COMPANION TO CANTO XLVIII
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. Canto XLVIII, 8 June 2020
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XLVIII.” In Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Berkeley: U of California P., 1980. I: 186-9.
Pound, Ezra. The Economic Correspondence of Ezra Pound 1933-1940. Ed. Roxana Preda. Gainesville: U of Florida P., 2007.
Pound, Ezra. Guide to Kulchur. New York: New Directions, 1971.
John Adams, 2nd President of the US.
Pound, Ezra. Jefferson and or Mussolini. Fascism as I Have Seen It. London: Stanley Nott, 1935.
Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project: XLVI;
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose: Contributions to Periodicals. 11 vols. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.
Surette, Leon. Pound in Purgatory. From Economic Radicalism to Anti-Semitism. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1999.
Pound, Ezra.Pound/ Zukofsky. Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky. Ed. Barry Ahearn. New York: New Directions, 1987.
- money be rented – In canto 46, Pound indicated that the British financial system relies on the Bank of England, which issues the money of the nation as an interest-bearing loan to the government. The system thus presupposes that people “pay rent” on their money, since whether money is visible (in the form of bank notes) or invisible (credit from a bank), it is always an interest-bearing loan. The interest is thus the “rent.” Pound was aware that this fact is not commonly known: he repeated and re-phrased his antidote to the common assumption that money is just “there.” He was convinced that money issue should be a service that the state provides to the nation for free and a monetary instrument over which it should have absolute control. When he wrote cantos 46 and 48 in 1936, the Bank of England was a joint stock company. It was nationalized ten years later, by the first post-war Labour government.
See also OCCEP XLVI: nn. 10, 16, 30, and 48 for a more detailed explanation of the history and process of national “renting money” which Pound called “hyper-usura” and “CRIME ov two centuries.”
Pound further explained it in a short text published in 1933:
Q. Why should a “country” or a “government” rent and pay rent for MONEY?
A. It shouldn’t. No intelligent government wd. pay rent for its own money. No more than I pay rent for the language I am now writing. The cost of money TO a government shd. be the cost of the paper and the engraving and not one damn cent more.
Kublai Khan didn’t pay rent for the legal tender receipts he gave foreign merchants for pearls (vide Canto XVIII). They worked. Those receipts functioned as money.
Q. Any thing newer?
A. The Woergl plan worked. Not only did the town have no need to pay rent for its money (or as they say, “issue bonds”) but the people who got the money, and who therefore HAD THE MONEY and cd. afford to pay rent, did pay a little, a very little rent for the money, AND IT WORKED. (Ezra Pound Questions (1933) in P&P VI:84).
See the next note and Resources for the Wörgl Plan.
- has it on rent day – reference to Silvio Gesell’s “vanishing money” (G. “Schwundgeld”), which was experimented with in the Austrian small town Wörgl in 1932-33. “Vanishing money” consisted of notes on which possessors had to stick a stamp every week to preserve its value. When there was no place left to stick the stamps, the note was thrown away and replaced. The stamp could be rightfully considered a “tax on money” or “rent,” but one that was paid only by people who had a multiple of it in their pocket when the tax fell due.
Pound became acquainted with Gesell’s theory of “vanishing money” in the spring of 1933 (Purg 178; EPEC 26, 59). By August, he had more or less digested its implications for nations as a whole and was recommending it in his economic correspondence and journalism as a supremely anti-usurious instrument, i.e. as a reform of money that would make national debt consume itself and disappear; or else pay for civil works without getting loans from the banks and with no burden of debt (See Purg 177; P&P VI: 68). F. D. Roosevelt’s unwillingness to use “vanishing money” (or “stamp scrip” as it was called in the United States) for the civil works initiated by the New Deal is at the root of Pound’s disenchantment and later outright enmity towards the president (EPEC 36-7; 105). The New Deal reforms were paid through government loans, which burdened the country with an unprecedented national debt.
See also GK 277; Purg 176-96; EPEC 26-8; Redman 122-54; Grogan 255-74 for more detail on Pound and Gesell. See also Resources for more detail on the Wörgl experiment.
Mahomet VIth Yahid Eddin Han – Mehmet VI Vahideddin, (1861-1926, r. 1918-1922), was the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire, which dissolved during his 4-year reign as a result of its defeat in WWI. The Ottoman Sultanate was abolished in 1922 and replaced by the Republic of Turkey with Mustafa Kemal as first president in October 1923. Mehmet was indeed the son of Abdul Mejid, (one of 44 children), but did not benefit from the prerogatives of his father’s power, or his political guidance. Abdul Mejid died when Mehmet was only six months old. Wikipedia.
Pound’s references to the Ottoman Empire complement the Orientalist passages in canto 46 (XLVI: ll.43-72) and are a puzzle piece in Pound’s endeavour to give glimpses of imperial decadence from the position of all combatant nations in WWI. See cantos XVI for the British and French perspective; XXXV for a view from Austria-Hungary; XLI for the Italian and German sides.
Abdul Mejid – Abdulmejid I (1823-1861, reigned 1839-61), the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He is notable for reforms that led to a gradual political and cultural orientation of the Ottoman Empire towards Western Powers, particularly Britain and France. Wikipedia.
