Finished the Fifty-First Canto and yet not even a quarter of the way finished!

This one is equal parts glorious and frustrating. It opens thusly:

in the mind of heaven   God
who made it
more than the sun
in our eye.
Fifth element; mud; said Napoleon 

The rare, explicitly religious reference (though the Cantos have been chock full of references to popes and priests, they appear more in their temporal capacity than spiritual) then almost immediately knocked down by the ‘mud’ and ‘Napoleon’ line.

Almost immediately following, he goes on a tirade about usury or ‘usura’ (he wields the latter almost as if it were the name of some Greek deity. as when he writes I am Geryon twin with usura). Throughout though, he uses strongly archaic language – like a pre-Raphaelity poem – and some hints of a back to the land aesthetic. Much of it is beautiful. Like some other sections, I am reminded of nineteenth century translations of classical Greek and Roman poets.

He ends with a disconcerting switch to what we might call ‘Pound’s Chinese style.’ The next to last line reads very much like a line from one of Pound’s translations from the Chinese: in the eel-fishers basket

Then, he ends the Canto – and also this section of Cantos, for a new one, LII-LXXI, begins after this – with the (I assume) Chinese character shown in the photograph. Any one understand its meaning or provenance?

5 thoughts on “Ezra Pound: Canto LI

      1. Sometimes. But then, given what he felt people ought to be reading just to enjoy literature, it’s a loaded claim… and he often told people they ought to read all kinds of things, even in connection with the Cantos specifically, so…

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