rsz dionysus exekias o5bhyv


It is not surprising that art in the 20th century should have rediscovered metamorphosis, nor that the metamorphoses in the second Canto should include Aeschylus’ grim transformation of the name of Helen, as well as the eyes of Picasso, metamorphoser of vision, peering from beneath a seal’s fur hood that conceals a ‘lithe daughter of Ocean.’ And it was from under sealskins furnished by such a daughter that Menelaos and his men leaped forth on the beach to bind Proteus. Everything in the Canto is trickily unstable; what is named is not quite what is there. […]

And the style is Imagist. The brevity of Imagist notation seized phenomena just on the point of mutating, as in the most famous example an apparition of faces turns into petals. Misrepresented as a poetic of stasis, it had been a poetic of darting change; for a whole page, in the Canto, perception succeeds perception like frames of film.

Pound wrote this Canto about the time his countrymen were passing the 18th Amendment, outlawing the wine-god. Never having heard of Pentheus, they were courting his fate. Scott Fitzgerald has told the rest.

Hugh Kenner. The Pound Era, 367-68.


The canto, which at first sight can appear a simple succession of fragments, can now be seen to be organized as a musical composition. It has a main theme, and a counter-theme, both of them developed through a series of variations around the extended central episode. Simply stated, the theme has to do with the different modalities of seeing the sea of being and all that is in it; while the counter-theme has to do with the errors of false or one-eyed perception which can arise from and lead to possessiveness, repression, rape. In the development through the variations of the main theme there is a progression from myth, which opens the mind to what there might be in life, towards precise observation and analysis of its manifestations. The light and life-in-process of the universe, it is implied, are not occult but are evident to illuminated sense, as in the 'Salmon-pink wings of the fish-hawk'. 

A. David Moody. Ezra Pound Poet, II: 17.



CANTO XVII [Zagreus]

CANTO XXI [classical pastoral; Pan and Silenus]

CANTO XXXIX [man-god encounter: Odysseus and Circe]

CANTO XLVII [revelation of the divine in nature]

CANTO XLIX [the power of vision and the pastoral of the East; the opposite of metamorphosis: stillness]








Basil Bunting reading from Canto II 
Newcastle, 1977 

Penn Sound - mp3

Paul Cunningham reading from Canto II 
Scottish Poetry Library

Edinburgh, 2 February 2017 


Copyright © 1934, 1968 by Ezra Pound. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.




<pstyle="color: #ff6600; font-family: georgia, palatino; font-size: 24pt;">CANTO II 





Screenshot 2017 02 26 04.28.31canto 2 1930

Canto II in A Draft of XVI Cantos.
Paris: Three Mountains Press, 1925.
Illustrations by Henry Strater. 
Canto II in A Draft of XXX Cantos.
Paris: Hours Press, 1930.
Capitals by Dorothy Pound.

Note: The above images are not to scale. The 1925 edition is a folio, whereas the 1930 one is pocket-size.







First published as “The Eighth Canto” in The Dial in May 1922 - pdf

Reworked and repositioned as Canto II in July 1923. 



Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.




“Annals.” Variorum Edition of Three Cantos. A Prototype. Ed. Richard Taylor. Bayreuth: Boomerang, 1991.


Pound/Ford: The Story of a Literary Friendship. Ed. Brita Lindberg-Seyersted. New York: New   Directions, 1982.


Ezra Pound To His Parents: Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna   Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.


The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound to John Quinn: 1915-1924. Ed. Timothy Materer. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991.


The Letters of T. S. Eliot. Vol. I: 1898-1922. Ed. Valerie Eliot. London: Faber, 1988.


Pound,   Thayer, Watson and The Dial. Ed. Walter   Sutton. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1994.



To Ford Madox Ford, 13 January 1922

L/FMF 63; A 18

Dear Ford,


I dont know whether you have had a shot at my bloody cantos. You wont have liked much of 'em. I wish however your infinite patience could persuade you to go through the enclosed* with a red, blood-red, green, blue, or other pencil and scratch what is too awful.

I've done fifteen or more versions, all worse or less or more. I wonder if the things I think will draw your "My Gawds" are the same things that I fear will do so.

At any rate, as you know, there is no possible way of getting any criticism, and one goes blind, deaf after a time.

Dido and the, 'elenaus, 'eleptolis, have to stay, are the links with the preceding canto.** Up to now it has been mainly hash, necessary beginning if I am to reconstruct the various ichthyosauri that I need later in the poem. Hope to confine it to American language from now on (with possibly a very verreeee few lapses into Chinese, choctaw, greek, provençal etc.)

