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POUND AMONG THE POETS
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 Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos and Sara Dunton
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POUND, HEYMAN, AND HIS EARLY OCCULT CIRCLE

 

 

Pound young

It is likely that Pound met Katherine Ruth Heyman (1874-1944) as early as 1904, when she was already an established concert pianist, and he was an undergraduate student at Hamilton College. Usually described as an influential figure only during Pound’s formative years, Heyman is often depicted as casting a “spell” upon the impressionable young poet, which was “a not uncommon experience where she was concerned, for hers was a forceful, dynamic and imperious personality” (Norman 1969: 27). It was certainly not uncommon at that time for Pound to be drawn to well-connected artists with avant-garde leanings, and it seems that Heyman and Pound’s relationship was one of mutual admiration and benefit. Heyman’s penchant for experimental music broadened the eager Pound’s intellectual horizons, as did her connections in America and Europe. Indeed, Pound forged his way into literary circles in London thanks in great part to introductions made on his behalf by Heyman who, besides being a well-established musician, also moved in occult and spiritualist circles. The musician’s impact upon Pound is seldom tracked beyond the end of the 1910s, when her contact with him waned; but they maintained ties until her death in 1944. One year later she resurfaces in canto LXXVI, tucked into Pound’s fragmented memories, simply noted as “the american lady K.H.” However, as argued elsewhere several years ago, the significance of Heyman’s influence upon the young poet has been and remains underestimated: she is the unheralded initiator responsible for nurturing his interest in occult studies.1 In truth, even now, many Pound scholars continue to isolate Pound’s work from the taints of occult influence, although it can be detected well into his writing of The Cantos.

The roots of Pound’s interest in occultism are usually located in his London years (1908-20). Many of his London friends — W.B. Yeats (especially), G.R.S. Mead, Allen Upward and A.R. Orage, as well as Olivia and Dorothy Shakespear, his future mother-in-law and wife, respectively — had strong connections with various occult groups and could not but have communicated their interests to Pound. The published correspondence between Pound and John Theobald and that between Pound and Dorothy Shakespear reveal Pound’s interest in the occult during the years preceding the genesis of The Cantos. William French claims that Pound’s interest in “things occult” faded after the early London years and was not rekindled until the late 1950s when Pound, with French’s help, undertook to proofread The Spirit of Romance. Despite the support of Boris de Rachewiltz and, to a certain extent, Noel Stock, this story cannot be supported. On the contrary, Pound’s interest in the occult never waned, as his correspondence with both John Theobald and Patricia Hutchins reveals.Essays from the 1930s such as “Terra Italica” (1931-1932) and books like Guide to Kulchur (1938) also testify to Pound’s continued interest during the 1930s. His daughter reports that while in Italy and at St. Elizabeths, Pound surrounded himself with all sorts of occultists,3 but this continuous and unbroken interest in the occult is to be found much earlier.

HeymanAlthough Pound’s London years were very important to his familiarisation with esoteric traditions, his introduction to them had its roots in his earlier years as a university student, between 1903 and 1908. It was then that he came under the influence of Heyman, whom he had met either during his undergraduate days at Hamilton College or later in Philadelphia, probably around 1904 or 1905, perhaps through a mutual acquaintance, a young painter named William Brooke Smith (1884-1908) for whom Pound had great respect (Pound [1950] 1971: 229).4  Pound seems to have fallen in love with Heyman; their relationship is usually seen as having been platonic, but the evidence is not conclusive. How close the two were at the time is emphasised by the fact that Heyman gave Pound a diamond ring, which had belonged to her mother, “to keep until we’re very old together.” During these years, Pound’s intense relationship with H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) overlapped his equally intense devotion to Heyman, but there is no question of a friendship between the two women. In her autobiographical novel HERmione (completed in 1927), H.D. sketches a derogatory portrait of her character “Miss Stamberg” (the thinly disguised Heyman) as an older woman who holds “George Lowndes” (Pound) under her spell (H.D. 1981: 108-09).  Nevertheless, as will be discussed, despite personal discord, the three did share a key connection and a crucial link during those years — that being the relay of esoteric reading material passed from
Heyman to Pound to H.D. Biographers of the latter two have identified that reading material and have also discussed (inheyman book exhaustive detail) this early phase of their lives; but they still elide or under-emphasise the occult interests that linked the three artists. Another under-evaluated correlative of their interconnectivity is Heyman’s theoretical treatise The Relation of Ultramodern to Archaic Music, which will also come into consideration. In the chapter of that work entitled “Parallels between Ultramodern Poetry and Ultramodern Music,” Heyman discusses Imagism, H.D. and Amy Lowell, but notably pays the most attention to Pound — linking him directly with Yeats, with whom he shares, in her words, “an inner vision” that “acts independently of what is usually recognized or usually restricted” (1921: 105).

In the spring of 1906, Pound received his MA from the University of Pennsylvania and in June of the same year was made a Harrison Fellow in Romantics; he used the $500 stipend to finance a trip to Europe and spend much of the summer of 1906 reading in the British Museum. During that summer, he wrote “Scriptor Ignotus,” a poem based on the life of Bertold Lomax, which is published in Collected Early Poems with this explanatory note: “English Dante scholar and mystic, [who] died in Ferrara 1723, with his ‘great epic,’ still a mere shadow, a nebula crossed with some few gleams of wonder light. The lady of the poem, an organist of Ferrara, whose memory has come down to us only in Lomax notes” (CEP 26). Pound cryptically dedicated this poem to Heyman — “To K.R.H. / Ferrara 1715.” In “Scriptor Ignotus,” Pound adopts the persona of Lomax addressing his beloved: 

     When I see thee as some poor song-bird

     Battering its wings, against this cage we call Today,

     Then would I speak comfort unto thee,

     From out the heights I dwell in, when 

     That great sense of power is upon me

     And I see my greater soul-self bending

     Sibylwise with that great forty-year epic

     That you know of, yet unwrit . . .

