I have been reading Roy Foster’s biography of Yeats, who was friends with
Pound for many years, before Pound became too much for him. Now, it is
plain from Foster’s book that Yeats, for all the famous “silliness,” was a straight-up human being:
a dutiful son, a loving husband (with some slight allowance for his
aristocratic/bohemian notions, which his wife was fully in accord with) and
father, an affectionate sibling, a loyal friend, and a conscientious
citizen. (He served in the Senate of the Irish Free State for 6 yrs.) The
very brief flirtation with the Blueshirts (= Irish fascists) in the early
1930s was nothing — in particular, nobody has ever found a trace nor a hint
of antisemitism in anything WBY said or wrote. I ended Foster’s books
liking & admiring Yeats tremendously.
Now: if such a good man as this could keep up a friendship with Pound
across many years, I submit that Pound could not have been all bad. Pound
is in hell, all right; but like Humbert Humbert, he is let out one evening a
year and allowed to stroll in a green country lane, on account of his
friendship with Yeats.
BTW, I have for some years nursed the notion — it hardly rises to the level
of a theory — that while arrogant, irresponsible, rules-don’t-apply-to-me
egotists of the type so memorably described in Paul Johnson’s book
Intellectuals — Shelley, Hemingway, etc. — have certainly given us much,
the true greats are sober, decent, and bourgeois types: Horace, Longfellow,
Kipling, Tennyson and Yeats come to mind. The little we know of Shakespeare
suggests that he was a solid citizen, and a good and decent man (that
“second-best bed” notwithstanding). What do you think of this notion?