COMPANION TO CANTO XLVII
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 XLVII, 8 May 2020
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XLVII.” In Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Berkeley: U of California P., 1980. I: 184-6.
Pound, Ezra. Literary Essays. Ed. T. S. Eliot. New York: New Directions, 1968.
Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. Brookes Moore. Boston: Cornhill Publ. Co., 1922. Perseus.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. A. T. Murray. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard UP; London, William Heinemann, Ltd., 1919. Perseus.
Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project.
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, 1991.
The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
- Who even dead – After having spent a year on Circe’s island, Odysseus’ crew asked their commander to resume their voyage to Ithaca, so the hero begged the goddess’ permission to leave. She replied that she would not stand in his way, but that he first must accomplish another task: seek out Tiresias’ prophecy by invoking his ghost in the underworld. Tiresias was the only mortal granted the privilege of keeping his reason after death and could foresee the hero’s future (Od X: 493-5). See also Canto I; C n.2.
It is to be noted however, that Tiresias does not appear in this canto, nor does Odysseus sail away to seek his advice (Sawyer 2).
- sound came in the dark – Circe’s advice to Odysseus is very intimate, made in the dark while they were lying together in bed. Pound here provides his own paraphrase: in canto 39, he had included the original Homeric passage (Od X: 490-4). See Canto XXXIX: ll.37-41.
- First must thou go – Massimo Bacigalupo noted the archaic language of Circe’s admonition, and related it to the King James Bible (“Repeating the Past” 189). Indeed, the archaic pronouns “thou” and “thy” indicate her presence, or that of a speaker voicing a primeval, eternal experience. The poem initiates pendulum swing between archaic and modern language, between ancient teachings and the emotional response of a modern sensibility.
- bower of Ceres’ daughter Proserpine – The Latin names of the Greek fertility goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The “bower” of Proserpine is the underworld: the god of the dead, Hades, abducted Persephone in early spring (the flowers she was picking with her companions in a meadow when the event happened indicate March). Demeter looked for her daughter everywhere and mourned her so deeply that nothing in nature grew. The gods, seeing what devastation Persephone’s death brought to the world, permitted her to return to her mother. As the girl had eaten a pomegranate seed in the underworld, she had to return there for a third part of the year. Counting back from March, Persephone thus has to descend to the underworld in November, when the “Pleiades go down to rest” and Hesiod recommends the farmer to start ploughing and sowing his grain seeds into the earth. The story of Persephone’s abduction and her mother’s mourning is told in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. The Hymn recounts Demeter’s lament for Persephone (parallel to that of Aphrodite for Adonis, mentioned further in the canto) and the origins of the Eleusinian mysteries dedicated to mother and daughter. Pound may have seen the Loeb edition of 1914, which published the hymns together with Hesiod’s texts.
“The journey ‘after knowledge’ has taken a different direction as he [Odysseus] descends not to a bleak Homeric underworld as in Canto I but to participation in the Eleusinian mysteries established by Demeter (Ceres) in commemoration of her daughter Persephone’s return” (Sicari Pound’s Epic Ambition 59).
- Tiresias – prophet from the Greek city of Thebes, whom Odysseus must consult to learn of his future. Tiresias tells Odysseus that he will return to Ithaca but lose all his men. The only way to prevent this outcome is to keep everyone from eating the meat of bulls belonging to Helios, the sun god, on the island Trinacria (Sicily). Odysseus does his utmost to prevent the event but is pushed ineluctably towards it: forced to spend months on the island because of the weather, the men can’t resist the hunger and sacrifice some of the bulls while he is asleep. The result is as Tiresias had foreseen: all Odysseus’ ships go down in a storm between Scylla and Charybdis (the straits of Messina). Odysseus, who had not eaten of the meat, is the only one to survive, clinging to a piece of wood left from his ship. Homer recounts these events in Books XI-XII of the Odyssey.