     Will I make for thee and for the beauty of thy music

     A new think

     As hath not heretofore been writ

     Take then my promise! (CEP 24-6)

Though it cannot be claimed with any degree of certainty that Pound is thinking about The Cantos here, we know he was entertaining ideas about writing a long poem himself since his years at Hamilton College. At least, this is what he would like us to believe, for when Donald Hall asked him in 1960 about the genesis of The Cantos, he replied, “I began the Cantos in 1904 or 1905. The problem is to get a form – something elastic enough to take the necessary material. It had to be a form that wouldn’t exclude something merely because it didn’t fit” (Hall 23). It takes a rather naïve person to believe that in 1904 or 1905, Pound had conceived of The Cantos in their present form (or that he knew what he wanted to say, but was struggling with the form of his poem); but his reply to Hall’s question should be seen as part of his enduring capacity for self-dramatisation. It is conceivable, none the less, that even at such an early stage, Pound had intimations of grandeur and envisioned himself in the tradition of great epic poets capable of composing what he described as a “chryselephantine poem of immeasurable length which will occupy me for the next four decades unless it becomes a bore” (qtd. in Tytell 1987: 127).

          Pound’s fixing of the date of his inception of his own “great forty-year epic” circa 1904-1905 is important in this context because the date coincides with the time of his first acquaintance with Heyman. As Leon Surette speculates, Heyman was seen by Pound as his Beatrice, just as the lady organist in “Scriptor Ignotus” became Lomax’s Beatrice (1979: 7). Surette notes that Pound’s claim to have begun The Cantosin 1904 or 1905 is not supported by the biographical and manuscript evidence and that this simply implies an unspoken analogy: “as Dante’s Commediawas in a manner begun when Pound met Heyman at the age of nineteen” (7) Surette goes on to say that the news that the poem was inspired by Heyman is not likely to “throw any light at all on the poem even if much more were learned about Pound’s relationship with the lady than is currently known” (7); on the other hand, Surette’s sceptical conjecture is worth challenging. There is an important connection to be made between the precise nature of Pound’s relationship to Heyman and the shape of his epic poem. As previously argued in “The Cantosas Palingenesis” (Tryphonopoulos 1992a), Pound’s epic poem is best understood not as a journey (one popular metaphor for its structure) but rather as a poem of initiation. The obscure and hermetic nature of the poem itself embodies the initiation for the reader: the author plays the role of the mystagogue or hierophant presenting a description of a mystery in the hope that this presentation will exert upon the reader the same effect as an actual revelation or mystical experience. Thinking of The Cantos  in these terms confirms and heightens the significance of the early influence of Heyman.5

Faubion bowers          When she met Pound, Heyman already had a wide circle of friends, many of whom called her “Kitty,” including Pound who also called her “Katie.”The person who knew Heyman best during her later years in the United States is Faubion Bowers. According to Carroll F. Terrell, Bowers studied piano under Heyman and they became such good friends that at the time of her death in 1944 she left to him all her papers (Terrell 1973: 50). Writing about the second of her enthusiasms, namely the occult, Bowers says that Heyman ‘swallowed everything magical,” and that

Long before drugs made . . . correlations between the senses common place, and decades before Zen, I Ching stick tossings, Table-tipping, ouija boards, Tarot cards, astrology and the like became so very fashionable among our young, Kitty was a passionate convert and a militant proselytizer to and for all things recondite. (1973: 61)

Besides Bowers’ testimony and what can be gleaned from her unfinished “Memoirs,” Heyman’s book, The Relation of Ultramodern to Archaic Music, gives us the best insight into her mind and reveals her occultist bent. As Stephen Adams observes, Heyman came to be known as the “high priestess of the Scriabin cult,” and her devotion to the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin “continued to the end of her life and past the general decline of the composer’s reputation, [and] was about equally divided between his music and his theosophy” (1974: 9). Heyman did not meet Scriabin until 1913, but her reaction to him was prepared for and prompted, no doubt, by her dabblings in the occult and her close ties to the avant-garde literati in London. She certainly had ample opportunity to communicate her occult enthusiasms to Pound—enthusiasms that go unremarked in Pound biographies. Adams, however, points out that while Heyman’s book was published in 1921, it was an expanded version of a 1916 lecture series, bringing it closer to the period of her friendship with Pound. He adds that “[r]eaders of Pound will find it full of echoes and references, direct and indirect, to Pound and Poundian currents of thought.  […] Her entire approach of finding precedents for modern techniques in the archaic and exotic (skipping over everything between) is Poundian, and more novel then than now” (16). For example, in her book Heyman “interprets music in occultist terms –e.g. “The tone E is mana-consciousness” (7) – and it becomes absolutely clear that her attachment to Scriabin was based “nearly as much on his mystical beliefs as his music” (Adams 1974: 17). In Making Music Modern, Carol Oja includes a brief profile of Heyman as a “disciple of Scriabin”: “She shared aspects of his mystical aesthetic, maintaining as early as 1909 that she “felt certain colors when playing the piano and that she had “psychic power” as a performer” (2000: 51).

aleksandr scriabin 4 297x300Although Pound evaded references to mysticism or occultism in the 1910s and 1920s, the language of his crucial theoretical thinking about poetry and music includes allusions that align with Heyman’s more direct terms. In his 1928 essay, “How to Read,” for example, Pound describes his concept of melopoeia as “poetry on the borders on music and music […] perhaps the bridge between consciousness and the unthinking sentient or even the unsentient universe” (1954: 26). Heyman, in her chapter on “Parallels,” extols the Imagists, drawing extended comparisons between Scriabin’s process of composing music and that of the “young American poets” (105). Much of her language echoes Pound’s Imagist credos and especially “In a Station of the Metro.” “Great creative artists,” Heyman declares, “see things in terms of realization instead of the slow terms of sequence […] the quick perception of the image without the cumbersome leading of words depicting the course of events. Not that directness is the point, but the whole scene at once: an evolution of consciousness” (103). When Heyman wrote her treatise (in 1916, revising it presumably for the 1921 book publication), she was already devoted to Scriabin and committed to Theosophy, “the most prevalent form of occultism at that time” (Carr 2009: 35), and indeed since the turn of the century when she first knew Pound. As Helen Carr suggests, this was a critical component of their intellectual exchanges between 1904 and 1906: “The occult mysticism to which Heyman introduced Pound, or at least the version of it which he evolved for himself . . . was to fuse with the aesthetic faith he had learnt from [William Brooke] Smith […] and it would eventually play a central part in his development into a modernist” (36). In 1908, Pound expresses his gratitude to Smith by dedicating A Lume Spento, his first published book of poems, to the young painter who had died earlier that year of consumption. Heyman figures prominently in Pound’s life in that same year, in Venice, rescuing him from poverty and offering him an alternative to the poet’s life he was about to embark upon. Discouraged by his prospects as a writer, Pound considered throwing the proofs of A Lume Spentointo the waters of the Grand Canal (LXXVI/480); and, in a diversion from a life devoted to the Muse of Poetry, he worked for a brief stint as Heyman’s European concert-tour manager.

