Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
by Ezra Pound
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Pound, Ezra (1920) Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley


E. P.



H. S. Mauberley


Transcriber's note: Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley contains accents, diphthongs and Greek characters. Facsimile images of the poems as originally published are freely available online from the Internet Archive. Please use these images to check for any errors or inadequacies in this electronic text.


Ode pour l'election de son sepulcher II. III. IV. V. Yeux Glauques "Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma" Brennbaum Mr. Nixon X. XI. XII.

ENVOI 1919

Part II. 1920 (Mauberley)

I. II. III. "The age demanded" IV. V. Medallion


FOR three years, out of key with his time, He strove to resuscitate the dead art Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime" In the old sense. Wrong from the start—

No hardly, but, seeing he had been born In a half savage country, out of date; Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn; Capaneus; trout for factitious bait;

ἴδμεν γάρ τοι πάν πάνθ', όσ' ένι Τροίη Caught in the unstopped ear; Giving the rocks small lee-way The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

His true Penelope was Flaubert, He fished by obstinate isles; Observed the elegance of Circe's hair Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

Unaffected by "the march of events," He passed from men's memory in l'an trentiesme De son eage; the case presents No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.


THE age demanded an image Of its accelerated grimace, Something for the modern stage, Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries Of the inward gaze; Better mendacities Than the classics in paraphrase!

The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster, Made with no loss of time, A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.


THE tea-rose tea-gown, etc. Supplants the mousseline of Cos, The pianola "replaces" Sappho's barbitos.

Christ follows Dionysus, Phallic and ambrosial Made way for macerations; Caliban casts out Ariel.

All things are a flowing, Sage Heracleitus says; But a tawdry cheapness Shall reign throughout our days.

Even the Christian beauty Defects—after Samothrace; We see το καλόν Decreed in the market place.

Faun's flesh is not to us, Nor the saint's vision. We have the press for wafer; Franchise for circumcision.

All men, in law, are equals. Free of Peisistratus, We choose a knave or an eunuch To rule over us.

O bright Apollo, τίν' άνδρα, τίν' ήρωα, τίνα θεον, What god, man, or hero Shall I place a tin wreath upon!


THESE fought, in any case, and some believing, pro domo, in any case . . Some quick to arm, some for adventure, some from fear of weakness, some from fear of censure, some for love of slaughter, in imagination, learning later . . .

some in fear, learning love of slaughter; Died some "pro patria, non dulce non et decor". .

walked eye-deep in hell believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving came home, home to a lie, home to many deceits, home to old lies and new infamy;

usury age-old and age-thick and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before. Young blood and high blood, Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before, disillusions as never told in the old days, hysterias, trench confessions, laughter out of dead bellies.


THERE died a myriad, And of the best, among them, For an old bitch gone in the teeth, For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth, Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

For two gross of broken statues, For a few thousand battered books.


GLADSTONE was still respected, When John Ruskin produced "Kings Treasuries"; Swinburne And Rossetti still abused.

Foetid Buchanan lifted up his voice When that faun's head of hers Became a pastime for Painters and adulterers.

The Burne-Jones cartons Have preserved her eyes; Still, at the Tate, they teach Cophetua to rhapsodize;

Thin like brook-water, With a vacant gaze. The English Rubaiyat was still-born In those days.

The thin, clear gaze, the same Still darts out faun-like from the half-ruin'd fac Questing and passive .... "Ah, poor Jenny's case"...

Bewildered that a world Shows no surprise At her last maquero's Adulteries.


AMONG the pickled foetuses and bottled bones, Engaged in perfecting the catalogue, I found the last scion of the Senatorial families of Strasbourg, Monsieur Verog.

For two hours he talked of Gallifet; Of Dowson; of the Rhymers' Club; Told me how Johnson (Lionel) died By falling from a high stool in a pub . . .

But showed no trace of alcohol At the autopsy, privately performed— Tissue preserved—the pure mind Arose toward Newman as the whiskey warmed.

