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Pound’s journey  through history begins with canto 1, which translates a passage in the Odyssey in which Odysseus travels to the underworld to speak with Tiresias. Like Odysseus, Pound seeks knowledge, and he seeks it in the minds of men long dead. He cannot speak to them directly, as Odysseus does, but their ghosts remain, nevertheless, if only in the words of old books. Pound begins The Cantos with a concrete representation of the way in which language contains the past. On one of his earliest trips to Paris he had picked up a Renaissance translation of the Odyssey, by Andreas Divus, published in 1538, and it is this version that he himself translated in canto 1. However, in translating it, he chose to use poetic conventions derived from Old English verse. Pound knew that the shape of Odysseus’s quest has survived through millenia, but he also knew that the means for its survival has been a long series of metamorphoses into the particular words of new places, new times. If we would seek ancient visions, we must seek them wherever they have reappeared in the matter of successive cultures, and in canto I Pound reveals the complex filter of language and changing culture which is nevertheless his only way of viewing the past. 

From: James Knapp. Ezra Pound. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979. 137.



THREE CANTOS III [Ur-III] [Odysseus among the dead]

CANTO XX [Odysseus’ sailors as lotus eaters]

CANTO XXIV [a Renaissance Odysseus? Niccolò d’Este’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem]

CANTO XXVIII [modern odysseys: contemporary voyages, transatlantic flights]

CANTO XXXIX [Odysseus and Circe’s advice]

CANTO XL [Greek vs Phoenician: Hanno’s expedition beyond the Pillars of Hercules]

CANTO XLVII [Odysseus sailing after knowledge. But what knowledge?]

CANTO XLIX [ancient civilization of the East and its foundational languages: Chinese and Japanese]







 Pound old  buntinglargejpg

 Ezra Pound
Washington D.C., June 1958 

(Penn Sound Archive)

Basil Bunting
Newcastle, 1977 

(Penn Sound Archive)

 Oisin Breen


Oisin Breen
University of Edinburgh, 2012

Paul Cunningham
Scottish Poetry Library
Edinburgh, 2 February 2017

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







canto 1 stemma



Taylor, Richard Dean. [Stemma Canto I]. “The History and State of the Texts.” A Poem Containing History. Textual Studies in The Cantos. Ed. Lawrence S. Rainey. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Press, 1997. 247.










Screenshot 2017 02 26 04.28.08

canto 1





Canto I in A Draft of XVI Cantos.
Paris: Three Mountains Press, 1925.
Illustrations by Henry Strater.

Canto I 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.








canto 1 1964




First published in A Draft of XVI Cantos, (Three Mountains Press, 1925), Canto I is a reworking of the last part of Three Cantos III (1917).

[For a more comprehensive Calendar, please consult the one for the Three Cantos]





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.
  L  The Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. London: Faber, 1951.



To Kate Buss 12 May 1923

L 256

The three Mts. Is following this prose series by a dee looks edtn of my Cantos (about 16 of ’em, I think) of UNRIVALLED magnificence. Price 25 dollars per copy, and 50 and 100 bones for Vellum and illuminateds.
           It is to be one of the real bits of printing; modern book to be jacked up to somewhere near level of mediaeval mss. No Kelmscott mess of illegibility. Large clear type, but also large pages, and specially made capitals.
        Marse Henry [Strater] doing these; and the sketches already done are A-1. Not for the Vulgus. There’ll only be about 60 copies for sale; and about 15 more for the producers.


To Dorothy Pound, [13 July 1923] 

Lilly Library Pound Mss. III; 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; 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; A 21

Dearest Mao

            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; 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; 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; 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; 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.



 To Dorothy Pound, 12 May 1931, Paris 

Lilly Library Pound Mss. III



Carnevali has sent in trans of Canto I = partly good, but needs lot of working over.





 rsz odysseus in nekyia



  1. Cè, Massimo. “Translating the Odyssey: Andreas Divus, Old English, and Ezra Pound’s Canto 1. The Classics in Modernist Translation. Eds. Miranda Hickman and Lynn Kozak. London: Bloomsbury, 2019. 33-44.
  2. D’Epiro, Peter. “Italian translation of Canto I by Ezra Pound.” Journal of Italian Translation 9.1/2 (Spring & Fall 2014): 88-95 [headnote on 88-91, facing-page translation on 92-95]. Free online
  3. Dembo, L. S. “Fac Deum.” In Conceptions of Reality in Modern American Poetry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. 151-82.
  4. Fournier, Michael. “A Note on the Ell-Square Pitkin.” Paideuma 14.2-3 (1985): 289-290. 
  5. Foster, John L. “Pound’s Revision of Cantos I-III.” Modern Philology 63.3 (1966): 236-245. Go to article.
  6. Gelpi, Albert. “The Map for the Periplum: Canto 1 as Archetypal Schema.” American Poetry 1.2 (1984): 49-59. 
  7. Glenn, E. M. “A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Cantos (I-IV).” The Analyst I (March 1953): 1-7.
  8. Glenn, E. M. “A Guide to CANTO I of Ezra Pound (Revised and Enlarged).” The Analyst 8 (June 1955): 1-10.
  9. Glenn, Edgar M. “Serendipitous Aphrodite in Ezra Pound’s Canto I.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 27.2-3 (1998): 9-49. 
  10. Kahane, Ahuvia. “Blood for Ghosts? Homer, Ezra Pound, and Julius Africanus.” New Literary History 30.4 (Autumn 1999): 815-836. Free online.

