rsz blake print


The nineteenth century was obsessed with visions of paradises and utopias: Blake’s Jerusalem, Coleridge’s Xanadu, Shelley’s Bosch-like lands of the spiritually cleansed, Rimbaud’s and Henri Rousseau’s jungle gardens. Two poles of attraction, we have seen, seemed to control these visions. One was Arcadian and natural, with some of its roots in Christian thought, and was a node for those Romantics who were seeking a world order consonant with nature (Wordsworth, Ruskin, the Transcendentalists). The other was deliberately artificial, arcane, symbolic. Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen searching for his blue flower, des Esseintes immured among his bibelots and curios, Yeats longing to be refined into a mechanical nightingale in a Byzantium under the spell of faery –Baudelaire (the spiritual heir of Novalis, Hoffman and Poe) gives a name to the century’s predilection for a counterfeit world, les paradis artificiels,  a phrase that Pound saw as the ultimate etiolation of Villon’s Paradis peint, où sont harpes et luz.  Baudelaire was principally concerned to contrast the healthy mind with the drugged one, natural vision with that induced by opium. Helplessly he preferred the natural, but as the drunkard commends sobriety.

Guy Davenport. ‘Persephone’s Ezra’ 60-61.


The Schifanoia frescoes I discovered after I had done something similar. The Schifanoia does give–there is an analogy there. That is to say, you’ve got the contemporary life, you’ve got the seasons, you’ve got the Zodiac and you have the Triumphsof Petrarch in different belts–I mean, that’s the only sort of map or suggestion of a map. No, the Schifanoia, that might give a clue.

Ezra Pound. Interview with D. G. Bridson, 1959.



Annotations in the List of Works Cited:

Contributor name. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.gloss number. The Cantos Project. Web. Date of access.

Example: Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.13. The Cantos Project. Web. 5 September 2016.

In–text references

(Contributor name, OCCEP IV:

Example: (Bressan, OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss or translation was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).

References to The Cantos

As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.7–17.

For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998. 

© Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto XX, 13 November 2017.

Updated 25 April 2021.

Updated 20 November 2023.

Updated 2 June 2024.




Terrell, Carroll. F. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1980.


Pound, Ezra. Literary Essays. New York: New Directions, 1968.


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


Lazzari, Alfonso. Ugo e Parisina nella realta storica. Firenze: Rassegna Nazionale, 1915.


Preda, Roxana. Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project.


Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by A.T. Murray. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.


Pound, Ezra. Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.


Pound, Ezra. Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: Library of America, 2003.


Pound, Ezra. Selected Letters, 1907-1941. New York: New Directions, 1950.


Pound, Ezra. Selected Prose 1909-1965. Ed. William Cookson. New York: New Directions, 1973.


Pound, Ezra. The Spirit of Romance. New York: New Directions, 2005.


Pound, Ezra. “Three Cantos” [Ur-Cantos]. 1917. Personae. The Shorter Poems. Eds. Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz. New York: New Directions, 1991. 229-245.


Pound, Ezra. A Walking Tour in Southern France. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 1992.


  1. quasi tinnula – L. “almost shrill.”            
    “Tinnula” is an adjective that Catullus uses in Carmen 61: 13 (“voce carmina tinnula” [chanting wedding] melodies with ringing voice.”). See Catullus’ poem.             
    “Tinnula” was one of Pound’s magical words, which he also used in Canto III: 25. (See also OCCEP III: n.18.) 

  2. Ligur’ aoide – Gr. “clear-toned song,” Homer’s formula to describe the song of the sirens in Od XII: 183. Pound was evidently not happy with current translations and connected the formula about the sirens’ song with Catullus’ adjective “voce tinnula” (shrill or ringing voice). He told his father: “Ligur aoide: keen or sharp singing (sirens), song with an edge on it” (SL 210, see also Calendar). Odysseus and the SirensPronunciation.

  3. Si no’us vei Donna don plus mi cal/ Negus vezer mon bel pensar no val  – Prov. Pronunciation. Lines from Bernart de Ventadour’s poem “Can par la flor josta.l vert folh” (“When flowers appear beneath green leaves”). See poem. Pound translated the lines as “if I see her not, /no sight is worth the beauty of my thought.” See drafts. He introduced his translation in canto 92/639.

    A 1920 letter to Agnes Bedford clearly spelled out Pound’s thoughts on rsz angel with vielle by leonardo da vinciVentadour’s poem. He considered the lines a rare find and did not want to spoil them by an introduction or a lead up: he puts them right at the start of the canto in the original Provençal for maximum impact. See letter in SL 161 and Calendar.

  4. viel – viellemedieval string instrument similar to a violin.

  5. and another – Guido Cavalcanti (1255-1300), Italian poet who continued the tradition of the Provençal troubadours. Cavalcanti was fresh in Pound’s mind in 1911, as he had just completed a set of translations of his poems which he would publish in New York in 1912 as Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti.

  6. s’adora  – A reference to a sonnet that Cavalcanti sent as a letter to Guido Orlandi; he tells his friend that an image of the Virgin in the Florentine church Orsanmichele has the features of his lady and is adored by the faithful.   

    Pound translated it in his Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti (1912) where the sonnet bore the number 35. Pound referred to it in canto IV l.126; See also OCCEP IV: n.40Sonnet.

    Una figura della Donna mia
    s’adora, Guido, a San Michele in Orto,
    che, di bella sembianza, onesta e pia,
    de’ peccatori è gran rifugio e porto.

    MY Lady’s face it is they worship there. 
    At San Michele in Orto, Guido mine, 
    Near her fair semblance that is clear and holy 
    Sinners take refuge and get consolation.

