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Envoi (1919) -- Ezra Pound

In response to yesterday's Waller piece, a guest poem from
Sunil Iyengar ...
(Poem #583) Envoi (1919)
 Go, dumb-born book,
 Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:
 Hadst thou but song
 As thou hast subjects known,
 Then were there cause in thee that should condone
 Even my faults that heavy upon me lie,
 And build her glories their longevity.

 Tell her that sheds
 Such treasure in the air,
 Recking naught else but that her graces give
 Life to the moment,
 I would bid them live
 As roses might, in magic amber laid,
 Red overwrought with orange and all made
 One substance and one color
 Braving time.

 Tell her that goes
 With song upon her lips
 But sings not out the song, nor knows
 The maker of it, some other mouth,
 May be as fair as hers,
 Might, in new ages, gain her worshipers,
 When our two dusts with Waller's shall be laid,
 Siftings on siftings in oblivion,
 Till change hath broken down
 All things save beauty alone.
-- Ezra Pound
There is much to be admired here. Several factors of the poem compel
memorization: the hit-and-miss rhyme scheme, the hypnotically quaint
diction, and (for me) the spondee-driven last line, which resembles,
prosodically, a favorite poem of Pound's: Donne's "The Ecstasy." (The ending
there is "Small change when we're to bodies gone.") The quantification of
"dust" in the third to last line is mesmerizing. And how about "Siftings on
siftings in oblivion," which anyone would thirst to say aloud?

In the context of "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly," the lyric anticipates the
"Mauberly" sequence, which will have more to say on poetic ambition. The
"oblivions" line I have just quoted will resound with this stanza:

  Thick foliage
  Placid beneath warm suns,
  Tawn fore-shored
  Washed in the cobalt of oblivions.

As for the lines "I would bid them live/As roses might, in magic amber
laid," here we have the beginnings of Pound's misgivings about imagism's
preservative function, whether or not it is really "but an art/In profile."
Earlier, he confessed of modern London:

  Beside this thoroughfare
  The sale of half-hose has
  Long since superseded the cultivation
  Of Pierian roses.

Finally, the reference to "Lawes" in "Envoi" speaks to Harry Lawes, the
composer who set Edmund Waller's "Go, lovely rose" to music. Milton wrote of

  Harry, whose tuneful and well-measured song
  First taught our English music how to span
  Words with just note and accent, not to scan
  With Midas' ears, committing short and long....

(To Mr. H. Lawes, On His Airs)

-- Sunil Iyengar


The Waller poem is at poem #582

A Pound biography and assorted details poem #70

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