Ezra Pound, Italy, and the Cantos 1949979008, 9781949979008

Ezra Pound lived in Italy spanning six decades (1920s to 1970s) and composed here most of his ambitious American and int

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Ezra Pound, Italy, and the Cantos
 1949979008, 9781949979008

Table of contents :
List of Figures
List of Abbreviations
Part I: Places
1 How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo
2 City vs. Country—Venice
3 Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome
4 The Green World
Part II: Meetings
5 “And Some Climbing”—Dante
6 Nature, History, and Myth—Montale
7 “My Best Translator”—Izzo
8 “‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin
Part III: Readings
9 Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”
10 Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)
11 “Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos 72 and 73
12 The Pisan Cantos in Progress
Part IV: Endings
13 “I wish he would explain his explanation”
14 End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli
15 Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light
16 America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos

Citation preview


at the University of New Orleans The Ezra Pound Center for Literature Book Series is a project dedicated to publishing a variety of scholarly and literary works relevant to Ezra Pound and Modernism, including new critical monographs on Pound and/or other Modernists, scholarly studies related to Pound and his legacy, edited collections of essays, volumes of original poetry, reissued books of importance to Pound scholarship, translations, and other works. Series Editor: John Gery, University of New Orleans Editorial Advisory Board Barry Ahearn, Tulane University Massimo Bacigalupo (Emeritus), University of Genoa A. David Moody (Emeritus), University of York Ira B. Nadel, University of British Columbia Marjorie Perloff, University of Southern California Tim Redman, University of Texas at Dallas Richard Sieburth, New York University Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos, Brandon University Emily Mitchell Wallace, Bryn Mawr College Also Available in the Ezra Pound Center for Literature Book Series William Pratt, Editor, The Imagist Poem: Modern Poetry in Miniature Patrizia de Rachewiltz, Trespassing Caterina Ricciardi, John Gery, and Massimo Bacigalupo, Editors, I poeti della Sala Capizucchi/The Poets Of The Sala Capizucchi Zhaoming Qian, Editor, Modernism and the Orient John Gery, Daniel Kempton, and H. R. Stoneback, Editors, Imagism: Essays on Its Initiation, Impact and Influence Catherine E. Paul, Fascist Directive: Ezra Pound and Italian Cultural Nationalism Anderson Araujo, A Companion to Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur


© 2020 Clemson University All rights reserved First Edition, 2020 ISBN: 978-1-949979-00-8 (print) eISBN: 978-1-949979-01-5 (e-book) Published by Clemson University Press in association with Liverpool University Press For information about Clemson University Press, please visit our website at www.clemson.edu/press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Bacigalupo, Massimo, 1947- author. Title: Ezra Pound, Italy, and the Cantos / Massimo Bacigalupo. Description: Clemson : Clemson University Press, [2020] | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Summary: “Pound spent most of his life in Italy and wrote about it incessantly in his poetry. Only by following his footsteps, acquaintances and composition processes can we make sense of and enjoy his forbidding Cantos. This study provides detailed accounts of Pound's Italian wanderings and of what they became in his work. After this study we will be able to read Pound as a guide to the places, people and books he loved, and we will share the poet-traveler's joys and discoveries”-- Provided by publisher. Identifiers: LCCN 2019039287 (print) | LCCN 2019039288 (ebook) | ISBN 9781949979008 (hardback) | ISBN 9781949979015 (pdf) Subjects: LCSH: Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972. Cantos. | Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972--Knowledge--Italy. Classification: LCC PS3531.O82 C2834 2020 (print) | LCC PS3531.O82 (ebook) | DDC 811/.52--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019039287 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019039288 Typeset in Minion Pro by Carnegie Book Production.

To the memory of my wife Angela Kirsten CHENG 誠 INTEGRIT Y AU THENTICIT Y C OMPLETION “Pensar de lieis m’es ripaus”—Canto 91


List of Figures ix List of Abbreviations xi Acknowledgments xiii Foreword xv

Part I Places 1

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo 3


City vs. Country—Venice



Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome



The Green World


Part II Meetings 5

“And Some Climbing”—Dante



Nature, History, and Myth—Montale



“My Best Translator”—Izzo



“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin


Part III Readings 9

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


10 Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


11 “Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos 72 and 73


12 The Pisan Cantos in Progress


Part IV Endings 13 “I wish he would explain his explanation”


14 End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


15 Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light


16 America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos 269 Afterword 283 Chronology 287 Notes 313 Index 339


Part I 1

2 3

Dorothy Shakespear, Italian Landscape, undated, watercolor, 36 cm × 25 cm. Collection of the author. Reprinted by permission of Elizabeth Pound.


Men digging and carrying sand, Sestri Levante (Genoa), 1930s. Photograph by Giacomo Borasino. Reprinted by permission.


Rapallo, Vico dell’Oro, 1985. Photograph by Antonio Carta. Reprinted by permission.


Part II 4 5 6 7

Max Beerbohm, Caricature of Ezra Pound, 1914. Courtesy of the late Sir Rupert Hart-Davis.


Lucy Mabel Riess (“Mother May” to friends) bathing in Rapallo, 1930s. Collection of the author.


Il Pozzetto, Zoagli, 1985. Photograph by Antonio Carta. Reprinted by permission.


Lola Avena, Rapallo, 1935. From the Laughlin Family Archive. Used by the permission of the Trustees of the New Directions Ownership Trust.

112 ix

x 8

Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Rolando Monti, Porto di Rapallo, 1934, oil on canvas, 50 cm × 64 cm. Used by permission of the Estate of Rolando Monti.


Part III 9

The Narcissus, 1904, oil on canvas, 87 cm × 67 cm. Votive offering, Church of Montallegro, Rapallo.


10 Children running on Easter Saturday to catch the “New Wave,” Sestri Levante (Genoa), 1930s. Photograph by Giacomo Borasino. Reprinted by permission.


11 Moses Levy, Portrait of Enrico Pea, 1935, oil on canvas, 116 cm × 89 cm. Donazione Levy. GAMC/Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea “Lorenzo Viani,” Viareggio. Reprinted by permission.


12 Walter Molino, illustration for back cover of La Domenica del Corriere, October 15, 1944. Courtesy of Flavio Costantini.


Part IV 13 Sheri Martinelli, EP (OL’ FussKAT ThinKin’), [Portrait of Ezra Pound], undated, pencil on paper, 16.5 cm × 24 cm. Collection of the author.


14 Sheri Martinelli, Self-portrait in Mirror, 1956, photograph. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.


15 Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge with Giovanni and Vanni Scheiwiller, Sant’Ambrogio di Zoagli, 1963. Photograph by the author.


16 Nicola Verlato, Hostia, 2014, distemper on linen, 228 cm × 152 cm. Private collection, Hong Kong. Reproduced by permission of the artist.


