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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 4 Number 4, 1975.

Ezra Pound Abandons the English Donald Davie


EZRA POUND'S long love-affair with England, and his angry and wounded turning against her in 1917 or 1918, cannot of course bulk so large in an American's sense of him as in an Englishman's. It is an American, Herbert Schniedau, who has asked:

Can any man who identifies himself with the British world of letters, however independent and tolerant he may be, write a fair-minded book about Pound? What Pound did to English literature and British sensibilities doesn't seem forgivable, and I really think that the English were more offended by Pound's political obsessions than were the countrymen he ostensibly betrayed.


This is fair comment; and the last clause in particular is, surprisingly, manifestly true, explain it how we may.

And yet an Englishman's relation to English culture and its traditions may be more tormented than Schniedau allows for, especially if the Englishman in question defines himself as, or aspires to be, an English artist. Such a one may feel that Pound's 'writing off' of England, his abandonment of her - physically in 1920, in imagination some years earlier - was abundantly justified, to the extent indeed that it was not so much his justified rejection of her, as her unjustifiable rejection of him. And yet such an Englishman must wonder: Was there once virtue in England, which subsequently went out of her? If so, when did this happen? In the casualty-lists from the Battle of the Somme? (Or is that ...


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