- beatification – The beatification of Paula Frassinetti (1809-1882) took place on 8 June 1930. She was a nun of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, whose mission was to take care of the poorest youth by establishing boarding schools and orphanages in Italy and abroad. There are about 1,200 sisters active in Europe, United States, Latin America, Africa and Asia. She was canonized in 1984. Wikipedia. In an article in the Paris edition of the New York Tribune, still at Brunnenburg in 1965, Pound read that 80 loudspeakers were used at the beatification ceremony (Kenner 41).
Frassinetti is thus an example of a successful cultural service of the Catholic Church, that of educating the unfortunates societies exclude from the beginning, the orphans. The energy spent to popularize it illustrates the pervasive power of Catholic religious propaganda in Italy and is followed by three instances that show its effects: the opinion (shouted under Pound’s window) that Galileo was an imbecile that dumbed down the world (ll.59-61); the village celebrations for the first mass of a new priest (ll.82-101); and the corollary of the old man’s job of placing stones on clothes at the Lido, a significant detail Pound uses as a conclusion (ll.127-31).
Pound’s apparently flippant statement written in Toulouse in 1919 documents how his personal resistance to organised religion began and why he chose Frassinetti’s beatification as an adequate trope:
“I object to religion ‘because the vicar of Kensington rings bells or has bells rung, in his belfry, to the intense annoyance of people who live nearer the church spire than he does.’ This statement is purely allegorical. The act of bell-ringing is symbolical of all proselytising religions. it implies the pointless interfering with the quiet of other persons” (“Pastiche. The Regional” I. In P&P III: 314).
- Turkish war – Reference to what is now called “The Great Turkish War” between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League, consisting of Austria, Poland, Venice and Russia (1677-1683). The war was the strongest attempt of the Ottoman Empire to conquer Central Europe and dominate the continent. It culminated in the siege of Vienna in 1683, where the Ottomans were defeated by the King of Poland, John III Sobieski. Wikipedia.
- Mr. Kolschitzky – German variant of Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki’s name (1640-1694). He was a Polish nobleman who in 1678 had established a trading company in Vienna. Kulczycki earned the gratitude of the city as during the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, he used his talent, experience and language skills to help the resistance. By disguising himself as an Ottoman soldier, he managed to slip through enemy lines and contact Charles of Lorraine for military help at a time when the city council was on the cusp of surrendering. Together, Kulczycki and Charles managed to slip back into Vienna, where Charles made promises of imminent relief, so the city would continue fighting. Though outnumbered 2 to 1, Charles’ troops, together with John III Sobieski’s saved Vienna in a final battle against the Ottomans on 12 September 1683. Kulczycki was celebrated as a hero and saviour: the city offered him a house and Sobieski himself gave him large amounts of coffee found in the Ottoman camp. Kulczycki is credited with opening the first coffee-house in Vienna and is celebrated as the originator of Viennese coffee culture to this day. Wikipedia.
- de Banchiis cambi tenendi – L. “bank of exchange.” Pound included the phrase in canto XL: l.8. See also OCCEP XL: n.4. The phrase indicates that Pound did not approve of Kolschitzky, even if he saved Vienna.
- sixteen hundred – 1683 was the year the Ottoman Empire achieved its greatest extent: The defeat of the siege of Vienna and the ensuing Peace of Karlowitz in 1699 stopped the Turkish expansion into Central Europe, causing a policy of retrenchment and decline in the following centuries that ended with the Ottomans allying themselves with Austria during WWI and losing both the war and the empire.
- Von Unruh – Fritz von Unruh (1885-1970), German writer who lived in Zoagli, near Rapallo, in 1932-33 and one of Pound’s personal acquaintances (Baumann 45). Pound mentioned him first in canto 41, pointing out the discrepancies of military training and culture in Germany and Italy at the time of WWI (XLI: l.60; OCCEP XLI: n.21).
Von Unruh received an aristocratic military education and fought as a mounted officer (Uhlan) at Verdun in the German army. At the same time, he was a resolute pacifist whose works, starting from 1911, forced him out of a professional military career. He volunteered to the front at the start of WWI and his war experiences developed his lifelong humanism and pacifism. During the 1920s, he continued to write, but his books were perceived to be so politically undesirable that they were burned by the Nazi students on 10 May 1933, alongside works by Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Kurt Tucholsky and Thomas Mann (Wikipedia). As Baumann documents, von Unruh “was on the run from the Nazis. Hence, during the rest of the 30s, he never stayed long in the same country, but when France fell to the Germans he was captured and interned there. Fortunately, he eventually made good his escape to the U.S.” (48). He returned to his home country in his old age in 1962.Unlike Kolschitzky, who helped his own side and was rewarded with a house in town and a splendid business opportunity at the cost of the former enemy, von Unruh is one of the resisters, who testified of war and empire unflinchingly, in the name of a humanist ideal. He was ostracized and went into lifelong exile.
Kaiser – German Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941). Pound called him “a louse in Berlin” in canto 38. See XXXVIII l. 47; OCCEP XXXVIII n.19. Like Mehmet VI, who was the last sultan of the Ottomans, Wilhelm II would be the last emperor, as Germany became a republic in 1919.