Abbreviations for Works by Ezra Pound


The Cantos, 13th ed. (New York: New Directions, 1987) [cited by canto number/page number] Confucius to Cummings: An Anthology of Poetry, ed. Ezra Pound and Marcella Spann (New York: New Directions, 1964) I Cantos, ed. Mary de Rachewiltz (Milan: Mondadori, 1985) Collected Early Poems, ed. Michael John King (New York: New Directions, 1976) Ezra Pound Papers, YCAL MSS 43, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University [cited by folder number] “Ezra Pound Speaking”: Radio Speeches of World War II, ed. Leonard W. Doob (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978) Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts, ed. Harriet Zinnes (New York: New Directions, 1980) Guido Cavalcanti Rime (Genoa: Marsano, 1932) Guide to Kulchur (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1952) The Letters of Ezra Pound 1907–1941, ed. D. D. Paige (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950) Literary Essays, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1964) Carlo Izzo, “24 lettere e 9 cartoline inedite di Ezra Pound,” Civiltà americana (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1976), II, 249–85 Ezra and Dorothy Pound: Letters in Captivity, 1945–1946, ed. Omar Pound, Robert Spoo (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) xi

xii L/EEC

Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Pound/Cummings: The Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings, ed. Barry Ahearn (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996) L/HP Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895–1929, ed. Mary de Rachewiltz, A. David Moody, Joanna Moody (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) L/JL Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters, ed. David M. Gordon (New York: Norton, 1994) L/PP Il carteggio Pea-Pound. Nascita di un’amicizia intorno alla traduzione di Moscardino, ed. Barbara Patrizi (Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editore, 2007) MZ Moscardino by Enrico Pea. Translated from the Italian by Ezra Pound. Preface by Mary de Rachewiltz (Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago Books, 2005) PC Posthumous Cantos, ed. Massimo Bacigalupo (Manchester: Carcanet, 2015) P&P Poetry and Prose: Contributions to Periodicals, ed. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz, James Longenbach, 11 vols. (New York: Garland Press, 1991) [cited by volume number and page number] PT Poems & Translations, ed. Richard Sieburth (New York: Library of America, 2003) SP Selected Prose 1909–1965, ed. William Cookson (London: Faber, 1973) SR The Spirit of Romance (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1953) WTSF A Walking Tour in Southern France: Ezra Pound among the Troubadours, ed. Richard Sieburth (New York: New Directions, 1992)



hanks are due to the editors and publishers of journals and collections in which early versions of chapters of this book have appeared. I would particularly like to acknowledge the late Carroll F. Terrell, editor of Paideuma, for indefatigably knitting together the Poundian community. The translation of Cantos 72–73 in Chapter 11 is dedicated to the memory of my friend Peter Bennett (1939–91), poet and scholar, who asked for it. Chapter 1 was written for a Festschrift in honor of Akira Yasukawa of Kansai University, Osaka. I hereby acknowledge permission to use copyright material as follows: The Cantos of Ezra Pound: Copyright © 1934, 1937, 1940, 1948, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1968 by Ezra Pound. Copyright © 1973, 1986, 1993 by the Trustees of the Ezra Pound Literary Property Trust. Ezra Pound, “European Paideuma”: Copyright © 2001 by Mary de Rachewiltz and Omar S. Pound. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound: Copyright © 1918, 1920, 1935 by Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur: Copyright © 1970 by Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound, Posthumous Cantos: Copyright © 2002 by Mary de Rachewiltz and Omar S. Pound. Used by permission of Carcanet Press Limited. Unpublished Letters of Ezra Pound: Copyright © 2019 by Mary de Rachewiltz and Estate of Omar S. Pound. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. H.D., End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound: Copyright © 1979 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

James Laughlin, “‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”: Copyright © 2014 by the New Directions Ownership Trust. James Laughlin, “A Bit Different,” “A Long Night of Dreaming”: Copyright © 1957, 1978 by James Laughlin. Used by permission.



he following chapters were written over a period of years and address their subject from various perspectives. Ezra Pound’s poetry and its contexts are the center of attention. It is my belief that Pound remains an exciting poet and a major if disquieting presence. To read him and enjoy him we must participate in the process of discovery he conducted and share his passions and landscapes. The Cantos are a travelogue, a collection of moments of perception (and imperception, as Pound carefully pointed out). They record a journey in progress, without benefit of hindsight. Thus, they shock us, reminding us that in the 1930s and 1940s, to a passionate man and writer, Mussolini and Hitler could be attractive. This is, moreover, a fact of history, and we cannot erase it now that we think we know the rights and wrongs of the case. Early Pound critics ignored his politics, some later scholars have made too much of it. My position is that Pound’s allegiances and aberrations are a powerful element that makes his work more haunting and historically significant. He did not write flamboyant anti-Jewish tirades like his contemporary Céline, but he submitted to the imperatives of history and told us his tale as he was carried away and overwhelmed, only to resurface buoyantly and go on, after the war, with his old tricks. Pound’s relations with Italian officials before, during, and after the war would make a long story, worth investigating, but of no great interest to a consideration of his verse. I have tried to make it clear that we are reading a poet and trying to see how he went about constructing his work. The xv


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

primary point of departure is the physical landscape he resided in; then there are his relations with tradition (especially with Dante) and with canny contemporaries, such as the poet Eugenio Montale and the scholar Carlo Izzo. Chapter 9 offers a little-known essay Pound drafted in 1939, expressing his views on religion and lambasting “Semitic” Christianity. He was casting about in search of a system on which to build the paradise section of The Cantos. The history of this short essay and the correspondence relating to it make intriguing reading. Pound went on to write two Cantos in Italian and draft several more while the Allied troops were advancing. Chapter 11 presents an annotated translation of these unusually communicative texts. He was working on further Italian Cantos when two partisans arrested him on May 3, 1945. At this point Pound was granted a long reprieve—five months of detention in Genoa and Pisa, which he was to call, surprisingly, his “Pisan paradise” (L/DP, 279)—an extended summer in which to take stock and write his most moving poetry (Chapter 12). Then he left Italy for his Washington captivity. Two chapters offer materials related to the years in St. Elizabeths Hospital, and refer in particular to Pound’s connection with his peculiar protégée Sheri Martinelli. This is the main episode in the background of End to Torment, the memoir by his early love H.D., as shown in a chapter which goes back to the correspondence on which that work is based and extends into Pound’s complex and tormented final phase with his extraordinary letters of self-scrutiny, here edited and annotated for the first time. An appended Chronology of Pound’s life with particular reference to his Italian hours provides a context for the findings and footnotes offered in the pages of this book. Pound’s command of Italian was idiosyncratic, occasionally brilliant, scarcely grammatical. He could write Italian effectively if someone went over his typescripts, but he rarely had the patience and understanding to read it and translate it correctly. His early translation of a poem by Giacomo L ­ eopardi, “Her Monument, The Image Cut Thereon” (PT, 152–53), shows him quite unable to grasp much of Leopardi’s sense. Chapter 10 takes a close and I hope entertaining look at his hasty dealings with Enrico Pea’s earthy novelette Moscardino, which he admired so much. No wonder that Italians were disconcerted by his foolhardy attempts to edit (and interpret!) a thirteenth-century poet like Guido Cavalcanti. However, they enjoyed his swashbuckling instigations concerning Dante and his circle as a welcome corrective to conventional and scholarly approaches. A painstaking translation of the Literary Essays was



