CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION 

1917

 

 

To Homer Pound [ca 4 January 1917]

L/HP 387; A 11

Dear Dad,

Here’s the first 3 cantos of the long poem.

Send me your first impressions & second impressions as soon as you can.

I don’t want you to show it about until it’s printed or until I have decided on the final form of some of this.

 

To Homer Pound, [c. 5 January 1917]

L/HP 388-89; A 12

[...]

I mailed the first three cantos of POEM yesterday or the day before. Hope it reaches you safely. It is a bit of a chaw, but remember it is only a beginning of a much longer affair and that some of its incomprehensible places will be elucidated later on. (I hope.)

I want very much to know what you make of it, both as a whole (i.e. the lot sent) and in detail.

So write at length on the matter.

 

Note: Homer’s reply is included in L/HP 387-88. 

 

To John Quinn, 10 January 1917

SL 101-2

Dear John Quinn: The Dec. number of Seven Arts has just arrived. I don’t know whether I owe it to you or to the editor.

I have just sealed up Fenollosa’s “Essay on the Chinese Written Character,” to send to them. It is one of the most important essays of our time. But they will probably reject it on the ground of its being exotic.

Fenollosa saw and anticipated a good deal of what has happened in art (painting and poetry) during the last ten years, and his essay is basic for all aesthetics, but I doubt if that will cut much ice. […]

Seven Arts don’t seem to me much better than The Egoist, though you needn’t say so publicly, as I want to be paid for it. It’s damn well worth it.) China is fundamental, Japan is not. Japan is a special interest, like Provence, or 12-13 Century Italy (apart from Dante). I don’t mean to say there aren’t interesting things in Fenollosa’s Japanese stuff (or fine things, like the end of Kagekiyo, which is, I think, ‘Homeric’). But China is solid. One can’t go back of the “Exile’s Letter,” or the “Song of the Bowmen,” or the “North Gate.”

 

To John Quinn, 24 January 1917

SL 104

Dear John Quinn: I am glad you really enjoyed Lustra and aren’t going on with it merely out of esprit de corps.

I have always wanted to write “poetry” that a grown man could read without groans of ennui, or without having to have it cooed into his ear by a flapper.

[...]

Then came the proofs of Noh, and then work on a new long poem (really L O N G, endless, leviathanic).

 

Note: Pound is telling Quinn about work he had done in the autumn of 1916. He had finished correcting the proofs of Noh: Or Accomplishment for Macmillan in September (L/HP 379). It is the first time Pound mentions The Cantos to Quinn. 

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson to Harriet Monroe, 6 February 1917

L/ACH 193-4

E.P. has sent me a long poem for POETRY. He sent it so I could read it and then send to you. Of course it will be caviar to the general, no doubt, but I like it. I am mailing it, registered, tomorrow.  (HM Poetry Collection Chicago).

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson to Harriet Monroe, 7 February 1917

L/ACH 194

Dear H.M. Here are Ezra’s Cantos. I really hate to let them go. I really like them tremendously. Another hard answer that could be made to idiots like Braithwaite. Of course they are erudite – but there is life – and a poet’s life – in it & through it all – considerable vision and depth – and beauty of style. You need to read it several times – at least I did – to get the full value. In fact, it can be read indefinitely –  & give up new meanings – which is a good deal to say – I am sending the mss. to your house, so you can read it away from “official” distractions. Let me know what you think about it. It was nice of E.P. to send it through me so I could read it & I am sorry I kept it longer than I meant!

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 February 1917

L/ACH, 186

Dear Alice,

You will by now have the long poem, for nutriment.

Nothing will replace “Poetry’s” fat subsidy. H.M. must have credit for that always and anyhow. If Poetry peters out it will deplete one’s income. BOMBBBBB.

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson, 17 February, 1917

L/ACH 190

Dear Ezra,

[...]