Dowson found harlots cheaper than hotels; Headlam for uplift; Image impartially imbued With raptures for Bacchus, Terpsichore and the Church. So spoke the author of "The Dorian Mood",

M. Verog, out of step with the decade, Detached from his contemporaries, Neglected by the young, Because of these reveries.


THE sky-like limpid eyes, The circular infant's face, The stiffness from spats to collar Never relaxing into grace;

The heavy memories of Horeb, Sinai and the forty years, Showed only when the daylight fell Level across the face Of Brennbaum "The Impeccable".


IN the cream gilded cabin of his steam yacht Mr. Nixon advised me kindly, to advance with fewer Dangers of delay. "Consider "Carefully the reviewer.

"I was as poor as you are; "When I began I got, of course, "Advance on royalties, fifty at first", said Mr. Nixon, "Follow me, and take a column, "Even if you have to work free.

"Butter reviewers. From fifty to three hundred "I rose in eighteen months; "The hardest nut I had to crack "Was Dr. Dundas.

"I never mentioned a man but with the view "Of selling my own works. "The tip's a good one, as for literature "It gives no man a sinecure."

And no one knows, at sight a masterpiece. And give up verse, my boy, There's nothing in it.

* * *

Likewise a friend of Bloughram's once advised me: Don't kick against the pricks, Accept opinion. The "Nineties" tried your game And died, there's nothing in it.


BENEATH the sagging roof The stylist has taken shelter, Unpaid, uncelebrated, At last from the world's welter

Nature receives him, With a placid and uneducated mistress He exercises his talents And the soil meets his distress.

The haven from sophistications and contentions Leaks through its thatch; He offers succulent cooking; The door has a creaking latch.


"CONSERVATRIX of Milesien" Habits of mind and feeling, Possibly. But in Ealing With the most bank-clerkly of Englishmen?

No, "Milesien" is an exaggeration. No instinct has survived in her Older than those her grandmother Told her would fit her station.


"DAPHNE with her thighs in bark Stretches toward me her leafy hands",— Subjectively. In the stuffed-satin drawing-room I await The Lady Valentine's commands,

Knowing my coat has never been Of precisely the fashion To stimulate, in her, A durable passion;

Doubtful, somewhat, of the value Of well-gowned approbation Of literary effort, But never of The Lady Valentine's vocation:

Poetry, her border of ideas, The edge, uncertain, but a means of blending With other strata Where the lower and higher have ending;

A hook to catch the Lady Jane's attention, A modulation toward the theatre, Also, in the case of revolution, A possible friend and comforter.

* * *

Conduct, on the other hand, the soul "Which the highest cultures have nourished" To Fleet St. where Dr. Johnson flourished;

Beside this thoroughfare The sale of half-hose has Long since superseded the cultivation Of Pierian roses.

ENVOI (1919)

GO, dumb-born book, Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes; Hadst thou but song As thou hast subjects known, Then were there cause in thee that should condone Even my faults that heavy upon me lie And build her glories their longevity.

Tell her that sheds Such treasure in the air, Recking naught else but that her graces give Life to the moment, I would bid them live As roses might, in magic amber laid, Red overwrought with orange and all made One substance and one colour Braving time.

Tell her that goes With song upon her lips But sings not out the song, nor knows The maker of it, some other mouth, May be as fair as hers, Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers, When our two dusts with Waller's shall be laid, Siftings on siftings in oblivion, Till change hath broken down All things save Beauty alone.




TURNED from the "eau-forte Par Jaquemart" To the strait head Of Mcssalina:

"His true Penelope Was Flaubert", And his tool The engraver's

Firmness, Not the full smile, His art, but an art In profile;

Colourless Pier Francesca, Pisanello lacking the skill To forge Achaia.


"Qu'est ce qu'ils savent de l'amour, et gu'est ce qu'ils peuvent comprendre? S'ils ne comprennent pas la poesie, s'ils ne sentent pas la musique, qu'est ce qu'ils peuvent comprendre de cette pas- sion en comparaison avec laquelle la rose est grossiere et le parfum des violettes un tonnerre?" CAID ALI

FOR three years, diabolus in the scale, He drank ambrosia, All passes, ANANGKE prevails, Came end, at last, to that Arcadia.