- eyeless that was – According to Ovid, Tiresias was called to arbitrate a dispute between the goddess Hera and her husband, Zeus: who takes more pleasure in sex? Hera believed that the man does, Zeus held that on the contrary, it was the woman. Tiresias, who had been both man and woman in his life, agreed with Zeus, and Hera blinded him in outrage. Zeus could not undo Hera’s act but gave Tiresias the gift of prophecy, the ability to see what is not visible to the eye (Metam III: ll.314-36). See also C n.4.
- drugged beasts – When Odysseus’ sailors who are sent on a scouting mission on Circe’s island hear her sing, they think that whether goddess or woman, she is safe, so they decide to make contact, saying “phtheggometha thasson” (He. “let us call out to her”). The song is actually the lure to doom – the sailors go unthinkingly towards it. Circe opened her doors and received them as guests, offering them food and wine mixed with a drug that made them forget their home country. After they ate and drank, she struck them with her wand, and turned them into swine (Od X: ll.208-44).
- φθεγγώμεθα θασσον – He. “phtheggometha thasson” (“let us call quickly to her”) (Od X: 228). See also XXXIX: ll. 29-30; C n.6.
The phrase may signify the irresistible call of instinct, the one that Hermes’ herb molü can temper and compel. Fittingly, it is a call in a language we do not understand but that has the strange lure of a magic formula. Pound returns to the idea and rephrases it in ll.39-41.
- small lamps drift in the bay – during the Rapallo celebrations of the Madonna of Montallegro on 1-3 July, small votive lights are set adrift on the bay of Tigullio and borne by the current out to sea (C n.7). The lights are not set out from the shore, but from boats, as Pound indicates at l.21.
“The ‘lamps float seaward’ because in the evening there is mostly a land-breeze, slowly pushing the lamps away from the coast. Pound interprets this as ‘The sea’s claw gather[ing] them outward’: the sea has something of the wild animal, and this suggestion is repeated in the line about ‘Scilla’s dogs’” (Bacigalupo “Repeating the Past” 192)
- Neptunus – L. Latin name of Poseidon, the Greek god of the seas.
- neap-tide – when the sun and the moon are at right angles to each other, the tides are less pronounced: the low tides are slightly higher and the hightide is lower, producing a more moderate increase of sea-levels. A neap tide occurs when the moon is half full.
- Tamuz – Tammuz, or Dumuzid, is an ancient Mesopotamian god who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar). He dies and is resurrected every year to embody the seasonal and fertility cycle of nature. In Syria, Tammuz took the name of Adonis and his relationship with Ishtar was adapted into a love story between Adonis and Aphrodite. Tammuz/Adonis’ death is mourned in summer, at harvest-time.
“every year Tammuz was believed to die, passing away from the cheerful earth to the gloomy subterranean world, and that every year his divine mistress journeyed in quest of him ‘to the land from which there is no returning, to the house of darkness, where dust lies on door and bolt.’ During her absence the passion of love ceased to operate: men and beasts alike forgot to reproduce their kinds: all life was threatened with extinction. So intimately bound up with the goddess were the sexual functions of the whole animal kingdom that without her presence they could not be discharged. A messenger of the great god Ea was accordingly despatched to rescue the goddess on whom so much depended. The stern queen of the infernal regions, Allatu or Eresh-Kigal by name, reluctantly allowed Ishtar to be sprinkled with the Water of Life and to depart, in company probably with her lover Tammuz, that the two might return together to the upper world, and that with their return all nature might revive” (Frazer 325).
Pound mentions Tammuz again in canto 91 (XCI/632) in connection to another ritual, that of women hiding silk cocoons under their aprons during his festival. See comment in Sawyer 4-5.
- By this gate – As the summer festivities mourned the death of Adonis, the gate Pound refers to is the gate of death.
