EZRA POUND began publishing ''The Cantos'' in 1917, and when he left the poem unfinished at his death, he had included material ranging from ancient Homeric hymns to Chinese dynastic history. At
the center of the 800-page poem, surrounded by esoterica, occur these lines: I recalled the noise in the chimney as it were the wind in the chimney but was in reality Uncle William downstairs
composing . . . at Stone Cottage in Sussex by the waste moor.
Pound was remembering the three winters (1913-1916) he spent living with William Butler Yeats at Stone Cottage near the village of Coleman's Hatch in Sussex: specifically, he recalls sitting in the
second floor of the cottage and hearing Yeats chant his poetry in the room below - the chimney carried the Irish poet's brogue from fireplace to fireplace. When Pound wrote these lines in the
''Pisan Cantos'' at the end of World War II, he looked back to those Stone Cottage years as an idyllic time ''before the world was given over to wars.''
The situation at Stone Cottage is unmatched in literary history: two of the greatest poets of the 20th century - and two poets so different in temperament - living in excruciatingly close
quarters for months at a time. The idea was that Pound would serve as Yeats's secretary, and that both poets, freed from the obligations of literary life in London, would have the time and
solitude to pursue their projects without interruption. ''When breakfast was over they would set to work as if life depended on it,'' recalled Alice Welfare, their housekeeper. '' 'Don't disturb
him,' Mr. Pound used to say, if I wanted to dust, and Mr. Yeats would be humming over his poetry to himself in the little room.'' After supper, the poets would walk across the heath to the local
inn for cider. ''At night,'' wrote Yeats, ''when the clouds are not too dark and heavy, a great heath is beautiful with a beauty that is not distracting. One comes in full of thoughts. When I am
in the country like this I find that life grows more and more exciting till at last one is wretched when one goes back to London.'' One morning in December 1913, Yeats walked across the heath to
the village post office only to find it closed; he returned in a rage. ''But Mr. Yeats,'' said Alice Welfare, ''didn't you know, it's Christmas day!'' Such was the extent to which Pound and Yeats
left the everyday world behind. Stone Cottage was literally an enclave, and Yeats returned to the real world of London only for his Monday evenings, a weekly gathering with poets, and his
sessions with his medium.
IT is easy to overlook the uniqueness of what happened at Stone Cottage if only because the protagonists' idiosyncrasies are so familiar to us. Yeats, an Irish poet who had already achieved
international fame, had chosen to spend his winters in desolate isolation with an American poet 20 years his junior who had published little more than what we read today as his juvenilia. (In 1913
Yeats was 48 years old and Pound was 28.) There was not much that Pound could teach the author of ''The Wind Among the Reeds'' about poetry, especially since he had learned to write his own verse
by imitating the early Yeats. And one must wonder why Pound, who had journeyed to London to forge a literary renaissance, would come to feel that a six-room cottage on the waste moor was the center
of his vortex. Pound knew what he was doing. Before coming to London in 1908, he complained in ''In Durance'' that he was ''homesick after mine own kind / And ordinary people touch me not.'' Pound
sailed to Europe in search of a community, a society of poets who would share the secrets of their craft with one another. Even more, he wanted to know the man he considered ''the greatest living
poet.'' When Olivia Shakespear (Pound's future mother-in-law and Yeats's former lover) finally brought Pound to one of Yeats's Monday evenings in May 1909, he set out to establish just Yeats and
himself as London's most exclusive literary circle. Pound sometimes tried to convince his younger friends that Yeats was a stodgy old man who needed a push into the 20th century; he boasted of
several revisions he made in poems that Yeats published in Poetry magazine in 1912, but the unruffled Yeats described the changes as ''misprints.'' In reality, Pound coveted the honor granted to
him by his close association with Yeats, and he inevitably deferred to the older poet on questions both poetic and political. ''Noble'' was the word Pound continually used to describe Yeats, and he
wanted to be part of that aristocracy. ''He learns by emotion,'' Pound wrote to Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry magazine, ''and is one of the few people who have ever had any, who know what
violent emotion really is like.'' During the Stone Cottage years, Yeats was deeply in need of this kind of praise. When he met Pound in 1909, he had recently published his collected works; the
friends of his youth were dead. The rumor in literary London was that Yeats was finished.
