Ezra Pound Poem

Homage to Sextus Propertius

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Shades of Callimachus, Coan ghosts of Philetas
It is in your grove I would walk,
I who come first from the clear font
Bringing the Grecian orgies into Italy,
                                                           and the dance into Italy.
Who hath taught you so subtle a measure,
                                                 in what hall have you heard it;
What foot beat out your time-bar,
                                 what water has mellowed your whistles?

Out-weariers of Apollo will, as we know, continue their
        Martian generalities.
           We have kept our erasers in order,
A new-fangled chariot follows the flower-hung horses;
A young Muse with young loves clustered about her
                                        ascends with me into the aether, . . .
And there is no high-road to the Muses.

Annalists will continue to record Roman reputations,
Celebrities from the Trans-Caucasus will belaud Roman
And expound the distentions of Empire,

But for something to read in normal circumstances?
For a few pages brought down from the forked hill
                          I ask a wreath which will not crush my head.
                                               And there is no hurry about it;
I shall have, doubtless, a boom after my funeral,
Seeing that long standing increases all things
                                                                  regardless of quality.

And who would have known the towers
                                       pulled down by a deal— wood horse;
Or of Achilles withstaying waters by Simois
Or of Hector spattering wheel-rims,

Or of Polydmantus, by Scamander, or Helenus and
Their door-yards would scarcely know them, or Paris.
Small talk O Ilion, and O Troad
                                                twice taken by Oetian gods,
If Homer had not stated your case!
And I also among the later nephews of this city
                                                            shall have my dog’s day
With no stone upon my contemptible sepulchre,
My vote coming from the temple of Phoebus in Lycia,
                                                                                 at Patara,
And in the mean time my songs will travel,
And the devirginated young ladies will enjoy them
                                  when they have got over the strangeness,
For Orpheus tamed the wild beasts —
                                                and held up the Threician river;
And Cithaeron shook up the rocks by Thebes
                      and danced them into a bulwark at his pleasure,
And you, O Polyphemus? Did harsh Galatea almost
Turn to your dripping horses, because of a tune, under
We must look into the matter.
Bacchus and Apollo in favour of it,
There will be a crowd of young women doing homage to
         my palaver,
Though my house is not propped up by Taenarian columns
           from Laconia (associated with Neptune and Cerberus),
Though it is not stretched upon gilded beams;
My orchards do not lie level and wide
                                                           as the forests of Phaeacia,
                                                           the luxurious and Ionian,
Nor are my caverns stuffed stiff with a Marcian vintage,
                       (My cellar does not date from Numa Pompilius,
Nor bristle with wine jars)
Yet the companions of the Muses
                            will keep their collective nose in my books,
And weary with historical data, they will turn to my dance

Happy who are mentioned in my pamphlets,
            the songs shall be a fine tomb-stone over their beauty.
                                                                        But against this?
Neither expensive pyramids scraping the stars in their route,
Nor houses modelled upon that of Jove in East Elis,
Nor the monumental effigies of Mausolus,
                                           are a complete elucidation of death.
Flame burns, rain sinks into the cracks
And they all go to rack ruin beneath the thud of the years.

Stands genius a deathless adornment,
                               a name not to be worn out with the years.


I had been seen in the shade, recumbent on cushioned Helicon,
                          the water dripping from Bellerophon s horse,
Alba, your kings, and the realm your folk
                                        have constructed with such industry
Shall be yawned out on my lyre with such industry.
My little mouth shall gobble in such great fountains,
” Wherefrom father Ennius, sitting before I came, hath drunk.”

I had rehearsed the Curian brothers, and made remarks on
        the Horatian javelin
(Near Q. H. Flaccus book-stall).
                   “Of ” royal Aemilia, drawn on the memorial raft,
“Of ” the victorious delay of Fabius, and the left-handed
                                                                     battle at Cannae,
Of lares fleeing the ” Roman seat “…
                                                            I had sung of all these
And of Hannibal,
                           and of Jove protected by geese.
And Phoebus looking upon me from the Castalian tree,
Said then “You idiot! What are you doing with that water;
” Who has ordered a book about heroes?
                                              You need, Propertius, not think
” About acquiring that sort of a reputation.
               ” Soft fields must be worn by small wheels,
” Your pamphlets will be thrown, thrown often into a chair
“Where a girl waits alone for her lover;
               ” Why wrench your page out of its course?
” No keel will sink with your genius
               ” Let another oar churn the water,
” Another wheel, the arena; mid-crowd is as bad as mid-sea.”