duly published in 1957, the work of Nemi D’Agostino, scarcely an enthusiast of Ezra’s poetic and political vagaries. This study tries to re-establish the primary meaning of Pound. Offensive and tiresome as he often is, I owe Pound much excitement and many fruitful leads. The books he wants us to read are occasionally duds—but, for example, his passion in the 1950s for the Naxi people of South-West China was not misplaced, and now this dying culture is much talked about and efforts are being made to perpetuate it. Articles about Lijiang appear in newspapers, but few remember that an American geographer, Joseph Francis Rock, pioneered research on the Naxi and preserved their most important texts, and that an American poet, Ezra Pound, fell in love with them and devoted many broken passages of The Cantos to their ceremonies. But it is as a guide to places that Pound is often incomparable. “St Trophime its cloisters … St Hilaire its proportion” (Canto 51) is a very good note on which to start a visit to medieval Europe. And here I would like to recall Donald Davie, who, with the more portentous Hugh Kenner, pointed the way to a topographical reading of The Cantos. We will not be sorry to have given our attention to Pound the helpful traveler, the Innocent Abroad—for that is really what he was. This study would like to remind or alert readers to the fact that Pound is worth reading, and that he can be a worthwhile companion, sometimes more humane and immediately helpful than his mandarin peers T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, or the moralizing Robert Frost. Pound can sometimes disappoint for lack of intellectual content. He allowed his poem to write itself, and was at bottom an aesthete—a seeker, collector and creator of beautiful things, anecdotes, and trivia. I suppose he did as most of us do—lived day by day through a turbulent period, but unlike most he wrote an account of it that is faithful to the dramas and horrors of the times, and also to some of their delights. m.b.

Part I Places

“And the water green clear, and blue clear; / On, to the great cliffs of amber”—Canto 17 1. Dorothy Shakespear, Italian Landscape, undated.


How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo

I will arise & go NOW, & go to Rappalloo, Where the ink is mostly Green, & the pencils mostly Blue. —T. S. Eliot


zra Pound thought of The Cantos as a container, an encyclopaedia, a way of storing information in relatively small compass. American, European, and Oriental history, both classic and modern; art, ­philosophy, religion, music. And poetry, which should hold it all together: Serenely in the crystal jet     as the bright ball that the fountain tosses (Verlaine) as diamond clearness (74/469)1 Poetry is the beginning and end of The Cantos—a poetic attitude towards experience, a way of listening. We will never get anything out of this multifarious work more important than the one bright perception that clarity is at hand—as in the lines just quoted. Are The Cantos an expression of their times or do they express them? Are they period piece or masterpiece? They record Pound’s limited view of reality as he was experiencing it. They do not propose final answers in matters of judgment. But they do offer resting points that are not to be improved upon. 3


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

In other words, they invite ambivalent responses. And, as time goes on, their idiosyncratic mix of languages will discourage all but the most determined readers. How can one expect to like what one does not understand, or read a poem in which words occur of no certain meaning or pronunciation? People who know Chinese or Italian are better equipped to read The Cantos than others. But usually expertise about any given subject only shows that Pound’s knowledge of it was sketchy. He used other languages as a personal shorthand, not as referential tokens. Again, we find contradiction. Actually, The Cantos are a gathering of nine or ten books of poetry, and a good way of reading them is taking them one volume at a time, and deciding how these are constructed and how successful they are. For example, Cantos 31–41 are just over fifty pages, no unusual length for a book by a poet in mid-career, as Pound was in 1934. But the eleven Cantos 74–84, known as Pisan Cantos, are more than twice as long (118 pages), which shows that for whatever reason in 1945 Pound had more material that wanted out, and we are only happy that he yielded to the impulse: How soft the wind under Taishan      where the sea is remembered out of hell, the pit out of the dust and glare evil Zephyrus / Apeliota (74/469) The Pisan Cantos will remain a great example of poetic inspiration in full sail, despite their longueurs and obsessions. Pound painfully wrote and rewrote other sections—for example, Drafts and Fragments, without getting more than a few passages into shape, and finally gave up. At Pisa there was no writer’s block. Though we may not understand what a writer is up to, we want him at least to think he knows what he is doing—and then we can just watch him as an action painter in process. This is very much what happens in the Pisan Cantos, and carries on into the next section Rock-Drill, which is rather strident but has a sense of direction, and does make it into a paradise of sorts: Castalia is the name of that fount in the hill’s fold       the sea below,             narrow beach. (90/625)

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


Therefore, to read The Cantos is to let oneself be carried by the current, until the poem gets bogged down towards the end, for example, in sections of Thrones. It is difficult to put one’s finger on the point where gesturing replaces meaning, where Pound is cheating on the reader but more on himself. Canto 100, so very opaque as it is? Well, the poet may dawdle one day and “get an outline”2 the next. That is also part of the story. While Pound’s hopes for telescoping the twentieth century and its foreground may be said to fail, he did write himself, his poetic biography. Poetry as the history of itself. We will circle back to “ego scriptor” (76/478), and when we finish The Cantos find that we have had only one rather disquieting howbeit unforgettable experience, whether we liked it or not: meeting Ezra Pound. If Pound wrote himself, we can afford to be unashamedly if carefully biographical and read the poem as notes on things and people seen and heard. An egocentric absorber, Pound transformed everything into a projection of himself, but was dependent on the world (books, people, landscapes) as a source. He took, chameleonlike, the color of his surroundings, while remaining always E.P. If this is true, The Cantos can be approached as a journal, in nine or ten parts, of residence, travel, and reading. Significantly, the best section is the more openly journal-like: the Pisan Cantos. Here Pound is really writing from day to day what comes to mind and what is seen: Zeus lies in Ceres’ bosom Taishan is attended of loves      under Cythera, before sunrise (81/537) The two last words give the game away. Pound is looking at the dawn sky. He is using private names for things, “Zeus” for the planet Jupiter, “Ceres’ bosom” for two hills on the horizon shaped like breasts, “Taishan” for a solitary mountain, “Cythera” for Venus the planet, rising in the east just ahead of the sun in the clear summer morning. The name changes suggest that reality and myth are coalescing. Whitman also saw sunrise, more graphically, as a sexual embrace (“Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven”).3 Man will read his culture into the skies, just as he names the constellations. Thus Pound sets the scene for his morning religious reflections (or shall we say his “morning service,” remembering Eliot?).4 We see the world, but we see it through his eyes. And in this case, we are willing to share his vision.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Most of the pre-war Cantos and some of the last drafts (roughly Cantos 112–16) were written in Rapallo, so a good way of approaching Pound’s initially forbidding volumes is to follow the poet’s references to his surroundings, which if the above propositions are true must play a significant part. Thus we will learn to read them in context, in their place. Pound will be taking us for a walk to his favorite haunts, and throwing out his cryptic comments. We will get to know him and his poem better, and we will also have a good time. Let us start from his attic in Via Marsala, over the Albergo Rapallo. From his study he had a view over the seafront. This is what he saw when he lifted his eyes in search of inspiration: And in the morning, in the Phrygian head-sack Barefooted, dumping sand from their boat … And the sea dark, under wind, The boat’s sails hung loose at the mooring,      Cloud like a sail inverted, And the men dumping sand by the sea-wall (23/108) The above was a common sight in the 1920s, when sand was brought in large boats with lateen sails to the beach, and unloaded by men walking barefoot over a gangplank.5 Pound in this passage is reading Greek lyric poetry, thinking of the travels of Odysseus and the sun, and then he looks up and sees what he has been reading about. The past in the present. Sand for building must have been dumped like this since Homer’s days. All readers of The Cantos know of the climactic lights floating in the dark sea as an image of fertility in Cantos 47 and 91. The passages resonate with a strong music, a primitive passion: From the long boats they have set lights in the water, The sea’s claw gathers them outward. … But in the pale night the small lamps float seaward (47/236) The evocation of night rites becomes more accessible when we remember that the custom of floating lamps in the bay at twilight is repeated in Rapallo, under what was Pound’s balcony, every summer on July 1–3, in honor of

