Basil Bunting: Poems: 1950

(316 words)
  • Glyn Pursglove (University of Wales, Swansea)

It seems to have been with some encouragement from Ezra Pound (then in St. Elizabeth's mental hospital) that the publisher Dallam Flynn – sometimes known as Dallam Simpson – agreed to publish a collection of poems by Basil Bunting (Flynn was an active propagandist on Pound's behalf in his journal Four Pages). Bunting was in Iran and was unable to read the proofs of what became Poems: 1950 which, perhaps as a consequence, contains a number of obvious errors. Around 1,000 copies were printed, though not all were bound. Some sets of unbound sheets were later (perhaps in 1951) issued in the Square Dollar Series. Plans for a British edition, to be published either by Faber or by Peter Russell's Pound Press came to nothing, in large part because of objections to the Preface which Flynn had written to the volume.

Poems: 1950 was effectively a 'collected poems' up to this date. It reprinted the best work from Redimiculum Matellarum, including “Villon” and such “Odes” as “An arles, an arles for my hiring”, “Weeping oaks grieve, chestnuts raise”, “Farewell ye sequent graces” and “I am agog for foam”. With the exception of “On highest summit dawn comes soonest” and “On the Fly-Leaf of Pound's Cantos” it contains the material that was later to become The First Book of Odes. Longer poems include such substantial achievements as “Attis”, “Aus dem Zweiten Reich”, “The Well of Lycopolis” and “Chomei at Toyama” as well as the rather pale Poundian imitation of “They Say Etna”. A selection of (characteristically idiosyncratic) translations includes versions from Lucretius (a significant influence on Bunting's thinking) and Horace, and from the Persian poets Firdausi and Rudaki. Though the volume attracted reviews (generally very favourable) from such figures as Hugh Kenner and G. S. Fraser, wider appreciation of Bunting's achievements in the best of these poems had to wait for the revival of interest in his work that came in the 1960s.

Pursglove, Glyn. "Poems: 1950". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002
[, accessed 31 July 2016.]