Article Index








John Quincy Adams 2761 3x2gty 56a489213df78cf77282ddca

For Adams slavery, not money, was the most crucial issue in American politics because it was literally the most damning. Unless we could abolish slavery, we could not exist in Gods favor. JQA, in any reading, is a Calvinistic moralist, a man of great integrity and great ability, but not—Pound believed— the man of action America needed.

Alec Marsh. “John Quincy Adams and/or Martin Van Buren: Cantos 34 and 37” 61.


Quincy Adams was a communist in so far as he wanted to hold a lot of unsettled land “for the nation.” The idea was unseasonable and would have held back the settlement of the continent for who knows how many decades.

If Adams hadn’t been deficient in capacity for human contacts he might, however, have saved “for the nation,” enough land to be useful in a number of conjectural ways. It did “belong to the nation.” 

Ezra Pound. Jefferson and/or Mussolini 37.



CANTO XXXI [John Quincy Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson]

CANTO XXXVII [political antagonist in the mirror: Martin van Buren surveying the American political situation in the mid-19th century]

CANTO L [John Quincy Adams and Napoleon]

CANTOS LXII-LXXI [John Adams Cantos]





The Last Founding Father: John Quincy Adams



JQA 1835 Asher Brown Durand




The canto is a selective biography of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), John Adams’s eldest son and the 6th President of the United States (1824-29). After a brief introduction of two lines referring to a dinner at the White House in 1807, the canto follows the entries in JQA’s diary from 1809 to 1845. “The Canto thus covers JQA’s most productive 40 years” (Terrell “Montage” 185). Nevertheless, the canto avoids the areas of Adams’s career that are most hotly debated among historians, such as the potentially corrupt election of 1924 and the electoral campaign of 1929; it barely touches on what historians consider to be Adams's main services to the nation, such as his central role in the peace of Ghent, The Florida Purchase, and the formulation of the Monroe doctrine; the canto does not let us even suspect the prestige Adams acquired in his later years as Congressman for Massachusetts in the struggle against slavery, particularly his defense of the slaves on Amistad. Further, Pound avoids the period of Adams’s presidency (which is generally regarded by historians as ineffectual) and concentrates on key periods of his life on both sides of his term in the White House, presenting his life as an interweaving of his public activities and his personal interests. Pound uses luminous details that look personal and colourful to imply important events that lie behind them - he does not tell the reader what these are.

The important biographical and historical periods included in the canto are roughly the following:

1809-1814 – JQA is ambassador to Russia and interacts with the Russian minister Rumyantzev in the preamble of two important wars, (a) Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and (b) the armed conflict between the United States and Britain that explode almost simultaneously in June 1812.

March 1815 – As JQA is in Paris, he follows Napoleon’s approach from Elba: he tracks it in his diary and goes out into the streets to take the pulse of the times when Bonaparte has reached the capital.

1817-20 – JQA returns to the United States and acts as secretary of state under President James Monroe. Pound includes details that point to the Adams-Onís Treaty (The Florida Purchase) and to the elaboration of the Monroe doctrine.

1830-45 – JQA loses the second presidential mandate to Andrew Jackson after a brutal, personalized elections campaign. (See History Channel for more detail.) He comments acidly on the main figures of his successor’s political environment: Martin van Buren, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, Daniel Webster, William H. Harrison, John Tyler. Adams’s comments prefigure canto XXXVII, where we find again the same politicians seen from his rival’s, Martin van Buren’s perspective. Indeed Pound’s letters indicate that his interest in this cast of characters and van Buren himself was born as he was reading the Adams material: while finishing the canto Pound was hunting for van Buren's Autobiography through his booksellers. See Calendar.

JQA is indignant against the injustice that the Jackson government perpetrates on Native Americans, especially the Cherokee nation, a moral stance that links him with his illustrious predecessors, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Pound also includes a short, almost disparaging reference to Adams’s failing powers as he reviews his defence of the slaves on Amistad in 1841.

Pound’s canto aims to give details of Adams’s personality and interests over and beyond politics and avoids openly tackling well-trodden areas. He insists on Adams’s culture, his skills, his travels and his reading. Since Adams had learned French very early and routinely used the language in his diplomatic work, various French expressions crop up in his diary and also in the canto. Adams’s first love was literature, in which he had a MA degree from Harvard. Pound is careful to mark this interest by including JQA’s comments on his readings and his often reduced possibilities of conversing with others on literary subjects. Pound paints the portrait of an American aristocrat, a solitary man who goes against his own heart for the sake of political service. Adams himself wrote in his diary: “I have been a lawyer for bread/a statesman at the call of my country” implying that his affections and interest lay in the enjoyment and study of literature rather than in the pursuit of politics. Pound shows Adams as a moral observer of both American and international politics. Like his father, JQA has an ethical approach to governance, relying on his own moral and religious judgement, not political expediency or party interest. 

