Ezra Pound: Poet: Volume III: The Tragic Years 1939-1972 - A. David Moody (2015)
PART FIVE: 1958-1972
15: A FINAL TESTAMENT, 1958-9
A photograph dated 12 July 1958 preserves Pound’s joyful arrival at Brunnenburg, his daughter’s castle looking out over the broad Adige valley from Dorf Tirol above Merano. The poet, a smiling patriarch, has a hand lightly over the shoulder of his 11-year-old grandson, Walter, with the boy holding the hand, half-smiling, uncertain, perhaps a little proud. On the other side is his son-in-law, Prince Boris de Rachewiltz the Egyptologist, smiling warmly. His hand rests lightly on the head of his 8-year-old daughter Patrizia, whose head is turned to look up wonderingly at her grandfather. Over her husband’s shoulder Mary de Rachewiltz is walking with a preoccupied air; and behind Pound one glimpses on one side Dorothy, and on the other Marcella behind dark glasses. The four figures in the foreground compose a family group connected by smiles and by Patrizia’s glance; but the three women in the background are apart, each in their separate space. The joy of the moment, one finds, is projected more by Pound’s stance and expression than by anything else.
It had become the custom for the people of Dorf Tirol to celebrate Mary’s birthday on 9 July with illuminations and fireworks, and dancing to the music of zither and guitar—they were pleased to have a princess again in the old castle. That year the celebration was held over to the 13th and made a welcoming party for Il Poeta. It was a ‘Breughelesque feast’ with flowers and torches and the village band with a big drum, and Pound led off the dancing, finding the rhythm of the Tyrolean music irresistible.
His ‘volcanic energy pervaded the house’, Mary would recall. He wanted to catch up with ‘everything that had happened since the end of the war, and back through millennia’, and he would spend mornings in solid conversation with Boris, about the findings of archeology in Italy or in Egypt. He went down into Merano to buy chairs, and for the races—he had been made a life-member of the Racing Club. He began drafting new cantos. He climbed most of the way up the very steep local mountain, the 7,000 feet high Mut, and talked of placing a Greek-style temple on it. At their bedtime he read Uncle Remus stories of Brer Rabbit to the children, doing the voices with immense enjoyment. He read his own poetry for the adults after dinner. And after everyone else had retired to their rooms, as if it were his turn to fill in the gap, he would sit up with Mary and talk to her for hours, about himself and about the years at St Elizabeths.
‘Sono, naturalmente , felice d’essere tornato fra i miei,’ he began a note to go with her translation of canto 98, which was about to appear in L’Illustrazione Italiana, ‘Naturally I am glad to be back among my own.’ And Dorothy wrote to Omar, ‘We seem to be shaking-down into a familial clan; they treat me with due respect!’ ‘Yet something went wrong,’ Mary would write, ‘The house no longer contained a family. We were turning into entities that should not have broken bread together.’
There was the problem of Marcella, who must have found herself besieged by others’ passions whatever her own might have been. Mary had looked forward to recovering her father and taking her place as his daughter, but found that she had been displaced by this ‘secretary and bodyguard’. Things would reach the point where she could hardly bring herself to speak to the young woman from Texas. And Dorothy, who had regarded Marcella as a useful adjunct, was coming to see her as a threat to her own position. ‘What does it matter unless we all go to Europe,’ she had said when Pound was in love with Sheri Martinelli, but now they were in Europe and Pound was ‘still crazy about Marcella’. What if he should contrive to marry her? Mary was another problem, useful as a housekeeper, but a threat to Dorothy’s intention that her Omar should be the beneficiary and inheritor of Pound’s estate. Her way of dealing with this coil of problems would be to cling on to her controlling position as the ‘Committee’ into whose custody had been committed Pound’s person and property.
A. V. Moore, Dorothy’s legal adviser in London, wrote at the end of July to Robert Furniss who was handling the Committee’s affairs in the United States, to ask, ‘will the Committee eventually be quashed’, since Italy, as he assumed, had admitted Pound as a sane person. And further, ‘does the existing legal mental condition prevent his making a Will?’ Furniss replied that before Pound left he had discussed very briefly with him the possibility of asking the Court to discharge the Committee, but he had had many other things on his mind and the matter had seemed not urgent. It was his own view that, because the Committee had been appointed on the basis of Pound’s being foundincompetent to assist in his own defence, once the charges were dropped there was no longer any basis for the Committee, and the District of Columbia Court had ceased to have any jurisdiction over him. If it were to be maintained that a Committee was still required, it would have to be on the different ground that he was ‘either dangerous or wasting his estate’. Someone would have to make that complaint to the Court, and Pound would have to be actually within the Court’s jurisdiction—which he would not be, being in Italy. ‘Though I believe we have a good possibility of having the Committee discharged,’ Furniss concluded, ‘I have not taken any steps in that direction because they have not asked me to.’ On the matter of ‘Mr. Pound’s testamentary capacity’, he thought there could be no definite answer, but he knew ‘of no law in which a court has held that the presence of a Committee under these circumstances amounts to a presumption that the defendant is incapable of disposing of his property’. So, simply ‘as a practical matter, Ezra Pound might as well make a Will if he so desires. In order for it to cause difficulty there would have to be someone who wants to set it aside which in all likelihood would not occur.’ That last was a very proper assumption, but not well founded. When Moore next informed Furniss, on Dorothy’s behalf, that ‘Mrs Pound and her son are the only next of kin’, and that she feared that if the Committee were dismissed the charge of treason could be revived, it was a clear indication of how her mind was working. Furniss regarded the possibility of the charge being revived as so remote as to be not worth worrying about. He said again that in his view the Court should be asked to discharge the Committee, but no instruction to that effect was forthcoming.
