Study Guide

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Summary

"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 good ol' Huey Mauberley. Now Mauberley is a fine enough guy. 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.

So 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, or "an image of its accelerated grimace." It's like trying to explain to kids today how funny Woody Allen is. It doesn't matter how right you are; it's tough to make people care.

But at the same time, Pound isn't totally satisfied with returning to the past. In section V of Part One, he actually goes on at length about how the Victorians (who lived around 1840-1890) were a bunch of stuffy weenies with no passion. No, Pound is interested in the mixture of classic beauty and intense passion (usually sexual and violent) that you find in the world of Greek myths.

In section IX of Part One, Pound also rants about a conversation that his character Huey once had with a bestselling novelist. As it turns out, the novelist's books only sell out because he is a sellout, who cares more about what his reviewers think than the quality of his work. For Pound, this is one of the biggest reasons for why mass culture will never be able to produce great art. The artists and publishers only care about sales.

In Part Two, Hugh keeps ranting on how great Greek myths are. But guess what? 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 (or millennia) 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. Yeah, good luck with that, guys.

  • Epigraph

    "Vocat aestus in umbram"
    --Nemesianus, Ec. IV.

    E.P. Ode pour l'Election de Son Sepulchre

    • So here we go. Pound starts off Part One of "Mauberley" by giving us an inscription and some sort of section header. The inscription is quoted in Latin from the "Fourth Ecologue" of Nemesianus, a third-century Latin poet, and it translates as "The heat calls us into the shade." 
    • We tend to think of ourselves as "feeling the heat" when we're under pressure or stressing about something; so whatever heat Pound's talking about here is something he's probably going to elaborate on as the poem continues. But for now, we know that there's basically something bugging him that has provoked him to write this poem. 
    • Now for that section header. The thing is written in French and translates as "Ode on the choice of his tomb." Now the idea of someone choosing a tomb to die in is a little more pessimistic than Pound's inscription. But then again, we could interpret this as a dark way of thinking about going "into the shade." The poem could even be a suicide note of sorts, a last farewell from a guy who's had enough of the world (for some reason that hasn't been explained to us yet). In any case, we'll just have to keep reading to see why the speaker of the poem (Huey Mauberley) would be so upset that he wants to pick out a tomb at Tombs R' Us. Or better yet, maybe iTombs? 
    • Oh yeah, and those initials? E.P. Yeah, they stand for Ezra Pound. So from this point on, we're just going to go ahead and talk about Pound and Mauberley interchangeably. Pound makes it pretty clear that Mauberley is just a fictional version of himself that he uses for making his points about the modern world. How so? Read on…
  • Part One, Section I

    Lines 1-4

    For three years, out of key with his time,
    He strove to resuscitate the dead art
    Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime"
    In the old sense. Wrong from the start—

    • Well the first three words are straightforward enough. Who ever said this Pound guy was tough to read? Just kidding. It gets harder, but right off the bat, we realize that whomever the poem is talking about (probably Hugh Mauberley) was "out of key with his time" for three years. In other words, Hugh spent three years feeling like he wasn't totally in sync with the world around him. He was "out of tune" in the same way this hilarious piano is. 
    • So why did Huey feel so out-of-place? Well, mostly because he "strove to resuscitate the dead art/ Of poetry." This line isn't all that tough to figure out, since most of us know that poetry isn't really read as widely as it was back in the day. Even in Pound's time, poetry didn't have the same status it once had. So Huey Mauberley thought he could bring it back and make it relevant again. We can probably already tell that the effort didn't work out all that well. 
    • The poem tells us that Huey wanted to maintain "'the sublime'/ In the old sense." And he's not talking about a bunch of reggae rockers who used to play back in the '90s. He's actually talking about a feeling of the sublime, which means a feeling of being totally overwhelmed by the beauty of a work of art. Pound associates this kind of feeling with a bygone time ("in the old") sense. And the phrase "Wrong from the start" tells us that Huey might have been a little naïve thinking that he could make poetry cool again. 
    • It's also interesting to notice in this first stanza that Pound is using a fairly classic quatrain rhyme scheme of ABAB. As far as poetic form goes, it doesn't get much plainer than that. But the rhyme scheme might also be his way of giving a shout-out to classic poetry, which Hugh wishes he could bring back to the modern world. 
    • That said, the meter inside each of the lines doesn't really go smoothly at all. The first line even sounds like it's made completely out of stressed syllables, which gives it a smash-smash-smash quality: ("For three years, out of key…"). This aspect could reflect Pound's frustration and aggression, even as he tries to mimic a classic quatrain.

    Lines 5-8

    No, hardly but, seeing he had been born
    In a half savage country, out of date;
    Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
    Capaneus; trout for factitious bait;

    • When Pound writes, "No, hardly but," he's just finishing his thought from line 4, and saying that Huey didn't stand much of a chance of rejuvenating the art of poetry. After all, the poor guy "had been born/ In a half savage country." But what barbaric, non-poetic country is Pound talking about here? He's actually talking about the United States, which is where Pound was born, and which Pound fled from to move to Europe when he had finished university (remember; we're talking about Pound and Mauberley as the same dude here). As you might guess from these lines, Pound didn't think that classical art or "culture" could find much of a place in the United States, which he saw more as a country of filthy cowboys. 
    • We learn at the end of line 6 that poor Huey was "out of date" for his time. He was a guy who wanted poetry to be important even though he was a few centuries too late. But for three years he kept trying to "wring lilies from the acorn." So how could you get something beautiful like lilies from a hard little acorn? The answer is that you can't, and that's why it was so naïve for Mauberley to think he could get something beautiful (great art) from something so ugly (America). 
    • In line 8, Pound compares Huey to Capaneus, who was a warrior in Greek mythology. Old Capaneus and six of his warrior buddies decided that it'd be cool to attack the city of Thebes to show how strong they were. The god Zeus though Capaneus was a little too cocky though, and killed him with a lightning bolt. So this comparison might show Pound admitting that maybe Hugh (and maybe Pound) was a little cocky for thinking he could change the world. 
    • The final phrase of this second stanza is a bit of a noodle-scratcher. When Pound says "trout for factitious bait," he seems to be talking about fish swimming after bait. This might be like Pound or Hugh going after a lofty goal. But the word "factitious" means artificial or unnatural, which might even mean that Huey's goal of changing the world through poetry was never realistic to being with. It was just a fantasy that wasn't worth pursuing, like artificial bait. 
    • Let's not forget that Pound's telling this poem in hindsight, and is suggesting to us that Huey has already failed.

    Lines 9-12

    Idmen gar toi panth, os eni Troie
    Caught in the unstopped ear;
    Giving the rocks small lee-way
    The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

    • Does line 9 look a little weird to you? Well if not, then you speak perfect Ancient Greek. Seriously though, the line translates as "For we know all things suffered in Troy," and it's the first line of the Sirens' song in Homer's Odyssey. The Sirens, you see, were these beautiful women who hung out on some rocks singing a really pretty tune that tricked sailors into sailing straight into the rocks. 
    • In the Odyssey, though, Odysseus was able to resist the Sirens because he got his shipmates to tie him to the mast of the ship while everyone else poured candlewax into their ears to stop their hearing. But here, it looks like Pound's making a comparison between Odysseus and Mauberley. He says that Mauberley had an "unstopped ear," which means there was probably something that tempted him really badly during the three years Pound is talking about. It had to be something that would lead him off-course, away from his goal of reviving poetry in the modern age. 
    • Line 10 suggests that Mauberley almost gave into his temptation, since it says that he almost sailed into the Sirens' rocks (gave them "small lee-way"). So for "that year," Pound writes, the "chopped seas" held onto him. We can tell from the chopped seas that Hugh was involved in some sort of conflict, since that's what we usually associate with rough sailing weather. 
    • So altogether, it seems that Hugh spent a year sort of flirting with his temptation. The fact that this temptation is connected to the figure of the beautiful Sirens might suggest that Hugh got distracted from his poetic quest by sex and women—which makes sense, really. He wouldn't be the first.

    Lines 13-16

    His true Penelope was Flaubert,
    He fished by obstinate isles;
    Observed the elegance of Circe's hair
    Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials

    • Anyone know who Penelope is? She was the wife of Odysseus, the main character of Homer's Odyssey. How about Flaubert? He was a French novelist Gustave Flaubert, who wrote around 1860 and is considered one of the greatest novelists ever. So it looks like while Hugh was wandering his way through the world, his great love was the novelist Flaubert. 
    • Despite his dedication to Flaubert, though, Hugh "fished by obstinate isles." The word obstinate here means stubborn, so the line might mean that Hugh symbolically fished in places that didn't give him very much to live on. Whatever he was looking for in life, he only got small bits of it, if anything at all. It's still pretty vague what Pound's getting at with all of this Homer imagery. 
    • The next line continues with the Homer stuff and says that Hugh "Observed the elegance of Circe's hair." Now Circe was a sort of sorceress-temptress who delayed the hero Odysseus from getting home to his wife, Penelope. So this line might mean that rather than focusing on the important things, Hugh let himself get distracted by superficial things (and maybe sexual things) while he should've been trying to write good poetry. 
    • The final line suggests that instead of looking at girls and feeling horny all the time, Hugh should have paid more attention to "the mottoes on sun-dials." Now this is a super-obscure reference to the craft of sun-dial making. To refresh your memory, a sun-dial is a sort of clock that tells time based on the position of the sun in the sky.
    • Now traditionally, the folks who made sundials would put some sort of motto or poetic statement on them that commented on the meaning of life and all that deep stuff. These mottoes could often be very beautiful pieces of short poetry that made people reflect on their own mortality or the passing of time. But instead of paying attention to these deep, beautiful things, Hugh Mauberley spent his time chasing girls.

    Lines 17-20

    Unaffected by "the march of events,"
    He passed from men's memory in l'an trentiesme
    De son eage; the case presents
    No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.

    • Line 17 tells us that Hugh lived his life without being affected by "the march of events." The fact that Pound puts the phrase "march of events" in quotation marks suggests that he's quoting someone here. Different people have used the phrase at different times, but judging by the fact that Pound was writing in 1920, he was probably quoting American President William McKinley in The Treaty of Paris, which was signed in 1898. 
    • The Treaty of Paris came at the end of the Spanish-American War and gave the states control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and parts of the West Indies. In the treaty, President McKinley wrote that "the march of events rules and overrules human action," basically saying that history was governed by fate. Pound was fifteen years old when McKinley wrote this, and he might have had a strong reaction against it as an ambitious young man who didn't want fate to decide anything for him. 
    • So what we know is that Hugh Mauberley didn't really pay attention to larger historical developments (the march of events).
    • So instead of keeping up with the times, he passed out of people's memory when he was only "thirty years old" (or in French: l'an trentiesme/ De son eage). 
    • So Pound tells us that Mauberley's life presented "no adjunct" to the "Muses' diadem." Clear enough? As with all things Pound, no, that's not clear at all. So let's break it down. The muses were mythical figures who inspired people to write great poetry, and their "diadem" was the crown each of them wore. So to say that Mauberley's life presented no "adjunct" to these Muses and their crowns is Pound's way of saying that Mauberley's life added nothing important to human culture or history.
    • So in other words, Mauberley might have talked a big game about making poetry beautiful again. But it wasn't like this guy wrote or said anything Earth-shattering himself. 
    • This is kind of funny, since Pound would go on to transform the face of 20th-century literature. But hey, maybe the guy was a little insecure about how much change he'd actually be able to bring about.
  • Part One, Section II

    Lines 21-24

    The age demanded an image
    Of its accelerated grimace,
    Something for the modern stage,
    Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

    • Now Pound's telling us about what "the age demanded" when Huey Mauberley felt so out of place. Mauberley, remember, wanted to revive some sense of classic beauty through poetry. But if the modern age demands "an image/ Of its accelerated grimace," it seems like they're not interested in beauty at all, only conflict (Jersey Shore, anyone?).
    • For Pound, the modern world is a world where classic beauty has gone away and all that's left is a cheap sort of ugliness to everything. Better yet, this trend seems to get worse as each day goes by. So it makes sense that he would show us this ugliness through the image of a "grimace." The fact that the grimace is "accelerated" might mean that it's rapidly getting worse. 
    • In the last line of this quatrain, we read, "Not, at any rate, an Attic grace." Attic here is a word that means things that come from Athens, Greece, which is sort of the birthplace of great Western art (think marble statues). Don't forget that the poet Homer came from around there, too. So this quatrain basically seems to be telling us that Mauberley didn't fit in with the modern world because the modern world demanded cheap and ugly entertainment an accelerating rate. It definitely wasn't interested in the stuff that Huey (Pound) was, like classic Greek ideas of beauty.