  7. Possum ergo naturae/ non meminisse tuae – L. “can I fail to remember your nature.” Lines taken from Sextus Propertius’s Elegies II: XX, 28 (Perseus).

    “Many men sought to be yours, you have sought me only: can I fail to remember your qualities?” (Poem). Like the examples from Bernart de Ventadour and Cavalcanti, Propertius celebrates the woman he loves by thinking and remembering. Pronunciation.

  8. Qui son Properzio ed Ovidio – I. Here are Propertius and Ovid.” Pronunciation. They are both Roman poets of love: Propertius’ first three books of Elegies are about his love for Cynthia. His contemporary, Ovid, wrote Amores and Heroides, volumes of poetry where love occupies center stage. Pound suggests the two Roman poets are at the root of troubadour poetry and of Cavalcanti's.

  9. Rennert – Hugo Albert Rennert (1858-1927), Pound’s professor of Romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania, 1905-1906 (C XX: n. 9). Rennert was specialized in Lope de Vega and was Pound’s supervisor for a doctoral thesis on the theme of the gracioso in Lope’s plays. Pound alludes to the Spanish dramatist’s Les Almenas de Toro further down in the poem. Rennert had done his PhD in Freiburg in 1892 and in all probability knew Lévy personally. 

  10. Lévy – Emil Lévy (1855-1918), German philologist and author of a dictionary of Provençal in 8 volumes: Provenzalisches Supplement-Wörterbuch. Berichtigungen und Ergänzungen zu Raynouards Lexique Roman (“Supplement Dictionary of Provençal. Corrections and supplements to [François] Raynouart Roman Vocabulary”) published 1892-1924.

  11. Arnaut’s – Arnaut Daniel, Provençal troubadour in whose poems Pound took a keen interest. When he visited Lévy in 1911, Pound had completed a body of translations of Arnaut’s work in Sirmione and would begin publishing them in his “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris” series in The New Age. After trying unsuccessfully to publish his translations in a volume, he finally included a number of them into an essay on the poet published in Instigations (1920. LE 109-48; see also P&T 481-503).    

    Pound introduced references to Arnaut’s poems at various points in The Cantos. (See OCCEP Three Cantos I: nn.12, 23; VI: n.11; VII: nn.34, 35).    

    “Pound translated the entire corpus of Arnaut Daniel in 1911, travelling to the Ambrosian Library in Milan in the summer to examine one of the rare manuscripts containing musical notation of the troubadour’s poems and later completing his translation in Sirmione. By the end of December, some translations were appearing in The New Age and Pound was optimistic that his bilingual edition would soon be published by Stephen Swift and Company, which had brought out his Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti in May. The project foundered after Swift and Company went bankrupt in the fall of 1912. The following year, Pound sent “The Canzoni of Arnaut Daniel” to the Chicago publisher Ralph Fletcher Seymour, who kept it for three years before returning it in 1916. By December 1917, Pound had found another publisher, The Clerk’s Press in Cleveland, but his manuscript disappeared in the mail. […]

    While completely revising his earlier Arnaut translations in the fall of 1917, Pound came across a copy of Gavin Douglas’s The XIII Bukes of Eneados (1553), a Chaucerian version of The Aeneid prized by Pound because it was ‘by no means Elisabethan.’ Most of the archaisms in Arnaut Daniel can be traced to Douglas’s Middle Scots idiom.” (Sieburth note, P&T 1299-1300).        

    Pound’s revised translations of 1917 were published in Pound’s translations of Arnaut Daniel, edited by Charlotte Ward (New York: Garland, 1991) and republished in part in P&T (481-503).

  12. 320px Biblioteca Ambrosiana 2010

    settant’uno R superiore Ambrosiana – I. “71 R [recto] superior Ambrosiana” the shelfmark of the two scores of Arnaut’s melodies “Lo ferm voler” and “Chansson doil” that Pound found in the Milanese library, Biblioteca Ambrosiana (P&P I: 50). Delighted by his discovery, he made copies of the pages and travelled to Freiburg to seek the advice of the eminent specialist in Provençal, Emile Lévy, in the summer of 1911 (Wilhelm 72). Pound would work with the pianist Walter Rummel to provide a modern notation of these songs and an English adaptation. He published them in 1913 in the volume Hesternae Rosae.

  13. Sing him the music – though the musicality of this part of the canto has been commented on by a number of scholars, it is also fair to say that the poem also alludes to inaudible, or incomprehensible music. Lines in Provençal, a nightingale too far off to be heard, an introductory formula in Greek, wax in their ears, song snatches in Italian, all point to melodies, sounds or messages which we cannot hear or understand. See also Pryor 76.

  14. noigandres – disputed Provençal term from Arnaut Daniel’s poem “Er vei vermeills, vertz, blaus, blancs, gruocs” (Prov. “I see scarlet, green, blue, white, yellow”). PronunciationPoem.        

    The word appeared in the last line of the first stanza telling of a flower, whose seed is joy and whose smell is of ‘noigandres’”: “e jois lo grans e l’olors de noigandres” (Canello ed. 112)     

    While the first editors of Arnaut, like Canello and Raynouart were inclined to translate the word as “nutmeg,” Emil Lévy proposed another translation by splitting the word into two: “d’enoi” (“ennui”) and “gandres” (form derived from “gandir,” meaning “protect”). Levy thus killed the word, writing in his dictionary: “gandres R III 422 ‘Muskat’ ist zu streichen. S. gandir. Schluss” [“‘gandres’ R [Raynouard] III 422, ‘nutmeg’ is to be deleted. See gandir. The end.” Supplement-Wörterbuch 4: 34-35.]. See also Dennis 194.      