There is nothing in these exchanges in August and September 1958 to show that Pound himself was involved in them or even informed about them. The ‘Committee for Ezra Pound’ would keep a great deal from its subject in the following years.
He would be under assault more visibly in the public press from time to time. There was the photograph taken on the deck of the Cristofero Colombo when it docked in Naples, of Pound with his arm stretched out in salute—a ‘fascist salute’ in the eye of an American journalist, and in the minds of Pound’s detractors ever since. To the unprejudiced eye there is no ‘fascism’ in Pound’s genial expression, and the salute—try it—might be simply a natural gesture acknowledging a person or persons some way off. ‘But why give him the benefit of the doubt?’ as a Time writer put it to me, and indeed why spoil a good story? An even better story would have it that in 1961—one of the biographers relaying the story makes it 1962—Pound
was photographed at the head of a neo-Fascist, May Day parade, five hundred strong, a writhing column of Missini [Moviemento Sociale Italiano] goose-stepping their way up the Via del Corso.…They wore jack boots and black arm bands. They flaunted banners and shouted anti-Semitic slogans. They gave the Roman salute and displayed the swastika. They heaved rocks and bottles at the crowd, overturned cars, attacked bystanders.
The source of this scenario—if it was not simply made up by Heymann—is never cited, and the scandalous photograph is never reproduced. But then, according to Giano Accame, the story is ‘pure legend’, and, as Tim Redman says, ‘no such photograph exists’. The fact is that though Pound was in Rome in May 1961, he was not in physical shape to lead a goose-stepping march through its centre. But never mind, the story was, and is still, good for stamping Pound as indelibly ‘fascist’.
‘He’s very angry if someone wants to tag him “fascist”,’ a journalist reported after interviewing Pound in early November 1958. And as a protest against such indiscriminate labelling Pound wrote down in the journalist’s notebook so that there would be no mistake, ‘Every man has the right to have his ideas examined one at a time.’ That was the leading principle of his politics now, or of what remained of his agenda as he summed it up in this note in a Mexican journal in March 1959:
PROGRAM in search of a party.
Every man has the right to have his ideas examined ONE at a time.
Liberty: the right to choose one thing at a time.
Representation divided by trades and professions.
Know specific facts of history, ancient and modern, and keep out of debt.
‘Vocational representation’ was about all that was left of Fascist policies in his thinking. The right to ‘live free of debt’ was the residue of his war on usury. The concern for education remained, but as a task for others to carry on—
Let the poets combat the blackout of history and the all-engulphing brain-wash. Let them consider Horton’s work in printing the Square $ series, and trying to get a bit of the true record (Benton’s, Del Mar’s, Coke’s) back into print at a reasonable price.
On that occasion—a message requested by a Spanish correspondent in April 1959—he added a further call to respect distinctions: ‘Let them preserve the DIFFERENCES in the great racial traditions, and between one man and another.’
The evidence builds up that it was not mere window-dressing when Pound told Laughlin in November 1959, ‘E.P. no longer a POlitical figure, has forgotten what or which politics he ever had.’ A few months later he went so far as to say that ‘E.P now objects to violent language,’ with reference to his own past vehemence. He did appear in The European, a magazine founded by Oswald Mosley, in January and February 1959, but his contributions were hardly of the kind that association might suggest. The first was an extract from Coke’s Institutes: The Third Part concerning ‘misprision of treason’, that is, knowing of a treason and not revealing it; and to Coke’s words he added only the sub-heading, ‘What I Would Have Been Guilty Of, | If I Had Not Spoken’. That was the residue of his defence against the charge of treason. For the rest, in that issue there were also three small unpolitical epigrams, one of them a parody of a couple of lines in Eliot’s ‘Aunt Helen’; and in the next issue appeared ‘CI de Los Cantares’. Pound’s old campaigning fire, if not quite out, was reduced to its embers.
