CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION
Following the thread of Pound’s letters to his parents and the autograph drafts, we can establish that the canto was first drafted in Italy, where Pound was recuperating in the spring of 1924. It was finished by 28 January 1925, when Pound wrote to his father from Palermo that he had typed it up. The poet then published the beginning, until “E il Marchese/ Stava per divernir pazzo/ after it all” in the Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers (1925) as “A Canto.” He then printed the middle part of the canto, starting with Niccolò d’Este’s madness, including the lotus eaters’ paradise and running to the second “ligur’ aoide”, in his own magazine Exile in the spring of 1927. Fragment of canto XX in Exile. The third section, starting with “From the plain whence the water shoot” was only published in the volume, A Draft of Cantos 17-27, in 1928.
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Moody, A. David. Ezra Pound: Poet. A Portrait of the Man and His Work. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007-2015.
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound To His Parents: Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
Pound, Ezra. The Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907-1941. Ed. D. D. Paige. London: Faber, 1951.
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.
Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
To IWP, end of May, Paris
I start for Sirmione tomorrow.
I’ve got another prose book in my head to do after I finish Daniel, and a rather nice trip to take after I leave Sirmione. Verona, Mantua, Ferrara, Ravenna, Rimini, Bologna, Pistoja, Lucca, Siena.
Bill Williams brother is in Rome. & I may winter there. Hueffer wants me in Giessen for some work but I don't know whether it’s worth while. […]
I expect to finish Arnaut in Sirmione, by July Ist which is two or three months sooner than I at first expected.
To IWP, Hotel Pension Chiave d’Oro Verona
I’ve been Veronizing with Williams & ‘done’ Mantua & Goito with him, and poked up the library here. & seen the gallery. I’m going back to Sirmio for a couple of weeks, then I shall look in at the Ambrosiana Library in Milan & go north to act as Hueffers secretary for a few weeks & thence to London.
To Homer Pound, July 1911
Let me see. I’ve been to Verona & Mantua with Bill Williams’ brother. I go to Milan next week to see a mss of Arnaut which is supposed to have the music as well as the words of one or two of his canzoni. Thence to Giessen where I shall do a bit of work for Hueffer. Thence in London.
To IWP, 22 July, Hotel Eden Sirmione
I go to Milan Wednesday to see a mss of Arnaut that’s supposed to have some music in it. – Jean Beck the best authority on Provençal music, writes me naively that he is going to Illinois ‘don't je vient d’etre nomme professeur’ – poor devil, ‘e don't know what he’s in for.
Bill’s brother has been mucking about Ferrara, Ravenna, etc. finding it hot and disagreeable – he may get round here for another bath before I go.
To IWP, 27 July, Hotel Belle Venise, Milan
I’m delighted with Milan, contrary to my expectations & remembrance – Perhaps this too expensive hotel has something to do with it. I have had a delightful morning in the Ambrosiana, found a mss of Arnaut with musical notation which accords exactly with my theories of how his music should be written. – which same, is very consoling.
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920)
E. P. ODE POUR L’ÉLECTION DE SON SÉPULCHRE
For three years, out of key with his time,
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain “the sublime”
In the old sense. Wrong from the start—
No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait:
“Idmen gar toi panth, os eni Troie
Caught in the unstopped ear;
Giving the rocks small lee-way
The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.
His true Penelope was Flaubert,
He fished by obstinate isles;
Observed the elegance of Circe’s hair
Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.
Unaffected by “the march of events,”
He passed from men’s memory in l’an trentiesme
De son eage; the case presents
No adjunct to the Muses’ diadem.
Mauberley Part II
Not knowing, day to day,
The first day’s end, in the next noon;
The placid water
Unbroken by the Simoon;
Placid beneath warm suns,
Washed in the cobalt of oblivions;
Or through dawn-mist
The grey and rose
Of the juridical
A consciousness disjunct,
Being but this overblotted
Coracle of Pacific voyages,
The unforecasted beach;
Then on an oar
And I no more exist;
To Agnes Bedford, October 1920
Kattegorrikaly DAMN the woman. I refuse to spoil one of the best bits of Provençal by making a rush crib in twenty minutes to order. Meaning is all tied up with sound.
