Canto 45 was ready by 3 December 1935, as documented by Pound’s letter to Laughlin on that day. Bearing in mind that Pound was still undecided on how to proceed on the cantos in November-December 1934 (see his letters to Olga), we can provisionally date the period of composition as November-December 1935.



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




Letters To Ibbotson, 1935-1952. Eds. Vittoria I. Mondolfo and Margaret Hurley. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1979.


Pound/Laughlin. Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.


“I Cease Not To Yowl.” Ezra Pound’s Letters To Olivia Rossetti Agresti. Eds. D. Tryphonopoulos and Leon Surette. Urbana & Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1998.


Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. 11 vols. New York: Garland, 1990.


The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.


Taylor, Richard. “Editing the Variorum Cantos: Process and Policy.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 31.1-3 (2002): 311-34. [References in square brackets by Taylor in text.]


Beinecke Library, Yale University New Haven. Ezra Pound Papers, YCAL 43, Series I and IV; Olga Rudge Papers, YCAL 54 Box no/Folder no.



To Olga Rudge, [26 November 1934]

YCAL 54, 15/394



any ideas fer his nex canto?


To Olga Rudge, 22 December [1934]

YCAL 54, 15/397



As to them Cãtos/ all he meant wuz, HAZ she any inter’sts or iz there anything she wd/ LIKE to read about... apart from more of the same on the pleasures.



To Henry Swabey, 3 March 1935

SL 270

Dear Swabey:


I strongly suggest you make a study of ecclesiastical money in England. Not numismatism; but to know what the Church issued, under what regulations; ratio metal value to currency value; whether Bracteates issued; paper, if any. When, if ever, did usury cease to be a mortal sin? It still is in Roman and must be in Anglo-Cat. Let in for greed and forgotten from ignorance, probably. 


To J. Laughlin, 3 December 1935

L/JL 46, 47; Var 314

[…] vide my NUDE canto on USURA / release via J. P. Angold’s noo pyper  


WhenehenewheWHEN will I git even to readin the notes of six cantos; now lying nexx to me 


J. P. Angold’s noo pyper – Prosperity, where Canto 45 was published in February 1936.


To J. Laughlin,20 December 1935

L/JL 51; Var 314

THAT particular Canto/ I thought might go in Chicago, rather than in an econ/ mag/ where it aint needed. It is intended to REACH the unteck/ knuckl mind. <you had J.P. Angold’s old address> […] BUT I am proceedin with the opus.


THAT particular canto – canto 45

Might go in Chicago – for the literary magazine Poetry



To J. Laughlin, 31 January [1936]

L/JL 54-5

Canto XLVI, sent this a/m, not to be confused with the USURA canto, mentioned before. XLVI (46) is destined for New Dem[ocracy]/

The USURA is more suited to some non/ econ publication. Harriet ought to PAY for it.


Canto XLV published in the British Social Credit journal Prosperity

in February 1936.


To Olga Rudge, Anno XIV 19 February 1936

YCAL 54, 16/434

Ziao, cara mia/


Canto USURA evidently out in Prosperity, but no copy to ’and.


To Henry Swabey, 26 March 1936

SL 278

Dear Swabey:


P.25, final paragraph: law of 1624– Usury is an evil; above 8% it becomes a punishable criminal offense.


To Joseph Darling Ibbotson, 20 April 1936

L/JDI 39

Deerly BEELuvved BIB

NO I am not LOOKING for a researcher who already has a job and knows where his next meal is coming from. For 25 or more years I have seen the BEST artists caput lupinum, I have seen the unutterable FILTH that rules the world driving all the finest talent to wall, making it impossible for the arts to exist save at the edge of starvation.


                                                INFERIORITY complex rampant and 3/4th unconscious.

The buggardly swine tried for twenty years to kill me off by starvation. I dont mean personal action, I mean the putrid action of the usury system and its slugs and leeches.

Most of my prose writing has been in defense of FOOD for a small number of artists.

The snot in the Bank of England has even attacked our Rapallo music VIA the arsehole of hell Geneva.

It has ruined building in England and starves millions of the English population.

Where usura governs, art is slowly killed off.

We weren’t told that 30 years ago.


caput lupinum – L. “wolf's head” - in legal terms, an outlaw, a felon who can be attacked with impunity.


To T. S. Eliot, 6 December 1936

L/TSE 399n.3

Dear Eliot/


The USURY canto was sacrificed to “Prosperity” where they hid it in the small print… 42/44 can not be printed one afart from the other two… What does it matter the pubk/ getting too much. The job for decent men is to keep up the arts FIRST.



