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This article is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

Ezra Pound and the Music on the Page Henry King
Charles Tomlinson remembers his first experience, while at grammar school in the mid-1940s, of reading Ezra Pound ‘in a copy of the Sesame Books selection’1 (‘not to be confused with the Selected Poems edited by T.S. Eliot’). It was an experience that left him, like many other readers, puzzled.

I read it through many times; tried to scan the opening lines of ‘E.P. Ode Pour L’Election de Son Sepulchre’; tried the same with ‘The River-Merchant’s Wife’. Evidently it couldn’t be done.

He surmised that ‘perhaps some type of syncopation was at work’. What grabbed Tomlinson was the ‘prosaic phraseology’ of the poems, as in ‘The Garden’:

And she is dying piece-meal
        of a sort of emotional anaemia…

She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
        will commit that indiscretion.

‘That stress and pausing on “I” before the line break was also arresting.’ He’s certainly right; ‘The Garden’ is one of the best poems in Lustra, if not among all Pound’s shorter poems. But one notices that, in these examples, Pound uses not an ordinary line-break, but a break followed by an indented line. Following the convention of verse rather than prose, each line starts with a capitalised letter, even where it begins mid-sentence; but the two indented lines do not. Just to confuse matters, Eliot’s selection prints the poem with another such indentation:

She ...


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