Pound and Waller (“Go dumb-born book”)

Ezra Pound

Edmund Waller

AG: Then (Ezra) Pound (on page one thousand and six). He thinks it [Waller’s “Song”} ‘s so good that it’s his high-water mark, so he wants a... And, in Pound, it’s amazing, it’s one of the few cases in the history of English poetry where somebody made an imitation that’s really just as good as the original, because Pound’s “Envoi” of 1919 is actually as beautiful, I think, as the Waller [“Go, lovely rose]
So “Go dumb-born book’ – but was..  it.. you know..  Pound’s specialty was this long.. was quantitative meter, and so he’s got.. he’s got even heavier than Waller, because he’s going to use this as an example of twentieth-century composing in.. by.. duration of syllable.. and so this, put in, more or less, the form of the Waller, is, not exactly, the same stanza, but it’s some, some similarity of cadence.

And  the beginning is  “Go, dumb-born book..” –  (“Envoi” means sending, so it’s a little letter that he sends, a little note he sends along with the book to his girlfriend, or to whoever he’s going to send this text, because, at the end.. –  “envoi”  is usually at the end of a poem, or at the end of a book, a salutation, “envoi”, sending a letter) – “Go dumb-born book/Tell her that samg me once that song of Lawes” –  (see, that same thing – it isn’t  “Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes”, or “Tell her that sang me once that song ” or “Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes. – It isn’t.. It doesn’t fit into any stress meter. It’s really slow – it’s Tell-her-that-sang-me-once-that-song-of-Lawes” – So his ear is dwelling on the quantity.

Okay, now the one thing I haven’t done, the one thing I haven’t nailed home here, in all this last four months, is an example of a modern text in American-ese where the ear is dwelling on the quantity, on the duration of the syllables, where the entire set-up of the poem is on duration of the syllables, and it can’t be confused with any other measure, and here, finally, is the example, the big genius example, to train your own ear.  If you check out this poem, you’ll begin to hear what it is (that) is meant by the ear, developing an ear for quantity, or developing an ear for duration of syllable – and it’s in that line just as it is in the “Tell her that wastes her time and me” “Tell me that sang me once that song of Lawes’

“Tell me/ that sang me once that song of Lawes/ Hast 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.”

So he really did it in that , I thought  – The great boast, the great Shakespearean boast that we found in…who was the guy that wrote that Sonnet that started it all off..about that thing about  “I’ll-be-remembered-forever” – and this verse will make.,. this verse.. was it Drayton?..  [Michael Drayton – Sonnet VI – “So shalt thou fly above the vulgar throng/Still to survive in my immortal song”] –  or ..whose Sonnet was that?  – Yeah – “Authentic shall my verse in time to come..” – (Samuel Daniel) – (page) 46 – remember? – then, we went to..  we started with that – the immortality boast?  –  “Authentic shall my verse in time to come”.  And then we went to Shakespeare’s “That in black in my love may still shine bright”“So long lives this, and this gives life to thee” “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments/Of princes shall outlive.this powerful rhyme”.  Then I used my own “Plutonian Ode – “My breath near deathless ever at your side to Spell your destiny”, and *from) “Green Automobile”  – “all the time in Eternity/ in the wan light of this poem’s radio/ we’ll sit behind forgotten shades/ hearkening the lost jazz of all Saturdays” And now Pound is saying “Tell 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 worshippers,/ When our two dusts with Waller’s shall be laid” – That’s nice. It directly gives you the Waller  Is this clear? what this is about the…

Student: (He’s telling the muse?)

AG: Yeah. Well, he’s telling the book …see, to go to this girl, who once sang him a song of Henry Lawes (whom we’ve mentioned before) – what does he say about… oh,, Lawes had set to music “Go, lovely rose” !  – Great, I hadn’t noticed that. So we get “Lawes and Jenkyns guard thy rest/ Dolmetsch ever be thy guest”.  So Lawes is a friend of Milton’s father and set Milton’s Comus, to music, and set Waller’s.. Go lovely rose“.. (We’re going to have to get some of Lawes’ music, it’s obvious, to, to show this out -it’ll be really interesting to hear what Henry Lawes did  – the phrasing and movement of which are echoed in this poem 