Scilla’s dogs – Scylla’s dogs are the waves breaking on the reefs in the Straits of Messina where it is believed Scylla (the cliff) and Charybdis (the whirlpool) are. Bacigalupo observed that Pound used the Italian spelling of Scylla’s name (“Repeating the Past” 193)
In Homer’s Odyssey, Circe describes Scylla:
“And in the midst of the cliff is a dim cave, turned to the West, toward Erebus, even where you shall steer your hollow ship, glorious Odysseus. Not even a man of might could shoot an arrow from the hollow ship so as to reach into that vaulted cave.  Therein dwells Scylla, yelping terribly. Her voice is indeed but as the voice of a new-born whelp, but she herself is an evil monster, nor would anyone be glad at sight of her, no, not though it were a god that met her. Verily she has twelve feet, all misshapen,  and six necks, exceeding long, and on each one an awful head, and therein three rows of teeth, thick and close, and full of black death. Up to her middle she is hidden in the hollow cave, but she holds her head out beyond the dread chasm,  and fishes there, eagerly searching around the rock for dolphins and sea-dogs and whatever greater beast she may haply catch” (Od XII: 80-96).
Whereas Scylla in The Odyssey is a monster yelping like a dog who picks up and eats sailors as their ships pass by, Ovid tells the more pathetic story of Scylla’s metamorphosis. When Circe out of jealousy poisoned the waters in which Scylla was wont to bathe, the girl had to watch in horror as the waters around her were transformed into howling dogs. She never moved out of that water and took revenge on Circe by capturing and eating six of Odysseus’ sailors (Metam XIV: 1-74).
- TU DIONA – He. “τὺ Διώνα” (“You Diona”). Diona is a variation of Aphrodite’s name, alongside Venere, Ciprigna, or Citerea. In his Lament for Adonis, the Greek poet Bion used the name just once, at l.93.
Reading Bion’s poem, Pound was struck by its melodic qualities, which he signalled in “How to Read” and assimilated to the “songbook” of the troubadours (LE 28, 38). In ABC of Reading, Pound went one step further to describe Bion’s poetic diction as “the syncopation, or the counterpoint […] jazz beat running cross-wise” (ABCR 54).
Bion’s incantatory repetitions and euphonic play, imitated to a certain extent in the canto’s own rhythms and recurrences, were enhanced by the Italian translation of the poem, which Pound had in his library (Redman 216). Even more than the Greek original, the Italian version played on the sound symbiosis between “Diona” and “Adone” and may have been one of the reasons why Pound chose this specific passage for inclusion in the canto.
Mary de Rachewiltz mentioned that Pound used the original of Bion’s Lament in Poetae Minores Graeci – this differs from the base text in the Loeb edition of 1912, where we find an alternate text to the Diona passage (See also Pearlman 175 n.2).
The Italian translation, however, does mention the name and fully avails itself of the melodic opportunities:
Plangon le grazie il figlio di Cinira
Fra lor dicendo; il vago Adone è spento
E ben di te, Diona, assai più forte
Esclamano; e le Parche Adone Adone
Van con gemiti e canti richiamando.
(Canto funebre d’Adone ll.91-5)
- KAI MOIRAI ADONIN – He. “And the Fates… Adonis” (Bion Lament l.94).
“Nay, even the Fates weep and wail for Adonis, calling upon his name” Lament for Adonis.
Mourning was the key element of the Adonis ritual in Lebanon and Cyprus, as it is in the Christian rites of Easter; nevertheless, Pound excludes it from his own vegetation and fertility rite in the canto.
Pound’s various prose statements on the value of Greek language indicate that the invocation of Diona, Moirai (the Fates) and Adonis in the canto are incantatory, relying on the character and sound of Greek to give musical rhythm and mystery to his sexual ritual in the poem:
“The more Greek a man knows the better his English cadence is likely to be, and the greater richness, variety, height, precision, colour of his criteria; the greater the variety of his ideas and memories of what verbal melody can be and should be; and the finer his perception of all verbal sounds whatsoever” (P&P VI: 211; quoted in Fisher xiv).
streaked red – Adonis was originally venerated in the Phoenician town of Byblos, in contemporary Lebanon. About 20 km away is the source of the river Adonis, (called Nahr Ibrahim today), which originated in a cave at Afqa, from where it fell into a lake at the foot of the mountain. In Greek mythology, “Adonis was born and died at the foot of the falls in Afqa.”