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


“And in the morning, in the Phrygian head-sack / Barefooted, dumping sand from their boat”—Canto 23 2. Men digging and carrying sand, Sestri Levante, 1930s. the Madonna of Montallegro. Montallegro is a hill over the bay where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to a peasant on July 2, 1557.6 It is now the site of a shrine with a large collection of votive paintings of ships. Pound often walked up the hill and stayed overnight in the small hotel near the church. Basil Bunting claimed (unconvincingly) that he had run into Pound by chance when coming through Rapallo and taking the same walk.7 Montallegro means “joyful mountain.” When Nietzsche stayed in Rapallo in 1883 writing Zarathustra he noted this as a good omen.8 In The Cantos we find some references to “larks at Allègre,” a village in Auvergne, and perhaps Pound associates the two places. But he certainly brings up the subject of “ex voto” offerings in Canto 106, where a worshipping girl donating a nautilus shell to Venus in Zephyrium, as commemorated by Callimachus, reminds


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

him of the Ligurian ex votos.9 In 1939, in the draft essay “European Paideuma,” he spoke of “the sea-board shrines to the Madonna delle Grazie” and explained: Sailor shrines at points commanding a view of the sea, for instance, that on Monte Allegro on the limestone heights above Rapallo. The shrines are filled with votive offerings of ship models and pictures of shipwrecks from which the votators have been saved. “Hang me bells to Venus’ shrine.”10 The association of Venus with the Virgin worshipped in Montallegro and at the small shrine of the Madonna delle Grazie between Zoagli and Chiavari is very clear in Pound’s quotation (perhaps from an old ballad).11 The Madonna delle Grazie was a favorite hiking destination of the Pounds: there are several drawings of the church in Dorothy’s Etruscan Gate.12 When the Rapallo cathedral was hit by an Allied bomb in July 1944, Pound drafted a haunting passage for the Italian Cantos he was planning: Ave Maris Stella mi suonò all’orecchio, per l’aria serale e col ramo io la vidi come Kuanina, col ramo di salce, vidi l’eterna dolcezza formata: di misericordia la madre, dei mari protettrice,   soccorso in naufragio, manifesto sempre rivista a Prato, e a Monte Rosa   “il fano delle Grazie è in rovina” mi disse     a Pantaleo mi rifugio, la sfollata   dalla Dorata, sempre cacciata vaga, invicta; Lucina dolentibus, sono così lunare   di bachi protettrice; umile; duratura, Il pargoletto mi ama, ch’io nutro          Io son la Luna13 The Virgin of Catholic worship (“Ave Maris Stella”) is associated with the merciful Kuanon of Japan: she protects the seas, salvages from shipwreck, assists women in labor (“Lucina dolentibus”), keeps silk-cocoons (“bachi”) from parasites. She “is” the moon, and moves among place-names, numerous yet one: a church in Prato (near Florence), Monte Rosa (another name for

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


Montallegro), Cavalcanti’s “Dorata” in Toulouse, Pound’s San Pantaleo, which is a little church overlooking two bays near Olga Rudge’s house in Sant’Ambrogio. As in the early poem “The Alchemist,” Pound invokes woman as spirit and names. He likes names and their sounds. The spirit of prayer, or poetry as prayer, a litany of names of mythical persons and favorite places. Pound never published the above passage, but much of its content and mood went into the Pisan Cantos; see especially the first page of Canto 76 and the passage in Canto 80 beginning with a variation (in Italian) of the above: “a S. Bartolomeo mi vidi col pargoletto …   disse: Io son la luna.” — and going on to evoke the merciful goddess: At Ephesus she had compassion on silversmiths   revealing the paraclete standing in the cusp   of the moon et in Monte Gioiosa   as the larks rise at Allegre           Cythera egoista   But for Actaeon (80/520–21) Artemis (the moon) and Venus (Cythera) are intentionally conflated by Pound, and he clearly thinks of women (real and mythical) as bringers of pity and repose. The last lines can be understood to mean that only (“But”) for Actaeon was the goddess merciless. (Diana did not forgive his accidental spying on her nakedness; see Canto 4.) Otherwise she is joyful, a huntress in Montallegro or in Allègre. Still, the passage is plangent. Actaeon devoured by his dogs is in some ways the Pisan poet. The lines can be described as a reverie, poetry by association. We now know that these central moments of The Cantos become more meaningful if we follow Pound’s tracks over the Rapallo hills to the Madonna delle Grazie, San Pantaleo and San Bartolomeo, which is a pretty chapel on the footpath to Montallegro. By the way, Bartholomew was flayed alive—another manifestation of “Cythera egoista.” In fact, saints like Bartholomew, Sebastian, and Blaise are worshipped in Liguria by peasants and fishermen because they are associated with illness and healing.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

