Ezra Pound: Poems

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

I have an essay due about Hugh Selwyn Mauberley by Ezra Pound very soon, and i'm totally baffled.

This is the hardest, most awkward poem i've ever read. I barely understand the poem, let alone the essay question!

The question is: "What attitude towards the arts, especially poetry, emerges from 'Hugh Sewlyn Mauberley?"

The module this question is for is related to the modernist movement.

Can someone PLEASE help me with this? Can anyone tell me which parts of the poem show an attitude towards the arts, and what that attitude is? So far, all i've got is that when Pound wrote " the 'age demanded' chiefly a mould in plaster, / made with no loss of time, / a prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster / or the 'sculpture' of rhyme" That he was complaining that poetry (?) had become too focused on things that are outwardly beautiful and easy, with no enduring innter beauty. Beyond that, i'm LOST!

Any help is greatly appreciated.

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A brief analysis

It has often been surmised that this poem is an autobiographical work in which Pound criticises his earlier work as attempts to 'wring lilies from the acorn' whilst parodying the struggling poet Mauberley in what could be perceived as reflexive criticism. His suggestion that

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:'For three years, out of key with his time/ He strove to resuscitate the dead art/ Of poetry'

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resonates strongly with his efforts and subsequent disillusionment with the Imagist movement, whilst an admission that he was 'Wrong from the start' may reflect his restlessness in London that presaged his flight to Europe in search of richer cultural inspiration.

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It will not do to conflate Mauberley with Pound, especially as the Modernist movement strove to 'escape' from personality. It is difficult to demarcate where the narrator's voice stops and Mauberley's begins and thus the opinions, overtly or otherwise, expressed by either should not simply be attributed to Pound.

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This poem could be perceived as a wider attack upon the attitudes of society in the Post war period as a 'botched civilisation'- denounced as an intellectual and moral 'Wasteland' only a year later by T. S. Eliot. The exclamation 'Better mendacities/ Than the classics in paraphrase!' seems to be a quip at the expense of those who continue to revere the idealistic 'lies' of the Romantics and criticise works that draw on valuable traditional texts, such as Pound's own 'Homage to Sextus Propertius'. This reflects the Modernist rejection of the preoccupation with the aesthetic that the elegy for the war dead (Part I section V) particularly bitterly presents:

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:'There died a myriad/And the best, among them,/For an old bitch gone in the teeth,/For a botched civilisation'.