    It is interesting to note that Levy had published his emendation of the term “noigandres” in 1904, thus Pound’s account of the scene must not be taken at face value, since Lévy obviously knew the answer to his question. Levy’s occupation is gently rebuked, in accordance with the poet’s resentment of philologists, even famous ones. ranunculi

    Pound thus restores the word in his poem, reinstating it as a magical token with poetic beauty and undecidable meaning. He also gives it again currency by including the discarded sense of “almond” among the intangibles of smells, memories, and sounds of his paradisal landscape. See XX: ll.10, 44. 

  15. ranunculae – ranunculus, a flower from the genus of the buttercup. Plural form is ranunculi.

  16. Agostino – Agostino di Duccio (1418-1481), Italian sculptor and main decorator of the interior of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, a reference building for Pound. At first sight, the poet uses the names of the Italian artists (“Agostino, Jacopo and Boccata”) for their musical qualities, creating an almost ritualistic effect by invoking them, with their regular flow of syllables in renewed combinations. 

    Yet, there are other aspects than the musicality of their names that these artists share: all of them worked in the 15th century (ca. 1450-1490) and introduced allegorical landscapes into their painting or sculpture, in addition to their main religious or mythological theme. Pound may have in mind Duccio’s bas-relief of an idealised Rimini, with hills, water and stone pines under the sign of cancer (Sigismondo’s zodiacal sign) in the Tempio.

  17. Jacopo – Jacopo del Sellaio (1442-1493), Florentine painter. Pound may have had in mind a painting attributed to Sellaio, now called Allegory, which he contemplated at the National Gallery in London. In the poem “Of Jacopo del Sellaio” published in Ripostes (1912), Pound wrote: “This man knew out the secret ways of love, / No man could paint such things who did not know” (69).sellaio allegoryNGL  

  18. Boccata– Giovanni Boccati (1435-1510), Italian painter from Umbria. His painting Madonna in Arbor, which Pound may have seen in the art museum in Perugia in 1924, shows roses trained in espalier (XX: 45).  Madonna In Arbor giovanni boccati perugia         

  19. Sandro – Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510), Florentine painter. Pound may have had in mind Boticelli’s Primavera as point of reference of the atmosphere he was conjuring in the canto. rsz botticelli primavera

  20. Espalier – a tree or shrub trained to grow flat against a wall. Roses in espalier are one of Pound’s earliest memories of Poitiers and the subject of a little song he composed in Provençal in 1912 (WTSF 5, 111). See also OCCEP TC II: n. 28Rose in Trellis.

  21. e l’olors – Prov. “and the smell.”
    Reference to Arnaut’s first stanza of his poem Er vei vermeills, vertz, blaus, blancs, gruocs, particularly the lines about a magic flower whose fruit is love, whose seed is joy and whose smell protects from sadness (“flor don lo fruitz si’amors/e jois lo grans e l’olors d’enuo gandres”). See poem at Pound translated the line as “It seeds in joy, bears love, and pain ameises” avoiding the word “smell” in his freer version. This omission may be one of the reasons why he insists on smell as a symbol of absence and intangibility in his paradise of nature and love. Pound’s translation.

  22. d’enoi ganres – Prov. “wards off ennui.” Pronunciation. Pound adopted Lévy’s spelling of “noigandres” as a sign that he had indeed received and accepted the scholar’s answer to his question. Yet the references to almond trees in the canto also retain and remind of the old translation by Canello, who had read “l’olors de noigandres” as “l’odor di noce reale” (“the smell of nutmeg”). But Canello himself was not sure – he put a question mark next to his translation. In his French edition of 1910, Lavaud rejected Canello’s version and took up Levy’s correction of 1904 that “noigandres” was in fact two words, which he translated as “preservation d’ennui.” When Pound visited Levy in July 1911, Lavaud’s edition had just been published a year before, so Pound may not have read it yet. By the time he made his revised translations of Daniel in 1917, he was well acquainted with Lavaud’s edition, which he praised in his essay on the troubadour, published in 1920. Pound’s translation. See original poem at

    The phrase “d’enoi ganres” (“wards off ennui”) has the same meaning with the name of Borso d’Este’s palace in Ferrara, called “Schifanoia,” which Borso used as a holiday retreat. The term is thus a key word underlying the canto, linking the troubadour-inspired paradise of lines 34-56 with the courtly allegory of the July fresco in the Schifanoia, lines 189-225.

  23. remir – Prov. “I gaze.” A magical word that Pound took from another poem by Arnaut Daniel, Dous brais et critz, which he translated as Glamour and Indigo (LE 136). It refers to the poet’s precious memory of looking at his lady’s naked body in the lamplight. See also Canto VII: 64-5; OCCEP nn. 34-36

  24. palla – I. “ball.” Ugo was playing at a ball game. This is the time when Ugo is arrested, under Parisina's eyes. Pound’s source, Alfonso Lazzari, described the scene:
    “In quel momento Ugo, ignaro di tutto, sta giocando alla palla in Piazza (il gioco alla palla era in quei tempi un genere aristocratico di sport, come oggi sarebbe il tennis); e poiche è domenica, e i popolani non lavorano, ‘tutta Ferrara’ assiste alla partita. Forse dal poggiolo del suo appartamento che dà appunto sulla piazza, Parisina, insieme colle fide damigelle, segue le vicende del gioco e contempla con occhio d’amore le agili movenze del giovane, che mettono in rilievo la plastica eleganza delle sue forme” (Laz 55).
    “At that time, Ugo, igorant of all this, was playing ‘palla’ in the town square. (The game of ‘palla’ was in those times an aristocratic kind of sport as tennis is today); and because it is Sunday and the lower classes don’t work, ‘all Ferrara’ is watching the game. Possibly from the balcony of her apartment overlooking the square, Parisina, together with her faithful maids, follows the progress of the game and contemplates with a loving eye the agile movements of the youth, which reveal the plastic elegance of his form.”

