One of the foremost writers between the two world wars, Ernest Hemingway in his early work depicted the life of two classes of people. One brand consisted of men and women deprived, by World War I, of faith in the moral values in which they had believed, and who lived with cynical disregard for anything but their own emotional needs. The other class were men of uncomplicated character and primitive passion such as prizefighters and bullfighters. Hemingway wrote of their bold and usually vain battles against circumstances.
It was surprising to learn that Hemingway composed poetry and this particularly pithy and to the point piece tells an interesting tale. After the war Hemingway was a correspondent for the The Toronto Star then settled in Paris where he joined a literary group of "young bohemians," giving a voice to "the lost generation" coming to terms with his understanding, over his vanished comrades and innocence. While he was there American expatriates and authors Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein encouraged his style of tough, hard-hitting, no-nonsense poetry.
The Age Demanded was composed by Hemingway at the age of 23 while he was living in Paris in 1922 and initially published in a periodical Der Querschnitt in February 1925. A bookseller, Captain Louis Henry Cohn (d. 1953), was Hemingway's first bibliographer to publish some of his earliest works in a collection titled Four Poems The Age Demanded, The Earnest Liberal's Lament, The Lay Poets With Footnotes, and The Soul of Spain with McAlmon and Bird the Publishers. A dozen printings of Four Poems were supposed to be in print by August of 1930 and done 'behind closed doors' to avoid them from being bootlegged. Due to certain censored words Hemingway had used, the publishers refused copyright and Four Poems never saw publication. Today only the manuscript and galley proofs survive as a part of the Cohn Collection.
Ezra Pound influenced artists as far-reaching as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Allen Ginsberg. It was in 1920, already in the middle of the first world war, disgusted with a botched society that would sacrifice the blossoms of its youth to the fetid mud of Northern France when Pound declared a new image was needed for the 20th century and demanded change for the modern era through his poetical persona Hugh Selwyn Mauberley:
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;
Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
Of the inward gaze;
Than the classics in paraphrase!
The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
Made with no loss of time,
A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.
from "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly"
Ezra Pound (1920)
Mauberly wants to do away with The Attic, a stage in Greek architecture and art. Get rid of these Greek symbols; create his own modern movement. What has happened to art for art's sake? Mauberly illustrates art means 'something', this meaning changes and the changes are the product of an audience, a creator, and a history. The nature of literature is art as expression, art as pattern, art as ornament, art as necessity. Art is made for the masses. To understand the origins and purposes of art is to respond to humanity's changing demands. Two years later Hemingway borrowed the title and rhythm from second part of Ezra Pound's ` Mauberly' and wrote a concise and pertinent rejoinder.
- -- Ernest Hemingway
- The Age Demanded
And cut away our tongue.
The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.
The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.
And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.
- The poem is spare but not minimalist. The terseness is never allowed to get in the way of the smooth flow of the words, but Hemingway nevertheless manages to convey his point with a remarkable economy.
Married four times, in 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. An avid fisherman, hunter and bullfight enthusiast, Hemingway drew heavily upon his personal experiences. His adventurous life led to several close brushes with death: during the Spanish Civil War shells exploded inside his hotel room; in World War II he was struck by a taxi during a blackout; and in 1954 when his airplane crashed in Africa. His death by gunshot in Ketchum, Iowa on July 2, 1961, is regarded a suicide.
Audre Hanneman, Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1967.
Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Hemingway, Ernest Miller," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.The Wondering Minstrels
Accessed Nov 22 2002