Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ezra Pound, "Portrait d'Une Femme"

Picasso Portrait De Femme (1937)

Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
Great minds have sought you- lacking someone else.
You have been second always. Tragical?
No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
One average mind- with one thought less, each year.
Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.
And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:
Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion;
Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale for two,
Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
These are your riches, your great store; and yet
For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
In the slow float of differing light and deep,
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that's quite your own.
Yet this is you.


  1. ...I have know a few not unlike her: No! there is nothing! In the whole and all, Nothing that's quite your own, i.e. hollow. They live in a kind of dreadful, sterile, limbo with no possibility of redemption (fulfillment) ever.

    ...why i think Ezra is wrong. :)

  2. ...I give you a charm that will reveal to you such d'Une Femme: her voice. It gives lie to all her strange riches as not quite her own.

    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar.

  3. But I really like this line:
    Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
    Hours, where something might have floated up.

  4. I suspect that much of Pound's seeming contempt was directed at members of the Bloomsbury Group (perhaps Viginia Woolf?).

  5. ...the "provenance" if there is unknown to me. Nor do i seek it, a work of art is not a thing to be bounded. :)

  6. ...btw, where is our own d'Une Femme - Jen? Any idea? Her last post and her subsequent silence has been full of suspense. ;)

  7. I can't say for certain, but I suspect it may have been something I said (or didn't say) as a 3rd blog has been listed recently on her profile. We have a long history of both actual disagreements and frequent misunderstandings. I myself, can't imagine why this might be...

  8. Speaking of a lover's tiff... (from Wikipedia)

    In 1945, Beckett returned to Dublin for a brief visit. During his stay, he had a revelation in his mother’s room: his entire future direction in literature appeared to him. Beckett had felt that he would remain forever in the shadow of Joyce, certain to never best him at his own game. His revelation prompted him to change direction and to acknowledge both his own stupidity and his interest in ignorance and impotence:

    "I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding."

    Portrait of Samuel Beckett by Reginald Gray, painted in Paris, 1961 (from the collection of Ken White, Dublin).Knowlson argues that "Beckett was rejecting the Joycean principle that knowing more was a way of creatively understanding the world and controlling it ... In future, his work would focus on poverty, failure, exile and loss – as he put it, on man as a 'non-knower' and as a 'non-can-er.'" The revelation "has rightly been regarded as a pivotal moment in his entire career." Beckett fictionalised the experience in his play Krapp's Last Tape (1958). While listening to a tape he made earlier in his life, Krapp hears his younger self say "clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most...", at which point Krapp fast-forwards the tape (before the audience can hear the complete revelation). Beckett later explained to Knowlson that the missing words on the tape are "precious ally".

  9. Another will to power at work...

  10. ...yes, this tendency in art to remain "true" to life - a kind of "realism", if i may say so - has something "miserable" about it ... in direct contrast to what Dante, Cervantes, Goethe etc. practiced, a certain larger than life conception of art. I think it was this that you were ruing the other day in one of your comments...?

  11. Indeed. There could be no Aphrodite Ourania otherwise. ;)

    By the late 5th century BC, philosophers might separate Aphrodite into two separate goddesses, not individuated in cult: Aphrodite Ourania, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk," born from Zeus and Dione. Among the neo-Platonists and eventually their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania figures as the celestial Aphrodite, representing the love of body and soul, while Aphrodite Pandemos is associated with mere physical love. The representation of Aphrodite Ourania, with a foot resting on a tortoise, was read later as emblematic of discretion in conjugal love; the image is credited to Phidias, in a chryselephantine sculpture made for Elis, of which we have only a passing remark by Pausanias.

    Thus, according to the character Pausanias in Plato's Symposium, Aphrodite is two goddesses, one older the other younger. The older, Urania, is the "heavenly" daughter of Uranus, and inspires homosexual male (and more specifically, ephebic) love/eros; the younger is named Pandemos, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and all love for women comes from her. Pandemos is the common Aphrodite. The speech of Pausanias distinguishes two manifestations of Aphrodite, represented by the two stories: Aphrodite Ourania ("heavenly" Aphrodite), and Aphrodite Pandemos ("Common" Aphrodite)

    In other words, an "active" and "passive" element.

  12. ...yes, though even Aphrodite Pandemos would be out of their reach, i think ... wounded as they are.

  13. Modernism attempted to negate the "higher" and "lower" aspects of culture... through a celebration of the common man. But humans are a horde animal, not a herd one. And some of us don't save something for the "return trip" (Gattacca).

  14. Nietzsche, "Zarathustra"

    Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman- a rope over an abyss.
    A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

    I'm a "leaper".

  15. Then, however, something happened which made every mouth mute and every eye fixed. In the meantime, of course, the rope-dancer had commenced his performance: he had come out at a little door, and was going along the rope which was stretched between two towers, so that it hung above the market-place and the people. When he was just midway across, the little door opened once more, and a gaudily-dressed fellow like a buffoon sprang out, and went rapidly after the first one. "Go on, halt-foot," cried his frightful voice, "go on, lazy-bones, interloper, sallow-face!- lest I tickle thee with my heel! What dost thou here between the towers? In the tower is the place for thee, thou shouldst be locked up; to one better than thyself thou blockest the way!"- And with every word he came nearer and nearer the first one. When, however, he was but a step behind, there happened the frightful thing which made every mouth mute and every eye fixed- he uttered a yell like a devil, and jumped over the other who was in his way. The latter, however, when he thus saw his rival triumph, lost at the same time his head and his footing on the rope; he threw his pole away, and shot downward faster than it, like an eddy of arms and legs, into the depth. The market-place and the people were like the sea when the storm cometh on: they all flew apart and in disorder, especially where the body was about to fall.

  16. ...and here i thought madmen had replaced lepers throughout the world. ;)

  17. Disciplinary societies are in the past, Nicrap... and control societies are out of reach.

    Sovereignty lies in the Isles of the Blessed... that's where I'm sailing.

  18. ...where we rochambeau each other for everything.... ;)

  19. :)

    ...time to hit the sack. ciao.