- Verdun – the longest battle of attrition between the French and German armies during WWI. It was fought on French territory between 21 February and 18 December 1916 and ended with a French victory. The number of casualties were almost evenly distributed on both sides and amounted to 714,231 people. Wikipedia.
See also canto XVI for a view of Verdun from the French side: XVI: ll.160-204; OCCEP XVI: nn.39-42.
- what he wrote down – Fritz von Unruh published a memoir of the war in his expressionist novel Opfergang [written in 1916, first published in 1918, translated into English as The Way of Sacrifice in 1928].
A more literal translation of the title would be The Road to Calvary. Detailed summary and analysis of the novel are to be found in Grabolle 27-52. The grotesque anecdote about the sergeant is not mentioned in his book (Baumann 48).
Mr Charles Francis Adams – Pound returns to Charles Francis Adams in his role of Foreign Minister to London during the American civil war. He had referred to Adams before, in canto 42, where he emphasized his role in blocking British naval aid to the Confederate states, thus helping to shorten the war. Britain’s trade interests aligned with the Confederacy, since it imported cotton from the South as a raw material for its textile industry in Lancashire. The Union had imposed a blockade on the Confederacy ports in April 1861 so the influx of raw cotton from the States had all but stopped. See also canto XLII: ll.1-2 and OCCEP XLII: n.3.
In canto 46, Pound mentioned the slums of Manchester as the British counterpart of this trade arrangement and a visible sign of exploitative capitalism (OCCEP XLVI: n.44).
- no good conversation – For Pound, meaningful conversation is symptomatic of the state of a culture and the intelligence of an individual. Fragments of contemporary conversation are often used in The Cantos with satirical intent, see 28, 35 and 38 for examples. Pound also mentioned examples of brilliant conversation as vital signs of intelligence and culture: Malatesta’s conversation with Platina in the antechamber of Pope Paul II in 1467 (canto XI: ll.94-105; OCCEP XI: nn.36-39); Gemisto Plethon’s philosophic and political conversations at the time of the Council of Ferrara in 1438 (canto VIII: ll.116-125; OCCEP VIII: nn.35-40).
On 18 July 1861, Charles Francis wrote home:
“I think I have attained a tolerable idea of the texture of London society. I have seen most of the men of any reputation, literary or political. The conclusion is not favourable, so far as the comparison with other periods is concerned […] I have not yet been to a single entertainment where there was any conversation that I should care to remember. This is not much or a record as compared with the early part of the present or the close of the last century, with the days of Queen Anne, or of Elisabeth” (Adams I: 20).
Browning – Robert Browning (1812–1889), English poet, one of Pound’s idols and models of youth. Pound presents the anecdote as a snapshot of the intellectual decline of British society (as an effect of usury-based capitalism), where an English genius is not even recognized as belonging to his own culture.
The passage is an excerpt from a letter of Henry Adams to his brother, Charles Francis Jr, on 14 May 1863. Henry had accompanied their father, Charles Francis Sr, to London as his private secretary, continuing the family tradition, whereas Charles Francis Jr was fighting in the civil war back home. See family tree of the Adams family in Resources.
Henry had witnessed a dinner conversation between Browning, the writer and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) and the painter Matthew Edward Ward (1816-1879). Before praising the dinner and conversation, Henry had this to say about Browning:
“Browning is neat, lively, impetuous, full of animation, and very un-English in all his opinions and appearance. Here, in London Society, famous as he is, half his entertainers actually take him to be an American. He told us some amusing stories about this, one evening when he dined here” (Adams 2: 10).
Van Buren having written it down – reference to Martin van Buren’s Autobiography, which included an account of the so-called Bank War (1829-36). Like von Unruh, van Buren is retelling this conflict between an American central bank and its government from the perspective of a witness and participant. See Bank War Timeline. The Autobiography was published in 1918, almost 90 years after the events. See also Pound’s account of the Bank War relying on theAutobiography in canto 37 (XXXVII: ll.76-136; OCCEP XXXVII: nn.32-58).
Pound considered the Bank War as a crucial episode of resistance and provisional victory against usury in the United States before the civil war. He would return to it in cantos 88-89.
John Adams – Pound may refer to John Adams’s forceful statements on the obliteration of historical records made in a letter to Jefferson on 9 July 1813. He would quote from this letter in Adams’s portrait in canto 71, but was certainly aware of it before that canto’s composition in the spring of 1939, as he had quoted from the letter just following it (13 July 1813) in canto 33.
“While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is now at a stand; little better understood, little better practised now than three or four thousand years ago. What is the reason? I say, parties and factions will not suffer improvements to be made. As soon as one man hints at an improvement, his rival opposes it. No sooner has one party discovered or invented any amelioration of the condition of man, or the order of society than the opposite party belies it, misconstrues it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it. Records are destroyed. Histories are annihilated or interpolated or prohibited; sometimes by Popes, sometimes by Emperors, sometimes by aristocratical, and sometimes by democratical assemblies, and sometimes by mobs” (Adams Works X: 50).