He had moved amid her phantasmagoria, Amid her galaxies, NUKTIS AGALMA

Drifted....drifted precipitate, Asking time to be rid of.... Of his bewilderment; to designate His new found orchid....

To be certain....certain... (Amid aerial flowers)..time for arrangements— Drifted on To the final estrangement;

Unable in the supervening blankness To sift TO AGATHON from the chaff Until he found his seive... Ultimately, his seismograph:

—Given, that is, his urge To convey the relation Of eye-lid and cheek-bone By verbal manifestation;

To present the series Of curious heads in medallion—

He had passed, inconscient, full gaze, The wide-banded irises And botticellian sprays implied In their diastasis;

Which anaesthesis, noted a year late, And weighed, revealed his great affect, (Orchid), mandate Of Eros, a retrospect.

. . .

Mouths biting empty air, The still stone dogs, Caught in metamorphosis were, Left him as epilogues.



FOR this agility chance found Him of all men, unfit As the red-beaked steeds of The Cytheraean for a chain-bit.

The glow of porcelain Brought no reforming sense To his perception Of the social inconsequence.

Thus, if her colour Came against his gaze, Tempered as if It were through a perfect glaze

He made no immediate application Of this to relation of the state To the individual, the month was more temperate Because this beauty had been ...... The coral isle, the lion-coloured sand Burst in upon the porcelain revery: Impetuous troubling Of his imagery. ......

Mildness, amid the neo-Neitzschean clatter, His sense of graduations, Quite out of place amid Resistance to current exacerbations

Invitation, mere invitation to perceptivity Gradually led him to the isolation Which these presents place Under a more tolerant, perhaps, examination.

By constant elimination The manifest universe Yielded an armour Against utter consternation,

A Minoan undulation, Seen, we admit, amid ambrosial circumstances Strengthened him against The discouraging doctrine of chances

And his desire for survival, Faint in the most strenuous moods, Became an Olympian apathein In the presence of selected perceptions.

A pale gold, in the aforesaid pattern, The unexpected palms Destroying, certainly, the artist's urge, Left him delighted with the imaginary Audition of the phantasmal sea-surge,

Incapable of the least utterance or composition, Emendation, conservation of the "better tradition", Refinement of medium, elimination of superfluities, August attraction or concentration.

Nothing in brief, but maudlin confession Irresponse to human aggression, Amid the precipitation, down-float Of insubstantial manna Lifting the faint susurrus Of his subjective hosannah.

Ultimate affronts to human redundancies;

Non-esteem of self-styled "his betters" Leading, as he well knew, To his final Exclusion from the world of letters.


SCATTERED Moluccas Not knowing, day to day, The first day's end, in the next noon; The placid water Unbroken by the Simoon;

Thick foliage Placid beneath warm suns, Tawn fore-shores Washed in the cobalt of oblivions;

Or through dawn-mist The grey and rose Of the juridical Flamingoes;

A consciousness disjunct, Being but this overblotted Series Of intermittences;

Coracle of Pacific voyages, The unforecasted beach: Then on an oar Read this:

"I was And I no more exist; Here drifted An hedonist."


LUINI in porcelain! The grand piano Utters a profane Protest with her clear soprano.

The sleek head emerges From the gold-yellow frock As Anadyomene in the opening Pages of Reinach.

Honey-red, closing the face-oval A basket-work of braids which seem as if they were Spun in King Minos' hall From metal, or intractable amber;

The face-oval beneath the glaze, Bright in its suave bounding-line, as Beneath half-watt rays The eyes turn topaz.



15 Copies on Japan Vellum numbered 1-15 & not for sale. 20 Signed copies numbered 16-35 165 Unsigned copies numbered 36-200

The initials & colophon by E. Wadsworth.





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