Once can almost see the change happening as he drafts new canto material in his notebooks. In the first of these, starting on ‘CX’ on 23 July and continuing through August into September, he is going straight on from Thrones: drafting more Na Khi material; then a long passage of history relating to government and statecraft, drawing now on Storia d’Italia by Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540), the Florentine statesman and diplomat, and working in some familiar allusions to American affairs; and finally there is what became ‘Notes for Canto CXI’. The Na Khi drafts went into cantos 110 and 112 as we now know them; but the historical draft—in which we read ‘this part is for adults | seats . thrones’—drops out altogether in later recastings. Instead canto 110 accretes very different material around the Na Khi passage. The opening lines were drafted during or just after a visit with Marcella in November to Venice and Torcello. The passage following the Na Khi purifications, beginning ‘And in thy mind beauty, O Artemis’, can be dated to January 1959 and to time spent with Marcella at Limone on Lake Garda—that runs through to ‘KALLIASTRAGALOS’. The rest of the canto, from ‘hsin1’ and ‘That love be the cause of hate’ through to the end, was drafted in February in notebook 2. By then a radical reorientation for these final cantos had occurred: immediate personal experience had become dominant.
The initial flow of volcanic energy soon gave out. On 1 September Pound began a letter to Olivia Agresti by declaring himself ‘In very weak and enfeebled condition’. On the 12th he warned William Cookson, who was proposing to visit in October, ‘I alternate short bursts of energy, with total exhaustion, don’t expect me to function as dynamo, or diesel. when yu get here.’ And he put off indefinitely Douglas Bridson of the BBC who was wanting to do a programme on Pound: ‘NOT in shape to stand a 3 day TV beano.’ Nevertheless he left Brunnenburg with Marcella on the 19th to spend two nights in Venice. And before and after that trip he was drafting lines for cantos, and negotiating with Giambattista Vicari about contributing a column on books to his magazine. And Cookson, when he made his visit in mid-October, went away sufficiently energized to set up Agenda to take the place, in Pound’s scheme of things, of Four Pages and Stock’s Edge. Yet at the same time Pound was writing to John Theobald, ‘Have very little energy’ and ‘My head works very slowly.’
He was revived at the end of October by a ‘Mostra Delle Edizioni Poundiane 1908-1958’, an exhibition sponsored by the Merano Tourist Office in ‘a highbrow gallery’, and organized by Pound’s Italian publisher Vanni Scheiwiller. The idea was to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication in Venice of A Lume Spento, but it was his entire poetic achievement that was on show. And on the walls, as a setting for his manuscripts and first editions, there were paintings and drawings by Gaudier-Brzeska, Wyndham Lewis, and Sheri Martinelli. The Dolmetsch clavichord, for which Pound had just ordered a new set of strings from the Dolmetsch family in Haslemere, was also on show, as a reminder of his love of early music. The opening was on 30 October, Pound’s 73rd birthday, with speeches paying tribute to il grande poeta. The recognition was evidently restorative, since Giacomo Oreglia, who interviewed him for a Swedish newspaper a day or two later, found that ‘in spite of his seventy-three years and the hardships he has met with, he seems far from tired and finished, and it’s difficult not to be excited by his nervous energy and rapid changes of moods’.
Pound and Marcella went down to Venice again for three days, 10-13 November, and there he first sketched the images that would become the opening lines of canto 110—
To thy quiet house at Torcello,
Hast’ou seen boat’s wake on sea-wall
how crests it?
What panache? paw-flap, wave-tap
that is gaiety
They had evidently gone out to the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon to see the very early Byzantine cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mother as ‘L’Assunta’, as assumed into heaven—a gold mosaic of the Madonna is in the dome above the apse. ‘Alma Astarte’, however, reaches back to the Phoenician mother-goddess, later assimilated into Greece’s Aphrodite and Rome’s Venus. So Pound was invoking the protection and support of the primal force of love, and then, as if to establish a mood of gaiety, finding an image of exultant energy in the vaporetto’s ‘wake on sea-wall’. (The Na-Khi passage would follow that as a counter-statement, introduced by a phrase from Dante’s poignant vision of the adulterous lovers Paolo and Francesca in Inferno V, ‘che paion’ si al vent’’, ‘who seem so light upon the wind’.)
Back at Brunnenburg Pound finalized Thrones and on ‘17 Nov. 1958’—he noted the date emphatically—he opened up ‘the Fenollosa inheritance’ and began on a new project—
having last evening handed over the ms/ of 96-109 de los Cantares to the remarkable Scheiwiller (V.) I now tackle Fenollosa’s penciled record of Mori’s lectures on the History of Chinese Poetry, with the intention of transmitting them as his view, which I am in no way competent to affirm is the last word on the matter…
He typed thirty-seven pages before coming to a stop.