  25. Cariola Ritratto di Parisina Malatesta

    Parisina – Laura Malatesta (1404-1425), also called Parisina (the Parisian, i.e. elegant), daughter of Andrea di Malatesta of Cesena. After the death of her father in 1416, she was raised at the Rimini court and married to the Marquis Niccolò III d’Este in 1418. She was 14 and her new spouse 35. Until her death at 21, she bore her husband three children. In 1424, she fell in love with Niccolò’s eldest natural son, Ugo, who was twenty, and began an affair. Her husband, notified by a servant, spied on his wife and caught the two lovers together. He impulsively decided to behead them both. The sentence was carried out on 21 May 1425 (Frizzi III: 408).          

    The story of Parisina and Ugo, one of the great love tragedies of Italy, was never forgotten. The two lovers are as alive for Ferrara today as Romeo and Juliet are for Verona or as Paolo and Francesca are for Rimini. Pound’s choices of subject may thus indicate that he was not simply indulging in an obscure historical interest, but relying on his own experience of visiting the city.

  26. Nicolo III dEste Marquess of Ferrara attributed to Amadio da Milano designed after 1431 or c. 1441 Chazen Museum of Art DSC02135

    E’l Marchese – I. “And the marquis.” Niccolò III d’Este (1383-1441), condottiere and marquis of Ferrara. During his marquisate, the city was honoured to host the ecumenical Council of Ferrara in 1438, an event that Pound mentioned in canto VIII and would present at more length in canto XXVI. Canto XXIV is a portrait of Niccolò.

  27. Stava ... pazzo – I. “and the marquis was about to go crazy.” Pronunciation.         

    After the execution of Parisina and Ugo, the Marquis, (who was himself illegitimate and who in his turn fathered eleven natural children), gave the order to execute all the adulterous women in Ferrara. When he was advised that this measure would depopulate the city, he renounced the idea (Frizzi III: 452-53). Niccolò was a key political player during his lifetime and his impulsive killing of his young wife and firstborn son is set up as a stark counterpart to the aimless, dreamy self-indulgence of poets and scholars, as presented in the first part of the canto.  

    Pound imagined Niccolò’s delirium of guilt and his legacy to his surviving son. He wrote to his father on 11 April 1927:           
    “Various things keep cropping up in the poem. The original world of gods; the Trojan War, Helen on the wall of Troy with the old men fed up with the whole show and suggesting she be sent back to Greece.     
    Rome founded by survivors of Troy. Here ref. to legendary founding of Este (condit (founded) Atesten, Este).
    Then in the delirium, Nicolo remembers or thinks he is watching death of Roland. Elvira on wall or Toro (subject-rhyme with Helen on wall). Epi purgos, (on wall); peur de la hasle (afraid of sunburn); Neestho (translated in text: let her go back); (h)o bios (life); cosi Elena vi[d]i (thus I saw Helen, misquote of Dante).     
    The whole reminiscence jumbled or ‘candied’ in Nicolo’s delirium. Take that as a sort of bounding surface from which one gives the main subject of the Canto, the lotophagoi: lotus eaters, or respectable dope smokers; and general paradiso.”  (SL 210; L/HP 625-26. See also Calendar)

  28. condit Atesten – L. “Founded Ateste.” Ateste is the Latin name of the town now known as Este, in Veneto. The town was founded by the Veneti during the Iron Age, which follows the period of the Troy siege (dated by the time of the collapse of the Bronze age, 12th century BC). Later, Este became part of the Roman Empire and was settled with colonists after the battle of Actium.        

    Finally, Albert Azzo II (1009-1097), Margrave of Milan, built a castle in Este, made it his residence around 1073 and took the name of the town for his family. His son, Fulk I of Milan, made the first documented use of the name “Marquis of Este.”         

    Pound’s source was Gianbattista Pigna, Historia de Principi di Este where we find:

    “Si come appare per un epitafio scritto in versi elegi latini & molto puri, ritrovato soterra da lavoratori de campi in un candido & duro marmo; Ateste Signore de gli Heneti dopo le ruine di Troia venne con potente armata: & asceso in quella parte vi edificò questa città, che in espressione del proprio nome chiamò Atestia.” (Pigna 1-2)            

    (“As it appears in an epitaph written in Latin, in elegiac verse, and of excellent composition, found under the ground by some workers in the fields on a white and hard piece of marble; “Ateste, Lord of the Henetians, after the ruin of  Troy came with the mighty army: and once ascended in that part, he founded this city, which in expression of his own name, he called Atestia.” Translated by EB.)

  29. Borso deste

    Borso – Borso d’Este, (1413-1471), Niccolò III’s natural son by Stella dei Tolomei, and Ugo’s youngest brother. He became Marquis of Ferrara in 1450 and Duke in 1471. At the time of Ugo and Parisina’s execution in 1425, Borso was 12. He never married and had no children. 

    Pound’s idea that there is a straight line from Niccolò d’Este to Borso (excluding the middle brother, Leonello, who was Duke of Ferrara 1441-1450) might be derived from the fact that the statues of Niccolò (on horseback) and of Borso (on a throne) guard the two sides of the entrance to the Palazzo Municipale in Ferrara. The statues emphasize not only the lineage and importance, but also Niccolò’s military profile versus Borso’s diplomatic and political one. In the earlier drafts of the canto, Pound included Leonello in the genealogical line from Niccolò to Borso. See also Canto XXIV.

