The Ballad of the Goodly Fere

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ezra-pound

Ezra Pound, fascist, anti-Semite, traitor and loon, was still a great poet.  I have always admired this poem, not because of the way Christ is portrayed, but the imagination behind it.  Christ and the apostles transformed into quasi Viking heroes of a medieval chronicle!   All very odd.  I am interested in opinions from our readers on the poem and on Pound as a poet.  Here is T.S. Eliot on Pound as a poet.

“Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion.
Fere=Mate, Companion.

Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.

When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
“Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?” says he.

Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o’ men was he.

I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”

“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead,” says he,
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
‘Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o’ Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.”

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5 Comments

  1. It might be mentioned that Pound’s failings were pretty much all centered on his anti-Semitism of which he repented late in life.

  2. I’m ok with the poem; however my taste in poems runs to Kipling and some Frost.
    .
    Only edit would be to Revise “A Son of God . . .,” to read, “The Son of God.”
    .
    Here’s a fun (my quaint idea of “fun”) factoid for a Saturday. Certain Vikings were late converted. Norwegian King Sigurd Jorsalfar (Crusader or Jerusalem Farer) led a fleet of long ships into the Med and was fairly successful in raiding Saracen ports.

  3. And there is Saint Olaf Haraldson: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11234a.htm
    ” In his early youth he went as a Viking to England, where he partook in many battles and became earnestly interested in Christianity.” I learned of Saint Olaf during my occasional visits to my oldest best friend down in Virginia where we would attend Saint Olaf’s on Sundays. The only disconcerting aspect of the place was its architecture. As we walked towards the building, my dear departed friend Mike said, “This is a Catholic Church cleverly disguised as a Protestant Church”.

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