Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

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Poem by Ezra Pound, published in 1920.

The poem begins with an ironic “ode” on Pound's poetic career as seen by his critics at the end of his London period, and continues through 12 parts of the opening section, which presents with complex allusions and varied rhythms the “tawdry cheapness” and degradation of culture in modern civilization, stigmatized as corrupt, commercial, mechanical, and lacking in cultural distinctions. The sources of degradation and sterility are traced from the aesthetics of the Pre-Raphaelites and the fin de siècle writers, and the effects are related to five characters variously symbolic of the times. After an “Envoi” that acts as summation, the themes of the first section are ironically employed in the second section to reveal Mauberley, a passive aesthetic poet, as distinct from Pound, an active creative force, for in this second section Mauberley, the lover of beauty, only drifts through life without a vital understanding of relations to past or present, and leaves as legacy but one poem, “Medallion,” a precise, pedantic, passionless imagistic work.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Ezra Pound (1885—1972) poet