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[ 517 Introduction to Selected Poems, by Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot London: Faber & Gwyer, 1928; rpt. with Postscript London: Faber and Faber, 1949. Pp. 199; Introduction, 7-21; Postscript, 21.1 Mr. Ezra Pound recently made for publication in New York a volume of “collected poems” under the title of Personæ.2 * I made a few suggestions for omissions and inclusions in a similar collection to be published in London; and out of discussions of such matters with Pound arose the spectre of an introduction by myself.3 The poems which I wished to include, from among those which the author had omitted, are found together at the back of the book.4 The order followedthroughoutthebookis,withtheexceptionmentioned,thatoforiginal publication of the scattered volumes from which the poems are drawn. Mr. Pound intended his collection to consist of all of his work in verse up to his Cantos, which he chooses to keep in print.5 This book, so far as I am responsible for it, is not intended for quite that role: it is not a “collected edition” but a selection. Some of the poems omitted by Pound, as well as some of those omitted by myself, seem to me well “worthy of preservation.” This book is, in my eyes, rather a convenient Introduction to Pound’s work than a definitive edition. The volumes previously published represent each a particular aspect or period of his work; and even when they fall into the right hands, are not always read in the right order. My point is that Pound’s work is not only much more varied than is generally supposed, but also represents a continuous development, down to Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, the last stage of importance before the Cantos.6 This book would be, were it nothing else, a text-book of modern versification. The Cantos “of a poem of some length” are by far his most important achievement; owing to their scarcity and their difficulty, they are not appreciated; but they are much more comprehensible to a reader who has followed the author’s poetry from the beginning. I remarked some years ago, in speaking of vers libre, that “no vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job.”7 The term, which fifty years ago had an exact meaning, in relation to the French alexandrine, now means 1928 518 ] too much to mean anything at all.8 The vers libre of Jules Laforgue, who, if not quite the greatest French poet after Baudelaire, was certainly the most important technical innovator, is free verse in much the way that the later verseofShakespeare,Webster,Tourneur,isfreeverse:thatistosay,itstretches, contracts, and distorts the traditional French measure as later Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry stretches, contracts and distorts the blank verse measure . But the term is applied to several types of verse which have developed in English without relation to Laforgue, Corbière, and Rimbaud, or to each other. To be more precise, there are, for instance, my own type of verse, that of Pound, and that of the disciples of Whitman. I will not say that subsequently there have not appeared traces of reciprocal influence of several types upon one another, but I am here speaking of origins. My own verse is, so far as I can judge, nearer to the original meaning of vers libre than is any of the other types: at least, the form in which I began to write, in 1908 or 1909, was directly drawn from the study of Laforgue together with the later Elizabethan drama; and I do not know anyone who started from exactly that point. I did not read Whitman until much later in life, and had to conquer an aversion to his form, as well as to much of his matter, in order to do so. I am equally certain – it is indeed obvious – that Pound owes nothing to Whitman. This is an elementary observation; but when dealing with popular conceptions of vers libre one must still be as simple and elementary as fifteen years ago. The earliest of the poems in the present volume show that the first strong influences upon Pound, at the moment when his verse was taking direction, were those of Browning and Yeats.9 In the background are the ’Nineties in general,andbehindthe’Nineties,ofcourse,SwinburneandWilliamMorris. I suspect that the latter influences were much more visible in whatever Mr. Pound wrote before the first of his published verse; they linger in some of his...


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