However, not for me to say what I want to do, but, if you are so amiable, for you to say what has got onto the paper. It damn well needs a fresh eye. And les jeunes, etc. are no use, (to me for these matters. All see less than I do.)



* the enclosed - the draft of The Eighth Canto, the first version of canto II published in The Dial in May 1922. The letter to Ford is the earliest proof we have that the canto was finished by 13 January 1922.

** links with the preceding canto – the preceding canto is Canto VII. 


To Scofield Thayer, 8 February 1922

L/TW 227

Dear S.T.

               Eliot’s poem is very important, almost enough to make everyone else shut up shop. I haven't done so... have sent Canto VIII to Watson... but then....


To John Quinn, 21 February 1922

L/JQ 205-6

Cher Ami


Eliot came back from his Lausanne specialist looking O.K.; and with a damn good poem [19 pages] in his suit case, same finished up here; and shd. be out in Dial soon, if Thayer isn’t utterly nutty. Wadsworth in yesterday on way to Marseilles reported that Eliot was again ill.

About enough, Eliot’s poem, to make the rest of us shut up shop. I haven’t done so; have in fact knocked out another Canto (not in the least à la Eliot, or concerned with “modern life”), that also may appear in the Dial.


To Agnes Bedford, 9 March 1922

A 18


I have done a decent VIIIth canto, which the Dial will print in due course.


To Homer Pound, March 1922

L/HP 495


      Dial has sent me 50 bones for VIIIth Canto, which you may, therefore, see some time in the not infinitely distant future.


To Isabel Pound, 22 March 1922

L/HP 495

Dear Mother


      Also Canto VIII has been paid for by Dial.


From Ford Madox Ford, 21 March 1922

L/FMF 64-65; A 18-19

Dear Ezra

 I put yr. m.s. away in an exceptionally safe place while I was finishing my novel-& have spent the fortnight or so since I finished in searching for the m.s.. Here it is at last however, pencilled according to yr. commands.

Pardon if the suggestions are mostly zoological. That is how it falls out. Zoological mistakes don't matter a damn, serving to give Reviewers a few more pence for a few more lines—but zoological questionabilities (.A.) do because they arrest the attention of the Reader of Good Will & that arresting of the attention blurs the effect of the poem. One says: “Do waves, wirling [sic] or billowy things run in the valleys between hillocks of beach—beach-grooves? I don’t think they do: they are converted into surf or foam as soon as they strike the pebbles & become wash or undertow in “receding & then run.”

Per se that does not matter-- but the weakening of the attention does.

It is the same with your compound words like “spray-whited” & “cord-welter.”-- But as to these I am not so certain: my dislike for them may be merely personal distaste for Anglo-Saxon locutions which always affect me with nausea & yr. purpose in using them may be the purely aesthetic one of roughening up yr. surface. I mean that, if you shd. cut them out you might well get too slick an effect.

A. applies of course to Snipe: vine-must: lynx & slung oxen & pulling seas:

i.e: the vine is the stock, tendrils, leaves etc on wh. grow the grapes from wh. the must is made.

Pulling seas would not matter if you did not have oarsmen in the next line

Slung oxen ditto, if there were no shipyard in the line before suggesting oxen being taken aboard an At. transport liner in slings

The same with lynx & tail


I wouldn’t bother you with these verbal minutiae if you hadn’t asked for them; the latter part of the poem--of the first page & a half is a very beautiful of impressionism, as good as anything as you have ever done & that is what really matters. I do hope you'll go on & get the whole thing together in volume form as soon as possible. It'll get onto the world a feeling of big achievement.

Of course, I think that, in essence, you’re a medieval gargoyle, Idaho or no! And it’s not a bad thing to be.


To Ford Madox Ford, [21 March] 1922

L/FMF 65-67; A 19-20

Dear Hesiod:

Thanks orfully. It is only the minute crit. that is any good, or that prods one. First to rebuttals. Ox is slung. At least my recollection is that I saw in Excideuil a sling and wondered wottell it was until I actually saw an ox in it. D[orothy]. also thinks I told her at THAT time of seeing the ox. I don't believe this is an hallucination born of seeing the sling and building hypothesis that it was for ox.

Can't think everyone has seen army transports, or that they wd. superpose modern derrick & classic ship.

Thank heaven the points that worried ME, have got by your eagle optic; that's some relief.

