Ezra Pound Fled the US


Ezra Pound is arguably one of the finest of American born poets and classical scholars.

Pound influenced many of his peers such as W.P. Yeats, Robert Frost, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot.



Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho Territory in 1885.

He was a descendant of William Wadsworth on his mother's side. He was educated in a series of so-called dame schools, some run by Quakers. From 1898 until 1900 he attended the Cheltenham Military Academy, where the boys wore Civil War-style uniforms and were taught how to shoot, and the importance of submitting to authority. Pound was clever, independent and unpopular. He was admitted to the University of Pennsylvannia at the age of 15.



His mother and his aunt took him on his first trip overseas, a three-month tour of England, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.

In 1906, on a $500 Harrison travel grant, Pound visited Europe again, spending three weeks in Madrid, before moving on to Paris, where he spent two weeks at lectures at the Sarbonne, followed by a week in London.



In the spring of 1908 Pound returned to Europe, arriving in Gibraltar in April with $80 in his pocket.

He earned money as a guide to American tourists. In August he moved to London where he lived almost continuously for the next 12 years. In June 1910 Pound returned to the US for eight months. He returned to London in February 1911 and then visited Paris for a few months, before returning to London in August 1911.



WWI had a profound affect on Pound and "shattered his belief in western civilization."

In 1921, Pound, now married, settled in Paris. Pound came to believe during the 1920s that the cause of the First World War was finance capitalism, which he referred to as "usury." In January 1933 Pound met Benito Mussolini.


"In April 1939 he sailed for New York, believing he could stop America from involvement in the Second World War, happy to answer reporters' questions about Mussolini while he lounged on the deck of the ship in a tweed jacket. He traveled to Washington, D.C. where he met senators and congressmen. Mary said he did it out of a sense of responsibility, rather than megalomania; he was offered no encouragement, and left depressed and frustrated." Terrell, Carroll F. (1980). A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03687-1

According to Terrell, Pound wrote over a thousand letters a year during the previous decade and presented his ideas in hundreds of articles, as well as in The Cantos. Terrell states that Pound's fear was an economic structure dependent on the armaments industry, where profit motive alone would govern war and peace. He wrote in The Japan Times that ""Democracy is now currently defined in Europe as a 'country run by Jews,'" and told Oswald Mosley's newspaper the English were a slave race governed by the Rothschilds since Waterloo."


In May 1945, while in Italy, Pound was arrested for treason.

He was interrogated in Genoa by Frank L. Amprin, the FBI agent assigned by J. Edgar Hoover to gather evidence following Pound's indictment in 1943. "On 24 May he was transferred to the United States Army Disciplinary Training Center north of Pisa, used to house military personnel awaiting court martial. The temporary commander placed him in one of the camp's "death cells", a series of six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cages lit up all night by floodlights. He was left for three weeks in isolation in the heat, denied exercise, eyes inflamed by dust, no bed, no belt, no shoelaces, and no communication with the guards, except for the chaplain. After two and a half weeks he began to break down under the strain."



In November 1945, Pound was transferred, in a cage, to the United States.

On 25 November he was arraigned in Washington D.C. on charges of treason. "The charges included broadcasting for the enemy, attempting to persuade American citizens to undermine government support of the war, and strengthening morale in Italy against the United States."


He was admitted to St. Elizabeth's Hospital and held for a time in the hospital's prison ward, known as the "hell-hole," a building without windows in a room with a thick steel door and nine-peepholes, which allowed the attending psychiatrists to observe him while trying to agree on a diagnosis. He was a allowed visits of only 15 minutes at a time, while other patients wandered around outside the room screaming and frothing at the mount, according to T.S. Eliot.

The panel of psychiatrist finally settled on a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Thanks to the efforts of Pound's attorney, Julien Cornell, Pound was moved to more pleasant surroundings, the Chestnut Ward, where he spent the next 12 years.

Upon his release from St. Elizabeths in 1958, Ezra Pound returned to Italy. When interviewed by the press and asked when he had been released from the mental hospital, he replied with his famous:

"I never was. When I left the hospital I was still in America, and all America is an insane asylum."


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