    Lines 25-28

    Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
    Of the inward gaze;
    Better mendacities
    Than the classics in paraphrase!

    • So we know that the modern world is looking for some sort of cheap, ugly entertainment. What it doesn't want is "the obscure reveries/ Of the inward gaze." So what's that, then? Well, an inward gaze is basically when you look inside yourself and try to figure out things about yourself that may be hidden at first. Or in other words, the modern world doesn't care about anything that tries to make people think deeply about their lives. 
    • A poet like Pound (or Mauberley) might take it for granted that it's a poem's job to give us an "inward gaze" and to make us take a long hard look at ourselves and the world we live in. But the modern world thinks that this sort of thing is just pointless, a stupid dream or "obscure reverie." The modern person would always ask, "How is thinking about my life going to make me any money?"
    • So what's this bit in line 27 about "Better Mendacities"? Well the dictionary says that "mendacity" basically means a lie or a false statement. So if the modern world is looking for "Better lies," then it's not looking for art that'll reveal the truth of the world. It's looking for art that'll take people far away from the world, to a land where they don't have to think about their boring jobs or their empty lives.
    • With the last line, Pound says that the modern world wants better lies than "the classics in paraphrase!" 
    • The exclamation mark means that someone's pretty excited or pretty angry about this last line. But if Huey Mauberley wanted to bring back the classics, then why does the world want "better lies" than the classics in paraphrase? Well, the experienced Shmoopers out there will know that paraphrase means giving a short summary of something. So Pound might actually be making fun of modern readers here, saying that the only way you'd ever get them to read the classics is if you got them to read the paraphrased versions. 
    • But even these paraphrased classics aren't good enough for the empty, superficial modern reader, who demands a "better lie" than a paraphrased classic. The modern reader a story that's crafted skillfully enough to make him/her totally forget about life and escape into the story. Now some of us might think that's awesome, but Pound wasn't impressed. He wanted literature to heighten our sense of the world around us, not numb it. But that's exactly what he saw modern literature doing.

    Line 29-32

    The 'age demanded' chiefly a mould in plaster,
    Made with no loss of time,
    A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
    Or the 'sculpture' of rhyme.

    • So it looks like the modern world is more interested in making things out of plaster instead of something called "alabaster."
    • Well if you look up the two words, you'll find that plaster is basically a cheaply made substance that you can shape into whatever you want for low cost (think papier mâché). The only downside is that it isn't all that durable. Alabaster, on the other hand, is more durable and lets you work with more detail, but more time-consuming and more expensive (think classic Greek statue).
    • The use of the word "mould" in line 29 is also really important, since using a mould is totally different than using your hands to sculpt something beautiful. With a mold, you just pour liquid plaster into a pre-made mold and make the same statue over and over again quickly and with little cost (here's one for a Smurf statue). With a rock like alabaster, you have to actually sculpt each statue you make as a totally unique thing, and it takes a lot of time and money. 
    • So guess which option is a better symbol for the modern age, according to Pound? You got it: quick and easy plaster, which you can use to make something "with no loss of time." 
    • We see on line 31 that the modern world wants a "prose kinema." Kinema here is basically another word for "cinema," as in the movie theater, which was getting more and more popular in the 1920s. The fact that Pound links the movie theater with prose (the opposite of poetry) lets us know that he links the dumbing-down effects of movies with people's desire to read trashy novels instead of classic poetry. 
    • And all of this trashy movie and novel stuff is what the modern audience looks for instead of the craft, or "sculpture" of rhyme. But how is rhyme like a sculpture? Well if you think about it, the poet painstakingly tries to chisel the right word out of every line, chipping away at this and that until the line is like a polished stone, totally finished. Now that might sound really beautiful, but as Pound tells us, we modern folks are probably more interested in movies or trashy novels.
  • Part One, Section III

    Lines 33-36

    The tea-rose tea-gown, etc.
    Supplants the mousseline of Cos,
    The pianola 'replaces'
    Sappho's barbitos.

    • In this quatrain, we hear about how the "tea-rose tea-gown, etc." supplants or replaces the "mousseline of Cos." You can probably already tell from Pound's tone that this is going to be an example of something trashy replacing something beautiful from the past, and you're right. "Cos" is a Greek island that was famous in Roman times for the beautiful muslin material it created (here's a look at some muslin). But in the modern world, this beautiful fabric gets symbolically replaced by some sort of flashy, cloth-made tea-gown (maybe like this). 
    • The next two lines pretty much rehash this same idea about modern convenience replacing classic beauty, as the "pianola" replaces "Sappho's barbitos." The pianola is what people might also call a "player piano," which means a piano that can play a song by itself (check it out here). As you might imagine, this totally takes the skill out of piano playing, just like using a mold for statues takes the skill out of modern sculpture. Worse yet, the thing the pianola is replacing is the poetry or "barbitos" of Sappho, a 6th-century B.C.E. poet whom Pound seems to think is a model of classic poetic beauty
    • Anyone starting to see the contrast between classic beauty and modern ugliness yet? Because old Poundy is laying it on pretty thick.

    Lines 37-40

    Christ follows Dionysus,
    Phallic and ambrosial
    Made way for macerations;
    Caliban casts out Ariel.

    • Lots of us probably know who Christ is, but what about Dionysus? He was the Greek god of wine and passion. Now Christ liked his wine, too, but only when it'd been turned into his own blood. So yeah, there's a bit of a difference between a god that parties and a god who dies on the cross. But while you might think that Pound would favor Christ over Dionysus, it's actually the other way around. Pound is upset that Christ's model of self-sacrifice has overtaken Dionysus' model of passion. 
    • In this world, people don't have time anymore for true passion, which for Dionysus is connected to the penis (that's what "phallic" means) and strong beverages ("ambrosia" is another name for the wine of the gods). But in the modern world, says Pound, true passion has "Made way for macerations." Maceration basically means to waste away and become thin, usually from hunger. And yeah, it turns out he's not a huge fan. 
    • But before we move on, we need to bring up an interesting point. Up until now, it's seemed like Pound's biggest problem is the modern world's lack of discipline and its failure to appreciate classic beauty. But now, he seems to say that the problem with the modern world is that it doesn't understand true passion anymore. 
    • In this situation, he also makes the comparison of Caliban casting out Ariel. These two characters are from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Caliban is a sort of ugly monster and Ariel is a beautiful water-fairy. So yeah, Pound's just laying down another contrast to illustrate the ugliness of the modern world casting out the beauty of classic art.

    Lines 41- 44

    All things are a flowing,
    Sage Heracleitus says;
    But a tawdry cheapness
    Shall outlast our days.

    • Anyone know who Heracleitus was? Well he was this Greek philosopher from back in the day (and by back in the day, we mean like 2500 years ago) who's really famous for saying that everything in the world is constantly changing. He symbolized this idea with the phrase, "You can't step into the same river twice," which is what Pound seems to be alluding to with "All things are a flowing." 
    • In saying this, Heraclitus meant that since the water in a river is always flowing, you can never step into the exact same river you stepped into in the past. For Heraclitus, this is what life is like. Every moment is always slipping away from us, and we can't hold onto it. 
    • For Pound, though, there's no comfort to be had in the idea that everything is flowing. Even though the world is full of change, Pound pessimistically says that the "tawdry cheapness" of modern life "Shall outlast our days" or continue on after we're dead.
    • This should make us sad, because even though Pound hates the ugliness of modern life, he's also convinced that it's too strong a force to stop. And in hindsight, he was probably right. After all, Dan Brown sells a lot more books today than Homer does.

    Lines 45- 48

    Even the Christian beauty
    Defects—after Samothrace;
    We see Toh Kalon
    Decreed in the market place

    • You might remember that a few lines ago, Pound said he wasn't all that happy about the symbol of Christ taking over for the passion of Dionysus. But now, he says that even whatever beauty the Christian religion once had "Defects" in the modern world. Defect here basically means changing teams in the middle of a battle. So here, Pound seems to admit that Christianity has some beauty in it, but it has "defected" in the modern world. Now we're not totally sure yet what "team" it has changed sides for, but Pound will tell us soon. 
    • But what the heck does Pound mean by saying "after Samothrace"? Well to get this, you have to know that Samothrace is a Greek island that's associated with the god Dionysus and the cults that celebrated him. So this phrase basically mirrors the one in line 37, where Pound says "Christ follows Dionysus." He's saying here that even though Christ has come after Dionysus in history (or after Samothrace), even Christian beauty has sold out to the modern world. 
    • In the modern world, says Pound, we still see "Toh kalon/ decreed in the market place." Toh Kalon is Ancient Greek for "beauty," so Pound seems to say that modern folks still talk about beauty. The problem, though, is that people talk about beauty "in the market place." So what's the problem with that, you might ask? Well, Pound seems to imply here that people's idea of beauty in the modern world is determined by market forces. 
    • In other words, he's talking about the rise of advertising and consumer culture in the 20th century. In consumer culture, a piece of art can't have any sort of essential beauty anymore. It can only have market value, which depends entirely on how much money people are willing to spend on it. At this point in the poem, Pound doesn't sound like the biggest fan of consumer culture, or the idea that the value of something is determined by money instead of beauty.

    Lines 49-52

    Faun's flesh is not to us,
    Nor the saint's vision.
    We have the press for wafer;
    Franchise for circumcision.

    • Whatever "faun's flesh" is, Pound's saying it doesn't have much to do with us modern folk. You shouldn't be surprised by this point that Pound is whipping out another classical reference here. Basically, a faun is a mythical creature that's sort of like a human with goat's legs and a goat's horns. And here's the kicker: they're commonly associated with the god Dionysus and with wine. So once again, it looks like Pound is bringing up this image of classical passion, only to say that we modern folks have no connection to it. 
    • On top of this image of Dionysian passion, Pound also brings in a Christian image in line 50 and says modern folks don't have anything to do with "the saint's vision" either. So, in other words, we've traded away the passion of classic Greece for Christian spirituality. But we don't even have the saint-like "vision" or clearness of mind that Christianity is supposed to give us. 
    • So now that Pound has spent a dozen or so lines telling us how lame we are, it's time for us to ask: "Why don't we have Greek passion or Christian wisdom?" And for an answer, Pound talks about how we create a mold or "press" to make communion "wafers" for Catholic church services. He follows this image by saying that circumcision (a sacred ritual for Jewish people) is now performed by franchises.
    • So what's so wrong with a press for communion wafers or a franchise for circumcision? Well Pound is suggesting that a communion wafer is supposed to be a sacred object—literally, Catholics believe that it's the body of Christ. So it's hard to think of these wafers as the body of Christ when you've got someone in a back room churning them out on a press. 
    • Similarly, it's hard to think about circumcision as a sacred rite of passage for Jewish people when you think about Jewish companies starting up and giving you a 10% discount on your third child's circumcision. Like he says earlier, Pound is basically saying that the money-driven world of consumer culture robs things of their sacredness and their beauty, and this is his biggest problem with the modern world.

    Lines 53-56

    All men, in law, are equals.
    Free of Peisistratus,
    We choose a knave or an eunuch
    To rule over us.

