Ezra Pound: Poet: Volume III: The Tragic Years 1939-1972 - A. David Moody (2015)
PART FOUR: ST ELIZABETHS, 1946–1958
14: CLEARING OUT
The New York Times reported on Saturday 19 April that the treason charges had been dismissed, ‘opening the way for the 72-year-old poet’s return to Italy’.
The poet’s wife, Mrs. Dorothy Shakespear Pound, who will be his legal guardian, indicated she would move for his release [from St Elizabeths] next week. In the meanwhile he is under no restraint, and in fact he went downtown this afternoon unattended by anyone from St. Elizabeth’s.
A report in England’s Manchester Guardian from their Washington correspondent added that ‘Mr Pound will now apply for a passport,’ and that it was expected that the Government would act with ‘magnanimity in the last phase of this unfortunate case’. In fact Dorothy Pound was informed on the 21st by William D. Rogers of Arnold, Fortas and Porter that ‘We are informed, off the record, that the State Department has stated that it sees no reason why passports should not be issued.’ The certainty that he would not be allowed out of the United States had simply evaporated, along with all the stern suggestions of conditions to be attached to his release. He would remain in St Elizabeths, Dr Overholser had told the press after the hearing, but only ‘until his family have made plans for him and until his affairs had been straightened out’ there—‘“He has a lot of papers and books to take care of in his room.”’
Pound was driven back to St Elizabeths immediately after the hearing and at once began a high-spirited letter to Mary:—
Yr. venbl parent is spring. Walt’s grampaw and Patrizia’s has had charges withdrawn/ I am to go down and git a ticket to leave the grounds of this insterooshun and reenter at pleasure? an you can start wangling re/ transport at reduced rates as soon after July first as the Christofero Colombo has a kennel or bridal suite disponible.
Overholser had said the institution could overlook ‘the brown jacket with trade mark’ which Pound wanted ‘as souvenir and symbolic deer-hide’—an association with the Nha Khi religion which he did not attempt to explain. After a break for lunch he got back to the typewriter. Two generals of the Marine Corps, one of them del Valle, and Col. Pomeroy, had been ‘present at the liberation’, and ‘cert/ do not think I was betraying the best interests of the american people and constitution’. He implied that Horton’s Congressman from Ohio had also been among those ‘glad to git gramp out of quod’. Then there was the Borsolino, ‘the GREAT original, 1939, 1945/ BORsolino’, which he hoped would be on display in the press photos—
The borsolino was at bottom of bottomest box in shattered gardaroba and a gawd send/ [Dr] Cuchard looked at linen cap/ purchased on tip from Newton the noblest of nubians/ AT mercato africosassone. Cuchard suggested that it needed a ‘jaguar’ to go with it—jaguar being some kind of red hot sports car. So I etc.
It would appear that Pound had started clearing out his room the previous day, before the hearing—‘got two car loads of impedimenta in M’s car and Furniss’s. Room now contains only enough to fill it.’ More of ‘the archives of captivity’ would go ‘when M/ gets here at 3 approx.’ ‘Officially’, he confided merrily to Mary, ‘I am crazy as a coot, but not a peril to society or to myself.’
He was still officially in the care and custody of his wife. Her diary recorded that after the hearing she had ‘Escaped with Eliz. W[inslow] to lunch & sat in garden | v. fine day’, and after that it was ‘back to St. Eliz’. She would be leaving Washington next morning for a ‘much needed vacation and inspection of the Adams houses in Braintree’, as Pound put it in his letter to Mary. Her diary would record, ‘ 9.45 a.m. to Boston with OP’—she would stay there with Omar and his wife until the 29th. She took with her, as she later informed A. V. Moore, ‘THE pearl necklace’ Ezra had asked her to leave to Mary, and gave it to Omar ‘for his wife to wear’. Pound would be using her small basement apartment until she got back, and would then stay with Craig La Drière, ‘apt. 511 | 2407 Fifteenth St | Washington N.W.’