See also how Pound turns Adams’s letter into poetry at the start of canto 33:
“Is that despotism
or absolute power ... unlimited sovereignty,
is the same in a majority of a popular assembly,
an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto,
and a single emperor, equally arbitrary, bloody,
and in every respect diabolical. Wherever it has resided
has never failed to destroy all records, memorials,
all histories which it did not like, and to corrupt
those it was cunning enough to preserve....”
- ‘become fathers of the next generation’ – Pound continues his list of testimonials against the effects of usury on 19th century life with a passage from Karl Marx’s Capital describing child exploitation in Victorian Britain. He had first quoted it in canto 33:
“As early as 1840, a Commission of Parliament had been appointed to inquire into the conditions of child labor. Its report, as Senior remarks, disclosed ‘the most frightful picture of avarice, selfishness and cruelty on the part of masters and of parents, and of juvenile and infantile misery, degradation and destruction ever presented.’ ... It may be supposed that it describes the horrors of a past age. But there is unhappily evidence that those horrors continue as intense as they were. A pamphlet published by Hardwicke about 2 years ago states that the abuses complained of in 1842, are in full bloom at the present day . It is a strange proof of the general neglect of the morals and health of the children of the working class, that this report lay unnoticed for 20 years, during which the children, ‘bred up without the remotest sign of comprehension as to what is meant by the term morals, who had neither knowledge, nor religion, nor natural affection,’ were allowed to become the parents of the present generation.” Marx, Capital 539. XXXIII: l.72. See also OCCEP XXXIII: n.43.
- tuberculosis – Though tuberculosis has been known since antiquity, it was during the 19th century that it became a widespread epidemic, especially affecting the poor, who died in higher numbers because they did not have access to sanitation, medicines or sanatoria. Wikipedia.
- Bismarck – Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), German statesman. Bismarck is credited with the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the unification of Germany in a single state. From the unification in 1871 until 1890, Bismarck served as Germany’s first Chancellor. Wikipedia.
- blamed – Pound’s source for Bismarck’s statement is Dudley Pelley’s article “The Mystery of the Civil War and Lincoln’s Death” in his own newspaper Liberation (10 February 1934). Louis Zukofsky had sent Pound a copy and Pound was delighted with it, telling Zukofsky in a letter of 6-7 May 1934 that Pelley understands the American mind (P/Z 157-8).
“According to Bismarck, the awful Civil War in America was fomented by a Jewish Conspiracy, and Abraham Lincoln, the hero and national saint of the United States, was killed by the same Hidden Hand which killed six Romanov tsars, ten kings, and scores of ministers, only to bleed nations” (quoted by Ahearn 159).
Pound tried to verify the statement, writing to Hugo Fack in January 1935:
“Did I ever ask you// is there any trace of jews being in anti=slavery, abolitionist movement in the U.S.? do you know WHERE Bismark wrote that Rotschild started the U.S. civil war?” (EPEC 138)
We do not know if Fack gave the information requested, but by 1936 Pound thought Pelley’s statement was safe enough to include in the canto and supported it with an example of Jewish collusion in the following lines about Rothschild and Disraeli. See also Purg 241-2.
Rothschild – Banking family that originated in Frankfurt in the 18th century and still exists today. Powerful ramifications existed particularly in London and Paris where the Rothschilds were the bankers of the government and acquired not only financial but also political importance by serving in parliament and extending their business from banking to various branches of industry.
one of whom – probably Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), British banker of Jewish descent. Lionel was friends with Benjamin Disraeli and they helped each other for mutual benefit. Disraeli made it possible that Jews could be elected mpembers in the House of Commons: Lionel was the first to be admitted in 1858. When Disraeli needed to buy 44% shares in the Suez Canal for the government in 1875, Lionel gave him the necessary loan “by gentleman’s agreement.” Disraeli did not seek approval from Parliament and signed no loan contract. Wikipedia.
Disraeli – Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) British Conservative politician of Jewish descent. He served as Prime Minister between 1874 and 1880. Wikipedia.
- pay rent for their credit – Pound referred to a quote from Rothchild to Disraeli that was made in Father Coughlin’s book Money: Questions and Answers:
“In 1844 Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin d’Israeli [sic]) cited Lionel Rothschild as saying: ‘Can anything be more absurd than that a nation should apply to an individual to maintain its credit and, with its credit, its existence as a state, and its comfort as a people’” (Coughlin 169; Purg 269). This quotation is a counterpart to the Rothschild passage made in canto 46 (XLVI: ll.77-81) and shows that by the time he wrote canto 48, Pound had seen Coughlin’s book. The two passages are included on successive pages.
- Δίγονος– H. “Digonos” (the twice born), is a designation of the god Dionysus, who was born twice: first of his mother Semele, then of his father Zeus, after pregnant Semele’s death. Pound uses the word again in cantos 72 and 74.
- lost in the forest – The available interpretations of this passage differ widely:
Mary de Rachewiltz indicated parallels between Dionysus and certain African beliefs about rebirth Pound found in Frobenius (1536).