    • In line 53, Pound seems to be alluding to all our fancy modern ideas about people being totally equal. Line 52 mentions an ancient Greek tyrant named Peisistratus only to say that modern people are "free" from this kind of oppression. Now that might make us feel pretty good, because we're all like, "Yeah, our modern world might be bad in some ways; but at least we're free." Well Pound's not finished yet. Because what do we do with all of our awesome freedom? According to Pound we just "choose a knave or a eunuch/ To rule over us."
    • Here, it definitely seems like Pound isn't all that impressed with the types of people who get elected in democratic elections.
    • We feel all good about democracy, but for Pound, we always elect idiots (knaves) or men who literally and symbolically have no testicles (eunuchs) as our leaders. So yeah, don't bother making the whole "Democracy is great" argument against Pound, because he's not buying it.

    Lines 57-60

    O bright Apollo,
    Tin andra, Tin eroa, Tina theon
    What god, man, or hero
    Shall I place a tin wreath upon!

    • Pound closes section III of Part One of Mauberley with what looks like a direct call to Apollo, god of the sun and truth (which explains why he calls Apollo "bright"). The next line is actually written in ancient Greek again, and it translates as "What man, what hero, what god." Pound actually cuts us some slack on this one and gives this same translation himself in line 59.
    • But what's all this about a tin wreath in line 60? Pound wants to put a tin wreath on someone or something, but he's not sure what. Well the fact that the wreath is made of tin make it a little less impressive than gold. So maybe Pound's saying that anything we celebrate in the modern world isn't quite as glorious as the "golden" things of the old days. 
    • But also, he seems to actually be asking what in the modern world is worth celebrating. The question could totally be rhetorical, and Pound might actually mean that there isn't anything left celebrating. But the question could also be an actual question, and he could be genuinely asking what's left in the world to celebrate. It's unclear at this point.
  • Part One, Section IV

    Lines 61-62

    These fought in any case,
    And some believing, pro domo, in any case ..

    • At first glance, you might think there's something a little different about this section, and that's because for the first time in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," Pound has broken from his classic quatrain (four lines, ABAB rhyming—check out "Form and Meter" for more). Instead, Section IV starts us with two lines and a weird sort of ellipsis that means "yadda yadda yadda…" 
    • The lines are about people fighting "in any case," which suggests that these unnamed people fought in spite of something. But we don't know what yet. Readers of Pound's time would have probably known right away, though, that he was talking about "The Great War" or World War I, since it ended only two years before Pound wrote "Mauberley." 
    • When Pound says "in any case" here, he might be referring to what he's written so far about the modern word. In other words, he might be saying that the soldiers in WWI fought even though there's not much in the modern world worth fighting for. 
    • In the next line (62), Pound gives us a further hint about what he means when he says that soldiers fought believing in "pro domo." Pro domo is Latin for "for home." So he's saying that soldiers fought and died in World War I out of love for their homelands. But Pound is trying to ask us if their sacrifice was worth the crummy world they were fighting for, and leaves us with this thought by ending on an ellipsis.

    Lines 63-68

    Some quick to arm,
    some for adventure,
    some from fear of weakness,
    some from fear of censure,
    some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
    learning later…

    • In these lines, Pound starts talking about adventure, fear of weakness, fear of censure, and so on. And after a few seconds, it starts to become clear that he's giving us a short list of all the reasons why guys were rushing to sign up for World War I. 
    • Some had no clue what they were getting into, and wanted a sense of "adventure." Some were afraid of feeling like they were weak ("fear of weakness"); or worse yet, some were afraid of being "censured" and getting called a chicken by their friends and neighbors. Some might have even gone off to war because, in their "imagination," the thought of killing someone was really cool. But Pound ends the stanza with "learning later…," which means that the war didn't end up being what these guys thought it would be.

    Lines 69-77

    some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
    Died some, pro patria, non dulce et non decor..
    walked eye-deep in hell
    believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
    came home, home to a lie,
    home to many deceits,
    home to old lies and new infamy;
    usury age-old and age-thick
    and liars in public places.

    • Some of the dudes who went into WWI might have even been "in fear" at first, but after "learning love of slaughter," they might've liked the fact that the war gave them an excuse to kill people. In line 70, Pound references the phrase "Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori," which is Latin for "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country" (Wilfred Owen wrote a pretty famous anti-war poem using the same phrase). But his writing retranslates the phrase to mean that the soldiers died "for their country, not sweet and not fitting." 
    • For Pound there's nothing all that glorious about walking "eye-deep in hell," which is what the war was like. It's especially not glorious when you go to war because of "old men's lies." What Pound means by this is that World War I was fought basically because a bunch of countries thought they were really tough, and figured they wouldn't mind flexing their muscles in a battle royale. The leaders of these countries told their soldiers that they were fighting for freedom, country, and blah, blah, blah. But it was all pretty much make-believe. 
    • So even after the soldiers were busy fighting in WWI, the ones who were lucky enough to live came home "to a lie," which was basically the phony modern world they all had to live in. In the new world, there was a lot of "usury age-old and age-thick" and "liars in public places." Usury is the practice of lending out money and charging the person a ton of interest. In simple terms, it's a great way to make a lot of money for doing absolutely nothing, and Pound wasn't a fan of that at all. He also wasn't a fan of modern politicians, whom he considered to be liars in public places.

    Lines 78-80

    Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
    Young blood and high blood,
    Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

    • When Pound says "Daring as never before," he might actually being throwing down some props for the young men who died in WWI. But even though these people might have been daring and brave, their deaths were also a form of "wastage as never before." 
    • When he talks about the "young blood" and "fair cheeks" of these young men, Pound also seems to be giving a mournful celebration of these soldiers, who died in the prime of their lives.

    Lines 81-85

    fortitude as never before

    frankness as never before,
    disillusions as never told in the old days,
    hysterias, trench confessions,
    laughter out of dead bellies.

    • Pound keeps up his compliments for the people who fought in World War I, saying that they showed "fortitude" or strength as never before. But all of these compliments ring sadly in our ears, since all of this fortitude was shown for stupid reasons (like dumb politicians who wanted to tell each other, "Hey, my country could beat up your country"). 
    • But what does Pound mean when he says the folks who came back from WWI showed "frankness as never before"? Well many of these guys were pretty angry about how the whole thing went down, and they weren't afraid to tell people about it.
    • To this extent, they were willing to talk publicly about how fed up they were with the world they were living in. In this sense they talked about their disillusionment, or "disillusion as never told in the old days."
    • But there was more to the soldiers' return than just plain grouchiness. People came back with "hysterias, trench confessions."
    • Hysteria is a really serious mental disorder that can be caused by trauma, which the soldiers in the trenches no doubt felt their own share of. Just imagine living like this for four years. Who wouldn't be messed up after that?
    • When Pound talks about trench confessions, he's probably referring to the horrible things that people had to do while living in the trenches. Who knows? Maybe they had to saw off someone's limb after it got infected? Maybe they killed two dozen Germans. No matter what way you slice it, chances are that people in the trenches had to do their fair share of regrettable things. 
    • The last line of this section, "laughter out of dead bellies," ends the whole thing on a really morbid note. There doesn't seem to be anything funny about World War I, but the creepy thing here is that the laughter Pound is talking about is probably hysterical laughter. In other words, it's the kind of laughter you feel when the world has completely gone to hell, and there's nothing left for you to do but laugh at the insanity of it all. 
    • The fact that this laughter is coming out of dead bellies might even mean that the people who died in WWI are still laughing at the pointlessness of their deaths.
  • Part One, Section V

    Lines 86-89

    There died a myriad,
    And of the best, among them,
    For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
    For a botched civilization,

    • In lines 86-87, Pound's still talking about the "myriad" (which means "whole bunch of") men who died in WWI, and says that some of the "best" men of the time were among them. And what did they all die for? For what Pound calls a "botched civilization," an ugly modern world that isn't worth fighting for. And in case he hasn't made his point about how terrible the modern world is, Pound compares modern civilization to "an old bitch gone in the teeth."

    Lines 90-93

    Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
    Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

    For two gross of broken statues,
    For a few thousand battered books.

    • Pound's been giving the modern world quite a pounding, so why would he say in line 90 that the world has "charm" and a "good mouth?" Well the main reason is because Pound is being really sarcastic here, since the world is not a charming place and its mouth isn't good because it just tells lies to people. 
    • The "Quick eyes gone under the earth's lid" likely refers to the eyes of the soldiers, which would've had to be quick to see the enemy firing in WWI. These eyes, though, have gone under the earth's lid because these people have died and have been buried under the earth's surface. 
    • And for what did all of these good people die? Well according to Pound, they died for "two gross [twelve dozen, or 144] of broken statues" and for "a few thousand tattered books." Here, Pound uses the metaphors of the broken statues and tattered books to say that the soldiers were fighting for a civilization that was already ruined. 
    • And believe us, World War I was totally sold on the idea of defending culture. Just check out this poster. Pound, though, is saying that going to war to defend culture was a totally empty gesture, since culture was already broken.
  • Part One, Yeux Glaucques

    Lines 94-97

    Yeux Glaucques
    Gladstone was still respected,
    When John Ruskin produced
    'Kings' Treasuries'; Swinburne
    And Rossetti still abused.

    • Pound titles this section Yeux Glaucques, which as we all know means "sea-green eyes" in French (just kidding—we had to look it up). Apparently, sea-green eyes were a favorite image for poets in the 1800s to represent classical beauty. Oh yeah, and you also might've noticed that in this section, Pound has returned to his ABAB quatrains, which might mean that he's finished commenting on the chaos and insanity of World War I. But only maybe. 
    • Pound starts this section by saying that "Gladstone was still respected." As with all things modernist, you gotta take out an encyclopedia to understand this line. Pound is talking about William Ewart Gladstone, who was the prime minister of Britain for ten years, and was considered a perfect example of extra-starch British respectability (sort of like this guy). 
    • Pound says that William Gladstone was still respected when a guy named John Ruskin put out something called "Kings' Treasuries." Another look at our encyclopedia (or Google) tells us that Ruskin was a social critic who argued that the British were a terrible society full of people who hated literature, art, beauty, and human compassion. So basically, Pound's telling us that stuffy losers like Gladstone were still respected when smart critics like Ruskin were trying to reveal the truth about British culture. In other words, the public just didn't listen to good sense. 
    • This lack of good sense also seems to be reflected in the fact that while Ruskin was writing, people still criticized and abused the work of passionate poets like Algernon Swinburne and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. We can pretty much assume, based on the rest of this section, that Pound thought these poets deserved better.

    Lines 98-101

    Foetid Buchanan lifted up his voice
    When that faun's head of hers
    Became a pastime for
    Painters and adulterers

    • Here we go again. Tell us, oh tell us, Ezra. Who is Buchanan? Well, our latest Google research tells us that Pound is probably referring to Robert Buchanan, a crusty dude who wrote a book in 1871 that attacked poets like Rossetti and Swinburne. For Pound, stodgy old fools like Buchanan are just "foetid," or fedid—meaning they give off an offensive odor. So yeah, Pound likes poets like Rossetti and Swinburne, and not cranks like Buchanan. 
    • Apparently, Buchanan "lifted up his voice" when some woman with a faun's head "became a pastime for/ Painters and adulterers." The woman Buchanan criticized in his book was named Elizabeth Siddal, who just happened to be the wife of (duh duh duhnnnnn!) Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 
    • It turns out that Dante liked to use his wife Elizabeth as a model for his paintings, and that many of these paintings were nude or partially nude portraits. People like Buchanan no doubt found this sort of think morally dirty, which is why Buchanan would've thought that Elizabeth Siddal's "faun's head" was just a sexual object for immoral people like "Painters and adulterers." 
    • Pound, on the other hand, begs to differ. Calling Buchanan smelly is like saying that the dude is a bit of an old fart, and that he's way too stuffy to understand what real passion is.