The scattered objections to Pound’s release had not coalesced into the public outcry some had feared. Rep. Emmanuel Celler of New York, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, had spoken out in New York—Congress was in recess for Easter—declaring angrily that ‘Many of our men lost their lives as a result of his exhortations,’ and ‘I don’t care how long he has been in there, maybe we want to keep him in a little longer.’ But an editorial in The Nationthen observed, ‘Bloodier war criminals have been freed; we have had ritual-killings enough for one generation. | It will be a triumph of democracy if we set Pound free.’ And the Wall Street Journal editorialized that ‘a little magnanimity would seem to be in order’. The London Times had noted Celler’s outburst, calling it an attempt to stir up ‘American public opinion into one of its periodic fits of emotional injustice’, and had also appealed to a spirit of magnanimity. Echoing that, The Manchester Guardian, which had first reported Celler’s ‘angry rumblings’, attributed Pound’s release to ‘a magnanimous spirit which has prevented arid legal technicalities from blocking Mr. Pound’s road to freedom’.
The New York Times, along with the positive tone of its news report of the hearing, printed a feature which reads like a New Directions press release. Observing in passing that ‘His literary followers today include many who disapprove heartily of his wartime espousal of fascism, and anti-Semitism’, it concentrated on advertising his ‘literary output [which] has poured forth steadily and his literary reputation [which] has flourished despite his confinement in St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington’. His time there, one was to gather, had been well spent in literary activity, and had even had its idyllic aspect:
In winter months at St. Elizabeths he has somehow managed to make himself oblivious to the disturbed patients who share his ward and to the continuously blaring television set. He has worked with the utmost concentration on composing new poetry, making new translations, and revising and editing previous writing.
This time of year he works outdoors, in the shade of the beautiful trees at the hospital, which was formerly an arboretum.
Mrs. Pound, who lives near by, goes daily to his ward. Together they carry the two folding aluminium chairs he keeps under his bed to the lawn. There she helps him with correspondence and proof reading, and they share the lunch she brought in a paper bag. She is the former Dorothy Shakespear, a blue-eyed, tweedy Englishwoman.
They were married in 1914 and have one son, Omar, who teaches at Roxbury Latin School in Boston.
A Times feature writer might have had a hand in that, but the idea of promoting a sentimental, pastel-toned, image of the poet at the moment of his release is likely to have been his publisher’s.
The morning after the hearing Pound was awake at ‘5.17’, listening to chattering birds and scribbling a note to Marcella about feeling defeated by ‘the amount of clutter to be exclutterated’, and reckoning ‘he be’r try a li’l food & shut-eye’. At 6.10, after ‘Nestea…plus rye and jam’, he typed, ‘Can’t do it all in 24 hours./…guess I b’er slow down.’ Harry Meacham drove up from Richmond in Virginia that day to make himself useful, and moved ‘boxes, bags, manuscripts, books and other memorabilia’ to Dorothy Pound’s apartment, 3514 Brothers Place, SE. He wanted then to take him out to one of Washington’s best restaurants, but Pound insisted on a nearby Chinese restaurant, where, Meacham recalled, he ‘consumed his order of chicken chow mein and mine also, and he talked, talked, talked’.
Pound slept at Brothers Place that night, and began to realize what he had been missing while he was inside, making him feel a Rip van Winkle. That was how he referred to himself in a note to Dorothy that Sunday morning, and again when writing to Mary later in the week. When he first used the gas, he told Mary, ‘it dawned on me that I hadn’t had anything HOT, for 13 years’—‘I sure am going to take to cookin’ again,’ he resolved. And he loved the ‘gadgetts…all done with the twist of a wrist’. And the ‘drive in, with loud speaker to get an orange juice from gas pump or something or other/ and the traffic…jell’Ezuss, had no idea what Marcella had been doing with two hours of it daily’. And back to food, he was being dined and wined, a ‘crescendo of brute and sensuous pleasures’—‘HongKONG, home food, even hot toast just out of toaster is an event’. He could be picky: lunch at Cathy’s, Dr Birch, had been ‘po’k chaups’, though ‘a banana salad wd/ have been far superior…AN she had BANanas.’ But he simply revelled in a dinner of ‘shrimp cocktail, Chateaubriand, candle on table (with electric lighting) and three kinds of wine with proper regard to the harmonies’. And it was ‘ indubitably pleasant to have plenty of hot water bawth to soAK in, instead of shower’.