Carroll F. Terrell studied the entries of JQA’s Diary relevant to this canto in depth and gave ample quotations, both from the diary itself and from collateral works of biography and history, so as to contextualize Pound’s references in more detail. His results were published in his article, “Canto XXXIV: The Technique of Montage” published in Paideuma in 1977. 

Terrell concluded: 

“One cannot help read the source Pound used along with collateral matter and not speculate on his principles of selection or, as much to the point, why he leaves material out. Resolution of such questions must await another generation of scholars. For the moment my hypothesis is simple: Pound attempts to provide the widest possible range of details to display the breadth of interests and the depth of character of his protagonist as he can manage in the briefest possible space. Also, he tends to leave out anything which the student is likely to know in order to include a sufficient phalanx of particulars about what he is less likely to know. As with the Jefferson, Van Buren, Adams and other cantos, he allows his protagonist to speak for himself” (Terrell 187).

See also the Timeline of Adams’s biography in Resources for a broad, neutral overview of his life. 









canto 34 title page

Ezra Pound and Dorothy Pound. Canto XXXIV. In Shakespear’s Pound: Illuminated Cantos

Nacogdoches, TX: LaNana Creek Press, [Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing], 1999.

Photo reproduction courtesy of Archie Henderson.









Following the date of submission of cantos XXXI-XXXIII to Pagany, canto XXXIV was written between May and September 1931 and revised at the start of October. The two new cantos Dorothy confirmed receiving on 7 September 1931 must be cantos XXXIV and XXXV.



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




Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library Box no/Folder no


Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven. Ezra Pound Papers YCAL 43; Olga Rudge Papers YCAL 54. General Correspondence. Box no/Folder no. 



To Olga Rudge, [25 May 1931]

YCAL 54, 10/259

Ziao, cara


If he gits a swim he might start a Canto.


To Olga Rudge, [29 May 1931]

YCAL 54, 10/259



Mr Neumayer aint got the J. Q. Adams diary that he thought he wuz goin to get, so there is less woik for pop.


To Olga Rudge, 14 June 1931

YCAL 54, 10/262

Ziao, cara


mebbe he better have a shot at XXXIV.


To Dorothy Pound, 30 September 1931

Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III

Mao –


Have chewed thru a good deal of Adams and written Neum/ to start chasing VanBuren. [....]

Will write of O.S. when I have attained greater lucidity/ now struggling with J.Q.A.//

Note: In the Diary of John Quincy Adams, Pound found intriguing acid remarks about Van Buren. He wrote a London bookseller, Neumayer, to buy books by or about him.


To Dorothy Pound, 1 October 1931

Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III



Finished J.Q.A. yesterday. oggi chewed thru most of Dex Kimball on industrial economics; which Sraff now thinks he wants returned before he leaves.


To Dorothy Pound, 4 October 1931

Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III

M: ao


I have now material for three more canti / which with the three in XXX that aren’t in the folio, and the 3 in Pagany; makes as you might say nine toward vol. 3 of folio. so that one might have it ready some time next year.

SHE can consider prob/ of the CAPS. at her leisure.


“three more canti” - probably Cantos 34 - 35 - 36. No 34. was about John Quincy Adams, whose Diary Pound had just read. 35 relied on his experience in Paris, 6 April-22 May 1931 and his trip to Vienna in May 1928; and canto 36 was to be based on his work on the Guido Cavalcanti edition, Rime, which he had submitted to Marsano in Genova on 13 June 1931 (letter to Olga Rudge YCAL 54 10/262).

“aren't in the folio” - cantos 28-30 were not in the folio edition published by John Rodker in London, A Draft of the Cantos 17-27. They were published in A Draft of XXX Cantos, Paris Hours Press, published by Nancy Cunard in 1930.

“three in Pagany” - cantos 31-33 were published in the American magazine Pagany in September 1931.


To Dorothy Pound, 5 October [1931]

Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III


           He has done 2nd. version of the J. Q. Adams canto. With this I see a block of four.

Have writ. Neumayer and Zuk. to dig up VanBuren’s autobiography. If by chance you see anyone or pass any other book shop, OR if it cd. be weedled out any library...