Now Snipe?, arent they the damn longlegged barstards that scurry along the sand in NJ.? I can hardly go in for reed-birds or more scientificly differintiated orniths. I wuz told as a kid that the damn things were snipe. BATHIAN BRIMFUGL BRAEDAN FAETHRA, is the general text.

I tried a smoother presentation and lost the metamorphosis, got to be a burley burley, or no one believes in the change of the ship. Hence mess of tails, feet, etc. will condier [?i.e., conduire, "suggest"] shifting the tail, but it don't need to be taken as part of next animal. some of the other mammifera are certainly tailed. That not the pint, I know.

Re/ The double words, and rep. of cadence. The suffering reader is supposed to have waded through seven cantos already: MUST bang up the big-bazoo a bit, I mean rhythm must strengthen here if he is to be kept going.

KHRRRIST, To make a man read forty pages of poetry, and with prospect of 300 to follow????

As to Gargoyles, some one has got to make the plunge, decide whether the Epic, or wottell of cosmographic volcano is extinct or not. It will take me another thirty years at least. Shall probably do vol. of first ten or fifteen cantos.

The problem of Coeur Simple and the Gt. American desert is still before me.

If you remember the VIIth at all, you will remember that I did get as far as Soho and Bayswater. Am not really interested in anything that hasn't been there all the time.

That probably dif. between prose and poetry. Prose can be made of something that merely occurs once in a given setting, or if you Flaubert-eneralize, of something that a lot of people are doing “in a given way”, Feinaigle, Amoros, etc .


Surely one speaks of “receding wave”. It may be a technical looseness of phrase, but it is certainly "english". "Wash" is impos. Homophone with laundry. (which is used both of the institution and of the wash).

No use old bean. There is def. an association or aroma of words, apart from the justness.

English simply hasn't the mot juste in the french meaning. And French is abs. paralyzed and dying from a too strict logicality [...].


Re/ pulling. Surely, you must have been at sea in storm and know how the bloody wave pulls the whole boat. Boat makes a heave at wave, cuts in a bit, then gets dragged off course.

Gorm, I’ve spewd eleven times onto the broad gray buttocks of the swankin Atlantic.

It is anything but a “run”, its a pull,

Are you thynxxing of a lynx or a hyena?

Thanks eturnully, for going over the thing.

Snipe, long legs, long beaks, certainly on Jersey shore, lepping about the pools left in the sand. Fond memory of cheeildhood.

Will have another go at the matter.



    Dont see that “surf runs in beach groove” wd. do. surf is definitely the curving over and the foam,. Wave runs up beach, and then runs back, “receding wave” is surely english.

Can’t read your note on splay. The bird spreads wing, and nips with beak. Preen, I suppose, is verb you want. To preen IS to nip at feathers with beak.


Question of “joints”, not of bird but of poem. Cant be really determined until the thing is done, and one goes back over it. I know there is waste in the “get away” at beginning of this, but main incident, has got to set in the whole. Lynx with preceding. Poor old Dido is the coupling.

May be able to eliminate some of these things later. It helps in a way to print the single cantos, and get ’em out of the shop. Also one sees better on printed page.

AND the damn thing acts as accusation much more strongly than if it were in desk in typescript. Also draws more objections.

Disadv. of starting in Idaho, one never hears of 20th. or XIXth century, until one is too old. Joyce lucky in copping form of Odyssey. But it wd.nt have done for me ANNYhow.

I dare say it wd. be easier to cut the 7 preceding cantos & let Acoetes continue = only I dont see how I ed. get him to Bayswater.


Note:  BATHIAN BRIMFUGL BRAEDAN FAETHRA, is the general text – the seabirds bathing, spreading their feathers (wings). From The Wanderer l.47-8 (L/FMF n.28 190).


Ðonne onwæcneð eft

Then the friendless man

  wineleas guma, wakes up again,
  gesihð him biforan He sees before him
  ealwe wegas, fallow waves
  baþian brimfuglas, Sea birds bathe,
  brædan feþra, preening their feathers,
48a hreosan hrim ond snaw Frost and snow fall,
  hagle gemenged. With   hail mingled

Thorpe, Benjamin, ed. Codex Exoniensis: A Collection of Anglo-Saxon Poetry... with An English Translation, Notes and Indexes.London: The Society of Antiquaries of London, William Pickering, 1842.



To Dorothy Pound, [13 July 1923] 

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 20

Am rewriting the first three cantos; trying to weed out and clarify; etc, a BHLoody JHobb.


To Dorothy Pound, [17 July 1923]

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 20

also have been trying to rewrite Cants I. II. III. so haven't been back to museum myself.