However, the red colour of the stream in summer had a natural cause, already known in Antiquity:
“Each spring at Afqa, the melting snows flood the river, bringing a reddish mud into the stream from the steep mountain slopes. The red stain can be seen feeding into the river and far out to the Mediterranean Sea. Legend held this to be the blood of Adonis, renewed each year, at the time of his death. Lucian of Samosata, a Syrian by birth, describes how a local man of Byblos debunked the legend: ‘This river, my friend and guest, passes through the Libanus: now this Libanus abounds in red earth. The violent winds which blow regularly on those days bring down into the river a quantity of earth resembling vermilion. It is this earth that turns the river to red. And thus the change in the river’s colour is due, not to blood as they affirm, but to the nature of the soil’” Wikipedia: Afqa.
“Every year, in the belief of his worshippers, Adonis was wounded to death on the mountains, and every year the face of nature itself was dyed with his sacred blood. So year by year the Syrian damsels lamented his untimely fate, while the red anemone, his flower, bloomed among the cedars of Lebanon, and the river ran red to the sea, fringing the winding shores of the blue Mediterranean, whenever the wind set inshore, with a sinuous band of crimson” Frazer 329.
Relying on the Rapallo festival in honour of the Madonna of Montallegro, Pound symbolized Adonis’ blood by the red waxed paper in which the lights are secured (Bacigalupo “Repeating the Past” 193).
Adonis – Phoenician name of the Babylonian god Tammuz, derived from the Semitic word “Adon” (“Lord”). Adonis was the son of King Cinyras and was loved by Aphrodite. One day while hunting he was pierced in the thigh by a boar and bled to death. Our of pity for Aphrodite, the gods allowed Adonis to return from Hades each year. His death was mourned in summer, whereas his rebirth was celebrated at Easter, first in Lebanon and then Cyprus (Frazer 325).
Adonis was very young when he died, having disobeyed Aphrodite’s motherly warnings and admonitions not to hunt in the woods. Her parental care, her sorrow that made animals lack sex-drive and fail to reproduce, her dispute with Persephone to let Adonis leave the underworld for a part of the year, has much in common with the myth around Demeter and Persephone and reverberates into the mother’s care and sorrow in the relationship between Virgin Mary and Christ. In Pound’s canto, the Demeter and Persephone mysteries at Eleusis, the mourning of Adonis in summer, and the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter blend together into a fertility rite with many faces that governs the rhythms of seasonal and agricultural life such as laid down in Hesiod’s Works and Days.
“It has been suggested by Father Lagrange that the mourning for Adonis was essentially a harvest rite designed to propitiate the corngod, who was then either perishing under the sickles of the reapers, or being trodden to death under the hoofs of the oxen on the threshing-floor. While the men slew him, the women wept crocodile tears at home to appease his natural indignation by a show of grief for his death. The theory fits in well with the dates of the festivals, which fell in spring or summer; for spring and summer, not autumn, are the seasons of the barley and wheat harvests in the lands which worshipped Adonis […] Thus interpreted, the death of Adonis is not the natural decay of vegetation in general under the summer heat or the winter cold; it is the violent destruction of the corn by man, who cuts it down on the field, stamps it to pieces on the threshing-floor, and grinds it to powder in the mill” Frazer 338-9.
Frazer explicitly links Adonis and Aphrodite with Christ and Virgin Mary, pointing out the overlap of ritual, especially in Sardinia and Sicily (Frazer 343-7). Pound adapts this overlap to the festival of the Madonna of Montallegro celebrated in Rapallo on 1-3 July.
wheat shoots – Reference to the gardens of Adonis.
“But perhaps the best proof that Adonis was a deity of vegetation is furnished by the gardens of Adonis, as they were called. These were baskets or pots filled with earth, in which wheat, barley, lettuces, fennel, and various kinds of flowers were sown and tended for eight days, chiefly or exclusively by women. Fostered by the sun's heat, the plants shot up rapidly, but having no root withered as rapidly away, and at the end of eight days were carried out with the images of the dead Adonis, and flung with them into the sea or into springs." At Athens these ceremonies were observed at midsummer […] The rapid growth of the wheat and barley in the gardens of Adonis was intended to make the corn shoot up; and the throwing of the gardens and of the images into the water was a charm to secure a due supply of fertilising rain” (Frazer 341). See also C n.15.