He had spoken, and pointed me a place with his plectrum:
          Orgies of vintages, an earthern image of Silenus
Strengthened with rushes, Tegaean Pan,
The small birds of the Cytharean mother,
                            their Punic faces dyed in the Gorgon s lake;
Nine girls, from as many countrysides
                        bearing her offerings in their unhardened hands,

Such my cohort and setting. And she bound ivy to his thyrsos;
Fitted song to the strings;
                                         Roses twined in her hands.
And one among them looked at me with face offended,
              ” Content ever to move with white swans !
” Nor will the noise of high horses lead you ever to battle;
” Nor will the public criers ever have your name
                                                              in their classic horns,
” Nor Mars shout you in the wood at Aeonium,
                                     Nor where Rome ruins German riches,
” Nor where the Rhine flows with barbarous blood,
                                              and flood carries wounded Suevi.
” Obviously crowned lovers at unknown doors,
” Night dogs, the marks of a drunken scurry,
” These are your images, and from you the sorcerizing
                                                             of shut-in young ladies,
“The wounding of austere men by chicane.”
           Thus Mistress Calliope,
           Dabbling her hands in the fount, thus she
Stiffened our face with the backwash of Philetas the Coan.


Midnight, and a letter comes to me from our mistress:
Telling me to come to Tibur:
At once!!
‘Bright tips reach up from twin towers,
‘Anienan spring water falls into flat-spread pools.’

What is to be done about it?
      Shall I entrust myself to entangled shadows,
Where bold hands may do violence to my person?
Yet if I postpone my obedience
because of this respectable terror,
I shall be prey to lamentations worse than a nocturnal assailant.
And I shall be in the wrong,
      it will last a twelve month,
For her hands have no kindness me-ward,

Nor is there anyone to whom lovers are not sacred at midnight
And in the Via Sciro.
If any man would be a lover
he may walk on the Scythian coast,
No barbarism would go to the extent of doing him harm,
The moon will carry his candle,
and the stars will point out the stumbles,
Cupid will carry lighted torches before him
and keep mad dogs off his ankles.
Thus all roads are perfectly safe
and at any hour;
Who so indecorous as to shed the pure gore of a suitor?!
Cypris is his cicerone.

What if undertakers follow my track,
such a death is worth dying.
She would bring frankincense and wreaths to my tomb,
She would sit like an ornament on my pyre.

aid, let not my bones lie in a public location
With crowds too assiduous in their crossing of it;
For thus are tombs of lovers most desecrated.

May a woody and sequestered place cover me with its foliage
Or may I inter beneath the hummock
of some as yet uncatalogued sand;
At any rate I shall not hav.e my epitaph in a high road.


Difference of Opinion With Lygdamus

Tell me the truths which you hear of our constant young lady,
And may the bought yoke of a mistress lie with
equitable weight on your shoulders;
For I am swelled up with inane pleasurabilities
and deceived by your reference
To things which you think I would like to believe.

No messenger should come wholly empty,
and a slave should fear plausibilities;
Much conversation is as good as having a home.
Out with it, tell it to me, all of it, from the beginning,
I guzzle with outstretched ears.
Thus? She wept into uncombed hair,
And you saw it.
Vast waters flowed from her eyes ?
        You, you Lygdamus
Saw her stretched on her bed,
        was no glimpse in a mirror;
No gawds on her snowy hands, no orfevrerie,
Sad garment draped on her slender arms.
Her escritoires lay shut by the bed-feet.
Sadness hung over the house, and the desolated female attendants
Were desolated because she had told them her dreams.

