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This article is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

Meetings with Pound Moelwyn Merchant

It was not possible, even for his most intimate friends, to have an uncomplicated relationship with Ezra Pound. There were the passionate intellectual convictions, economic, political and legal, and above all the critical intelligence and the creative pressure which produced the voluminous literary essays and the Cantos. Indeed, passionate conviction was the overwhelming impression which every meeting with him conveyed, a passion of such intensity that it was difficult for an ordinary human being to breathe in it, to maintain poise.

And yet there were confounding opposites: the gentle courtesy and the sweetness of the smile with which every friend was greeted; and the apparently invulnerable calm which allowed him, in the thirteen years' confinement in the St Elizabeth's mental hospital in Washington, to push on almost to the conclusion of his massive work. Whether in controversy or creation, Ezra Pound moved with the power which Wyndham Lewis described - in a phrase which gave its title to one volume of the Cantos - 'His rock-drill action is impressive: he blasts away tirelessly.'

Despite his tragic circumstances, the omens were good for my visits to him in Washington, for T.S. Eliot had briefed me carefully on the personal issues and the pattern of friendships which surrounded Pound in face of official animosity. I was myself going to Washington on a Folger Fellowship to complete work on my Shakespeare and the Artist and to begin work on Elizabethan and Jacobean law at the Folger Shakespeare Library. ...


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