As the winter set in Pound began to feel the cold, in spite of the castle’s great wood-burning stoves, and to complain of the winds, and of having difficulty breathing in the mountain air, though 600 metres is hardly alpine. After thirteen years of steam-heating in St Elizabeths he could not acclimatize, though he may also have been finding the tensions in the castle oppressive. ‘ANY news of villas in the SUN and south of europe wd/ be welcome,’ he wrote the day after Christmas to Meacham.
On 11 January the odd triangle, Ezra, Dorothy, and Marcella, went down to Lake Garda for the inside of a week, staying at Limone on the western shore, then going on to Brescia and to Sirmione. At Limone they stayed at Albergo Le Palme, and on a copy of its brochure Pound wrote the lines that begin the long Lake Garda passage which follows the Na Khi passage in canto 110—
And in thy mind beauty, O Artemis,
as of mountain lakes in the dawn,
Foam and silk are thy fingers,
and the long suavity of her moving
Those were lines for Marcella, and it was at Limone that Pound proposed that they should marry. On 5 February, back at Brunnenburg, Pound began a new notebook with the lines, ‘That love be the cause of hate | something is twisted’, and then wrote out the rest of canto 110 as it goes on from the Lake Garda passage. The next draft in this notebook contains the lines, ‘Pride, jealousy & possessiveness | 3 pains of hell’.
Those lines which would become part of canto 113—the canto which opens and closes with invocations to the sun as ‘Pater Helios’, ‘Father Helios’—were written shortly after Ezra, Dorothy, and Marcella, had moved down to Rapallo at the end of February to look for a flat to rent with three separate rooms. The change of scene is marked in the notebook by the observation, ‘over Portofino 3 lights in triangulation’. A later observation, dated 28 April, ‘Sea, over roofs, but still the sea and the headland’, gives the view to be had from a balcony of the flat which they had taken on the sixth floor of a new apartment building a block or two back from the seafront. Marcella, according to Dorothy, was to learn to cook and to do all the housework. But Pound was writing, and Marcella was typing up from his notebook,
& in thy mind , beauty
& as to sin / they invented it—eh?
to implement domination
There remains grumpiness—
sea, over roofs, but still the sea & the headland.
& in every woman,
somewhere in the
bitch snarl is a tenderness
a blue light under stars
The ruined orchards, trees rotting
empty frames @ Limone
& for a little magnanimity somewhere
& to know the share from the charge
God’s eye art’ou, do not surrender perception.
He was attempting to integrate his feelings about Marcella, and about Dorothy’s possessiveness, with his vision of justice, and also to root enlightenment in responsiveness to the natural world. ‘Young people today need more courage than any other generation in the past,’ he would say, ‘But they can find their moral values in the beauty of nature.’ In May he would write these lines in the notebook as part of what was to be the opening passage of canto 113—
& who no longer make Gods out of beauty
Θρῆνος this is a dying. [lament]
yet to walk with Mozart, Agassiz, & Linnaeus
here take thy mind’s space
& to this garden, Marcella,
ever seeking, by petal, by leaf-vein
out of dark & toward twilight
The end of the canto echoes the last of those lines as it invokes the primal light, ‘Out of dark, thou, Father Helios, leadest’—that light conferring, as on ‘19th May ’59’, a singular day of ‘sun & serenitas’ when, ‘’neath overhanging air under sun-beat’, ‘souls melt into air’. But apart from such moments the mind remains ‘as Ixion, unstill, ever turning’. The contention between the love that brings the light of the world to focus in contemplation of its beauty, and the ‘pride, jealousy & possessiveness’ which threaten to shatter it, had become very personal and immediate.
These two closely related cantos, 110 and 113, grow tense with opposing forces. The initial exultance in nature is countered by the story behind the Na Khi episode, a story of young lovers kept apart, of the girl’s suicide on a black tree and the boy, a shepherd, protesting against the unnaturalness of her death—
When the stag drinks at the salt spring
& in gentian time sheep come down
can you see with eyes of coral or turquoise
walk with the oak’s root?
The Na Khi purifications (here and in 112) re-assert the live oneness with nature; and the Artemis passage carries that on into constructive action (a road built at Gardesana), and courage (Uncle G. in the Senate, a cavalry charge), and the happy marriage of his own daughter (‘Felix nupsit’). Yet again his mind turns to unfortunate lovers: Eurydice, Daphne, Endymion. Renewal and going forth by day are countered by hatred, by war’s destruction, by the neglect and blacking out of resisters. A Waste Land mood enters briefly—
From Time’s wreckage shored,
these fragments shored against our ruin
But still, against that, there is ‘the sun…jih4-5 | new with the day’; and Rock’s perseverance with his work on the Na Khi (to which Pound was indebted), despite having twenty years of research torpedoed by a submarine. In the end the canto, which began so gaily, seeks resolution in a desperate prayer—
falling spiders and scorpions!
