COMPANION TO CANTO LI
Annotations in the List of Works Cited:
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher [if different from website name], Date of Publication in Day Month Year format, URL. [MLA 8 format].
Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project, 2016-.
Preda, Roxana. “Companion to Canto IV.” The Cantos Project, 5 August 2016. thecantosproject.ed.ac.uk/index.php/a-draft-of-xvi-cantos-overview/canto-iv/companion-to-canto-iv
OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound
([Contributor name], OCCEP IV: n.no).
Example: (Bressan OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss or translation was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).
References to The Cantos
As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.7–17.
For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.
©Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto LI, 31 August 2020
Updated 29 November 2022
Updated 18 September 2023.
Updated 20 November 2023
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Pound, Ezra. Guide to Kulchur. New York: New Directions, 1970.
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy: The Inferno. Translated by Allen Mandelbaum. Digital Dante.
Matthews, R. H. Matthews’ Chinese–English Dictionary. Revised American Edition. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard UP, 1943.
Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project. Companion.
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. 11 vols. New York: Garland, 1990.
shines in the mind of heaven … eye – translation of two lines from the fifth stanza of Guido Guinizelli’s poem “Al cor gentil sempre repaira l’amore” (“Love always returns to the noble heart”). Poem.
Splende ’n la ’ntelligenzia del cielo
Deo criator più che ’n nostr’occhi ’l sole
God, the creator, shines in the mind of heaven
More that the sun in our eyes.
mud – An often cited remark that Napoleon made in Poland, when returning from the Russian campaign: “Dieu, outre l’eau, l’air, la terre et le feu a crée une cinquième element, la boue” [“God — besides water, air, earth and fire — has created a fifth element — mud!”].
Pound follows up on Guinizelli’s distinction between the divine light manifested in the human capacity to love and the “mud” (read: “the insensitive heart”) on which God shines with no effect: “Fere lo sol lo fango tutto ’l giorno: / vile reman, né ’l sol perde calore” (“The sun shines on the mud all day long/ it remains vile, nor does the sun lose its heat”).
For Pound, God’s light is manifested in human intelligence whereas the “mud” is the one of usury, war, and greed. There is an eternal war between the two, as he restated in Italian in canto 72: “il canto della guerra eterna fra luce e fango” [“the canto of the eternal war between light and mud” LXXII/426].
with usury … herd – Musical variation on the lines of canto 45, using a modern diction. See XLV: ll.2-48 and OCCEP XLV nn.1-31.
blue dun – fly used in trout fishing. “No.2” refers to the illustration page in Pound’s source, Charles Bowlker’s The Art of Angling (Hesse 83). Bowlker gives precise instructions on how a fisherman is to create an artificial fly that is such a precise reproduction of the natural one that the fish (trout or salmon) takes it.
BLUE DUN. No. 2.
“This Fly is found on most rivers; it appears in the beginning of March and continues till the end of April. Its wings stand upright on its back, and are made of a feather out of a starling’s wing, or the blue feathers that are found under the wing of a duck widgeon; the body is of the blue fur of a fox, or the blue part of a squirrel’s fur, mixed with a little yellow mohair, and a fine blue cock’s hackle wrapt over the body in imitation of legs; its tail is forked and of the same colour as the wings; the hook No. 9. This fly may be fished with from ten in the morning till three in the afternoon, but the principal time is from twelve till two. It is most plentiful, and the fish take them best, in dark, cold weather” (Bowlker 97; see also Demott 194).
cock’s hackle – hackles are feathers or hairs that bristle or stand up when the animal is threatened.
“Artificial trout flies are created out of forms in nature. Coupled with precise observation, relevant knowledge and accurate use (all attributes of Poundian polumetis) artificial flies afford the skilled fisherman and fly tyer great pleasure and satisfaction, completing an active pattern of achievement in, and engagement with, nature. In the established vein of Pound’s structural use of juxtaposition, he has presented us an example of craftsmanship, and perhaps more importantly, an exemplary attitude, which are in harmony with natural ritual and organic rhythm” (Demott 190).
