Article Index








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Amid the sea, Venice is built from the essence of the sea. … if in fantasy the stones of Venice appear as the waves’ petrification, then Venetian glass, compost of Venetian sand and water, expresses the taut curvature of the cold under-sea, the slow, oppressed yet brittle curves of dimly translucent water.

Adrian Stokes. [1934]. The Stones of Rimini. Aldeshot: Ashgate, 2002. 19, 20.


There’s a dictionary of symbols, but I think it immoral. I mean that I think a superficial acquaintance with the sort of shallow, conventional, or attributed meaning of a lot of symbols weakens - damnably, the power of receiving an energized symbol. I mean a symbol appearing in a vision has a certain richness & power of energizing joy - whereas if the supposed meaning of a symbol is familiar it has no more force, or interest of power of suggestion than any other word, or than a synonym in some other language. 

Ezra Pound to Dorothy Shakespear,  14 January 1914. EP/DS 302; Tryphonopoulos, Celestial Tradition 72.


When I say above that technique is the means of conveying an exact impression of exactly what one means, I do not by any means mean that poetry is to be stripped of any of its powers of vague suggestion. Our life is, in so far as it is worth living, made up in great part of things indefinite, impalpable; and it is precisely because the arts present us these things that we – humanity – cannot get on without the arts. The picture that suggests indefinite poems, the line of verse that means a gallery of paintings, the modulation that suggests a score of metaphors and is contained in none: it is these things that touch us nearly that ‘matter.’

Ezra Pound. “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris.” 1911. SP 33.



CANTO II [classical pastoral]

CANTO XXI [classical pastoral]

CANTOS XXV and XXVI [Venice]

CANTO XXIX [last section: classical pastoral]

CANTO XXXIX [sex and sleep]

CANTO XLVII [Zagreus and Adonis]








Pound old



Ezra Pound reading the canto:

The Harvard Vocarium Readings, Recorded in Cambridge, Mass. May 17, 1939.

Canto XVII (“So that the vines burst from my fingers” (76-79)) (7:00) (PennSound)

An Angle, Recorded in Venice, ca. 1970 or 1971

Canto XVII [From “A boat came” [(77) through “In the gloom” (78)] (1:40) (PennSound)




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David Moody. Introduction to Canto XVII.

Paul Cunningham reading the canto. Video clip on ucreate.

A Reading of The Cantos of Ezra Pound. II. Cantos of the 1920s.

Edinburgh University, 50 George Square, 5 October 2017.

Photos courtesy of Svetlana Ehtee, October 2017

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


[Canto XVII begins 4:57] read by Augustus Sol Invictus. Published on Dec 1, 2013, LSD recordings 01 December 2013.









canto 17 2

canto 17 



Canto XVII in A Draft of the Cantos 17-27
London: John Rodker, 1928.
Illumination by Gladys Hynes.

   Canto XVII in A Draft of XXX Cantos
   Paris: Hours Press, 1930.
   Capitals by Dorothy Pound.

Note: The above images are not to scale. The 1928 edition is a folio, whereas the 1930 one is pocket-size.









After submitting the text of A Draft of XVI Cantos to William Bird in January 1924, Pound went to Italy to rest. At the end of 1923, he had gone to hospital to have surgery for appendicitis, but in the end, it was decided that he might recuperate without an operation (EPP II: 58).

For the third year in a row, Pound was spending a good part of the winter and spring in Italy. In 1922, he had been to Rimini, Verona, Venice and Sirmione; in 1923, he visited all the significant places of Sigismondo Malatesta to get a feel of the lay of the land; and in 1924, he spent time in Rapallo and from tehre, went to Florence, Perugia and Assisi between 6 January and 1 June. In the letters to his parents, he mentioned that he projected a trip to Venice in April, but we have no further testimony that this visit took place (L/HP 526). He had with him a history of Ferrara and the d’Este family as holiday reading.

He spent April in Florence at the Hotel Berchielli and fiercely argued with William Bird over Henry Strater’s designs for A Draft of XVI Cantos in general and the capital for canto 4, specifically. By mid-May, in Assisi, he was feeling better, rested enough to miss his typewriter, which was a “sign of awakening energy” (L/HP 530). A “few more cantos” had already been drafted.