Jean Michel Rabaté connected this passage to the fate of children working in British manufacturing that Pound mentioned six lines above. Working for 10-12 hours a day in factories, these children lived in the “forest” and were “reborn” to society as “wild”: “children, ‘bred up without the remotest sign of comprehension as to what is meant by the term morals, who had neither knowledge, nor religion, nor natural affection,’ were allowed to become the parents of the present generation.” Marx, Capital 539; Rabaté 194.
- Cawdor Sept 23 – The letter about the pure breed dog Dhu Achil was sent by A. E. Evans, Brodick Castle Cawdor, Isle of Arran to the Prince of Monaco (De Rachewiltz 1536). It is satirically interlined with the choice of the American Secretary of State who, unlike the dog, did not need a pedigree to serve but was selected on a drinking binge.
- Dhu Achil – Gaelic “Black Achilles.”
Mr. Rhumby – Satirical take on the name of Bainbridge Colby (1869-1950), who was Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson (1920-1) (C n.24).
- Galileo – Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Italian astronomer and physicist who demonstrated that the Earth is not the static centre of the universe but is a planet circling the sun. The heliocentric system he proved through science and observation brought him into conflict with the Church, which forced him to recant in 1633. Galileo spent the last years of his life in house arrest – he is famed for having said on his deathbed “eppur si muove” (“and yet, it moves”). Wikipedia.
Pound shows that by the 20th c, the Catholic Church had learned to politely accept scientific theory and technological advances: see the use of loudspeakers in the beatification of Frassinetti in this canto (n.5) and the Pope’s dialogue with Marconi in canto 38. At the same time, it shows how well-entrenched Catholic views of the world were in Italy.
See also Pound’s other example of unquestioning Catholic devotion: “Prince Oltrepassimo” in canto XXVIII: ll.204-19; OCCEP XXVIII: nn.43-46.
- err’ un imbecile… mondo – I. [Galileo] “was an imbecile and dumbed down the world.”
Salem Museum – The Salem Museum in Salem Mass. follows the history of the town from its founding in 1626 to the present day. Pound’s lines indicate that he had Salem’s history of maritime trade in mind. A dedicated Maritime Museum was founded in 1938, just two years after the writing of the canto. See salemmuseum.org.
“It was to the ‘rich East,’ indeed, that Salem owed its brief but dazzling period of commercial glory. In the two decades following the American Revolution, Salem’s sailing ships returned from China and East India (as Americans then called India, Indochina and the Malay Archipelago) brimming with tea and spices, silks and porcelain, ivory and gold dust. ‘Boston was the Spain, Salem the Portugal, in the race for Oriental opulence,’ wrote historian Samuel Eliot Morison in 1921. Salem’s hugely profitable trade with the Orient transformed this hardscrabble New England seaport into a global powerhouse and, by the early 1800s, the wealthiest city per capita in the United States” (Stewart 2004).
- Good Hope – Cape of Good Hope is the southern extremity of Africa: It was on the route used by American ships from Salem to reach India and China for trade after the American Revolution. NPS.history.com.
- The Horn – Cape Horn is at the southern extremity of South America. Salem ships circumnavigated it to trade with California during the gold rush in 1848-9. NPS.history.com
- twin seas – possible reference to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans referenced by the Capes of Good Hope and the Horn. Another possibility is the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea where the Roman province of Bithynia was located.
12% interest in Bithynia – The province of Bithynia was located in the northwest of Turkey, on the shores of the Sea of Marmara (Propontis) and the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus), just east of Troy. It was part of the Roman and Byzantine Empire from 74 BC until it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1333. Wikipedia.
Pound found the information about the Roman interest rates in Claudius Salmasius’ De Modo Usurarum. As he certifies himself in Guide to Kulchur, the most common Roman rate of interest was 6% and it conduced to the stability of the empire (GK 41). As he argued to W.H.D. Rouse in 1934, for Pound Latin economic history was the real history, blotted out by what he regarded as the influence of usury in education. See letter in Calendar.
When Pliny the Younger was governor in Bithynia, he wrote to Emperor Trajan that the surplus from taxes needed to be invested but that the requested monthly interest of 12% for loans was too high and might discourage borrowers. The letter original in Latin is quoted by Salmasius (269) and is in itself remarkable for its caution against state usury. It was also effective, as Trajan allowed the lowering of the rate, as his asnwer to Pliny’s letter attests. Below an English translation:
“Thanks, Sir, to your forethought and my administration the public revenues have either already been collected or are being collected at this moment, and I am afraid that the money may lie idle. For an opportunity of buying land rarely or never arises, and it is impossible to find persons ready to borrow from the State, especially at twelve per cent per month, for at that rate they can borrow from private individuals. Consider therefore, Sir, whether you think the rate of interest should be lowered and by this means attract suitable borrowers, or whether, if they are not forthcoming even then, the money should be divided among the decurions in such a way that they give good security for it to the State. Such a course, even though it displeased them and they were unwilling to take the money, would be less obnoxious provided the rate were lowered” (Pliny the Younger Letter 54).
