Between Cantos 47 and 49 there is the annoying interruption of canto 48, which seems a miscellany into which the poet has crammed scraps of anecdote, documents and historical bits – a modern babel among which we can discern familiar themes.
George Kearns, Pound The Cantos 42.
We shall not stop at canto 48, except to note the obscurity. What, for example, has the puppy’s pedigree got to do with the other private letter (“while she bought 2 prs of shoes”), or the private letter with interest rates in Bithynia or the beautifully evoked Provençal landscape? Who could disentangle the lines about the ant and the ox-carcase, even knowing the relevant passage in Jefferson and/or Mussolini? And the last five lines seem almost willfully obscure. The old man was employed to place a stone on the long beach costumes, to stop them from billowing in the wind. instead of saying that, Pound cuts away the substance and leaves us with a puzzle.
Noel Stock, Reading the Cantos 58
Yet what is in question is still knowledge and the transmission of intelligence, only now we are no longer in the lyrical ideal but in the problematic real world, and here the poet is thrown back upon his method of gathering together and heaping up all sorts of scraps of information and anecdotes bearing upon his central preoccupation: how is vital intelligence to be passed on so that it goes into action? and what obstructs and prevents the communication of it?
David Moody. Ezra Pound: Poet, II: 223.
The canto itself delineates forces like imperial authority, usury and religion that make societies and individuals stupid, cruel and opportunistic; it also presents solutions and antidotes: efficient, goal-oriented, useful action (which Pound associated with Fascism in Jefferson and/or Mussolini); and uncorrupted intelligence, evaluating current social practices and correcting them. The apparently unrelated section of the canto devoted to the troubadours going to Montségur implies that the first mission of intelligence is to resist contemporary currents of power: this is a mission fraught with danger, adventure, and personal sacrifice. Instances of stupidity, opportunism and cruelty are contrasted throughout the canto with examples in history where intelligence, merit, professionalism and knowledge prevailed. The canto starts by what Pound considered to be the most intelligent invention of modern times: Silvio Gesell’s “vanishing money” – a financial tool that adequately applied would lift the world out of debt and financial crisis. He ends by a symbol of the world as he knows it: purposeless action that appears to do minor service in the short term: putting stones on clothes at the beach.
Roxana Preda. The Cantos Project, 15 June 2020.
CANTO XXIII [Provençal troubadours and Montségur]
CANTO XXIX [Pound and Eliot at Excideuil]
CANTO XLVI [pay rent on money]
Ezra Pound and Dorothy Pound. Canto XLVIII. In Shakespear’s Pound: Illuminated Cantos. Ed. David A Lewis.
Nacogdoches, TX: LaNana Creek Press, [Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing], 1999.
Photo reproduction courtesy of Archie Henderson.
CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION
Whereas we cannot establish when exactly the bulk of the composition took place, we can at present state that it was done sometime between February (when canto 46 was completed) and October 1936 (when Pound retyped the whole Fifth Decad and sent it to Olga). It was composed of textual elements that had shown up in cantos 5 and 23, so it refers back to A Draft of XXX Cantos. It makes use of readings Pound made while working of the Eleven New Cantos and echoes of material in cantos 33 and 41. According to Mike Malm, who made the genetic analysis and the stemma of canto 48, the canto went into multiple stages of revision in which some elements were included and some were left out of the final draft (Malm 83).
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: ©Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Pound/Laughlin. Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.
Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
Beinecke Library, Yale University New Haven. Olga Rudge Papers, YCAL 54 Box no/Folder no.
To W. H. D. Rouse, 30 December 1934
Dear Dr. Rouse,
Along with direct teaching of the language, is there any attempt to teach real history? “Roman mortgages 6%, in Bithynia 12%.”
I have been for two years in a boil of fury with the dominant usury that impedes every human act, that keeps good books out of print, and pejorates everything.
Until Latin teaching faces the economic fact in Latin history, it may as well leave out history. History without econ. is just gibberish. My generation was brought up in black ignorance. Wherever one looks–printing, publishing, schooling–the black hand of the banker blots out the sun.
