THREE CANTOS OF A POEM OF SOME LENGTH
HANG it all, there can be but the one “Sordello,”
But say I want to, say I take your whole bag of tricks,
Let in your quirks and tweeks, and say the thing’s an artform,
Your “Sordello,” and that the “ modern world”
Needs such a rag-bag to stuff all its thought in ;
Say that I dump my catch, shiny and silvery
As fresh sardines flapping and slipping on the marginal cobbles ?
I stand before the booth (the speech), but the truth
Is inside this discourse: this booth is full of the marrow of wisdom.
Give up the intaglio method?
Tower by tower,
Red-brown the rounded bases, and the plan
Follows the builder’s whim; Beaucaire’s slim gray
Leaps from the stubby base of Altaforte-
Mohammed’s windows, for the Alcazar
Has such a garden, split by a tame small stream-
The moat is ten yards wide, the inner court-yard
Haifa-swim with mire.
There are not. The rough men swarm out
In robes that are half Roman, half like the Knave of Hearts,
And I discern your story:
Was half fore-runner of Dante. Arnaut’s the trick
Of the unfinished address,
And half your dates are out; you mix your eras ;
For that great font, Sordello sat beside-
‘Tis an immortal passage, but the font
Is some two centuries outside the picture-
And no matter.
Ghosts move about me patched with histories.
You had your business: to set out so much thought.
So much emotion, and call the lot “Sordello.”
Worth the evasion, the setting figures up
And breathing life upon them.
Has it a place in music? And your: “Appear Verona!”?
I walk the airy street,
See the small cobbles flare with poppy spoil.
‘Tis your “Great Day,” the Corpus Domini,
And all my chosen and peninsular village
Has spread this scarlet blaze upon its lane,
Oh, before I was up, - with poppy flowers.
Mid-June, and up and out to the half ruined chapel,
Not the old place at the height of the rocks
But that splay barn-like church, the Renaissance
Had never quite got into trim again.
As well begin here, here began Catullus:
“Home to sweet rest, and to the waves deep laughter,”
The laugh they wake amid the border rushes.
This is our home, the trees are full of laughter,
And the storms laugh loud, breaking the riven waves
On square-shaled rocks, and here the sunlight
Glints on the shaken waters, and the rain
Comes forth with delicate tread, walking from Isola Garda,
Lo Soleils plovil,
It is the sun rains, and a spatter of fire
Darts from the “Lydian” ripples, lacus undae,
And the place is full of spirits, not lemures,
Not dark and shadow-wet ghosts, but ancient living,
Wood-white, smooth as the inner-bark, and firm of aspect
And all a gleam with colour?
But coloured like the lake and olive leaves,
GLAUKOPOS, clothed like the poppies, wearing golden greaves,
Light on the air. Are they Etruscan gods?
The air is solid sunlight, apricus.
Sun-fed we dwell there (we in England now)
For Sirmio serves my whim, better than Asolo,
Yours and unseen. Your palace step?
My stone seat was the Dogana’s vulgarest curb,
And there were not “those girls,” there was one flare,
One face, ‘twas all 1 ever saw, but it was real . . .
And I can no more say what shape it was . . .
But she was young, too young.
True, it was Venice,
And at Florian’s under the North arcade
I have seen other faces, and had my rolls for breakfast,
Drifted at night and seen the lit, gilt cross-beams
Glare from the Morosini.
And for what it’s worth
I have my background; and you had your background,
Watched “ the soul,” Sordello’s soul, flare up
And lap up life, and leap “to th’ Empyrean”;
Worked out the form, meditative, semi-dramatic,
Semi-epic story; and what’s left ?
Pre-Daun-Chaucer, Pre-Boccaccio? Not Arnaut,
Not Uc St. Circ.
Gods float in the azure air,
Bright gods and Tuscan, back before dew was shed;
It is a world like Puvis’?
Never so pale my friend,
‘Tis the first light - not half-light - Panisks
And oak-girls and the Maelids have all the wood;
Our olive Sirmio
Lies in its burnished mirror, and the Mounts Balde and Riva
Are alive with song, and all the leaves are full of voices.
“Non é fuggi.”
“It is not gone.” Metastasio
Is right, we have that world about us.
And the clouds bowe above the lake, and there are folk upon them
Going their windy ways, moving by Riva,
By the western shore, far as Lonato,
And the water is full of silvery almond-white swimmers,
The silvery water glazes the upturned nipple.
“When Atlas sat down with his astrolabe,
He brother to Prometheus, physicist.”
We let Ficino
Start us our progress, say it was Moses’ birth year?
Exult with Shang in squatness? The sea-monster
Bulges the squarish bronzes.
Daub out, with blue of scarabs, Egypt,
Green veins in the turquoise?
Or gray gradual steps
Lead up beneath flat sprays of heavy cedars:
Temple of teak-wood, and the gilt brown arches
Triple in tier, banners woven by wall,
Fine screens depicted: sea-waves curled high,
Small boats with gods upon them,
Bright flame above the river: Kuanon,
Footing a boat that’s but one lotus petal,
With some proud four-square genius
Leading along, one hand upraised for gladness,
Saying, ‘Tis she, his friend, the mighty Goddess.
Sing hymns, ye reeds, and all ye roots, and herons, and swans, be glad.
Ye gardens of the nymphs, put forth your flowers.”
What have I of this life?
Or even of Guido?
A pleasant lie that I knew Or San Michaele,
Believe the tomb he leapt was Julia Laeta’s,
Do not even know which sword he’d with him in the street-charge.
I have but smelt this life, a whiff of it,
The box of scented wood
Recalls cathedrals. Shall I claim;
Confuse my own phantastikon
Or say the filmy shell that circumscribes me
Contains the actual sun;
confuse the thing I see
With actual gods behind me?
Are they gods behind me ?
Worlds we have, how many worlds we have.
Brings her ashore on that great cockle-shell,
His Venus (Simonetta?), and Spring
And Aufidus fill all the air
With their clear-outlined blossoms?
World enough. Behold I say, she comes
“Apparelled like the Spring, Graces her subjects”
Such worlds enough we have, have brave decors
And from these like we guess a soul for man
And build him full of aery populations,
(Panting and Faustus),
Mantegna a sterner line, and the new world about us:
Barred lights, great flares, and write to paint, not music,
Pound, Ezra. Three Cantos of a Poem of Some Length I. Lustra. New York: Knopf, 1917.
Pound, Ezra. Three Cantos I. Quia Pauper Amavi. London: Egoist Press, 1919. 19-23. Quia Pauper Amavi.
Pound, Ezra. Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: The Library of America, 2003. 318-322.