Study Guide

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Themes

  • Art and Culture

    Well, this entire poem of "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is pretty much dedicated to talking about the state of art and culture in the modern world. And Pound's verdict isn't a very flattering one. The modern world, he argues, is full of artists who have no clue what true beauty is because they're completely ignorant to the history of art. For Pound, it was the ancient Greeks who truly knew what beauty was. But nobody studies the Greeks anymore, so we have no way of figuring out what beauty is.

    Questions About Art and Culture

    1. What does Pound mean when he compares modern civilization to "an old bitch gone in the teeth" (88)? What parts of the poem give you your ideas? 
    2. According to the poem, what are some of the reasons why the modern world has lost its connection to true beauty? What are the main problems with modern art?
    3. Throughout this poem, Pound searches for something that can restore beauty to modern art and culture. What are some of the things that might achieve this, according to the poem?
    4. In your opinion, is Pound right about modern art and culture losing its connection with the history of art? How so? How not so?

    Chew on This

    In "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," Ezra Pound shows us that there's no hope at all for modern art to create something beautiful. We haz a sad.

    Chill out, gang. In "Mauberley," Pound argues that everything will be all right if modernist writers look back to the art of the ancient past for inspiration

  • Coming of Age

    Huey Mauberley might be thirty years old, but "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is still about a guy trying to come to terms with the modern world and the types of art it's willing to acknowledge. You can get a pretty clear sense that this poem is about an artistic awakening from its first lines, when it recounts that its main character was "out of key with his time" for three years. Right away, you see Huey as a social outsider. And the rest of the poem is basically dedicated to seeing how a guy obsessed with finding beauty either adapts or fails to adapt to the modern world.

    Questions About Coming of Age

    1. In your opinion, does Huey learn anything in this poem? If so, what does he learn? If not, what lesson does he fail to learn? What parts of the poem tell you this? 
    2. How exactly is Huey "out of key" with his time? How are his beliefs different from those of the world around him? What quotes support your idea? 
    3. What are the biggest obstacles/temptations that prevent Huey from realizing his dream? How many come from outside forces? How many come from inside Huey himself? What parts of the poem lead you to an answer?

    Chew on This

    Grown-ups? In "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," Pound argues that it's almost impossible for a modern artist to mature over time, since there are so many things in the world trying to keep him or her immature.

    "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is a totally autobiographical poem about why Ezra Pound eventually chose to leave England. So there.

  • Dissatisfaction

    You don't have to look far to find plenty of disappointment in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley." Pound is pretty much down on everything he sees in modern art and culture. But that doesn't mean he's just a big whiner. He's pretty clear on what he wants when it comes to alternatives. He wants modern artists to study the classics and learn from them about beauty. It's all pretty straightforward. The only problem is that the world might not care all that much about beauty anymore.

    Questions About Dissatisfaction

    1. In your opinion, does the speaker have a good reason to feel so dissatisfied with modern culture? Why or why not? What parts of the poem support your answer? 
    2. What types of people annoy the speaker the most? What types of people does he blame most for ruining modern culture? Where in poem do you see this? 
    3. Do you think that dissatisfaction is necessary for great art? Would any progress (in art, or elsewhere) be made if everything was just ducky? How would the speaker answer?

    Chew on This

    Silver lining alert? In several sections of "Mauberley," Pound's dissatisfaction seems to waver, and he actually starts to sound as if he enjoys living in the modern world.

    The dissatisfaction expressed in "Mauberley" tends to come from the speaker's frustration over the way the world has treated artists he considers to be really great. Get 'em, Hugh.

  • Respect and Reputation

    For Pound, one of the biggest problems with the modern world is the fact that all people seem to care about is looking good in the eyes of others. In the early 20th century especially, Pound felt like people were trying way too hard to be prim and proper, and he felt like this had a way of sucking all the passion and life out of art. He really can't stand people who don't think there should ever be sex or passion in art. In fact, in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," bringing the sex back to art seems to be one of the first things he thinks we should do if we're going to make art good again.

    Questions About Respect and Reputation

    1. In what specific ways would the speaker like to see passion brought back into art? What parts of the poem support your answer?
    2. What is the speaker's biggest beef with folks like Gladstone (line 94) and Buchanan (line 98)? How is it connected to the theme of respect and reputation?
    3. In your opinion, do Pound's opinions about the lack of passion in art still hold true today? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Let it all hang out. For Pound, people should forget about what others think about them and let their passion loose if they're going to be great artists.

    In "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," Pound shows us that our concern with respect and reputation is dumb, and that we're just wasting our lives if this is all we care about.

  • Principles

    So what is it that keeps Pound from just being your everyday whiner? The fact that dude has principles. Seriously, the whole reason he wrote this monster poem, "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," is because he totally believes that the world would be a better place if everybody just listened to him. At the end of the day, Pound says that modern culture isn't going to get anywhere unless it reconnects with true beauty, and the best way to do this is to study the examples of classic art and to follow their lead. So yeah, if everyone could go ahead and do that, that'd be greaaaat.

    Questions About Principles

    1. In your opinion, is the speaker consistent when it comes to his principles, or is he sort of all over the place? What parts of the poem support your answer? 
    2. Do you think the speaker would be happier if he were willing to compromise a little more on his principles? Or would compromise be a bad thing? What would he be compromising to? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?
    3. Do you agree with Pound's principles when it comes to art and culture? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    In "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," Pound gives us a shining example of the bad thing that'll happen to us if we're not willing to compromise on our principles and get with the times.

    Pound's mission in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is completely ridiculous. There's no way you can make poetry relevant to the modern world, and Pound knows it.