Friends were taking care of him, especially Giovannini and La Drière, and Aida Mastrangelo, also of the Catholic University, a professor of Italian with connections in Italy’s Embassy in Washington. But the personal support that mattered most to him was Marcella’s. He needed to be in contact with her all the time, writing a running commentary of his days to her when she was not with him. He wrote of feeling solitary sitting in a garden with the sun shining on the flowers of a forsythia—not gold, he discriminated to be precise for her, but yellow, chrome-yellow, perhaps. ‘BUTT it is nice to have something to look forward to,’ was the next thought, ‘an the sooner she gits here the quicker.’ ‘Giardino | purrnounce jardinoh’, he prompted, preparing her for being with him in Italy. When he called her ‘M’Amour, ma vie’ he was in earnest. It was not only that she was ‘very lovely’, or that she could be ‘VURRYdeetermined’; it was more profoundly that she was in tune with his own inner imperative and expected him to be composing cantos. ‘He might try to versify’, he scribbled on the first Monday after the Court hearing, as if needing to justify himself to her, ‘but iz such a lot/ mebbe be’r try a spot of manicurin’ before tryin to catch the shade of a butterfly—but them lepidops ain’ far off // if he don’t git round to it by time he ought to’. She brought out the poet in him, and that was the really vital bond. Those butterflies, named out of precise Linnaeus, would be caught into the cantos under her aegis.
As for Sheri Martinelli, she had been ‘booted outta the nest’ by Pound, made to break her vow ‘not to leave the Maestro until he was freed’. ‘The male can’t just go about like that, ditching a spirit love,’ she raged to Hilda Doolittle, who, remembering herself as ‘Dryad’, sympathized with ‘poor Undine’. Early that summer Sheri married Gilbert Lee, a fringe member of the St Elizabeths circle, and they went down to Mexico where, at Pound’s instigation, there was an art scholarship waiting for her. Before long that fell through and thereafter she made a nest for herself in San Francisco and on the West Coast. In her later years, apparently seeing herself as Pound’s spirit widow, she would dress all in black and wear a black veil. With Pound’s release the circle of disciples was altogether broken up, all ‘flying off on a personal tangent when cut off from the unifying influence of Il Maestro’—that was how Lee Lady expressed it to Noel Stock—‘Sheri in San Fran, Nora in New York, Chatel in real estate, Kasper in jail, McN setting up to be a lit-critic’. The only one still around in Washington, apart from Marcella, seems to have been Horton. He would make himself useful as a driver with a car.
Pound having become news, was trying to keep out of the news. His friends were being pestered by the press, he told Mary on the Thursday after the indictment was dismissed, and there had been ‘three calls during ten minutes I was [in] SLIZ office on Monday’. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television was offering $1,000 for a sympathetic interview, but Pound suggested to Dorothy that she reply, ‘Don’t you think my husband has made enough use of foreign broadcasting stations for one lifetime, and his family’s comfort?’ He instructed Mary in what she should know ‘OFFICIALLY’—
Officially I am NOT discharged from orspital. I have city parole or the equivalent. I am in charge of D.P. / who is OUT of town (de facto, in Boston) and I can only be reached through HER. I don’t know whether you have seen the present domiciles, messuages etc. of the EEElight. <Craig, G.G.>
I am having one gee/lorious time, but don’t headlight or headline THAT.
Officially I am NOT yet discharged.
And the astute Overholser is stalling the press, who are howling to know the EZact date of final etc/
the astute Ov/ suggested that I use DIFFERENT gates when entering and leaving the grounds of our REEmarkable insterooshun, and I am strictly following Donelli’s ADvice, re following suggestions of that nature.
