I admit there are a couple of Greek quotes, one along in 39 that can’t be understood without Greek, but if I can drive the reader to learning at least that much Greek, she or he will indubitably be filled with a durable gratitude. And if not, what harm? I can’t conceal the fact that the Greek language existed.
Ezra Pound, Selected Letters 251.
Sacrum, sacrum, inluminatio coitu.
Ezra Pound. Canto XXXVI l.96.
CANTO I [Odysseus and Circe’s advice; theophany of Aphrodite]
CANTO II [myth, sex and the classical pastoral]
CANTO IV [the sacred wedding]
CANTO XVII [sleep; sex and nature]
CANTO XX [lotus eaters versus swine in Circe’s pigtsy]
CANTO XXIII [Greek language and writing as mystery; Aphrodite; sex as illumination]
CANTO XXIX [sex and modernity]
CANTO XXXVI [Definition of love in Cavalcanti's Donna mi prega]
CANTO XXXVII [scientific, vegetative magic in lines 144-147]
CANTO XLVII [Circe and Odysseus; the divine mystery of sex]
CANTO XXXIX – READINGS
Roxana Preda. Introduction to Canto XXXIX.
Paul Cunningham reading the canto. Video clip on ucreate.
Readings in The Cantos of Ezra Pound. III. Cantos of the 1930s.
Edinburgh Scottish Poetry Library, 28 February 2019.
Photo courtesy of John Glendinning, 25 April 2019.
Copyright © 1934, 1968 by Ezra Pound. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Ezra Pound and Dorothy Pound. Canto XXXIX. In Shakespear’s Pound: Illuminated Cantos.
Nacogdoches, TX: LaNana Creek Press, [Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing], 1999.
Photo reproduction courtesy of Archie Henderson.
CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION
The drafts of canto XXXIX indicate there are two distinct phases of composition: the first, October 1931, outlines a text centred on Hathor, a masculine deity or hero, and Patha who fought the tiger and took out his eye. Pound seems to have left the text to rest for a while and took it up again in March 1933, when he dropped the initial story and re-focused it on Circe and Odyssseus. Pound’s letters to Olga Rudge indicate that the canto was ready by 3 April 1933.
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Pound/Ford: The Story of a Literary Friendship. Ed. Brita Lindberg-Seyersted. New York: New Directions, 1982.
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.
Pound/Zukofsky: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky. Ed. Barry Ahearn. New York: New Directions, 1987.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Letters of T. S. Eliot. Volume 7: 1934-1935. Eds. Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden. London: Faber, 2017.
Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
Beinecke Library, Olga Rudge Papers, Series I. Box no/ Folder no.
To Olga Rudge, [15 January 1930]
YCAL 54, 9/211
Just back and very tired, and as I didn’t tidy up desk BEFORE I left; there is more helluva confusion etc.etc.
Most of the cream was at the zoo.
The rest mostly Terracina of which there are no photos.
To Olga Rudge, 9 October 1930, Rome
YCAL 54, 9/231
Ziao – amure
He sent her view of Terracina yesterday […] to seeingvat T. looks like he thinks she’ll git it a wk. after this.
Hiz my job. to finish Two normous vols of V. Berard on Pheniciens & Odysee before his money runz out & he has to return to Rap.
To Dorothy Pound, 10 October 
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
Ben havin nuther go at KAT Kanto. Want that VanBuren autobiog.
To Dorothy Pound, 13 October 
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
Now tryin to d[o] KATS
To Olga Rudge, [10 March 1933]
YCAL 54, 13/338
Ziao, cara, ’mure
He hasn’t done a canto oggi/ [“today”] got stuck somewhere in the mezzo/ [“middle”]
To Olga Rudge, [12 March 1933]
YCAL 54, 13/338
Ziao Cara Amure
He trying to write a poetic canto. not to say lussurioso.
To Olga Rudge, [15 March 1933]
YCAL 54, 13/339
Zia, cara amure;
it is time as allus, to EAT/ and he has got to page 4 of a canto, and possibly the rest only needing copyin’
To Olga Rudge, [16 March 1933]
YCAL 54, 13/340
he continuin his pome
To Olga Rudge, 3 April 
YCAL 54, 13/341
Ziao, cara amure.
She’z got the finished copy of Canto 39/ but guess I have carbon and only need to fill in greek/ she not bother to return it until he ascertains.
She GOT any bright ideas fer his next cantos?
YES// O/K/ he has got a good carbon of XXXIX, so she can keep the one she has with her.
To Ford Maddox Ford, 17 April 
L/FMF 122, 123
Incidentally I dunno who is going to do the Folio of Cantos XXVIII to XLV (or thereabouts); There are 28 to 39 now ready, the second folio vol. ends with 27.
