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EZRA IN DUBLIN FRANCIS J. THOMPSON I F Ezra Pound had escaped to Dublin in 1943, the Irish might have welcomed him like a new Christy Mahon. Or they might have remembered that Yeats, Joyce, and even, perhaps, George Bernard Shaw were much obliged to him. Richard Ellmann says that when Pound first met Yeats in London in 1908 he was "persuaded that Yeats was the best poet writing in English.'" On February 11, 1911, Yeats's father wrote him that Pound, who seems to have been in New York, had visited an artist friend "a few days ago and talked a lot about you, quoting quantities of your verse, which he had by heart, placing you very high, and as the best poet for the last century and more.'" Ellmann goes so far as to suggest that Pound caused Yeats profoundly to alter his manner; according to Pound a poet must be "clear and precise; he must eliminate all abstractions and all words which sense did not justify as well as sound.'" Perhaps he encouraged these tendencies; he did not start them. John O'Leary, who died in 1907, had been quite as strict.' It is more likely that Yeats took Ezra as an apprentice. Ellmann says: "In 1912 he impudently altered without permission some poems which Yeats had given him to send to Poetry magazine; Yeats was infuriated but then forgave him. During the winters of 1913-14, 1914-15, and 1915-16, Pound acted as Yeats's secretary at a small cottage in Ashdown Forest in Sussex, reading to him, writing from his dictation, and discussing everything. . . . At the Hawk's Well, his first play in six years ... he dictated to Pound early in 1916.'" But at this time Pound was "the literary executor of Ernest Fenollosa, a scholar who had spent many years" studying SinoJapanese art,' and Yeats edited Certain Noble Plays of Japan: From the Manuscripts of Ernest Fenol/osa, Chosen and Finished by Ezra Pound (1916). I suspect he also may have persuaded Macmillan to bring out in the same year 'Noh' or Accomplishment: A Study of the lRichard EUmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks (New York, 1948),2 11. '1./. B. Yeats, Letters to His Son. W. B. Yeats, and Others (New York, 1946), 133. 3Ellmann. Yeats, 211. "The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats (New York, 1938), 183; d . 85. 6Ellmann, Yeats, 212. 'Ibid., 213. Vol. XXI, no. 1, Oct., 1951 64 EZRA IN DUBLIN 65 Classical Stage of Japan by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound. For Yeats was profoundly stirred by these two books. In fact, it would seem that he got a new form of the drama from Pound.' Yeats began his introduction to Certain Noble Plays of Japan: "In the series of books I edit for my sister I confine myself to those that have I believe some special value to Ireland, now or in the future. I have asked Mr. Pound for these beautiful plays because I think they will help me to explain a certain possibility of the Irish dramatic movement." Yeats ends with the observation that although he is pleased to think that he is working for his own country he anticipates that his new plays will spread beyond Ireland "if they be sea-worthy." "Are not the fairy stories of Oscar Wilde ... very popular in Arabia?'" In between this exordium and peroration, Yeats outlined how his new dance drama would affect producer, author, and actor. His insistence on its value to the producer tells us indirectly about some of the problems Yeats himself faced at the Abbey; they were mostly economic. Again and again, in this introduction and in later ones, he tells us that these plays are inexpensive, that there is no need of extravagant scenery or a costly theatre building. The plays are designed for an intimate audience; they can be produced in a drawing-room. The musicians, or chorus, tell all that needs to be known about the scenery, as in the song for the nnfolding of the curtain in At the Hawk's Well: I call to the eye of the mind A well long choked up and dry And boughs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 64-77
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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