But let us return to Pound’s attic on the seafront. On another occasion he recorded his view, after indicting usury and “the Reverend Eliot,” his loyal friend and publisher, in Canto 46: That day there was cloud over Zoagli And for three days snow cloud over the sea Banked like a line of mountains. Snow fell. Or rain fell stolid, a wall of lines (46/231) This is all rather grandiose, Pound in a fulminating mood, feeling self-important. After all, he’s about to reveal the long-suppressed truth about world economy. Well, at least we believe he believes it. That is all the Canto achieves. On the other hand it is painful to see a mature person and notable poet deceive himself about his knowledge. Speaking of economics, a suppressed passage of Canto 52 was restored in the 1986 New Directions printing of The Cantos to reveal a spirited attack on the Rothschilds: also super-neschek or the international racket specialité of the Stinkschuld      bomb-proof under their house in Paris where they cd/ store aht voiks      fat slug with three body-guards soiling our sea front with a pot bellied yacht in the offing (52/257) Pound’s attacks on Jews are not nearly as incisive as Eliot’s; for example, “Stinkschuld” is child’s play compared to “Rachel née Rabinovitch” in Eliot’s “Sweeney among the Nightingales.”14 Pound is unable to express contempt except in a contemptible way, so that his anti-Semitism may be said to be self-defeating, ergo less dangerous than, for example, Céline’s tour de force in Bagatelles pour un massacre. However, what is of interest to us in this context is the topical reference. It is a fact that a Rothschild steam-yacht anchored in the Rapallo bay in the late thirties when these lines were penned, that unmistakably express irritation that Pound’s sea-view was spoiled. (Likewise, his contempt for Protestant Christianity can be partly traced to his ire with the perpetually tolling bells of St. Mary Abbott, Kensington.) “Pot bellied yacht” is felicitous as a metaphor for its owner. The passage suggests that Pound saw Jews as profiteers, wielders

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


of economic power, accumulators of wealth and “aht voiks.” Some lines earlier he had tried to account for the dubious justice of making all Jews responsible for the alleged actions of some: Stinkschuld’s sin drawing vengeance, poor yitts paying for Stinkschuld paying for a few big jews’ vendetta on goyim This proposes a chain of wrong-doing, a “vendetta” of powerful Jews against Gentiles, and a vengeance of the latter against small Jews—the pogrom. If all Gentiles are victims of Jewish profiteers, why should not all Jews be open to revenge from Gentiles? Thus Pound was trying to make sense of events. Italy introduced racist legislation in autumn 1938, and Jewish state employees (including university professors) lost their jobs. Leone Vivante, the Jewish philosopher mentioned at the beginning of this same Canto 52, an acquaintance of Pound, but indicted here for defending “plutocracies,” left his Siena “paradise” with his family for England, where T. S. Eliot took an interest in him and published and wrote an introduction to his book on English Poetry, thus showing that Eliot was willing to champion an obscure Jewish exile.15 This has taken us far from “our seafront” (note Pound’s proprietary tone) but helps us to follow what the man in the attic was thinking and raging about, getting himself entangled in bigger trouble than he knew. He had a blind spot that did not allow him to see the cost in human suffering of the “case” he was cavalierly summarizing in his writing. Possibly some people in Italy, and even in Germany, did not see it in 1939–40. Apparently, Pound did not pause for reflection when Mussolini decided to get a free ride upon Hitler’s back and on June 10, 1940 declared war upon England and France. The poet saw only reason to celebrate such gestures in accord with natural process, and made the following notes: 1940         Never was the olive     blossom so thick            as that year for the end of England, that year for the end     of Frankreich


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos 10 June the sound of the bells     thru the fiddle tone at 6.30 (about 5.30 p.m.). Mozart 5th double. (PC, 59)

June is the season when olive trees blossom and cover with yellow pollen the flagstones and grass beneath them. Some seven years earlier, Pound had noticed this: When the stars fall from the olive Or with four points or with five Towards St John’s eve (35/175) The small olive flowers have indeed either four or five points. The image acquires a more sexual connotation, as of ejaculation, in the Adonis ritual of Canto 47: “And the small stars now fall from the olive branch.” By 1940, Pound is ecstatic about the blossoming olives, and sees them as a symbol of the final defeat of his and Mussolini’s enemies: England, and “Frankreich”—the German name enough to suggest the occupation, the vanquishing of the French army, culture, language. Perhaps we should not make too much of Pound’s callow enthusiasm in what is after all an unpublished verse memo. But it is ghastly in the light of what we now know. And it is ironic insofar as Pound was a sort of unwitting victim of the very war which he takes here as already won—as doubtless Mussolini did when he gambled and threw his weight on Hitler’s side16—on that very June day, when the bells rang for the Angelus (and Pound noted that 5.30 PM daylight saving time was 6.30 standard time),17 and came between the notes of Olga Rudge’s fiddle playing Mozart’s fifth sonata for violin and piano. It is a significant fragment, presenting Pound’s paradise precisely in the moment in which history impinges on it in unpredictable ways. But Pound’s hubris seems to invite a reckoning. Even Achilles took pity over Priam. Before following Pound up the footpath to Sant’Ambrogio, the reader of The Cantos may want to remember that on this same attic balcony Yeats and Pound talked Cantos in 1929, as recorded by “William” in A Packet for Ezra Pound. Here Yeats pretends to make an effort to understand what Pound

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


is up to—the fugue, the three levels, Schifanoia, etc.—but finally gives up and suggests that the beauty of his friend’s poem is to be found in details, which is not far from the judgment of later critics.18 Yeats also speaks of Ezra feeding the cats in the nearby public gardens, and finds this gesture more illuminating than the poetry.19 For his part, Pound recorded several times in The Cantos “William murmuring: ‘Sligo in heaven’ when the mist came to Tigullio” (114/813). Tigullio is the name of the Rapallo bay. The phrase implies a friendly joke at Yeats’s expense: he does not enjoy the sun that Pound loved but Celtic mist, therefore can be happy in the Tigullio only “when the mist finally settled down” (77/493, my italics). This is the world of poets teasing each other, circa 1930, happily unaware of the approaching storm. Basil Bunting was living up the hill at San Bartolomeo, and Louis Zukofsky and James Laughlin were also to be resident disciples for shorter or longer periods. Laughlin rented a room in the house in Via delle Americhe (now Via Colombo) where the Yeatses had lived with their children, and where Homer and Isabel Pound (Ezra’s parents) came to stay. Laughlin was trying to write the Great American Novel, he remembered, but went on to become an excellent publisher and a fine, if slight, poet. Another poet who visited Via Marsala was Eugenio Montale, later a Nobel laureate, who passed on a tale about Canto-writing: One night he discovered the word “lattizzo” and he ran out halfnaked in the Rapallo streets, yelling “lattizzo, lattizzo!”, and his wife had no small trouble getting him back home.20 The story about the “lattizzo” is told with great gusto at the end of Canto 22, though, as with many of Pound’s anecdotes, we are more disconcerted by the fact that Pound finds it so funny than amused by the joke as such. We can share his excitement, without agreeing with his tastes. Indeed, if Pound was as flighty as Montale’s anecdote implies, little wonder that he was ill-oriented about current events on June 10, 1940.21 When Pound returned to Rapallo in early 1959, after his detention in Washington, he made his headquarters at the Hotel Italia on the seafront. For a while he took an apartment near the cathedral, with Dorothy Pound and Marcella Spann, his then assistant and muse. Here he wrote most of the last cogent Cantos, and the final set-piece of Canto 116: “I have brought the great


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

“But to affirm the gold thread in the pattern / (Torcello) / al Vicolo d’oro / (Tigullio)”—Canto 116 3. Rapallo, Vico dell’Oro, 1985.