Wot about 61 more Cantos waitin to be did??
Why dont he “commission me” to write Cantos ??????? By the way as you were Ngineerin the Ausgab [G. “publication,” “edition”]/ of XXX what do think of small commytee to answer idiocies of wellmeaning reviewers/
To Ford Maddox Ford, 20 June 
Cantos XXVIII to 39 ready. haven’t been in folio. I mean folio goes to 27/
small vols. to XXX (Faber doing Brit. ed. in autumn). 31 to 34, have been in maggerzeens. anyhow eleven ready fer a folio and will be a couple more before a de luxite printer begins to want ’em.
To Sarah Perkins Cope, 15 January 1934
Skip anything you don’t understand and go on till you pick it up again. All tosh about foreign languages making it difficult. The quotes are all either explained at once by repeat or they are definitely of the things indicated. If reader don’t know what an elephant is, then the word is obscure.
I admit there are a couple of Greek quotes, one along in 39 that can’t be understood without the Greek, but if I can drive the reader to learning at least that much Greek, she or he will indubitably be filled with a a durable gratitude. And if not, what harm? I can’t conceal the fact that the Greek language existed.
To J. Laughlin, 22 January 1934
[...] ALL right/ copies of 35/36 discovered.
That dry twig, [Harriet Monroe] in Chicago is rooting on 37.
38 you have.
39 can’t be released save in vol/ 40 and 41... waal we’ll see how the club furnishing holds out.
To J. Laughlin, 29 January 1934
Yr/ eminently correct point of view occurred to one other high authority, and is incorporated at the start of I think it is 39.
Note: As the editor of the Pound-Laughlin correspondence, David Gordon, states, Laughlin’s “correct point of view” was included in his letter of 18 January 1934, in which he commented on Richard Blackmur’s “depressing” essay on the Cantos published in Hound and Horn: [Blackmur] “is unwilling to see that the CANTOS are the one non-defeatist poem of the age that shows what life is like and where it has been and what about it” (L/JL 19).
From TSE, 8 February 1935
L/TSE 7: 507
Now look here, Podesta, to begin with I am just recoverin from a acute coryza & my secretary [is ill] and I aint got time to deal with much until next Week but […] the immediate point is this that me and also Faber who ought to know some more Greek than I do bein a 1st in Greats have been tryin to emend your greek qootations Podesta why dont you ever read your proofs and verify your references and Podesta why dont you adopt some SYSTEM of transliteration if you got to transliterate at all But he as well as I is handichapped by not knowing the sources and perhaps less familiarity I might say indeed on your part Gross familiarity Podesta with the Yomeric Ymns dont know where ALL the dambed things come from, can you give exact refs. those two big quotes especial they are certainly Meaty when it comes to errors of one Kind or another Do you want the proof back or what damb your eyes liver lights etc. so will close.
To TSE, 10 February 1935
Gordamm that greek/ I putt the line numbers on fht margint, thinking anybody that cd/ reed it at all cd/ tell wot buk it cum from, namely the Circe or Kirke book K. of the O/dishy. and I putt the numbers of the lines from which the small quotes are taken, on some set of proofs…
I don’t quote in full, I leave out woidz that don’t comport with wot I’ma driving at.
NO, I dont want to see any MORE proofs/ the bdy/ thing orter bin out befo/ noo yearz… only for Xtzache don’t send any MORE proofs.
Fht margint – right margin. The numbers of the Homeric text are there (ll.490-5) but indicate six lines where only five were printed.
Book K. – Book X of the Odyssey. Pound’s edition numbered the chapters using the Greek alphabet: K corresponds to 10. See it in Sources.
To T. S. Eliot, 16 February 1935
L/TSE 7: 513 n.2
Waal naow, Possum my Wunkas, Dew yew XXXpekk me to be pracTical AWL th time? Aint it enuff thet I write a nice practical XI Cantos to inskrukk the reader in hist/ and econ/ even if I do leave out a greek hack/cent, which most of the readers wd/ learn to copulate WITHOUT, almost as soon/ unless impeded...
From Louis Zukofsky, 15 March 1935
(And) I’m not going to tell the U.S.A (even) if my word doesn’t spread further than the leetle maggiezeens, that in Mr. Pound’s last “Cantos” I have found nothing to move the cockles of my heart or the network of my brain, outside of 5 lines (perfect lines) given over to Hathor & her box and some musical metaphysics of the dark Cavalcanti.
XXXIX – BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES IN JOURNALS AND COLLECTIONS
- Albright, Daniel. Early Cantos I-XLI. The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound. ed. Ira B. Nadel. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999. 59-91. Free online.
