"Ezra Pound Speaking": Radio Speeches of World War II, Edited by Leonard W. Doob (1978)

Series Foreword

The best reason for publishing Ezra Pound’s Italian broadcasts may be the simplest. Thousands of people have heard about them, scores have been affected by them, yet but a handful has ever heard or read them. Here they are.

There are other compelling reasons, the first having to do with the magnitude of their author. No other American—and only a few individuals throughout the world—has left such a strong mark on so many aspects of the twentieth century: from poetry to economics, from theater to philosophy, from politics to pedagogy, from Provençal to Chinese. If Pound was not always totally accepted, at least he was unavoidably there.

Those traits of mind and character that made Pound so inescapable are not only evident in the broadcasts but also present in ways that make them more fully understandable. Here is that same fearless plunge toward the heart of the matter—often heedless of consistencies—that marked his study of ancient and exotic languages and cultures. Here is that same urge to simplify and instruct that marked his unorthodox textbooks: ABC of Economics, ABC of Reading and the rest. Here is that flair for dramatic hyperbole which peppered the Cantos and produced such deliberately shocking titles as Jefferson and/or Mussolini. The broadcasts do not always show these traits at their best, but their blatant presence makes them useful clues in putting together the puzzle of that powerful enigma at their center.

Even if the shadow of Ezra Pound did not so broadly color this century, these broadcasts might still. Even if the shadow of Ezra Pound did not so broadly color this century, these broadcasts might still command a clinical respect for the way in which they interrelate so vitally with the rise of fascism in Europe and the accompanying extremes of feelings, with the cause and conduct of World War II as viewed from this special place by this very special commentator. To the historians who have counted this an almost anti-ideological war, the broad casts offer considerable counterpoint. Furthermore, they are the starting point for understanding two major cultural events of the postwar years: the trial of Ezra Pound and the literary prize controversies. The Bollingen Prize debate—by itself the politico-literary cause célèbre of the generation—while once totally preoccupying has to this day refused to lie at rest. Even this young Greenwood Press series, begun twenty-five years after the fact, offers two fresh and extensive treatments of the issue. Such insistent unrest shows clearly the need for this essential evidence now at hand.

The broadcasts do not show Pound at his best. War, bigotry, and totalitarianism are not sunny subjects. Yet giant figures need their full dimensions, and unpleasant subjects can and should be studied for the best of reasons. How indeed are we to lessen our chances for future encounters with shrinking horizons if we do not learn from episodes so recent, so strongly cast, and so richly charted?

We applaud, then, the respect for a complete historic record which has allowed the Pound Literary Trustees to overcome an understandable reluctance toward seeing these scripts in print. We applaud this same impulse which has motivated the patience and stamina of Leonard Doob. There are, and there will always be, more motives behind an act like this than one can chronicle. From our point of view, however, this work provides a singular and extensive collection of data for the pursuit of that most bewildering of cultural equations: the balance between the creative force, the individual personality, and the social context. Seen in this light, Ezra Pound’s texts become a “Contribution in American Studies” at a profound and essential level.

Robert H. Walker
February 1975


The title of this book is the signature Ezra Pound almost always used at the start and sometimes at the end of each broadcast from Radio Rome in World War II. Pound himself had proposed to publish “300 Radio Speeches,” containing also the texts of his “Money Pamphlets,” newspaper articles published in Italian, and his translations from the Chinese: Ta Hio (The Great Digest) and Chung Yung (The Unwobbling Pivot).

Pound started to write for radio toward the end of 1940. The first scripts to be accepted were read in English by regular speakers of Radio Rome. In January 1941 he was able to record his own speeches, which were broadcast, on an average, twice a week. He wrote the texts at his home in Rapallo and on occasion in Rome where he traveled to record on discs a batch of 10 to 20 speeches. He wanted the discs to be transmitted in a particular order, but it is apparent from the discrepancies between his numbering system and the dates on which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recorded the speeches that the Italian officials did not always follow his plan, although in general the deviation was not great. He gathered news and information from Italian newspapers and whatever foreign papers he managed to obtain; from Italian broadcasts and any foreign station (especially the BBC) he could hear on his own radio; from conversations with friends, officials, and travelers; from letters of friends in America and other countries; and from his own library, which included back numbers of periodicals. He envied the BBC’s supply of news and feature materials, since he himself had “not one disc” (July 25, 1943).