Your cantos are very beautiful and I long for more to come. I’ve sent the mss. on to Harriet though I hated to give it up. I hope she will put them in April. I really like them tremendously. You’ve explored worlds beyond worlds, and it’s a pleasure to follow you. Bueno, Bueno!

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 March 1917

L/ACH 198, 203

Dear Alice,

I am glad you like the poem. It seems very difficult to get any CRITICISM. Padre José brings back his copy with “Muy bien, son muy bien”. He hadn’t understood ‘em all “pero los padres han compreso y dicen que son muy bien”. I said the padre couldn’t possibly have approved of Valla’s “Nec bonus etc.” at which the good father looked depressed and went on to say the part about Corpus Christi was very enjoyable and that the dances in Cathedral at Seville on Corpus <day> etc. etc.

Eliot said it was worth doing and after standing over him with a club I got some very valuable objections to various details. I can’t remember whether I’ve included the emendations in the mss. I sent you. Don’t delay publication in trying to find out, the changes were all very minute and dont matter for a first publication.

[...]

I hope Harriet will print it in April. If I see the first lot in type I may feel it more “cleared up” and better able to get on to the next swot. At present I’ve only chunks and stray incidents.

[...]

Yrs. questions re/ metre. Yes, I think my “music” is too disconnected, and that I must ‘put?] more resonance into the poema lunga as it proceeds. 203.

 

Note: The “padre” is Padre José Maria de Elizondo, whom Pound had met in Madrid in 1906 and whom he found again by chance in London in January 1917 (L/ACH 181). Pound was very fond of him and gave him his typescript of Three Cantos to read. 

 

To James Joyce, 17 March 1917

L/JJ 102

[...]

I have begun an endless poem, of no known category. Phanopoeia or something or other, all about everything. "Poetry" may print the first three cantos this spring. I wonder what you will make of it. Probably too sprawling and unmusical to find favour in your ears. Will try to get some melody into it further on. Though we have not ombra and ingombra to end our lines with, or poluphloisbious thallassas to enrich the middle feet.

dina para thallassa poluphloisboio, I think it is, the attempted anglicisation does not look well. 

 

From Harriet Monroe to Alice Corbin Henderson, 19 March 1917

L/ACH 194

I read two or three pages of Ezra’s Cantos and then took sick - no doubt that was the cause. Since then I haven’t had brains enough to tackle it, and the other day I let Robert Frost take it east with him. But lord! - think of his expecting us to print 24 pages of that sort of thing in one number. I don’t know what to do about it.

 

From Harriet Monroe to Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 April 1917

L/ACH 194

Well, I have read Ezra’s poem at last. Of course it has his quality - though more diluted than usual, but I can’t pretend to be much pleased at the course his verse is taking. A hint from Browning at his most recondite, and erudition in seventeen languages. Of course it would be suicidal to [do] the three cantos - or even two - in one number; I shall make it a serial in three numbers, if he consents, beginning probably with June. Is he petering out, that he must meander so among dead and foreign poets? has he nothing more of his own to say?

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson to Harriet Monroe, 16 April, 1917

L/ACH 194-95

I liked Ezra’s poem - in spite of it being a tuning up of fiddles, it seemed to have some body of its own[.] Of course if nothing crystallizes further on, I can’t see that it would be sufficient excuse for itself, except in method and quality. It is a preparation, and a linking up of times and classics, etc. preparatory, let us hope, to an individual vision. Of course, as far as popularity is concerned, that’s different. I don’t think that’s your prime concern after all - it never has been, and that’s why Poetry has been worth something. But I think your suggestion of printing one canto a number ought to do.

 

To Harriet Monroe, 24 April 1917

SL 110; 12

As to poem, string it out into three numbers if that’s the best you can do. Price named for magazine rights is satisfactory. Only for gawd’s sake send it along as soon as possible.