First strophe is about new leaves and flowers bring back fragrance to the heart.
Second–insomnia–due to natural cause usual at the season.
Then–where a man’s treasure is there will his heart be also.
Then–and if I see her not, no sight is worth the beauty of my thought–which is the trouvaille–can’t spoil it by botched lead up.
There is no literal translation of a thing where the beauty is melted into the original phrase. Tell the brute to take a literal photo of the Venus de Milo.
Note: The letter refers to Bernard de Ventadour’s poem Can par la flor josta.l vert folh (“When flowers appear beneath green leaves”), which Ezra and Agnes were planning on including into Five Troubadour Songs, a small collection published by Boosey in 1920. The two lines that Pound especially liked are taken from the third stanza of the poem. He included them as lines 2 and 3 of canto XX in the original Provençal.
François Villon: Ballade pour prier Notre Dame
Femme je suis pauvrette et ancienne,
Qui riens ne sais; oncques lettres ne lus.
Au moutier vois, dont suis paroissienne,
Paradis peint, où sont harpes et luths,
Et un enfer où damnés sont boullus:
L'un me fait peur, l’autre joie et liesse.
La joie avoir me fais, haute Déesse,
A qui pécheurs doivent tous recourir,
Comblés de foi, sans feinte ne paresse:
En cette foi je veuil vivre et mourir.
Note. Pound included the “Ballade pour prier Notre Dame” in his opera Le Testament de Francois Villon in all the versions he composed in 1921, 1923, and 1926. “Paradis peint, où sont harpes et luths” remained in Pound’s memory all his life - he remembered it again in 1936 (in the usury cantos, 45 and 51) and in 1945 in the Pisan camp (canto 74). The whole canto 20, with its three instances of (painted) paradise, can be regarded as an elaboration of this idea. See whole poem by François Villon.
To Homer Pound, 16 May 1924, Assisi
Have read vast work on Ferrara - & blocked out course of a few more cantos.
Some of Henry’s designs are good - I dont care for the one Bill is using as an ad. [the Fourth Canto] but I am pleased quite definitely with some of the others.
Shd have been in Paris to make final selection etc - but still. - it will be a fairly good looking book. - you are NOT expected to subscribe - an exemplaire will reach you in due course.
Am beginning to want typewriter again = sign of awakening energy.
To Agnes Bedford, August 1924, Paris [Lilly Library]
[I have] ‘another large wad of mss. for cantos to go on with after Bill has got through printing the 16’.
To Homer Pound, 25 October 1924, Rapallo
Must start on another LONG hunk of Canti, like the Sigismundo having used up the chop-chop in the five now drafted. (2 of which I have sent you.)
To Homer Pound, 28 January 1925, Palermo
I have typed to end on Canto XX. & recd. copy of Bill’s edtn. I-XVI – special proofs.
To Homer Pound, 25 March 1925, Rapallo
Wot ells. Have typed out most of seven cantos, taking it up to XXIII.
To Homer Pound, May 1925, Rapallo
Yeas, mong vieux;
Am not writing for the mentally infirm. Nor have I any interest in keeping up the consecrated humbugs of the ang-sax woild.
Canto XVII deals with a sort of paradiso terrestre. XVIII and XIX, I think you have. Geryon, fraude. You can look it up in yr. Dante. the minor hell of rascality.
XX lotophagoi; further sort of paradiso. or something in that direction.
then some narrative. Medici and Este.
A part of Canto XX, (starting from “E’l Marchese/Stava per divenir pazzo”),
published in Exile 1.1 (Spring 1927)
To Olga Rudge, 6 March 1927
Quoted in Christine Froula, “Groundwork for an Edition of The Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Diss. U of Chicago, 1977. 17
O yes sent off the epreuves of XX, with let us zope his [Pound’s] ignorance finally concealed under umpteen corrections, including 2 c’s in Boccata, who probably ends in an i, but demd if I am going to spoil the sound on the authority of a picture post card when his name isn’t in Baedeker.