Give light against falling poison!
A wind of darkness hurls against forest
the candle flickers
versus this tempest.…
Canto 113 continues the struggle to have light and beauty prevail against the pains of hell, but it ends with ‘the mind as Ixion’, in perpetual motion upon a wheel in hell.
Pound was in love with Marcella but bound to Dorothy, and there was no way he could get free so long as he remained in her keeping. But then he would not or could not do anything effectual to get himself free of the Committee—Furniss remarked that he seemed always to veer away from the subject. In St Elizabeths he had waited passively for others to get him out, and he had maintained his morale while he waited. This was a different situation, one which touched him to the heart, and there would be no way out.
The matter of the Committee was still under discussion:—
Moore to Furniss, 12 January 1959: EP and DP just granted residence in Italy, which should enable EP to apply for discharge of the Committee and of DP’s Bond to the Court.
EP to Overholser, 2 February: can he get the Committee removed so that EP can manage his own affairs—his ‘trouble or weakness had been physical rather than mental…too exhausted physically to use his mind at all’—this presumably with reference to the 1946 diagnosis.
DP to Moore, 13 February: EP ‘in process of writing to Overholser, to see whether he can get this maddening committee business stopped—or , if not, to get a regular allowance for E, instead of accounting for each $ & ¢’. Also, ‘Poor EP. St. Eliz’s has let out not much more than wreckage—days when he cannot collect his wits to work at all’.
Moore to du Sautoy of Faber & Faber, 3 March: ‘I am pressing for discharge of the insanity proceedings in the US’.
EP to Moore, 8 March: ‘Th. Arnold has writ/ of possibility of release of Committee.’
Moore to EP, 13 March: if it were granted ‘it would ease the legal situation in many ways—and you wd then be competent to consider making a proper will dealing with your wishes’.
Furniss to EP, 28 May: ‘All that would be involved would be to get an affidavit from D.P. that she wishes to be discharged as Committee and to get an affidavit from Omar to the effect that he has no complaint should the Committee be released.’ In any event, because DP is abroad, she needs to sign a document he has sent her authorizing the Clerk of the Court to accept service on behalf of the Committee in case someone should file a claim against EP’s estate.
Moore to EP, 7 June, (after seeing him and DP in Rapallo): favours Furniss’s proposal, as against Arnold’s which EP had been inclined to follow. Arnold had said that the Committee should simply stop filing its annual report and ignore any demand for one from the Court. At worst the Judge might make an order removing DP as Committee—which would achieve the desired result—whereas a formal petition claiming that Pound had returned to sanity risked a fresh indictment.
DP to Moore, 13 June: ‘I have sent on the Court paper signed to Furniss thinking it’s a clearer position—dear old Arnold can probably pull off a lot of stuff—but I’d rather be less wrangle-y. | Nobody has mentioned—if D.P. were removed as Committee—surely the CT. would want somebody else to take over?’
That had not been mentioned of course because the idea in everyone else’s mind was to get rid of the Committee altogether. Dorothy did want to be rid of the ‘maddening business’ of having to report the Committee’s expenditure to the Court every year. But she would make no move to have the Committee discharged, nor would she allow it to lapse. Instead, in time, she would suggest that Omar and Omar’s lawyer should be appointed in her place. The notion of affidavits from herself and from Omar she simply ignored. The thing that nobody appears to have questioned was Omar’s having his say on whether Pound should be freed from the Committee. One can only assume that this was on account of his interest in Pound’s estate, and that would indicate that behind the legal question of whether the Committee could be discharged the real issue, for Dorothy and for Omar, was whether Pound should be free to dispose of his person and his property according to his own wishes.
In August Dorothy reminded Omar that her husband and his legal father had no legal existence or status in the USA. And in October she would make it clear to Moore that she wanted to keep it that way. No substantive reasons for this were now given or asked for. The state of Pound’s health would be played up, as if that were a sufficient reason, but it was never directly argued or legally established as a justification for keeping Pound subject to the Committee. As for the original justification, Pound’s supposed insanity, Dorothy would tell Omar in 1966 that she ‘always knew that EP. is not crazy—& never has been’.
Pound had not been in touch with Olga Rudge since she had gone away in rage and despair after seeing him with Sheri Martinelli in July 1955. Now he had at last written to her a few days before the move from Brunnenburg down to Rapallo—
All you or anyone else can do is to try to understand fatigue as far as I am concerned. // I need rest.…
Thanks for the silence.
As you know I have always disbelieved in anyone owning anyone or running their existence.…
AND the need to avoid possumism, and to avoid falling into Waste Landism.
If I ever get out of the morass I will let you know.