Although their careers would later diverge dramatically, Pound and Yeats filled urgent needs for each other between 1909 and 1916, when they left Stone Cottage for good. Their first winter in
Sussex was Yeats's idea; he discovered the empty cottage while visiting Olivia Shakespear's brother Henry Tucker at The Prelude, another cottage down the lane. ''It is a most perfect and most
lonely place and only an hour and a half from London,'' Yeats told Lady Gregory. It was also near a cottage where eligible young women, Dorothy Shakespear and Georgie Hyde-Lees, sometimes stayed.
Pound married Olivia Shakespear's daughter Dorothy in the summer of 1914; Yeats married the Tuckers' daughter Georgie Hyde-Lees three years later, and both poets returned to Stone Cottage for their
honeymoons. In later years, after they had lost sympathy for each other's work, Pound and Yeats remained bound by the ties of family.
After a week at the cottage in November 1913, Yeats declared that the arrangement was a ''great success.'' His eyesight was deteriorating, so Pound took care of the correspondence in the morning
and read to him at night. They immersed themselves in the literature of the occult (despite his cocky statements to the contrary, Pound was fascinated by Yeats's netherworld of ghosts and spirits)
as well as the poets of the great tradition. When the local vicar paid them a visit, Pound said they had brought it on themselves by reading too much Wordsworth; in the ''Pisan Cantos'' he would
recall that Yeats preferred Joseph Ennemoser's ''History of Magic'' to Wordsworth, and the same was true of Pound. His own Imagist poems and credo emerged under the impetus of Yeats's studies in
magic, and early drafts of ''The Cantos'' reveal that the poem began in response to the same occult texts that shaped Yeats's visionary system.
Meanwhile, Yeats had begun drafting his autobiography, looking back on his infatuation with Maude Gonne and on his friends of the Rhymers' Club in the 1890's. Pound was translating Japanese Noh
plays from Ernest Fenollosa's notes, and Yeats (who had forsaken the trouble of what he called ''theater business'') was also prompted to make a new start as a playwright. His own Noh-style play,
''At the Hawk's Well,'' received its premiere in the drawing room of Lady Cunard, a London socialite, in April 1916. What is not generally known, however, is that the production was originally
scheduled as a double bill: Pound also wrote plays of his own at Stone Cottage, and though he never published them, one was to appear with ''At the Hawk's Well'' until it became clear that
rehearsal time was precious.
Both poets were dissatisfied with the commercial theater of their time. When Joyce wrote his play ''Exiles'' in 1915, Pound told him that the stage ''is a gross, coarse form of art,'' speaking ''to
a thousand fools huddled together.'' By eschewing conventional stagecraft and relying on dancers and masks, Pound and Yeats wanted to forge a theater as aristocratic as the Noh. As Pound explained
to his father, their plays ''won't need a thousand people for 150 nights to pay the expenses of production.'' Yeats designed ''At the Hawk's Well'' to create ''an unpopular theater and an audience
like a secret society.''
This exclusive attitude permeated everything Pound and Yeats did at Stone Cottage; yet the most important event of the Stone Cottage years was the rupturing of their enclave - by both literary and
political forces. In January 1914, George Moore published an attack on Yeats, Lady Gregory and Synge, and he took careful aim at Yeats's aristocratic pretensions. In response, Yeats (as Pound told
Dorothy Shakespear) wrote ''lofty poems to his ancestors, thinking that the haughtiest reply.'' Both poets despised what Pound (acting as Yeats's mouthpiece) called ''the bourgeois state of mind,''
and after Moore's attack they settled even more deeply into their private world of Noh drama and the occult. Later in January 1914 they organized a ceremony honoring the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
(1840-1922), who invited them to his estate and served them roasted peacock carried to the table in full plumage. (Yeats thought it tasted like turkey but Pound found it ''a more divine turkey.'')
