Giuseppe Ungaretti, column “Italia domanda”. In Epoca, year VII, no. 276. Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milan 15 January 1956
I cannot judge. I don’t know, I’ve never been able to cast the stone. Pound had lived in Italy for many years, and he loved it, not more than his own homeland, but he loved it. His heart was broken when he saw the two countries dearest to him become enemies. Was it an error to say so? Was it a serious mistake? I won’t judge. The pages he read on the radio in Rome, I have them here, in the little book where they were gathered and published this year. I did not hear them at the time, on the radio. I am reading them today. I wonder if those few sentences, which would be hard to understand even for men of high culture, where labour and usury are spoken of in a rather confused and mysterious way, could have caused the slightest harm, not just to a human being, but even to a fly. The responsibility for wars is in the hands of those in power, of the generals who make plans and guide troops, of the diplomats who have a mandate to inform the state of the international situation, not of a poet whose mind and affects can also be dismayed by the terrible nature of a war.
In any case, for ten years, if this was indeed a mistake, the poet has paid for his error in a hospital for the criminally insane. Many of those who were perhaps really war criminals – it is not for me to judge – have already been granted leniency.
I’m not judging, but I believe that the world would be less unhappy if men were to rediscover the light of forgiveness, after so much ruthless blindness.
If what Pound committed was a mistake, he has also paid for it too dearly. I do not believe that a poet has a right to special treatment. A poet is a man, like other men. Perhaps he has the ability to suffer more than others. But apart from the penalty that has been paid: doesn’t the extraordinary prestige brought to his country by the poetry of Ezra Pound in every part of the world today far surpass the wrong that in a moment of emotional bewilderment he may perhaps have caused?