To Homer Pound, 3 April, 1927
Rodker is preparing to print Canti XVII-XXVI; and has the mss. for nine of them in hand. I suppose I get another one done by August, or sometime. [17-25]
To Homer Pound 11 April, 1927, Rapallo
L/HP 625-26; L 284-85; SL 210-211
Afraid the whole damn poem is rather obscure, especially in fragments. Have I ever given you outline of main scheme ::: or whatever it is?
1. Rather like, or unlike subject and response and counter subject in fugue.
A. A. Live man goes down into world of Dead
C. B. The ‘repeat in history’
B. C. The ‘magic moment’ or moment of metamorphosis, bust thru from quotidien into ‘divine or permanent world’. Gods, etc.
In Canto XX, fragment in Exile. Nicolo d’Este in sort of delirium after execution of Parisina and Ugo. (For facts vide, I spose, the Encyclopedia Britan.)
“And the Marchese
was nearly off his head after it all”
Various things keep cropping up in the poem.
The original world of gods; the Trojan War,
Helen on the wall of Troy with the old men fed up with the whole show and suggesting she be sent back to Greece.
Rome founded by survivors of Troy. Here ref. to legendary founding of Este (condit (founded) Atesten, Este).
Then in the delirium, Nicolo remembers or thinks he is watching death of Roland. Elvira on wall or Toro (subject-rhyme with Helen on wall) (epi purgos, on wall); peur de la hasle (afraid of sunburn);
Neestho (translated in text: let her go back); (H)o bios :: (life);
cosi Elena vi[d]i (thus I saw Helen,
(misquote of Dante).
The whole reminiscence jumbled or ‘candied’ in Nicolo's delirium. Take that as a sort of bounding surface from which one gives the main subject of the Canto, the lotophagoi: lotus eaters, or respectable dope smokers; and general paradiso. :::: You have had a hell in Canti XIV, XV; purgatorio in XVI etc.
The ‘nel fuoco’ is from St. Francis’ ‘cantico’:
‘My new spouse placeth me in the flame of love.’
Then the remarks of the opium smoker about the men who sailed under Ulysses.
Voce profondo : with deep voice.
and then resumé of Odyssey, or rather of the main parts of Ulysses’ voyage up to death of all his crew.
for Elpenor, vide Canto I.
Ear wax, ears plugged so they couldn’t hear the sirens.
Neson amumona, literally the narrow island: bull-field where Apollo’s cattle are kept.
Ligur aoide: keen or sharp singing (sirens),
song with an edge on it.
that gets most of the foreign quotations.
Tan mare fustes: is Roland’s remark to moor who comes up to finish him off, as nearly as I can remember his sword is broken, but he smashes the moor over the head with his horn (olifans :: elephant : olifant tusk and then dies grumbling because he has damaged the ornaments on the horn and broken it.
Tan mare fustes, colloquial: you came at a bad moment. Current cabaret song now: J’en ai marre: I’m fed up.
Any more ke-weschuns???
To Homer Pound, 19 August 1928
Have signed title pages for XVII-XXVII, suppose they will get bound sometime. etc. [...]
Nancy Cunard has taken over Bill B’s printing press, also wants to continue printing. Expecting our illustratess or capitalistress in a week or so. [Gladys Hines].
“Medievalism and Medievalism (Guido Cavalcanti)” P&P V: 23
Nobody can absorb the poeti dei primi secoli and then the paintings of the Ufizzi without seeing the relation between them, Daniel, Ventadorn, Guido, Sellaio, Botticelli, Ambrogio Praedis, Cosimo Tura.
All these are clean, all without hell obsession.
Note: “Medievalism“ was published in The Dial in March 1928 (P&P V: 19-25). It was reprinted with slight changes in Make It New (1934) and Literary Essays (1954) as a subheading of “Cavalcanti” (LE 149-200).