H. S. Mauberley (Life and Contacts) [Part I]

Original Text: 
E. P. [Ezra Pound], Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (London: The Ovid Press, April 23, 1920): 9028. del P685 H84 1920 Fisher Rare Book Library (no 42. of 200).
"Vocat aestus in umbram"
Nemesianus Es. IV.
E. P. Ode pour l'élection de son sépulchre
1.1For three years, out of key with his time,
1.2He strove to resuscitate the dead art
1.4In the old sense. Wrong from the start --
1.5No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
1.7Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
1.10Caught in the unstopped ear;
1.11Giving the rocks small lee-way
1.12The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.
1.14He fished by obstinate isles;
1.16Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.
1.17Unaffected by "the march of events",
1.19De son eage; the case presents
1.20No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.
2.1The age demanded an image
2.2Of its accelerated grimace,
2.3Something for the modern stage,
2.5Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
2.6Of the inward gaze;
2.8Than the classics in paraphrase!
2.9The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
2.10Made with no loss of time,
2.12Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.
3.1The tea-rose, tea-gown, etc.
3.3The pianola "replaces"
3.5Christ follows Dionysus,
3.6Phallic and ambrosial
3.9All things are a flowing,
3.11But a tawdry cheapness
3.12Shall reign throughout our days.
3.13Even the Christian beauty
3.16Decreed in the market place.
3.17Faun's flesh is not to us,
3.18Nor the saint's vision.
3.21All men, in law, are equals.
3.23We choose a knave or an eunuch
3.24To rule over us.
3.25A bright Apollo,
3.27What god, man, or hero
3.28Shall I place a tin wreath upon?
4.1These fought, in any case,
4.3Some quick to arm,
4.4some for adventure,
4.5some from fear of weakness,
4.6some from fear of censure,
4.7some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
4.8learning later ...
4.9some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
4.11walked eye-deep in hell
4.12believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
4.13came home, home to a lie,
4.14home to many deceits,
4.15home to old lies and new infamy;
4.17and liars in public places.
4.18Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
4.19Young blood and high blood,
4.20Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;
4.21fortitude as never before
4.22frankness as never before,
4.23disillusions as never told in the old days,
4.24hysterias, trench confessions,
4.25laughter out of dead bellies.
5.1There died a myriad,
5.2And of the best, among them,
5.3For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
5.4For a botched civilization.
5.5Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
5.6Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,
5.7For two gross of broken statues,
5.8For a few thousand battered books.
6.7Became a pastime for
6.8Painters and adulterers.
6.10Have preserved her eyes;
6.11Still, at the Tate, they teach
6.12Cophetua to rhapsodize;
6.13Thin like brook-water,
6.14With a vacant gaze.
6.16In those days.
6.17The thin, clear gaze, the same
6.18Still darts out faun-like from the half-ruin'd face,
6.19Questing and passive ....
6.21Bewildered that a world
6.22Shows no surprise
'Siena Mi Fe', Disfecemi Maremma'
7.1Among the pickled fœtuses and bottled bones,
7.2Engaged in perfecting the catalogue,
7.3I found the last scion of the
7.8By falling from a high stool in a pub ...
7.9But showed no trace of alcohol
7.10At the autopsy, privately performed --
7.11Tissue preserved -- the pure mind
7.13Dowson found harlots cheaper than hotels;
7.17M. Verog, out of step with the decade,
7.18Detached from his contemporaries,
7.19Neglected by the young,
7.20Because of these reveries.
8.2The circular infant's face,
8.4Never relaxing into grace;
8.6Showed only when the daylight fell
8.7Level across the face
8.8Of Brennbaum "The Impeccable".
9.2Mr. Nixon advised me kindly, to advance with fewer
9.3Dangers of delay. "Consider
9.4          Carefully the reviewer.
9.5"I was as poor as you are;
9.6"When I began I got, of course,
9.7"Advance on royalties, fifty at first", said Mr. Nixon,
9.8"Follow me, and take a column,
9.9"Even if you have to work free.
9.10"Butter reviewers. From fifty to three hundred
9.11"I rose in eighteen months;
9.12"The hardest nut I had to crack
9.13"Was Dr. Dundas.
9.14"I never mentioned a man but with the view
9.15"Of selling my own works.
9.16"The tip's a good one, as for literature
9.17"It gives no man a sinecure."
9.18And no one knows, at sight a masterpiece.
9.19And give up verse, my boy,
9.20There's nothing in it."
     * * *
9.22Don't kick against the pricks,
9.23Accept opinion. The "Nineties" tried your game
9.24And died, there's nothing in it.
10.2The stylist has taken shelter,
10.3Unpaid, uncelebrated,
10.4At last from the world's welter
10.5Nature receives him,
10.6With a placid and uneducated mistress
10.7He exercises his talents
10.8And the soil meets his distress.
10.9The haven from sophistications and contentions
10.10Leaks through its thatch;
10.11He offers succulent cooking;
10.12The door has a creaking latch.
