THE ADAMS CANTOS
The tragedy of the U.S.A. over 160 years is the decline of Adamses. More and more we cd., if we examined events, see that John Adams had the corrective for Jefferson.
Ezra Pound. Guide to Kulchur 254
Comes now 1938 and I point out to one of our most brilliant American publishers that you can get Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, all of them exotics, for 10 cents or a quarter a volume, and that no American can buy the best of J. Adams, Jefferson, and Van Buren at any price; or maybe he can dig up an uncirculated publication of the Historical Association at three dollars. All of these guys were 100% U.S.A.-ers.
“But,” says the publisher, “Nobody would be interested in what they said. Now if you were to write out exactly the same words as your own, I think we could sell it.”
In Europe you couldn’t. Some bloke like Francis Picabia, or some librarian like Manlio Dazzi would call it. The former would say something bright and snappy about: Who discovered the moon. And the latter would with chapter and verse observe that Marco Polo, or Bacon, or as the case were, Mr. Adams, had on the 3rd of January, 1803, written to Mr. Whoosis a letter containing on page three, lines 9 to 14, the remarks used by .....
Ezra Pound “Responsibility? Shucks!” Globe, Feb-March 1938, in P&P VII: 304.
There is a five-part overall structure deriving from the arrangement of the Works of John Adams.
- an overview of Adams’s life – canto 62 with the first page of 63, drawn from the biography in volume I by his son John Quincy Adams and his grandson Charles Francis Adams;
- Adams’s own view of his life and public service (up to 1796, when he became president) – canto 63 through to the second page of 66, drawn from his diaries and autobiographical writings in volumes 2 and 3;
- his pivotal ideas of government as he wrote them out in his political essays – canto 66 through to the beginning of 68, from volumes 3, 4, and 6;
- the official record of his public service (from 1771 to the close of his presidency in 1801) – canto 68 through to the second page of 70, drawn from his official correspondence and papers in volumes 7-9;
- Adams’s retrospective view of his career, as in ‘the mirror of memory’ – cantos 70 and 71, drawn from his private correspondence (up to 1818) in volumes 9 and 10.
A. David Moody. Ezra Pound: Poet II: 286.
Note on colours in the table above: green - link to the poem; orange: inactive link.