Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
by Ezra Pound
With all the talk of World War I and a bunch of modern phonies, hearing about a nice "coral island" on lines 313-316 might strike us as a nice break from Pound's gloominess. But don't be fooled. This is just the kind of easy pleasure that Pound talks about in his earlier references to Ulysses and the Sirens.
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.
The reason Mauberley is able to resist the temptations of an easy life is because he reads a symbolic message that's washed up on the sands of the tropical island. The message reads, "I was/ And I no more exist/ Here drifted/ A hedonist." The message basically says, "Hey, I'm a guy who got a lot of pleasure in life, but now I'm dead and I've left nothing behind except this image." For Pound, though, the point of life is to create something beautiful that can live on after you die.
- Lines 313-316: The sudden interruption of the tropical island "Burst in" on Mauberley's thoughts of porcelain and classic beauty. Wouldn't it be nice to take the easy way out and forget about all this art stuff, Hugh?
- Lines 337-341: Hugh tries to go back to thinking about beauty, but that pesky fantasy of the tropical island keeps coming back. He can even hear the sound of the waves (sea-surge) which destroys his "artist's urge" to keep going in his quest for beauty.
- Lines 357-361: Those islands are back again, but the mention of the word "scattered" reminds us that there's a dark side to taking the easy way out. We lose our sense of direction if we stop struggling against something.
- Lines 362-381: And so Huey keeps wondering if maybe he should just give up the whole art thing and just relax with a pina colada. But in the end, he realizes that if he only looks for pleasure in life without believing in something bigger than himself, his life won't mean anything.