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This report is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Propertius at Brunnenburg Castle Patrick Worsnip
It was a perfect autumn day over the Venice lagoon - chilly, but sunny and clear. Four gondoliers in white shirts and black hats slowly but rhythmically rowed their craft across the water to the cemetery island of San Michele. Their cargo: the flower-decked chestnut coffin of the American poet Ezra Pound, who had died in Venice two days earlier and would be buried close to the graves of two prominent Russian exiles, ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev and composer Igor Stravinsky. The date was 3 November 1972, and as a trainee reporter for Reuters news agency, recently arrived on my first foreign posting in Italy, I was allowed to join a more experienced colleague in covering the event.

You might have expected that the funeral of a literary celebrity like Pound would have attracted a multitude of the great and the good. In fact, his daughter Mary de Rachewiltz recalls sardonically, the mourners consisted of 'quattro gatti' (four cats) - Italian slang for very few. For Pound's World War II support of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had made him an official embarrassment. We reported that the funeral service in the Palladian basilica on the island of San Giorgio attracted 150 people, but the US and Italian governments boycotted it and the mayor of Venice showed up only in an unofficial capacity. Those who did attend included - typically of the political confusion that surrounded Pound's life - a senior figure in the neo-fascist party of the day, the Italian Social Movement, and Wally Toscanini, daughter of conductor Arturo and, like ...


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