Sestina: Altaforte

By Ezra Pound 1885–1972 Ezra Pound
  LOQUITUR: En Betrans de Born.
     Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a stirrer-up of strife.
     Eccovi!
     Judge ye!
     Have I dug him up again?

  The scene is his castle, Altaforte. “Papiols” is his jongleur. “The
Leopard,” the device of Richard (Cœur de Lion).

                                    I

Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let’s to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.

                                     II

In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth’s foul peace,
And the light’nings from black heav’n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God’s swords clash.

                                     III

Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour’s stour than a year’s peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah! there’s no wine like the blood’s crimson!

                                     IV

And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And prys wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might ’gainst all darkness opposing.

                                     V

The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth’s won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.

                                     VI

Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There’s no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle’s rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges ’gainst “The Leopard’s” rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry “Peace!”

                                     VII

And let the music of the swords make them crimson
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought “Peace”!

from The English Review, 1909

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Poet Ezra Pound 1885–1972

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Sestina

 Ezra  Pound

Biography

Of all the major literary figures in the twentieth century, Ezra Pound has been one of the most controversial; he has also been one of modern poetry's most important contributors. In an introduction to the Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot declared that Pound "is more responsible for the twentieth-century revolution in poetry than is any other individual." Four decades later, Donald Hall reaffirmed in remarks collected . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Sestina

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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