  30. Ganelon – one of the 12 peers in the Song of Roland and Charlemagne’s ambassador to Spain. Out of jealousy, he betrayed Roland to the Spanish Moslems whom Charlemagne had attempted to turn Christian. The Moslems thus seemed to accede to the Emperor’s demands and Charlemagne withdrew to France, thinking that he had averted war. Roland was leading the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army and was ambushed by the Saracens at Roncevaux. Their power was overwhelming and after hesitating too long, Roland finally blew his ivory horn to call for his king’s help. Pound summarized and commented on the Chançon in The Spirit of Romance (1912). Chançon de Roland in SR.

  31. Olofans – olifant, horn made of the ivory tusk of an elephant. Roland needed to blow the horn to call for help from Charlemagne. After sounding it, as he lay dying, he was attacked by a Moslem soldier who had pretended to be dead. Roland broke the horn by smashing the head of his attacker, who was trying to take his sword.

  32. Tan mare fustes – OF. “you are not one of us,” this is Pound’s translation of the passage in SR. In the letter to his father of 11 April 1927, he translated the expression with “You came at a bad moment.”   

    Pound summed it up in his letter:   
    “Roland's remark to moor who comes up to finish him off, as nearly as I can remember his sword is broken, but he smashes the moor over the head with his horn (olifans :: elephant : olifant tusk) and then dies grumbling because he has damaged the ornaments on the horn and broken it. Tan mare fustes, colloquial: you came at a bad moment. Current cabaret song now: J'en ai marre: I'm fed up” (SL 211).  See also Calendar.

  33. before the wall – in the second part of his delirium, Niccolò’s amalgamates two visions: one is Homer’s scene from The Iliad, Book III, when Helen appears on the walls of Troy and the old counsellors advise Priam to send her back to the Greek ships to avert catastrophe. The second is a scene from Lope de Vega’s Las Almenas de Toro (The Battlements of Toro): when Elvira (like Helen) appears on the ramparts of her fort, Toro, Sancho, her brother who lays siege to it, lusts for her without recognizing who she is. This proves fatal for him, as he would be murdered out of jealousy.     

    Though the similarity between the scene in Homer’s epic and Lope’s play must have struck Pound very early (he mentions Las Almenas in the Spirit of Romance and then in Three Cantos II), it is only in this scene of delirium that Niccolò brings together his fatal love for Parisina and his bringing her to Ferrara, (as Paris had brought Helen to Troy); the theme of desperate heroism, betrayal and jealousy in Song of Roland; and the fighting in a siege in which the male hero perishes because of a disastrous, perverted love: hence his advice to his son Borso to “keep the peace.” Pound’s narration of the play in SR.

  34. Toro, las almenas – S. “Toro, the battlements.” Pound’s modulation of the title of Lope de Vega’s play, Las Almenas de Toro (“The Battlements of Toro”).  Though Pound insists that this is Niccolò speaking, the play was published in 1620, almost two hundred years after the events in Ferrara, a detail observed by Wendy Flory who concluded that Niccolò d’Este’s delirium had a lot to do with Pound’s prose work The Spirit of Romance, in which both the Song of Roland and Lope’s Las Almenas the Toro are summarized (1977 162). Pound’s narration of the play in SR. See also OCCEP TC II: nn. 37 and 38.

  35. epi purgo – H. “ἐπὶ πύργῳ” (“on wall”) (Iliad III: 153).

  36. peur de la hasle – MF “afraid of sunburn” (SL 210). Pronunciation. Again a conflation between the scene of Iliad III, when Helen appears on the ramparts of Troy and the one in Lope de Vega's  Las Almenas de Toro. In the French translation of the Iliad by Hugh Salel, which Pound especially admired, the translator included this detail: “Là, ces Vieillards assis de peur du Hasle” ("There, these old men sitting, afraid of sunburn”) (LE 254). MB.

    The “afraid of sunburn” is a metaphor for “afraid of Helen's divine beauty,” but this is not made clear in the Homeric scene. The connection becomes evident when we corroborate the scene from Lope, who compares Elvira’s appearance on Toro’s battlements to the passing of the sun:

    On the battlements of Toro 
    There passed a damozel, or
    To speak more truly
    ‘T was the sun’s self passed us,
    Fair the form and light the passing

  37. telo rigido – I. “with rigid spear.” Probably afraid of the obscenity law still valid at the time of writing, Pound hid the sexual meaning behind metaphor and foreign language. 

  38. Ancures – Sancho’s counsellor, who advises him the woman he sees on the wall is his own sister. Pound’s narration of the play in SR.

  39. Alf left that town to Elvira – Alfonso, Sancho’s and Elvira’s brother, who after Sancho’s death allows Elvira to retain Toro, as stipulated by their father’s testament. Pound’s narration of the play in SR.

  40. Neestho – Gr. “νεέσθω” (translated in text: “let her go back” Homer, Iliad III: 159). Pound mentioned the scene in Canto II: 14-16 where the old Trojan men, seeing Helen on the ramparts of the city, tell their king: “Let her go back to the ships, / back among Grecian faces, lest evil come on our own,/ Evil and further evil, and a curse on our children” (SL 210. See also Calendar).