Let us hope you may get over your dislike of the poem by the time the last of it is printed, you disliked “Contemporania” and even the first of Frost himself, and you loathed and detested Eliot. “Contemporania” didn’t exactly wreck the magazine. You have even put some of them into the anthology.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 24 April, 1917

L/ACH 209

Dear A.C.H.

Have at last had a letter from Harriet, consenting to print the Divina Commedia, in three sections during the silly season.

It will lose a good deal of its force being split up, but I am past struggling with these things.

two days ago on receipt of cheque for $3.69 dollars, pointing out that two such cheques during six months did not show very high estimate of cash value of a foreign correspondent. [...]

If she prints the poem, even in fragments and sends me the £24 we will be able to art amiably. I shall for the moment be free of pressing necessity.

That is perhaps better than a row and a rage.

 

Setting copy, POETRY, [May 1917]

Regenstein Library Chicago: POETRY/ ‘Note to Printer’ (Carbon) - Beinecke: Pound, YCAL 43: Series V

A 12-13

no Ids HM                                                                 “Ur III: 14.1”

no lds HM                                                                “Ur III: 23.1”

no sp HM                                                                  “Ur III: 26.1”

no Ids HM                                                                 “Ur III: 34.1”

no Ids HM                                                                 “Ur III: 39.3”

pica Id HM                                                               “Ur III: 40.1”

lc rom HM                                                                “Ur-III: 68”

no lds HM                                                                 “Ur III: 74.1”

Gal 1/Gal 2 HM                                                      “Ur HI: 91.4”

space as usual EP                                                   “Ur III: 111.1”

Indent/ Ital EP                                                        “Ur III: 112-113”

space as usual EP                                                   “Ur III: 113.1”

usually kwannon HM                                             “Ur HI: 126”

Or HM                                                                       “Ur III: 136”

<he'd is vile> HM                                                  “Ur III: 138”

Pica Id HM                                                               “Ur III: 138.3”

<n?> HM                                                                 “Ur I: 10.8”

<Ezra Pound> EP

<Further Cantos in a year or so.> EP                “Ur I: 148.1”

My attitude in attempting a long poem, and in presenting it whether whole or in parts, is, as I think any man's should be, ^one^ of extreme diffidence toward the few hund< e >red people who are capable of recognizing what I am about; of amiable respect for those who know that it does not concern them, and who therefore leave it alone; and of contempt for those few who ^,^ incapable of comprehension ^,^ rush in <with their ubiquitous malevolence> to meddle with what is not for them. ^E.P.^

</////>

<The theme is roughly the theme of “Takasago”, which story I hope to incorporate more explicitely in a later part of the poem.> < ^E.P.^ >

^The Three Cantos will be printed, a canto at a time, in our three summer numbers. The Editorˆ EP

 

To Homer Pound, 27 April, 1917

L/HP 394

Dear Dad

[...]

The long poem is coming out in poetry. Thru’ June. July. Aug.

Quinn has fixed up the book publication in New York.

 

Note: Pound and Quinn agreed to publish a revised Three Cantos at the end of Lustra, published by Knopf. 

 

To Homer Pound, 15 May, 1917

L/HP 396-7; A 13

Dear Dad

After all our struggles. Quinn sent the wrong proofs of Lustra to Knopf. So a lot of poems have been omitted from the galley proofs, which I am returning today. or Tomorrow.

I enclose a list of errors in the proofs, and also a list of the OMISSIONS.

I shan’t see the final proofs, so it devolves on you to see that ALL THESE ERRORS get corrected, and ALL the poems mentioned get included. [...]

With the THREE CANTOS added, the book will be stronger than it would with the S. Maynard poems and the Cantos omitted.

Poetry is printing one canto a month. through June, July, Aug.

that will finish in time for Knopf. to use the poem.

 

Note: The list of errors in the galley proofs as well as the list of poems to be reintroduced in Lustra are both included in L/HP 397-9.

 

To John Quinn, 15 May 1917

L/JQ 111-112.