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


ball of crystal … I cannot make it cohere.” There is here an echo of the music of the “volitionist” 1930s fertility cantos:        Knowledge the shade of a shade, Yet must thou sail after knowledge (47/236) Trying to write a concluding statement, Pound harked back to what may be the single most moving passage of his poem, the finale of Pisan Canto 81 (“but to have done instead of not doing”). He used exactly the same form and rhythm to finish off Canto 116: But to affirm the gold thread in the pattern             (Torcello) al Vicolo d’oro       (Tigullio) To confess wrong without losing rightness … Interestingly, whereas in the great Pisan passage Pound had concluded the sentence grammatically with “This is not vanity,” here the phrase remains broken, except for an acknowledgment of impotence, followed in turn by a last ray of hope: Charity I have had sometimes,      I cannot make it flow thru. A little light, like a rushlight        to lead back to splendour. (116/817) The two place-names spliced in this farewell are “Torcello,” the quiet island in the Venice lagoon where Hemingway liked to camp out in isolated splendor at Cipriani’s (the “gold thread” may be a reference to the mosaics in the apse of the Cathedral, which portray a tearful Byzantine Madonna)—and “Tigullio,” Pound’s beloved Rapallo, where he came upon a little alley called Vico dell’Oro, not far from his pre-war quarters. There we can follow him and wonder why he chose to mention it at the close of his life-work. Gold is a symbol of Venus as early as the finale of Canto 1, so it is only right that she should appear indirectly through her element, an ambiguous one, given the commercial value of gold. Yet, an alley of gold is like a secret passage through


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

which glimmers “a little light” and one can “lead back to splendour.” Pound’s final stitching of phrases is very modern and suggestive: bringing together the private and personal with humanity’s hope for light. The golden alley, the alley of Venus: is this not also the channel of love, the channel of birth, the channel of death? We remember again Canto 47: The light has entered the cave. Io! Io! The light has gone down into the cave, Splendour on splendour! By prong have I entered these hills (47/238) The sexual imagery could not be clearer. Canto 116 strikes me as finer because more tentative, discovering a way out as it goes along. There is no over simple image of male/female relations. In fact, Pound is waiting for a sign from the Golden Goddess, the goddess of the shrines and of the alleys. He is dependent on her for inspiration and consolation. Thus he regains some confidence and closes with “splendour,” same word, same British spelling as in his prewar account of the endless search for knowledge. These are the essential stops of a tour of The Cantos’ Rapallo. When Homer Pound, the poet’s much-loved father, died on February 25, 1942, he was buried in the non-Catholic section of the old cemetery behind the railway station. Pound had a death-mask cast by a Rapallo sculptor, Guido Pastene, and later asked that it be attached to a block of sandstone to be placed on the tomb. There it has stayed, a curious Poundian monument (his love of stone is well-documented), with the places and dates of Homer’s birth and death. Beside it are some Jewish tombs with the Star of David. The construction was overseen by Olga Rudge, who lived between Siena, Venice, and Rapallo, and by Pound’s old associate, Father Desmond Chute, a draftsman and musician.22 Pound wasn’t happy with the result (on November 16, 1954 he complained in a letter to Rudge that there had been on Pastene’s side a “violation of ­agreement”)—but then he was always difficult to please. It is said that Pound worked in the attic he shared with Dorothy in the morning, and in the afternoon left smartly dressed (like Falstaff in Verdi’s opera) for a daily tryst at Olga Rudge’s “Casa 60” in Sant’Ambrogio, cheered along by the Rapallo urchins. In fact, he and Dorothy supported the violinist Rudge and the pianist Münch for some years so that they could conduct musical research and give concerts.23 However true the anecdote, the path from Via Marsala to

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


Sant’Ambrogio is often traced in the poetry, as we have seen, and is still pleasant to follow, though houses now rise much higher into the hills and Rapallo extends well beyond its pre-war limits. Walking up, one passes close to Villa Chiara, the clinic where Pound underwent prostate surgery in 1962–63, and from which he scrawled some of his last undecipherable letters (L/EEC, 408–10). On the coast below is a rocky beach known as “Il Pozzetto,” mentioned in Pisan Canto 74 (a young mother calls in her bathing children, “like small birds under hawk’s eye” [458], as Allied planes approach). A little beyond the Pozzetto is Max Beerbohm’s Villino Chiaro. Beerbohm lived near Pound during all the Rapallo years, but they met infrequently. There are a couple of friendly caricatures by Max of “Il Pound” in Rapallo, and Pound made an amicable gesture toward his neighbor in Canto 46:           couple of Max’s drawings, one of Balfour and a camel, an’ one w’ich fer oBviOus reasons haz never been published, ole Johnny Bull with a ’ankerchief. It has never been published. (46/232) To my knowledge, these two drawings have not been identified. Max would not have liked the cockney tone of the writing, which is the one Max used when lampooning Kipling (whom he detested). But let’s press on, pass the church of Sant’Ambrogio, on a hill with a fine view of Rapallo, and walk on into the valley between this church and San Pantaleo, with Casa 60 in the middle. This was Pound’s chief vortex, a hillside of olives projected against the sea, with no township in view, and the headland of Portofino closing the bay to the south-west. Here Ezra and Dorothy moved in with Olga in 1943, having been made to leave their apartment, because the seafront had been militarized. After his trips to Rome ended in 1943 Pound became more confined to this idyllic spot, and here he wrote his wartime Italian pamphlets and Cantos. He took walks among the olive groves, especially to San Pantaleo and the Castellaro, a hill just beyond it. In the Pisan Cantos he claims that these places gave him visions of unearthly beauty: that they suddenly stand in my room here between me and the olive tree    or nel clivo ed al triedro?


