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Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

"Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is broken into two parts, and the second is sort of a poetic
response to the first. In part one, Pound writes about the "Life and Contacts" of Huey
Mauberley. The problem is that he's trying to make poetry cool again, and the world doesn't
really have any interest in seeing that happen. Mauberley spends most of his twenties
basically "out of key with his time," trying to make people appreciate how great poetry is,
while modern culture just wants something ugly and simple.

In Part Two, Hugh keeps ranting on how great Greek myths are. But people still don't look as
though they're going to start caring any time soon. At the end of the day, Huey was just born a
few centuries too late. But poor Huey (and Pound) forge onward, bravely fighting to make the
dumb modern world take notice and start learning about the great art of its past.

Analysis:

Part two, 1920


Mauberley
Lines 244-247 (ni shmoop ne zna o cemu on ovdje prica)

Lines 248-251 (He talks about how the greatest love of his life was French novelist Flaubert
and how his favourite tool was engraver's tool)
Lines 252-255 (Talks about Pier Francesca, an Italian painter who knew really good
techniques, but didn't paint with a whole lot of color. And about Antonio Pisanello, an Italian
metal worker who didn't have the skill to make the kind of medallions they did in Ancient
Greece. In other words, Pound is laying down example of people who tried to do things as
well as the Greeks a couple thousand years after the fact, and failed. Pound says that people
have lost skill since Greek times.)

Part two, section II


Epigraph (The passage seems to be a bunch of rhetorical questions about modern folks who
don't appreciate true beauty anymore. He asks how these people can know beauty or love if
they don't understand or read poetry or listen to music. The answer, of course, is that they
can't know beauty or love. This is Pound's whole point throughout this poem.)

Lines 260-266 (Pound said that Mauberley was out of step with the world for three years. he's
comparing Mauberley to what musicians would called an "augmented fourth" in the music
scale. Pound calls this note diabolus because medieval folks thought that this kind of note was
connected to the devil. So Mauberley wasn't just out of step with the time he lived in. He was
downright rejected by it (like the devil).
Lines 267-270 ( Pound says that Mauberley "drifted" for a while, probably wondering what he
was doing with his life. Mauberley also hoped that time would sober him up and help him get
rid of his "bewilderment" and to show him what to do next.)

Lines 271-274 (Mauberley drifted through life for a while longer and saw a few beautiful
things (aerial flowers). But he kept drifting and couldn't find one type of beauty to really hang
his hat on and dedicate himself to. And so all of this drifting finally led him to a "final
estrangement."

Lines 275-278 (Mauberley found a way to separate what was hard and true from what was
changing and untrue. Pound also includes the image of a "seismograph," which is an
instrument that lets geologists know exactly what's going on beneath the surface of the Earth.
This instrument seems to represent Mauberley's growing ability to find the truth that underlies
everyday things)

Lines 279-282 (Pound seems to be talking about Mauberley's "fundamental passion," which
has something to do with using language to describe to people the relation between an eye-lid
and cheek-bone.)

Lines 283-284 (Mauberley connecting with beauty was the same thing as studying the ancient
Greeks' definition of beauty)

Lines 285-288 (Mauberley spent some time being totally "unconscious" ("inconscient") or
unaware of the world around him, even as it stared him in the face "full gaze." The mention of
"diastasis" refers to the distance between a person's eyes. Greeks believed that there was a
perfect distance for eyes to be apart from one another. With all of this classic Greek imagery,
Pound is definitely still harping on the fact that there's a fundamental type of beauty that
modern folks have lost connection with.)

Lines 289-292 (Mauberley has spent three years chasing all the wrong things. It took him a
long time to realize all the beauty and love he'd been missing out on because he was ignorant
of classical art.)

Lines 293-296 (Pound might be using the image of biting at empty air to suggest that maybe
all of his ranting and raving is no use, since there's no clear monster or enemy for him to go
after.)

Part two „The Age Demanded“

Lines 297-300 (The title here suggests that Pound is going to come back to the topic of what
the modern age demands from writers. And based on what Pound's said so far, we can
probably assume that the age isn't going to demand anything worthwhile.)

Lines 301-304 (Pound is saying here that seeing beauty is one thing and bringing it into the
modern world is another. Mauberley was able to see beauty for what it was, but he continued
to think that beauty had no meaning for people in the modern world.)

Lines 305-312 (he's basically saying that modern countries should be treated as if they were
works of art, with every individual contributing to make the country beautiful. This belief
would eventually lead Pound to endorse fascism in Italy)

Lines 313-316 (Pound seems to be talking about Mauberley having some sort of trouble with
his dreams of beauty. So far, the fragile whiteness of porcelain has symbolized Mauberley's
experience of beauty. But now there's some vision of a coral island busting in on all of his
daydreams)

Lines 317-320 ( Neka sranja o Nietzsche-u. Ništa bitno.)


Lines 321-324 (Pound is probably saying that there's a nicer, more civil way to talk about
things with people. It's always nicer to invite someone to be more perceptive than it is to call
them stupid and demand that they change)

Lines 325-328 (These lines talk about Mauberley getting some sort of "armour" against total
despair or "utter consternation." Maybe Mauberley's constant rejection from social life
eventually made him tougher.)