She was veiled in the midst of that place,
Damp woolly handkerchiefs were stuffed into her undryable eyes,
And a querulous noise responded to our solicitous reprobations.
For which things you will get a reward from me, Lygdamus?
To say many things is equal to having a home.
And the other woman ‘has not enticed me
by her pretty manners,
‘She has caught me with herbaceous poison,
she twiddles the spiked wheel of a rhombus,
‘She stews puffed frogs, snake’s bones, the moulted
‘She stews puffed frogs, snake’s bones, the moulted
feathers of screech owls,

‘She binds me with ravvles of shrouds.
Black spiders spin in her bedl
‘Let her lovers snore at her in the morning!
  May the gout cramp up her feet!
‘Does he like me to sleep here alone,
‘Will he say nasty things at my funeral?’

And you expect me to believe this
after twelve months of discomfort?


Now if ever it is time to cleanse Helicon;
to lead Emathian horses afield,
And to name over the census of my chiefs in the Roman camp.
If I have not the faculty, ‘The bare attempt would be praise-worthy.’
‘In the things of similar magnitude
the mere will to act is sufficient.’
The primitive ages sang Venus,
the last sings of a tumult,
And I also will sing war when this matter of a girl is exhausted.
I with my beak hauled ashore would proceed in a more stately manner,
My Muse is eager to instruct me in a new gamut, or gambetto,
Up, up my soul, from your lowly cantilation,
put on a timely vigour.
Oh august Pierides! Now for a large-mouthed product.
‘The Euphrates denies its protection to the Parthian and
apologizes for Crassus,’
And ‘It is, I think, India which now gives necks to your triumph,’
And so forth, Augustus. ‘Virgin Arabia shakes in her inmost dwelling.’
If any land shrink into a distant seacoast,
it is a mere postponement of your domination.
And I shall follow the camp, I shall be duly celebrated
      for singing the affairs of your cavalry.
May the fates watch over my day.

Yet you ask on what account I write so many love-lyrics
And whence this soft book comes into my mouth.
Neither Calliope nor Apollo sung these things into my ear,
My genius is no more than a girl.

If she with ivory fingers drive a tune through the lyre,
We look at the process.
How easy the moving fingers; if hair is mussed on her forehead,
If she goes in a gleam of Cos, in a slither of dyed stuff,
There is a volume in the matter; if her eyelids sink into sleep,
There are new jobs for the author;
And if she plays with me with her shirt off,
We shall construct many Iliads.
And whatever she does or says
We shall spin long yarns out of nothing.

Thus much the fates have allotted me, and if, Maecenas,
I were able to lead heroes into armour, I would not,
Neither would I warble of Titans, nor of Ossa
      spiked onto Olympus,
Nor of causeways over Pelion,
Nor of Thebes in its ancient respectability,
nor of Homer’s reputation in Pergamus,
Nor of Xerxes’ two-barreled kingdom, nor of Remus and his royal family,
Nor of dignified Carthaginian characters,
Nor of Welsh mines and the profit Marus had out of them,
I should remember Caesar’s affairs . . .
  for a background,
Although Callimachus did without them,
and without Theseus,
Without an inferno, without Achilles attended of gods,
Without Ixion, and without the sons of Menoetius and
the Argo and without Jove’s grave and the Titans.

And my ventricles do not palpitate to Caesarial ore rotundas,
Nor to the tune of the Phrygian fathers.
Sailor, of winds; a plowman, concerning his oxen;
Soldier, the enumeration of wounds; the sheep-feeder, of ewes;
We, in our narrow bed, turning aside from battles:
Each man where he can, wearing out the day in his manner.
It is noble to die of love, and honourable to remain
uncuckolded for a season.
And she speaks ill of light women,
and will not praise Homer
Because Helen’s conduct is ‘unsuitable’.


When, when, and whenever death closes our eyelids,
Moving naked over Acheron
Upon the one raft, victor and conquered together,
Marius and Jugurtha together,
one tangle of shadows.