Martin VanBuren, somethingth pres. of the U. S. call it the 8th. only sometimes they count the 8 year ones double.///

With 3. in the Hours XXX, 3 in Pagany; and the 4 in prospect, one is on the way toward the 3d. folio vol. 



To Olga Rudge, [3 May 1932] Rapallo

YCAL 54, 12/312

Ziao, cara

Wot he grubbed up in Roma seems to have made a canto/ o a peu pres/ [Fr. or almost] an’ now he is waiting fer Miss Martineau (in six vols.)


To Olga Rudge, 8 Maggio [1932]

YCAL 54, 12/313

Ziao cara/


6 vols. of Miss Martineau/ rather simpatica.


To Olga Rudge, 10 May [1932]

YCAL 54, 12/314

Ziao, cara mia


And he haz finished vol. I. of Miss Martineau, a really vurry remarkable female, totin an ear trumpet thru the primaeval forest and guessin’ right every time.

Note. J.Q. Adams mentions admiringly Miss Harriet Martineau, whom he visited on 18 January 1835. See reference to her in XXXIV ll. 168-170. 


To Olga Rudge, 16 May [1932]

YCAL 54, 12/315

Ziao, cara mia.


Miss [Harriet] Martineau continues stable of inelexxhul diet.


From Harriet Monroe, 17 December 1932

CHI, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse 39/25

Dear E.P.

Your latest arrived when I was “down east” and I have had to think it over seriously.

It would please me very much to print your new Cantos, and to have you resume as for. corres. – the latter provided we are not too far apart on policies and poets. But there are certain facts to be considered. 

I feel more and more that Poetry can hardly last beyond next September, the end of our 21st year. Our guarantor list is already more than half wiped out and very few of the rest can be counted on for another year. […]

In any case, however, I should like to have some Cantos, and some status rerum contributions of prose. I shd like to have you, who were so prominent through Poetry’s first years appear prominently, though I hope not violently, in our (probably) final year.



To Morton Zabel, [undated]

YCAL 43, 57/2589

Dear Zabel,

If you mean to run straight, and if you want to reorganize the damn muggerzeen [Poetry, Chicago], of course I’ll help you.

I take it you have got final control of at least for a few issues?

to the best of my knowledge an recollection Harriet never asked for a canto, and never wanted to use ’em. The pay is DISgraceful, AND it is high time the reader was TOLD that a nations literature is MADE, and lifted to a point of INTEREST by a very few people, and that THOSE few shd/ be favoured, because IF NOT,

If they aren’t kept alive the health and vigour of the whole god damn national literature goes to hell. 


I don’t want to print any more Cantos until the Faber edtn/ of 31/41 has come out in England. That eleven is a sort of unit. Must get that INTO the mind of the reader AS a unit. AS the econ/ basis, sans which NO HISTORY.

Epic got to have HISTORY inside it. that is one essential dimension. no hist. without econ. anymore than decent poetry without music, (rhythmic validity).


Note. Though the letter is undated, internal evidence from a letter to Olga Rudge may point to a tentative date of 5 January 1933. On that day, Pound wrote to Olga: “And there is a noo amurikun weekly/ and Mr Zabel wants to reorganize//” (YCAL 54 13/333)


To Morton Zabel, 19 January [1933]

CHI, Morton Zabel Papers, 2/28

Dear Zabel

Am sending you a good fat Canto to go on with.

I shd. like you to put in an edt/ note. NOT an author’s note/ 

saying that 

obviously a full understanding of the John Quincy Adams canto: or of the poetry of the canto can only be gained by considering it in connection with the 30 or more cantos preceding and with the 60 or so that are intented to follow. 

This one goes pretty much by itself/ as far as surface meaning is concerned. There is a group of three which I can provide in the autumn. IF you stiffen up the program in the interim. 

(this one being about two thirds the length of the following three taken altogether) 

An let us hope, fer the lovov Krrist’s exotic balls 

That Harriet won’t try to expurgate Mr Washington or make him say “darn’d” about the senate; in place of what he damn well did say. etc. 

She can’t teach ’em to write/ but th bastids might az zwell learn a l’il amurkn history. etc. 