To Laurence Binyon, 29 September 1938

Redman 182; Malm 189

I hope yr/ country isn’t going to war to keep up the price of gold; i.e. help the Rothschild and squander another five million anglo-saxon lives. At any rate, I have worked 20 years to prevent it and refer the lot of you to Canto 45 and a few others […] war against Germany would be war AGAINST a clean concept of money.


Yr/ country – The United Kingdom


To Carlo Izzo, 8 January 1938

SL 303-4; Lettere 1907-1958 128-30.

Absolutely my first free moment.

  1. ‘With Usura the line grows thick’–means the line in painting and design. Quattrocento painters still in morally clean era when usury and buggary were on a par. As the moral sense becomes as incapable of moral distinction as the ………p of ………y <Archbishop of Canterbury> or …t …..n <Mont Norman> or ……..n, <J. P. Morgan> painting gets bitched. I can tell the bank-rate and component of tolerance for usury in any epoch by the quality of line in painting. Baroque, etc. era of usury becoming tolerated.
  2. ‘Praedis’: I don’t care how you spell your wop painters, and I don’t know whether A.P. was from Predi, Predo or Predis. Never been to his home town.
  3. St. Trophime, in Arles, civilization entered that district before L. Blum and Co. got control. Better keep frog spelling, there ain’t no church of S. Trofime.
  4. ‘Eleusis’ is very elliptical. It means that in place of the sacramental ---- [fuck] in the Mysteries, you ’ave the 4 and six-penny ’ore. As you see, the moral bearing is very high, and the degradation of the sacrament (which is the coition and not the going to a fatbuttocked priest or registry office) has been completely debased largely by Xtianity, or misunderstanding of that Ersatz religion.

‘Ad’ is certainly better than ‘per,’ but neither translates the ‘for’ which means ‘invece di,’ ‘per le rite Eleusiniane,’ ‘dalle rite.’ Hellup!! English is halfway between inflected languages and Chinese. 

I am not sure that ‘Tollerando usura’ doesn’t sound better and give the force better than ‘con.’ ‘With’ in English derives from Ang-Saxon and has oppositive aroma. As in ‘withstand’ meaning ‘stand against.’ I don’t mean that it means ‘against,’ but ‘Tollerando’ has a sonorous body that helps the line.

‘Behest’ (last line) very strong imperative; probably not indicated in dictionary. But I think stronger than ‘cenni.’

All of which gives you more trouble. Ma che. [304]

You could leave the ‘con usura’ in various places, but I think ‘tollerando’ better in opening line and in line 2 for the repeat. Also the choice between the two (‘con’ and ‘tol’) gives you more freedom. [304]

‘Mountain wheat’: they say here ‘di montagna’ not ‘monte,’ which is also associated with hockshop.

‘Demarcation’ is intellectual. It is also boundary of field if you like, but demarcation is universal. The bastid Cromwell and ---- Anglican bishops and bankers obscure every hierarchy of values.

‘Tagliapietra’ (?? not man who breaks stone, but the artifact).

A. De Predi is O.k., if that is where he came from. I wonder if he was da Prato?

??? ‘Pietra viva’?? Whazzat mean? San Zeno architect also cut a lot of the stone pillars himself and signed one pair (group with knots of stone).

‘Fu San Trophime’ would keep your rhythm. I think in Italian you need ‘la Chiesa’ both for churches in Arles and St. Hilaire, or Poitiers. Otherwise it could mean the blokes themselves and not the ecclesiastical munniments.---- <“Rusteth”/ fa ruggine?? AL O IL cesello??>

‘Weave gold in her pattern’: in Rapallo Middle Ages, industry of weaving actual gold thread into cloth.

‘Nessuna apprende più l’arte di telerare con filo d’oro.’ Damn wop language has onely one word for thread and wire????

‘Grembo?? How refined! ‘VENTRE’??

What is ‘cepppi’?? ‘Brought palsy to bed.’ I.e., palsied old man. Shakespear’s language is so resilient.

Next line I think you have done well.

‘Hanno condotto donne da conio ad Eleusi’ seems to me to get the drive. That does give the sense of profanation.

‘In convivio’ better than ‘messa’????

