The Life of Basil Bunting

English-poet-Basil-Buntin-009Mark Ford at The Guardian:

Basil Bunting's Collected Poems opens with “Villon”, drafted when he was 25 and then handed over, like The Waste Land four years before it, to Ezra Pound for dramatic cuts and improvements. We know relatively little about the 15th-century French poet François Villon, beyond the fact that he was involved in a murderous brawl, was banished from Paris and spent time in jail. He was clearly a hell-raiser and a vagabond, which made him popular with modernist types who sought models of poetic virility and were keen to distance themselves from the effeteness and dandyism of the fin‑de-siècle. Pound, although he was tone-deaf, wrote an opera based on “Le Testament de Villon”; in his book of essays The Sacred Wood TS Eliot compared the same work favourably to Tennyson's In Memoriam.

“Blacked by the sun, washed by the rain,”Bunting writes of Villon, “hither and thither scurrying as the wind varies.” Bunting emerges from Richard Burton's thoroughly researched and enthralling biography as living a life far more active and variegated than the bookish Eliot's, and even than the pugnacious, controversial Pound's. Like Villon, Bunting had several spells behind bars.

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