Some days ago I met once again “The Return” an early poem of Ezra Pound. I had read it before maybe a year ago, but did not pay special attention to it then… This time I did, thanks to Rebecca Beasley in Theorists of Modern Poetry—a great introduction to Pound, Hulme, and Eliot by the way.
See, they return; ah, see the tentative
Movements, and the slow feet,
The trouble in the pace and the uncertain
See, they return, one, and by one,
With fear, as half-awakened;
As if the snow should hesitate
And murmur in the wind,
and half turn back;
These were the “Wing’d-with-Awe,”
Gods of the wingèd shoe!
With them the silver hounds,
sniffing the trace of air!
These were the swift to harry;
These the keen-scented;
These were the souls of blood.
Slow on the leash,
pallid the leash-men!
If I ever end up teaching an Introduction to Poetry course I think I would start with this text. I’m not a Pound fan, but his craftsmanship in this poem is incredible: the way he manages to slow down and control the rhythm through the use of punctuation and words like tentative or inviolable is just extraordinary. But even more interesting is the perfect conjunction between rhythm and content… Yes! the old form is content dictum. The slow and wavering movement of the verses not only enhances the careful and hesitating pace of the hunters, or the gods… it also signifies it. Is there a better word than ten-ta-tive to show careful steps? We understand them and we feel them thorough the music. Pound even tells the reader to notice the “slow feet” of the verses/gods.
A poem that is joy to read aloud savouring the music.