This is the context of the writing of canto 17: Pound was in Italy, not his usual active self, but resting in quiet small towns with no other agenda than writing letters and reading. He intended to go to Venice, but this may just have been an unfulfilled wish. The Beinecke Library has a folder where the canto text is written by hand (YCAL 43 71/3175), which means it had achieved near completion before Pound returned to his typewriter in Paris at the end of May 1924. J. J. Wilhelm cites a meeting with W.C. Williams on 1 June, which means Pound was already in town by that date (Ezra Pound in London and Paris 338). The references to the alley of cypresses and the dream of going to Venice may even suggest March-April in Florence as the likeliest period of initial composition. The changes and additions Pound made to the poem in typescript are relatively minor: he added six lines about Zagreus at the beginning (P 70); reworked the passage on the alley of Memnons; took out a Mithraic ritual scene around his reference to Zothar, and added four lines at the end.

The poem first appeared in This Quarter 1.2 (Autumn/Winter 1925). Cantos in periodicals.

It was then republished in W. B. Yeats’s Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935 in 1936.



Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.




Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound to His Parents. Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.


Moody, David. Ezra Pound: Poet. A Portrait of the Man and His Work. Volume II. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.


Pryor, Sean. W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and the Poetry of Paradise. New York: Routledge, 2016.



To Homer Pound, 16 May 1924, Assisi

L/HP 530

Dear Dad:


Have read vast work on Ferrara - & blocked out course of a few more cantos.


Am beginning to want typewriter again = sign of awakening energy.


To Agnes Bedford, August 1924, Paris [Lilly Library]

EPP 61

[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

L/HP 545

Dear Dad:


Must start on another LONG hunk of Canti, like the Sigismundo having used up the chop-chop in the five now drafted.



To Homer Pound, (c. May 1925), Rapallo

L/HP 565

Yeas mong vieux:


Canto XVII deals with a sort of paradiso terrestre.



To Olga Rudge, April 1926

EPP 68

“In April he wrote that he had nine cantos more or less finished–they would have been 17-to 25–‘but they don’t make a vollum’."



To Homer Pound, 3 April 1927, Rapallo

L/HP 623

Dear Dad:


Rodker is preparing to print Canti [sic] XVII-XXVI; and has the mss. for nine of them in hand. I suppose I get another one done by August, or sometime.


To Homer Pound, 10 April 1927

L/HP 624

As you don’t know what’s in Cantos XVII-XXV; I suppose you have no STRONG ideas re/what ought to go into the next ten; apart from Nero’s having remarked that he wished the Roman people had only one neck. even that simplification seems to present complications.



To Homer Pound, 19 August 1928

L/HP 666

Dear Dad:


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 Hynes]."



To Luigi Berti, August 1941

P 71 

In August 1941 Pound wrote to Luigi Berti with suggestions for translating Canto XVII into Italian. In particular, he notes that the opening ‘So that’ does not mean ‘forse’ (‘perhaps’): ‘e CERTISSIMO / parte della verita eterna del poema’ (it is absolutely certain / part of the eternal truth of the poem’). Nevertheless, this eternal truth is conditioned by the line’s prospectivity. (See Ezra Pound, Lettere 1907-1958, ed. Aldo Tagliaferri, Milan: Feltrinelli Editore, 1980. 150).



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  1. Blackmur, Richard. “An Adjunct to the Muses’ Diadem. A Note on E.P.” In Language as Gesture. New York: Columbia UP, 1952. 155-163. 
  2. Esh, Sylvan. “Sunset Flying: The Poetic Function in Pound’s Canto 17.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 27.2-3 (1998): 177-84. Print. 
  3. Harding, Jason. “The Myth of Venice and the Decline of Eliot and Pound.” Venice and the Cultural Imagination: ‘This Strange Dream upon the Water’. Eds. Michael O’Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012. 141-56.
  4. Nicholls, Peter. “Gold and Gloom in Ravenna: On a Line in Ezra Pound’s Cantos.” Modern Philology 119.4 (May 2022): 535-554. Abstract.
  5. Pryor, Sean. “Canto 17.” Readings in the Cantos. Ed. Richard Parker. Clemson: Clemson UP, 2018. 155-64. 
  6. Rudolph, Donna C. “Formulas for Paradise in Six Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 20.1-2 (1991): 129-40. Print. 
  7. Scappettone, Jennifer. “Utopia Interrupted: Archipelago as Sociolyric Structure in ‘A Draft of XXX Cantos.’” PMLA 122.1 (January 2007): 105-123. 