    Lines 102-105

    The Burne-Jones cartons
    Have preserved her eyes;
    Still, at the Tate, they teach
    Cophetua to rhapsodize;

    • Yup, you got a whole lot more references coming your way, folks. So let's keep truckin'. What are the Burne-Jones cartons?
    • Well a quick search tells us that "cartons" is just a French word for cartoons. But we're not talking about Bugs Bunny. Pound is referring to the rough drawings a painter makes before he/she creates a painting or tapestry. 
    • In this case, Pound is also referring to the painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, who used Elizabeth Siddal as a model for a beggar maid in his painting King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid (check it out here). 
    • So Pound is telling us that this painting is important because it has preserved the green color of Elizabeth's eyes for us modern folks to enjoy. But do you think modern folks appreciate any of that beauty? Not at all. Instead, the modern people "teach Cophetua to rhapsodize." We now know that Cophetua is the king in the painting with Elizabeth Siddal (the beggar maid). 
    • But there's a tone of dissatisfaction here. Pound doesn't like the fact that nothing else beautiful has happened since Rossetti, who painted nearly a hundred years earlier. That's why there might be some bitterness in the word "still" when he says "Still, at the Tate." The Tate is the London art gallery where this painting hangs, and Pound might be suggesting that it's high time they found something new to hang with it.

    Lines 106-109

    Thin like brook-water,
    With a vacant gaze,
    The English Rubaiyat was still-born
    In those days.

    • After celebrating the beauty of Elizabeth Siddal's eyes, Pound seems to take a step back. When he says "thin like brook-water,/ With a vacant gaze," we might not know what to think at first. But it seems like Pound has taken a slightly different look at Rossetti's painting. Or maybe he's talking about the eyes of the modern gallery-goers who look at the painting. Maybe they're the ones who have vacant eyes, which suggests no emotion or passion behind them. 
    • The next two lines whip another reference our way in the image of the "English Rubaiyat." The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was a translation of poems that a guy named Edward Fitzgerald published in 1859. But no one paid any attention to it until Dante Rossetti (who was already famous) started promoting it. 
    • So when Pound says the Rubaiyat was "still-born," he compares it to a fetus that has died before birth. When he finishes with "in those days," Pound suggests that the modern world's problem aren't just a 20th-century thing. They started way back in the 1800s, when critics wouldn't give a great book like the English Rubaiyat the time of day. It's important to know that the poems in this book were translated from a Persian writer who wrote over a thousand years earlier (1048-1131 C.E.), so for Pound, it's been a while since people were able to appreciate the classics of the distant past.

    Lines 110-113

    The thin, clear gaze, the same
    Still darts out faun-like from the half-ruined face,
    Questing and passive….
    "Ah, poor Jenny's case"…

    • Now, the idea of the "thin, clear gaze" seems to be a positive thing once again, instead of a vacant-eyed thing. Even though Pound's annoyed that the art gallery hasn't found newer examples of beauty, he still loves the King Cophetua painting and the clear eyes that Elizabeth Siddal has in it. These eyes, he says, still "dart out" from her face, which means that they're still life-like after almost 100 years of hanging on the wall. 
    • The fact that Elizabeth Siddal's face is "half-ruined," though, suggests that time might have taken a bit of a toll on the painting.
    • But it might also refer to the fact that Siddal was posing as a beggar maid in the picture, or a person who's experienced financial "ruin." In this case, Pound just means that Siddal is playing her part really well. 
    • In the final line of this quatrain, Pound quotes from the poem "Jenny" by Rossetti, which is about a prostitute, and which that old fart Robert Buchanan attacked pretty viciously in his book. Here, it's not totally clear what Pound means by the ellipsis (…). But he seems to want to leave us with the idea that after all these years, Elizabeth Siddal's eyes still have life in them.
    • Pound might be using these eyes to symbolize his hope that little examples of beauty can still make it into the modern world.

    Lines 114-117

    Bewildered that a world
    Shows no surprise
    At her last maquero's

    • So why do we feel sorry for "poor Jenny"? Well Pound seems to think we should feel sorry for her because she's confused that the world "Shows no surprise/ At her last maquero's/ Adulteries." Maquero comes from the French word "maquereau," which means "pimp." So it looks like Jenny the prostitute has a pimp who commits adultery, meaning that Jenny and her pimp might be in a relationship. But while she's shocked at the betrayal, no one else seems to be. "What did you expect?" someone might ask Jenny. "You're a prostitute, and he's a pimp."
  • Part One, "Siena Mi Fe'; Disfecemi Maremma"

    Lines 118-121

    "Siena Mi Fe'; Disfecemi Maremma"
    Among the pickled foetuses and bottled bones,
    Engaged in perfecting the catalogue,
    I found the last scion of the
    Senatorial families of Strasbourg, Monsieur Verog.

    • Okay, so we've got some more romance languages on the go here. This time, Ezra's writing to us in Italian, and the phrase translates as "Siena made me; Maremma unmade me." Now that translation probably doesn't make the line any more understandable, because it's also a literary reference (sigh) to Dante Alighieri's Purgatorio
    • The line is spoken by a woman named Pia de' Tolomei, who refers to her birth in Siena and her death in Maremma, where she was killed by her husband. Based on her role in Purgatorio, we can tell that Pia is supposed to be some sort of symbol for people who find redemption at the last moments of their life. So hey, maybe that means this section of "Mauberley" is going to be a bit cheerier…
      …nope. Pound wipes away any thoughts of cheeriness with the opening line, "Among the pickled fetuses and bottled bones."
    • Reading this, we might think we're in the storeroom for a high school biology lab, filled with all those lovely pickled pig fetuses and other unpleasant stuff. 
    • The next line talks about someone who's interested in "perfecting the catalog. So in other words, we're in some sort of room that dedicated to taking things that were once alive and cataloging all of them for the sake of knowledge. 
    • In this room, Pound (or Mauberley) says that he ran into "the last scion of the/ Senatorial families of Strasbourg, Monsieur Verog." Now let's try to break this thing down. The term "last scion" basically means the last remaining member of a family that was once rich or powerful. 
    • In this case, this last family member seems to be named Mr. Verog, and his family was filled with a bunch of senators (i.e., Senatorial families) from Strasbourg, which is the capital of the Alsace region in Eastern France. We don't know why this guy's in the poem yet, only that he likes collecting fetuses in jars.

    Lines 122-125

    For two hours he talked of Gallifet;
    Of Dowson; of the Rhymers' Club;
    Told me how Johnson (Lionel) died
    By falling from a high stool in a pub…

    • This Monsieur Verog guy sounds like he enjoys talking a lot, because the poem says that he talked about something called "Gallifet" for two hours. Gallifet is a reference to the Marquis de Gallifet, a French general who led a group of guys on horses into a crucial battle in a war between France and Germany. So maybe Monsieur Verog is a big fan of his French heritage.
    • Next, Mr. Verog talks about Ernest Dowson, a man who was part of a poetry club called the "Rhymers' Club" that met together at a pub in London around 1890. Another guy in this same club was named Lionel Johnson, whom Verog also mentions in lines 124-125 as someone who died by falling off his stool in a pub. No word yet on what these guys have to do with the poem, but hopefully Pound will get to it.

    Lines 126-129

    But showed no trace of alcohol
    At the autopsy, privately performed—
    Tissue preserved—the pure mind
    Arose toward Newman as the whiskey warmed.

    • Now Mr. Verog wants to talk about that guy named Lionel Johnson showed "no trace of alcohol" in his body after falling off a bar stool and dying. It seems like Verog is trying to defend the guy's honor now that he's dead, but the fact that Johnson's autopsy was "privately performed," though, should make us a little suspicious. 
    • Now we're hearing about "the pure mind" rising toward someone named "Newman." We really wish that Ezra was talking about Newman from Seinfeld. But alas, he's talking about Cardinal John Henry Newman, who converted to Catholicism from Protestantism, just like Dowson and Johnson. 
    • So yeah, this Mr. Verog guy seems to like talking about people who had big spiritual ideas, but who sound like they were just a bunch of drunks. Pound might be using them as example of people who don't live up to their own ideals, but it's really not clear yet.

    Lines 130-133

    Downson found harlots cheaper than hotels;
    Headlam for uplift; Image impartially imbued
    With raptures for Bacchus, Terpischore and the Church.
    So spoke the author of 'The Dorian Mood."

    • Mr. Verog says that the Downson guy "found harlots cheaper than hotels." Harlots here means sexually promiscuous women, which means that, for all his religious ideas, Downson sounds like a guy who like his fair share of sex with prostitutes, since these women were "cheaper" than hotels. 
    • Another guy named Headlam (Reverend Stewart D. Headlam) seems to have found harlots "uplifting." The word Image in line 131 seems to refer to a poetic image, but the fact that it's capitalized after a semicolon means that it's a proper noun. So it turns out that Pound is referring to Selwyn Image, another poet from the 1800s who said some really religious things, but acted in a different way. 
    • Pound specifically writes that Selwyn Image had a taste for "raptures for Bacchus." Bacchus is actually another named for our old friend Dionysus, god of wine and sex. Image was also a fan of "Terpischore" and the church. Terpischore is the name of the Muse of dance, which means that Image was a fan of church, but also a fan of dancing, sex, and drinking. Or at least he was according to the guy who wrote "The Dorian Mood." 
    • "The Dorian Mood" is the name of a book published in 1896, which was written by a guy named Victor Plarr, the head librarian at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Plarr was obsessed with cataloging stuff, so it looks like Plarr is the inspiration for Pound's figure of Monsieur Verog.

    Lines 134-137

    M. Verog, out of step with the decade,
    Detached from his contemporaries,
    Neglected by the young,
    Because of his reveries.

    • In this quatrain, Pound seems to gain a sense of sympathy for Monsieur Verog. Just like Mauberley has felt out of place in his life, M. Verog is also "out of step with the decade" and "detached from his contemporaries." We might ask why he feels so detached, and Pound says that there's no room for M. Verog in modern times "Because of his reveries." A reverie is like a dream. So basically, M. Verog is out of place in the modern world because he's a dreamer, just like Pound and Mauberley. 
    • This sympathy for Verog actually changes our earlier reading of all the people Verog has talked about so far. Instead of thinking that Downson, Johnson, and Newman were hypocrites, we're supposed to celebrate them for being dreamers and for staying connected to their sexual passion. It's really easy to get Pound confused with his buddy T.S. Eliot sometimes. But when it comes to sex, the two were totally different. Pound wants to celebrate sex and passion, not scold us for it. If anything, he thinks the modern world has lost its connection to true passion, which belongs in the mind of romantics and dreamers.
  • Part One, Brennbaum

    Lines 138-141


    The sky-like limpid eyes,
    The circular infant's face,
    The stiffness from spats to collar
    Never relaxing into grace;

    • At first glance, it's almost impossible to tell what Pound means by "Brennbaum," which seems to be the name of the character he's talking about in this next section. It seems to be a name that Pound just made up, like Monsieur Verog. But if anything, the name is probably a half-racist portrait of Max Beerbohm, who Pound thought was Jewish. The funny thing is that Beerbohm wasn't even Jewish. 
    • If you check out a pic of Beerbohm, you can sort of see a resemblance to Pound's description. You can picture those eyes of his being really blue, and yeah, they do look a little limpid or half-sad. But Pound doesn't like how stiff this guy is "from spats to collar." We all know what a shirt collar is, and spats is just an old timey word for socks. So Pound's saying that from top to bottom, this guy's a big stiff. 
    • For Pound, the fact that this Brennbaum guy can never really be graceful is because he can never relax. In fact, that seems to be Pound's main beef with most of the people he mentions in this poem. They're all trying too hard to be prim and proper, and they need to connect with their deeper passion (which just makes you wonder how Pound could've been friends with a puritan like T.S. Eliot).

    Lines 142-145

    The heavy memories of Horeb, Sinai and the forty years,
    Showed only when the daylight fell
    Level across the face
    Of Brennbaum "The Impeccable."