I don’t like plural in ‘cenni.’ -/ -/

<Beeth, nel complesso penso che la sua prima stesura sia piuttosto buona // Sí, volevo e voglio una recensione della QUINTA DECADE da qualcuno che abbia letto i primi 40, ma che scrivesse come se il lettore SAPESSE già degli altri 40 / o almeno confinasse la recensione alla Quinta Decade / con una dichiarazione di tre BREVISSIME righe nelle quali si dica che questa Decade ha una funzione in un lungo poema>

(“Well, by and large I think that your first draft is mostly good// Yes, I wanted and still do a review of the FIFTH DECAD by someone who has read the first 40 [cantos] but who wrote as if the reader already knows of the first 40 / or at least follow the review to the Fifth Decad / with a declaration of three VERY SHORT lines in which to say that this Decad has a function in a long poem”)


The text of the letter is taken from Selected Letters, ed. D.D. Paige. Italian version in Lettere 1907-1958. Ed. Aldo Tagliaferri. Milan Feltrinelli, 1980. Angle brackets for textual elements only in the Italian version.

Name references are provided from Tagliaferri’s edition:

Archbishop of Canterbury – William Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864 – 1945), Scottish Anglican prelate who served as Archbishop of York (1908–1928) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1928–1942). He presided over the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which gave limited church approval to the use of contraception. After denouncing the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 and strongly condemning European anti-Semitism, Lang later supported the appeasement policies of the British government.

Montagu Norman – Montagu Collet Norman (1871 – 1950), English banker, Governor of the Bank of England from 1920 to 1944.

J. P. Morgan –John Pierpont Morgan (1837 – 1913) American banker and stockbroker who dominated the financial world during the Gilded Age up until WWI. Pound provided some of the highlights of his career in canto 40.

L. Blum – Léon Blum (1872-1950), French politician of Jewish descent. As Prime Minister in a Popular Front government of the left 1936-37, he provided a series of major economic reforms. Blum declared neutrality in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) to avoid the civil conflict spilling over into France itself. Once out of office in 1938, he denounced the appeasement of Germany. When Germany defeated France in 1940, he became a staunch opponent of Vichy France. Tried by Vichy on trumped-up charges, he was imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp. He returned to politics after the war.




The note on usury – Timeline, 1949-1970

Grateful acknowledgment to Archie Henderson for his contributions to this timeline (Roxana Preda, 24 February 2020). 


To Olivia Rossetti Agresti, 22 August 1949

L/ORA 38



Awaiting book on Medici bank.


The book is Raymond de Roover. The Medici Bank: Its Organization, Management, Operations and Decline. New York: New York UP, 1948 (Henderson 65).


To Olivia Rossetti Agresti, 3 May 1951

L/ORA 60



LACK of one clear distinction/ i.e. productive and non productive basis of loans. Interest due teleologically to increase in domestic animals and plants. (See also note in Henderson 102.)


Notebook 71, September 1952. Typescript note.

YCAL 43 Series IV, 118/4939

Usury is regarded as an excessive charge and as a fixed charge/ but the essence of usury lies in its being a charge levied without regard to production/ at its worst without even regard to the possibilities of production.

An excessive charge can be considered 

under heading of extortion/

the essence of usury lies in disregard 

of production /

It is not a division of fruits already grown/

Del mar notes that interest is due 

teleologically to the increase of 

domestic animals and plants.

Sept. 5/ ’52 


The above lineation follows the original text, which is typed on a paper note stuck into a notebook used for the composition of Section: Rock Drill. Reference to this note in Eastman 76. See Notebook in Sources


To Olivia Rossetti Agresti, 2 September 1953

L/ORA 123; Henderson 102



I am still waiting for you to catch me a serious adult who will turn his mind to a few BASIC issues. Can Bot/ YET mention the folly of paying rent on the nation’s OWN credit. OR face some of my notes on tax SYSTEM. OR print definitions of USURY. You might start on that, giving it as my definition. 

A charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production, often without regard to the possibilities of production.

Did yu see Rouver on the Medici bank? got it past one of the damn ENdowments/ but they later denied knowledge of any book on the Medici Bank/


Hugh Kenner. “Ezra Pound and Provision of Measures” (30). First publication of the note, October 1953, date also signalled by Eva Hesse (80). [AH]

If sixteen years after writing Canto XLV Pound has only now made a definition of Usura (“A charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production; often without regard even to the possibilities of production”), the moral is not that he was bluffing in 1937, but that he could identify Usura and see where it fitted in long before he could enclose it in his mind and say exactly what it was. 