          Giving up on the idea on life as an impresario, Pound moved to London in mid-August 1908, where he soon thereafter published his next book, A Quinzaine for this Yule, which he dedicated to Heyman — “To the Aube of the West Dawn.” Two poems in this collection pay homage to her as well: the first is “Nel Biancheggiar,” which was first published in a London newspaper under the title “For Katherine Ruth Heyman. (After One of Her Venetian Concerts)”; the second is “Aube of the West Dawn. Venetian June.”7 Pound writes to Williams Carlos Williams, reporting that he had an introduction or two from Heyman and, indeed, “entered London more or less under her wing” (1950: 146). It is of some consequence that Pound’s introduction to London, a city teeming with occult groups at the time, was through an occultist. Heyman herself arrived in London on 24 March 1909 and is mentioned by Patricia Hutchins as being one of those whom Pound numbers as a frequent visitor to his Kensington flat (1965: 69-70).8 When Pound went to New York in 1910, Heyman was there and he visited her in her studio. Her esoteric interests were still strong, as reported by Charles Norman: “Heyman was now interested in Buddhism, and he [Pound] may have met in her company the founder of the first Buddhist church in New York” (1969: 63). Back in London in 1913, when she had fully embraced Theosophy, Heyman composed a musical setting for Pound’s “Apparuit”; she also includes the four opening lines from the poem in her “Parallels” chapter, using them to compare Pound’s approach to Scriabin:

Scriabin leads us through a new conception of the possibilities of enharmonic relationship in a tone, to hear new overtones. Another American poet gives us in place of familiar pictures, a new grouping of things, like his ‘songs idling at the street corners” . . . This poet, Ezra Pound, might be compared with Stravinski, in quality if not in power or endurance. (104)9

Although Heyman pays the most attention to Pound, she does include positive remarks about H.D. in her treatise. In fact, she prefaces her comments about the lines from “Apparuit” with this observation: “Certain poets give us the eternals of a well-known figure, as […] H.D. a tree, leading us to a newness of understanding of things that intrinsically have no novelty for us” (104). The reference to H.D. alludes to a primary motif in her poetry, but it is also perhaps an allusion to Pound’s relationship with H.D. Early on, Pound had nicknamed H.D. “The Dryad” (meaning semi-divine, “subtly bodied” creature – usually a tree spirit), a nickname which H.D. used to sign her letters to Pound to the very end.

end to tormentNot long before her passing in 1961, H.D. wrote End to Torment, an intensely personal memoir of her youth years in Pennsylvania and London. It provides us with some hard information regarding the kinds of books she and Ezra were reading during their stormy engagement (circa 1905-1907). H.D. wrote End to Tormentfrom March to July 1958 in anticipation of Pound’s release from St. Elizabeths; he was freed while the manuscript was still in progress. Significantly, in the months following the completion of the journal, “H.D. sent the manuscript to Brunnenburg, Italy, for Pound’s comments, and he responded with a few suggestions and the note, “there is a great deal of beauty” (King 1979: xi).The posthumous publication of H.D.’s memoir enforces the depth of their late-in-life friendship with its complementary inclusion of “Hilda’s Book,” the collection of poems Pound had written for her during their early courtship. Within this collection, notably, is “The Tree” (discussed further below), which is distinguished by its mystical theme, one derived from their early readings together. Most importantly, H.D. recalls and names some of these readings in her memoir.

There are two separate passages in End to Torment that include references to the kinds of books Pound and H.D. read together during their Pennsylvania years. The first, dated 18 March 1958, begins with an idyllic recollection of listening to Ezra reading William Morris in an orchard under blossoming apple trees:

It was Ezra who really introduced me to William Morris. He literally shouted “The Gilliflower of Gold” in the orchard. […] It was at this time that he brought me the Séraphita and a volume of Swedenborg – Heaven and Hell?

Or is that Blake? He brought me volumes of Ibsen and of Bernard Shaw. . . . He brought me the Portland, Maine, Thomas Mosher reprint of the Iseult and Tristan story. […] There was a series of Yogi books, too.  (22-23)

The second occasion, dated 11 May 1958, begins with H.D.’s recollection of reading Marcel Schwob’s The Children’s Crusade:

The Children’s Crusade by Marcel Schwob […] I made the last entry yesterday. It flashed into my mind, a book that I have not thought of, for perhaps 50 years. It was one of little de luxe reprints of the Portland, Maine, Mosher series that Ezrabrought me at the time of the avalanche of Ibsen, Maeterlinck, Shaw, Yogi books, Swedenborg, William Morris, Balzac’s Séraphita, Rossetti and the rest ofthem. (45-46)

seraphimThese two entries, which are separated by approximately a seven-week period, establish the character of the books Pound was bringing H.D. In the second entry, H.D. undertakes to place the time of her reading Schwob’s book, and to recollect the books Pound brought her. The edition of the Marcel Schwob book cited by H.D. is a translation by H. C. Green published in Portland, Maine, in 1905. This book, about which H.D. had not thought about “for perhaps 50 years,” places the “avalanche” of books in, or shortly after, 1905; that is, at just the time that Heyman entered Pound’s life.