11.2Habits of mind and feeling,
11.4With the most bank-clerkly of Englishmen?
11.5No, "Milésian" is an exaggeration.
11.6No instinct has survived in her
11.7Older than those her grandmother
11.8Told her would fit her station.
12.2Stretches toward me her leafy hands", --
12.3Subjectively. In the stuffed-satin drawing-room
12.4I await The Lady Valentine's commands,
12.5Knowing my coat has never been
12.6Of precisely the fashion
12.7To stimulate, in her,
12.8A durable passion;
12.9Doubtful, somewhat, of the value
12.10Of well-gowned approbation
12.11Of literary effort,
12.12But never of The Lady Valentine's vocation:
12.13Poetry, her border of ideas,
12.14The edge, uncertain, but a means of blending
12.15With other strata
12.16Where the lower and higher have ending;
12.17A hook to catch the Lady Jane's attention,
12.18A modulation toward the theatre,
12.19Also, in the case of revolution,
12.20A possible friend and comforter.
     * * *
12.21Conduct, on the other hand, the soul
12.23To Fleet St. where
12.25Beside this thoroughfare
12.26The sale of half-hose has
12.27Long since superseded the cultivation


1.1] H. S. Mauberley: the name of a fictitious poet of limited ability contemporary with Pound.
epigraph: from the 3rd-cent. B.C. Latin poet Nemesianus, eclogue IV.38 (Mopsus): "the heat calls [you] into the shade"(Némésien, Œuvres, ed. and trans. Pierre Volphilhac [Paris: Société d'édition, 1975]: 59). PA 6514 N4A38 Robarts Library.
E. P. Ode pour l'élection de son sépulchre: The initials identify Ezra Pound, and the rest associates him with Pierre de Ronsard, whose Ode IV of Book IV begins so (Œuvres complètes, ed. Gustave Cohen [Gallimard, 1950]: 535-38). Back to Line
1.3] An allusion to Longinus' treatise "On the Sublime." Back to Line
1.6] a half savage country: Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho. Back to Line
1.8] Capaneus: one of the seven against Thebes (in Aeschylus's play of that name), he was struck down by Zeus on the walls of Thebes for impiety.
factitious: characterized by conventional, "not natural or spontaneous" artifice (OED 3; courtesy of Bob Hanenberg). Back to Line
1.9] The Sirens in Homer's Odyssey (XII, 189) sing, "because we know all things [suffered] in Troy": a line heard by Odysseus (the "him" at 1.12) but not his companions, whose ears were plugged with wax to protect them from the Sirens' words (cf. 1.10). Back to Line
1.13] Penelope: Odysseus' spouse, who waited for him throughout his travels and rejected suitors. Flaubert: Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), whose novel Madame Bovary well illustrates his insistence on an author finding "le mot juste" (the right word). Back to Line
1.15] Circe: enchantress who turned men into beasts and whose companion was Odysseus for a time. Back to Line
1.18] An allusion to the first line of "Le Testament" by François Villon, "En l'an de mon trentièsme âge" (Poésies, ed. Jean Dufournet [Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1984]: 65). Back to Line
2.4] Attic: of Athens. Back to Line
2.7] mendacities: lies. Back to Line
2.11] kinema: cinema. Back to Line
3.2] mousseline of Cos: muslin cloth of Cos (the Greek island). Back to Line
3.4] Sappho's barbitos: the lyre of this 7th-cent. B.C. Greek poet of (lesbian) love. Back to Line
3.7] macerations: mortifications, actions intended to quell the flesh. Back to Line
3.8] In Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero employs the services of a spirit, Ariel, whom he freed from imprisonment in a pine tree (where he was placed by the witch Sycorax), to recapture his kingdom and torment an earthy creature -- the son of this witch -- who sought to kill Prospero and rape his daughter Miranda. Back to Line
3.10] Heracleitus: the philosopher of Ephesus who argued that flux and change dominated life. Back to Line
3.14] Samothrace: Greek island associated with a cult of beauty; the Winged Victory was recovered here. Back to Line
3.15] "the beautiful" (Greek). Back to Line
3.19] the press: journalism, the printing press.
wafer: the communion bread. Back to Line
3.20] Franchise: freedom and the vote. Back to Line
3.22] Peisistratus: the 6th-cent. B.C. tyrant of Athens, and patron of the arts. Back to Line
3.26] "what god, what hero, and what man [shall we celebrate]?" from Pindar's Olympian ode 2, for Theron of Akragas, winner of the chariot race in 476 B.C. (Pindar, Olympian Odes; Pythian Odes, ed. and trans. William H. Race [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997]: 62-63; PA 4275 E5R33 Robarts Library).