Caesar plots against India,
Tigris and Euphrates shall, from now on, flow at his bidding,
Tibet shall be full of Roman policemen,
The Parthians shall get used to our statuary
and acquire a Roman religion;

One raft on the veiled flood of Acheron,
Marius and Jugurtha together.
Nor at my funeral either will there be any long trail,
bearing ancestral lares and images;
No trumpets filled with my emptiness,
Nor shall it be on an Atalic bed;
The perfumed cloths shall be absent.
A small plebeian procession.
Enough, enough and in plenty
There will be three books at my obsequies
Which I take, my not unworthy gift, to Persephone.

You will follow the bare scarified breast
Nor will you be weary of calling my name, nor too weary
To place the last kiss on my lips
When the Syrian onyx is broken.

“He who is now vacant dust
“Was once the slave of one passion:”
Give that much inscription
” Death why tardily come? “

You, sometimes, will lament a lost friend,
For it is a custom:
This care for past men,

Since Adonis was gored in IDALIA, and the Cytharean
Ran crying with out-spread hair,
In vain, you call back the shade,
In vain, Cynthia. Vain call to unanswering shadow,
Small talk comes from small bones.

Eyes are the guides of love,
Paris took Helen naked coming from the bed of Menelaus,
Endymion s naked body, bright bait for Diana,”
– such at least is the story.

While our fates twine together, sate we our eyes with love;
For long night comes upon you
and a day when no day returns.
Let the gods lay chains upon us
so that no day shall unbind them.

Fool who would set a term to love s madness,
For the sun shall drive with black horses,
earth shall bring wheat from barley,
The flood shall move toward the fountain
Ere love know moderations,
The fish shall swim in dry streams.

No, now while it may be, let not the fruit of life cease.

Dry wreaths drop their petals,
their stalks are woven in baskets,
To-day we take the great breath of lovers,
to-morrow fate shuts us in.

Though you give all your kisses
you give but a few.”

Nor can I shift my pains to other
Hers will I be dead,
If she confers such nights upon me,
long is my life, long in years,
If she give me many,
God am I for the time.


Me happy, night, night full of brightness;
Oh couch made happy by my long delectations;
How many words talked out with abundant candles;
Struggles when the lights were taken away;
Now with bared breasts she wrestled against me,
                      Tunic spread in delay;
And she then opening my eyelids fallen in sleep,
Her lips upon them; and it was her mouth saying:

In how many varied embraces, our changing arms,
Her kisses, how many, lingering on my lips.
‘Turn not Venus into a blinded motion,
            Eyes are the guides of love,
Paris took Helen naked coming from the bed of Menelaus,
Endymion’s naked body, bright bait for Diana,’
              –such at least is the story.

While our fates twine together, sate we our eyes with love;
For long night comes upon you
                            and a day when no day returns.
Let the gods lay chains upon us
                        so that no day shall unbind them.

Fool who would set a term to love’s madness,
For the sun shall drive with black horses,
              earth shall bring wheat from barley,
The flood shall move toward the fountain
              Ere love know moderations,
              The fish shall swim in dry streams.
No, now while it may be, let not the fruit of life cease.
              Dry wreaths drop their petals,
                            their stalks are woven in baskets,
To-day we take the great breath of lovers,
                    to-morrow fate shuts us in.

Though you give all your kisses
                                you give but few.

Nor can I shift my pains to other,
              Hers will I be dead,
If she confer such nights upon me,
                                long is my life, long in years,
If she give me many,
                God am I for the time.


Jove, be merciful to that unfortunate woman
Or an ornamental death will be held to your debit,
The time is come, the air heaves in torridity,
The dry earth pants against the canicular heat,
But this heat is not the root of the matter:
She did not respect all the gods;
Such derelictions have destroyed other young ladies aforetime,
And what they swore in the cupboard
    wind and wave scattered away.

Was Venus exacerbated by the existence of a comparable equal?
Is the ornamental goddess full of envy?
Have you contempted Juno’s Pelasgian temples,
Have you denied Pallas good eyes ?
Or is it my tongue that wrongs you
with perpetual ascription of graces?
There comes, it seems, and at any rate
through perils, (so many) and of a vexed life,
The gentler hour of an ultimate day.

