Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound
Under His Watchful Eye

Pound in the Age of the Internet

All the nonsense that has ever been written about his obscurity, pretentiousness, elititist, is quickly dispelled with the advent of the internet. Somewhere, this great poet, author of one of the great epics in literary history, is smiling on us, we might have finally figured it out, he indeed wrote this epic for future generations.

The purpose of this blog is to take a Canto at a time and read through it. Anything I don't know, understand, or find myself lost in some obscurity I will research on the internet. I don't intend to consult any of the Canto companions (Terrell, etc.).

Pound himself was a great researcher, pouring over countless historical documents in the dusky confines of libraries...he was a scholar at heart, but with a soul of a poet.

I hope you find this interesting, but I hope this great internet age of ours helps dispell the auora of sadness and perhaps even dispappointment surrounding Pound's belief that his life's work failed to deliver its message.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Canto I

And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
Crice's this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day's end.
Sun to his slumber, shadows o'er all the ocean,
Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,
To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays
Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven
Swartest night stretched over wreteched men there.
The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hipI dug the ell-square pitkin;
Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's-heads;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and of the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the herds, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.
But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
Unwept, unwrapped in the sepulchre, since toils urged other.
Pitiful spirit. And I cried in hurried speech:
"Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?
"Cam'st thou afoot, outstripping seamen?"
And he in heavy speech:
"Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Crice's ingle.
"Going down the long ladder unguarded,
"I fell against the buttress,
"Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.
"But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
"Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-bord, and inscribed:
"A man of no fortune, and with a name to come.
"And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows.
"And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
"A second time? why? man of ill star,
"Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
"Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever"
For soothsay.
"And I stepped back,
And he strong with the blood, said then: "Odysseus"Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,"Lose all companions." Then Anticlea came.Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outwards and away
And unto Crice.Venerandam,
In the Cretan's phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, oricalchi, with golden
Girdle and breat bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicidia. So that:


  1. Places:

    Kimmerian -- 1.Classical Mythology. of, pertaining to, or suggestive of a western people believed to dwell in perpetual darkness.
    2.very dark; gloomy: deep, Cimmerian caverns.
    Interesting that pound maintains the hard Ka sound of the original ancient Greek pronuniciation...there's no si sound as in cinammon in Ancient Greek.

    oricalchi/oricalchum - Orichalcum is first mentioned in the 7th century BC by Hesiod and in the homeric hymn dedicated to Aphrodite, dated to the 630s.
    In numismatics, orichalcum is the golden-colored bronze alloy used for the sestertius and dupondius coins. It was considered more valuable than copper, of which the as coin was made. Some scientists believe that the orichalcum could have been used for jewelry for poor people as it appeared to look like gold.




    swart and swartest -- interesting he uses this word twice

  2. swart and swartest -- interesting he uses this word twice
    archaic use dark

  3. In Greek mythology, Eurylochus, or Eurýlokhos (Εὐρύλοχος) appears in Homer's Odyssey [1] as second-in-command of Odysseus' ship during the return to Ithaca after the Trojan War. He was also a relative of Odysseus through marriage. He is portrayed as an unpleasant cowardly individual who undermines Odysseus and stirs up trouble.

    When the ship stopped on Aeaea, home of Circe the sorcress, Eurylochus and Odysseus draw lots to lead a group of twenty two men to explore the island. Eurylochus is chosen. After the crew spots a column of smoke, Eurylochus leads his expedition towards the source. They soon near a palace surrounded with wild but magically benign animals. Inside the palace is Circe singing, and (led by Polites) all of Eurylochus' party except for himself rush inside to greet her. Eurylochus suspects her treachery, and when she turns the rest of the expedition into pigs, Eurylochus escapes and warns Odysseus and the portion of the crew who stayed on the ship, thus enabling Odysseus to attempt a rescue. When Odysseus goes to save his men, Eurylochus refuses to guide him and urges him to escape and leave the men to their fate.

    When Odysseus returns from Circe having rescued the men, Eurylochus insults Odysseus. Odysseus considers killing him but the crewmen drag them apart.

    Although Circe, after making a truce with Odysseus, later instructed Odysseus not to touch the cattle on the island of the sun god Helios, Eurylochus convinced the hungry and mutinous crew to kill and eat some of them. As a punishment Odysseus' ship was destroyed and all of his crew, including Eurylochus, were killed in a storm sent by Zeus. Only Odysseus survived.

    In the Odyssey, Perimedes was one of Odysseus's companions during his return voyage from Troy. He is very loyal to Odysseus throughout the story.
    Perimedes was one of the suitors of Penelope.