Lines 329-332 (Mauberley has to fight against the despair that comes with thinking the whole
world is random and meaningless, just a matter of pure chance. But after realizing that even a
great man like King Minos saw his share of ups and downs, Mauberley can get some
inspiration and feel like there's some grander purpose to any hardships or ups and downs he
experiences in his own life.)

Lines 333-336 (when Mauberley faces certain things in life, his weak desire to live gets
transformed into something else. He still doesn't care that much, but now his indifference
seems like a sign of power instead of weakness. It looks like Mauberley was able to take a
negative (weak desire to live) and turn it into something we might admire.)

Lines 337-341 (Imaginary audition here just means that Mauberley is hearing the noise of the
sea, but only in his imagination. So yeah, it definitely seems like the poor guy is fantasizing
about how awesome life would be if being an artist didn't make him so poor. He's basically
feeling tempted to give up his quest to create beautiful art.)

Lines 342-345 (Mauberley can't do anything for his art while he's still dreaming about coral
islands.)

Lines 346-351 (Mauberley can't really say anything these days other than sorry, since he's
starting to look like a bit of a quitter. It looks like Mauberley can't respond ("Irresponse") to
human aggression. Or in other words, he doesn't even fight back when people are aggressive
toward him. All that Mauberley has left is just enough strength to whisper "save me" to God.)

Lines 352-356 (it seems that Mauberley has acted in an insulting way to anyone who thinks
that modern art has been able to achieve something new.)

Part two, section IV

Lines 357-361 (Mauberley might be realizing that escaping from life as an artist and spending
his days on a tropical island might not be the best course of action. After all, without a goal to
structure his life, he'll have no way of telling the days apart.)

Lines 362-365 (Pound is more or less implying in these passages that discomfort is a crucial
part of being an artist, and that if you're going to dedicate yourself to a life of art, you have to
be ready to be uncomfortable.)
Lines 366-369 (Still more description here of the calm island.)

Lines 370-373 (Now Pound seems to be getting pretty abstract again. He's talking about
Mauberley's consciousness, and says that it's disjunct It could mean that Mauberley is facing a
bit of a dilemma: keep struggling as an artist, or give up and live in peaceful stupidity?)

Lines 374-377 (Mauberley seems to land at a beach he didn't plan on going to


("unforecasted"), and he reads something that's carved into an oar.)

Lines 378-381 (It looks like the person who wrote this message is already dead, since he's
saying that he "was" someone in the past, but no longer exists. This dead person confesses to
being a "hedonist," which basically means a person who dedicates his life to getting pleasure
for himself. This message is actually a warning for what'll happen to Mauberley if he takes
the tropical paradise route and only tries to seek peace and pleasure in life. Basically, it means
that if he tries to escape his struggles forever, he'll just end up as a shallow drifter, a guy who
doesn't care about anything but pleasure.)

Part two, Medallion


Lines 382-385 (No more calm coral islands. Now we're just listening to someone yelling
about someone named Luini. Here, Pound is talking about Bernardino Luini, a painter from
Milan who followed Leonardo da Vinci. The mention of porcelain takes us back to Pound's
earlier references to porcelain, which serves as a symbol for the hard, yet delicate nature of
classic beauty.)

Lines 386-389 (Pound is bringing us back to the image of Venus, who might be his ideal as
far as classic beauty is concerned.)

Lines 390-393 (Pound's definitely trying to close this poem by returning to his ideals of
beauty.)

Lines 394-397 (Pound wants to end the poem with this same image, telling us one last time
that there is definitely such a thing as true beauty, and that we need to get back in touch with
it if we're going to do anything meaningful with our modern art. There might be a lot of easy
roads we could take instead; but for Pound, we have to do what's right and celebrate beauty,
even if the world doesn't appreciate what we're doing.)

Form and meter : Mainly ABAB quatrains with no clear meter

Speaker: The speaker of this poem seems omniscient at times, since it travels across different
times and places. But overall, the speaker is most likely Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, who is a
sort of stand-in for the poet, Ezra Pound

Symbols: Sea-green eyes (Pound mentions them at first, he connects them with a woman
named Elizabeth Siddal, a female model who posed for a 19th-century painting called King
Cophetua and the Beggar Maid.
Pound holds up Elizabeth as a great example of classic beauty, and pays special attention to
her eyes. More importantly, though, he admires how the painting of her has managed to
"preserv[e] her eyes," even after Elizabeth has grown old and died. For Pound, then, these
green eyes stand as a symbol of how great art can preserve something beautiful for hundreds
or even thousands of years. The fact that Pound returns to this image in the poem's final line
suggests that he wants modern art to take up his call and do its best to reconnect with timeless
beauty.

-Tropical Island (The tropical island comes to stand for the road of easy pleasures that
Mauberley is tempted to take. After all, the life of an artist is really tough, especially when no
one appreciates beauty anymore. From line 313 on, this island will keep coming back as a
temptation for Pound's hero. But in the end, the dude is able to resist.)

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