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos …    Lay in soft grass by the cliff ’s edge with the sea 30 metres below this      and at hand’s span, at cubit’s reach moving, the crystalline, as inverse of water,      clear over rock-bed (76/472, 477)

This to Pound is paradise, the vision of disembodied ladies and clear essences, the rock, the crystal. He is conjuring with his favorite elements. The vision is especially attractive as it leaves behind its implicit ideology (clarity versus darkness, light versus cave) and is content with recording “things seen.” It is Pound’s Neo-Platonism. The olives and the grey retaining walls typical of this landscape recur continuously in the Pisan Cantos. Olga’s fiddle is given a hearing in Canto 75, which reproduces a score in Gerhart Münch’s hand of a “Song of the Birds” that had fascinated Pound for a long time; witness the crucial Chapter 23 of Guide to Kulchur. Pound there reflects on music as representation of sound, as ideogram, and gives Janequin’s often rewritten birdsong as an example. This abstract passion is made personal by the fact that Olga, the loved woman, is the performer of the song: she is herself the recurrent pattern, Venus reincarnate. This is the way Pound thinks, and we are taken into this reverie and fiction. In an earlier wartime sketch, “Now sun rises in Ram sign,” devoted to the chapel of San Pantaleo and printed with Drafts and Fragments, Pound noted a whole series of sounds and visual events, proclaiming spring. The peasants “clack” their “bamboo against olive stock” to make the olives fall and harvest them. This harks back to both the Italian Quattrocento (Schifanoia) and to China. Meanwhile: We have heard the birds praising Jannequin   and the black cat’s tail is exalted. The sexton of San Pantaleo plays “è mobile” on his carillon “un’ e due … che la donna è mobile”   in the hill tower (videt et urbes) (C, 820) Pound identifies with the cats, as Yeats had noted, and shares this black cat’s exaltation (he loved Kit Smart’s celebration of his cat Geoffrey; see CC,

How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo


179–82). The birdsong reminds Pound of Janequin’s “Song of the Birds,” or vice versa. Nature and art are one, and man is at home in nature. But there is another tune: Verdi’s celebrated tenor aria “Woman is fickle” (from Rigoletto) played by the sexton “on his carillon” (the church bells).24 Thus the Church is rightfully celebrating the goddess of physical love, by way of music. Art (poetry) is not for the few, but available, like religion, to the likes of the peasants and the sexton. All of this may be a foreigner’s utopia, reminiscent of D. H. Lawrence’s delight with his Ligurian neighbors: A church is a free place like a public square. The service went on in a corner, the children clicker clackered in and out, in their wooden sandals—zoccoli—boys climbed the public steps, a fat priest dodged through the service. The church is in absolute neglect in Italy. The young peasants scoff at it—nobody goes to confession but children who are forced, and old people—the very priests themselves are atheists. … They knock all the olives from the trees with long canes, then gather them from the ground. The picking has been going on 3 months already and will last another 3 months. All the women are out all day. And they chatter and sing, and sometimes a man or two is with them, and it is jolly.25 These comments were written in 1914, from Fiascherino, further down the coast from Rapallo, in the Bay of La Spezia. Opposite Fiascherino is the beautiful village of Portovenere, “Venus’s Port,” where tradition has it Byron went meditating and swimming. In fact, he is reported to have swum across the bay from Portovenere to Lerici. Pound visited the spot, and took notice of the tradition in a discarded fragment: “From this grotto”        as H.J. has recorded in slightly inaccurate manner or at least without explaining the details     “Lord Byron” A quarante ans et force ma gourme jecté “traversing the waters of the Thyrennian sea”


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Both he and Swinburne good swimmers   “to the further shore (Lerici) as of Hellespont with peril of waves passed over”.26

In Portovenere there is a “Grotta Byron” with a plaque mentioning the poet’s legendary swim across the bay. Pound liked the idea of the grotto (the female “cave”) and of the poet as swimmer, and he responded to Byron’s rakish reputation and anti-British convictions. Hence this little celebration. Henry James comes in for some censure because he described the grotto and its plaque in Italian Hours but used the occasion to make fun of Byron’s heroic posturing.27 Pound obviously prefers the gallant Byron to the fastidious James. This fragment was drafted as an overture for Canto 49, the famous and beautiful Seven Lakes Canto: an ideogram of Western poets/explorers to introduce Chinese “stillness.” James records in Italian Hours that from Portovenere he went on to Lerici, where he spent some time reflecting on the balcony of Shelley’s Casa Magni. Unlike Byron, Shelley was no swimmer, and he was drowned some miles south of Lerici, in front of Viareggio. There, on the beach, his cast up body was cremated in the presence of Byron on a stormy day of August 1822. Pound the swimmer was also to meet his destiny in this neighborhood. The Pisan U.S. Army Disciplinary Training Center (D.T.C.), where in 1945 he was “caged” for a few weeks and then moved to a tent where he wrote his masterpiece, was situated just south of Viareggio, in Metato, on the southern bank of the Serchio, the river of Shelley’s “The Boat on the Serchio.” Byron’s grotto, Shelley’s pire, Pound’s cage are thus all within a few miles of each other. Perhaps Pound can be seen as an eccentric heir to Byron and Swinburne. He surely thought of himself in this Hellenic Italophile tradition. My contention in this chapter has been that if we wish to read and appreciate Pound as a living poet we must pursue the kind of itinerary I have outlined. He then comes to life: inexplicable, aggravating, engrossing—a traveler in the steps of Byron and James. Pound is an exciting guide to Italy’s north-western coast for the poetry enthusiast, just as these Tyrrhenian places are an exciting and indispensable guide to Pound.28


City vs. Country—Venice


hosts move about me, patched with histories,” Pound wrote in the “Three Cantos” of 1917, and went on to speak of three favorite Italian places: Sirmione, Venice, and (more briefly) Verona. When he revised this material in The Cantos as we have them, he opened Canto 3 with the image of himself “on the Dogana’s steps”—his first appearance in person in his poem, and significantly in Venice, as a penniless traveler and dreamer. To this he attached the vision of the gods and voluptuous nymphs of Lake Garda (without mentioning the place by name). In this way he was incorporating in Canto 3 his own itinerary of spring 1910, when he first discovered the quiet of Sirmione after escaping from crowded Venice. And in Sirmione, which he called “my chosen and peninsular village,” he spent a longish period working on The Spirit of Romance: I sat on the Dogana’s steps For the gondolas cost too much, that year, And there were not “those girls,” there was one face, And the Buccentoro twenty yards off, howling “Stretti,” And the lit cross-beams, that year, in the Morosini, And peacocks in Kore’s house, or there may have been.    Gods float in the azure air, Bright gods and Tuscan, back before dew was shed. Light: and the first light, before ever dew was fallen. 21


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Panisks, and from the oak, dryas, And from the apple, maelid, Through all the wood, and the leaves are full of voices, A-whisper, and the clouds bowe over the lake, And there are gods upon them, And in the water, the almond-white swimmers, The silvery water glazes the upturned nipple,      As Poggio has remarked. (3/11)