    In Greek mythology, Elpenor (Ἐλπήνωρ, gen.: Ἐλπήνορος) was a comrade of Odysseus. Elpenor was not especially notable for his intelligence or strength, but he survived the Trojan War, and appears in the Odyssey. He is the youngest man to survive the Laestrygonians. While Odysseus was staying on Aeaea, Circe's island, Elpenor became drunk and climbed onto the roof of Circe's palace to sleep. The next morning, waking upon hearing his comrades making preparations to travel to Hades, he forgot he was on the roof and fell to his death. Odysseus and his men apparently noticed his absence, but they were too busy to look for him. When Odysseus arrived in Hades, Elpenor was the first shade to meet Odysseus, and pleaded with him to return to Aeaea and give him a proper cremation and burial. After finishing his task in the underworld, Odysseus returned to Aeaea and cremated Elpenor's body, then buried him with his armour and marked the grave with an oar of his ship. Elpenor's death in a careless accident is very much a symbol for the foolish behavior of the men throughout the book

  4. pitkin not found in any dictionary....meaning pit, small hole, and suffix -kin little

  5. Laestrygonians--
    In the Odyssey
    His company, with a dozen ships, arrives at "the rocky stronghold of Lamos: Telepylus, the city of the Laestrygonians.
    Lamos is not mentioned again, perhaps being understood as the founder of the city. In this land, a man who could do without sleep could earn double wages; once as a herdsman of cattle and another as a shepherd, as they worked by night as they did by day. The ships entered a harbor surrounded by steep cliffs, with a single entrance between two headlands. The captains took their ships inside and made them fast close to one another, where it was dead calm. Odysseus kept his own ship outside the harbor, moored to a rock. He climbed a high rock to reconnoiter, but could see nothing but some smoke rising from the ground. He sent two of his company with an attendant to investigate the inhabitants. The men followed a road and eventually met a young woman, who said she was a daughter of Antiphates, the king, and directed them to his house. However when they got there they found a gigantic woman, the wife of Antiphates who promptly called her husband, who immediately left the assembly of the people and upon arrival snatched up one of the men and started to eat him. The other two men, Eurylochus and Polites, ran away, but Antiphates raised an outcry, so that they were pursued by thousands of Laestrygonians, giants, not men. They threw vast rocks from the cliffs, smashing the ships, and speared the men like fish. Odysseus made his escape with his single ship due to the fact that it was not trapped in the harbor; the rest of his company was lost. The surviving crew went next to the island of Circe.

  6. In Greek mythology, Erebus (pronounced /ˈɛrəbəs/), also Erebos or Erebes (Ancient Greek: Ἔρεβος, "deep darkness or shadow"), was the son of a primordial god, Chaos, and represented the personification of darkness and shadow, which filled in all the corners and crannies of the world. His name is used interchangeably with Tartarus and Hades since Erebus is often thought of as part of the underworld. Erebus married his sister Nyx (goddess of the night) and their children included Aether, Hemera, Nemesis, and Charon.

  7. The Seafarer is an Old English poem recorded in the Exeter Book, one of the four surviving manuscripts of Old English poetry. It is 124 lines and has been commonly referred to as an elegy, a poem that mourns a loss or more generally a sorrowful piece of writing. Some scholars, however, have argued that the content of the poem also places it into the category of Sapiential, or Wisdom, Literature. This kind of literature mainly consists of proverbs and maxims and is named in references to Old Testament books. The Seafarer has “significant sapiential material concerning the definition of wise men, the ages of the world, and the necessity for patience in adversity” (Hill 806).

    It is told from the point of view of an old seafarer, who is reminiscing and evaluating his life as he has lived it. In lines 1-33a, the seafarer describes the desolate hardships of life on the wintry sea. He describes the anxious feelings, cold wetness, and solitude of the sea voyage in contrast to life on land where men are surrounded by kinsmen, free from dangers, and full on food and wine. The climate on land then begins to resemble that of the wintry sea, and in lines 33b-66a, the speaker shifts his tone from the dreariness of the winter voyage and begins to describe his yearning for the sea. Time passes through the seasons from winter—“it snowed from the north” (31b)—to spring—“groves assume blossoms” (48a)—and to summer—“the cuckoo urges” (53a). It is here that the speaker’s soul flies out over the sea in search of heaven and comes back eager and ready to depart.

    Though this poem begins as a narrative of a man’s life at sea, it becomes a praise of God. At line 66b, the speaker again shifts, this time not in tone, but in subject matter. The sea is no longer mentioned; instead the speaker preaches about the path to heaven. He asserts that “earthly happiness will not endure (line 67), that men must oppose “the devil with brave deeds” (line 76), and that earthly wealth cannot travel to the afterlife nor will it determine the wealth of the soul (lines 97-102). Next the speaker provides the reader with maxims and proverbs and then calls to men to consider where they want to spend the afterlife and “then reflect upon how we could come there” (line 118). Heaven is a goal for man to reach by living a good, honourable life. This is a reward to man for believing and having faith, as well as a reward for God who “has honoured us for all time” (124). The poem is ended with thanks to the Lord.