As he told Douglas Fox, Pound observed the custom in Rapallo: “gardens of Adonis – the shoots (grass, etc) prematurely forced. & putt seeds on wet flannel. & they sprout before due time. & are part of easter decoration in Rapallo churches.” See Calendar for full letter. See also Sawyer 4.
- two span to a woman – this passage, still open to interpretation, has struck critics with its primitivism and anti-feminism (see also XXIX: ll.115-26). See Surette 101; Liebregts 233-4.
If we define “span” as “time span,” and further consider “giving birth” as the essential female experience, her ancestral purpose, then “two-span” might be before and after giving birth, in the widest sense: before, “calling” the man, sex, impregnation, gestation; after, the nurturing of the sprouting seed, the care and protection of offspring. In the first span, she is the daughter, in the second, the mother. The archaic language is an indicator that this perspective is the ancient male one that Homer and Hesiod may have had. Stars are meaningless “wandering holes” for women because they do not fare the sea, nor are they engaged in ploughing.
Daniel Pearlman offers this interpretation:
“‘two span’ means whatever she can grasp in her two hands (or between her legs) as the limit of her interest in reality. Anything outside of her physical reach is ‘not in her counting,’ but the stars are in man’s counting. […] Pound implies that it was man’s capacity to apply an objective standard of measurement, counting by the regular motions of the stars, to the biological and seasonal rhythms conditioning his physical existence, that rescued him from unconscious immersion in nature. For man, the stars do not ‘wander’, but have a regularity that enabled him to fix the precise times for his all-important agricultural activities” (180-1).
See also Sawyer 5-6 for an alternative interpretation to this passage.
- naturans – L. “obeying its nature.”
Pound was inspired by his reading of Remy de Gourmont’s Natural Philosophy of Love, which he translated in 1921. In comparing the sexual experience of male mammals, Gourmont commented about the bull:
“Very slow for dogs, coupling is but a thunderclap for the bull […]. The bull merely enters and leaves and it is a spectacle for philosophers, for one understand immediately that what drives the fiery beast at his female is not the lure of a pleasure too swift to be deeply felt, but a force exterior to the individual although included in his organism” (Gourmont 81). See also Sawyer 20 n.8; and Bacigalupo 194 for alternative interpretation.
See also Canto 113 for a reprise of the same theme: “And the bull by force that is in him—/ not lord of it, / mastered” (CXIII/809)
- Molü – the magic herb that Hermes gives to Odysseus to protect him from Circe’s magic. She cannot transform him into a pig, as she had done with his companions (Od X: ll.275-301). Molü symbolizes the capacity of intelligence, reason and knowledge to reflect on the natural urge, to defer and control it. See also preceding note.
- return to another – ambiguous passage that has been variously interpreted: Daniel Pearlman hypothesized that the bed was Penelope’s, the wife of Odysseus (180), whereas Stephen Sicari argued that this other bed is that of Tellus, the earth mother (Pound’s Epic Ambition 60-6).
Pound’s letters seem to support Sicari’s side of the argument. It is not marriage, but the natural process that Pound celebrates by presenting ploughing as a sexual sacrament, a divine marriage between man and earth. As he wrote to Carlo Izzo in January 1938, the holiness rests in coition and not in church ritual or registry office (SL 303). See letter in Calendar to canto 45. See also Pound’s unpublished text “Coition the Sacrament” in Resources.
- Begin thy plowing – From Hesiod, Works and Days. It is the poet Hesiod who is imparting the sacred knowledge of nature, fertility and life – he is the canto’s Tiresias, and this is his admonition and prophecy.
“When the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, are rising [in early May], begin your harvest, and your ploughing when they are going to set [in November]. Forty nights and days they are hidden and appear again as the year moves round, when first you sharpen your sickle. This is the law of the plains, and of those who live near the sea, and who inhabit rich country, the glens and dingles far from the tossing sea, -- strip to sow and strip to plough and strip to reap, if you wish to get in all Demeter’s fruits in due season, and that each kind may grow in its season” (ll. 383-404).