12th of March … Granham – Pound’s second example of artificial fly, the Green Tail, or Granam (no.6 in Bowlker’s illustration page).
“If the weather be warm this fly makes its appearance in the beginning of April, and it continues on the water little more than a week; it is a very tender fly and cannot endure cold. It derives the name of Green-Tail from a bunch of eggs, of a green colour, which it deposits in the water while floating on the surface. The wings lie flat on the body, and are made of a shaded feather from the wing of a partridge, or hen pheasant; the body of the dark fur of a hare’s ear, and a yellowish grizzled cock's hackle for legs; a small quantity of bright green wax, (or green harl from the eye of a peacock’s tail) about the size of a pin’s head, may be applied to the lower part of the body, after the fly is completed, and it has a very natural appearance” (Bowlker 122; Demott 193-4).
- harl – the barb of a large feather, such as that of a peacock or ostrich.
brown marsh fly – The brown marsh fly is number 3 in Bowlker’s catalogue – it is just slightly different from the Granam, but the fish will sense it, especially at specific hours during the day.
“Bowlker notes the best times for fishing the Granham are ‘from seven o’clock in the morning till eleven, at which time the March Brown comes on, and as long as the Brown continues, the fish will not take the Granam; from five in the evening till dark it may again be used with success’” (Demott 194).
“The successful use of artificial flies, designed especially for trout and salmon, represents one of the highest pinnacles a serious fisherman can achieve. Fly fishing is much more difficult, demanding, and precise than other methods, including bait fishing with natural lures, like earth worms, minnows or salmon eggs. The fisherman’s delivery of the artificial fly must be exact, often landing within inches of the feeding fish. Troutand salmon, both easily frightened and extremely wary fish, become quickly alarmed by awkward casting and sloppy presentation of a fly.
On this note, it is significant that Pound ends Canto LI with his first use in the Cantos of the Confucian ch’ing m’ing ideogram, which literally means ‘to call things by their right names.’ Metaphorically, Pound's use of this ideogram is a call for precision and exactitude, both in language and in action, two attributes of the skilled fly fisherman and fly tyer” (Demott 196).
light of the doer – line inspired by the philosophy of Robert Grosseteste, whose ontology in De luce is based on the idea that the prime doer, God, created material forms out of light. Pound understands the light of the doer as the intelligence of the active personality, whose ideas are not simply theoretical but cast into a form that makes them applicable to the real world. “Forma to the great minds of at least one epoch meant something more than dead pattern or fixed opinion. ‘The Light of the DOER, as it were a form cleaving to it’ meant an ACTIVE pattern, a pattern that set things in motion” (Pound Polite Essays 51.)
“The victims of usury are the passive, the will-less, the non-doers, ‘You who have lived in a stage set,’ to whom Geryon addresses himself at the end of the canto” (Pearlman 218).
deo similis quodam modo/ hic intellectus adeptus – L. “in a certain way similar to God/ this adept intellect.”
Pound gives the full quote from Albertus Magnus in his essay “Cavalcanti” (LE 186) the way he found it quoted by Ernest Renan in Avérroes et l’averroïsme:
“De apprehensione, pars V (Opp. t. XXI). Possibilis speculativa recipiens cum eis lumen suscipit agentis, cui de die in diem fit similior; et quum acceperit possibilis omnia speculata seu intellecta, habet lumen agentis ut formam sibi adhærentem . . . . Ex possibili et agente compositus est intellectus adeptus, et divinus dicitur, et tunc homo perfectus est. Et fit per hunc intellectum homo Deo quodam modo similis, eo quod potest siç operari divina, et largiri sibi et aliis intellectus divinos, et accipere omnia intellecta quodam modo, et est hoc illud scire quod omnes appetunt, in quo felicitas consistit contemplativa” (Renan 187)
[“The possible intellect, on receiving the objects for contemplation, takes with them into itself the light of the agent intellect, to which it becomes more similar day by day. And when the possible intellect has received all the contemplated or understood objects, it has the light of the agent intellect adhering to it like a Form… The adept (=acquired) intellect is composed from the possible and the agent intellect, and it is called divine, and then man is perfect. And through this intellect man is in a certain way similar to God, in that he can thus perform divine acts, and give to himself and others divine intelligibles, and receive all intelligibles in a certain way, and this is that knowing that all men desire, in which contemplative felicity consists”] (translated by Peter Liebregts, Neoplatonism 209)
See also the contextualization of this quote in canto 36 in OCCEP XXXVI: n.13.