  41. rsz zoe mosaic hagia sophiaZoe – [Gr. Ζωή – “life”]. It is unclear if in this passage, Pound implied just the sound and meaning of the name, or whether he referenced a real historical figure. In his essay, “Arras, and Painted Arras,” John Peck assumed that Pound alluded to the Byzantine Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita (978-1050). Though she first married and became empress in 1028, at the age of fifty, she proceeded to rule and have three husbands until her death in 1050 (Peck 63; C XX:n.44). Peck gave no source to back his hypothesis.
    Another possibility for a historical reference could be Zoe Zaoutsaina, the mistress and later wife of Leo the Wise (r. 906-912). Zoe was a contemporary of Marozia and was in some respects subjected to similar opprobrium caused by her ascent to power. Helen of Troy was called “destroyer of ships, destroyer of men, destroyer of cities” (Έλέναυς, ‘έλανδρος, ‘έλέπτολις, see OCCEP VII:n. 32); Zoe’s tomb was inscribed with “miserable daughter of Babylon” (Garland 113), whereas Luidprand, the Bishop of Cremona, called Marozia a “harlot” (see next note). Zoe, like Helen, was hated and despised by the "old men" who deplored the sexual power she had over the emperor. [I thank Emilia Mirazchiyska for this reference.]
    Pound would return to the reign of Leo the Wise in canto 96. 

  42. Marozia – Marozia Crescenti (890-932) Roman aristocrat, whose father was Theophylacte (governor of the Roman senate). She exercised political power in her own right as senatrix (928-932) and through her three husbands. She controlled the papacy during her life and exercised considerable influence on its future through her descendants. She was allegedly the mistress of Pope Sergius III; her son became pope under the name John XI (931-935) and her grandson, John XII, was also pope (955-963).

    Like Sigismondo Malatesta, Marozia had a nemesis, Bishop Liudprand of Cremona, whose hostile biography made her a vile reputation over centuries. To the bishop, Marozia was a whore, an emblem of the general political degeneracy in Rome in her lifetime (Liudprand 118, 133).

    Pound was familiar with Marozia’s life since his student days:  
    “He wanted - had always wanted - to write a long poem. Memory in later years traced the eventual direction of that impulse to a conversation - say circa 1904-5 – with professor Ibbotson who was teaching him his Anglo-Saxon. ‘I was in them days contemplatin a jejune trilogy on Marozia. Which Bib was naïve enough to agree wd/ be a man’s magnum opus if he pulled it off’” (Kenner 354).    

  43. Zothar – mythological figure invented by Pound. She first occurs in canto XVII: ll.89-91, where she is followed by elephants and cohorts of dancers. What seems to bring together the three women, Zoe, Marozia, and Zothar is a play on the sound of their names with the Greek word Ζωή [zoon], (“living being”), which Pound makes clear below by the Greek term “ho bios” (“life”) further down in the poem. As the next line “loud over the banners” indicates, Pound sees them as avatars of Helen. 

  44. HO BIOS – H. Ὁ βίος (“life”).

  45. cosí Elena vedi – “cosi Elena vi[d]i.” Reference to a scene in Inferno V 64 where Dante says: “Elena vedi” (“I saw Helen”). In the second circle of hell, Virgil shows Dante the great women of sexual power, Helen, Semiramis, Dido, and Cleopatra, pointing out that they are in the Inferno because of “carnal sin.” Departing from his source, Pound repeats and reinforces the connection he sees between Helen of Troy, women of power, and relentless war, a connection he had made in cantos 2 and 7 through another avatar of Helen, Eleanor d’Aquitaine.         
    Wendy Flory argued that the scene of the floating lotus eaters in the poem (ll.106-156), is an ekphrasis, an elaboration of a Blake engraving illustrating this episode, which Pound may have seen in a book edited by Laurence Binyon in 1922, The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake. Flory argued that Pound was familiar both with the engraving and the painting of the scene. Helen can be seen triumphant in the center of the spiral (Flory 159).

  46. blake detail

    calyx – sepals of a flower which act as a protective layer protecting the bud and the petals. Cup like cavity. It is only in the engraving that we see this figure holding her fingers as Pound describes them. 

  47. burnous – long loose garment with hood usually worn by the Berbers.

  48. olibanum – frankincense, one of the main ingredient in the making of incense. The latter might contain other ingredients such as opoponax, elemi, myrrh, labdanum, calamus, cedars, sandalwood.

  49. Aeolus – the god of winds in Greek mythology. Unlike Dante, who makes a strong, howling hurricane the eternal punishment of adulterous lovers, Blake presents the wind as sweeping but gentle, the figures borne by it kissing, embracing, and relaxing. This is how Pound presents them as well. See Flory 1977 158.

  50. styrax – a genus of 130 shrubs and trees mostly growing in Asia. Its resin is known from Antiquity and used for perfumes and incense. 

  51. nel fuoco d’amore mi mise – I. “[he] put me in the flame of love… my new husband”). Refrain from a canticle attributed to St. Francis, 13th century. Whole poem

  52. croceo – I. croco (“crocus”). Pound is probably referring to the particular yellow hue of the crocus flower. The orange and the blue are the colours of Blake’s painting of Dante’s scene.

  53. Spilla – I.“brooch.” The spiral of the wind in Blake’s design.

  54. Lotophagoi – Gr. λωτοφάγοι, [lōtophagoi], “lotus-eaters.”
    This is what Homer says about them:         
    “Thence for nine days' space I was borne by direful winds over the teeming deep; but on the tenth we set foot on the land of the Lotus-eaters, who eat a flowery food. [85] There we went on shore and drew water, and straightway my comrades took their meal by the swift ships. But when we had tasted food and drink, I sent forth some of my comrades to go and learn who the men were, who here ate bread upon the earth; [90] two men I chose, sending with them a third as a herald. So they went straightway and mingled with the Lotus-eaters, and the Lotus-eaters did not plan death for my comrades, but gave them of the lotus to taste. And whosoever of them ate of the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, [95] had no longer any wish to bring back word or to return, but there they were fain to abide among the Lotus-eaters, feeding on the lotus, and forgetful of their homeward way. These men, therefore, I brought back perforce to the ships, weeping, and dragged them beneath the benches and bound them fast in the hollow ships; [100] and I bade the rest of my trusty comrades to embark with speed on the swift ships, lest perchance anyone should eat of the lotus and forget his homeward way.”

