It’s been almost three years since I last wrote about one of the Cantos, but it felt good to be back.
Maybe it was distance, but I was struck by the natural similarity between this one and The Wasteland. Pound famously edited Eliot’s masterpiece and some scholars think that it was almost to the point of co-authorship. But also, by this time, The Wasteland was rightly admire as one of the crowning works of the century and could, ironically, have been a reciprocal influence on Pound’s later works. I’m not going to guess here, though. Just something to think about.
The bad news: LXXX is pretty fascist.
Multiple references to Mussolini (some ever so slightly veiled, like a reference to ‘the Duke’ – il Duce, of course, being his nickname). More than a little anti-semitism. Blum (clearly Leon Blum, the Jewish Prime Minister of France) defends a bidet (implicitly attacking his masculinity and sexuality), in Pound’s estimation and is negatively compared to the collaborationist Petain, who, as Pound writes, defended the Verdun. The Sadduccees are mentioned in connection to Eliot, for some reason that I won’t pretend to understand.
In the beginning, I thought it might be about music. Finlandia was mentioned and a few lines, so was Debussy (leading my to think that ‘Finlandia’ is not a reference to a country, but to Sibelius’ tone poem). Later, Bach and Gluck get name dropped.
This canto feels, for long stretches, like the tale of young man, traveling to world (mainly Italy, France, and then England) and seeing historical sights and places associated with writers and artists and then relating them to himself and his understanding. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well here. I love history and when its comes to my mind or I’m in a place that I can relate to something I know from history, it feels very present (almost Faulknerian).