 The books H.D. mentions also establish Pound’s early exposure to then-fashionable occult literature. There is no doubt that Pound greatly influenced H.D.’s reading around 1905, initiating her later involvement with spiritualism and the occult in general. H.D.’s recollections in End to Torment make it clear that her occult education began during the early years of her acquaintance with Pound. Interestingly, in scholarly evaluations, this starting-point is usually located in the 1920s, in the aftermath of various psychic experiences she underwent in that decade. Most late twentieth-century H.D. scholars placed greatest importance upon these events since they influenced and underscored nearly all her writing thereafter. Prominent amongst these is Susan Stanford Friedman, who mentions the list of mystical books in End to Torment, but does not stress Pound’s influence. She thinks that the psychic visions which H.D. claimed to have in Corfu in 1920 “probably provided [her] with the greatest impetus to begin serious study of esoteric traditions in the twenties” (1981: 160).10 Among Pound scholars in the 1980s and 1990s, only J. J. Wilhelm discussed the character of the literature; but he fails to note at least two important points. First, he ignores Balzac’s Séraphita, a mystical novel including an explication of Swedenborg’s theosophy; and secondly, Wilhelm fails to deal adequately with H.D.’s cryptic yet specific reference to “Yogi books” by simply naming them as “books of Yoga.” These critical approaches exemplify two parallel histories that need mentioning when considering Pound and H.D.’s contemporaneous introductions to esoteric readings: in H.D. studies, Pound’s influence has often been undervalued or elided; in Poundian studies, despite the thorough documentation of his early years in America, his intellectual interactions with Heyman and H.D. have been overshadowed by accounts of his personal relationships with them. Fortunately, new assessments of H.D.’s occult education have emerged from recent scholarly editions of several H.D. novels and memoirs: these include Majic Ring, written 1943-1944, published in 2009, and Hirslanden Notebooks, written contemporaneously with End to Torment in 1958, and published in 2015.11

          The impact of Theosophical writings and the Yogi books varies within H.D.’s and Pound’s writings, as they do with Heyman’s work. However, in the years immediately following their time together in America, all three turn to common works that constituted part of the rising psychic wave that had caught many of their cohort. In The Relation of the Ultramodern, Heyman links her extensive discussions of theosophy directly with Scriabin’s, with no mention of Swedenborg; but she also considers ideas from G. R. S. Mead’s Quests Old and New(1913), W. F. Cobb’s Mysticism and the Creed (1914), and Walter Morse Rummel’s Hesternae Rosae(1913).12  Certainly Swedenborg’s writings were part of Pound’s enduring interests. We find him studying Swedenborg’s writings during his stay with Yeats at Stone Cottage (1913-1914), referring to him in Guide to Kulchur (1938), in The Cantos, and in his correspondence from the St. Elizabeths years. For example, in his letter of 7 December 1956 to Olivia Rossetti Agresti, the granddaughter of Gabriele Rossetti and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s niece, Pound spells out his interest in the “secret history” of speculative occultism and remarks in general, and in particular – Gabriele Rossetti’s linking of speculative Masonry, Swedenborg and Dante – something which Pound himself has been doing, he writes, for fifty years:

                     want to know more of yr / grand-dad? 

Political exile?? escaped from fury and bigotry of Vatican? ?? not a mason but a student of masonry? 

Interested to see he hooks D [Dante]/ to Swedenborg, as I have done for 50 years, but can’t recall having found in the VERY small amount of criticism or Dante-studien that I have looked at.

Prefer text to comments. Of course the Dant-Swed hook-up may have filtered thru footnotes, but I can’t recall anything but my own observations of the two writers. (Pound 1998: 238)

As this letter reveals, Pound did not have any direct knowledge of Gabriele Rossetti’s work until he received a copy of La Beatrice di Dante from Agresti sometime in December 1956. Rossetti relied heavily on speculative Masonry and elaborated a “secret history” which was an unacknowledged source for much of the historical speculation of Joséphin Péladan and Luigi Valli – writers we know Pound read. More to the point for this discussion, Pound’s fixing of the date he first made the initial link between Swedenborg and Dante (circa 1906) agrees with the date given by H.D. for the “avalanche” of books that came to her from Heyman by way of Pound.

          H.D.’s expression of extended interest in specific theosophical writings is hard to find, but there is no doubt that her configuration of occultism shares much in common with Pound’s, as argued here in the introduction to Majic Ring:

Believing that myth, or religious experience in general, should not be institutionalized into dogma, H.D., like Pound, constructed her own highly eclectic, syncretic system. […] in her prose and poetry radical syncretism constitutes the very fabric of her thought. The polyphonic, layered, paratactic nature of her poetry and prose is not only the direct result of her modernism, but also of her rummaging through various traditions and systems of thought. (Tryphonopoulos 2009: xxiv) 

majic ringMuch of the imagery that emerges in H.D.’s works is inspired by her “rummaging” through the dense bank of archetypes and symbols that stream through occultist and spiritualist systems. She is consistently devoted, for example, to groupings of “seven,” as in Majic Ring, where she writes about “seven rishis” (2009: 31), referring to “the seven masters of Hinduism and Theosophy” in a gesture implying H.D.’s awareness of a “theosophically derived technical language not uncommon in spiritualistic circles” (Tryphonopoulos 2009: 212 n81). Groupings of seven also intrigued Heyman: in her examination of the parallels between music and poetry, Heyman lists these “certain correspondences” . . . “the seven vowels; the seven senses, the seven planets, the seven tones; and, if you are interested in music used therapeutically, seven ganglia of the sympathetic nervous system” (82). Heyman’s configurations of her own occult interests often resonate with some rummaging on her part. In a footnote for the “seven ganglia,” she itemizes the seven, citing the source as “Hindoo books” (82 n10).