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

The inclusion of “THREE CANTOS”, the last stuff I have done, will make the book a good deal stronger than the inclusion of the early work should have done. And bring it up to date, and also put into it “hitherto uncollected” matter.

And am now blind-drunk with correcting the Lustra proof sheets.

 

From John Quinn, 22 May 1917

A 13

I received this morning your cable as follows: Knopf await my manuscript three Cantos. I at once sent a copy of it to Knopf.

 

Setting copy, LUSTRA, [23 May] 1917

A 13-14

Note to printer:

This poem comes last of all in my book. It has a separate sub-title page: sic:

A DRAFT OF THREE CANTOS

FOR A POEM OF SOME LENGTH

on the reverse of this sub-title page is the following note: sic:

An earlier version of these Cantos appeared in “Poetry” during June, July and August 1917. Most of the poems in the section headed “Lustra” had appeared there at earlier dates. To the editors of this magazine, and of the others where his poems have appeared, the author wishes to make due acknowledgement.

THREE CANTOS begin on the page following. Certain things rather odd, I have specially marked stet or O.K in the margin. lest they be queried, or supposed to be slips of the typewriter. Proofs of this poem to be sent to my father, H.L. Pound, Wyncote, Pa. for correction. I should like a set sent to me also, but you need not wait for a reply from me about them, before printing. My father will be able to do the proof reading from this typescript.

Ezra Pound

23/5/1917

bowe OK. stet EP

OK stet EP                                                                                    “Ur III: 106”

note to printer. Or cap O is correct. EP                                  “Ur III: 136”

cap. (Panting and Faustus), O.K. EP                                       “Ur III: 161”

three commas ,,, EP                                                                     “Ur II: 54”

stet. Myo EP                                                                                   “Ur II: 102”

Muy velida EP                                                                                “Ur II: 111”

O.K. kernelled EP                                                                           “Ur II: 127”

stet canvass EP                                                                               “Ur I: 62”

OK. stet EP                                                                                       “Ur I: 79”

stet EP                                                                                               “Ur I: 115”

 

To Homer Pound, 23 May, 1917

L/HP 399

Dear Dad:

[…]

Have completely rewritten my long poem, cut it down six pages. See that Knopf uses the new mss.

I sent it this a.m. to Quinn. You will get the proofs to correct. I shan’t see ‘em. There are various queer points that I have especially marked “stet” or “O.K.” so that they shant be mistaken for slips, of the typewriter.

I began the revision on Saturday about 11.15 p.m. it is now Tuesday morning.

 

To Margaret Anderson, 24 May 1917

L/LR 54; L/ACH 195 n.2

I revised and condensed my long poem, i.e. the first three cantos of it, between Saturday 11.15 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. it goes at the end of the volume Knopf is bringing out (Lustra) and also runs as a serial in Poetry June, July, Aug.  (At least that’s what they wrote me they were doing with it.) Dont say I have revised it. I want them <i.e. “Poetry”> to go on with the text they’ve got.

 

Poetry, X.3 (June 1917)

P&P II: 220; L/ACH 204 n.5

[Pound’s note to Three Cantos I]

“As POETRY circulates among people definitely interested in the art, I do not feel apologetic about presenting the opening cantos of an exceedingly long poem. Most of the long poems that one can read were written before printing was invented, and circulated in fragments. More recent precedent may be found in the publication of separate cantos of Don Juan.

It has been one of POETRY’s chief service to make possible the current publication of work that otherwise would have been available only upon the issue of a complete volume of an individual’s work. The harm which other magazines have done to poetry is largely in that they have fostered a habit among poets of setting forth only so much of their work as may be intelligible and acceptable in bits, only a page or so at a time.”

 

From John Quinn, 4 June 1917

A 15

I have given Knopf the copy of “Poetry” for June and he will read the first canto. I am strongly in favor of their inclusion. I think it will make the book stronger. Knopf wants to read the three Cantos before he agrees, which I think is quite reasonable, but I have not the slightest doubt that they will gain.