    • Now Pound looks like he's talking about "heavy memories" that you can see on Brennbaum's face in full daylight. Whatever these memories are, they seem to be connected to Horeb, Sinai, and the forty years, which are references to Mount Horeb (also called Sinai) where the Jewish leader Moses got the giant stone tablets that laid out God's laws (especially the ten commandments). The forty years refers to the forty years that the Jewish people had to live in the wilderness after they left Egypt to escape slavery. 
    • Now here, Pound seems to be acknowledging all of the hardship the Jewish people have had to deal with throughout history.
    • But when he calls Brennbaum "The Impeccable" in line 145, the quotation marks might suggest that he's being sarcastic. He might be saying that all that stuff happened thousands of years ago, and that it's no excuse for a Jewish person to act all hard done by (remember, the Holocaust hadn't happened at this point). So basically, Pound seems to think that Jewish people are especially bad at acting like posers and trying to hide their passion so they can always look like they're in control.
  • Part One, Mr. Nixon

    Lines 146-149

    Mr. Nixon
    In the cream gilded cabin of his steam yacht
    Mr. Nixon advised me kindly, to advance with fewer
    Dangers of delay. "Consider
    "Carefully the reviewer.

    • We can tell from the title that Pound is about to start talking about another figure in this section, named Mr. Nixon. The first line tells us that the speaker of the poem (Pound/Mauberley) was visiting Mr. Nixon in "the cream gilded cabin of his steam yacht." Now owning a yacht at any time would suggest that a guy has some money. But owning a steam-powered yacht in Pound's time meant that Mr. Nixon would have been super-rich. The "cream gilding" of the cabin also suggests that the whole boat is decked out with some pretty sweet swag.
    • It was in this room, says Mauberley, that Mr. Nixon gave him some advice "to advance with fewer/ Dangers of delay." In other words, Mr. Nixon wanted to give the speaker of the poem some advice to keep him out of trouble. And his advice was: "Consider/ Carefully the reviewer." So in other words, whenever you write something, make sure that the person you're writing for is the person who's going to review your book. 
    • In other words, this Mr. Nixon guy is a total sellout. He doesn't care about what he writes, as long as it gets him good reviews.
    • You can start to assume at this point that Mr. Nixon is going to be an example of the money-driven mentality that Pound thinks has ruined literature in the modern world

    Lines 150-154

    "I was poor as you are;
    "When I began I got, of course,
    "Advance royalties, fifty at first," said Mr. Nixon,
    "Follow me, and take a column,
    "Even if you have to work for free.

    • When Mr. Nixon talks about how he used to be poor like Mauberley, it seems like he's going to tell him exactly what he needs to do to make money. Writing good literature is beside the point. Mr. Nixon says that when he started writing he made sure to get "Advance royalties," which was only fifty bucks or pounds at first. Advance royalties just means that a publisher pays you a certain amount of money for a novel before you even write it. 
    • So Mr. Nixon is trying to say that everyone has to start from somewhere, and that's what he did. He also tells Mauberley to "follow me, and take a column." In other words, he thinks Mauberley should do the same thing he did and write a column for the newspaper just to get his name out there, even if he has to work for free. So for you folks who don't like the idea of doing a paid internship before you can get a job, just realize that this isn't anything new. It's been going on since at least Pound's time.

    Lines 155-158

    "Butter reviewers. From fifty to three hundred
    "I rose in eighteen months;
    "The hardest nut I had to crack
    "Was Dr. Dundas.

    • "Butter reviewers" Mr. Nixon says to Mauberley. In other words, butter them up with some nice compliments. It doesn't really matter who they are. After all, says Nixon, that's how he rose "From fifty to three hundred […] in eighteen months." Who wanna make money? Then get your voice out there and brown nose all the important reviewers. 
    • Mr. Nixon seems to take special pride in cracking one really stubborn reviewer named "Dr. Dunas." So the main lesson here is, "Hey, wanna get rich? All you gotta do is work really hard at selling out."

    Lines 159-162

    "I never mentioned a man but with the view
    "Of selling my own works.
    "The tip's a good one, as for literature
    "It gives no man a sinecure.

    • It looks like Mr. Nixon is still bragging away about being a totally shallow writer. Now he's saying that he has never ever said anything about someone else without "the view/ Of selling my own works." In other words, he's happy to write columns for the paper and to praise other people's work, but only if praising these people will get more readers to buy his books. 
    • He goes on to say plainly that his tip to brownnose is a good one, since literature "gives no man a sinecure." "Sinecure" is a word the means a job that pays well and requires little effort.
    • So by saying that literature never gives people an easy job, Mr. Nixon is basically bragging about how hard you have to constantly work at making reviewers like you and getting your books sold. The problem here is that there's no emphasis at all on the fact that books should be good. Mr. Nixon wouldn't care about whether his books were good, only that he sells a lot of them. 

    Lines 163-165

    "And no one knows, at sight a masterpiece.
    "And give up verse, my boy,
    "There's nothing in it."

    • Finally, Mr. Nixon wraps up his little speech by saying that "no one knows, at sight a masterpiece." Now this is the ultimate sort of cynicism from Pound's perspective. Mr. Nixon is basically saying here that all art is totally subjective, and that the only way people can tell if a book is good is if a bunch of people buy it. Nixon is basically saying that if Coldplay sat down at your local open mic and played Yellow, people might think it was pretty good, but no one would recognize it as great. That part can only come if record companies and producers spend hundreds of hours plugging the song, getting people to give it good reviews, and getting it played on the radio. It's a pretty depressing thought for anyone who dreams of making great art. 
    • Mr. Nixon ends by telling Mauberley not to bother writing verse, or poetry, since there's "nothing in it." Now he's not saying that there's no value in it. He's just saying that there's no money in it, which for him is the same as saying it's worthless. The fact that he says "my boy" means that he's being pretty condescending as he says it, so we can tell that the ultimate sellout, Mr. Nixon, is pretty proud of himself. He wrote what people wanted and made a lot of money, so he's kind of like the Simon Cowell of his time.

    Lines 166-169


    Likewise a friend of Bloughram's once advised me:
    Don't kick against the pricks,
    Accept opinion. The "Nineties" tried you game
    And died, there's nothing in it.

    • Before wrapping up the "Mr. Nixon" section of the poem, Pound throws in a little dotted break. You might have noticed that this poem has quite a few sudden stops and pauses, which are often marked by some sort of dotted line or ellipsis. You see a lot of this in T.S. Eliot's poetry, too, and it's fairly common in modernist poetry. 
    • But why all the sudden breaks, you might wonder? Well it seems like Ezra Pound has a tough time finding some sort of general logic to the way things work in the modern world. Modern experience seems a little bit chaotic to him, so all the sudden stops and starts might be his way of making a collage of all the things that bug him about modern life. 
    • Now then, Pound (or Mauberley) says that "a friend of Bloughram's once advised" him on something "Likewise" to what Mr. Nixon did. So we can tell that this so-called friend probably gave him some cynical advice like Nixon did. The name "Bloughram" is a reference to a character named Bishop Bloughram in a poem by Robert Browning (a 19th-century poet). 
    • In the Browning poem, Bishop Bloughram is a priest who tries to justify the fact that he has a totally shallow love for money.
    • In any case, the friend who gave Mauberley advice told him not to "kick against the pricks." This expression comes from the Bible, and it basically translates into "Don't try to fight the times." It means that people should just "Accept [popular] opinion" and go along with whatever society is doing at any given time.
    • Finally, this friend of Pound's/Mauberley's tells him that the "Nineties" already tried his game and died. Now today, we might think of the '90s as the 1990s; but Pound's talking about the 1890s. Basically, his friend is telling him that people have tried in the past to shake things up and to change the way people think. But they all failed, and it's best to just give people what they want and make money while you can.
  • Part One, Section X

    Lines 170-173

    Beneath the sagging roof
    The stylist has taken shelter,
    Unpaid, uncelebrated,
    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.

    Lines 174-177

    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.

    Lines 178-181

    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.
  • Part One, Section XI

    Lines 182-185

    "Conservatrix of Milésien"
    Habits of mind and feeling,
    Possibly. But in Ealing
    With the most bank-clerkley of Englishmen?

    • It looks like Pound is taking us back into his world of obscure references. Line 182 is a reference to how women from a place called Miletus are supposed to help preserve of converse the traditions of that place. This could be a reference to Pound trying to conserve something of his past through his own poetry. 
    • But in line 184, Pound seems to wonder if this type of conserving can really happen in a modern place like "Ealing,/ With the most bank-clerkley of Englishmen?" The questions seems to be rhetorical, as if Pound is saying, "Of course we can't conserve anything worthwhile in that type of environment." To get the joke, you basically need to know that Ealing is a part of western London that's commonly associated with dullness and the homes of financial workers.

    Lines 186-189

    No, "Milésien" is an exaggeration.
    No instinct has survived in her
    Older than those her grandmother
    Told her would fit her station.

    • When Pound says "her" in line 187, we find out that he actually seems to be talking about a woman from Miletus. He also says in line 186 that calling this symbolic woman a "Milésian" is an exaggeration, since "No instinct has survived in her/ Older than those her grandmother/ Told her would fit her station." 
    • So from what we can tell, Pound says it's an exaggeration to compare any modern woman with one from the world of Ancient Greece. The reason for this is because modern women no longer have the instincts these ancient women once did. Instead, all they have are the instincts and behaviors that their grandmothers told them would "fit their station," or be appropriate for their social class. 
    • In other words, Pound is not a fan of modern women who float around trying to act "womanly" just because their families and their society have told them to act that way. He wishes that modern women could be themselves and reconnect with their true nature. You can definitely see a parallel here between what Pound wants modern women to do and what he wants modern poetry to reconnect with.
  • Part One, Section XII

    Lines 190-193

    "Daphne with her thighs in bark
    Stretches toward me her leafy hands,"—
    Subjectively. In the stuffed-satin drawing-room
    I await The Lady Valentine's commands,

    • Okay, tell us Pound: who's Daphne? Is it that girl who wears purple in Scooby-Doo? Shucks, turns out that Daphne is (wait for it) a character from Greek myth. The god Apollo wanted to have sex with her, but she wasn't into it. So for some reason, she was turned into a tree to escape from him, which would explain the fact that her thighs are "in bark" in line 190.
    • But Pound says this woman-turned-tree is stretching her leafy hands toward him. But wait a second. Is Pound saying that he has the power to make women reconnect with their ancient past? If so, that's a little creepy. Does he think that he can symbolically save Daphne from being a tree and make her a woman again? 
    • But before we can answer, Pound throws us into a modern woman's drawing-room, where he "await[s] The Lady Valentine's commands." All of a sudden, Pound has gone from having an ancient beauty reaching out for him to a modern woman giving him commands. 
    • It could be that Pound feels more romantically connected to women from Greek myth than he does modern women. And the reason seems to be that ancient women reach out for him, almost begging, while modern women give him commands. It could be that Pound saw female empowerment as one of the things that ruined the modern world.

    Lines 194-197

    Knowing my coat has never been
    Of precisely the fashion
    To stimulate, in her,
    A durable passion;

    • Now Pound's talking about how his coat has never been the type to make The Lady Valentine feel passion. But why does it matter what kind of coat he's wearing? Isn't it a little superficial of Lady Valentine to only get aroused by a fashionable coat?
    • Frankly, yes it is, and that's Pound's point. He seems to suggest here that modern women are superficial, and that their passion is only connected to dumb things like coats and clothing, and not some deeper instinct.