From Dorothy Pound, [21? July 1923]

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 21

Are you wise to be already revising the first Cantos? Don't kill them.


To Dorothy Pound, [23 July 1923]

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 21

      Re Cantos, I shdnt, have started revising if it hadn't been for the edtn? de LOOKS; probably no harm, I have now a sense of form that I hadn't in 1914, (very annoying, in some ways). Also I shd have rested a few months before tackling it. May save time in the end. Anyhow, anything I leave out can be restored later from earlier edtns, if needed. With sense of form, very difficult to get it all in, hodge podge, etc,


To Dorothy Pound, [25 July 1923]

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 21

     Have started some sort of revision; cuts down the opening to two cantos instead of three, beginning with Odysseus descent into Nekuia, and doing the Browning item after that, with Bacchus ship as second canto). & then the miscelany. & then 4. 5 etc. Also various repetitions, even in later cantos, can go. Mostly its too cluttered.


From Dorothy Pound, 28th [July 1923]

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 21

HE not entirely rewrite those early cantos: or HE'll lose the life in them: She's coming back soon to put a stop to it!


To Dorothy Pound, [1] Aug. [1923] 

Lilly Library, Pound mss. III, Box 1; A 21

Ugh, have got draft of first three cantos done. 


Did I ask you to bring Divus, latin Odyssey. Anyhow please do. Have been going through Ovid again.



From Emanuel Carnevali, 13 June 1931 [enclosure for Olga Rudge]

YCAL 54, 10/262

Dear Ezra:

I am enclosing canto II, and I am afraid that you will like even less than the first. I want you to know that we co-operate in this job, you must work about it harder than I perhaps.

However, I hope you will not discard me.


You will have to correct and recorrect this mss. I am sorry for that but you use words that are in no dictionary at all: so that the fault is not altogether mine.

I understand that you never use the dictionary, your poems and prose being the fresher thereof.

Well, here is my work, it was more than a work it was sheer toil.

But I get such enjoyment from it as I never dared to think I got it

Bill Williams to whom I have written that I translate your cantos, said that it will take me at least a year. Well, let it last a year!


To Olga Rudge, 14 June 1931

YCAL 54, 10/262

Ziao, cara


he has tried to emend Emanuel’s wop/ of Canto II. ma che… vurry not so …

mebbe he better have a shot at XXXIV.






canto 2 1964



  1. Bacigalupo, Massimo. “Safe with My Lynxes.” Pound’s Figure in the Carpet.” Ezra Pound’s Cantos: A Casebook. Ed. Peter Makin. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 111-119.
  2. Cookson, William. “Ezra Pound & Myth: A Reader’s Guide to Canto II.” Agenda 15.2-3 (1977): 87-92. Print.
  3. Davenport, Guy. “Ezra Pound’s Radiant Gists: A Reading of Cantos II and IV.” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 3.2 (1962): 50-64. Print.
  4. Dodd, Elisabeth. “Metamorphosis and Vorticism in The Cantos: How to Read the Allusive Image.” Midwest Quarterly 29.4 (1988): [Canto II 425-37]. Print.
  5. Feder, Lilian. “Pound and Ovid.” Ezra Pound Among the Poets. Ed. George Bornstein. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. 13-34. 
  6. Foster, John L. “Pound’s Revision of Cantos I-III.” Modern Philology 63.3 (1966): 236-245. Go to article.
  7. Gefin, Laszlo. “So-Shu and Picasso: Semiotic/Semantic Aspects of the Poundian Ideogram.” Papers on Language and Literature 28.2 (1992): 185-205. 201-202. 
  8. Gibson, Matthew. “‘No Room for the Root-Clutch’: Influence and Echoes from T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in Ezra Pound’s ‘Eighth Canto’ (1922) and Its Preliminary, Typescript Drafts.” Paideuma 43 (2016): 167-91.
  9. Glenn, E. M. “A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Cantos (I-IV).” The Analyst I (March 1953): 1-7.
  10. Glenn, E. M. “A Guide to Canto II of Ezra Pound (Revised and Enlarged).” The Analyst 18 (June 1960): 1-24.
  11. Hesse, Eva. “Books Behind the Cantos (Part One: Cantos I-XXX).” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 1 (1972): 137-51. Print.
  12. Hesse, Eva. “New Light on Old Problems: So Shu in Canto II/6, 9: An Identification.” Paideuma 7.1-2 (Spring and Fall 1978): 179-81.
  13. Hilmy, H. “Dionysian Metamorphosis: A Reading of Canto II.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship27.1 (1998): 93-108. Print.
  14. Kenner, Hugh. Pound and Homer. Ezra Pound Among the Poets. Ed. George Bornstein. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985. 1-12.
  15. Li, Victor. “The Rhetoric of Presence: Reading Pound’s Cantos I to III.” English Studies in Canada 14.3 (Sept. 1988): 296-309.
  16. Liebregts, Peter. “Canto II.” Readings in The Cantos. Ed. Richard Parker. Clemson: Clemson UP, 2018. 43-56.
  17. Miyake, Akiko. “The Greek-Egyptian Mysteries in Pound’s ‘The Little Review Calendar’ and in Cantos 1-7.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 7 (1978): 73-111. Print.
  18. Shen, Fan A. “Yijing and Pound’s Cantos (1 & 2).” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 23.2-3 (1994): 45-70. Print. 



