Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
by Ezra Pound
Pound's references to Dionysus are pretty much the main thing that distinguish him from a more starchy, puritan type like T.S. Eliot. While Eliot's "The Waste Land" might rant and rave about the loose sexual morals of the modern world, Pound actually accuses the world of not being sexual enough. That's why Poundy spends a lot of "Mauberley" criticizing all the stuffy Victorian writers (who wrote in 1850-1900) for being way too uptight and never showing any real passion for… well… anything.
Pound's main way of showing passion to us is to talk about Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, sex, and good times. He first mentions Dionysus by name in line 37 of the poem, saying that "Christ follows Dionysus." Or in other words, he's talking about how ancient Greeks worshiped a god of love and sex, while modern people worship Christ, a god of fasting, discipline, and sacrifice. For Pound, it's not a great trade off, either for civilization or the human soul. For the rest of the poem, Dionysus and his followers are stand-ins for the passion and beauty that modern people have forgotten about because they're too busy trying to be cool. One of the reasons people have forgotten these things is because they're too obsessed with more superficial concerns, like money and reputation. For Pound, the modern world would be better if people just learned to let loose a little more.
- Line 37: So modern folks have given up a god of wine and sex for a god of discipline and pain. Pound's not so big on that trade.
- Lines 45: Samothrace is the name of a Greek island that was home to a cult dedicated to beauty and the god Dionysus. Pound's basically saying that Christian beauty is flawed or has "defects" compared to Dionysus and his followers.
- Lines 291-292: The god Eros (god of love) isn't the same as Dionysus, but for the purposes of this poem, they're pretty similar. Here, Pound is saying that human love is a mandate, as in mandatory, as in something you can't disobey. We can try to hide from it all we want. But it's inside us and it'll always come back.