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From: Adam McLean
Date: 8th Aug 1998

Yesterday I found this poem of Ezra Pound full of
alchemical references, allusions and resonances.
I believe it was written in the 1930's.

         *   *   *


The alchemist

Chant for the transmutation of metals


Saîl of Claustra, Aelis, Azalais,
As you move among the bright trees;
As your voices, under the larches of Paradise
Make a clear sound,
Saîl of Claustra, Aelis, Azalais,
Raimona, Tibors, Berangèrë,
'Neath the dark gleam of the sky;
Under night, the peacock-throated,
Bring the saffron-coloured shell,
Bring the red gold of the maple,
Bring the light of the birch tree in autumn
Mirals, Cembelins, Audiarda,
                 Remember this fire.

Elain, Tireis, Alcmena
'Mid the silver rustling of wheat,
Agradiva, Anhes, Ardenca,
From the plum-coloured lake, in stillness,
From the molten dyes of the water
Bring the burnished nature of fire;
Briseis, Lianor, Loica,
From the wide earth and the olive,
From the poplars weeping their amber,
By the bright flame of the fishing torch
                 Remember this fire.

Midonz, with the gold of the sun, the leaf of the popIar, by the light of the amber,
Midonz, daughter of the sun, shaft of the tree, silver of the leaf, light of the yellow of the amber,
Midonz, gift of the God, gift of the light, gift of the amber of the sun,
                 Give light to the metal.

Anhes of Rocacoart, Ardenca, Aemelis,
From the power of grass,
From the white, alive in the seed,
From the heat of the bud,
From the copper of the leaf in autumn,
From the bronze of the maple, from the sap in the bough;
Lianor, Ioanna, Loica,
By the stir of the fin,
By the trout asleep in the grey green of water;
Vanna, Mandetta, Viera, Alodetta, Picarda, Manuela
From the red gleam of copper,
Ysaut, Ydone, slight rustling of leaves,
Vierna, Jocelynn, daring of spirits,
By the mirror of burnished copper,
                 O Queen of Cypress,
Out of Erebus, the flat-lying breadth,
Breath that is stretched out beneath the world:
Out of Erebus, out of the flat waste of air, lying beneath the world;
Out of the brown leaf-brown colourless
                 Bring the imperceptible cool.

Elain, Tireis, Alcmena,
                 Quiet this metal!
Let the manes put off their terror, let them put off their aqueous bodies with fire.
Let them assume the milk-white bodies of agate.
Let them draw together the bones of the metal.

Selvaggia, Guiscarda, Mandetta,
                 Rain flakes of gold on the water,
Azure and flaking silver of water,
Alcyon, Phaetona, Alcmena,
Pallor of silver, pale lustre of Latona,
By these, from the malevolence of the dew
                 Guard this alembic.
Elain, Tireis, Alodetta
                 Quiet this metal.


From: Stuart Inman
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998

Dear Adam

Thanks for posting the very lovely Ezra Pound poem, a reminder of
just how good a poet he could be. You did not say where you found it
and I do not think I have seen it before. I was wondering if you were
right in saying it was probably from the 1930's - Pound was very
involved with the Cantos at that time, and his rather unpleasant
right-wing politics. From the style I would have given the poem an
earlier date, maybe 1912 (pulling a date out of a hat) and perhaps
suggest the influence of his friend W.B. Yeats regarding the subject
matter?

Anybody else know anything?

Stuart

From:Adam McLean
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998

Stuart Inman wrote:

> I was wondering if you were
>right in saying it was probably from the 1930's

I took this from the Faber and Faber 'A Selection of Poems',
London, 1940. Most of Pound's manuscripts are in Yale,
but their catalogue gives a 'not dated' entry for this poem.

Adam McLean

From:Marcelle Gillick
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998

Stuart Inman wrote:
> I was wondering if Adam McLean was right in saying it was probably
>from the 1930's...
>From the style I would have given the poem an earlier date,
maybe 1912

Apologies for delay in responding to the above. I got the
following three messages only recently from the Pound list:-

--------------------------------
Gallup mentions The Alchemist for the first time in the contents list
of Umbra (1920) as:

    RIPOSTES: [...] - The Alchemist, unpublished 1912 -

In Personae (1952) the contents have it as the last poem of Ripostes
(1912). I think Gallup is right.

----------------------------

There are two version of the poem published in the New Directions
collection of Pound's Early Poems. On page 226 of that volume, at end of
first version, editor Michael King notes:

From Umbra (1920), where table of contents notes "unpublished 1912."

Second version has editor's note at the end saying:

From typescript and manuscripts in the Pound Archive

so, Alchemist written in 1912, published in Pound's Umbra 1920, and
another version that can be found in the Pound Archive, Yale University
library. 

----------------------------

'The Alchemist' is in the 'Ripostes' volume, pub. 1912; you can also find
the poem in the 'Personae: Shorter Poems' collection (p. 70 - 72).
----------------------------

Very best wishes
Marcella