The wide-eyed Pound told his mother that the bird ''went very well with the iron-studded barricades on the stairway and other medieval relics and Burne-Jones tapestry.''
Even these aristocratic splendors were not safe from an attack of a different sort. Between the first and second winters in Sussex, World War I began, and although the poets now looked forward to
their retreat from the incessant war news of patriotic London, the implications of world events - and the poet's problematic relationship to those events - became their primary concern.
Stone Cottage was almost literally invaded. ''The country is full of armed men,'' wrote Pound to Harriet Monroe. ''Last week we were under military orders that no light should show after 5
o'clock.'' Early in February 1915, the poets watched a ''whole battery of artillery deployed for our benefit on the heath before Stone Cottage.'' Soon afterwards, Yeats wrote his famous ''On Being
Asked for a War Poem,'' in which he told poets to keep silent, having ''no gift to set a statesman right.'' Until the Anglo-Irish war began, Yeats followed his own advice fairly strictly; much of
his later work reveals the stamp of a wartime consciousness, but just as his public response to George Moore was brief, his direct comments on the fighting were few. In the privacy of Stone
Cottage, however, he did wonder ''if history will ever know at what man's door to lay the crime of this inexplicable war. I suppose, like most wars it is at root a bagman's war, a sacrifice of the
best for the worst.''
Pound was also reluctant to make explicit comments on the war until the 1920's, when he published ''Hugh Selwyn Mauberley'' and Canto 16. The Chinese translations in ''Cathay'' (1915) make
surreptitious comments on the war, but at Stone Cottage he wrote poems that address the Great War directly. They were never published. Pound sent them to Harriet Monroe for publication in Poetry,
but he changed his mind and ordered her not to use them. The typescripts remained in her files, and they remain today (along with Pound's correspondence with Monroe) among the Poetry magazine
papers in the University of Chicago Library. With their first public appearance now, we can see these poems as the missing link in Pound's career, the shaky bridge between his early estheticism and
his later obsessions with world events.
The first poem, titled simply ''War Verse,'' (see box on page 26) came just before he and Yeats retreated to Stone Cottage for the winter of 1914-15. A group of anonymous donors announced a war
poem prize in Poetry magazine, and the volume of submissions was so large that Monroe devoted the entire November 1914 issue to war verse. ''Phases,'' a sequence of poems by an unknown poet named
Wallace Stevens, made it into print (it was only Stevens's second publication since he'd left Harvard in 1900), but the prize went to Louise Driscoll for ''The Metal Checks'' - causing Pound to
refer to the whole incident as ''the war poem scandal.'' He was outraged that poets like Driscoll, who knew nothing of the European situation, would so quickly use it as poetic fodder, relying on
the patriotic cliches of Kipling and Housman. Pound sent his own ''War Verse'' with the explicit instruction that it was not submitted to the competition; the poem presents the same advice that
Yeats would give a few months later in ''On Being Asked for a War Poem,'' offering a simple litany of ruined Belgian towns instead of a poet's easy proclamation to statesmen.
Yet although the idea of war poems written to order offended him and kept him from publishing his own poem, Pound did not want to keep silent. More and more he felt a need to respond to public
events, and at Stone Cottage the combination of soldiers on the heath and Yeats's new poem compelled him to try again. ''1915: February'' reveals Pound's conflict: on the one hand, he wants to
assert that as a poet the war does not concern him; on the other hand, his anger pushes the poem into a violent, public rhetoric, and only the final couplet (a paean to the seclusion of Stone
Cottage itself) retains the Imagist stillness of his earlier verse: ''We have about us only the unseen country road, / The unseen twigs, breaking their tips with blossom.''