  1. Altieri Charles. “Modernist Abstraction and Pound’s First Cantos: The Ethos for a New Renaissance.” Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. 283-320. Print.
  2. Altieri Charles. Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry. [Canto II 308-13]. 
  3. Bacigalupo, Massimo. “Annotazioni II.” Ezra Pound XXX Cantos. Parma: Ugo Guanda, 2012. 337-38.
  4. Blasing, Mutlu Konuk. American Poetry – The Rhetoric of Its Forms. New Haven: Yale UP, 1987. [Canto II 145-47]. 
  5. Brooker, Peter. “Canto II.” A Student’s Guide to the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound. London: Faber 1979. 240-44. 
  6. Childs, J. S. Modernist Form. Pound's Style in the Early Cantos. Susquehanna University Press. 1986. 43-50.
  7. Cookson, William. “IIDionysus.” In A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2001. 6-8. 
  8. Davenport, Guy. “Metamorphosis.” Cities on Hills. A Study of I-XXX of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Epping: Bowker, 1983. 111-20.
  9. De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: II.” Ezra Pound I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1505.
  10. Dennis, Helen. A New Approach to the Poetry of Ezra Pound Through the Medieval Provençal Aspect. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Pres, 1996. 336-47.
  11. Froula, Christine. A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 1983. 132-36. 
  12. Gelpi, Albert. [Canto II]. A Coherent Splendour. The American Poetic Renaissance 1910-1950. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987. 190-95.
  13. Kayman, Martin. The Modernism of Ezra Pound. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986. 114-23.
  14. Kern, Robert. “Modernizing Orientalism/Orientalizing Modernism: Ezra Pound, Chinese Translation, and English-as-Chinese.” Orientalism, Modernism, and the American Poem. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 155-220. [211-8]
  15. Moody, David. Ezra Pound Poet. II The Epic Years: 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 11-17.
  16. Sicari, Stephen. Pound’s Epic Ambition. Dante and the Modern World. New York: SUNY Press, 1991. 21-24. 
  17. Sieburth, Richard. “Notes: Canto II.” Ezra Pound New Selected Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 2010. 305-6.
  18. Terrell, Carroll F. Canto II. In A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993. 4-7. 
  19. Ullyot, Jonathan. "Protean Homer." Ezra Pound and his Classical Sources: The Cantos and the Primal Matter of Troy. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. 89-120.  Chapter extracts.



  1. “Canto II.” A Canto a Day. Blog, 15 January 2009. Accessed 4 August 2018. Free online.
  2. Bressan, Eloisa. Canto II. In Il Vortice Greco-Provenzale nell’inferno de I Cantos. MA Thesis. U di Padova, 2012. 59-90. Free online.
  3. Guidi, Paolo. “Canto I.” The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Etching series. 9 September 2012. Accessed 4 August 2018. Free online
  4. Patton, Christopher. “An ‘allusion chart’ for Pound’s Canto II.” The Art of Compost, 24 May 2018. Free online.
  5. Sellar Gordon. Blogging Pound’s The Cantos: Canto II. Blog, 28 February 2012. Free online.
  6. Webster, Loren. “Loren’s Impression of Pound’s Canto II.” [In part, on Browning’s technique of “touch-and-go allusions” as an influence on Pound.] In a Dark Time ... The Eye Begins to See, May 20, 2003. Free online.
  7. Wilson, Robert Anton.  “Robert Anton Wilson commentary on The Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Robert Anton Wilson Online Library, 2003. Free online
  8. Zender, Hans. Canto II. Music for soprano, chorus and orchestra. 1968. YouTube. Hans Zender - Canto II and Hans Zender: Canto II (1969) 


Cantos in periodicals

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A Draft of XXX Cantos

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confucius adams 2