           Wilhelm, as already noted, failed to distinguish between “Yogi” and “Yoga” – a distinction worth pursuing here. Wilhelm writes that “[Pound and H.D.] also read books of Yoga, because, even though Pound preferred the rational ethics of Confucius to the mystical immersion of Buddhism, he nevertheless was aware of the powerful way that Hindu wise men could exert control over their bodies” (1985: 106-7). The reference to “Hindu wise men” makes no sense in this context, and it seems to suggest a conflation of Buddhist, Hindu, yoga and yogi with all matters of “mystical immersion.” Here, in fact, H.D. is referring to a series of books brought out by the Chicago, Illinois-based “Yogi Publication Society”; more specifically, H.D. is referring to a particular author published by this Society, Yogi Ramacharaka (a pseudonym), a number of whose books appeared in the first decade of the twentieth century, including Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism(1903). In A History of White Magic(1978), Gareth Knight identifies Yogi Ramacharaka as W. W. Atkinson, a successful writer of the New Thought Movement (with his Secrets of Mental Magic), “who also wrote a series of books on popularized forms of yoga” (168). In fact, Pound refers to this writer –foreshadowing the unnamed “Hindoo” source also cited by Heyman – in a footnote to his 1908 sonnet “Plotinus”:13

Plotinus teaching “that one could not dwell alone but must ever bring forth souls from himself.” The sonnet tho an accurate record of sensation and no mere (not) theorizing is in closer accord with a certain Hindoo teacher whose name I have not yet found. ( [1926] 1976: 296)

Pound also refers to one of Ramacharaka’s books, Hatha Yoga (“And the copy of ‘Hatha Yoga’”), in his poem “Moeurs Contemporaines” from Personae, published in 1909. William French has reported that Pound “himself recommended Ramacharaka’s series of “little blue Yoga books” to the Frenches during their studies with him at St. Elizabeths in the 1950s, and that Dorothy “already had the references to Ramacharaka books written in her pocket address-book when she passed them on to Wm French in 1953 as noted in the Yale Beinecke correspondence” (French and Materer 1982: 47). Yogi Ramacharaka is also listed, at the back of Fourteen Lessons, as the writer of many other books on similar subjects, including Science of BreathPhilosophers and Religions of Indiaand Advanced Course in Yogi and Oriental Occultism; interestingly, the latter is a text which Pound and Dorothy Shakespear are reported to have been reading in 1910 (Tytell 1987: 57).

The impact of Ramacharaka/Atkinson’s works upon H.D.’s writing is seldom considered, but it is certainly detectable, as Matte Robinson points out in his investigation of occult and religious sources in her work:

Likely the first time H.D. encountered the idea of the astral body was in the “Yogi books” Pound brought her in the mid-1900s. Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism enumerates no fewer than seven parts to the human: the physical, astral, vital force, instinctive-mind, intellect, spiritual-mind, and spirit. (2016: 6)

yogaRobinson goes on to explain that this model is “similar to the Theosophical septenary scheme which feeds the terminology used by Spiritualists” (6), and which evidently fed Heyman as well. Unlike Heyman, and more like Pound, H.D. avoids being attached to any movement, and follows her impulse to syncretise a range of esoteric traditions and practices. In the same vein, it is certainly possible that Pound is indebted to Ramacharaka’s books for some of his occult ideas. For example, in Fourteen Lessonshe could have come upon the concept of the “subtle body”--just as H.D. was introduced to the astral body--namely, that belief in an order of corporeality which cannot be perceived by normal means. If this is so, he could have encountered this concept years before he read of them in other works, such as Lodovico Maria Sinistrari’s De Daemonialitateet Incubis et Succubis14 and, in more refined form, in G.R.S. Mead’s The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition. It is upon these and similar sources that Pound draws when he describes the nous as a “sea crystalline and enduring . . . bright as it were molten glass that envelops us, full of light” in Guide to Kulchur ([1938] 1970: 44) or when he begins Canto XCI with these two lines: “that the body of light come forth / from the body of fire.” 

Pound’s and H.D.’s initiation into things occult took place on American soil during their youth and was developed in later years by further research and further acquaintance with occultists, especially Yeats, who, like Heyman, introduced Pound into London occult circles. Pound was attracted to Yeats as much by his occultism as by his fame as an established poet, as Colin McDowell and Timothy Materer observe:

When Pound sought out Yeats as the greatest living English poet, with the ambition of “learning how Yeats did it,” he was not merely impressed by Yeats’s poetic technique. Echoes of Yeats in his early poems, as in “The Tree,” with its echo of Yeats’s “He Thinks of His Past Greatness,” are of mystical themes as well as diction and rhythm. (1985: 345)

An example of the close connection in Pound’s mind between Yeats the craftsman and Yeats the occultist is found in “Note Precedent to “La Fraisne,” written in 1909 before the two poets had met. Following some comments on the phenomenon of ekypyrosis, Pound links the tales of spirits he has found in Yeats’s The Celtic Twilight with De Daemonialitate, et Incubis et Succubis,15 Pound’s comment on the relationship between Yeats’s fairies and Sinistrari’s daemons is instructive:

Also has Mr. Yeats in his “Celtic Twilight” treated of such, and I because of such a mood, feeling myself divided between myself corporal [sic] and a self aetherial “a dweller by streams and in woodland,” eternal because simple in elements ([1926]1976: 8)

demonialityorinc00sinirichIt is important to emphasise that Pound made the connection between the Sinistrari text and Yeats’s poetry before he had met Yeats and had read Sinistrari’s book before setting out for Europe.16 This suggests not only that Heyman might have introduced it to him, but also that there is an important continuum between De Daemonialitateand Yeats’s mystical themes that can be identified in Pound and H.D.’s relationship.In his introduction to his translation of Sinistrari’s work, Montague Summers notes that the title suggests that the creatures being described in his book, which have a corporeity “far more tenuous and subtile than the body of man,” are also called incubi or succubi. Summers goes on to say that “the demi-gods of Greece and Rome, satyrs, fauns, pans, nymphs, oreads, hamadryads, and all the vast company of nature-deities, were, in truth, these incubi and succubi” (1972: xxvi). It is tempting to suppose that Pound dubbed H.D. “Dryad” on the authority of Sinistrari’s text that he read at about the same time. When he writes “The Tree” for H.D., Pound combines the character of “nature-deities” with the mood of Yeats’s “Celtic Twilight”: 

     I stood still and was a tree amid the wood

     Knowing the truth of things unseen before

     Of Daphne and the laurel bow

     And that god-feasting couple old

     That grew elm-oak amid the wold . . .

