By Christopher P. Winner
What triggered the attacks on usury? The [Old Testament] Book of Ezra. Do you know what it is? It's all in the simplest language and it's all against usury. The only thing that Ezra reproaches the Jews for is that they didn't follow their own law. I can see Ezra as a kid looking up and asking, "Why was I called Ezra?" He'd probably been made fun of by little boys who said, "What a name!" So he started to study and then speak out. He saw himself as a Hebrew prophet speaking to his own people. And they haven't gotten it! And when he got excited, in the Cantos, for example, he was just trying to put down what he thought was evil. Evil for everybody. He was out on a limb on behalf of individuals or working on their behalf. No one ever tried to understand that. [Editor's note: Toward the end of life, Pound did acknowledge his "stupid, suburban anti-Semitic prejudice."]
Did he ever speak of the Pisa internment?
What happened was certainly against the Constitution in that it was cruel and unusual punishment. It was iniquitous. I don't know why, but the fact that he was confined to a cage a 60 year old man was even worse. But it didn't break his spirit, even lying there on concrete all night with spotlights shined on him, and incommunicado. No, he was never angry except with the system. You know what the system is? Rotten then and still rotten. And what could he do about it? Ezra wasn't the kind of man who bore grudges or tried to get even. He just didn't have it in him.
And St. Elizabeths?
Nothing upset me so much as that they never allowed him to defend himself. What could have happened? They would have condemned him, and then perhaps prison. Which would have been infinitely better than St. Elizabeths. They apologize now, but it's 50 years too late. Oh, but they were sly. By getting Ezra [into St. Elizabeths] he couldn't ask for a pardon. You can't vindicate a madman. And to think, in '39, when visiting the United States, he so liked Washington. He said he'd even like to live there...
Was he ever inspired in his final years?
In the last few years he didn't come across anything the way he had with, say, [French sculptor Henri] Gaudier. It was all so commercial to him. So he did without. But the whole point is that he went on until the end. They didn't stop him from writing by putting him in a cage. They didn't stop him by putting him in a madhouse. Life was always very full for him. You know, people don't really know how little Ezra Pound had financially. He was very much a Puritan in that way. He was against artists making too much money for their art.
I think there are a great many people who just want to die in peace, like Ezra. Someday perhaps it will come out that Ezra was a man of the law. He was very naοve in some ways. He trusted people. He didn't see the treachery. I remember he enjoyed all the final trips we had to the United States. Despite everything, there was no accumulated bitterness.
Was he satisfied with his work, as you remember?
He was never satisfied with anything. From the beginning. "Should I chuck it into the canal?" That's what he'd ask me.
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