Io mooed the first years with averted head,
And now drinks Nile water like a god,
Ino in her young days fled pellmell out of Thebes,
Andromeda was offered to a sea-serpent
and respectably married to Perseus,

Callisto, disguised as a bear,
wandered through the Arcadian prairies
While a black veil was over her stars,
What if your fates are accelerated,
your quiet hour put forward,
You may find interment pleasing,

You will say that you succumbed to a danger identical,
      charmingly identical, with Semele’s,
And believe it, and she also will believe it,
        being expert from experience,
And amid all the gloried and storied beauties of Maeonia
There shall be none in a better seat, not
one denying your prestige,

Now you may bear fate’s stroke unperturbed,
Or Jove, harsh as he is, may turn aside your ultimate day.
Old lecher, let not Juno get wind of the matter,
Or perhaps Juno herself will go under,
If the young lady is taken?
There will be, in any case, a stir on Olympus.


The twisted rhombs ceased their clamour of accompaniment;
The scorched laurel lay in the fire-dust;
The moon still declined to descend out of heaven,

But the black ominous owl hoot was audible.

And one raft bears our fates
                          on the veiled lake towards Avernus
Sails spread on Cerulean waters, I would shed tears
                for two;
I shall live, if she continue in life,
              If she dies, I shall go with her.
Great Zeus, save the woman,
              or she will sit before your feet in a veil,
              and tell out the long list of her troubles.

Persephone and Dis, Dis, have mercy upon her,
There are enough women in hell,
                              quite enough beautiful women,
lope, and Tyro, and Pasiphae, and the formal girls of Achaia,
And out of Troad, and from the Campania,
Death has his tooth in the lot,
                            Avernus lusts for the lot of them,
Beauty is not eternal, no man has perennial fortune,
Slow foot, or swift foot, death delays but for a season.

My light, light of my eyes,
                        you are escaped from great peril,
Go back to Great Dian’s dances bearing suitable gifts,
Pay up your vow of night watches
                                    to Dian goddess of virgins,
And unto me also pay debt:
The ten nights of your company you have
                                    promised me.


Light, light of my eyes, at an exceeding late hour I was wandering,
And intoxicated,
and no servant was leading me,
And a minute crowd of small boys came from opposite,
I do not know what boys,
And I am afraid of numerical estimate,
And some of them shook little torches,
and others held onto arrows,
And the rest laid their chains upon me,
and they were naked, the lot of them,
And one of the lot was given to lust.

‘That incensed female has consigned him to our pleasure.’
So spoke. And the noose was over my neck.
And another said ‘Get him plumb in the middle!
‘Shove along there, shove along!’
And another broke in upon this:
‘He thinks that we are not gods,’
‘And she has been waiting for the scoundrel,
and in a new Sidonian night cap,
And with more than Arabian odours,
      God knows where he has been.
She could scarcely keep her eyes open
enter that much for his bail.
Get along now!’

We were coming near to the house,
and they gave another yank to my cloak,
And it was morning, and I wanted to see if she was alone and resting,
And Cynthia was alone in her bed.
        I was stupefied.
I had never seen her looking so beautiful,
No, not when she was tunick’d in purple.

Such aspect was presented to me, me recently emerged from my visions,
You will observe that pure form has its value.

‘You are a very early inspector of mistresses.
‘Do you think I have adopted your habits?’
There were upon the bed no signs of a voluptuous encounter,
No signs of a second incumbent.

She continued:
‘No incubus has crushed his body against me,
‘Though spirits are celebrated for adultery.
‘And I am going to the temple of Vesta . . .’
and so on.

Since that day I have had no pleasant nights.


The harsh acts of your levity!
Many and many.
I am hung here, a scare-crow for lovers.

Escape! There is, O Idiot, no escape,
Flee if you like into Ranaus,
desire will follow you thither,
Though you heave into the air upon the gilded Pegasean back,
Though you had the feathery sandals of Perseus
To lift you up through split air,
The high tracks of Hermes would not afford you shelter.

Amor stands upon you, Love drives upon lovers,
a heavy mass on free necks.

It is our eyes you flee, not the city,
You do nothing, you plot inane schemes against me,
Languidly you stretch out the snare
with which I am already familiar,

And yet again, and newly rumour strikes on my ears.