  8. The Seafarer by Ezra Pound
    (From the early Anglo-Saxon text)

    May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
    Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
    Hardship endured oft.
    Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
    Known on my keel many a care's hold,
    And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
    Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
    While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
    My feet were by frost benumbed.
    Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
    Hew my heart round and hunger begot
    Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
    That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
    List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
    Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
    Deprived of my kinsmen;
    Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
    There I heard naught save the harsh sea
    And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries,
    Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
    Sea-fowls, loudness was for me laughter,
    The mews' singing all my mead-drink.
    Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern
    In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed
    With spray on his pinion.
    Not any protector
    May make merry man faring needy.
    This he little believes, who aye in winsome life
    Abides 'mid burghers some heavy business,
    Wealthy and wine-flushed, how I weary oft
    Must bide above brine.
    Neareth nightshade, snoweth from north,
    Frost froze the land, hail fell on earth then
    Corn of the coldest. Nathless there knocketh now
    The heart's thought that I on high streams
    The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
    Moaneth alway my mind's lust
    That I fare forth, that I afar hence
    Seek out a foreign fastness.
    For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst,
    Not though he be given his good, but will have in his youth greed;
    Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful
    But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare
    Whatever his lord will.
    He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having
    Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world's delight
    Nor any whit else save the wave's slash,
    Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
    Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries,

  9. Fields to fairness, land fares brisker,
    All this admonisheth man eager of mood,
    The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks
    On flood-ways to be far departing.
    Cuckoo calleth with gloomy crying,
    He singeth summerward, bodeth sorrow,
    The bitter heart's blood. Burgher knows not --
    He the prosperous man -- what some perform
    Where wandering them widest draweth.
    So that but now my heart burst from my breast-lock,
    My mood 'mid the mere-flood,
    Over the whale's acre, would wander wide.
    On earth's shelter cometh oft to me,
    Eager and ready, the crying lone-flyer,
    Whets for the whale-path the heart irresistibly,
    O'er tracks of ocean; seeing that anyhow
    My lord deems to me this dead life
    On loan and on land, I believe not
    That any earth-weal eternal standeth
    Save there be somewhat calamitous
    That, ere a man's tide go, turn it to twain.
    Disease or oldness or sword-hate
    Beats out the breath from doom-gripped body.
    And for this, every earl whatever, for those speaking after --
    Laud of the living, boasteth some last word,
    That he will work ere he pass onward,
    Frame on the fair earth 'gainst foes his malice,
    Daring ado, ...
    So that all men shall honour him after
    And his laud beyond them remain 'mid the English,
    Aye, for ever, a lasting life's-blast,
    Delight mid the doughty.
    Days little durable,
    And all arrogance of earthen riches,
    There come now no kings nor Cæsars
    Nor gold-giving lords like those gone.
    Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
    Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
    Drear all this excellence, delights undurable!
    Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
    Tomb hideth trouble. The blade is layed low.
    Earthly glory ageth and seareth.
    No man at all going the earth's gait,
    But age fares against him, his face paleth,
    Grey-haired he groaneth, knows gone companions,
    Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,
    Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
    Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
    Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
    And though he strew the grave with gold,
    His born brothers, their buried bodies
    Be an unlikely treasure hoard.

  10. So that:

    interesting, what to follow, wondering if this has something to do with his translation of the Seafarer where he left off a good portion of it, the praise to god and religious stuff and if I remember my OE Professor Gary Aho, the religious part was probably added by some scribe. Pretty interesting how he ends the poem.

  11. Anticlea in the Odyssey
    In Book XI of the Odyssey, Odysseus, makes a trip to the underworld, seeking the advice of the dead prophet Tiresias. Here, he encounters many spirits, including that of his mother, Anticlea. Initially, he rebuffs her, since he is waiting for the prophet to approach. After speaking with Tiresias, however, Odysseus allows his mother to come near and lets her speak. She asks him why he is in the underworld while alive, and he tells her about his various troubles and futile attempts to get home. Then he asks her how she died, and inquires about his family remaining at home. She tells him that she died of grief, longing for him as he was at war. Anticlea also says that Laërtes (Odysseus' father) "grieves continually" for Odysseus, and lives in a hovel in the countryside, sleeping on the floor and constantly clad in rags. Anticlea, further describes the condition of Odysseus' wife (Penelope) and son (Telemachus); Penelope has not yet remarried, but is overwhelmed with sadness and longing for her husband, while Telemachus acts as magistrate for Odysseus' properties. Odysseus attempts to embrace his mother three times, but discovers that she is incorporeal and his arms simply pass through her. She explains that this is how all ghosts are, and he expresses great sorrow.

  12. Andreas Divus was a Renaissance scholar whose Latin translations of Homer published in 1538 were used by George Chapman in his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey and by Ezra Pound in his long poem The Cantos.

    Very interesting is the Chapman connection and of course Keats' poem On First Looking into Chapman's Homer. Pound translator and scholar and poet

  13. Metrics and Poetics

    Interesting use of and in the first 5 lines of the poem:

    And then went down to the ship,
    Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
    We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
    Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
    Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
    Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
    Crice's this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.

    "And...and...and...and..." it has the effect slow undulating waves; also the poem begins with and, what are the origins of the wave, what is the origin of the poem...these lines are so brilliant in their nuances...and then as if like the wind against the bellying canvas the lines move straightforward to Circe's island.

  14. Required Reading:

    Homer's Odyssey
    Book on Greek and Roman mythology

    The really critical one is the Odyssey because of the continued central them of voyage and journey and returning home or to one's origins. Isn't Pound here returning to his own poetic origins?

    Recommend Robert Fitzgeral translation of the Odyssey;