- Casillo, R. “Nature, History, and Anti-Nature in Ezra Pound’s Fascism.” Papers on Language & Literature 22.3 (1986), 284-311.
- Casillo, R. “Plastic Demons: The Scapegoating Process in Ezra Pound.” Criticism 26.4 (1984): 374-75.
- Dembo, L. S. “Fac Deum.” In Conceptions of Reality in Modern American Poetry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. 151-82.
- Fender, Stephen. “Ezra Pound and the Words off the Page: Historical Allusions in Some American Long Poems.” The Yearbook of English Studies 8 (1978): 95-108.
- Georges, Emilie. “Ezra Pound’s Representations of Sexual Intercourse and the Female Genitalia in The Cantos.” Miranda. Revue pluridisciplinaire du monde anglophone / multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal on the English-speaking world 21 (2020). Free online and here.
- Hatcher, Leslie. “‘Circe’s This Craft’: The Active Female Principle in The Cantos.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 24 (1995): 83–94.
- Kempton, Daniel. “The Question of ‘Allusiveness’ and Canto 39.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, Published online: 02 May 2017, 1-6. First page.
- Pearlman, Daniel, D. The Barb of Time. On the Unity of Pound’s Cantos. New York: Oxford UP, 1969. 161-5.
- Read, Forrest. “A Man of No Fortune.” Motive and Method in the Cantos of Ezra Pound. Ed. Lewis Leary. New York: Columbia University Press, 1954. 101-123. Free online.
- Sicari, Stephen. “Reading Pound’s Politics: Ulysses as Fascist Hero.” Paideuma 17.2-3 (Fall-Winter 1988): 145-168. Read article.
- Surette, Leon. “A Light from Eleusis. Some Thoughts on Pound’s ‘Nekuia.’” Paideuma 3.2 (Fall 1974): 191-216.
- Thaniel, George. “‘Thrush’ and the Poetry of Ezra Pound.” Comparative Literature Studies 11.4 (December 1974): 326-36.
BOOK CHAPTERS AND SECTIONS
- Baumann, Walter. “Circe.” The Rose in the Steel Dust. An Examination of The Cantos of Ezra Pound
- Cookson, William. “Circe.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2009. 54-6.
- Davidson, Peter. Ezra Pound and Roman Poetry: A Preliminary Survey. Brill | Rodopi (1714), 1995. 17-28, 63, 142, 148, 151.
- De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: XXXIX.” Ezra Pound. I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1527.
- Fang, Achilles. “Materials for the Study of Pound’s Cantos.” 4 vols. Diss. Harvard U, 1958. Vol I: 59-60.
- Fender, Stephen. The American Long Poem. An Annotated Selection. London: Edward Arnold, 1977. 143-8.
- Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto XXXIX.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. 1252-53.
- Marsh, Alec. Money and Modernity. Pound, Williams and the Spirit of Jefferson. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama Press, 1998. 115-7.
- Moody, David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 175-6.
- Liebregts, P. Th. M. G. Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004. 170, 224-225, 234.
- Pryor, Sean. W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and the Poetry of Paradise. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. 136-42.
- Sicari, Stephen. Pound's Epic Ambition: Dante and the Modern World. New York: SUNY Press, 1991. 51-4.
- Surette, Leon. A Light From Eleusis. A Study of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.
- Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XXXIX.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: California UP, 1993. 160-2.
- “Canto XXXIX.” A Canto a Day. Blog, 10 April 2009. Free online.
- Cesereanu, Ruxandra. Ezra Pound. Canto xxxix. Ezra Pound Literatura Comparata [Romanian]. YouTube. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.
- Pound, Ezra. “Canto XXXIX.” Babelmatrix. Babel Web Anthology. [English-Hungarian]. Free online.
- Pound, Ezra. “Canto XXXIX.” [Spanish-English]. Verseando.com/blog. Free online.
- Ruffeisen, Courtney. Lions and Panthers and Leopards, Oh, My!: A Close Reading of Canto 39 within the framework of The Cantos Project.” 28th Ezra Pound International Conference. Presented June 27, 2019. Salamanca, Spain. Free online.
- Sawyer, Richard. “I Am Hathor. The Beast Fables Excised from Canto 39.” The Cantos Project, 6 February 2020. Free online.
- Sawyer, Richard. “The Golden Tiger Mysteries in Canto 21 & the Fire-Kindling Rite in Canto 39.” The Cantos Project, 16 February 2020. Free online.
- Sellar, Gordon. “Blogging Pound’s The Cantos: Cantos XXXVII-XXXIX.” gordsellar.com, 31 August 2012.Go to site.
- Silver, Sheila. Canto. [setting of canto XXXIX]. Baritone and Chamber Ensemble. Mode Records, 1 April 1979. Free online.