Over the next few years, Pound came close to publishing ''1915: February'' on several occasions, but each time it was scheduled to go to press, he retreated, calling the poem ''too rhetorical'' or
''damn'd talk.'' At Stone Cottage, he wanted to get what he called ''real war emotion'' on the page, and he was afraid that a glimpse of practice maneuvers on the heath was not experience enough -
especially after several of his close friends joined the British troops in France. Pound himself tried to enlist but was rejected: he was blocked as both poet and activist. And when his friend
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was killed, Pound said that there was ''no artist fighting with any of the armies who might not have been better spared.'' His own poems now seemed to him even more
inadequate; his dream of an aristocracy of the arts seemed merely evasive.
In a sense, these events determined the shape of Pound's entire career. He later admitted that Gaudier's death prompted his first ''serious interest'' in politics and economics, and all his
desperate interests in social programs grew from his desire to save civilization from postwar decline. During World War II, his fanaticism led him to make pro-Fascist broadcasts on the radio in
Rome; he was now convinced he could set statesmen right. After he was captured by partisans and incarcerated at the American Disciplinary Training Center near Pisa, the Stone Cottage winters became
a prelapsarian era in Pound's mind. In the ''Pisan Cantos'' he remembered how his time with Yeats came to an end: did we ever get to the end of Doughty: The Dawn in Britain? perhaps not Summons
withdrawn, sir.) (bein' aliens in prohibited area)
The poets could not finish reading Charles Doughty's ''Dawn in Britain'' because the police came knocking at the door: wartime regulations were strict, and Pound (an American citizen) was indeed an
alien in prohibited area; he had not known he was required to report to the local police station. Pound thought himself doomed since ''any rural magistrate'' would ''probably see red at the first
sight of an artist of any sort.'' But Yeats wrote to Robert Bridges, the poet laureate, to get Pound identified: Pound himself wrote to C. F. G. Masterman, a member of the Cabinet, who was able to
have the summons withdrawn.
The memory of this event was especially charged for Pound as he wrote the ''Pisan Cantos'' in the Disciplinary Training Center during World War II: the authorities had come for him for the second
time in his life and there was no one left to write to. ''Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,'' wrote Pound, ''William who dreamed of nobility.'' Yeats was dead, and so was the dream of an artistic
aristocracy embodied in the Stone Cottage winters. Only the memory of the time remained, the end point of an age ''before the world was given over to wars.'' TWO UNPUBLISHED POEMS BY EZRA POUND
When World War I broke out, Ezra Pound took a typically high-handed attitude toward it, declaring that poetry had nothing to say to war. He called most of the war poetry jingoist, and thought it a
scandal that poets who had no experience of war should win prizes for their representations of it. When he found that he could not really ignore the war, Pound wrote these two ambivalent poems
about it and sent them to Harriet Monroe, the editor of Poetry magazine. Then he changed his mind and forbade her to publish them. James Longenbach found them among the Poetry magazine papers at
the University of Chicago. WAR VERSE O two-penny poets, be still! - For you have nine years out of every ten To go gunning for glory - with pop guns; Be still, give the soldiers their turn, And do
not be trying to scrape your two-penny glory From the ruins of Louvain, And from the smouldering Liege, From Leman and Brialmont. 1915: February The smeared, leather-coated, leather-greaved
engineer Walks in front of his traction-engine Like some figure out of the sagas, Like Grettir or like Skarpheddin, With a sort of majestical swagger. And his machine lumbers after him Like some
mythological beast, Like Grendel bewitched and in chains, But his ill luck will make me no sagas, Nor will you crack the riddle of his skull, O you over-educated, over-refined literati! Nor yet
you, store-bred realists, You multipliers of novels! He goes, and I go. He stays and I stay. He is mankind and I am the arts. We are outlaws. This war is not our war, Neither side is on our side: A
vicious mediaevalism, A belly-fat commerce, Neither is on our side: Whores, apes, rhetoricians, Flagellants! in a year Black as the dies irae. We have about us only the unseen country road, The
unseen twigs, breaking their tips with blossom. Copyright 1988 by the Trustees of the Ezra Pound Literary Property Trust. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, agent.
By JAMES LONGENBACH; James Longenbach teaches English at the University of Rochester. He is the author of ''Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats and Modernism,'' which will be published in
Published: January 10, 1988