grass, nowhere out of place – reference to the Sienese bank Monte dei Paschi (Mount of Pastures). Pound interpreted the bank’s success as the result of its using the grazing lands outside town as collateral for its loans. The foundation of its own safety was thus a natural resource that renewed itself each year and grew everywhere. See cantos 42 and 43.
speaking in Königsberg – Königsberg is a town in East Prussia, that at the time of the canto’s writing (1936) was in the easternmost part of Germany. After it was largely destroyed in 1944 and 1945 by Allied and Soviet bombing, it was included into the Soviet Union and rebuilt. In 1946, it was renamed Kaliningrad; today, it is part of the Russian Federation.
Königsberg was the city of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, which lends more weight to Rudolf Hess’ statement below.
Zwischen die Völkern erzielt wird – G. “is achieved among nations.”
This is an abridged version of Rudolf Hess’s comment published in the Völkischer Beobachter of 10 July 1934: It ran: “Es is höchste Zeit daß endlich eine wirkliche Verständigung zwischen den Völkern erzielt wird.” [“It is high time that a genuine agreement is finally achieved among nations.”]
It is unlikely that Pound came across Hess’s remark by mere serendipity. In 1936 he had been actively following and contributing to Fascist publications in Italy and Britain for at least two years. It is thus more probable that Pound was a regular reader of the Völkischer Beobachter, which was the most important Nazi newspaper and a “Kampfblatt” [“propaganda organ”] since 1920.
“In revising the quotation, Pound removed both the original speaker’s name and his own enthusiastic reaction to fascist propaganda, leaving only the idealistic message. By de-contextualising the quotation, Pound denies its original propagandistic reference system and discards its specific historicity in favour of a new authorially governed context” (Malm 58).
The “die” is a typo, it should read “den,” as correctly transcribed by Pound in his draft (YCAL 43 Series IV 74/1212a).
modus vivendi – L. “a way to get along.” Pound replaced Hess’s German word “Verständigung” by its translation in Latin. The reason is to emphasize the origin of Europe in the Mediterranean, as a way to round off the German insight.
As Pound explained again in a Globe article of November 1938, uncannily entitled “United States of Europe”:
“There is the FACT of Europe, bounded naturally on the West by the Atlantic, on the South by the Mediterranean and on the East not so very well bounded by nature, on the North there is ice, the North Pole, and the Scandinavians who have never, or seldom ever, constituted a menace.
Some years ago Rudolf Hess said it should not be beyond European intelligence to work out a system of living together, meaning between European peoples. The most intelligent men in Europe arc now thinking EUROPE. I mean even men who hold political office, not merely a few dreamers and intelligentsia.
Europe was civilized from the Mediterranean. This is not an idle THEORY. It is history.” (P&P VII 393).
circling – In the Inferno, Dante describes the way Geryon flew with Dante and Virgil on his back – not in a straight line, but by slowly circling downwards. The slowness is due to the command he received from Virgil: apart from safety, the slow circling allows Dante to see more clearly the suffering of people in the “Malebolge” [“the evil ditches”] which they are about to visit. Geryon’s impatience is shown by the fact that as soon as he puts his passengers down, he disappears “as an arrow from a bow” (Inf XVII: ll.97-136).
the 12 … / these were the regents – Pound refers to the twelve regents of the French central bank, who were not only financiers but also the most important industrialists of pre-war France, such as Édouard Alphonse James de Rothschild, president of Rothschild Bank (heavily invested in railways) and François De Wendel, the president of the Comité des Forges, the steel consortium that coordinated the French armament industry.
