THE HELL CANTOS

 

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As there are in medicine the art of diagnosis and the art of cure, so in the arts, so in the particular arts of poetry and of literature. There is the art of diagnosis and there is the art of cure. They call one the cult of ugliness and the other the cult of beauty.

The cult of beauty is the hygiene, it is sun, air and the sea and the rain and the lake bathing. The cult of ugliness, Villon, Baudelaire, Corbiere, Beardsley are diagnosis. Flaubert is diagnosis. Satire, if we are to ride this metaphor to staggers, satire is surgery, insertions and amputations.

Beauty in art reminds one what is worth while. I am not now speaking of shams. I mean beauty, not slither, not sentimentalising about beauty, not telling people that beauty is the proper and respectable thing. I mean beauty. You don't argue about an April wind, you feel bucked up when you meet it. You feel bucked up when you come on a swift moving thought in Plato or on a fine line in a statue.

Even this pother about gods reminds one that something is worth while. Satire reminds one that certain things are not worth while. It draws one to consider time wasted.

The cult of beauty and the delineation of ugliness are not in mutual opposition.

(Ezra Pound The Serious Artist I. 1913. LE 45)

 

I intended cantos XIV and XV to give an accurate picture of the spiritual state of England in the years 1919 and following. Including Mr. Wilson. They were written before the Harding–Coolidge period, or I shd. have devoted a line or two to the mushiness of the former and the cant of the latter.

The ang-sax race as a whole or hole, very insensitive to mental rot and decomposition. Eng. much worse than U.S.

England insensitive to mental decay. U.S. silly, incomparable shallowness and triviality.

(Ezra Pound. Letter to Homer Pound, May 1925)