  11. Karachalios, Evan R. “Sacrifice and Selectivity in Ezra Pound’s First Canto.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 24.1 (1995): 95-106.  
  12. Li, Victor. “The Rhetoric of Presence: Reading Pound’s Cantos I to III.” English Studies in Canada 14.3 (Sept. 1988): 296-309.
  13. McMahon, Robert. “Homer/Pound's Odysseus and Virgil/Dante’s Ulysses: Pound’s First Canto and the Commedia.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 16.3 (1987): 67-75. 
  14. Moody, David A. “Cantos I and III.” Agenda 21.1 (1979-1980): 65-79.
  15. O'Hear, Anthony. “Listening to the Dead.” The Fortnightly Review, February 3, 2010. Free online.
  16. Paul, Catherine. “Canto I.” Readings in The Cantos. Ed. Richard Parker. Clemson: Clemson UP, 2018. 10-32.
  17. Riikonen, Hannu K. “Andreas Divus, Ezra Pound and the fate of Elpenor.” Interlitteraria VII (2008): 138-147.
  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. 
  19. Sicari, Stephen. “Reading Pound’s Politics: Ulysses as Fascist Hero.” Paideuma 17.2-3 (Fall-Winter 1988): 145-168. Read article
  20. Varsos, George. “Ezra Pound on Translation: Out of Homer: Greek in Pound’s Cantos.” The Classics in Modernist Translation. Eds. Miranda Hickman and Lynn Kozak. London: Bloomsbury, 2019. 21-32.
  21.  Whitaker, Richard. “The Figure of Odysseus in Ezra Pound’s ‘Cantos.’” English Studies in Africa 33: (1990): 37-48.



  1. Bacigalupo, Massimo. “Annotazioni I.” Ezra Pound XXX Cantos. Parma: Ugo Guanda, 2012. 337.
  2. Baumann, Walter. “Circe.” The Rose in the Steel Dust. Bern: Franke, 1967. 58-60.
  3. Brooker, Peter. “Canto I.” A Student’s Guide to the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound. London: Faber 1979. 237-40. 
  4. Childs, J. S. Modernist Form. Pound’s Style in the Early Cantos. Susquehanna University Press. 1986. 28-32; 44-6.
  5. Cookson, William. “I. Nekuia.” In A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2001. 1-5. 
  6. Culligan Flack, Leah. Modernism and Homer. The Odysseys of H.D., James Joyce, Osip Mandelstam, and Ezra Pound. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015. 25-58. 
  7. Davenport, Guy. “Periplus.” Cities on Hills: Study 1-30 of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1984. 105-10.
  8. De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: I.” Ezra Pound I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1505.
  9. Dennis, Helen. “Canto One.” In  A New Approach to the Poetry of Ezra Pound Through the Medieval Provençal Aspect. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Pres, 1996. 330-336.
  10. Froula, Christine. A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 1983. 128-132.
  11. Gelpi, Albert. [Canto I]. A Coherent Splendour. The American Poetic Renaissance 1910-1950. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987. 188-189.
  12. 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. [194-6]
  13. Ickstadt, Heinz und Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto I.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. Eds. Manfred Pfister and Heinz Ickstadt. Zurich: Arche Literatur Verlag, 2013. 1191-93.
  14. Rainey, Lawrence Scott, ed. Modernism. An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 62-63. 
  15. Sicari, Stephen. Pound’s Epic Ambition. Dante and the Modern World. New York: SUNY Press, 1991. 21-24.
  16. Sieburth, Richard. “Notes. Canto I.” Ezra Pound. New Selected Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 2010. 304-5. 
  17. Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto I.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993. 1-4.
  18. Thurston, Michael. The Underworld in Twentieth Century Poetry. London: Palgrave, 2009. 29-34.



  1. “Canto I.” A Canto a Day. Blog, 14 January 2009. Accessed 4 August 2018. Free online. 
  2. “On Canto I.” Modern American Poetry. Eds. Cary Nelson and B. Brinkman.  MAPS on Canto I.
  3. Bressan, Eloisa. “Canto I.” Il Vortice Greco-Provenzale nell’inferno de I Cantos. MA Thesis. U di Padova, 2012. 33-58. Free online
  4. Guidi, Paolo. “Canto I.” The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Etching series. 9 September 2012. Accessed 4 August 2018. Free online
  5. Pound, Ezra. “Canto I.” Poetry Foundation. Free online.
  6. Pound, Ezra. Canto I. Don Yorty Blog. [Pound’s reading of Canto I with commentary.] Free online
  7. Sellar, Gordon. “Ezra Poundings - The Reboot.” Blog, 14 February 2012. Free online.
  8. Sellar Gordon. “Blogging Pound’s The Cantos: Canto I.” Blog, 21 February 2012. Free online.


The Fifth Decad

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Cantos LII - LXXI

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