A day or two after reaching Rapallo he wrote again, ‘Evidently was altitude that kept me gasping like a fish at Brunnenburg, | may be able to resume normal life sometime’. He also mentioned that ‘my status is still officially under the Committee, am trying to get it dismissed’. There followed an exchange about his removing from her Casa 60 the books and papers and the Gaudiers which she had been devotedly guarding. She gave him a key, permission for him ‘and no-one else’ to enter the house, asked that he take everything at one visit, and said she would not be there when he came, all this ‘for her own convenience and peace and quiet’. In fact—possibly because the road up from Rapallo had yet to reach Casa 60—it took more than one visit, on 23 and 24 March, to bring all the ‘stuff DOWN from St. Amb/’. And now, he wrote to Mary, it would be ‘sensible to bring everything to Brun.’. He was concerned that Olga had stopped her remittances from New Directions, and would see to it that the ‘small regular cheques’ were started again.
Bridson of the BBC had kept in touch, and on the day he brought the last of his archive down from Sant’Ambrogio Pound wrote to him, ‘am having rush of energy and revival with the sea air, | but don’t know that it will last | always do too much WHEN I have the surge’. Bridson seized his moment, and had Pound agree to be interviewed at Brunnenburg in April. So Pound and Dorothy returned there for five days while Bridson filmed and talked with him. Three or four afternoons were spent in Pound’s room high up in the central tower with its magnificent view of the valley and distant mountains. ‘The room’, as Bridson described it, ‘was packed with books and papers—Chinese calligraphy well to the fore—and Gaudier-Brzeska’s well-known black-and-white profile of him propped up against the wall above his desk.’ In the film Pound is seen striding or standing in various parts of the castle; he reads from his poetry; and, seated, he talks in a teacherly fashion about money and taxes, with his ‘Money Pamphlets’ spread on the floor in front of him for the camera to focus on. Bridson wrote up their conversation in a substantial ‘Interview with Ezra Pound’ for Laughlin’s New Directions in Prose and Poetry 17, and in this, near the end, Pound says, ‘There are only about two subjects that I got the strength to argue about. One is how you issue money.…And the other…is the system of taxes.’ 1 But he had talked well and interestingly about many aspects of his life and work from his early days in London up to the recently published cantos. The surge of energy had carried him through.
Back in Rapallo, the old trouble with his neck, with not being able to hold his head up, was getting him down. X-ray revealed calcium deposits on his ‘6th and other cerebral vertebrae’, ‘enough to supply a giraffe’. ‘It slows the mind as well as the body,’ Pound wrote, though he felt better after an ‘x-ray attack on the calcifications’. In any event, the condition did not stop him from swimming in the sea and going out rowing on it with Marcella. And the new cantos continued to grow, a few lines at a time, in his notebook.
On 29 June the three of them set off on a trip south to Rome—‘Poor little Marcella hasn’t “seen Italy” much!’, Dorothy explained to Omar. They passed through Pisa, finding that the site of the DTC to the north of it was now a rose nursery, and went on to Florence. On 1 July they were in Perugia, from where they visited Assissi; and on the 4th they reached Rome. On the 7th they returned via La Spezia to Rapallo.
Pound would shortly tell Mary, ‘I have been too exhausted to attend to detail since Rome’—‘I had a burst of energy, but the Roman heat finished THAT.’ Nevertheless, between 9 July and 16 August, in less than six weeks, he composed the latter two-thirds of canto 114, a long draft for 115 (to be broken up into ‘From Canto CXV’, ‘Notes for CXVII’, and the other published fragments 2 ), and the whole of canto 116—that is, virtually all of Drafts and Fragments after the first page of 114. On 9 July he wrote—
These simple men who have fought against jealousy—
as the man of Oneida.
There was a thoughtful man named Macleod
to mitigate ownership.
The ‘man of Oneida’ would be John Humphrey Noyes who, in 1848 founded, in Oneida County of New York State, the Oneida Community which held all property in common and did not believe in monogamy. After a celebration of Pound’s own immediate ancestors, traceable back to Oneida County, Marcella enters the poem again—
Tanagra mia, Ambracia,
for the delicacy
for the kindness
—the word recurs, ‘kindness’, as against ‘Fear, father of cruelty’. And it was Marcella, the notebook makes clear, who said on 14 July, ‘“That lizard’s feet are like snow flakes,”’ the observation eliciting the approving comment, ‘ubi amor, ibi oculus’. ‘The kindness, infinite, of her hands,’ the canto concluded on 23 July, ‘And that the truth is in kindness.’
What follows in the notebook is a statement of contending emotions more personal than anything Pound had ever written. His love of Marcella, his love of beauty, and his ambition ‘to write Paradise’, confront hardness of heart and jealousy and hatred; yet ‘peccavi’, I too have sinned, he confesses; and he ends humbly, as ‘a blown husk that is finished’. This is lyric writing from a mind in the exaltation of breakdown:
a bronze dawn, bright russet
but dawn of some sort
& some how
There is so much beauty
how can we harden our hearts
a beautiful night under wind mid garofani
that wind would be?
do not move
let the wind speak
That is Paradise
The petals are almost still.