Francis Delaisi published an explosive article about the 12 regents (“the secret masters of France”) in the magazine VU on 26 June 1935. See also. Sawyer 2020.
sang Geryone – Geryon is an ancient monster reimagined by Dante Alighieri in the Inferno. He is a chimera and symbolizes fraud: a human head with a face of a just man, a serpent’s body ending in a scorpion tail, dragon wings and lion’s chest and paws. “Behold the beast who bears the pointed tail,/ who crosses mountains, shatters weapons, walls!/ Behold the one whose stench fills all the world!” (Inf XVII: ll.1-3) Dante’s Geryon does not speak but obeys God’s will that acts through Virgil’s command. In Pound’s imagination, the monster does speak and introduces himself as a merchant in luxuries, onyx and chalcedony. (From draft to final text, Pound decided to drop the onyx, probably assuming that “chalcedony” will be enough to convey his meaning. See 74/3319)
Geryon’s first statement is “you who think you will/ get through hell in a hurry,” which Pound introduces in canto 46.
help of the aged – Pound had mentioned the strategy used by the arms manufacturers to ensure that their power is stable, both locally and nationally. On the national level, people like Eugène and Henri Schneider (producers of heavy armaments) and François de Wendel (president of the Comité des Forges) bought newspapers and ensured their election in the Chamber of Deputies presenting their armament production as the most important safeguard of peace.Locally, they acquired and preserved the loyalty of their community by taking care of the population, building hospitals, care homes, and schools to give a humanitarian face to their power. Pound mentioned this side of their activities in canto 38: “always in the chamber of deputies, always a conservative, / Schools, churches, orspitals fer the workin’ man / Sand piles fer the children” (XXXVIII: ll.161-3; OCCEP XXXVIII nn.64-70. This fake humanitarianism corresponds to Dante’s description of Geryon as a monster with the “face of a just man.” (Inf XVII ll.10)
merchant of chalcedony – Enigmatic passage that lends itself to starkly differing interpretations. One line of thought could explore Pound’s reliance on Dante: Since ancient times through to the Middle Ages, it was believed that chalcedony, especially its variety called heliotrope, was a stone that gave the wearer invisibility. Dante mentions the stone in Inf XXIV l.93; Boccaccio in the Decameron 8th day, 3rdstory.
In his reference to Geryon as merchant of chalcedony, Pound may have had in view the passage in Inf XXIV 93 where Dante described sinners being tortured by a wide variety of snakes, and not having a hole to hide, or a heliotrope to make themselves invisible. Geryon has a serpent body – as a “merchant,” not an executioner, we may imagine him a trafficker in invisibility and arbitrary indulgences in hell.
Another possible interpretation is that Pound is paving his way towards the allusion to Venice in the canto’s final line about the League of Cambrai. Until the 16th century, Venice concentrated the commercial relations between Europe and the Orient. Its questionable trade practices (which Pound explored in detail in canto 35) relied on monopoly, taxes, and exploitation of her cities on the terra ferma, as well as of her commercial partners from Northern Europe and the Levant. Pound’s drafts indicate that he explored the idea of Geryon as a merchant more than the final canto suggests: Chalcedony is a semi-precious stone more abundant in Turkey and may be a metonymy of Venice’s Oriental luxury trade. (Glass makers on Murano even imitated the specific colour and veining of the stone in the so-called “calcedonio,” where design, craftmanship and the luxury trade are indistinguishable.) When Geryon addresses the naïve as “you who live in a stage set,” his reference might be specifically to Venice, whose theatrical beauty distracts most visitors from the sordid questions of commerce, greed and fraud and is at the same time the guarantor of Geryon’s own invisibility.
eel fisher’s basket – Pound found the association between Geryon and the eel in Inf XVII where Dante described the monster’s scorpion tail as wriggling in the air like an eel to take off (“he turned his tail to where his chest had been /and, having stretched it, moved it like an eel” Inf XVII ll.103-4). See also Gustave Doré’s illustration at n.17, which follows Dante in the drawing of the movement.