Lengthwise in the margin of that letter he typed,
N.B. You don’t know WHEN I am to be discharged. You don’t know WHEN it will be convenient for me to sail. You do know that I have never seen the old South, and am headed for Virginia.
Meacham was taking him to meet the cream of Richmond’s literary society on the 30th.
On the 29th he was able to see Representative Burdick who had been ill in hospital, to thank him for his support. Burdick’s attitude to the case was summed up in his saying for the benefit of a reporter who was present, ‘I’m against people being railroaded into asylums. There’s no question the fellow was off, but that was no reason to lock him up without letting him talk.’ And Pound talked to him and at him, in spite of his resolution to be circumspect, holding forth for an hour about the things Burdick might not know—about Roosevelt: ‘the mildest judgment is that he was a fool’—about why it had been his duty to use the Italian microphone—that he ‘never told the troops not to fight’—that what he was interested in was the American Constitution. ‘I’m talking too much’, he said at one point, ‘I’ve had the plug in for 12 years.’ He also mused, ‘I ought to keep quiet for a couple of weeks.’ As he left, a reporter asked him for a word about Robert Frost, who was taking all the credit for his release, and the quote next day was, ‘He ain’t been in much of a hurry.’ When MacLeish took exception to that remark, Pound wrote back, ‘Alzo I did speak well of Frost…I said Frost paid his debt when he finished writing “North of Boston”.’
Dorothy returned from Boston on the 29th and was met by Pound and Marcella, who drove them to 3514 Brothers Place where Ezra cooked for her. Next morning Meacham picked Pound up from there, and seeing that ‘the poet was mentally and physically exhausted…put him in the back seat where he reclined during the two-and-a-half-hour drive’. In Richmond a select group of literary people were gathered to greet Pound in the ‘oddly chaste and dulcet surroundings’ of the Rotunda Club which took up one side of the old and elegant Jefferson hotel. Present were Mrs James Branch Cabell, who brought a courteous apology from her husband who was ill; James J. Kilpatrick, editor of the Richmond News-Leader; the editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review where canto 99 was about to appear; and Meacham’s successor as President of the Poetry Society of Virginia. Kilpatrick wrote a brilliantly impressionistic account of Pound’s conversation for The National Review, under the sub-heading, ‘The poet who spent twelve years in “St. Liz” proves to be eccentric, often obscure, sane, and sometimes acutely wise’. Pound, he wrote,
shakes hands with the hard grip and strong forearm of a man who has played much tennis, and he dominates a room as if his chair were down-stage centre. He wore an open-necked shirt of a particularly god-awful magenta, tails out, and a pair of outsized slacks with the cuffs rolled up. A black coat, flung clockwise over his shoulders completed the costume. If the description sounds theatrical, it is intended to suggest that there is in Pound a good deal of the actor, a good deal, indeed, of the ham. His bearded face, mobile, is the bust of some morning-after Bacchus; but it is seldom in repose. He sits on the lower part of his spine, head supported by the backrest of the chair, eyes closed; his restless hands are forever searching for glasses, or plucking pencil and notebook from a breast pocket, or shaping ideas in the air. Now and again, he bolts from his chair like some Poseidon from the deep, and his good eye—his right eye—is suddenly shrewd and alive.
Kilpatrick had found it impossible to keep up with the torrent of Pound’s talk and could only pick out one thing and another, ‘much as one plucks a recognisable rooftop from a flood’—
the causes of war, the suppression of historic truth (of one historian, banished to obscurity by the educationists, Pound had an epitaph: ‘Poor Fellow, he committed accuracy’), the corruption of the Federal Reserve Board, the usury rates of Byzantium, the reasons why he had not translated a particular Chinese writer, the enduring characteristics of the Manchu Dynasty, the old days in London with Ford Madox Ford. It was wonderful to eat something hot; he had forgotten what it meant for food to be hot. At Rapallo there are surf rafts, and one floats on a blue sea. Had he mentioned that Hemingway had once sent him a shark’s jaw, the grave of the unknown sailor?