     Naethless I have been a tree amid the wood

     And many new things understood

     That were rank folly to my head before. . . .

                 ([1905-1907] 1979: 81)

The poem was later published in A Lume Spento in 1908, and appears again in 1926, at the head of Personae: The Collected Shorter Poems of Ezra Pound. Pound’s allusion to Daphne, who was “transformed into a tree” in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Sieburth 2003b: 1256 n14.4), enforces the mystical theme.

Pound repeats this theme in “Psychology and Troubadours,” an essay he first delivered before Mead’s Quest Society in 1912 and published later that year in the October issue of the Society’s journal, The Quest. He speaks there of myth as a “delightful psychic experience” and says that he knows people to whom such experiences occur. He is personally acquainted, as he writes in The Spirit of Romance, with “one man who understands Persephone and Demeter, and one who understands the Laurel, and another who has, I should say met Artemis. These things are for them real” ([1910] 1968:92). Though Pound does not tell us who these people are, it is entirely possible that he is thinking of such friends as Yeats, Upward and Mead. In any case, there is a strong similarity between the kinds of experiences described in “The Tree” and in “Psychology and Troubadours,” which supports the argument that Pound was familiar with this type of esoteric experience since at least as early as the time of the composition of “The Tree” (1905-7).

The congruity between Pound’s views before and after his Kensington “initiation” into Yeats’s circles strongly indicates that he brought his occultism with him to London and did not encounter it there for the first time. Pound’s contact with occult speculation dates from his undergraduate years, and was merely intensified and broadened by his contacts in London between 1908 and the end of 1920. The persistence of his occultism throughout his career is less surprising in the light of the evidence that his entrée to London literary circles was his occultism. Although Heyman and Pound’s close relationship tapered off after the 1910s, they did remain friends until her death in 1944. The last time they met was in New York during Pound’s three-month visit to the United States in 1939. In his introduction to the Pisan Cantos, written in 1945, Richard Sieburth points out that this visit was Pound’s “first return since 1911 – the entirety of his professional writing career having been spent abroad, diasporically removed (except for a brief parenthesis in Paris in the early ‘20s frequenting his fellow expatriates) from the daily textures of American speech” (2003a: xvii). In the fragmented Canto LXXVI, written during his six-month incarceration in Pisa, Pound wedges an allusion to Heyman within layers of languages and memories:

     Unkle George in Brassitalo’s abbazia

              Voi che passate per quest via:

     Does D”Annunzio live here ?

                 said the american lady K.H. (ll. 277-280)

Carroll F. Terrell’s glosses tie these disparate lines together: this is a juxtaposition of Pound’s recollections from the Venice of his past, visits with an American politician and an Italian playwright, perhaps accompanied by “K.H.”17 Images of the streets and buildings of the city pervade this canto, evoking the canal into which the young poet might have thrown A Lume Spento in 1908 had he not been with the “american lady.” It was she who had nurtured his “inner vision” – the vision she described so accurately as acting “independently of what is usually recognized or usually restricted.”

 

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WORKS CITED

Adams, Stephen J. “Ezra Pound and Music.” Diss. University of Toronto. 1974. 

Adams, Stephen J. “Heyman. Katherine Ruth. 1874-1944.” Ezra Pound Encyclopedia. Eds. Demetres Tryphonopoulos and Stephen Adams. Westport: Greenwood Press. 2005. 146.

Bowers, Faubion. “Memoir within Memoirs.” Paideuma2.1 (spring 1973): 53-68. 

Carr, Helen. The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound. H. D. and the Imagists. London: Jonathan Cape, 2009.

Fisher, Margaret. “Music.” Ezra Pound in Context. Ed. Ira Nadel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 298-312.

French, William and Timothy Materer eds. “Far Flung Vortices and Ezra’s ‘Hindoo’ Yogi.” Paideuma 11.1 (spring 1982): 39-53.

Friedman, Susan Stanford. Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H. D.Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

H. D. End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound by H.D.Eds. Norman Holmes Pearson and Michael King. New York: New Directions, 1979.

H. D. HERmione. New York: New Directions, 1981.

H. D. Majic Ring. Ed. Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009.

H. D. Hirslanden Notebooks: An Annotated Scholarly Edition. Eds. Matte Robinson and Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos. Victoria: ELS Editions, 2015.

Hall, Donald. “Ezra Pound: An Interview.” Paris Review28 (Summer-Fall 1962): 48.

Heyman, Katherine Ruth. The Relation of Ultramodern to Archaic Music.Boston: Small Maynard, 1921. 

Hutchins, Patricia. Ezra Pound’s Kensington Years: An Exploration. 1885-1913. London: Faber and Faber, 1965

King, Michael. “Foreword.”End to Tormentby H.D. New York: New Directions, 1979. vii-xii.

Knight, Gareth. A History of White Magic. London: Mowbrays, 1978.

McDowell, Colin and Timothy Materer. “Gyre and Vortex: W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound.” Twentieth-Century Literature. 31 (1985): 348-67.

Mead, G.R.S. The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition. London: Watkins, 1919.

Norman, Charles. Ezra Pound: A Biography. London: Macdonald, 1969.

Oja, Carol J. Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s.New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Pound, Ezra. “How to Read” [1929] in Literary Essays. Ed. T. S. Eliot. London: Faber and Faber. 1954, 15-40.

Pound, Ezra. The Spirit of Romance [1910]. New York: New Directions, 1968.

Pound, Ezra. Guide to Kulchur [1938]. New York: New Directions, 1971.

Pound, Ezra. Personae: The Collected Short Poems of Ezra Pound. Eds. Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz.New York: New Directions. 1971.

Pound, Ezra. Selected Letters of Ezra Pound. 1907-1941.[1950]. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.

Pound, Ezra The Cantos of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.

Pound, Ezra. Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound. Michael John King ed. New York: New Directions, 1976.

