Sunday, April 21, 2013

Light amidst encircling gloom: William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound

Poetry formed by the wars and revolutions of the 20th Centuryand out of their own sense of themselves shines brightly; great poets, occasionally wise; sometimes mad.  Old friends of my soul.


Friedrich Nietzsche (1844- 1900): "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

"Poetry," says Ezra Pound (1965-1972), "consiste of gists and piths."

 "Music rots when it gets too far from the dance. Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music."
Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (1934).

If poetry isn't an art form you are used to, try saying the words aloud. Again. Agin.  Until you vibrate with them.

William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)

The Second Coming 
Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
Are full of passionate intensity. 
Surely some revelation is at hand; 
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. 
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out 
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert 
A shape with lion body and the head of a man, 
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it 
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds. 
The darkness drops again; but now I know 
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, 
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming (1917)

WorldWar I was coming to its
 bloddy, dreary close 
when Yates wrote.

A winding gyre is a device for
controlling a falcon in flight.

The  Winding Gyre is the name
of  a  Batman comic book story:

The Widening Gyre (1983) is also a novel 
 by Robert B. Parker
and his redoubtable hero, Spencer:

To hear the poem with some music and images (more to the point):

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
W. B. Yates, The Lake Isle of Innisfree (1888)

 To hear the poem said by Yeats, go to

The Lake Isle was inspired by
Henry David Thoreau's Walden.

Yeats was a young man working in Fleet Street
when he wrote The Lake Isle.
The poem spoke my very thoughts, 
when I was a young man.
I now live in Hawaii's Lake Isle,
with my doggie and my two jade plants and Abe.
Sometimes I miss Fleet Street.

But not often.

Yates and Ezra Pound spent two winters together in a cabin in Irland.  Pound disliked Yates Vicorian sentimentality, and wrort this poem,a parody? also called

The Lake Isle

O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves, 

Give me in due time, I beseech you, a little tobacco-shop, 
With the little bright boxes
piled up neatly upon the shelves
And the loose fragment cavendish
and the shag, 
And the bright Virginia
loose under the bright glass cases, 
And a pair of scales
not too greasy, 
And the votailles dropping in for a word or two in passing, 
For a flip word, and to tidy their hair a bit. 
O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves, 
Lend me a little tobacco-shop, 
or install me in any profession
Save this damn'd profession of writing, 
where one needs one's brains all the time. 
Many's the time I remembered this Lake Isle:
the 10,000 times I quit smoking;
the 100,000 times I wrote a brief or staute, 
seldom writing
 gists and piths.

Ezra Pound (1885–1972)

Pound lead an eventful life.  I can't do better at summariing it that Wilipedia does.  I quote at length:

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (1885 – 1972) was an American expatriate poet and critic of the early modernist movement. His contribution to poetry began with his promotion of Imagism, a movement that called for a return to more Classical values, stressing clarity, precision and economy of language, and had an interest in verse forms such as the Japanese Haikus. 
Working in London and Paris in the early 20th century as foreign editor of several American literary magazines, Pound helped to discover and shape the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. He was responsible for the publication in 1915 of Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and for the serialization from 1918 of Joyce's Ulysses. Hemingway wrote of him in 1925: "He defends [his friends] when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. ... He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying ... he advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide.
Outraged by the loss of life during the First World War, he lost faith in England, blaming the war on usury and international capitalism. He moved to Italy in 1924, where throughout the 1930s and 1940s, to his friends' dismay, he embraced Benito Mussolini's fascism, expressed support for Adolf Hitler-
 The Italian government paid him during the Second World War to make hundreds of radio broadcasts criticizing the United States, as a result of which he was arrested for treason by American forces in Italy in 1945. He spent months in detention in a U.S. military camp in Pisa, including 25 days in a six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cage that he said triggered a mental breakdown, "when the raft broke and the waters went over me." Deemed unfit to stand trial, he was incarcerated in St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, D.C., for over 12 years.
While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress, triggering enormous controversy. He was released from St. Elizabeths in 1958 and returned to live in Italy until his death. His political views ensure that his work remains controversial; in 1933 Time magazine called him "a cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children." Hemingway nevertheless wrote: "The best of Pound's writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature." [Some elisions.]
Gertrude Stein (The Autobiography of Alie B. Toklas [1933], which if you haven't read you should) visited Pound in St. Elizabeth's; and described his digs as comfortable and him in good spirits.

