Why is Pound using a traditional form of poetry: and why for this time? We have had a long peace, and as at the time of writing there is an urge to war. The cost of warre is forgotten, and its tendancy to nasitness, brutality and crippled, short, broken lives among those who survive.

Pound perceived better than he thought. There is a glory in war, true, but those who desire it need to be put in the inner circle of Hades. He feared, correctly, that these ghosts were being stirred up again.

Sestina: Altaforte

LOQUITUR: En Betrans de Born.
Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a stirrer-up of strife.
Eccovi!
Judge ye!
Have I dug him up again?

The scene is his castle, Altaforte. “Papiols” is his jongleur. “The
Leopard,” the device of Richard (Cœur de Lion).

I

Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let’s to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.

II

In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth’s foul peace,
And the light’nings from black heav’n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God’s swords clash.

III

Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour’s stour than a year’s peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah! there’s no wine like the blood’s crimson!

IV

And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And prys wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might ’gainst all darkness opposing.

V

The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth’s won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.

VI

Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There’s no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle’s rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges ’gainst “The Leopard’s” rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry “Peace!”

VII

And let the music of the swords make them crimson
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought “Peace”!

Ezra Pound. from The English Review, 1909

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