  55. Voce profondo – I. “(in a) deep voice.”

  56. the clear bones, far down,/ Thousand on thousand – passage of transition to the sirens’ song, based on Od.  XII: 45-47. The lotus eaters say “If harm, harm to ourselves.” This is implicitly what Odysseus's sailors decide when they eat of the cattle of Helios on the “noble island.” The harm comes swiftly and relentlessly, as the bones and corpses of the siren's victims prophesy.
  57. died in the whirlpool – reference to the storm created by Zeus as a punishment of the sailors who had eaten of cattle of Helios (Od XII: 405-420). Homer’s description.  

  58. Elpenor – sailor in Odysseus’ crew who died in a drunken accident falling from the roof of Circe’s house. When Odysseus met him at the mouth of the underworld, Elpenor asked his captain to “put an oar up” to commemorate him, which Odysseus does when he returns to Circe’s island.    

    See Canto I. See Od. X: 610-619. Elpenor. Odyssey X. OCCEP I: n. 14.

  59. Olives under Sparta – The olive was the holy tree of Athene, the goddess of reason and intelligence. Its leaves have a dark green side and a light green one; Pound’s friend Allen Upward compared them to the blinking of the owl, the emblem bird of the goddess. See glaukopis.        
    “Pound in canto XX thus presents Odysseus’ men as never having seen the glimpse of light in the olive leaves in order to emphasize their ignorance, as opposed to the divine visions granted to Odysseus, the man of active reason, and hence the favourite of Athene. ‘Lotophagoi,’ then, is used by Pound almost as a generic term for those indulging in sensual pleasures for their own sake, without ever engaging their intellect and the virtue of unselfishness” (Liebregts 183).

  60. Circe Titania – Circe was the daughter of Helios the sun god and grand-daughter of Hyperion the titan. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the sea god Glaucus appeals to her ancestry and addresses her as “Titania” when asking her to help him win Scylla’s love with a magic potion. Pound mentions Glaucus in canto 39 and Scylla in canto 47. Ovid Metam 14:1.

  61. Kalupso – goddess living on the island Ogygia, who kept Odysseus with her for seven years before allowing him to depart.

    “[240] Then Odysseus of many wiles answered her, and said: “Hard were it, O queen, to tell to the end the tale of my woes, since full many have the heavenly gods given me. But this will I tell thee, of which thou dost ask and enquire. There is an isle, Ogygia, which lies far off in the sea. [245] Therein dwells the fair-tressed daughter of Atlas, guileful Calypso, a dread goddess, and with her no one either of gods or mortals hath aught to do; but me in my wretchedness did fate bring to her hearth alone, for Zeus had smitten my swift ship with his bright thunderbolt, [250] and had shattered it in the midst of the wine-dark sea. There all the rest of my trusty comrades perished, but I clasped in my arms the keel of my curved ship and was borne drifting for nine days, and on the tenth black night the gods brought me to the isle, Ogygia, where [255] the fair-tressed Calypso dwells, a dread goddess. She took me to her home with kindly welcome, and gave me food, and said that she would make me immortal and ageless all my days; but she could never persuade the heart in my breast. There for seven years’ space I remained continually, and ever [260] with my tears would I wet the immortal raiment which Calypso gave me. But when the eighth year came in circling course, then she roused me and bade me go, either because of some message from Zeus, or because her own mind was turned. And she sent me on my way on a raft, stoutly bound, and gave me abundant store [265] of bread and sweet wine, and clad me in immortal raiment, and sent forth a gentle wind and warm. So for seventeen days I sailed over the sea, and on the eighteenth appeared the shadowy mountains of your land; and my heart was glad [270]” (Od. VII: 240-70).

  62. Ear-wax – reference to the Sirens episode of the Odyssey. While Circe allowed Odysseus to listen to the song of the Sirens, tied to the mast, the sailors had wax in their ears for their own protection (Od. XII: 36-55; 153-200). Odysseus and the Sirens. Pound replaces the Homeric song with his own.

  63. bull-field – Reference to the island of Helios [the sun god], which Odysseus ship passed after escaping from Scylla and Charybdis. Circe had warned Odysseus about Helios' cattle pasturing there. Tiresias had advised him that if he or his sailors should kill one of the bulls, they would all die. Initially, Odysseus did not want to stop but he was persuaded by the crew, who was still shaken by the loss of their comrades eaten by Scylla. After swearing they would eat only of their own provisions, Odysseus allowed them to stop. The crew had to stay longer on the island as they had no west wind. Then the provisions ran out and while Odysseus was asleep, his crew slaughtered a few of the bulls. Retribution was swift and happened as Tiresias predicted. When they were back to sea, they were caught in a storm and perished. Only Odysseus, who had not eaten of the meat, escaped alive. The bulls of Helios.

  64. neson amumona – H. ἀμύμονα νῆσον (“noble island”). Homer’s reference to Thrinacia, the island of the Oxen of the Sun (Od. XII: 262). The bulls of Helios. “Neson amumona, literally the narrow island: bull-field where Apollo’s cattle are kept.” (Pound to his father, 11 April 1927 L/HP 626; see Calendar). In the letter, Pound did not seem to remember the correct translation of ἀμύμονα, nor that the island of Helios is Thrinacia, Sicily, which has a triangular shape.

  65. Ligur’ aoide – Gr. “clear-toned song,” Homer’s formula to refer to the song of the sirens with which Pound concludes the song of the lotus-eaters. Pound uses it at the start of the canto: See n. 2.