 

From John Quinn, 12 June 1917

A 15

Three Cantos received seasonably. Stunning.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 14 June 1917

L/ACH 212

[...]

The long poem is to be split into sections. Good or bad it should have been lumped into one issue.

 

From John Quinn, 16 June 1917

A 15

I received yours of May 22d on Monday, June 11th and also received "Three Cantos". I had three copies made, made some suggestions as to punctuation, and have sent your original and two copies to your father with a letter of which I enclose a copy. "Poetry" printed the first canto m the June number and promised the second and third of the first draft in the July and August numbers, so there will be no complications there. As soon as I receive back the "Three Cantos" from your father I will send the first copy, with his approval, to Knopf and he will, I feel sure, begin setting up from that.

 

To John Quinn, 18 June 1917

L/JQ 121, 123

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

I am very glad you like the three cantos. [121]

[…]

Thanks again for letting me know mss. Three cantos rec’d. I suppose that finishes off “Lustra”, so far as I am concerned, for the present. 123

 

Note: Pound had sent “Three Cantos of a Poem of Some Length” so that Quinn could add them to the American edition of Lustra.

 

John Quinn to Alfred Knopf, 22 June 1917

A 15-16

I received from Pound the other day the revised form of the “Three Cantos”. I had his copy copied out by the typewriter and sent two copies to his father, one for the father to keep, which he has kept, and one which he has returned. The father makes the following suggestions:

Page 1: “Beaucaire” instead of “Biaucaire”, and cap in the phrase “Knave of Hearts”.

Page 4: The father suggests “Maenids” instead of “Maelids”. But these are matters for E.P. to settle himself. I understand that you are to send final proofs of it to him. Space between the words “white” and “swimmers”, as indicated at the bottom of page 4.

Space as indicated before the word “ringing”, six lines from the bottom of page 7.

I enclose you with this the copy returned to me by Pound’s father.

 

To Margaret Anderson, June 1917

SL 113

Dear editor: The one use of a man’s knowing the classics is to prevent him from imitating the false classics.

You read Catullus to prevent yourself from being poisoned by the lies of pundits; you read Propertius to purge yourself of the greasy sediments of lecture courses on “American literature,” on “English literature form Dryden to Addison,” you (in extreme cases) read Arnaut Daniel so as not to be over-awed by a local editor who faces you with a condemnation in the phrase “paucity of rhyme.”

The classics, “ancient and modern,” are precisely the acids to gnaw through the thongs and bulls-hides with which we are tied by our schoolmasters.

They are the antiseptics. They are almost the only antiseptics against the contagious imbecility of mankind.

I can conceive an intelligence strong enough to exist without them, but I can not recall having met an incarnation of such intelligence. Some does better and some does worse.

The strength of Picasso is largely in his having chewed through and chewed up a great mass of classicism; which, for example, the lesser cubists, and the flabby cubists have not.

 

To John Quinn 4 July 1917

L/JQ 124

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

Thanks very much for your trouble with “Three Cantos”. It is more than kind of you to have had it copied and gone over it. ALL the punctuation suggestions are improvements.

“Maelids” is correct. They (the nymphs of the apple trees) are my one bit of personal property in greek mythology. The professed and professional Hellenists have, I believe, let them alone. I scored with them on even the assiduous Aldington, who had translated the greek as “apple-trees”.

 

To James Joyce, 17 July 1917

L/JJ 122

[…]

I hope to God you wont try to read my beastly [long] poem in “Poetry”, I have revised the whole thing and it is at least better than it was, and will appear in my American edition, which you will receive, if it, you, and I survive till late autumn.”

 

From John Quinn, 8 August 1917

A 16

The Three Cantos were no trouble. Knopf sent me a copy of the page-proof yesterday, and I will read it before I go west.

