a breath of forest...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Ezra Pound

Villanelle: The Psychological Hour

I had over-prepared the event,
                      that much was ominous.
With middle-ageing care
                      I had laid out just the right books.
I had almost turned down the pages.

                          Beauty is so rare a thing.
                          So few drink of my fountain.

So much barren regret,
So many hours wasted!
And now I watch, from the window,
                      the rain, the wandering busses.

“Their little cosmos is shaken”—
                      the air is alive with that fact.
In their parts of the city
                      they are played on by diverse forces.
How do I know?
                      Oh, I know well enough.
For them there is something afoot.
                      As for me;
I had over-prepared the event—

                          Beauty is so rare a thing.
                          So few drink of my fountain.

Two friends: a breath of the forest…
Friends? Are people less friends
            because one has just, at last, found them?
Twice they promised to come.

                          “Between the night and the morning?”
Beauty would drink of my mind.
Youth would awhile forget
                      my youth is gone from me.

(“Speak up! You have danced so stiffly?
     Someone admired your works,
     And said so frankly.

     “Did you talk like a fool,
     The first night?
     The second evening?”

But they promised again:
                      ‘To-morrow at tea-time’.”)

Now the third day is here—
                      no word from either;
No word from her nor him,
Only another man’s note:
                      “Dear Pound, I am leaving England.”


If possible, leave Ezra Pound’s politics & economics on the ash heap – focus, instead, on his contributions to literature – and what you find is amazing. Psychological Hour, a new tuning of a stiff verse structure, gives body to Pound’s modern voice. A journey in form, and that’s its purpose. His lines rub against the subconscious. The poem moves – certainly in a larger way – like his wonderful In a Station of the Metro:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The writing – no matter how large, how small – is always visual, a bombardment on the senses and logic, a musical feast.

Pound’s mission in poetry (a companion vision of sorts to the work of painters such as Marcel Duchamp) was to modernize the classical – and that he did.

Forgive him? … maybe not. Read him? … Oh yes.

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