Pound, Ezra. “Hilda’s Book.” End to Tormentby H.D. New York: New Directions, 1979. 67-84.

Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound/Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters: 1909-1914. Eds. Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz eds.. New York: New Directions, 1986.

Pound, Ezra. I Cease Not to Yowl: Ezra Pound’s Letters to Olivia Rossetti Agresti. Eds. Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos and Leon Surette. Urban: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound/Letters/John Theobald. Eds. Donald Pearce and Herbert Schneidau. Redding Ridge. CT: Black Swan, 1984.

 Pound, Ezra. “Terra Italica.” In Selected Prose1909-1965. Ed. W. Cookson. New York: New Directions, 1973. 54-60.

Ramacharaka, Yogi.Fourteen Lessons in Yogic Philosophy and Oriental Occultism. Chicago: Yoga Publishing Society, 1903.

Reitzenstein, Richard. Hellenistic Mystery-Religions: Their Basic Ideas and Significance. Trans. John E. Steely. Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1979.

Robinson, Matte.  “Introduction” H.D. Hirslanden Notebooks. Victoria: ELS Editions, 2015. ix-xxix. 

Robinson, Matte. The Astral H.D. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2016.

Robinson, Matte and Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos. “HERmioneand other prose” in Nephie J. Christodoulides and Polina Mackay eds.. The Cambridge Companion to H.D. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 127-41.

Sieburth, Richard ed. “Introduction” The Pisan Cantosby Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 2003a. ix-xliii.

Sieburth, Richard ed. “Notes” in Ezra Pound: Poems and Translations by Ezra Pound. New York: Library of America, 2003b. 1255-1341.

Sinistrari, Ludvicio Maria. Demoniality. Trans. Montague Summers. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1972.

Summers, Montague. “Introduction.” Demoniality. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1972. i-xliii.

Surette, Leon. A Light from Eleusis. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

Surette, Leon and Demetres P. Tryphononpoulos eds. Literary Modernism and the Occult Tradition. Orono: University of Maine, 1996.

Terrell, Carroll F. “Pound and KRH: An Introduction to Bowers’ Memoir.” Paideuma. 2.1 (spring 1973): 49-53.

Terrell, Carroll F. A Companion to The Cantosof Ezra Pound.” Berkeley: University of California Press. 1980, 1985.

Tryphonopoulos, Demetres P. “Ezra Pound and Palingenesis.” Paideuma18 (1989): 7-33.

Tryphonopoulos, Demetres P. The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992a.

Tryphonopoulos, Demetres P. “‘That Great [Forty-]Year Epic’: Ezra Pound. Katherine Ruth Heyman and H. D.” Ezra Pound and America. Ed. Jacqueline Kaye. Houndmills: MacMillan Press, 1992b. 149-65. 

Tryphonopoulos, Demetres P. 2009. “Introduction” in Majic Ring, by H. D. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. xxi-xxxix.

Tytell, John. Ezra Pound: The Solitary Volcano. New York: Anchor Press, 1987.

Wilhelm, J. J. The American Roots of Ezra Pound. New York: Garland, 1985.

Wilhelm, J. J. “Addenda and Corrigenda for The American Roots of Ezra Pound.” Paideuma17 (1988): 239-44.

Wilhelm, J. J.Ezra Pound in London and Paris: 1908-1925. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990.

Yeats, W. B. “A Vision” and Related Writings.Ed. A. Norman Jeffares. London: Arena. 1989.

 


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NOTES

 

1. In 1992, Demetres Tryphonopoulos published two essays on Heyman and Pound, both of which stem from what he identified then as scholarship’s general disregard of Pound’s relation to the occult. See ““That Great [Forty]-Year Epic”: Ezra Pound, Katherine Ruth Heyman and H.D.” in Ezra Pound and America,” and “Pound’s Occult Education” in The Celestial Tradition. Much of the research from these essays reappears in this chapter, but is enhanced with extracts from Heyman’s esoteric treatise, The Relation of the Ultramodern to Archaic Music.

2. In both sets of letters, Pound reminisces about his London years; there are several references to the occult, and they suggest that his interest was unbroken. The Ezra Pound-Patricia Hutchins correspondence began in 1953 and continued virtually until Pound’s death, with Dorothy Shakespear taking over from 30 September 1960. Pound’s letters stress the special ambience of Kensington and return repeatedly to Mead and the Quest Society lectures. But in Ezra Pound’s Kensington Years: An Exploration(1883-1913), Hutchins neglects to pay any attention to Pound’s emphasis on Kensington’s occult milieu, causing Pound to write a rather caustic letter from Italy and end their direct correspondence: “I put a LOT of work telling you KENSINGTON, its inhabitants to which you paid not the least bloody damn bit of attention” (dated 15 June 1959, Patricia Hutchins Collection, British Museum, ADD. 577, no. 159). Observations on the Hutchins Collection are based on notes taken by Leon Surette.  

3. This information comes by way of Stephen J. Adams’s notes on his conversations with Mary de Rachewiltz (Yale University, 15 April 1988).

4. James J. Wilhelm speculates that Pound and Heyman may have met in Utica, New York or thereabouts:

My . . . siftings through press clippings at the Lincoln Center branch of the New York Public Library disclosed some interesting details. In 1904, when Pound was studying in the “cultural wasteland” of northern New York State, Miss Heyman, triumphantly returning from Europe, gave a celebrated concert in Utica, where Pound went on weekends to get away from nearby Hamilton College. It is almost certain that he met her then because of an inscription in the Thomas L. Beddoes” book of that period (if he did not meet her earlier through is mother’s musicales of W. B. Smith). (1988: 242)

5. Pound was well read in Hellenistic writings on initiation and rebirth and was undoubtedly familiar with the Hermetic idea of the exoteric/esoteric nature of occult texts, described by Richard Reitzenstein in this way:

Anyone who published these mysteries [the literary mysteries of Hermetic writings] as books expected that the reader, if God chose to favor him, would upon reading them, feel the same effect as Thoth [the Egyptian god of wisdom, learning and literature] felt upon hearing; the miraculous power of God’s message functions even in the written word: the vision, the experience, occurs. But he also expected that the unbeliever into whose hand the book might fall would not understand it; indeed, for him it must remain dead, just because the vision does not occur. (1978: 62)