Pound introduced the item “& the Medici failed for accepting too many deposits” into canto 94, published in the Section: Rock-Drill de los Cantares in 1955. See XCIV/653.



New Directions edition of Selected Poems. Note appears at the end of the selection of cantos, on separate page (Eastman 76). On the copyright page, publisher “is grateful to Hugh Kenner and Hayden Carruth for suggestions in regard to the texts of this edition.” 

“[N. B. USURY (v. Canto XLV et passim): a charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production; often without regard even to the possibilities of production. (Hence the failure of the Medici bank.)]” Selected Poems 182. 



Caedmon Recordings, June 1958, Washington DC. [AH]

Pound read the canto and added:

“And so that you don’t continually misunderstand, usury and interest are not the same thing: usury is a charge made for the use of money regardless of production, and often regardless even of the possibilities of production. I now repeat the theme in canto 51.”



To Norman Holmes Pearson, 9 September 1959

Taylor 180; Henderson 102

At least some of the sources of canto facts ANDH/ not as retrospect but as FIELD for further clarification of history/ such as in Rouvere on Medici Bank.



Pound includes the statement on usury and the Medici bank in the interview with D. G. Bridson. The interview is published in New Directions in Poetry and Prose 17 (1961): 158-84; and P&P IX: 293-309. 


There is a turning point in the poem toward the middle. Up to that point it is a sort of detective story, and one is looking for the crime. The Usura Cantos would be more comprehensible if people would understand the meaning of the term “usury.” It is not to be confused with legitimate interest which is due, teleologically, as Del Mar says, to the increase in domestic animals and plants. Consider the difference between a fixed charge and a share from the proportion of an increase. Now usura is a charge for the use of purchasing power levied without regard to production, often without regard even to the possibilities of production. The famous [173] Medici Bank went bust when they started taking more deposits than they could invest in legitimate commerce and started making loans to princes – which were non-productive loans. 172-3.

Note: The “Usura Cantos” also include canto 46.



Wih the help of Olga Rudge, Pound made his selection of cantos to be gathered in a volume for Faber in London. He included canto 45, but did not add the note. On page 9, we read:

“I have made these selections to indicate main elements in the Cantos. To the specialist the task of explaining them. As Jung says: ‘Being essentially the instrument for this work he (the artist) is subordinate to it and we have no reason for expecting him to interpret it for us. He has done the best that is in him by giving it form and he must leave interpretation to others and to the future’” 


The Faber volume of Selected Cantos was reprinted with additions in an American edition in 1970. According to D. Gallup who lists them (109), these additions do not include the note at the end of canto 45.



1970 – The Faber copy The Cantos does not include the note but an annotation in the “master copy” states: “Kenner got from E.P.” (Eastman 76).

1970 – New Directions edition includes the note and places it after canto XLV.

1975 – Faber takes over the sheets from New Directions. Henceforth, the British and American editions of The Cantos are identical.



Bridson, D. G. “An Interview with Ezra Pound.” New Directions in Prose and Poetry 17 (1961): 158-184.

De Roover, Raymond. The Medici Bank: Its Organization, Management, Operations and Decline. New York: New York UP, 1948.

Eastman, Barbara. Ezra Pound’s Cantos: the Story of the Text 1948-1975. Orono: Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1979.

Gallup, Donald. Ezra Pound. A Bibliography. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1983.

Henderson, Archie. ‘I Cease not to Yowl’ Re-Annotated. New Notes on the Pound/ Agresti Correspondence. Houston Tx.: 2009.

Hesse, Eva, ed. Ezra Pound: Usura-Cantos XLV und LI. Texte, Entwürfe und Fragmente. Zürich: Arche Verlag, 1985.

Kenner, Hugh. “Ezra Pound and Provision of Measures.” Review of A Preliminary Checklist of the Writings of Ezra Pound, by John Edwards; Guide to Kulchur and Spirit of Romance by Ezra Pound. Poetry 83.1 (October 1953): 29-35.

Pound, Ezra. “I Cease Not to Yowl” Ezra Pound's Letters To Olivia Rossetti Agresti. Eds. D. Tryphonopoulos and Leon Surette. Urbana & Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1998.

Pound, Ezra. Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 1957.

Pound, Ezra. The Cantos. New York: New Directions, 1998. 

Taylor, Richard Dean. “The Texts of The Cantos.” The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound. Ed. Ira B. Nadel. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 161-87.


A Draft of XXX Cantos

ship4 for c1