  1. Albright, Daniel. “Early Canto I-XLI.” The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. 79.
  2. Bacigalupo, Massimo. “Annotazioni XVII.” Ezra Pound XXX Cantos. Parma: Ugo Guanda, 2012. 345.
  3. Bacigalupo, Massimo. The Forméd Trace. The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound. New York: Columbia UP, 1980. 37.
  4. Barnes, David. The Venice Myth: Culture, Literature, Politics, 1800 to the Present. London: Routledge, 2014. 117-36.
  5. Brooker, Peter. A Student’s Guide to The Selected Poems of Ezra Pound. London: Faber, 1979. 263-266.
  6. Cookson, William. “Dionysus-Eleusis-Venice: i vitrei.” A Guide to the Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2001. 29-30.
  7. Davenport, Guy. “The forest of marble.” In Cities on Hills. A Study of I-XXX of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Epping: Bowker, 1983. 194-99. 
  8. De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: XVII.” Ezra Pound I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1512. 
  9. Davie, Donald. Ezra Pound. The Poet as Sculptor. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1964. 127-28.
  10. Flory, Wendy. Ezra Pound and The Cantos: A Record of Struggle. New Haven: Yale UP, 1980. 130-32.
  11. Froula, Christine. “Canto XVII.” In A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 1983. 152-55.
  12. Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto XVII.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. Eds. Manfred Pfister and Heinz Ickstadt. Zurich: Arche Literatur Verlag, 2013. 1222.
  13. Kayman, Martin A. The Modernism of Ezra Pound. The Science of Poetry. Houndmills: Palgrave, 1986. 123-26.
  14. Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. London: Faber, 1972. 419-20.
  15. Liebregts, Peter. Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP 2004. 166-78.
  16. Makin, Peter. Pound’s Cantos. London: Allen & Unwin, 1985. 152-7.
  17. Miyake, Akiko. “Circe’s Island and the Philosopher’s Stones of Venice.” Cantos 14 through 17 and 25 through 26. Ezra Pound and the Mysteries of Love. A Plan for The Cantos. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1991. 129-150.
  18. Moody, David A. Ezra Pound: Poet. A Portrait of the Man & His Work. Volume II. The Epic Years 1921-1938. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 88-89.
  19. Nassar, Eugene Paul. The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Lyric Mode. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1975. 37-9.
  20. Nicholls, Peter. Ezra Pound: Politics, Economics and Writing; A Study of ‘The Cantos’. London, 1984. 34-6.
  21. Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound and James Laughlin. Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New Yorl: Norton, 1994. 261.
  22. Pryor, Sean. W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and the Poetry of Paradise. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. 69-75. 
  23. Ricciardi, Caterina. Eikones. Ezra Pound e il Rinascimento. Napoli: Liguori Editore, 1991. 231-45.
  24. Sherry, Vincent. Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Radical Modernism. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. 156-63.
  25. Sieburth, Richard. “Notes. Canto XVII.” Ezra Pound. New Selected Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 2010. 314-15. 
  26. Surette, Leon. A Light from Eleusis: Study of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979. 45-51.
  27. Tanner, Tony. “Ezra Pound: The White Forest of Marble.” In Venice Desired. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard UP, 1992. 303-10.
  28. Terrell Carroll F. “Canto XVII.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993. 72-74.
  29. Tryphonopoulos, Demetres P. The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos. Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 1992. 108-126.



  1. “Canto XVII.”A Canto a Day. Blog, 3 February 2009. Accessed 4 August 2018. Free online.
  2. Guidi, Paolo. “Canto XVII.” The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Etching series. 28 September 2012. Accessed 4 August 2018. Free online.
  3. Pound, Ezra. “Canto XVII.” [reading at An Angle, Recorded in Venice, ca. 1970 or 1971].
  4. Pound, Ezra. “Canto XVII.” [reading at The Harvard Vocarium Readings, Recorded in Cambridge, Mass., May 17, 1939]. PENNSOUND.
  5. Prynne, J.H. “Reading Ezra Pound: Seven.” PDF created 20 August 2007. Last modified April 2006. Gonville & Caius University of Cambridge. Free online. 
  6. Sellar, Gordon. Blogging Pound's The Cantos: Canto XVII – Toward “A Draft of Cantos 17-27.” Free online


The Fifth Decad

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Cantos LII - LXXI

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