    Lines 198-201

    Doubtful, somewhat, of the value
    Of well-gowned approbation
    Of literary effort,
    But never of the Lady Valentine's vocation:

    • Pound goes no to say that he's a little bit "Doubtful" about the value of "well-gowned approbation/ Of literary effort." So first, we need to look at "well-gowned." A gown is a fancy sort of dress, so well-gowned probably means fashionable in a sort of superficial way. Approbation means the same thing as "approval." So Pound is talking about the approval that comes with being well-dressed. 
    • But if this same sort of approval is what gets connected to "literary effort," then it might mean that Pound isn't sure if he can trust any positive feedback he gets about his writing. What if the same people who like his writing are the same people who only care about clothes? Then that means Pound's writing might be superficial too. These lines seem to suggest that Pound can never take being popular as a sign of whether his writing's any good. 
    • And for all the things he might be unsure about, the one thing Pound never doubts is "the Lady Valentine's vocation." Judging by the sexual atmosphere and the fact that this lady is giving Pound commands, she might be some sort of prostitute, or maybe a wealthy woman. For Pound, there's little difference if one wants money and the other wants fashionable clothes. It all boils down to shallowness.

    Lines 202-205

    Poetry, her border of ideas,
    The edge, uncertain, but a means of blending
    With other strata
    Where the lower and higher have ending;

    • So how can poetry be Lady Valentine's "border of ideas"? Well a border is kind of like a horizon, in the sense that it tells you the limits of a certain territory. So maybe poetry is on the very "edge" of what the Lady Valentine (a modern reader) can understand. There might be some uncertainty at this border. But for Pound, this uncertainty gives poetry "a means of blending/ With other strata/ Where the lower and higher have meaning."
    • Basically, it seems like the idea of reading poetry is at the very edge of Lady Valentine's awareness. But for Pound, it still worth trying to get her to read poetry. If we challenge ourselves, maybe poetry can make us think about other parts of our lives, which will make the poetry "blend" with other levels (strata) of life. Maybe it can even get us to think differently about the "higher" and "lower" aspects of life, and where they end. 
    • All in all, this stanza seems to be Pound's way of saying that it's still worth our effort to try to get people to read poetry, since poetry still has the power to make us think differently about every aspect of our lives, even if we usually think superficially.

    Lines 206-209

    A hook to catch the Lady Jane's attention,
    A modulation toward the theatre,
    Also, in the case of revolution,
    A possible friend and comforter.

    • In the last stanza, Pound said a few hopeful things about poetry. But what are we to think about line 206, where he says that poetry can be "A hook to catch the Lady Jane's attention"? Is Pound now saying that poetry is a great way to pick up women?
    • Maybe, but maybe he's also saying that poetry can be a way to make superficial people look inside themselves and find some depth. 
    • Next, Pound says that poetry can have a "modulation toward the theatre." Modulate here just means to adapt, so maybe Pound is admitting that poetry can be adapted to the theater if that's what it takes to make modern audiences appreciate it (after all, Shakespeare wrote his poetry for the theater).
    • Finally, Pound says that poetry can be a "possible friend and comforter" in the "case of revolution." In this case, Pound seems to be talking about the political power of poetry. Lots of poets and poems have played a big part in revolutions over the centuries. But in this case, Pound talks about poetry giving us comfort when times look bleak. He really seems like he's let go of his anger at this point, and is genuinely trying to tell us about the wonderful things poetry can do for us.

    Lines 210-213


    Conduct, on the other hand, the soul
    "Which the highest cultures have nourished"
    To Fleet St. where
    Dr. Johnson flourished;

    • When Pound says "Conduct" here, he means it as the verb "go." He also uses the phrase "on the other hand," setting up a contrast with all the stuff he's just said. Now he's telling us to conduct or take our souls to a place called Fleet Street. 
    • In line 211, he also sneaks in a quotation from the 19th-century French poet, Jules Laforgue, which says that the human soul has always been nourished by the best or "highest" cultures. Pound sounds like he wants modern culture to be better so it can nourish the soul, too. 
    • So back to Fleet Street. Why do we want to take our souls there? Well for Pound, it has something to do with the fact that a guy named Dr. Johnson flourished at this place. 
    • In the history of the world, there have probably been a bajillion Dr. Johnsons. But the famous one that Pound's referring to here is Samuel Johnson, a famous English poet and essay writer from the 18th century. Fleet Street is a center of newspapers and journalism in London. So Pound seems to be telling us to go into the heart of modern news organizations. We don't know why yet, but we're about to find out.

    Lines 214-217

    Beside this thoroughfare
    The sale of half-hose has
    Long since superseded the cultivation
    Of Pierian roses.

    • So now we're in Fleet Street, where people seem to be selling stuff on the street, which should be a giveaway that Pound is about to say something negative, since he's not the biggest fan of consumerism. In any case, he says that the sale of "half-hose" has long been bigger (superseded) than the growing of Pierian roses. Pound is using symbolism here to show how low modern culture has sunk.
    • In other words, Pound hasn't asked us to come to Fleet Street for inspiration, but to feel depressed. Half-hose is an older terms for socks, and Pierian roses are the flowers that come from Pieria, a place in Ancient Greek myth where the Muses (the creatures that inspired artists) were born. So basically, modern folks are more interested in getting a good deal on their socks than actually coming face to face with something beautiful (symbolized by the roses).
  • Part One, Envoi

    Lines 218-224

    Envoi (1919)

    Go, dumb-born book,
    Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes;
    Hadst thou but song
    As thou hast subjects known,
    Then were there cause in thee that should condone
    Even my faults that heavy upon me lie
    And build her glories their longevity.

    • Well first thing's first: the French word "envoi" means an "envoy" or a sort of afterthought to a poem or book of poetry. So Pound is signaling to us that he's going to wrap up his thinking about the modern world, at least when it comes to Part One of "Mauberley." 
    • So now, Pound is saying "Go, dumb-born book." Dumb here probably refers to being unable to speak, but it could also mean stupid. So Pound might not be totally optimistic about what this poem is going to achieve. 
    • Next, Pound is asking his poem to deliver a message to a woman that once sang a song to him by an English composer named Henry Lawes. Pound wants this woman to know that he wishes she had "song/ As thou hast subjects known." In other words, Pound wishes the woman had known as much about beautiful singing as she'd know about "subjects," which here might refer to meaningless trivia. In this case, Pound might be mocking modern educated women, who might know a lot about many subjects, but have no clue how to be beautiful. And yes, that's kind of sexist. 
    • In the last three lines, Pound says that if the woman truly knew beauty, she'd be able to "condone" or put a stamp of approval on all of Pound's faults that lie "heavy upon him." Further, the woman would be able to build her own "glories" in their longevity. In other words, the woman would be like a woman from Greek myth, and her beauty and "glories" would be celebrated long after she'd grown old and wrinkled.

    Lines 225-233

    Tell her that sheds
    Such treasure in the air,
    Recking naught else but that her graces give
    Life to the moment,
    I would bid them live
    As roses might, in magic amber laid,
    Red overwrought with orange and all made
    One substance and one colour
    Braving time.

    • Next, Pound describes the woman as shedding "treasure in the air." Just think about that for a second. It's kind of like the way a beautiful song works, right? It exists totally in the moment, and disappears when people's breath comes out of their bodies into the air. 
    • On line 227, the word "Recking" means having concern for something. So Pound says that the female singer doesn't care about anything other than making her song beautiful so it can give life "to the moment" before it disappears into the air. In this sense, Pound is willing to admit the song is beautiful, but he wishes it was something that could last longer. 
    • That's why in lines 229-233, Pound says he wishes that he could take the woman's singing and seal it in amber to keep it preserved forever, the way people sometimes do with roses. For those of you who haven't seen Jurassic Park, amber or hardened tree sap is really good at preserving stuff. The symbol of the rose sealed in amber helps show Pound's desire for art to create something beautiful that isn't just for modern audiences, but that can stay beautiful for centuries, "Braving time" like Greek myth.

    Lines 234-243

    Tell her that goes
    With song upon her lips
    But sings not out the song, nor knows
    The maker of it, some other mouth,
    May be as fair as hers,
    Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers,
    When our two dusts with Waller's shall be laid,
    Siftings on siftings in oblivion,
    Till change hath broken down
    All things save Beauty alone.

    • Pound is still telling his poem what he wants the symbolic singing woman to know. He says that he wants the woman to know that even though she doesn't know the person who wrote the song she's singing, it's the beauty of the song that matters. You can basically see the meaning of this stanza if you jump ahead to the last two lines right away, which talk about time and change eroding or breaking down everything except Beauty. The fact that Beauty is spelled with a capital B shows that Pound thinks it's something bigger than any one person, almost like a god.
    • In any case, the thing Pound wants the singing woman to know is that the beautiful song is what matters, and that's what she should be focusing on. Any woman who sings the song will eventually get old and die. And in the future, "some other mouth" or some other singer might get new people to enjoy the song. 
    • Pound mentions how both the singer and himself will eventually die and be laid with the dust of someone named Waller.
    • Waller refers to English poet Edmund Waller, whose poem "Go, Lovely Rose" is what Pound is basically copying for his own purposes in this section of "Mauberley." 
    • But yeah, for Pound it's beauty that matters. We're all going to die someday, but the beauty of great art is like a rose sealed in amber, preserved forever.
  • Part Two, 1920 (Mauberley)

    Lines 244-47

    Turned from the "eau-forte
    Par Jacquemart"
    To the strait head
    Of Messalina:

    • Just in case Part One of "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" was a little too easy for you, Pound decided to make the second part even more fragmented and hard to follow. So we start Section I of Part Two with the word "Turned," having no clue what the context is.
    • Our Google search tells us that the "eau-forte" refers to an etching by French artist J.F. Jacquemart. So maybe the speaker of this part of the poem has turned away from this etching for some reason to look instead at "the strait head/ Of Messalina."
    • Strait here means strict or narrow, and Messalina was the wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius, who had Messalina murdered in 48 C.E. Her face was on Roman coins. Judging by what Pound talked about in Part One of the poem, he might be referring to Messalina as a beautiful woman whose beauty has been preserved through time. Then again, though, he might not feel great about the fact that she's been preserved on money, which Pound isn't the biggest fan of.

    Lines 248-251

    "His true Penelope
    Was Flaubert,"
    And his tool
    The engraver's.

    • Remember Penelope? She was the devoted wife of good ol' Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey. But in this poem, it sounds like the greatest love of Mauberley's life was Flaubert, the ultimate genius of French novel writing. 
    • Not only was his greatest love Flaubert; his favorite tool was the engraver's tool. This goes well with the engraving theme set up by the Roman coins alluded to in the previous stanza. Here, Pound seems to suggest that Mauberley prefers engraving because it's a type of art that tend to last for a very long time. Similarly, Pound is probably suggesting that the awesomeness of Flaubert's writing is going to last for a long time too. It's all about beauty that lasts for Pound.

    Lines 252-255

    Pier Francesca,
    Pisanello lacking the skill
    To forge Achaia.

    • Okay, so here's some stuff to know. Pier Francesca was an Italian painter (1420-1455) who knew really good techniques, but didn't paint with a whole lot of color.
    • And Antonio Pisanello (1395-1455) was an Italian metal worker who didn't have the skill to make the kind of medallions they did in Ancient Greece, especially like the ones from the Greek region of Achaia. 
    • 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. This definitely throws a wrench into the idea that art progresses over time. If anything, Pound says that people have lost skill since Greek times.
  • Part Two, Section II


    "Qu'est ce qu'ils savent de l'amour, et qu'est ce qu'ils peuvent comprendre?
    S'ils ne comprennent pas la poèsie, si'ils ne sentient pas la musique, qu'est ce qu'ils peuvent comprendre de cette passion en comparaison avec laquelle la rose est grossière et le parfum des violettes un tonnerre?" -- CAID ALI

    • It's translation time, and here's what this passage says in English:
    • "What do they know of love, and what can they understand of it? If they do not understand poetry, if they do not feel music, what can they understand of this passion compared to which the rose is crude and the perfume of violets a thunderbolt?"
    • This epigraph is also signed by someone named Caid Ali, which is just a Persian pen-name that Pound made up for himself. 
    • 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

    For three years, diabolus in the scale,
    He drank ambrosia,
    All passes, ANANGKE prevails,
    Came end, at last, to that Arcadia.
    He had moved amid her phantasmagoria,
    Amid her galaxies,

    • If you remember way back to the start of this poem, you might recall how pound said that Mauberley was out of step with the world for three years. Well he's mentioned that three-year period again now, and recalling the idea of Mauberley being out of tune with the culture around him. 
    • To show this lack of connection, Pound says that Mauberley was "diablous in the scale." Here, 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).
    • During these three years, Mauberley had his taste of glory though (he drank ambrosia, or the wine of the gods).
    • But as the poem says, "All passes," as in everything eventually goes away, and "ANANGKE," which is the Greek word for fate or destiny, always gets its way. There came an end to that Arcadia, Pound says, meaning that the good years of Mauberley's life (Arcadia = Paradise) had to end sometime. 
    • Line 264 tells us that Mauberley had spent some time moving amongst the "phantasmagoria" or a world of illusions of the night. The "NUKTIS AGALMA" of line 266 is Greek for "night's jewel."
    • So when you put everything together, Pound is saying that Mauberley spent some really fun years not caring about what society thought of him and playing around in a world of heavy drinking and hallucinations. The hallucinations might be real or symbolic, but what they tell us is that the party had to end someday for Mauberley.