- theign – OE “servant, attendant.” In Anglo-Saxon society, a thegn or thane was a retainer of the king, someone engaged in the service of a king’s household or that of the country in a military role. The rank was understood as being below that of ealdorman and reeve. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, William the Conqueror replaced the terminology of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy with the Norman: A King’s thane was called a baron; lower rank thanes were merged with the Norman knights. Wikipedia.
Athelstan – (894-939) Anglo-Saxon king and grandson of Alfred the Great. Due to his military successes against the Vikings, he unified the kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex, Northumbria and York and is considered the first king to rule over all the English people in a united kingdom (Rex totius Britanniae) (924-39). Pound presents him here as a ruler who correctly understood the nature of English sovereignty as resting on maritime and commercial power.
He found in John R. Green’s A Short History of the English People the following passage:
“London, of course, took the lead in this new development of civic life. Even in Athelstan’s day every London merchant who had made three long voyages on his own account ranked as a Thane” (Green 191).
Pound mentioned Athelstan again in cantos 91/633, 97/690, and 105/703.
The three examples above, (Salem’s choice of directors; Pliny’s administration of Bithynia; and Athelsthan’s theigns) are positive instances in which the right people are positioned in their correct social roles according to merit and experience. These are in stark contrast with Bainbridge Colby’s “election” to be Secretary of State and illustrate the Confucian principle of “right word” (zheng ming) which concludes the Fifth Decad.
- a little more stock – Pound refers to the practice of diluting shares by selling as many as could be printed and sold. The value of the shares goes down and the stockholders find themselves cheated of their investment. Long-distance travel, unlike in Athelstan’s times, is devoted to selling diluted stocks and shares, rather than trading and carrying useful goods.
- plot a course – a course can be “plotted” only when the goal is known: the distance of 3000 nautical miles that the “Norse engineer” mentioned corresponds to the one from Hawaii to Tahiti. Pound thus evokes Polynesian long-distance seafaring and net fishing on the Pacific, much more difficult than the island hopping or coastal navigation on the Mediterranean, as it involved long stretches on open ocean with no sighting of land.
“The Tuamotu group of islands (to the northeast of Tahiti) offered a special variety of basalt that was traded over long distances. Since Tuamotu lies on the sea route from Hawaii to Tahiti, it is not surprising that Tuamotu basalt as a raw material for adzes [cutting tools] is found both in Hawaii and in Tahiti. The distance between the two island groups is about 3,000 nautical miles (about 4,800 km)” Danver 266.
At the time of writing the canto in 1936, an expedition to prove the effectiveness of Polynesian seafaring techniques and the hypothesis that they made the journey from Polynesia to Hawaii must have been “in the air” or in informal conversation. The Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdhal made the Kon Tiki raft expedition from Peru to Tuamotu (5400 nautical miles) in 1947. Wikipedia.
- while she bought – the male maritime experience is compared to the female fishing expedition in fashion shopping. This passage parallels the one in canto 47: “two-span to a woman […]/ The stars are not in her counting, / To her they are but wandering holes.” Pound here relies on a letter from Olga Rudge (de Rachewiltz 1536).
- here – the place Pound refers to is Gais, a village in South Tyrol where his daughter, Mary Rudge (later Mary de Rachewiltz) was growing up with a local family. Mary knew she was raised by “Mamme” and “Tatte,” who were farmers and spoke the Tyrolese dialect. At the same time, she had her “Mamile” (Olga Rudge) and “Tattile,” “Babbo,” or “Herr” (Ezra Pound) who lived far away. They visited and occasionally allowed her to visit them and stay in Venice and Sant’Ambrogio. Though Mary knew that Mamile and Tattile were her real parents, and learned English and Italian later, her happy childhood in South Tyrol bound her soul forever. For her, this was the real home.
- una nuova messa – I. “a new mass.”
- dodicesimo anno E.F. – I. “the twelfth year Era Fascista.” Year XII in the Fascist Calendar was between 28 October 1933 and 27 October 1934.
In her memoir Discretions, Mary de Rachewiltz recounted her childhood spent in the South Tyrol, a region that had been annexed to Italy just after 1918. There were tensions between the Austrian, Tyrolese-speaking village population and the post-1922 Fascist ordinances. In schools, students had to swear an oath of allegiance to Italy, be part of Fascist organisations, wear uniforms and “march” in the Physical Education classes. However, after the “Concordat” between Mussolini and the Pope, there was freedom of worship and the Tyrolean village received the visit of the bishop.
De Rachewiltz quoted from the canto and added her own memories:
“But time was never grudged for Church activities and we had grand processions and parades when the bishop came for the confirmation ceremony or when one of the village boys came to officiate at his first Mass. No greater blessing or honor could have befallen the village; the grown-ups rejoiced and we children were wildly excited” (De Rachewiltz 72).
In her annotation to the canto (Mondadori 1985), de Rachewiltz stated that the description of the Gais celebrations was based on a letter she sent to her father (1536).
- bella festa – I. “beautiful celebration.”
- in giro per il paese – I. “around the country.”
- carozze – I. “[horse-drawn] carriages.”
- may I go back there – this refers to a rather painful episode in the misalignment between Mary’s life in Tyrol and the habits and assumptions of her parents: on a trip to the Lido, the Venice beach with her father, Mary said she wanted “home” but was misunderstood to have meant home in Gais, rather than home in Venice (de Rachewiltz 66-9).