Then, after a pause, ‘I don’t have a one-track mind.’ Asked about the Cantos, however, he entered upon ‘an extended comparative analysis of La Divina Commedia’, and here he spoke ‘with easy sureness and a confident grasp of the complexities of both his work and Dante’s’. And he could be ‘terse and to the point’. Asked what advice he had for young writers, he said simply, ‘Get a good dictionary and learn the meaning of words,’ to which he added, ‘Read Linnaeus. Not for botany. Read him because he never used an inexact word.’ In the end Kilpatrick recalled from his childhood ‘a multifaceted chandelier, formed of a hundred tiny mirrors, which revolved slowly in the glow of colored spotlights’, and thought, ‘Pound’s mind spins and refracts in the same way.’ But Pound was ‘surely no lunatic’: ‘Obscure, yes; eccentric, yes; full of apparent confusion, yes. But crazy, no.’
Pound received his formal discharge from St Elizabeths on 7 May. Dr Cushard’s ‘Recommendation for Discharge’ on 6 May stated that since 18 April, when the charge of treason was dismissed, he ‘has remained on the hospital rolls’
because he asked that he be permitted to do so in order that he could have some necessary dental work completed and to have an eye examination: refraction and prescription for glasses. The refraction was done this morning. He has spent the majority of his time on visit status in the city since his charge was dropped but has been to the hospital frequently to pick up his mail and to confer with me regarding his case. He, also, had an interview with Doctor Overholser a few days ago. Since everything is now cleared up, it is recommended that he be discharged from the hospital while on visit.
DIAGNOSIS: 24.2 PSYCHOTIC DISORDER, UNDIFFERENTIATED
CONDITION ON DISCHARGE: UNIMPROVED
The ‘Report of Discharge or Death’ declared that ‘In physician’s opinion patient is medically competent to receive funds,’ and directed that ‘patient’s remaining funds and property are to be sent to 3514 Brothers Place, S.E., Washington, D.C.’ ‘Has committee’ was written in under ‘Remarks’. Dr Overholser sent a note to the Passport Division of the State Department stating, ‘In my opinion he is entirely safe to travel here and abroad in the company of his wife, Mrs Dorothy Shakespear Pound.’
The Committee’s audited return for the year declared that the Patient owned
Hamilton pocket watch
Corona portable typewriter
Olympia portable typewriter
in addition to $19,400 in bonds and deposits. Monthly payments recorded: $50 to Omar Shakespear Pound; $20 to the Patient for personal expenditures.
In his mind Pound was already arranging how things would be in Mary’s castle. ‘Marcella at TOP of tower where she won’t be disturbed, and my work room on floor just under,’ he directed on 30 April, ‘D. in lower apt. with the Gaudiers.’ In mid-May he wrote to Mary, ‘Shall stop one night in Verona, to break trip and show that city to my life-saver and body-guard.’ On the 21st he sent ‘fotos of me and my body guard, one of the best shots in Texas’. Apparently Mary hinted some unease since Pound wrote in June, ‘Do credit her with having conserved the remnants of your ancestral line during the ult. eggzausting seasons.’
He was being assured of a welcome in Italy. The London Times Rome Correspondent reported on 14 May that Ezra Pound ‘was today offered “asylum for life” by the Italian Government’ at the request of his daughter. On 17 May William D. Rogers informed Dorothy, in a variant translation, that the Italian Embassy had received word from the Italian Government ‘that the Government has no official objections whatsoever to Ezra Pound’s re-entry into Italy’. About the same time Pound let Mary know that Count Cini was ‘offering shelter on Isola S. Giorgio’—that was his Venetian palazzo. But it was Mary’s Brunnenburg, also known as Castel Fontana, that his mind was set towards.