6. An unsigned, undated letter from Pound to Heyman is held in the Ezra Pound Papers at the Beinecke Library, Yale University. Dated in 1906, Pound’s note expresses gratitude and alludes to an unexplained misunderstanding. It reads in part as follows: 

Dear Katie:

My letter must have been phrased very badly--oh [?] why hide behind such excuses. I am glad there are a few people there to whom I have been of a little use and who are still glad that there is friendship between us. (YCAL MSS 43 Box 22 Folder 975)

7. Richard Sieburth notes that “Nel Biancheggiar” first appeared in the LondonEvening Standard and St. James Gazetteon 8 December 1908. (2003b: 1236-37)

8. Patricia Hutchins, using a letter from Pound dated 27 September 1957, writes that

When asked who used to come there [Kensington flat] Pound wrote, “Actually in the front room, Florence Farr reading Tagore, D.H. Lawrence missing train for Croydon,” and spending the night in ‘sort of armchair convertible to cot.” Then again, “Let’s see, actually IN the room, Aldington, H.D., Brigit [Patmore], once or twice [Paul] Selver, Skip Cannell and Kitty Heyman on the ground floor [as temporary tenants perhaps] . . . . (1965: 69)

The important point for this part of the discussion is that Pound remembered Heyman’s presence in his London residence almost fifty years later.

9. Heyman presents a line pattern for thefour opening lines (shown below) that differs from the version published in Collected Early Poems; the words are unaltered:  

Golden rose the house, in the portal I saw thee, a marvel, 

carven in subtle stuff, a portent.

Life died down in the lamp and flickered, 

caught at the wonder.

10. Friedman makes this statement in her seminal work, Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D.published in 1981. She continues with this speculation: “W.B. Yeats, with his poetic blend of theosophy and myth may have had some influence on H.D. But Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, major influences on Yeats’s occult interests, held little or no attraction for H.D. as she first delved into the occult. Probably more significant than Yeats’s example was the general influence in occult phenomena among literary people in London during the twenties” (160).

11. Matte Robinson and Demetres Tryphonopoulos, co-editors of Hirslanden Notebooks, fix the timeline as follows: “The entries in ET[End to Torment] span from March 7 to July 13 1958. HNhas only one short entry for this range, dated March 8. . . . In the entry, H.D. has crossed out the words ‘start new notes”; evidently, those notes became ET.” (2015: 96 n10). 

12. Pound was also deeply engaged with musicians in Paris as well as London, several of whom Heyman knew and references in her writing. In her essay “Music” in Ezra Pound in Context, Margaret Fisher offers this helpful précis of their shared Zeitgeist

Paris was also [a] Petri dish for a thriving occultism fueled by the revival of medieval rituals. . . . Pound would use song to resuscitate the poets on his short list of the Western cannon: Sappho, Catullus, Cavalcanti, and Villon. Theosophy and Rosicrucianism attracted Claude Debussy and Eric Satie, the quintessential medieval modernist of Montmartre, and Walter Morse Rummel (d. 1953), pianist-composer, troubadour enthusiast, interpreter of Debussy, and Pound’s close friend. (2010: 300)

13. In their 1982 essay, William French and Timothy Materer comment on “Yogi Ramacharaka,” pointing out that Pound refers to Ramacharaka’s books in his footnote to the “Plotinus” sonnet (41).

14. A Latin occult text written by the Franciscan theologian Lodovicio Maria Sinistrari (1622-1701). The Sinistrari text was discovered by Isidore Liseux, a French bibliophile, in 1872 and was originally printed with a French translation in 1875; the Latin text was reprinted by Liseux in 1879, with an English translation. Montague Summers also translated Demoniality into English a century later, in 1972. He says that the first English translation “is something worse than indifferent. Nonetheless, probably as being the only available English version of an important treatise, the book has become excessively rare” (v).

15. In this “Note Precedent to ‘La Fraisne’” Pound quotes from Janus of Basel:

“When the soul is exhausted of fire, then doth the spirit return unto its primal nature and there is upon it a peace great and of the woodland . . .” ([1926]1976: 8)

This is one version of the emanationist theory of ekpyrosis according to which the end of the world, when all things return to the One, is pictured as a supreme conflagration (dispersal through death conceived as an act of creation). Pound presents another version of the same theory in his chapter “Sophists” in Guide to Kulchur ([1938] 1970:124).

16. During the first winter with Yeats in Stone Cottage (1913-1914), Pound wrote to his father asking him for his edition of Sinistrari: “Yeats is doing various books. He wants my Daemonalitas [sic]. Will you try to find it along with the other thing I asked for. “Daemonalitas” by the Rev. Father Sinistrari of Ameno. Paper cover, not very large” (Pound 1986: 305). Homer Pound did send his son’s copy and Yeats read it and made some use of it in his Vision and Beliefs (40).

17. Terrell provides these notes in A Companion to The Cantos (1980):

“Unkle George: George Holden Tinkham, congressman from Massachusetts whom Pound met at the Hotel Excelsior in Venice in 1936 and again at the Lido in Washington in 1939. Pound corresponded with him over a number of years” (399 n176);

“Brassalito: Italian painter, Italico Brass, 1870-1943, who signed some his work this way” (399 n1770);

“D’Annunzio: Gabriele D. 1863-1938, Italian novelist and playwright” (395 n98);

“D’Annunzio: He did live at the Casetta Rosa on the Grand Canal in 1920 while he wrote of his war experiences as an aviator in a book entitled Notturno.Thus Katherine Heyman and Pound may have visited him, or tried to, in that year” (395 n180).

Wilhelm writes of Pound’s visit to Italy in 1920 with his wife Dorothy, where he met with James Joyce for the first time – a “momentous encounter of the two great epic-writers” (1990: 244). Pound describes his encounter in canto LXXVI, as Wilhelm points out, in lines 116-126. These appear shortly before Pound’s mention of Heyman.