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This article is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

The Last of England: Four Portraits of Ford Madox Ford Tony Roberts
                            This is your own land
And your face forgotten!

- Ford Madox Ford, 'Immortality:
An Elegy on a Great Poet Dying Abroad'

'He was very large, with a pink face, yellow hair, and drooping, bright blue eyes,' wrote Stella Bowen of the prolific littérateur Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), before trying to explain what made him 'quite the most enthralling person I had ever met'.1 As his second partner, Bowen's view was inevitably partial. So too were those of friends who put their observations into poems. The efforts of Ezra Pound, of Ford himself, of William Carlos Williams and Robert Lowell paint a generous portrait of one of the most unforgettable of routinely forgotten modernists. Pound's tribute in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley and Ford's own 'L'Oubli - temps de sécheresse' offer 'impressions' - Ford's favourite word - of the material conditions and spirit of the man, while Williams' 'To Ford Madox Ford in Heaven' and Robert Lowell's 'Ford Madox Ford: 1873-1939' add idiosyncrasies and a strong sense of the corporeal Ford.

Poetic tributes may have a second, entirely other relevance, of course. So, for Pound, Ford is an illustrative case of what happens to the deserving in an England he sees as 'an old bitch gone in the teeth'. Ford's celebrations of Provence are simultaneously love poems to his last partner. Williams' address to Ford presents him somewhat in Williams' own image, 'as the dedicated recorder of a particular place',2 and Lowell's affectionate, amused memoir ...


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