Well, he’s saying – what? – You go out to this girl – Probably it was… It might have been Olga Rudge that this is addressed to. This might be addressed to Olga Rudge, who was a musician, his girlfriend, who was with him when he died at the age of eighty-three or so, who lived with him in Venice,  who was a concert pianist and worked with him in researching Elizabethan music, and Venetian music, and Renaissance music, which was her specialty. See,he, Pound, revived all this. There was Pound, Arnold Dolmetsch, and a few other people – and Stravinsky – working with some of the musicians and composers of pre-War 1, pre-World War I, and post World War I, Italy and Paris, (who) had began the revival of Renaissance and Baroque music,  and it was Pound who rescued the manuscripts of Vivaldi (including, I think, Vivaldi’s “(Four) Seasons”) from the Ambrosian Library in Milan, and began, you know, promoting them to get performed in Europe. So Venetian music and, I believe, Vivaldi, most of Vivaldi, current manuscripts. and songs that are now being played on WBAI and WQXR in New York – that’s Ezra Pound’s influence. He got all this together. actually.  He recognized… Of course, he realized that the music was missing in the poetry of the nineteenth and early twentieth century and that only until it was restored to music would it take on again the muscle and subtlety and regain all this variancevariation – So he was saying, “O book, if you only had a song as pretty as this girl ” -( “Hadst thou but song/ As thou hast subject known”) – “Then there were there cause in thee” – “were there a cause in thee” – that’s Neo-Platonic language – (then there were a motive in you that would forgive even Ezra Pound’s faults that lie heavy upon him and make a poem that would  show forth her pretty glories forever in longevity  – “And build her glories their longevity”)  – “Tell her that sheds/ Such treasures in the air ”  – (singing, as well as beauty) – “Recking naught else”  –  (thinking of, or, you know, reckoning) – “but that her graces give/ Life to the moment,”  – (not worried about any future or immortality, just trying to be here now, beautiful as she is) – “I would bid them…”  ( I would bid those moments, or I would bid those graces, moments as graces) –  “live/As roses might, in magic amber laid ” – ( that’s really pretty – “magic amber” – you know, a piece of amber, on which you have embedded a bug, or rose, or a flower – “As roses might, in magic amber..”  – ” I would bid them live/As roses might, in magic amber laid” – (that’s already such a pretty, pretty, thing, anyway – roses in amber!) – and, then, further..

“Red overwrought with orange and all made/ One substance and one colour/ Braving time” (that’s a really gifted line).   So that’s “Red overwrought with orange”,  (the description  of roses in amber, it’s the red of the rose), “overwrought” (encased in an orange amber and then solidified, so made “one substance”,  like something in amber, fixed in amber) – and one color,  “braving time” – (outlasting time – it will last a long, long time – just like this poem, just like this poem will last)

And then “Tell her that goes/With song upon her lips/But sings not out the song, nor knows/The maker of it” – (apparently that she was just singing “Go, lovely rose”,  she didn’t know who had written it, and she didn’t know that Ezra Pound knew as much and was as great a poet as Edmund Waller – that was what Pound was going  to show her) – “But sings not out the song, nor knows/The maker of it/some other mouth,/ May be as fair as hers..” – (and that’s really pretty – “may be” -m-a-y b-e – not  m-a-y-b-e, but  m-a-y  b-e – “may be”  – well some other mouth may be as fair as hers, it’s a sort of pun – “some other mouth ” some day may be as fair as hers”, as well as “some other mouth/May be as fair as hers/Might in new ages” – May be as fair as hers/might in new ages – (when they’re all dead – as they are, almost now) – “gain her worshippers – (so now we’re worshipping the beauty manifested in this poem) –  “When our two dusts” – (and that’s the classic) – “When our two dusts with Waller’s shall be laid” – (see that’s the basis of the great prophecy in the poetry – that the poet knows he’s going to die – and his girlfriend’s going die – and  (he) finds a way of saying it, contrasting it with the immortality of the cadence, and the sentiment, and the idea, that he’s laying out in the poem, encasing it in such a cadence that is as durable as amber).

Then,  “Siftings on siftings in oblivion” sounds almost  like the sign on an Egyptian tomb! –
“Till change hath broken down/ All things save Beauty alone” – (whatever that means, that’s really great – Certainly change will break down  iron, brass, pyramids (as I’ve said before), sphinxes, twin-towers,  Naropas, “dissolve and leave not a rack behind  The thing that probably will last long is “hIckery dickery dock/the mouse ran up the clock”,  the thing that will last longest is that cadence, just that.. I guess that’s the point I was getting to at the end of the last term – that breath and cadence probably outlasts pyramids and sphinxes – or archetypal, certain archetypal human rhythms representing love, delicacy. tenderness, fear, anger, probably will outlast any physical manifestation of them (because they’re recurrent, at the bottom)

Student; (Why does Pound refer to it as a “dumb-born book”..? )
AG: I wonder
Student: ( The book doesn’t seem to tell?)
AG: Yeah, actually, it’s the envoi.  I’m not sure, but I think it’s the envoi to “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly“, the group of poems that come before, which is a sort of put-down of European intellectuals, and a farewell to London (which is written, not so much in song meters, but in very intellectual..intellectualized quatrains, and (he’s) making use of very beautiful rhythms but they’re now intellectual spoken rhythms, rather than real delicate song rhythms,  so, at the end, I think, he bursts out into this delicate song rhythm – because what he was trying to do, I think, was write down modern abrupt conversation in that, a sort of.. “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”

So… but at the end.. but that’s just talk really, at the end of that, I think he wanted to have something that was really sculptured, you know, in terms of cadence, a real sculptured cadence.

Student: (So, his comment there)

AG: Yeah, so it goes “Go, dumb-born book”, partly because that little book, like “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly”, was published in two hundred copies…you know..an esoteric caviar for a couple of hundred readers in those days, and privately printed in a pretty edition in… I don’t know.. I don’t know where it was originally printed, actually.. I think it was in some very… well… Hound and Horn or Transition magazine, or something like that. And then probably, in England in some small edition – “dumb”,  in that sense. And also, the notion of the verse form is more conversational rather than song.

{Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-five minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy minutes in] 

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