The beauty of my thought has not entered them.
That is, it has as but a flash in far darkness—
I have tried to write Paradise—
let the gods forgive
what I have made
let those I love try to forgive
what I have made.
out of dust
out of dust
the gold thread
in dark pattern @ Torcello.
The wall still stands.
There is a path by a field almost empty.
That could be the path at Torcello from the landing stage to the village. A few lines casting back to his possible ‘utility’ in the war and the economic war briefly break the meditation, which then resumes with a new intensity—
ma vie ♬
for the blue flash & the moments
the young for the old
That is tragedy
& for one beautiful day there was peace
in the hollow of pine trunks
or when the snow was like sea foam
Twilit sky leaded with elm boughs,
under the Rupe Tarpeia
weep out your jealousies.
when one’s friends hate each other
how can there be peace in the world
diverted me in my green Time.
for an instant.
? to all men for an instant?
the sky leaded with elm boughs
above the visions
‘The flowers of the apricot
blow from the East to the West
I have tried to keep them from falling.’
A blown husk that is finish’d
but the light sings eternal
a pale flare over marshes
where the salt hay
whispers to tide’s change
The breaking up of this draft radically disrupted the progression of these final cantos. Leaving aside ‘Notes for Canto CXI’ as a last echo of the St Elizabeths cantos, there has been a steadily advancing realization of the poet’s personal predicament, in his ecstatic but threatened love of Marcella, and in the change of direction this has given to his poem, thus throwing into question the very possibility of bringing it to its previously intended end. The personal predicament is most intensely realised in that draft for 115, and it is felt there as personal tragedy. The voice of the lyric self takes over, elegiac, finding consolation in failure. But then in the notebook canto 116 follows on directly as a counter statement, taking its cue from ‘but the light sings eternal’ and incorporating the sense of personal failure into a reassertion of the timeless venture.
This final completed canto opens with an image of the vital universe—
his mind leaping
Thence to the human mind’s scope, ‘To make Cosmos— | To achieve the possible’; and that stands despite errors and wrecks, Mussolini’s and his own. He can claim to ‘have brought the great ball of crystal |…the great acorn of light’. That he personally ‘cannot make it cohere’ is balanced by his confidence that ‘it coheres all right’: though we must make it for ourselves, the Cosmos does not depend upon our making. And though ‘If love be not in the house there is nothing’, there is still ‘beauty against this blackness’, still deeps to be learned from a Laforgue and a Linnaeus. A paradise of love can be conceived, though it be ‘over the shambles’. Wrong can be confessed ‘without losing rightness’—
Have I seen the divine where it was not?
Charity is what I’ve got—
I cannot make it flow through
a little love
like a rushlight
to lead back splendour.
Upon that note Pound’s last and very personal cantos, and the epic Cantos of Ezra Pound, concluded, some time in August 1959. The notebook carries the inscription, ‘This copy book is Marcella’s. | E.P. | Aug. 7.’
He would write no more cantos. The great work ends then, not with a Dantescan vision of his paradise, which would be an enlightened social order governed by love and justice, but with a personal testament, a reckoning of achievement and failure, and an affirmation of the possibility of a paradise he can conceive only in his mind. The final canto rises above his own tragedy, though still conscious of it, to reconnect with the epic enterprise to which his whole life had been dedicated. Here, to end, he achieves an impersonal vision of his lifetime’s effort, and sees it in relation to all that he can conceive, sees himself in relation to his universe, and humbly affirms his little light, his ‘little love | like a rushlight | to lead back splendour’. He had been brought to this by his love of Marcella, and by the thwarting of that love.
On 12 August Dorothy wrote to Omar, ‘EP very low indeed…& he is terribly discouraged, says “Marcella is keeping him alive”.’ The same day Pound himself told Mary that he was not in a fit state to be seen by his grandchildren. And a week later, ‘My old head just won’t do any more work’. And after that, ‘I have nostalgia for Brunnenburg’, he wrote, and finally, at the end of August, ‘Have you still got the car that cd/ carry me to Brun/ for a visit, AND return me???’ A few days later he told her it was ‘No use’, just a half-hour trial drive had been very tiring—he would not be able to hold up for the eight hours to the castle. In these notes to Mary he did not mention Marcella.
He was in an uncharacteristic mood, softened, all aggression spent. ‘To bless people’, he wrote to her,
for their good moments / for their awarenesses.
Olga’s heroism not to be forgotten.
To expect people to behave like disembodied spirits in Paradise
Dante’s or any other / is beyond reason.
