Robert Stark’s “‘Toils Obscure, / An’ A’ That’: Romantic and Celtic Influences in Hilda’s Book,” takes a look at Ezra Pound’s chewy jargon by examining his predecessors, most notably Robert Burns, Allan Ramsay, and James Whitcomb Riley. While Pound’s “odd spellings are usually calculated…to estrange the reader,” Stark views Pound’s archaisms in Hilda’s Book as a revelatory glimpse into the lexicon of a poet who never truly, even in The Cantos, abandoned these first impulses.
Applying his findings to Pound’s “Voriticism,” Stark writes:
This language suggests that Pound is consciously seeking an aesthetic impulse from his subject matter: it powerfully imitates the chirruping of the birds themselves. …Though the image might confuse at first, Pound’s usage is consistent with the precise nature and historical development of the language he employs; the special religious sense governs the meaning of the poem subtly and surely, in a vital rather than ornamental fashion. The language and the strange diction conspire to release these songbirds from the spell of Romantic and post-Romantic introspection…and result in a new but tentative poetic register.
Robert Stark is a poet and scholar at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, working on a book of verse and a book-length study of the legacy of the 1890s and Ernest Dowson in particular, provisionally entitled “‘All My Blood in Pawn’: from the Decadence to the Dream Songs.” His recent work can be found in current or forthcoming issues of The Journal of Modern Literature, The Journal of Browning Studies, and Almost an Island: A New Anthology of Fife Writings.”