Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
by Ezra Pound
Part One, Section X Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Beneath the sagging roof
The stylist has taken shelter,
At last from the world's welter
- Now someone called the "stylist" looks like he's taken shelter underneath a sagging roof. It doesn't sound like the best of situations, especially since the person is "Unpaid" and "uncelebrated." Here, Pound definitely seems like he's talking about the sort of person who might deserve more recognition, but can't get it in the dumb modern world. Maybe Pound just thinks that no one writes with any style anymore, and that people who do don't make any money and have to hang out in flimsy houses.
- So what's this stylist really taking shelter from? According to Pound, this person is trying to get away from the world's "welter." Now if you didn't know it before, this is a useful word. "Welter" means commotion or turmoil, and it also refers to the movement of waves in a stormy sea. So you can just picture this poor stylist huddling up in a house on the beach while furious waves and rain crashing against the walls. It's a pretty effective metaphor for how poorly Pound thinks the world treats people who write with real style.
Nature receives him
With a placid and uneducated mistress
He exercises his talents
And the soil meets his distress.
- Finally, it looks like we're entering a part of the poem where we don't need to know tons of obscure references to know what's going on. Pound is still talking about the situation of the stylist here, and says that "Nature receives him/ With a placid and uneducated mistress." The part about nature receiving him sounds kind of nice, as if nature is saying, "Yes, let's get you away from those terrible modern cities full of terrible modern people."
- On the other hand, nature receives him "With a placid and uneducated mistress." This could mean a couple of things. First, it could literally mean that the world can't give the stylist a girlfriend who's worthy of his intelligence, so the stylist will have to make do with having a "placid" (calm or boring) girlfriend who isn't educated enough to appreciate his work. On the other hand, the "uneducated mistress" here could be a metaphor for nature itself, which is calm and non-judgmental. It's hard to tell.
- And so the stylist goes on exercising his talents, and "the soil meets his distress." Again, it's hard to tell what exactly Pound means by this last phrase. It could mean that the soil of nature causes distress for him, or it could mean that nature helps alleviate his distress. It all depends on how you read the word "meet" in this case. It could mean that the soil "matches" the stylist's level of distress (i.e., meets its standard) or it could mean the soil greets him kindly. Again, it's hard to tell. All we know at this point is that the stylist has no place in the modern world, and needs to retreat from it.
The haven from sophistications and contentions
Leaks through its thatch
He offers succulent cooking;
The door has a creaking latch.
- Now it seems like the stylist's rickety house is actually a "haven" from "sophistications and contentions." Sophistications and contentions here probably refer to all of the phony baloney modern writing that Pound doesn't care about. But even though the stylist might have found a haven, this haven is still "Leaking through its thatch," which means it's not an easy place to live.
- The word thatch here refers to a thatch roof, which is a roof made of hay, and not something you'd associate with anyone who had any money. So it sounds like Pound's a little upset about how terrible a life the stylist has to live just for being a good writer.
- But Pound's not done with his metaphor just yet. He says that even from his leaking house, the stylist "offers succulent cooking." So what are some of the things you might associate with succulent cooking? Maybe nutrition, maybe a good taste?
- Well Pound seems to symbolically use this image to tell us that he still thinks that a true stylist is worth reading, and that reading this person can give us satisfaction, even though we might want to read a trashy novel or watch TV instead.
- And despite whatever nutrition for our souls the stylist might offer, it doesn't change the fact that he lives in a house where the door "has a creaking latch." So no matter how awesome the stylist's writing is (how succulent his cooking is), it can't change the fact that he has to live in miserable poverty because no one cares.