In the interim ‘the Spanntholgy [was] takin most of our time and energy’, or he was sifting through the mass of correspondence that had cluttered his room in St Elizabeths and trying to get it sorted into files. On 17 May he was driven down to Virginia Beach where Furniss had a place, and stopped off briefly in Richmond for Meacham to take him to the offices of the News-Leader where Kilpatrick granted him accreditation as its ‘foreign correspondent’.That was so that he could get an Italian journalist’s tessera with its 70 per cent discount on travel in Italy. But Meacham was surprised when Pound asked for Marcella to be accredited as well—he had had no idea that she would be going with him. Pound also asked if Meacham could help Marcella to sell her car. Later Meacham was told of Guy Davenport’s having observed Pound at Virginia Beach, ‘wrapped in blankets, by a fire, gazing long, returned Odysseus, at the loudsounding sea’. Back in Washington on the 24th he dashed off a hurried note to Cookson, the first since his release, asking if it was Cookson had sent him ‘a big foto of 2 pages of Homer, and if so, is it Ogilby’s or who’s?’ ‘No time for chronicle’, he wrote, ‘alarUMS, scursions, whoops, reactions from banderlog etc/…stuffed with various foods by rival schools of gastronomy. | Trying to get anthology ms/ out of domicile by June the onc/t.’
Their passports came through on 27 May—they would be sailing from New York on the Cristofero Colombo on 1 July, expecting to be in Genoa on the 10th or 11th. ‘I think I shall have to continue as committee’, Dorothy wrote to A. V. Moore, ‘EP’s release being that he is “insane” but not dangerous.’ Pound had just told Mary that it made no difference, so far as signing cheques went, that he was ‘not yet out of “committee” control’. But on the 29th it occurred to him that things might be different in Italy, ‘as my status still entangled’—
The voice of the local law seems to be that I can deposit and run an account in woptaly, regardless of whether I am officially a lunatic in the U.S., rather than having a committee account, which probably no wop bank would understand.
‘My passport don’t say I am “nutts”,’ he noted, ‘That seems to be reserved for the internal workings of the bugocracy.’
At the start of June Meacham took Ezra and Dorothy to visit some of the historic Old South. On the way down they visited James Madison’s old law office in Fredericksburg. They were found rooms at the Inn in Williamsburg, in spite of its being the height of the season and especially busy because Virginia was celebrating the 350th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement at nearby Jamestown. They went there, and toured the Governor’s Palace and other historic buildings in Williamsburg, and were granted a brief visit on account of Dorothy’s connection to the Tucker family to the privately owned George Tucker House. They dined at the Kings Arms Tavern, with the Dean of the College of William and Mary and another professor. Pound had told Meacham that he was interested in meeting the Dean and professors only if they were disgusted ‘with the present state of degradation in their sources of income’, and was bored and bothered by the polite dinner-table chit-chat. He seemed to Meacham to be anxious to get back to Washington. And again it struck Meacham that Pound was utterly exhausted, and a line from one of the Pisan Cantos came into his mind, ‘There is fatigue deep as the grave.’
In mid-June Laughlin came down from New York to Washington with the two young women who had founded Caedmon Records. They had first visited Pound on Labor Day 1952, and had recorded him reading in Provençal on the lawn of St Elizabeths, and, they later wrote, ‘as he sang of birds, the birds perched overhead and sang too’, while ‘in the background inmates hooted’. He had made them promise not to release the recording while he was confined—‘“Bird in cage does not sing,” he said, many times’. Now he was out he went with them to a studio and did ‘two hours tape recording for Jas/’—in fact there were recording sessions on three days, and he read enough cantos and shorter poems to fill two long-playing discs. The royalties, he stipulated, were to go to Marcella.
‘8 trunks packed and mostly padlocked,’ he told Mary on the 22nd, ‘13 years impedimenta.’
Hemingway had been trying to discover Pound’s temporary address in Washington and was given one by MacLeish at last on 26 June. He wrote that day to send him a cheque for the $1,500 ‘for expenses for you to Italy’ that he had guaranteed to the Attorney General in June 1957. ‘For Christ sake cash the check,’ he urged. Beyond the money there was a depth of enduring friendship in the letter—‘great happiness’ at Pound’s being sprung, and this conclusion:
Please count on me for anything that I can do ever. I am so ashamed of how you were kept in such a way and so proud of how entire and fine you looked in the pictures we saw the day you left. Hope you have a good trip and everything goes well. My love to Dorothy.
