Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
Poems from the Propertius Series
By Ezra Pound
SHADES of Callimachus, Coan ghosts of Philetas,
It is in your grove I would walk—
I who come first from the clear font,
Bringing the Grecian orgies into Italy,
          and the dance into Italy.        5
Who hath taught you so subtle a measure,
          in what hall have you heard it;
What foot beat out your time-bar,
          what water has mellowed your whistles?
Out-weariers of Apollo will, as we know, continue their Martian generalities.        10
          We have kept our erasers in order.
A new-fangled chariot follows the flower-hung horses;
A young Muse, with young loves clustered about her,
          ascends with me into the ether,…
And there is no high road to the Muses.        15
Annalists will continue to record Roman reputations,
Celebrities from the Trans-Caucasus will belaud Roman celebrities
And expound the distentions of empire.
But for something to read in normal circumstances?
For a few pages brought down from the forked hill unsullied?        20
          I ask a wreath which will not crush my head.
          And there is no hurry about it;
I shall have, doubtless, a boom after my funeral,
Seeing that long standing increases all things,
          regardless of quality.        25
And who would have known the towers
          pulled down by a deal-wood horse,
Or of Achilles withstaying waters by Simois,
Or of Hector spattering wheel-rims,
Or of Polydamas, by Scamander, or Helenus and Deiphobus?        30
Their door-yard would scarcely know them, or Paris;
Small talk, O Ilion, and O Troad,
          twice taken by Oetæan gods,
If Homer had not stated your case!
And I also among the later nephews of this city        35
          shall have my dog’s day
With no stone upon my contemptible sepulchre,
My vote coming from the temple of Phoebus in Lycia, at Patara.
And in the mean time my songs will travel,
And the devirginated young ladies will enjoy them        40
          when they have got over the strangeness;
For Orpheus tamed the wild beasts—
          and held up the Threician river;
And Citharaon shook up the rocks by Thebes
          and danced them into a bulwark at his pleasure;        45
And you, O Polyphemus?—did harsh Galatea almost
Turn to your dripping horses, because of a tune, under Aetna?
We must look into the matter. Bacchus and Apollo in favor of it,
There will be a crowd of young women doing homage to my palaver.
Though my house is not propped up by Taenarian columns        50
From Laconia (associated with Neptune and Cerberus),
Though it is not stretched upon gilded beams;
My orchards do not lie level and wide
          as the forests of Phæacia,
          the luxurious and Ionian,        55
Nor are my caverns stuffed stiff with a Marcian vintage—
          (my cellar does not date from Numa Pompilius,
Nor bristle with wine jars):
Yet the companions of the Muses will keep their collective nose in my books,
And, weary with historical data, they will turn to my dance tune.        60
Happy who are mentioned in my pamphlets;
The songs shall be a fine tomb-stone over their beauty.
          But against this?
Neither expensive pyramids scraping the stars in their route,
Nor houses modelled upon that of Jove in East Elis,        65
Nor the monumental effigies of Mausolus,
          are a complete elucidation of death.
Flame burns, rain sinks into the cracks,
And they all go to rack ruin beneath the thud of the years.
Stands Genius a deathless adornment,        70
          a name not to be worn out with the years.
I had been seen in the shade, recumbent on cushioned Helicon,
The water dripping from Bellerophon’s horse.
Alba, your kings, and the realm your folk have constructed with such industry,
Shall be yawned out on my lyre—with such industry.        75
My little mouth shall gobble in such great fountains
“Whereof father Ennius, sitting before I came, hath drunk.”
I had rehearsed the Curian brothers, and made remarks on the Horatian javelin
(Near Q. H. Flaccus’ book-stall).
“Of” royal Aemilia, drawn on the memorial raft,        80
“Of” the victorious delay of Fabius, and the left-handed battle at Cannae,
Of lares fleeing the “Roman seat”….
          I had sung of all these
And of Hannibal,
          and of Jove protected by geese.        85
And Phoebus, looking upon me from the Castalian tree,
Said then, “You idiot! What are you doing with that water—
Who has ordered a book about heroes?
          You need, Propertius, not think
About acquiring that sort of a reputation!        90
          Soft fields must be worn by small wheels,
Your pamphlets will be thrown, thrown often, into a chair
Where a girl waits alone for her man.