Rumours of you throughout the city,
and no good rumour among them.

‘You should not believe hostile tongues.
‘Beauty is slander’s cock-shy.
‘All lovely women have known this,’
‘Your glory is not outblotted by venom,’
‘Phoebus our witness, your hands are unspotted.

A foreign lover brought down Helen’s kingdom
and she was led back, living home;
The Cytharean brought low by Mars’ lechery
reigns in respectable heavens, . . .

Oh, oh, and enough of this,
        by dew-spread caverns,
The Muses clinging to the mossy ridges;
to the ledge of the rocks:
Zeus’ clever rapes, in the old days,
combusted Semele’s, of Io strayed.
Oh how the bird flew from Trojan rafters,
Ida has lain with a shepherd, she has slept between sheep.

Even there, no escape
Not the Hyrcanian seaboard, not in seeking the shore of Eos.

All things are forgiven for one night of your games. . . .
Though you walk in the Via Sacra, with a peacock’s tail for a fan.


Who, who will be the next man to entrust his girl to a friend?
Love interferes with fidelities;
The gods have brought shame on their relatives;
Each man wants the pomegranate for himself;
Amiable and harmonious people are pushed incontinent into
A Trojan and adulterous person came to Menelaus under
the rites of hospitiumi,
And there was a case in Colchis, Jason and that woman in
And besides, Lynceus,
you were drunk.

Could you endure such promiscuity?
She was not renowned for fidelity;
But to jab a knife in my vitals, to have passed on a swig of
Preferable, my dear boy, my dear Lynceus,
Comrade, comrade of my life, of my purse, of my person;
But in one bed, in one bed alone, my dear Lynceus
I deprecate your attendance;
I would ask a like boon of Jove.

And you write of Achelous, who contended with Hercules,
You write of Adrastus horses and the funeral rites of
And you will not leave off imitating Aeschylus.
Though you make a hash of Antimachus,
You think you are going to do Homer.
And still a girl scorns the gods,

Of all these young women
not one has enquired the cause of the world,
Nor the modus of lunar eclipses
Nor whether there be any patch left of us
After we cross the infernal ripples,
nor if the thunder fall from predestination;
Nor anything else of importance.

Upon the Actian marshes Virgil is Phoebus chief of police,
He can tabulate Caesar s great ships.
He thrills to Ilian arms,
He shakes the Trojan weapons of Aeneas,
And casts stores on Lavinian beaches.

Make way, ye Roman authors,
clear the street O ye Greeks,
For a much larger Iliad is in the course of construction
(and to Imperial order)
Clear the streets O ye Greeks!

And you also follow him “neath Phrygian pine shade:
Thyrsis and Daphnis upon whittled reeds,
And how ten sins can corrupt young maidens;
Kids for a bribe and pressed udders,
Happy selling poor loves for cheap apples.

Tityrus might have sung the same vixen;
Corydon tempted Alexis,
Head farmers do likewise, and lying weary amid their oats
They get praise from tolerant Hamadryads.”

Go on, to Ascraeus prescription, the ancient,
respected, Wordsworthian:
” A flat field for rushes, grapes grow on the slope.”

And behold me, small fortune left in my house.
Me, who had no general for a grandfather!
I shall triumph among young ladies of indeterminate
My talent acclaimed in their banquets,
I shall be honoured with yesterday s wreaths.

And the god strikes to the marrow.

Like a trained and performing tortoise,
I would make verse in your fashion, if she should command it,
With her husband asking a remission of sentence,
And even this infamy would not attract numerous
Were there an erudite or violent passion,
For the nobleness of the populace brooks nothing below its
own altitude.
One must have resonance, resonance and sonority . . .
like a goose.

Varro sang Jason s expedition,
Varro, of his great passion Leucadia,
There is song in the parchment; Catullus the highly
Of Lesbia, known above Helen;
And in the dyed pages of Calvus,
Calvus mourning Quintilia,
And but now Gallus had sung of Lycoris.

Fair, fairest Lycoris
The waters of Styx poured over the wound:
And now Propertius of Cynthia, taking his stand among

Homage to Sextus Propertius, l.
Youth and Age


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