- Sunday shoes – In her memoir, Mary de Rachewiltz remembered the Sunday shoes too, as a magical moment of bonding with her father (De Rachewiltz 96-7). At the same time, the vividness and beauty of the country celebrations are presented in the canto as they appear to a child and thus acquire an ironic undertone, which this detail makes clear.
- Velvet, yellow, unwinged… its orchis – an enigmatic metaphor which might be inspired by Pound’s translation of Remy de Gourmont, especially his chapter on butterflies:
“in the case of another butterfly which one calls, absurdly, the orgye, the male has all the characteristics of lepidoptera, the female is almost wingless with a heavy and swollen body and a carriage about as pleasing as that of a monstrous wood-louse” (Gourmont 35).
In the lines, Pound telescopes the stages of butterfly growth, from the yellow egg that is round as a ball, to the wingless larva crawling with difficulty into an orchid that is identified with its species and called the “butterfly orchid.”
We could speculate that as the still immature poet makes his difficult uphill ascent to Montségur on slippery stones, the visit transforms both him and his goal. Inside the citadel, after an arduous journey, the poet matures to what he was naturally meant to be; the citadel ceases to be just the Cathar fortress but a holy place for poets, whose very name signifies poetry.
stair there still broken – Pound visited Montségur on 23 June 1919 (Bressan 47). The entrance to the citadel is higher than the path level and without stairs involves some difficult “clambering.” Today, there is a sturdy wooden stair leading up to the opening and a landing in front of it. YouTube.
The broken stair is a detail of location that stayed in his mind, as he mentioned it in canto 23 as well:
And he went down past Chaise Dieu,
And went after it all to Mount Segur,
after the end of all things,
And they hadn’t left even the stair,
And Simone was dead by that time,
And they called us the Manicheans
Wotever the hellsarse that is.
(XXIII: ll.74-81. See also OCCEP XXIII: nn.39-49.
Pound wrote his mother in law on a postcard from Montségur: “DP struggled up – grass, v. slippery – Especially coming down to village – where we got food, & gave the curé coffee” (Pound Family Postcards, Hamilton College, 215).
Mt Segur – Although the Albigensian Crusade had ended in 1229, local resistance continued and the citadel of Monségur was made the “seat and head” of the Cathar Church. The fortress was finally set under siege in May 1243. After almost a year, the last resisters climbed down – they were unrepentant and burned in a bonfire on 16 March 1244. The stronghold was destroyed – today’s ruins are a later fortification. Wikipedia. “Montségur had been the fortress of the Cathars after the end of the Albigensian crusade, and the theater of their final massacre by the besieging troops of the seneschal of Carcassonne and the archbishop of Narbonne in 1244. It was, for Pound, the symbol of that link between the peculiar religious feelings of Medieval Provence and the Ancient Greek mysteries of Eleusis he had established in ‘Psychology and Troubadours’ and further, the mythical place of the resistance of poetry against institutionalized power. […]
The Cathar castle is also linked to ‘the city of Dioce’ (LXXX/530) the mythical Ecbatana, built so as to mirror the perfection of the universe. In general, Montségur is remembered and shaped in The Cantos as a radiant core of communion with the gods of nature uprooted by the violence of the Catholic Church. The poetical construction of this ‘light space’—as Hugh Kenner calls it, underlining that Montségur, before being a fortress was a sort of temple ‘sacred to Helios’ (The Pound Era, 335-36)—is achieved by the superposition of the figures of the troubadours, presented throughout the poem as heroes of poetry and lovemaking, with the sacred nature of the place, enriched by the experiential details collected during the walking journeys” (Bressan 50-1).
- Val Cabrere – From the village of Valcabrère to the town of Saint-Bertrand de Comminges there are 2.1 km, which Pound and his wife Dorothy must have travelled on foot on their excursions in Provence on 16-18 June 1919, a few days before visiting Montségur (Bressan 47). The video shows how near Valcabrère and San Bertrand de Comminges are to each other: YouTube.
In a postcard to her mother, Dorothy mentioned a church they had visited the day before: from the description, we can infer that it was the church of Saint-Just in Valcabrère:
“Saw a lovely little church in the plain yesty, with black basalt flights of steps each side of altar: old Roman pillars; site of pagan temple” (quoted by Bressan, 2016).
- San Bertrand – Saint Bertrand de Comminges is a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees built around a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin on the ruins of an ancient Roman town, Lugdunum Convenarum. This Gallo-Roman city occupied the whole territory from the medieval town of Saint-Bertrand to the village of Valcabrère. It survived the fall of the Roman Empire but was destroyed in 585 during the Wars of Succession between the Franks. The various excavations that took place on this site have brought to light various Roman remains, forums, a temple, market and baths.
From Saint-Bertrand de Comminges, Dorothy Pound wrote back to her mother on 17 June 1919:
“17 juin/ We came here yesty: Two hours train from T[oulouse]. and then about 12 miles walk. There are large mts all round & real peaks in distance. Today we walked in a village towards them. Lovely place, & we came back after about 15 miles!
