533. Innocence (VIII)
Ezra Pound was a genius poet and he can be read with great profit—and as with any prophet, he was scorned in his own land. However, there are certain deficiencies in his thought connected to his character; and I do not mean to drag up Ezra’s body and put him on trial for “fascism” or, as we might say today, “premature Putinism”. Pound’s fate was set by nominative determinism: Ezra (biblical prophet) Pound (currency, sound as a £; safe as the Bank of England). Hence Pound was fated to be the prophet of sound currency. It was in his blood: his grandfather ran a lumber mill that issued its own currency, so Pound knew all about the free market in money and the perils of thar gubermnt scrip. To close the nominative circle, he married a girl called “Shakespeare”—literally marrying Shakespeare is a canny move for those with an interest in poetic immortality.
The problem with Pound, as with many artists, was his narcissism and egotistical self-aggrandisement. Guénon observed that the poetic or musical mode of thought—the rhythmic mode—was closely associated with the Golden Age, the time when men ruled through harmonious speech. Accordingly, poets are powerful people—though undervalued in the Kali-Yuga. However, the reason poets are undervalued in this age of iron is partly due to their own degradation, not some wilful refusal by the public to admit their genius.
They are degraded because they are egomaniacs who try to impose themselves on reality, rather than working—Taoist style—with its flow. Pound preferred Confucius—the imposer of laws, the big daddy—to Lao-Tse and his gentle feminine course. This was because Pound saw himself as big daddy Kung, pounding sense into sundry dolts and idiots; and yet this was egotism—and the same can be seen in Robert Graves, a poet who spoke on occult matters and yet was a terrible egomaniac.
You can feel Graves impose his “hot take” on the subject, rather than come half way—or even third way—to meet it. When I encountered Graves I thought, “This guy has such an ego.” Sure enough, when I flicked up a YouTube interview with Graves he turned out to be a bitchy narcissist; and Pound, the greater poet, suffers in the same way.
Hence Pound tends to project terribly; his poetry is sound, but when he wants to explicate his “notions” he ends in a mess. He frequently condemns cranks, yet few people were as cranky as Pound with his particular concern for usury. Similarly, he frequently commends Schopenhauer’s essay on style; and yet he fails to abide by Schopenhauer’s recommendations at all—and that is why Pound recommends him so much. Schopenhauer said: speak in your own voice; be simple; be concise; stick to what you know; avoid abstraction, it means you do not really know what you mean. Pound, for his part, produced prose works in which he was hyperbolic, unclear, rambled, and did not speak in his own voice.
This is apparent in Pound’s attacks on usury: Pound is sure usury is bad, yet he is loathe to explain why this is so—and that is a problem because what constitutes “usury” is a much contested issue; it is not self-evident what usury is, yet Pound is not curious about this question. Instead, he does what Schopenhauer warned was a tell for a pseud; he refers to other people to support his anti-usury stance without any simple explication as to why usury is wrong. So it is all “read Jefferson on this pt.”, much as people today say “read Adorno”. Schopenhauer would say: “Mr. Pound, please tell me clearly in your own words what you mean by ‘usury’ and why it is wrong; and please spare me a reference back to the private correspondence of Jefferson, for if you cannot simply describe the problem I must assume you do not actually know what it is or what, if anything, is wrong with it.”