After the Fascist government fell in July 1943, Pound left Rome and eventually submitted scripts and ideas to Mussolini’s Republic of Saló. No evidence exists to indicate that any of this material was ever broadcast to America in Pound’s name from Radio Milan while that station remained under the regime’s control.

The present collection consists of original manuscripts Pound prepared to read on Rome radio, divided into two parts:

  • Part 1 includes all of the available manuscripts (105) for the broadcasts recorded by the FCC: October 2, 1941, to December 7, 1941; January 29, 1942, to July 26, 1942; February 18, 1943, to July 25, 1943. These are the speeches that have been quoted by Pound’s critics, and they include those selected by American authorities who sought to press the charge of treason against him. The monitoring unit of the FCC, called the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, recorded every broadcast from Radio Rome, included among which were Pound’s speeches. There are egregious errors and omissions in these FCC transcripts because recording equipment in those days was crude, because atmospheric conditions interfered with the monitoring, and because, I assume, the transcribers sometimes did not recognize Pound’s references. The FCC versions of Pound’s speeches hitherto available, there fore, sometimes give a wrong impression. Poundians and others have noted that the French novelist Céline was transcribed as “Stalin.” Other mistakes can be observed, in many instances probably resulting from the vagaries of shortwave. One illustration: Pound’s sentence, “Even Lenin saw that the easiest way to debauch the capitalist system is to debauch its currency’ (April 13, 1943), became “Yet even seven saw that the easiest way to divorce the capitalist system is to divorce its currency.” To date, however, it has been impossible to locate five of Pound’s original manuscripts; hence the FCC versions in these instances, imperfect though they are, have been substituted in this volume. In a few instances gaps in the manuscripts themselves have been filled by sections of the FCC transcripts; these substitutions are clearly indicated.
  • Part 2 includes 10 speeches written before the FCC monitoring unit had been established, some read by Pound and some read by others, as well as speeches either not used or not monitored. They have been selected by Mary de Rachewiltz because in her opinion they represent a fair sample of Pound’s central ideas and themes.

The anonymous and pseudonymous scripts Pound also wrote are not included in this book because they merely repeat ideas already expressed in other speeches.

Most of the speeches in part 1 were intended for an audience in the United States, some for an audience in the United Kingdom, and some for both. It is known that Pound was heard in the United States by people other than the monitors of the FCC, and eventually in April 1942 the Department of Justice began an investigation through the FBI. There is no way of estimating how many persons listened to him regularly or how large his audience ever was. Certainly his broadcasts never attained great popularity. He himself in the broadcasts occasionally expressed jovial skepticism concerning the size of his audience: “I was wonderin’ if anybody listened to what I said on Rome Radio” (February 19, 1943).

After January 29, 1942, Pound was introduced by a statement he had drafted:

Rome Radio, acting in accordance with the fascist policy of intellectual freedom and free expression of opinion by those who are qualified to hold it, has offered Dr. Ezra Pound the use of the microphone twice a week. It is understood that he will not be asked to say anything whatsoever that goes against his conscience, or anything in compatible with his duties as a citizen of the United States of America.

Pound always referred to himself as an American.

With the exceptions already noted, therefore, the texts of the speeches come from Pound’s original manuscripts, which he typed and then often amended in his not always intelligible handwriting. Editing has been kept to a minimum. Elementary misspelling has been corrected. Punctuation and paragraphing have been altered in the interest of intelligibility. Since the scripts were to be read and heard, abbreviations and initials of persons have been spelled out. Pound’s penchant for achieving emphasis through capitalizing entire words has been retained. Brackets have been added when my colleagues and I were unsure of a word or phrase after studying the manuscript and after examining the FCC transcript for possible clues. The five PCC scripts have not been edited or amended. Words that cannot be de ciphered or are missing from the manuscripts or the FCC scripts are indicated by a 2-em dash.

The following information is provided at the outset of each speech:

  1. To the left
    1. Part 1 a consecutive numbering system based on the dates recorded by the FCC Part 2 the order is perforce arbitrary since the speeches have been selected for content and since no reliable dating or numbering system has been located.
    2. In parentheses Part 1 the FCC date part 2 the estimated year in which the script was written.
  2. To the right
    1. When available, the target audience indicated by Pound and/or the FCC.
    2. Part 1 Pound s own numbering system in parentheses actually he used three separate numbering systems that have been distinguished here by placing the letter A, B, or C before his number. Part 2: whatever number appears on the original manuscript is provided without relating that number to Pound’s different numbering systems.
  3. To the left, second line

The title of the speech as given by Pound.

