Little Bits of History

Incurable

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 18, 2015
Ezra Pound in 1913

Ezra Pound in 1913

April 18, 1958: Ezra Pound is found to be incurable and released from St. Elizabeths insane asylum. Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was born on October 30, 1885 in Idaho Territory. He was an only child. He was a descendant of William Wadsworth. When Ezra was 18 months old, his mother took him and moved them back to New York. Her husband followed two years later and the family settled in Pennsylvania. Ezra was educated in a series of dame schools, some run by Quakers. He was eleven the first time he had any of his work published – a limerick about William Jennings Bryan, the unsuccessful presidential candidate. His studies continued with his interest mainly in poetry. He learned several languages in his pursuits.

Pound traveled extensively, usually getting into some sort of trouble in the process. He self published a book of his poetry in 1908 which was well received. He ended up in London that same year and lived there almost continuously for twelve years. Although he arrived broke with only £3 to his name, he managed to survive, and even thrive after getting a bookseller to display his book in the window. He was able to meet influential writers of the time and his 1909 collection of poems, Personae, was his first commercial success. World War I left him delusioned with mankind. After the war, he settled in Paris for a few years. He then moved to Italy after suffering what Ernest Hemingway called a small nervous breakdown.

Pound felt the underlying cause of World War I was finance capitalism, something he called usury. He felt fascism was the answer to the problem and eventually was able to meet Benito Mussolini to whom he offered economic advice. He was smitten with the fascist cause and embraced Hitler’s Nazism. His involvement in politics overshadowed his poetic work. He began broadcasting his political ideas over Rome Radio and criticized the US and Roosevelt as well as offering anti-Semitic views. Pound was in Rome when Italy surrendered. He was arrested and continued to vilify the US and embrace Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese war machine.

Pound was transferred to the us on November 15, 1945 and brought up on charges of treason. He was admitted to St. Elizabeths Hospital and held in their prison ward. His lawyer asked that he be found to be insane. He was moved to a different part of the hospital. While still a patient, many of the intelligentsia and writing community worked to assure the release of Pound. In 1957, several publications began a campaign to secure his release. Thurman Arnold served as his pro bono lawyer and with the help of the hospital superintendent, it was decided that Pound was insane and incurable and would not benefit from any further treatment. He was released from prison. He died in Venice in 1972 at the age of 87.

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.

A general loathing of a gang or sect usually has some sound basis in instinct.

Real education must ultimately be limited to men who insist on knowing. The rest is mere sheep-herding.

Literature does not exist in a vacuum. Writers as such have a definite social function exactly proportional to their ability as writers. This is their main use. – all from Ezra Pound

Also on this day: The Great Quake – In 1906 a large earthquake devastates San Francisco.
The House that Ruth Built – In 1923, Yankee Stadium opened.
One if by Land; Two if by Sea – In 1775, Paul Revere took a ride through the countryside.
Suicide Bomber – In 1983, the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was destroyed.
Puzzling – In 1924, Simon & Schuster published a crossword puzzle book.

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