Sestina: Altaforte
Loquitur: En Bertrans de Born.
  Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a 
  stirrer-up of strife.
  Judge ye!
  Have I dug him up again?
The scene in at his castle, Altaforte.  "Papiols" is his jongleur.
"The Leopard," the device of Richard (Cúur de Lion).


Damn it all!  all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come!  Let's to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah!  when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.


In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth's foul peace,
And the lightnings from black heav'n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God's swords clash.


Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour's stour than a year's peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah!  there's no wine like the blood's crimson!


And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might 'gainst all darkness opposing.


The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth's won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.


Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There's no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle's rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges 'gainst "The Leopard's" rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "Peace!"


And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought "Peace!"
Ezra Pound, Sestina: Altaforte [1909]

Pound, reading:
How I feel, on the odd day.  Still.  At 79.
Should I have learned better?
Have you?
Do I want to?

Ingue D'Oc 

When the nightingale to his mate
Sings day-long and night late
My love and I keep state
In bower,
In flower,
''Till the watchman on the tower
'Up! Thou rascal, Rise,
I see the white
And the night
Flies: [fragment] 
Ezra Pound, Langue D'Oc 
Ancient Music

Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm.
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
   A parody of the Anglo-Saxon poem, Cuckoo Song
Ezra Pound, Ancient Music [1912]

Context for bright lights in the 20th Century. . . .

 Destruction's our delight
     Delight our greatest sorrow!
     Elissa dies tonight and Carthage flames tomorrow.
Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas, Act Three [1688]   

Wars and Casualties of the 20th and 21st Centuries

(slowly extending it back to the 19th century as I find data)
by Piero Scaruffi

160 million people died in wars during the 20th century

(See also Modern Genocides)

TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

1860-65: USA civil war (628,000) 
1886-1908: Belgium-Congo Free State (8 million) 
1898: USA-Spain & Philippines (220,000) 
1899-02: British-Boer war (100,000) 
1899-03: Colombian civil war (120,000) 
1899-02: Philippines vs USA (20,000) 
1900-01: Boxer rebels against Russia, Britain, France, Japan, USA against rebels (35,000) 
1903: Ottomans vs Macedonian rebels (20,000) 
1904: Germany vs Namibia (65,000) 
1904-05: Japan vs Russia (150,000) 
1910-20: Mexican revolution (250,000) 
1911: Chinese Revolution (2.4 million) 
1911-12: Italian-Ottoman war (20,000) 
1912-13: Balkan wars (150,000) 
1915: the Ottoman empire slaughters Armenians (1.2 million) 
1915-20: the Ottoman empire slaughters 500,000 Assyrians 
1916-23: the Ottoman empire slaughters 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks
1914-18: World War I (20 million) 
1916: Kyrgyz revolt against Russia (120,000) 
1917-21: Soviet revolution (5 million) 
1917-19: Greece vs Turkey (45,000) 
1919-21: Poland vs Soviet Union (27,000) 
1928-37: Chinese civil war (2 million) 
1931: Japanese Manchurian War (1.1 million) 
1932-33: Soviet Union vs Ukraine (10 million) 
1932: "La Matanza" in El Salvador (30,000) 
1932-35: "Guerra del Chaco" between Bolivia and Paraguay (117.500) 
1934: Mao's Long March (170,000) 
1936: Italy's invasion of Ethiopia (200,000) 
1936-37: Stalin's purges (13 million) 
1936-39: Spanish civil war (600,000) 
1937-45: Japanese invasion of China (500,000) 
1939-45: World War II (55 million) including holocaust and Chinese revolution 
1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million) 
1946-49: Greek civil war (50,000) 
1946-54: France-Vietnam war (600,000) 
1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million) 
1947: Taiwan's uprising against the Kuomintang (30,000) 
1948-1958: Colombian civil war (250,000) 
1948-1973: Arab-Israeli wars (70,000) 
1949-: Indian Muslims vs Hindus (20,000) 
1949-50: Mainland China vs Tibet (1,200,000) 
1950-53: Korean war (3 million) 
1952-59: Kenya's Mau Mau insurrection (20,000) 
1954-62: French-Algerian war (368,000) 
1958-61: Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (38 million) 
1960-90: South Africa vs Africa National Congress (?) 
1960-96: Guatemala's civil war (200,000) 
1961-98: Indonesia vs West Papua/Irian (100,000) 
1961-2003: Kurds vs Iraq (180,000) 
1962-75: Mozambique Frelimo vs Portugal (10,000) 
1962-75: Angolan FNLA & MPLA vs Portugal (50,000) 
1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million) 
1965: second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir 
1965-66: Indonesian civil war (250,000) 
1966-69: Mao's "Cultural Revolution" (11 million) 
1966-: Colombia's civil war (31,000) 
1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000) 
1968-80: Rhodesia's civil war (?) 
1969-: Philippines vs the communist Bagong Hukbong Bayan/ New People's Army (40,000) 
1969-79: Idi Amin, Uganda (300,000) 
1969-02: IRA - Norther Ireland's civil war (3,000) 
1969-79: Francisco Macias Nguema, Equatorial Guinea (50,000) 
1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000) 
1972-: Philippines vs Muslim separatists (Moro Islamic Liberation Front, etc) (150,000) 
1972: Burundi's civil war (300,000) 
1972-79: Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's civil war (30,000) 
1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000) 
1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million) 
1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million) 
1975-89: Boat people, Vietnam (250,000) 
1975-87: civil war in Lebanon (130,000) 
1975-87: Laos' civil war (184,000) 
1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000) 
1976-83: Argentina's military regime (20,000) 
1976-93: Mozambique's civil war (900,000) 
1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000) 
1976-2005: Indonesia-Aceh (GAM) civil war (12,000) 
1977-92: El Salvador's civil war (75,000) 
1979: Vietnam-China war (30,000) 
1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million) 
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (435,000) 
1980-92: Sendero Luminoso - Peru's civil war (69,000) 
1984-: Kurds vs Turkey (35,000) 
1981-90: Nicaragua vs Contras (60,000) 
1982-90: Hissene Habre, Chad (40,000) 
1983-: Sri Lanka's civil war (70,000) 
1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million) 
1986-: Indian Kashmir's civil war (60,000) 
1987-: Palestinian Intifada (4,500) 
1988-2001: Afghanistan civil war (400,000) 
1988-2004: Somalia's civil war (550,000) 
1989-: Liberian civil war (220,000) 
1989-: Uganda vs Lord's Resistance Army (30,000) 
1991: Gulf War - large coalition against Iraq to liberate Kuwait (85,000) 
1991-97: Congo's civil war (800,000) 
1991-2000: Sierra Leone's civil war (200,000) 
1991-2009: Russia-Chechnya civil war (200,000) 
1991-94: Armenia-Azerbaijan war (35,000) 
1992-96: Tajikstan's civil war war (50,000) 
1992-96: Yugoslavian wars (260,000) 
1992-99: Algerian civil war (150,000) 
1993-97: Congo Brazzaville's civil war (100,000) 
1993-2005: Burundi's civil war (200,000) 
1994: Rwanda's civil war (900,000) 
1995-: Pakistani Sunnis vs Shiites (1,300) 
1995-: Maoist rebellion in Nepal (12,000) 
1998-: Congo/Zaire's war - Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million) 
1998-2000: Ethiopia-Eritrea war (75,000) 
1999: Kosovo's liberation war - NATO vs Serbia (2,000) 
2001-: Afghanistan's liberation war - USA & UK vs Taliban (40,000) 
2002-: Cote d'Ivoire's civil war (1,000) 
2003-11: Second Iraq-USA war - USA, UK and Australia vs Saddam Hussein and subsequent civil war (160,000) 
2003-09: Sudan vs JEM/Darfur (300,000) 
2004-: Sudan vs SPLM & Eritrea (?) 
2004-: Yemen vs Shiite Muslims (?) 
2004-: Thailand vs Muslim separatists (3,700) 
2007-: Pakistan vs PAkistani Taliban (38,000) 
2012-: Iraq's civil war after the withdrawal of the USA (?) 
2012-: Syria's civil war (14,000)
Arab-Israeli wars
I (1947-49): 6,373 Israeli and 15,000 Arabs die
II (1956): 231 Israeli and 3,000 Egyptians die
III (1967): 776 Israeli and 20,000 Arabs die
IV (1973): 2,688 Israeli and 18,000 Arabs die
Intifada I (1987-92): 170 Israelis and 1,000 Palestinians
Intifada II (2000-03): 700 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians
Israel-Hamas war (2008): 1,300 Palestinians

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