Pound did not cash the cheque, but, as he later told Hemingway, had it ‘sunk in plexiglass as a token of your magnanimous glory’. He had thought to use it as a paperweight, but realized it was ‘too damn valuable as a souvenir to leave on the table’.
On Friday the 27th the Pounds and Marcella left Washington in Dave Horton’s car to make a three-stage progress to New York. That night they were guests of Carl Gatter and his mother, the occupants of Pound’s childhood home in Wyncote, Philadelphia, 166 Fernbrook Avenue. Pound revisited remembered things and places, a crack in the stained glass window on the landing which he’d made practising tennis, trees in the back yard, Calvary Presbyterian Church. Next morning, Gatter noted, ‘Pound appeared transformed. He forgot about the need to rest his head and sat on a regular diningroom chair.’ After lunch they all went on to Hopewell, New Jersey, where they were the guests of Alan C. Collins, president of the Curtis Brown literary agency, in his summer residence—‘a swank swimming-pool-tennis-court old house’, according to Harry Meacham. Collins had been taught by Homer Pound in Sunday School; and his father-in-law, who was present, was Eugene C. Pomeroy, vice-president of the Defenders of the American Constitution. On Saturday night they talked, or Pound talked, and on Sunday he played tennis and swam in the pool.
The party then drove up to Rutherford, New Jersey, to spend Pound’s last night with William Carlos Williams. Williams had written, ‘Take care of yourself in Italy where I understand you are going, don’t ever expect to see you again…if you have time plan to spend at least a night with us.’ ‘Be glad to see you,’ he had signed off, but the visit seems not to have been a glad occasion, at least for Williams and Floss, his wife. In their eyes Pound was wrapped up in the adulation of his entourage, and behaving with his usual insufferable assumption of superiority towards Williams. Laughlin had arranged for Richard Avedon to go out to Rutherford to photograph Pound, and Avedon had the two old friends pose together. Williams, who had suffered a series of strokes, is seated and looking strained; Pound stands to the side and half behind Williams with his hands on his shoulders, his chest bare, a crumpled shirt loose over his shoulders, and his eyes shadowed but intent on the camera. The photograph can be read as an iconic image of the two great American poets taken at a moment charged with poignant personal and cultural history. But to Floss it showed ‘Pound hovering—still—over his friend’. Rather than tapping into their deep affection for each other the meeting seems to have brought on only the old clashing of intransigent personalities. Mariani, Williams’s biographer, records that after the party had left for New York and the boat on the Monday morning Williams wrote to Cid Corman that Pound, a ‘tortured soul’, was still, after all the years of his confinement which would have broken a lesser man, ‘a fury of energy’.
Horton drove the Pounds and Marcella directly from Rutherford to the West Side pier from which the Cristofero Colombo was to sail late that afternoon. It was, Michael Reck remembered, ‘a broiling hot June day’. The few friends who came to see them off found them in cabin 128, the larger of their two cabins, tucked away in a corner of first class. An unexplained man stood in the corridor as if keeping watch. Omar Pound opened the door, on guard to keep out the press who kept coming for photographs and interviews. Norman Holmes Pearson reported to HD that when he arrived about 2.30, ‘on the bunk lay Ezra, stripped to the waist, his torso rather proudly sunburned. At his knees on the bunk sat Marcella shoeless. On the other side of the cabin was Dorothy, smiling and looking very well.’ Pound lectured him for half an hour ‘on college entrance examinations and the program [he] must follow to improve them’. He also spoke of the Spannthology and what Pearson should do with it. The only other visitors mentioned, apart from Reck, were the Italian cultural attaché in New York and his wife, and Robert MacGregor representing New Directions. Reck asked Pound how it felt, and Pound replied, ‘Well, there is a certain euphoria.’