    Lines 267-270


    Drifted….drifted precipitate,
    Asking time to be rid of….
    Of his bewilderment; to designate
    His new found orchid….

    • After another dotted line break, Pound picks up on Mauberley's good times coming to an end and says that the guy "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. 
    • For Pound, time needed to show Mauberley come sort of "new found orchid." An orchid is a flower, but also a Greek word for testicle. So it's tough to say what Pound's getting at here. But flowers like roses have tended to pop up in this poem as symbols of beauty. So maybe Pound is saying here that Mauberley was hoping that the world would show him some new source of beauty that he could dedicate his life to. And if that sounds a little open-ended, that's because it is.

    Lines 271-274

    To be certain….certain….
    (Amid aerial flowers).. time for arrangements—
    Drifted on
    To the final estrangement;

    • We already know that Mauberley wanted time to help get rid of his confusion or bewilderment. So it makes sense that he would wish to be "certain….certain…." The ellipses here really drive home the idea that certainty was something Mauberley wished for, but couldn't quite have. 
    • 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

    Unable in the supervening blankness
    To sift TO AGATHON from the chaff
    Until he found his seive. …
    Ultimately, his seismograph:

    • But with all that uncertainty in his life, Mauberley couldn't sift out "TO AGATHON" from the blankness and confusion all around him. To AGATHON is Greek for "the good," so this line talks about how Mauberley couldn't decide what was truly good in his life because he was so confused and adrift…
    • Confused, that is, until he "found his sieve." A sieve is basically a strainer that you use to separate something solid from liquid (like cooked spaghetti). The fact that Mauberley found a sieve suggests that he 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. So like the sieve, this instrument seems to represent Mauberley's growing ability to find the truth that underlies everyday things.

    Lines 279-282

    —Given that is his "fundamental passion"
    This urge to convey the relation
    Of eye-lid and cheek-bone
    By verbal manifestations;

    • So now Pound seems to be talking about Mauberley's "fundamental passion," which has something to do with using language (verbal manifestations) to describe to people the relation between an eye-lid and cheek-bone. To get what Pound is saying here, it's important to know that the ancient Greeks had a set of mathematical ratios that they used to define what a beautiful face was. 
    • These ratios were all about the distance between a person's eyelids, or the distance between the nose and cheekbones. In any case, Pound seems to be using it to describe Mauberley's desire to connect with a type of beauty that's "fundamental" to human beings and to describe it in words.

    Lines 283-284

    To present the series
    Of curious heads in medallion—

    • What's all this about a series of heads in medallion? Well just like us modern folk, the Romans used to put the heads of their rulers on their coins or medallions. But they'd also make sure to use faces that had perfect measurements and showed off their classic sense of beauty. 
    • So Mauberley, connecting with beauty was the same thing as studying the ancient Greeks' definition of beauty, and one of the best ways to do this would be to check out the heads that were on the old Greek coins.

    Lines 285-288

    He had passed, inconscient, full gaze,
    The wide-banded irises
    And botticellian sprays implied
    In their diastasis;

    • Now we're hearing all about Mauberley being "inconscient" and looking with "wide-banded irises" at "botticellian sprays." Now that's a mouthful no matter how you say it. Well, if we break it down, we realize that 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." Pound uses large irises to help describe Mauberley's sense of stupor. 
    • Pound also refers to "botticellian sprays," which refers to Venus rising out of the ocean spray in Sandro Botticelli's famous painting, The Birth of Venus
    • 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. We (like Mauberley) are totally missing out on something great here, so we owe it to ourselves to take a look back at classical art and rediscover what's beautiful.

    Lines 289-292

    Which anaesthesis, noted a year late,
    And weighed, revealed his great affect,
    (Orchid), mandate
    Of Eros, a retrospect.

    • Eventually, Mauberley must've gotten over his blindness and realized what true beauty was. Unfortunately, it sounds like he was a "year late" in realizing how ignorant or unconscious ("anaesthesis") he'd been. But once he looked back "in retrospect," he would have considered or weighed the importance of what he'd been missing all those years. The thing he'd been missing was actually the demand (mandate) of his own romantic desires, which are connected to Eros, the Greek god of love. 
    • So in other words, 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


    Mouths biting empty air,
    The still stone dogs,
    Caught in metamorphosis, were
    Left him as epilogues.

    • In later versions of this poem, Pound quotes a line from the Roman poet Ovid that reads, "He bites at empty air." The line comes from a story about a dog chasing a monster out of a city and turning to stone (along with the monster) at the moment it jumps to bite. 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. 
    • It's one thing to talk smack about the age you live in; but when you can't put a face on your enemy, it can start to feel that you're just attacking a ghost, or biting at empty air. 
    • The fact that it's left to him as an epilogue suggests that this might also be Pound's final word on the subject (but don't count on it).
  • Part Two, "The Age Demanded"

    Lines 297-300

    For this agility chance found
    Him of all men, unfit
    As the red-beaked steeds of
    The Cytheraean for a chain bit.

    • 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. 
    • We've heard about how Mauberley was able to change and wrap his head around what was actually beautiful in life. But unfortunately all of his changing or his "agility" seemed to make him "unfit" to bring beauty into the world, the way a person would pull a chariot. You're probably wondering where we got chariot out of all this, so here is goes: the "red-beaked steeds" in line 299 refer to the mythical Greek doves that pulled the chariot belonging to the goddess Aphrodite (also known as the Cytheraean). 
    • So yeah, those little white birds are able to pull the chariot for the beautiful goddess Aphrodite. But Mauberley still doesn't quite make the cut. You can imagine how frustrating it would be to finally find true beauty in your life, only to realize that you can't do anything to pull it into the modern world.

    Lines 301-304

    The glow of porcelain
    Brought no reforming sense
    To his perception
    Of the social inconsequence.

    • So now we're hearing about porcelain, and how it wasn't able to bring Mauberley some sort of reforming sense. What Pound means by porcelain is that Mauberley found out that true beauty was something hard, but also delicate (kind of like porcelain).
    • But all of this knowledge didn't seem to give him any "reforming sense" of the "social inconsequence" of true beauty. But what could this mean? What does it mean that his knowledge of beauty didn't change his ideas about beauty's social inconsequence?
    • Well, basically 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.
    • He knew beauty, in other words, but was cynical about whether anyone else would ever care. That means he got stuck in the idea that beauty had no consequence or significance for modern society.

    Lines 305-312

    Thus, if her colour
    Came against his gaze,
    Tempered as if
    It were through a perfect glaze

    He made no immediate application
    Of this to relation of the state
    To the individual, the mouth was more temperate
    Because this beauty had been.

    • In lines 305-308, you can see that if the color of beauty ever even came into Mauberley's vision, he "made no immediate application," or wasn't able to connect this beauty to the relationship between modern nations (states) and individuals. So now it seems like Pound is caught up in talking about how Mauberley failed to do good by beauty once he'd realized what it was.
    • What Pound is getting at here is something he'd spend more time talking about in his later life. But 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. But for the time being, he's basically saying that even though Mauberley was able to find beauty in everyday life, he failed to think about how human society could be made more beautiful. And that's something Pound wants the modern world to start thinking about.

    Lines 313-316

    The coral isle, the lion-coloured sand
    Burst in upon the porcelain revery:
    Impetuous troubling
    Of his imagery.

    • Now we've got a break in the action, and 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. Maybe Mauberley got sick of dreaming about Greek statues and decided, like the rest of us, that maybe a tropical vacation on a beach would be more beautiful than looking at old art.
    • Maybe Mauberley just wants to get away from it all…

    Lines 317-320

    Mildness, amid the neo-Neitzschean clatter,
    His sense of graduations,
    Quite out of place amid
    Resistance to current exacerbations,

    • Guess which philosopher was pretty popular during Pound's time? You got it: Friedrich Nietzsche, the dude who's famous for saying "God is dead." Well as you can imagine, a philosopher like Nietzsche was pretty heavy-handed about the stuff he talked about. But it sounds like Mauberley tended more toward "Mildness" amid all those shouting Nietzsche types. 
    • Unlike philosophers who saw things as being black and white, Mauberley had a sense of "graduations," meaning that he thought of things subtly, which was totally out of place when people wanted to tear down one another's arguments. In this sense, his gentleness was a type of resistance to the love of conflict or "exacerbations" that were common in his time.

    Lines 321-324

    Invitation, mere invitation to perceptivity
    Gradually led him to the isolation
    Which these presents place
    Under a more tolerant, perhaps, examination

    • So what does Pound mean when he says that Mauberley thought it was best to make a "mere invitation to perceptivity." Well if you think about it, an invitation is the opposite of a demand. Pound has spent that last few lines talking about modern thinkers trying to force other people to agree with them, so 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. 
    • Unfortunately, all of his gentleness looks like it led Mauberley "to the isolation." Mauberley probably got isolated by the modern world because he couldn't keep up with the conflict-loving modern times. But when Pound says that "these presents place" Mauberley "Under a more tolerant examination," he might be saying that it's easier to sympathize with Mauberley if you look at him in retrospect.

    Lines 325-328

    By constant elimination
    The manifest universe
    Yielded an armour
    Against utter consternation,

    • These lines talk about Mauberley getting some sort of "armour" against total despair or "utter consternation." But what does Pound mean when he says that this armour was offered to Mauberley "By constant elimination"? Well, maybe Mauberley's constant rejection from social life eventually made him tougher. Maybe getting punished for his gentleness eventually made Mauberley fed up, and dude grew a thick skin.

    Lines 329-332

    A Minoan undulation,
    Seen, we admit, amid ambrosial circumstances
    Strengthened him against
    The discouraging doctrine of chances,

    • And so we plod onward. Pound talks about a Minoan undulation in line 329, with Minoan being an adjective connected to King Minos, the most famous ancient king of the Greek island of Crete (big surprise there). And the word undulations basically means to go up and down (i.e., the streets of San Francisco have many undulations). So we're talking about a feeling of going up and down, and that somehow being connected to King Minos of ancient Crete. We're waiting for an explanation, Ezra…
    • And it turns out that Mauberley witnesses this Minoan undulation "amid ambrosial circumstances." As we've already discussed ambrosia is the wine of the gods, so ambrosial circumstances probably means some sort of intoxication or drunkenness for Mauberley. 
    • And now we hear that this experience strengthened Mauberley against "The discouraging doctrine of chance." So here's what we can put together. Mauberley has to fight against the despair that comes with thinking the whole world is random and meaningless, just a matter of pure chance (we're looking at you, Thomas Hardy). 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. 
    • Whew. Had to sweat for that one.

    Lines 333-336

    And his desire for survival,
    Faint in the most strenuous moods,
    Became an Olympian apathein
    In the presence of selected perceptions.

