A Walking Tour in Southern France: Ezra Pound among the Troubadours

A Walking Tour in Southern France: Ezra Pound among the Troubadours

A Walking Tour in Southern France: Ezra Pound among the Troubadours

A Walking Tour in Southern France: Ezra Pound among the Troubadours


Rummaging through his papers in 1958, Ezra Pound came across a cache of notebooks dating back to the summer of 1912, when as a young man he had walked the troubadour landscape of southern France. Pound had been fascinated with the poetry of medieval Provence since his college days. His experiments with the complex lyric forms of Arnaut Daniel, Bertran de Born, and others were included in his earliest books of poems; his scholarly pursuits in the field found their way into The Spirit of Romance (1910); and the troubadour mystique was to become a resonant motif of the Cantos. In the course of transcribing and emending the text of "Walking Tour 1912", editor Richard Sieburth retraced Pound's footsteps along the roads to the troubadour castles. "What this peripatetic editing process...revealed", he writes, "was a remarkably readable account of a journey in search of the vanished voices of Provence that at the same time chronicled Pound's gradual discovery of himself as a modernist poet...".


Ab l'alen tir vas me l'aire
qu'ieu sen venir de Proensa
tot quant es de lai m'agensa
Peire Vidal

I suck deep in air come from Provence to here.
All things from there so please me.
Paul Blackburn

Rummaging among his papers at Brunnenburg in 1958, shoring fragments against ruin, Ezra Pound came across a cache of writings nearly half a century old--a series of small French school notebooks filled with his observations of the troubadour landscape of southern France as seen on foot in the summer of 1912. the discovery of these notebooks, his daughter Mary recalls, occasioned a moment of hope at the castle, a brief gleam of remembered beauty amid the gathering silence and depression. Sifting through his memorabilia, Pound had also turned up an ancient snapshot of his Aunt Frank perched on a mule in Tangiers in 1898--a memento of his first Grand Tour of Europe at age twelve which he now tacked up over the door to his study in homage to the portly Victorian globetrotter who had initiated him into a lifetime of restless wanderings. His young disciple and amanuensis, Marcella Spann, was put to work making a fair copy of the yellowing sheaf of materials that had acquired the manuscript title Walking Tour 1912, but after a few pages of transcription the entire initiative ground to a halt, apparently a casualty of Pound's own flagging spans of will and attention ("And I am not a demigod,/I cannot make it cohere"). All that remains of the book he hoped to quarry from the lode of his 1912 walking tour are a few scattered outcroppings of southern French place-names amid the late paradisal landscapes of Thrones, and this final injunction to remembrance at the close of Drafts and Fragments: "to set here the roads of France."

From Brunnenburg, the Walking Tour eventually traveled with the rest of the Pound archives to the Beinecke Library in the late '70s, where Donald Gallup, then curator of the collection of American literature at Yale, made . . .

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