tin: a pun on the Greek "what". Back to Line
4.2] pro domo: "for the home" (Latin). Back to Line
4.10] From Horace's ode III.ii.13 -- "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," i.e., "Sweet and proper it is to die for your country" (The Odes of Horace, trans. and ed. David Ferry [New York: Farrar, Straus, 1997]: 160-61). Cf. Wilfrid Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est", composed before his death in 1918 but only published in 1921. Back to Line
4.16] usury: charging interest on loans of money -- the very basis of modern banking and the stock market. Back to Line
6.1] Gladstone: William Ewert Gladstone (1809-98), classical scholar, Liberal politician. Back to Line
6.2] The first chapter in Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (1865, 1871). Back to Line
6.5] Fœtid Buchanan: R. W. Buchanan (1841-1901), who attacked the so-called "fleshly" school of poets (e.g., Rossetti and Swinburne) in Contemporary Review (Oct. 1871). Back to Line
6.6] that faun's head: perhaps an allusion to "Tête de Faune" by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), a French "decadent" poet. Back to Line
6.9] Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, a painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-98), still hangs in the Tate Gallery in London.
cartons: cartoons. Back to Line
6.15] The English Rubaiyat: published by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) in 1859, and remaindered until Rossetti discovered and praised it. Back to Line
6.20] Jenny: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem, "Jenny," on an English prostitute. Back to Line
6.23] maquero: pimp. Back to Line
7.1] The title, from the words of La Pia de' Tolomei in Dante's Purgatorio (V, 134): "Sienna gave me birth, Maremma death." Back to Line
7.4] Monsieur Verog: Victor Gustav Plarr (1863-1929), poet and Librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons, whose catalogue (7.2) he compiled. Back to Line
7.5] Gallifet: Gaston Alexandre Auguste de Gallifet (1830-1909), a French general in the Franco-Prussian war. Back to Line
7.6] Ernest Dowson (1867-1900).
the Rhymers' Club: an informal group of late Victorian poets ca. 1890-91 who met regularly in the Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street, London. Back to Line
7.7] Johnson (Lionel): a member of the Rhymers' Club, Johnson (1867-1902) was a friend of W. B. Yeats, a Cathlic convert, and an alcoholic. The tale of his death at 7.8 is not true. Back to Line
7.12] John Henry Newman, Cardinal, author of The Idea of a University and the Apologia. Back to Line
7.14] Reverend Stewart Duckworth Headlam (1847-1924), a cleric-poet whom the Church forced to resign his curacy because of his professed interest in dance and drama.
Selwyn Image (1849-1930), another cleric-poet. See his Art, Morals, and the War, a lecture delivered in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Oxford University Press, 1914; Pamph HMod I Robarts Library). Back to Line
7.15] Terpsichore: the muse of dance. Back to Line
7.16] "The Dorian Mood": Plarr's book of poems was entitled In the Dorian Mood (1896). Back to Line
8.1] Brennbaum is thought to refer to Max Beerbohm, humorist and man of letters (1872-1956). Back to Line
8.3] spats: buttoned cloth or leather pieces worn by men to cover their ankles and the upper part of their shoes. Back to Line
8.5] Horeb, Sinai: Moses witnessed the burning bush on Mount Horeb (Exodus 3.2) and obtained the ten commandments from God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19.20). Back to Line
9.1] Nixon is associated with Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), the English novelist. Back to Line
9.21] Bloughram's: alluding to Gigadibs, the journalist in Robert Browning's poem "Bishop Blougram's Apology." Back to Line
10.1] This poem is said to describe Ford Madox Ford, the English novelist. Back to Line
11.1] A phrase from Remy de Gourmont's "Stratagèmes," in Histoires Magiques (1894), quoted by Poundin "De Gourmont: A Distinction," Little Review(Feb.-March 1919): 7. It refers to those who conserve knowledge of lost Greek erotic or "Milesian" tales of sexual biting.11.3.
Ealing: termed the "queen" of the London suburbsin the 1890s, much expanded by inexpensive housing developmentsearly in the 20th century. Back to Line
11.3] Ealing: termed the "queen" of the London suburbsin the 1890s, much expanded by inexpensive housing developmentsearly in the 20th century. Back to Line
12.1] Translated from "Le Château du Souvenir" by Théophile Gautier, "Daphné, les hanches dans l'écorce, / Etend toujours ses doigts touffus" (Poésies,ed. René Jasinski [Paris: A. G. Nizet, 1970]: III, 103). Back to Line
12.22] From "Complainte des Pianos" by Jules Laforgue (1860-87), quoted by Pound in Little Review [Feb. 1918]: 11-12): "Menez l'âme que les Lettresont bien nourrie." Back to Line
12.24] Dr. Johnson: Samuel Johnson (1709-84), poet and lexicographer. Back to Line
12.28] An allusion to Sappho's
When dead you will lie forever forgotten,
for you have no claim to the Pierian roses,
Dim here, you will move more dimly in Hell,
flitting among the undistinguished dead.
See Sappho: Lyrics in the Original Greek with Translations by Willis Barnstone (New York University Press, 1965): 66-67. The muses were worshipped at Pieria. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Gallup A19
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.