- Pleiades – star constellation, also known as the seven sisters or the seven daughters of Atlas: Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Alcyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione.
On November 18, the Pleiades are in opposition, at 180º from the sun, rising at sunset, culminating at midnight, and setting at sunrise. They “rise” (become visible before dawn) in May.
- cranes fly high – The crane could be seen flying by mid-November.
“Mark, when you hear the voice of the crane who cries year by year from the clouds above, for she give the signal for ploughing and shows the season of rainy winter” (Hesiod Works and Days ll. 448-50).
mules gabled with slate – Massimo Bacigalupo observed that Hesiod’s instructions overlap here with observations from Rapallo:
“oxen under olive trees, mules ‘gabled with slate.’” Slate is a product of the region (Lavagna, meaning “slate”, is the name of the town near Rapallo where Pound gave himself up to American GIs on 3 May 1945). Mules were much used to carry building materials over the narrow hill paths” (“Repeating the Past” 195).
- small stars – the flowers of the olive tree are star-shaped.
- Tellus – L. “earth.” Roman goddess of the earth, often represented as a reclining woman bearing the symbols of the seasons and cornucopia of human agricultural labour.
- Io – H. “Hail”; It. “I” – personal pronoun (C n.27; Bacigalupo “Repeating the Past” 197). Ecstatic cry of man initiating the sexual act.
See also “Sacrum, sacrum inluminatio coitu” of canto XXXVI.
- Zephyrus – name of the West wind.
- Apeliota – name of the East wind.
- Adonis falleth – death of Adonis at harvest time in mid-July.
- almond bough puts forth its flame – small white flowers bloom on the bare bough of the almond tree in March. Pound evoked the coming of spring by remembering the almond in canto 20: “The boughs are not more fresh/ where the almond shoots / take their March green” (XX: ll.9-11).
- power over wild beasts – Concluding line, repeated at the end of canto 49, which has elicited multiple interpretations.
For Demetres Tryphonopoulos, the initiate of the mystery at Eleusis, after going down into the dark (katabasis), wandering and struggling (dromena) and being transformed by the religious ecstatic illumination (epopteia) “understands the mysterious relation between natural process and coitus” and acquires the magical powers of healing and control over the wild beasts (152).
For Daniel Pearlman, it is the power of instinct moderated by reason that enables man to acquire control over wild nature, especially the raw sexual instinct and untamed violence of the pig and the bull:
“‘Wild beasts have appeared in the canto in several forms. First there were the ‘drugged beasts’ of Circe, men transformed because of immoderate self-surrender to appetite, as we saw in canto 39. Secondly, Scylla’s dogs threatened Odysseus with destruction. Third was the bull who ‘runs blind on the sword.’ Finally, of course, there is the wild boar that slew Adonis. All these ‘wild beasts’ are blind natural forces, the instinctive life in man that corresponds with the rest of the unconscious organic world external to him. Pound has attempted to show that man’s survival as a species and his development of civilization has depended not on any rejection of nature, which is the prime characteristic of Usura, but on holistic acceptance of instinct combined with the ability to harness its blind potencies to the service of ever more spiritual ends. The key to the development of civilisation, to ‘the power over wild beasts’ is the intelligence of man that could measure the rhythm of organic time (by the stars and other regular natural occurrences) and raise man from will-less subjection to them to creative accord with them” (190).
See also Richard Sawyer’s alternative interpretation:
“However, in terms of the ritual dramatized in Canto 47, the figure that possesses the gift and the power is obviously Circe. In her initiatory guise, Circe becomes the body of the earth inside whom Odysseus figuratively disappears, dies and is reborn as a newly enlightened being. Circe thus bestows on her initiate a knowledge of nature’s healing or restorative powers. Her mysteries teach Odysseus that he need not fear the lacerating teeth of Scylla’s wild beasts. As a result of his initiation, Odysseus himself, it could therefore be said, acquires the gift of healing and the power over wild beasts” (Sawyer 12).