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This article is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

Forces and Fragility Kenneth Cox

Laforgue's poetry is more moving and more difficult than anyone would guess whose idea of it derives from Eliot's imitations. Eliot captured some of its tones of voice but applied them to purposes of his own, to mask and evade, and as these needs decreased so his interest in the writing declined.

Pound's never lapsed. It was Laforgue who opened his eyes to qualities in Propertius and features of his style underlie the Homage and crop out at places in Mauberley. To call it 'verbalism' seems to degrade intellectual detachment to stylistic trickery but the facts are complex. If some of his tricks were extreme, Laforgue's detachment is exponential: he mocks his own self-mockery. Something in him Pound always found hard to grasp but knew was there and strove to emulate. He described it once as force coinciding with fragility, great power with great nonchalance. It is not exactly nonchalance, more a studied offhandedness. His last word in Canto CXVI: '. . . Jules . . . deeps in him . . .'

Who reads Laforgue today? The mass of contemporary writing passes him by. Yet a life appeared recently, some of his work has exemplary value and the young we have always with us. A bilingual edition of his poetry now seeks to make it accessible.

Laforgue died at twenty-seven, so all he wrote was packed into a few years of rapid development. The earliest of his poems to show individual character ...


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