The book has four appendices that attempt, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to provide insight into Pound and his critics. I would have preferred to provide additional information, but too many facts were obscure to express reliable judgments. Neither the Italian archives, for ex ample, nor an examination of the papers at the Beinecke Library at Yale University have revealed why Pound ceased broadcasting between July 26, 1942, and February 18, 1943.

The glossary and index to names at the end of the book are as complete as my collaborators and I could make them, but we have not been able to identify every name to which Pound referred. Admittedly we have often been able to provide only our best guesses.

This volume, in short, seeks to offer the speeches as Pound wrote them. For the first time all of his monitored speeches and some of his other scripts are brought conveniently together. No longer will Poundians or historians be dependent upon the FCC transcripts, pirated editions of the speeches, or hit-and-miss citations to learn what Pound said over Radio Rome.

Reproducing Pound’s admittedly controversial speeches over 30 years later requires justification. Why publish this volume? Why have I agreed to function as editor? Pound wrote these scripts; they are part of his legacy. He is so important in American and British literature of the twentieth century that whatever he wrote cannot be ignored. The speeches, more over, are valuable from a historical standpoint: they reveal what one man, broadcasting from an enemy radio station during World War II, believed his countrymen should hear. On the basis of what he said, moreover, Pound was arrested and accused of treason; he spent 13 years in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (a government institution for the criminally insane in Washington, D.C.) as a result. Anyone who seeks to understand Pound or to write about him and his times cannot overlook these speeches. Although Pound’s reputation will forever rest on his poetry and other writings, and not upon these scripts, the broadcasts are part of his record. Actually, the speeches should be of interest of Poundians not only because, according to Mary de Rachewiltz, they reflect his earlier writings but also because they affected his subsequent poetry.

To the second question: why have I personally undertaken this editorial role? Admittedly, I am not a Poundian in any sense, and I have read and understood very little of his poetry. I offer three reasons. First, Mary de Rachewiltz asked me originally to work with her in preparing a definitive edition because she thought my knowledge of propaganda and World War II would be helpful. During that war, I was actively engaged in psychological warfare against Italy, Germany, and Japan. I remember vaguely seeing some of the FCC transcripts of Pound’s speeches at the time and dismissing them as irrelevant to my own work. Then, secondly, I have been interested to see whether the technique of content analysis—which was useful to me during World War II and later in analyzing Goebbel’s diaries—would be helpful in comprehending this vast collection of words. The analysis of the 110 speeches, the reader will note in appendices, is pitched on a modest level and simply seeks to answer a straightforward question: in how many of the broadcasts did Pound make one or more references to particular themes, persons, and countries? Finally, although I must add that my own attitudes and feelings have not been one bit changed after working with these speeches, it has been interesting to come to comprehend what Pound was trying to accomplish. His attack on the profits some men reap from wars reminded me of my experience during the summer of 1934 when I was employed by the Senate Committee then investigating “The Merchants of Death.”

My own conscience is at peace on a mundane level. Compensation to my research assistants has exhausted, nay exceeded, the funds allocated to me personally in my role as one of the Pound Literary Trustees. My share of the royalties from this book will not go to me. I am grateful to the Trustees of Pound’s Estate for giving Mary de Rachewiltz and me access to the original manuscripts. Others who have faithfully cooperated with us are James A. Fishback, who performed the content analysis of the 110 broadcasts; Ellen S. Schell, who worked diligently on the index and glossary; Maryrose Coiner, who prepared the data from the content analysis for the computer and provided us with printouts constituting the basis for the tables; Jane C. Olejarczyk, who heroically managed to prepare typed copies of the manuscripts; and Marjorie A. Sa’Adah, who pitched into the project whenever extra assistance was needed, which was often. Especially cordial gratitude is expressed to Olga Rudge who originally preserved Pound’s manuscripts and who conveyed to me a sensitive feeling for Pound’s philosophy and approach.

This volume could not have been prepared without the assistance and persistence of Mary de Rachewiltz. This is Pound’s book, however, and with her help I have simply facilitated its appearance.

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