From Morton Zabel (Poetry Magazine), 11 February 1933

YCAL 43, 57/2589

Dear Pound: 

Cheers for the Canto

H.M. is in Mexico taking a couple of months off for semi-tropical wanderings. I’m writing her there that I am substituting CANTO XXXIV to lead in the April issue instead of an effusion called “Novel in Pictures” by the lily-livered Elder Olson, which I’ve been trying to fight down for the past alf year but which was slated for that issue. I’m sure this will turn out all right. Many thanks fro sending the poem to me. […]

Eliot’s been touring about the country giving speeches, but hasn’t hit Chicago. His public appearances in Cambridge were quite a miscarriage of effect. He apparently didn’t get across with the Bostonians. So the public speeches are given up and he’s doing a course in modern poetry for the Harvard lads.

I’ll let you know the arrangements for canto XXXIV as soon as I know them finally. I’ll take care of the proof carefully, since there will not be time to get it to and back from Rapallo.


From Olga Rudge, 14 March [1933]

YCAL 54, 13/339

Ciao Amore – 


She had seen Canto XXXVII so when it arrived on top of her question to him re present american bank wuzzle she thought he had sent it again as answer – 

She has with her mss - of cantos XXXIV XXXV XXXVI & now XXXVII – in case he needs same –


Canto XXXIV is published in Poetry XLII.I (April 1933): 1-10



To Olga Rudge, [5 January 1936] 

YCAL 54, 16/426



Sec. two was the enc/ slip and a bit more; something over the tongue, tho it now looks like mouth with things floating out of it. Not sure Fen/ didn’t think it wuz flame, but I dont find his nut, and Morison shows origin in tongue sign/ wich ov coure sticks out of mouth.

[slip] hsin ideogram“Man and word, man standing by his word, man of his word, truth, sincere, unwavering.” 


Fen/ – Pound had been working on a new edition of Ernest Fenollosa’s Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry to be published by Stanley Nott in London. He is sharing with Olga the meaning of the “sincerity” ideogram, which he added to Canto 34 in 1958.

Morrison – A Dictionary of the Chinese Language, in Three Parts or Morrison’s Chinese dictionary (1815-1823), compiled by the Anglo-Scottish missionary Robert Morrison was the first Chinese-English, English-Chinese dictionary. Part I is Chinese-English arranged by the 214 Kangxi radicals, Part II is Chinese-English arranged alphabetically, and Part III is English-Chinese also arranged alphabetically. This groundbreaking reference work is enormous, comprising 4,595 pages in 6 quarto volumes and including 47,035 head characters taken from the 1716 Kangxi Dictionary. However, Morrison’s encyclopedic dictionary had flaws, notably failing to distinguish aspirated consonants: the pronunciation taou is given for both aspirated táo (桃, “peach”) and unaspirated dào (道, “way; the Tao”) Wikipedia.









adams national historical 


  1. Redman, Tim. “An Epic Is a Hypertext Containing Poetry. Eleven New Cantos 31-40.”  A Poem Containing History. Textual Studies in The Cantos. Ed. Lawrence S. Rainey. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. 120-1.
  2. Marsh, Alec. “John Quincy Adams and/or Martin Van Buren: Cantos 34 and 37.” Paideuma: Studies in American and British Modernist Poetry 34.1 (2005): 59-88. Resources.
  3. Terrell, Carrol F. “Canto XXXIV: The Technique of Montage.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 6.2 (1977): 185-232. 


  1. Cookson, William. “XXXI-XXXIV. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams – John Quincy Adams.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2009. 47-8.
  2. Davie, Donald. The Poet as Sculptor, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1964. 135-8.
  3. De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: XXXIV.” Ezra Pound. I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1523-4. 
  4. Fang, Achilles. “Materials for the Study of Pound’s Cantos.” 4 vols. Diss. Harvard U, 1958. Vol I: 53-4.
  5. Furia, Philip. Pound’s Cantos Declassified. University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1984. 56-60.
  6. Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto XXXIV.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. 1243-5. 
  7. Moody, David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 164-9.
  8. Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XXXIV.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: California UP, 1993. 133-9. 
  9. Wilhelm, J. J. Ezra Pound. The Tragic Years. 1925-1972. University Park: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1994. 99.



  1. “XXXIV.” A Canto a Day. Blog. 18 March 2009. Free online.
  2. Guidi, Paolo. “Canto 34.” Etching. 20 November 2012. Free online.
  3. Pound, Ezra. “XXXIV.” Poetry Magazine. April 1933. Poetry
  4. Sellar, Gordon. “Blogging Pound’s The Cantos: Cantos XXXIV-XXXVI.”, 8 August 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. Free online.

Cantos LII - LXXI

confucius adams 2