Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Ezra Pound and WWII
By: Dr. Ian S. Gale, MD, JD Ezra Weston Loomis Pound is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry. He was born October 30, 1885 in Hailey, Idaho Territory, United States and died at age 87 November 1, 1972 in Venice, Italy. His grandfather, Thaddeus C. Pound, was Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. Largely unremembered and uncelebrated today, he was an exceptional poet, critic and intellectual who was a major figure in poetry and music in the first half of the 20th Century. He opened a seminal exchange of ideas between American and British writers and generously advanced the work of major contemporaries such as Robert Frost, William Williams, Ernest Hemingway, and especially T.S. Elliot. He also had a profound influence on the Irish writers W. Butler Yeats and James Joyce. His own significant contributions to poetry began with his promotion of Imagism which derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, two of the several languages in which he was fluent. It eschewed traditional rhyme and meter in order to, as Pound put it, “compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome.” Upon meeting him, the the critic Hugh Kenner said of Pound, “I suddenly knew that I was in the presence of the center of modernism.” While he was still a child, his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he entered University of Pennsylvania at the age of 15 and finally received an MA from Penn in Romance philology in 1906. An American expatriate, he moved to Europe in 1908, living first in Venice where he self published his first collection of short poems , A LUME SPENTO, in Italian but then moved to London. In the years before World War I Pound edited his friend, T.S. Elliot’s THE WASTE LAND, the poem which forced Pound’s new poetic sensibility into public attention. In 1915 he published CATHAY, a small volume of poems which he described as “For the most part from the Chinese of Rihaku (Li Po) from the notes of the late Ernest Fenellorosa,and the deciphering of professors Mori and Ariga..” Unlike earlier American translators of Chinese poetry, who used strict metrical and stanza patterns, Pound gave his readers free verse translations because of their ease of diction and conversation. World War I had a profound effect on many writers and poets and shattered Pound’s belief in modern Western civilization, and he left London soon after to move to Paris in 1920, but not before beginning THE CANTOS in 1915, which pointed to his future work. In Paris he moved among a circle of artists, musicians and writers in the world of modern art and surrealist movements. He was close friends with Ernest Hemingway who was to become involved in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican (communist) side. He said to Hemingway later, “Every man of common sense, including the odd British MP, knows that every man of common sense prefers Fascism to Communism, from the moment he learns a few concrete facts about both of them.” During his Paris time he wrote critical prose and translations and composed 2 operas and several pieces for violin. In 1922 he met and began an affair with Olga Rudge, a violinist, which lasted the rest of his life. On October 10, 1924 Pound left Paris permanently and moved to Rapallo, Italy, where he continued to be a creative catalyst, giving the starving young sculptor, Heinz Henges lodging and marble to carve, and he organized an annual series of concerts to perform a wide range of Classical and contemporary music. In particular, his activity contributed immensely to the revival of the music of Vivaldi, who had been neglected since his death. In 1933, he befriended Benito Mussolini and presented him with a draft of XXX Cantos, which Il Duce found “amusing.” Later Mussolini was to ask him to do a series of broadcasts from Rome, which he did. In 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, Pound made his first trip back to United States in many years. He considered making the move permanent, but returned to Italy, largely because he and Olga Rudge had had a daughter, Mary, who had lived in Italy for 16 years since her birth. Pound remained in Italy after the outbreak of World War II and United States’ entry into it in 1941. He made several radio broadcasts from Rome during the war for which he was paid a small sum. He also wrote many newspaper pieces. He disapproved of American involvement in the war and tried to use his political contacts in United States to prevent it. Pound’s radio broadcasts from Rome centered on political and cultural matters, art, patronage and economic theories. He believed economics was the core issue for the war. Specifically, his talks were largely about Jewish usury and that representative democracy had been usurped by bankers’ infiltration of governments through the central banks which made governments pay interest to private banks for the use of their own money. He maintained the central bank’s ability to create money out of thin air allowed banking interests to buy up American and British media outlets to sway public opinion in favor of the banks and the war. Pound was not the first prominent American to expound these views. In 1922 New York City Mayor John Hylan had said “These international bankers control the majority of magazines and newspapers in this country.” Obviously, he touched on several sensitive political issues in his denunciation of the war. Pound’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter said Pound’s broadcasts were a “masterly performance” and that “Certainly there were Americans in 1941 who would have agreed with every word Ezra said at the microphone about the United States government, the European Conflict, and the power of the Jews.” Pound was indicted for treason in 1943 by the United States government. When Allied Forces overran Southern Italy in July 1943, Mussolini was dismissed by King Victor Emmanuel III and interned at the mountain resort of Gran Sasso. However, Mussolini was freed 2 months later by German troops under the command of Otto Skorzeny and moved farther North, where a Fascist Republic was established without the King. Pound was also moved northwards, and, as Mussolini’s puppet regime crumbled on May 3, 1945, Pound was captured by partisans whom he asked to take him to the US Command at Levagna, from where he was transferred to Pisa and spent 25 days in an open cage before being given a tent. He drafted the PISAN CANTOS in the camp which was a meditation on his own and Europe’s ruin and on his place in the natural world. The PISAN CANTOS won the first Bollingen Prize from the Library of Congress in 1949. After the war, Pound was returned to United States to face charges of treason, but the charges only covered the period when Italy and United States were formally at war. That is, before the time the Allies captured Rome. Pound courageously and pointedly told the federal authorities, “You have the power and thus the right to punish me, but I will not allow you to drive me insane.” The United States government faced several problems in prosecuting Pound. First of all, because Italy’s radio broadcasts were so weak, they were unable to prove anyone in United States had actually heard his broadcasts. More importantly, Pound still had a strong following among the artistic and intellectual community in United States, and to have him publicly tried would have given him a forum to expound on his views on the war, Jewish bankers, the media and other hot- button topics. This would have been very much akin to trying the “enemy combatants” of the United States’ current undeclared and unconstitutional “war on terror” against an unnamed and ill- defined foe within the confines of United States. Thus they have been incarcerated at Guantanamo and tried before military tribunals outside the public’s view. A deal was thus made to have his lawyers plead him insane, and he was incarcerated on the psychiatric ward of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC for the next twelve years. Following his release, Pound was asked his opinions on his home country. He famously quipped, “America is a lunatic asylum.” After this he returned to Rapallo, Italy and then to Venice where he remained until his death in 1972. While incarcerated at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Pound commissioned a book SECRETS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE which charged that Jewish bankers in charge of the Federal Reserve and their associates in the Bank of England were responsible for getting United States into both world wars, in an effort to drive up government debt beyond sustainable levels. He advocated abandonment of the present system of money being created by private bankers, and instead, favored government issued currency with no interest to pay, preventing the need for an income tax and national debt, much like the system used by the Pennsylvania Colony from 1723 to 1764. The following audio recordings are available with diligent searching: Pound’s Collected Poetry Recordings, University of Pennsylvania, read by Pound Earth Station 1: Ezra Pound WWII Propaganda Broadcast Audio Ego Scriptor Cantilenae: The music of Ezra Pound, excerpts from 2 operas plus 3 works for solo violin An educational synopsis of the author: Doctor Gale received his MD degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his Doctorate in Law from University School of Law in Columbia, South Carolina, and is a Board Qualified psychiatrist from University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a friend of Dr. William Pierce and is a member of the National Alliance. He first became interested in Ezra Pound while teaching forensic psychiatry to law students at University of South Carolina Law Center.