  66. from the plain – beginning of the final section of the canto, which imagines a third paradise based on the idea of a “triumph” (I. “trionfo”) – a mythological parade like those painted by Francesco del Cossa and Cosmé Tura for Borso d’Este in the Schifanoia Palace of Ferrara. “Schifanoia” in Italian signifies “wards off boredom,” the same meaning as Levy’s translation of the Provençal “noigandres” (see n. 22). Pound seems to draw most from The Allegory of July, attributed to Tura: he embroiders on details in the upper band of the fresco, which present the parade of two mythical figures in a gilded “car” drawn by lions. The figures are Jupiter and Cybele, surrounded by groups of courtiers, soldiers and monks. Borso had followed his father’s advice to keep the peace – this harmonious picture is the allegory of his rule. schifanoia July detail

  67. Khan’s hunting leopard – possible allusion to the center decad of the middle band of Del Cossa’s fresco. 

  68. sallustio and isotta

    young Sallustio – Sallustio Malatesta (1448-1470), natural son of Sigismondo Malatesta. There is disagreement among authorities about the relationship between Sallustio and Isotta. Yriarte’s opinion that Sallustio was Isotta’s son has been corrected by current biography (“Isotta degli Atti,” Treccani). He was nevertheless her favourite, as her own sons, Giovanni and Malatesta, had died young. Pound, who corrected Yriarte on a number of points, might have been aware of the correct relationship between the two.

    Sigismondo disinherited his eldest son Roberto in favour of Sallustio before his death. This act had political reasons, as Roberto had lost Fano to Federico da Montefeltro in 1462 and accepted a bribe to surrender Cesena to the pope in 1466. However, this act signed Sallustio’s death warrant, as Roberto had him murdered on 5 August 1470. Roberto is also blamed for Isotta’s death, apparently by poison, in 1474. However, after Sigismondo’s death in 1468, for a brief interlude of two years, Isotta and Sallustio governed Rimini together.

    There are a few similarities between Niccolò d’Este and Sigismondo. Both men had mistresses who gave birth to three sons vigorous enough to take over political power. Niccolò’s mistress, Stella dei Tolomei, had Ugo, Leonello and Borso; Sigismondo’s mistress, Vanetta dei Toschi, had Roberto, Sallustio and Valerio. Yet neither of the men married the mothers of their sons, but young women they fell in love with. Niccolò married Parisina Malatesta; Sigismondo married Isotta. Pound may suggest here a parallel between Parisina and Ugo in Ferrara and Sallustio and Isotta in Rimini as forbidden loves between the young wife and her husband’s son. In Isotta’s case, the parallel cannot be proven historiographically and is presented as just a suggestion in a dream, a suggestion which Pound may have derived from the two young people holding hands in the left hand side of the Allegory of July in the Schifanoia Palace. The woman’s face is similar to Isotta’s, as known from Matteo da Pasti’s medals.

  69. Ixotta – Isotta degli Atti (ca. 1433-1474), mistress and third wife of Sigismondo Malatesta. See also canto IX: ll.185-190.

  70. ferae familiaresac ferae familiares – L. “And tamed wild animals.” Lions, a black leopard and several deer can be seen to consort freely with people in Tura’s Allegory of July in the Salone dei Mesi, Schifanoia Palace.

  71. Somnus – L. The Roman god of sleep (C XX: n.74).

  72. sleeper

    Head in arm’s curve, reclining – The sleeper in Tura’s allegory is Attis, after he had sacrificed his “nuts” to Cybele. See also the almond shaped decorations to the car which Pound calls “acorns of gold,” rhyming with the smell of almonds in the first part of the canto.

  73. Cliff folds like a curtain – Possible reference to the upper right hand corner of Tura’s fresco, behind the sleeper.

  74. Chiostri – I. “cloisters.” See the detail of the monks in cloister in the left hand upper corner of the picture. chiostri

  75. le donne e i cavalieri – I. “The ladies and the knights.” 

  76. Hennin – headdress for women, popular in aristocratic circles in the 15th century. It was either a cone with a veil, or a truncated cone or a heart-shaped open centred headdress, as in Del Cossa’s fresco for April. As he places the ladies at windows, Pound may have used the month of April as inspiration. In that fresco, the ladies and knights are watching a race. gallery smooth faces

  77. amaranth

    Amaranth – H. ἀμάραντος (“unfading”), perennial plant that could refer to gold flowers in the first decad under the Allegory of July. “Amaranth” is a term mentioned by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem “The Lotus Eaters” and suggests that Pound may have been familiar with and drawn inspiration from it. In Tennyson’s poem, the lotus-eaters lie “propt in beds of amaranth and moly.” See poem.

  78. cramoisi – F. “crimson.”

  79. Diaspre – I. “diaspro” (“jasper.”)

  80. Acanthus – the decorative acanthus leaf was a column capital decoration and can be seen on both sides of Del Cossa’s fresco.

  81. Vanoka – deity invented by Pound as an avatar of Helen, to reinforce the connection between the woman of great sexual power and war. See also nn. 33-45.

    It is possible that the inspiration for the name of this goddess of destruction is the forgotten mistress of Sigismondo Malatesta, Vanetta dei Toschi. Sigismondo did not marry her or acknowledge her loyalty and gift of three sons. Her eldest, Roberto, was disinherited, yet would have his brothers killed to acquire sole control of Rimini. This act would ultimately lay waste to the house of Malatesta: Roberto’s son, Pandolfaccio, would lose Rimini to Cesare Borgia in 1500 and the family would not henceforth be able to regain the city from papal control. 





Cantos in periodicals

Three Cantos (Ur-Cantos)

lake garda 267823





A Draft of XXX Cantos

A Draft of XVI Cantos


Eleven New Cantos

rsz guido cavalcanti

The Fifth Decad

rsz toscana siena3 tango7174


confucius adams 2