Friday, November 25, 2016

Henry Fuseli and Ezra Pound

Henry Fuseli
Poet Observing Nerea with her New Lover in her Grotto
ca. 1810-13
oil on canvas
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Cave of Nerea,
         she like a great shell curved,
And the boat drawn without sound,
Without odour of ship-work,
Nor bird-cry, nor any noise of wave moving,
Nor splash of porpoise, nor any noise of wave moving,
Within her cave, Nerea,
                                      she like a great shell curved
In the suavity of the rock,
                                              cliff green-gray in the far,
In the near, the gate-cliffs of amber,
And the wave
                                  green clear, and blue clear,
And the cave salt-white, and the glare purple,
                          cool, porphyry smooth,
                          the rock sea-worn.
No gull cry, no sound of porpoise,
Sand as of malachite, and no cold there,
                          the light not of the sun.

"Pound was a pirate, and plundered selected texts as if they were captured ships. He embraced principles he rarely if ever practiced (like the vague admonishments of "Imagism"), maneuvered both behind the scenes and in front of the lights, always in support of "modernism," a movement in his own case oddly made of pagan materials, medieval mannerisms, and Swinburnean swan song. Eventually, form went one way and content another, the meter was thumped on a tub, and the message pasted like a label to the snake oil he was selling. When his work was right, it was as pure as a line drawn by Matisse. It possessed the pleasure of a sweet, long-empty song  monotonous, incantatory, sybaritic  descriptive of what was not, or was no longer, or had been at one time written of, and sounding as if it had been overheard while being whispered through the pages of the past like an echo from Nerea's cave . . ."

 the lines are from Canto XVII by Ezra Pound, with commentary by William H. Gass