          Why wrench your page out of its course?
No keel will sink with your genius—        95
          Let another oar churn the water,
Another wheel, the arena: mid-crowd is as bad as mid-sea.”
He had spoken and pointed me a place with his plectrum.
Orgies of vintages, an earthen image of Silenus
Strengthened with rushes, Tegean Pan,        100
The small birds of the Cytherean mother,
          their Punic faces dyed in the Gorgon’s lake;
Nine girls, from as many countrysides,
          bearing her offerings in their unhardened hands:
Such my cohort and setting. And she bound ivy to his thyrsos,        105
Fitted songs to the strings,
          roses twined in her hands.
And one among them looked at me with face offended—
          “Content ever to move with white swans!        110
Nor will the noise of high horses lead you ever to battle;
Nor will the public criers ever have your name
          in their classic horns;
Nor Mars shout you in the wood at Aeonium,
          nor where Rome ruins German riches,        115
Nor where the Rhine flows with barbarous blood,
          and flood carries wounded Suevi.
Obviously, crowned lovers at unknown doors,
Night dogs, the marks of a drunken scurry—
These are your images, and from you the sorcerizing        120
          of shut-in young ladies,
The wounding of austere men by chicane.”
          Thus Mistress Calliope,
          Dabbling her hands in the fount, thus she
Stiffened our face with the backwash of Philetas the Coan.        125
Midnight, and a letter comes to me from our mistress
  Telling me to come to Tibur “At once!”
Bright tips reach up from twin towers,
  Anienan spring-water falls into flat-spread pools.
What is to be done about it?        130
  Shall I entrust myself to entangled shadows
Where bold hands may do violence to my person?
Yet if I postpone my obedience,
          because of this respectable terror,
I shall be prey to lamentations worse than a nocturnal assailant.        135
And I shall be in the wrong,
          and it will last a twelve-month,
For her hands have no kindness me-ward,
Nor is there anyone to whom lovers are not sacred at midnight
And in the Via Sciro.        140
If any man would be a lover
          he may walk on the Scythian coast:
No barbarism would go to the extent of doing him harm,
The moon will carry his candle,
          the stars will point out the stumbles,        145
Cupid will carry lighted torches before him
          and keep mad dogs off his ankles.
Thus all roads are perfectly safe
          and at any hour;
Who so indecorous as to shed the pure gore of a suitor?        150
          Cypris is his cicerone.
What if undertakers follow my track—
          such a death is worth dying.
She would bring frankincense and wreaths to my tomb,
          She would sit like an ornament on my pyre.        155
Gods’ aid, let not my bones lie in a public location
With crowds too assiduous in their crossing of it;
For thus are tombs of lovers most desecrated.
May a woody and sequestered place cover me with its foliage
Or may I inter beneath the hummock        160
          of some as yet uncatalogued sand;
At any rate I shall not have my epitaph in a high-road.
When, when, and whenever death closes our eyelids,
Moving naked over Acheron
  Upon the one raft, victor and conquered together,        165
Marius and Jugurtha together,
          One tangle of shadows.
Caesar plots against India—
Tigris and Euphrates shall from now on flow at his bidding,
Tibet shall be full of Roman policemen,        170
The Parthians shall get used to our statuary
          and acquire a Roman religion:
One raft on the veiled flood of Acheron,
          Marius and Jugurtha together.
Nor at my funeral either will there be any long trail,        175
          bearing ancestral lares and images;
No trumpets filled with my emptiness;
Nor shall it be on an Attalic bed.
          The perfumed cloths shall be absent.
A small plebeian procession—        180
          Enough, enough, and in plenty.
There will be three books at my obsequies
Which I take, my not unworthy gift, to Persephone.
You will follow the bare scarified breast;
Nor will you be weary of calling my name, nor too weary        185
          To place the last kiss on my lips
When the Syrian onyx is broken.
          “He who is now vacant dust
          Was once the slave of one passion”—
Give that much inscription—        190
          “Death, why tardily come?”
You, sometime, will lament a lost friend,
          for it is a custom—
This care for past men—
  Since Adonis was gored in Idalia, and the Cytherean        195
Ran crying with out-spread hair.
          In vain you call back the shade;
In vain, Cynthia, vain call to unanswering shadow—
          small talk comes from small bones.

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