 

To Harriet Monroe, 21 August 1917

SL 115

Dear H.M.:

[…]

I am sorry Sandburg don’t like Three Cantos, F[letcher] is too low in the scale of God’s creatures to bother about. I can’t see how anyone can see the thing in such small sections. However, the printing it in three parts has given me a chance to emend, and the version for the book is, I think, much improved. Eliot is the only person who proffered criticism instead of general objection.

I discount Sandburg’s objection, by the fact that he would probably dislike anything with foreign quotations in it. Flint used to be the same (may be yet). Still one can’t stop merely because some people haven’t read Latin. It is the complex of the uneducated, in the same way class hatred works on the basis of money. Don’t for God's sake say this to Sandburg. A decent system would give him time to loaf in a library. Which while perhaps less important than loafing in pubs, is still a part of the complete man’s loafing.

Anyhow my next batch of stuff will be short poems, which, let us hope, someone will enjoy. Also one should not do the same thing all the time. The long poem is at least a change.

 

From John Quinn, 28 August 1917

A 16

He [Knopf] claimed that the line of safety for him was to follow galleys corrected by you even if there were mistakes.

 

To John Quinn, 4 September 1917

L/JQ 125, 126

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

Re/ Lustra. It is amazingly painstaking of you to go through it with such care, and I am very grateful, BUTT Dios Christos, JHEEZUS-potamus!!! If and author went into those details, unless he was a “seller” like Bennet or Kipling, I doubt he would ever print twice with the same publisher.

[…]

Now to detail. I agree, naturally, with practically all your suggestions. I don’t remember whether the big caps were in my proof (galleys) or not. They certainly overbalance the very short poems. I don’t know they harm the poems of over a page. Anyhow, I am, I suppose, hardened and “past” seeing anything of this sort. IF I can get a type I can read and a moderately correct version of my work, I rest content… I don’t much remember caps. or no caps. In my proof, and I’ve only the proofs of Three Cantos, which haven’t any caps in. I shall sleep quiet in either case.  [125]

[…]

I rather meant Three Cantos to go at the end of the book, and to have the end of that poem marked “End of Third Canto”. There could be a separate “END” for the book.

I didn’t want it thought that the cantos are presented as a whole poem. [126]

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 8 September 1917

L/ACH 216

Taciturn Female,

[...]

H[arriet].M[onroe]. has sent me £5. since the £20 for the long pome. The Aug. number however, has not arrived YET. She might try sending only two copies, and sending the rest in a separate packet.

 

From John Quinn, 13 September 1917

A 16

Lustra proofs completed.

 

From John Quinn, 21 September 1917 (carbon)

A 16

[...] the Three Cantos are the end of the book. If he had the end of that poem marked as you suggest “End of Third Canto”, you would have to have the end of the first marked "End of First Canto" and the end of the second marked “End of Second Canto”. But this is unnecessary, for the Three Cantos begin Roman numerals, I: II: III. Therefore the last page of the book should have merely the word “End”, or else close up to the end of the third Canto the words “End of Three Cantos”, and then at the bottom merely the word “End”, which is what I will suggest to Knopf. It is an easy change and not expensive. I think you are right in not wanting it thought that the three Cantos are presented as a whole poem.

 

To Homer Pound, 29 October 1917

L/HP 407; A 16

[...]

Granville in yesterday looking for copy. He will probably use some selections of the long poem in his paper “The Future.”

 

To Homer Pound, 18 November 1917

L/HP 409; A 17

Dear Dad

[...]

Quinn has certainly contrived to get Lustra very well printed. There are numerous misprints all the same. I thought you were to have page proofs. However none of the slips are very terrible.

 

From John Quinn, 2 December 1917 (carbon)

A 17

Glad to do all I did re Lustra. It was worth it. It would have been murder to let it go out as he had it first.

 

Cantos in periodicals

A Draft of XXX Cantos

Eleven New Cantos

rsz guido cavalcanti

The Fifth Decad

rsz toscana siena3 tango7174

Cantos LII-LXXI

confucius adams 2