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The essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T. S. Eliot incorporates many ideas sympathetic to those found in Pound’s poetry, thus allowing Pound to be comprehended more completely by one who has first read Eliot’s essay. If one were to read Eliot’s essay, he could in turn pick up ideas central to understanding Pound’s poetry, such as: the importance of tradition and the classics to poetry, the reader’s knowledge of great works of the past, and that an authors poems often consist of ideas and feelings foreign to them. If one were to keep these general ideas in his mind while reading Pound’s poems, his understanding would be much more complete, and would arrive there before the reader who hasn’t prepared himself with Eliot’s essay.
One of the first aspects of Eliot’s essay which would help one who is getting ready to read Pound is the emphasis of the importance of tradition and the classics to poetry. Pound feels as if being totally foreign to tradition is one of the worst things that a poet can do. He feels as if tradition is a rich part of any poetry. Eliot states that “…the historical sense compels a man to write…with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order.” Eliot is stating that the poet should write with all the influence that he has gained through his experiences and teachings, and then he can create a masterful poem.
Eliot’s essay encourages the reader to learn and embrace the classics, which in turn are very useful in understanding and reading Pound’s literature. Eliot’s refers back to the classics, much like Pound, just on a lesser scale, thus acclimating the reader to Pounds technique. Eliot even goes so far as to include a quote in Greek much like Pound does on several occasions. He states, “…[a poet’s] significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.” In this statement he insinuates that the reader must have sufficient knowledge of the “dead poets and artists” in order to truly appreciate the value of a poets work. Eliot also mentions that the author’s work must be compared to the works of past authors in order to fully see its greatness. Eliot’s use of seductive statements such as the aforementioned one effectively convince his reader to develop a richer knowledge of the classics, and therefore coincide with Pound’s goal.
When one reads Eliot’s essay he can notice that Eliot believes a poet’s actual feelings and emotions are not necessarily the emotions that he portrays in a given poem. This is definitely true in Pound’s work, as can be clearly seen in his poem, “The River Merchants Wife.” This work is an altered version of an 8th century poem, which was actually written by a Chinese poet named Li Taipo. Naturally, since the poem is not his originally it can’t possibly be his feelings and emotions, although it can be partially in agreement with him. Eliot makes a good example of this in his essay with an example dealing with chemistry and a catalyst. As the catalyst is being compared to the poet’s mind, it is separate from the feelings and emotions contained in a poem, and remains wholly unchanged by the process the poet goes through in his creation of a poem. Pound is infamous for utilizing this style in his creation of poetry, often taking plots from past literary works, and molding them into his own art.
Reading the essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T. S. Eliot truly helps one understand Ezra Pound’s poetry for what it was originally meant to be. Pound utilizes the technique of including emotions and feelings totally foreign to him in his poetry, which Eliot warns is quite common in good poetry. It is Eliot’s belief that only through incorporation of ones influences, both past and present, a poet can truly be original. Utilizing the suggestions supplied by Eliot, and therefore enriching his knowledge of the classics, the reader can use Eliot as a handbook to reading Pound more effectively.
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