In another letter he confessed that ‘destino or my muddles have done you out of long conversations that were due to you’, and he asked for ‘Patience, strength, tolerance and forgiveness.’ He was moved, by coming upon some notes of his first walking tour in Provence, to write out of the blue to Richard Aldington who now lived there, ‘Cher R/’,
amid cumulative fatigue, and much that has gone to muddle, thinking of early friendship and late. This is to say I have for you a lasting friendship. EP/
Aldington was ‘completely shattered’ by receiving that, as he told HD; and HD told him that Pound had written to her, ‘Not since Brigit, Richard, the four of us, has there been any harmony around me.’
J. Laughlin visited Mary at Brunnenburg on 3 September, and then spent a few days in Rapallo as Pound’s publisher and friend. On the 9th he sent a postcard from there to A. V. Moore: ‘no immediate concern. I never saw him look more fit. And what an appetite! But then mental snarls & depression.’ Afterwards he reported at greater length: that Pound was suffering from low blood pressure, lack of energy, and mental depression, complaining of being unable to think and fearful of losing his mind; ‘also hoping to have the Court in Washington rescind the Committee.’ About that Laughlin said he sympathized, but, ‘between ourselves am not sure this would be wise at present’—Pound had not been sensible about his publishing permissions and had been causing problems for his publishers and literary agents.
On the 11th Pound started a new notebook, and that day wrote on the first page, ‘Who again went down into hell | unto cowardice, dither & death fear’; and after that, ‘who defied hell & the lightnings | & ends like a sick mouse on a rubble heap’. Dorothy mentioned in her letter to Omar on the 13th that EP’s and Marcella’s behaviour was ‘becoming such a scandal—today she says she is going back to USA’. And on the 15th Pound wrote to Eliot, ‘Sitting in my ruins, and heaven comes down like a net | and all my past follies.’
On 22 September Pound and Marcella went by taxi to Genoa where a passage was booked for Marcella, cabin class ‘senza doccia’, no shower, on the ‘Augustus’ sailing for New York at 11 a.m. on the 28th. Dorothy had written the cheque for the fare, $322 from Pound’s account. She had written three further cheques amounting to $1,200, which was what Pound had told Furniss the Committee should be allowed to pay out per annum for his secretary. Back in Rapallo Pound wrote in his notebook, ‘I have been a pitiless stone | stone making art work | & destroying affections.’ On another day he wrote,
In meine Heimat
Kam ich wieder
where the dead walked
& the living were
made of card board
scene shift- - - - - - - - - -
Till suddenly the tower
blazed with the light of Astarte
@ Genova the port lay below us
Marcella typed up these last jottings before she left. In another notebook Pound wrote—
That I lost my centre
fighting the world
The dreams clash &
& that I tried to make a paradiso
That the light stand
& grow solid
m’a[mour] what hv. I lov’d
& where a[re] y[ou]
Marcella typed these lines too, but added above them, ‘not cantos’.
‘EP in a fuss re Mlla’, Dorothy wrote in her diary on the 26th; and on the 28th, ‘MS away 8.30’. To Omar she wrote that day, ‘EP lying on his bed—a wreck.’ Marcella had chosen to go home on her own, she told him. Laughlin would tell Williams, what he had probably been told by Dorothy, that ‘Marcella couldn’t take it any more—she hated Italy—and has gone back to Texas.’ Marcella, who may well have felt that she had no option but to remove herself from an impossible situation, maintained a discreet silence on the subject, then and thereafter. On the other hand, Dorothy wrote to Moore a week after her departure, ‘We couldn’t go on at that tension.’ Marcella had been ‘useful in odd jobs’, she believed, ‘but debilitating’. ‘Anyway!’, she concluded, ‘I’m not going to live with EP and his mistress. It makes too much v. bad tension—and he’s “in my charge”.’ Moore approved: ‘I am glad you stood firm this time,’ he wrote, with reference to the ‘“mistress”’, ‘You have been such a loyal and patient Wife.’
All Pound wanted when Marcella had gone was to get back to Brunnenburg. His books and papers were packed up, the flat cleared, and on 4 October Boris and Noel Stock came with a truck to carry everything up to the castle. Invited to write something for a journal in India, Pound replied at the end of the month, ‘I came up here to die quietly, and am without a secretary.’
1 The subject of taxes was so much on his mind that his first words when coming upon his old friend Dr Bacigalupo on Rapallo’s seafront—they had not seen each other since 1945—had been, ‘Perché paghi le tasse? Le tasse non vanno pagate’ (Giuseppe Bacigalupo, Ieri a Rapallo (2006),87).
2 But note that the entire fragment ‘La faillite de François Bernouard’ was composed earlier, after 19 May, following ‘flowing—ever unstill’ (113), and immediately preceding the opening of 114, which was written in the notebook before 19 June.