Pound, Ezra. “A Retrospect.” Pavannes and Divisions, 1918.
“In the spring or early summer of 1912 ‘H.D.,’ Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:
- Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ rather than subjective or objective.
- To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
- As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome” (84).
“…the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions… Use either no ornament or good ornament” (85).
“It is not necessary that a poem should rely on its music, but if it does rely on its music that music must be such as will delight the expert” (85).
“Don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs. Don’t make each line stop dead at the end, and then begin every next line with a heave. Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave, unless you want a definite longish pause. In short, behave as a musician, a good musician, when dealing with that phase of your art which has exact parallels in music. The same laws govern, and you are bound by no others” (86).
“A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure; it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all” (86).
“The meaning of the poem to be translated can not ‘wobble'” (87).
“I believe in an ‘absolute rhythm,’ a rhythm, that is, in poetry which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed” (87).
“I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object, that if a man use ‘symbols’ he must so use them that their symbolic function does not obtrude; so that a sense, and the poetic quality of the passage, is not lost to those who do not understand the symbol as such, to whom, for instance, a hawk is a hawk” (87).
“No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life, yet a man feeling the divorce of life and his art may naturally try to resurrect a forgotten mode if he finds in that mode some leaven, or if he think he sees in it some element lacking in contemporary art which might unite that art again to its sustenance, life” (89).
“As for the nineteenth century, with all respect to its achievements, I think we shall look back upon it as a rather blurry, messy sort of a period, a rather sentimentalistic, mannerish sort of a period, I say this without any self-righteousness, with no self-satisfaction” (89).
“Mr. Yeats has once and for all stripped English poetry of its perdamnable rhetoric. He has boiled away all that is not poetic – and a good deal that is. He has become a classic in his own lifetime and nel mozzo del cammin. He has made our poetic idiom a thing pliable, a speech without inversions” (89).
“As to Twentieth century poetry, and the poetry which I expect to see written during the next decade or so, it will, I think, move against poppy-cock, it will be harder and saner, it will be what Mr. Hewlett calls ‘nearer the bone.’ It will be as much like granite as it can be, its force will lie in its truth, its interpretative power (of course, poetic force will always rest there); I mean it will not try to seem forcible by rhetorical din, and luxurious riot. We will have fewer painted adjectives impeding the shock and stroke of it” (89).
“I think one should write vers libre only when one ‘must,’ that is to say, only when the ‘thing’ builds up a rhythm more beautiful than that of set metres, or more real, more a part of the emotion of the ‘thing,’ more germane, intimate, interpretative than the measure of regular accentual verse; a rhythm which discontents one with set iambic or set anapaestic. Eliot has said the thing very well when he said, ‘No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job'” (89-90).