    • So now it's time to talk about how much Mauberley wants to go on living, or his "desire for survival." It seems that even when things are at their most intense or strenuous, Mauberley's desire to live is "Faint." But Pound says this faint desire to live became an "Olympian apathein/ In the presence of selected perceptions." The word Olympian basically means godlike, being a reference to Mount Olympus, which is where the gods hung out in Greek myth. Apathein, on the other hand, is a Greek word connected to the English "apathy," meaning that you totally don't care one way or the other about something. 
    • So we move from Mauberley just barely wanting to live to him having an Olympic or god-like indifference whenever he encounters "selected perceptions." So in other words, 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 (Olympic indifference).

    Lines 337-341

    A pale gold, in the aforesaid pattern,
    The unexpected palms
    Destroying, certainly, the artist's urge,
    Left him delighted with the imaginary
    Audition of the phantasmal sea-surge,

    • So what's all this about pale gold, now? Are we talking about something glorious? If so, then why use a weak adjective like "pale" to describe the gold? 
    • This gold also seems to be molded in some sort of pattern that Pound says he's mentioned before (aforesaid), but it's unclear what he means here. And if that weren't hard to understand, he talks about some "unexpected palms" destroying an artist's urge. Now if this passage means palms as in the surface of hands, it doesn't seem to make much sense. But if we think of palms as being tropical trees, this stanza might be pointing back to the "coral isle" that Mauberley dreams about in lines 313-316. 
    • Now it looks like the palms are "unexpected" because they appear to Mauberley in sudden daydreams. Visions of palm trees would explain why Mauberley's artistic urge would be destroyed, since the island represents a wonderful escape from all the trials and tribulations of a poor artist's life. 
    • And finally, the image of palm trees goes nicely with Mauberley's "imaginary/ Audition of the phantasmal sea-surge."
    • 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

    Incapable of the least utterance or composition,
    Emendation, conservation of the 'better tradition'
    Refinement of medium, elimination of superfluities,
    August attraction or concentration.

    • So if Mauberley is not capable of the "least utterance or composition," he's probably not producing all that much art (composition here would mean writing a song or a poem). He's not even capable of "Emendation," which means taking a piece of art that already exists and fixing it up. 
    • The list of things that Mauberley can't do continues: he can't do anything to conserve the "better tradition." Or in other words, he can't do anything to promote the kinds of old artworks that Pound would like us to celebrate. The dude can't do anything to refine the kind of art (or "medium") that he works with. He can't even edit out unnecessary material ("superfluities") from his works, which is supposed to be one of the artist's lighter jobs. Mauberley can't do anything for his art while he's still dreaming about coral islands.

    Lines 346-351

    Nothing, in brief, but maudlin confession
    Irresponse to human aggression,
    Amid the precipitation, down-float
    Of insubstantial manna,
    Lifting the faint susurrus
    Of his subjective hosanna.

    • Nope, it looks like Mauberley can do "Nothing" at all. All he can give us is "maudlin confession." Now maudlin here basically means sad in a sort of weak way. The confession part might mean that Mauberley can't really say anything these days other than sorry, since he's starting to look like a bit of a quitter. 
    • But that's not all. 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. Maybe they even call him names. But he doesn't even have the strength to fight back. 
    • Nope, it seems like the poor guy is just caught out in the rain (or precipitation) with a sad look on his face, floating down a river (down-float) that's filled with meaningless "manna." But what the heck is manna, anyway? Well according to the Bible, manna is the food that was magically given to the Jewish people to help them survive in the wilderness for forty years. 
    • So if Mauberley's manna is "insubstantial," that might mean that his spirit doesn't have enough food to get by on. Poor Mauberley's soul sounds like it's dying, and there's nothing the world can give to make it strong again. 
    • Now to get these last two lines, it's important to know that "susurrus" means whisper in Latin, and that "hosanna" is the word Christians use to ask God to save them. So basically, all that Mauberley has left is just enough strength to whisper "save me" to God. The fact that his hosanna is "subjective," though, means that Mauberley might not even believe in what he's saying.
    • Praying to god might not be something he objectively believes in, but just subjectively blurts out without any hope of being saved.

    Lines 352-356

    Ultimate affronts to human redundancies;

    Non-esteem of self-styled 'his betters'
    Leading, as he well knew,
    To his final
    Exclusion from the world of letters.

    • So somebody is committing ultimate affronts, or insults, to what Pound calls "human redundancies." Well we know what human means, and redundancy means something that's repetitive in an unnecessary way. So it seems that Mauberley has acted in an insulting way to anyone who thinks that modern art has been able to achieve something new. 
    • But how is it that Mauberley has offended so much? Well Pound is happy to use quotation marks in saying 'his betters," meaning people who probably have more power in the art and publishing world than a young Mauberley does. The fact that his betters are even "self-styled" suggests that these people only think they're better than Mauberley, though they're wrong. 
    • But no matter what Mauberley might think, he knows exactly where all of his disagreement is going to get him. It's going to lead to "his final/ Exclusion from the world of letters." In other words, it looks like the publishing industry has had just about enough of this young upstart named Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.
  • Part Two, Section IV

    Lines 357-361

    Scattered Moluccas
    Not knowing, day to day,
    The first day's end, in the next room;
    The placid water
    Unbroken by the Simoon;

    • Okay, so maybe we're heading back to that nice tropical island Mauberley keeps dreaming about, since line 357 mentions the Moluccas, a group of pacific islands. But the fact that these islands are scattered means there's something less-than-perfect about this description. 
    • A quick look at line 358 confirms our suspicion about the word "scattered." This passage is talking about Mauberley confusion of "Not knowing, day to day,/ The first day's end." So basically, 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. He'll just end up getting really bored, which Pound might be symbolizing with the image of the "placid water" that is never disturbed by anything, not even a "Simoon" (a hot, dry wind). 
    • Yup, Mauberley's definitely realizing here that leading a calm life away from it all is not the answer, since this calm life would probably start to feel old after a day or two. Like most people, Mauberley needs something to fight for if he's going to get up in the morning.

    Lines 362-365

    Thick foliage
    Placid beneath the warm suns,
    Tawn fore-shores
    Washed in the cobalt of oblivions;

    • In case you hadn't figured out how calm and secure Mauberley's tropical island is, Pound keeps describing it in-depth. The thick foliage refers to how thickly the leaves grows on the branches of trees (probably the palm trees Pound mentioned earlier).
    • You can almost picture these thick leaves creating a canopy of shade that'll protect Hugh from the sun while he lies back to relax. But the ceiling of leaves is also symbolic of how secure and unstressed Mauberley probably feels beneath these leaves. 
    • Further, Mauberley feels totally calm or "placid" beneath the warm tropical sun. Make sure to pay attention to the connections that Pound is drawing here. You can never have a sense of comfort without boredom, and you can never feel safe without also losing your desire to be an artist. You can especially see this when Pound says that Mauberley is washed in the cobalt blue water of "oblivions." Oblivion here basically means a life without thought or emotion, a life that actually is really similar to death. 
    • 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

    Or through dawn-mist
    The grey and rose
    Of the juridical

    • Still more description here of the calm island. But don't get sucked in by it. There's always a price to pay for taking the easy way out. But hey, at least there are pretty flamingos to look at on Mauberley's island.

    Lines 370-373

    A consciousness disjunct,
    Being but this overblotted
    Of intermittences;

    • Now Pound seems to be getting pretty abstract again. He's talking about Mauberley's consciousness, and says that it's disjunct.
    • But what does it mean to say that someone's mind is "disjunct," or split into pieces? Well 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?
    • But Pound doesn't stop there. He goes on to describe Mauberley's mind as "this overblotted/ Series/ Of intermittences." It doesn't sound like a very nice thing to say, but let's see if we can be more specific than that. Overblotted just means that Mauberley's mind has a bunch of stains or spots on it. The idea that the mind is just a series of intermittences, means that it's constantly stopping and starting. 
    • So it sounds here like Pound is attacking our normal idea of what a human mind is like: a single thing that knows what it's doing and makes clear decisions. Instead, Pound is saying that the human mind is a "series," or something that unfolds over time like a strand of ribbon, starting and stopping and moving at different speeds. He's basically stretching out our idea of the human mind and saying that it's something that never exists in one time and one place, but something that unfolds over time.

    Lines 374-377

    Coracle of Pacific voyages,
    The unforecasted beach:
    Then on an oar
    Read this:

    • Now Pound's back to describing tropical stuff. More specifically, he's talking about a "coracle," which is a type of tiny boat that looks like this. Yeah, so maybe you can picture Mauberley floating out on the sea in one of these little things. Makes you feel a little bit lost, doesn't it? Well that's sort of what Mauberley's feeling, because he's in a dilemma. 
    • At some point, 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. We're getting into the home stretch of this poem, so count on this message to be important.

    Lines 378-381

    "I was
    And I no more exist;
    Here drifted
    An hedonist."

    • Well, 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. And it looks like someone else has come to this same tropical island even before Mauberley got there. 
    • This dead person confesses to being a "hedonist," which basically means a person who dedicates his life to getting pleasure for himself. Now if you think about that for a second, you might realize that 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.
    • Pound is saying here that discomfort and struggle is a part of life, and that we shouldn't try to escape these things forever. This is a pretty important point for him to make, since he talked earlier in the poem about how awesome it would be to live like the Greek god Dionysus, drinking wine and having sex all the time. No, it's really important for a young artist like Mauberley to learn the importance of struggle. And hey, maybe the rest of us can learn that lesson while we're at it.
  • Part Two, Medallion

    Lines 382-385

    Luini in porcelain!
    The grand piano
    Utters a profane
    Protest with her clear soprano.

    • Okay, we've got another shift of voice here. 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 and lived around 1481 to 1532. 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. 
    • Next, we're listening to a grand piano putting up some sort of protest with high notes (soprano). We're not sure why the piano's protesting; but judging by the rest of this poem, it probably has something to do with modern people not appreciating true beauty.

    Lines 386-389

    The sleek head emerges
    From the gold-yellow frock
    As Anadyomene in the opening
    Pages of Reinach.

    • Now there's some sort of "sleek head" emerging into our vision wearing a gold-yellow frock. It turns out that the head belongs to the goddess Anadyomene, which is another name for Venus. Pound is talking specifically about a drawing that appears in a book called Apollo by Salomon Reinach in 1904. 
    • It looks like 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

    Honey-red, closing the face-oval,
    A basket-work of braids which seem as if they were
    Spun in King Minos' hall
    From metal, or intractable amber;

    • So there's something that's "Honey-red" that closes an oval-shaped face and looks like a basket-work of braids. So we can probably assume that the honey-red stuff Pound's talking about is Venus' hair, which looks as if it were spun in the hall of the Great King Minos, and made out of metal or some sort of amber. Don't forget that amber in this poem is a symbol of beauty being preserved for a very long time. So Pound's definitely trying to close this poem by returning to his ideals of beauty.

    Lines 394-397

    The face-oval beneath the glaze,
    Bright in its suave bounding-line, as,
    Beneath in half-watt rays,
    The eyes turn topaz.

    • If Venus' face is supposed to be a symbol of classic beauty, then it seems to really be doing it for Pound. The face if bright, for starters, but also smooth at its edges or "bounding-line." 
    • But with the next line, you get the sense that Pound is looking at this image of Venus under the light of a modern desk lamp, maybe in his private office. We can know this because "half-watt rays" would only come from a pretty weak light bulb. 
    • Nonetheless, the Venus' eyes turn the color of topaz even beneath the weak light of Pound's lamp. Can anyone guess at the significance of Venus' topaz eyes? It's pretty important, since it's the closing image of a really long poem. 
    • Well if you remember all the way back to line 102, that's where Pound talked about the beauty of the "sea-green" eyes that he found in a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In this earlier section, he also says that these sea-green eyes are a symbol of perfect beauty that has been preserved for hundreds of years by art. 
    • So 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.