Ezra Pound: University of Delaware Library.

Pound's Own Influences and Forebears

Ezra Pound’s early work, culminating in the publication of his first book, A Lume Spento, was infused with the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites, of Romanticism, of William Butler Yeats’s Celtic nocturnes, and especially of Robert Browning, particularly Browning’s penchant for dramatic monologues, assuming the roles of different personae. Several years later, Browning’s Sordello served as a model for the narrative vision and scope of the Cantos.

The young Pound was also very influenced by Algernon Charles Swinburne, whom he claimed kept alive the notion of poetry as pure art, and whose rhythm and sound—both extremely important elements in Pound’s concept of poetry—he admired greatly. “Swinburne beats us all,” he wrote to Archibald MacLeish in 1926.

Henry James was another influence, less for his style than as an example of an American abroad in Europe (although Pound later described his long poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley as a “Henry James novel in verse”). Pound wrote an extended commentary on James’s work after his death in 1916, which he called a “Baedeker to a continent.”

  • Robert Browning. Dramatis Personae. London: Chapman & Hall, 1864.
  • Robert Browning. Sordello. London: Edward Moxon, 1840.
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne. Songs Before Sunrise. London: F.S. Ellis, 1871.
  • Henry James. Transatlantic Sketches. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1875.

  • Ezra Pound. A Lume Spento. Venice: A. Antonini, 1908.
  • Ezra Pound. A Quinzaine for this Yule. London: Pollack, 1908.
  • Ezra Pound. Personae. London: Elkin Mathews, 1909.