the book the previous evening. About 19.30 hours two lieutenants came in and informed him that he had an hour to get his personal effects together. He added a pencil scrawl to a partly written letter to Dorothy, ‘Leaving probably Rome’; put on the jacket and trousers he had been wearing when the partisans took him away, and the officer’s greatcoat which had been issued to him; and at 20.30 was being driven away from the camp by his escorts. The Jeep drove through ‘a cold raw night’, reaching Ciampino at 04.45, and he was there detained in the guardhouse until picked up by Lieutenant Colonels Holder and Donaghey and Captain Manus, who had orders to escort him to Washington, and who shared their breakfast with him.
They were on the plane at 08.00, and the front three rows, twelve seats, were reserved for them, ‘so that no one would sit in the immediate vicinity of Pound but his escorting officers’. At 08.30 the four-engined C54 took off and headed north for Prague, where it spent an hour on the ground, then on to Brussels with another long delay, and finally to Bovington, an American base in England. They landed there at 18.30 GMT and were able to leave the plane for the first time that day, and to find ‘an ample dinner, the first food since 0600 hours (GMT)’. Colonel Holder wrote in his report, ‘Mr. Pound was suffering acutely from hunger and was extremely nervous.’ They flew next to the Azores, arriving at 03.00 on the 18th. There was an engine problem and an uncertain delay, and Pound was taken by two of the escorts ‘to the Stockade to shower and rest’, while Holder tried to impress the importance of his mission upon the airport officers, and succeeded in having his party put on a US-bound plane coming in from Paris at 07.00, with the same seating arrangement as before. He learned later that ‘the French Ambassador, his wife and two colonels had been obliged to move their seats’. This flight ‘took off at 0830 hours (GMT) and arrived at Bermuda at 2100 hours (GMT) or 1700 hours Atlantic time’. From Bermuda the plane flew on to Washington DC, landing ‘at Bolling Field approximately 2230 hours Eastern time, 18 November’.
A French Government minister who had been on the plane told a reporter that over the Atlantic
Pound, in dirty shirt and soiled prison clothes, sat silent and bored for hours, until the sun began to shine. Suddenly Pound sprang up and, looking down at the tremendous sunlit sea, became, on his first ocean crossing by air, ecstatic, like a bird let out of a cage, like a man pulled out of a deep, dark hole. He paced the aisle declaiming in poetic rhapsody.
There were press photographers at the airport to catch Pound being led away between two Justice Department marshals. The prisoner looks surprisingly alert after the long and exhausting flight, and appears well-dressed until one notices he has only an army-issue sweatshirt under his suit and coat. He has on his black borsalino hat, in his left hand is his slightly battered leather attaché case, and in his right, incongruously, a smart walking stick or cane. That wrist, one notices, is manacled to the wrist of the well-dressed marshal beside him, pausing for the press photographers. In the leather case were his Chinese texts, and the five notebooks and the typescripts of his Confucian translations and of his new cantos.
1 This letter was passed up the chain of command to the Provost Marshall General, who had ‘no recommendation to make’, and on to the Acting Theater Judge Advocate, who, noting that ‘the Ezra Pound case is purely an FBI matter’, had it forwarded ‘to FBI representatives through technical channels’—but no word came back to Pound, perhaps because it was now well into October and all FBI agents were leaving for the United States by the end of the month.