Granted the bulk of the sabotage and obstruction is economic and nothing else, there is the fact to be faced that the modern world has lost a kind of contact with and love for the classics which it had, not only in the 18th Century and in the Renaissance (part snobbism), but throughout the Middle Ages, when in one sense it knew much less.
And life is impoverished thereby.
“The truth makes its own style.” But education has been so rotten at the core, so falsified that every learning has fallen into contempt.
Have I finally got around to my plea: for some means of communicating the classics to the great mass of people, by no means foreordained to eternal darkness, who weren’t taught Greek in infancy?
To J. Laughlin, 31 January 
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.
To Olga Rudge, 30 October 1936. Anno XIV, Rapallo
YCAL 54, 17/447
He has typed out some sort of a draft fer the rest of 42/51. That is he has typed new all except the four he did in Venez [cantos 42-44, 50] and the one printed in Nude Emocracy .
only he haint got the forza to read it thru YET; but if/when he gits it; he may send on a carbong. an thazatt.
He izza sumin that with 42/44 and 46 and 50; the rest fit in and FLOW. only he don’t KNOW it yet.
waal he thinks hiz attempt at elucidatin the 42/51 iz about all than can be xxpected of him fer the momeng.
printed in Nude Emocracy – Pound published canto 46 in the American Social Credit journal New Democracy on March 1936.
Pound did send Olga all the carbons of the Fifth Decad, apart from canto 50, which he said she had already. They are preserved at the Beinecke Library in the same folder as the letter.
XLVIII – BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES IN JOURNALS AND COLLECTIONS
- Baumann, Walter. The German-Speaking World in “The Cantos.” Paideuma 21.3 (Winter 1992): 41-61. [Republished in Roses from the Steel Dust. Orono: The National Poetry Foundation, 2000. 135-54.] Go to article.
- Bressan, Eloisa. “Regionalism and Mythmaking: A Map for Ezra Pound’s Walking Tour in Southern France, 1919.” Make It New 2.4 (March 2016): 44-55. Free online.
- Kenner, Hugh. “Some Notes.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 2.1 (1973): 41-2.
- North, Michael. “Towers and the Visual Map of Pound’s Cantos.” Contemporary Literature 27.1 (1986): 19-21.
BOOK CHAPTERS AND SECTIONS
- Bacigalupo, Massimo. The Forméd Trace. The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound. New York: Columbia UP, 1980. 88-92.
- Casillo, Robert. The Genealogy of Demons. Anti-Semitism, Fascism and the Myths of Ezra Pound. Evanston, Ill.: U of Illinois P, 1988. 147-8.
- Conover, Anne. Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound. “What Thou Lovest Well… .” New Haven: Yale UP, 2001. 76.
- Cookson, William. “‘Luminous detail’ – Italian religious festival – Provence.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2009. 68-9.
- De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: XLVIII.” Ezra Pound. I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1535-6.
- Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto XLVIII.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. 1263-4.
- Kearns, George. Pound. The Cantos. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989. 42.
- Malm, Mike. “Canto 48.” In Editing Economic History: Ezra Pound’s The Fifth Decad of Cantos. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. 83-6; 214-6.
- Moody, David A. Ezra Pound: Poet. A Portrait of the Man and His Work. II: The Epic Years 1921-1939. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 223-5.
- Rabaté, Jean-Michel. Language, Sexuality and Ideology in Ezra Pound’s “Cantos.” London: Palgrave, 1986. 193-6.
- Stock, Noel. Reading the Cantos. A Study of Meaning in Ezra Pound. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966. 58.
- Surette, L. A Light from Eleusis. A Study of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1979. 145.
- Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XLVIII.” In Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Berkeley: U of California P., 1980. I: 186-9.
- Wilhelm, J. J. Ezra Pound: The Tragic Years, 1925-1972. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1994. 119-20.
- Guidi, Paolo. “Canto XLVIII.” Etching. 4 February 2014. Go to site.
- Sellar, Gordon. Blogging Pound’s The Cantos: Cantos XLVIII. Free online.
- The Coffee Philosopher. Canto XLVIII. Blog, 29 July 2011. Free online.