We stay quietly here tomorrow & go elsewhere next day. Magnif. church & cloisters. fortified here all to top of its own little hide: & lots [?] of Roman marbles. Love D.” (Brunnenburg Private Collection, Courtesy of Mary and Siegfried de Rachewiltz. Quoted by Bressan 2016).
- altar to Terminus – The name of the god Terminus was the Latin word for a boundary stone, and his worship, as recorded in the late Republic Empire centred on this stone, with which the god could be identified. Siculus Flaccus, a writer on land surveying, records the ritual by which the stone was sanctified: the bones, ashes, and blood of a sacrificial victim, along with crops, honeycombs, and wine, were placed into a hole at a point where estates converged, and the stone was driven in on top. On February 23 annually, a festival called the Terminalia was celebrated in Terminus’ honor, involving practices which can be regarded as a reflection or “yearly renewal” of this foundational ritual. Neighboring families would garland their respective sides of the marker and make offerings to Terminus at an altar—Ovid identifies these, again, as crops, honeycombs, and wine. The marker itself would be drenched in the blood of a sacrificed lamb or pig. There followed a communal feast and hymns in praise of Terminus. Wikipedia. See also Ovid Fasti Book II: XII: Kal 23rd
- Savairic – Savari de Mauléon, (ca. 1181-1233), French soldier, lord of Mauléon, seneschal de Poitou, poet and patron of Gaubertz de Poicebot. Pound mentions him in canto 5: Savairic made Gaubertz a knight, so that he could marry the woman he loved. See OCCEP V: nn.14-19. Pound may have visited Mauléon on 20 June 1919, shortly after Valcabrère and just three days before going to Montségur (Bressan 47).
- Gaubertz – Jausbert de Puycibot (fl 1220-1231), Provençal troubadour from Limousin. In canto 5, he is juxtaposed with Austors and Peire de Maensac, who are then mentioned again in canto 23. Like Peire, Gaubertz is going “hither” to Montségur. See also n.54 and OCCEP V: nn.20-23.
- wd. not be under Paris – In 1229, The Treaty of Paris-Meaux put an end to the Albigensian crusade and the political autonomy of Occitania. The military protector of the Cathars, Raymond VII of Toulouse, conceded defeat and became a vassal of the King of France, Louis IX. His land was transferred to the French crown after his death. Wikipedia.
Pound would like to think that Provencal knights and troubadours such as Savari de Mauléon, Gaubertz de Poicebot, and Peire de Maensac did not submit to the new situation: he imagines them going to Montségur to continue their resistance to Church power. In canto 23, Peire goes first to the abbey of Chaise Dieu on his way to Montségur; Gaubertz and Savairic pass through Saint Bertrand de Comminges, which has an old and imposing cathedral. In canto 23, Pound had invoked the Hellenism of Provençal culture; here, he evokes the hidden ruins of the Roman world buried under the wheat fields and churches.
In the summer of 1919, as Pound was visiting these places, he could identify with the troubadours as a 20th century poet resisting another Paris Treaty, that of Versailles, which ended WWI.
- Falling Mars – In J/M, Pound reminisced about a brutal killing in the insect world he had witnessed at Excideuil in August 1919: a wasp cutting up a spider. He likens it to the god of war plunging on its victim and calls it “jet avenger.”
It was an episode that Pound commented on it at length in 1933:
“He [Remi de Gourmont] then got round to defining intellect as the fumbling about in the attempt to create instinct, or at any rate on the road towards instinct. And his word instinct came to mean merely PERFECT and complete intelligence with a limited scope applied to recurrent conditions (vide his chapters on insects in La Physique de l’Amour).
The flying ant or wasp or whatever it was that I saw cut up a spider at Excideuil may have been acting by instinct, but it was not acting by reason of the stupidity of instinct. It was acting with remarkably full and perfect knowledge which did not have to be chewed out in a New Republic article or avoided in a London Times leader.
When a human being has an analogous completeness of knowledge, or intelligence carried into a third or fourth dimension, capable of dealing with NEW circumstances, we call it genius” (J/M 18).
spire-top a-level the grass yard – Pound revisits the scene of Excideuil, where Eliot had told him a personal secret which Pound invoked before, in canto 29:
“So Arnaut turned there
Above him the wave pattern cut in the stone
Spire-top alevel the well-curb
And the tower with cut stone above that, saying:
‘I am afraid of the life after death.’
and after a pause:
‘Now, at last, I have shocked him’”
(XXIX: ll.136-42; OCCEP XXIX: n.41).
The two scenes, that of a poet’s confession and that of the wasp killing the spider are complementary, taking the reader to the same scene in August 1919 when two very different poets revealed themselves to each other. Pound admired the direction of will the wasp had, and identified with troubadours who were soldiers and resisters to the propaganda of Church power; Eliot was more concerned with the Christian problem of sin and his fear for personal salvation.
- at the Lido – barrier island in the Venetian lagoon with a popular beach.
- basket of stones – the old man’s task was to put stones on clothes so that they are not blown away. A far cry from putting stone on stone to build a citadel, a town, or a church.