The Echo of Villon in Ezra Pound's Music and Poetry: Toward a Theory of Duration Rhyme

by Margaret Fisher

The Echo of Villon, first of two volumes on the relationship of music and great bass to the poetry of Ezra Pound, brings together essays written for diverse publications. 

The principal essay by Fisher traces the role of music and of Villon in Pound’s oeuvre and identifies the duration rhyme as a metrical construct of musical proportion within Pound’s long poem The Cantos. The Introduction provides a background to Ezra Pound's activities as a composer. The essays as a whole address the question of why Pound composed.

Using computer-assisted models, Fisher demonstrates how Pound applied the relative temporal durations of elements in his poems—vowels, syllables, words, phrases and verse lines—and the precise proportions that result from those relations to arrive at the great bass of a new poetic based on time durations and informed by music. With this analysis, musical structures in the poetry came into view as if the poems had been X-rayed.

The author shows how Pound’s compositional activities in the ‘teens, ‘20s and ‘30s were a means of creating quantitative structure from time durations and their relations to give metrical shape to poetry that included many languages. 

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