Eels are considered “coarse fish” (slimy, snake-like, with a small head) and “bottom feeders” that survive off anything of animal origin, alive or dead. They move from the sea upstream but often stop in ponds or brackish water and are caught with live maggots or dead baits. When they are pulled out of the water, they would wriggle and get caught in weeds (or indeed any obstacle), so that it is the strength of the rod, rather than the refinement of bait which will ensure fishing is successful.
Through his allusion to eel fishing, Pound thus creates one of the symmetries of the canto between trout fishing with artificial flies, which requires craftmanship, sophistication and knowledge, and eel fishing, a coarse occupation. Badangling.com
League of Cambrai – League created by the Pope, the Holy-Roman Emperor and the King of France at the start of the 16th century to weaken the power of Venice and rob her of her conquests in the north of Italy. It was a classic instance of a greedy war between buyer and seller that Pound had found in his early readings on the Italian Renaissance (SP 22).
In a typewritten, unpublished note, Pound commented: "At the time of the League of Cambrai: Never Venice more splendid. And these sovereigns wished for her trade. With trade in their lands squalid, lying idle 15 hundred and eight; and the Pope owed no state more for his election." YCAL Mss 43, Box 73/3245.
The time was right because the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama had discovered the sea route to India (he first landed at Calcutta in 1498), which spelled disaster for Venice’s Oriental trade – the city was weakened and its commercial future uncertain. The league did not hold, as the participants quickly fell out with each other over spoils, whereas the military and political alliances shifted and recombined several times. After seven years of international war (1508-1515), the border disputes were settled at the same level they had been before the war started. Wikipedia.
The wars of the League of Cambrai were similar to the shifting alliances and useless wars of European conquest that Pound had mentioned before in The Cantos, the closest parallels being the Napoleonic Wars (canto 50) and WWI (canto 16). The idea stated by Hess that “the nations of Europe had to arrive at an agreement and a way of living together” was a flash of political intelligence countering the “mud” of greed and war in which European countries had been involved in for centuries. It also strongly suggests Pound’s awareness of the impending WWII, which would destroy the predominance of the British empire in Europe in a similar way the wars of the League of Cambrai radically undermined Venice’s commercial supremacy and the European trade order it had created. Pound viewed Britain as the contemporary Geryon, as is evident in canto 46.
cheng ming – Zh. 正名 zhèng (correct, upright, standard, proper, orthodox) and míng (name, reputation) - “right name” (See C LI n.20). Confucian political concept also known as “rectification of names” with which Pound concludes the Fifth Decad. Pound may have found the Chinese characters in James Legge’s bilingual edition of the Four Books (Analects Book XIII Chapter III 1-6).
Pound provided an extended translation of the Analects dialogue in Guide to Kulchur. The name spelling shows he was not using Legge in the Guide, but Pauthier's Doctrine de Confucius, the source he had used in canto 13:
“Tseu-Lou asked: If the Prince of Mei appointed you head of the government, to what wd. you first set your mind?
KUNG: To call people and things by their names, that is by the correct denominations, to see that the terminology was exact.
“You mean that is the first?” Said Tseu-leu [sic]. “Aren’t you dodging the question? What’s the use of that?”
KUNG: You are a blank. An intelligent man hesitates to talk of what he don’t [sic] understand, he feels embarrassment.
If the terminology be not exact, if it fit not the thing, the governmental instructions will not be explicit, if the instructions aren’t clear and the names don’t fit, you can not conduct business properly.
If business is not properly run the rites and music will not be honoured, if the rites and music be not honoured, penalties and punishments will not achieve their intended effects, if penalties and punishments do not produce equity and justice, the people won’t know where to put their feet or what to lay hold of or to whom they shd. stretch out their hands.
That is why an intelligent man cares for his terminology and gives instructions that fit. When his orders are clear and explicit they can be put into effect. An intelligent man is neither inconsiderate of others nor futile in his commanding. (Analects XIII.3 in GK 16-7). See also Pauthier 151.