Venice is also not mentioned by name. The reader is presented with a series of images and left to make sense of them, and even at this late stage not all has been explained satisfactorily. These are the things that stuck in Pound’s memory from “that year”; some, like the celebrated warble “Stretti” and the “the lit cross-beams” which he could see from the canal, were to recur in later passages. When he glossed this line to the Venetian Carlo Izzo, he said: Ca’ Morosini; when you were in knee breeches, one gondoled on the Grand Canal and the ceilings were LIT from lights in the Palazzi/ now none of the blighters can afford to live in and light up their houses.1 I think this is what Pound is referring to in the Venice passage in Canto 76: and the gilded cassoni neither then nor up to the present the hidden nest (76/482) In Italian a ceiling with cross-beams is often said to be “a cassettoni,” as divided in “boxes,” which is probably misremembered by Pound as “cassoni.” Pound’s way of working is, not surprisingly, associative. A place is usually described through a series of images and anecdotes. For example, Verona always brings up the phrase “Ecco il tè” and the signed column of San Zeno. Pound is perpetually writing a guide and making notes for things we should look up or watch out for—his things. Also, in the avuncular tone to Izzo (“when you were in knee-breeches”), we feel that Pound has a prior acquaintance with Venice and can tell him about the features of his own city when he was only a little boy (since Izzo was born 1901, Pound is referring to his first

City vs. Country—Venice


visit(s) to Venice). It is noteworthy that he speaks of “gondoling” on the Grand Canal (perhaps when he was even younger and visited with his “Aunt Frank” who could afford to “gondol”). In the passage in Canto 3 this would in fact be a contradiction, since the very first statement is that he could not afford to “gondol,” at least “that year.” He would certainly gondol in death to his burial place in the isle of San Michele in November 1972.2 Before leaving the opening of Canto 3, it’s worth noticing that Pound is building here a contrast between Venice as the City, where one has to pay one’s way and one arrives to try one’s luck, like the tyro Robert in Hawthorne’s story “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” and the eternal world of nature with its earthly and divine forces. It was finally in Sirmione that he preferred to live while working on The Spirit of Romance, and he returned there as late as 1919. He talked of Kensington as a “village,” but clearly he throve in the urban atmosphere of “my London, your London,” as later in “The Island of Paris.” But Canto 3, published in its present form in 1925, seems to mark his nearly permanent move away from the metropolis to the natural oasis. By 1925 he had chosen Rapallo as his center of activity. Throughout his work we find a tension between history and economics, which are chiefly urban phenomena, and the world of permanence which is beyond time, “the dimension of stillness.” So in Canto 1 the descent to Hades prefigures the descent into the grievances of history, and at the end there is a promise of love and ritual (Circe, Aphrodite, “the golden crown”). And throughout the poem the natural world and its rhythms contrast with the flood of historical notes which is always about to overwhelm the traveler, were he not saved by Leucothea’s magic bikini. It is touching that in his final notes Pound should invoke as guides “two mice and a moth” and speak of “milkweed the sustenance” (referring to the Monarch butterfly) (C, 823). It follows that Venice plays an ambiguous role in the historical Cantos. Canto 17 from the early Rapallo years presents a whole series of beloved landscapes, somewhat like Eliot’s contemporary sequence “Ash Wednesday” with its pre-Raphaelite decor. It is in a way a trip back from the sea and lake to Venice, which is described as a “stone place” wonderfully seductive but also fatal to the male hero: And for three days, and none after, Splendour, as the splendour of Hermes, And shipped thence         to the stone place,


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Pale white, over water,           known water, And the white forest of marble, bent bough over bough, The pleached arbour of stone, Thither Borso, when they shot the barbed arrow at him, And Carmagnola, between the two columns, Sigismundo, after that wreck in Dalmatia.    Sunset like the grasshopper flying. (17/79)

Carmagnola, a leader of the Venetian army, was beheaded “between the two columns” as a traitor to the Republic. This passage functions as an introduction to the extended treatment of Venetian history in Cantos 25–26, which opens with the auspicious account of two pet lions bearing “three lion cubs” in the Doge’s palace and closes anticlimactically with Mozart’s insulting letter to his patron the Archbishop of Salzburg, demanding permission to leave his service. In the same way Pound leaves the urban world of patronage and economics behind. Canto 26 opens with a purely nostalgic passage, where Pound indulges in an image of his insouciant youth: AND I came here in my young youth     and lay there under the crocodile By the column, looking East on the Friday, And I said: Tomorrow I will lie on the South side And the day after, south west. And at night they sang in the gondolas And in the barche with lanthorns; The prows rose silver on silver      taking light in the darkness. “Relaxetur!” (26/121) Pound defies augury by presenting himself near the very column associated with treason, bearing the statue of Saint Theodore (“Tòdaro”) killing a dragon (Pound’s “crocodile”).3 Venice was to appear only twice extensively in later Cantos, and this is in Pisan Cantos 76 and 83, where again the mood is purely nostalgic and affectionate: Pound is not trying to prove anything, just listing unashamedly his

City vs. Country—Venice


favorite places, “the hidden nest” (Olga’s house), “the jewel box” (Santa Maria dei Miracoli), the haunting names of calli and canali, and the self-dramatized scene of his wanting to chuck the proofs of A Lume Spento into the lagoon. In the post-Pisan volumes, his mind turned rather to Verona and the Rapallo hills, except for his visit to “thy quiet house at Torcello” at the very end of his poetic journey. Torcello is more rural and remote than Venice, a place of quiet where the golden goddess resides, and her presence is perceptible: “But to affirm the gold thread in the pattern (Torcello) / al Vicolo d’oro (Tigullio)” (116/817). Not only the gold thread binds Adriatic to Tyrrhenian, Venice to Rapallo, but Pound may also have intended a pun on the phonetic analogy between these two final place-names: Torcello/Tigullio. He was always making notes and seeking correspondences of this kind. And telling us to follow in his footsteps if we wish to meet the golden goddess—voluptuous but, also and most importantly, charitable: “and the greatest is charity / to be found among those who have not observed regulations” (74/454). This refers to the African American guard who provided Pound with a makeshift table to write on in Pisa. The poet’s sympathy in the Cantos is often with the common people, and these play a role in his memories of the Riviera as well as of Venice: San Gregorio, San Trovaso Old Ziovan raced at seventy after his glories       and came in long last and the family eyes stayed the same Adriatic       for three generations (San Vio) (83/552) This is from Canto 83, where Old Ziovan (Venetian for Giovanni) is affectionately remembered as a figure of old age (a ubiquitous theme in the Pisan Cantos, though Pound was only in his sixtieth year when he wrote, and his mother was still alive). The fifteenth-century church of San Gregorio and the Campo San Vio are close to the calle where Olga lived, San Trovaso is a favorite spot on the Zattere where gondolas are repaired. Pound remembers a local family, or rather the eye-color passed on from one generation to the next. This was to be associated later with his evocations of Fortuna, the goddess who for Pound is not blind but as in Dante oversees human affairs. This seems to repeat the theme of Canto 1, “a man of no fortune and with a name to come,” later picked up in Pisa as “a man on whom the sun has gone down.” In the later Cantos it is often difficult to make sense of Pound’s shorthand, but he


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

reiterates “Man under Fortune” as if this were an undisputed fact (86/586). And he elaborates in Thrones: All neath the moon, under Fortuna,     splendor’ mondan’, beata gode, hidden as eel in sedge,      all neath the moon, under Fortuna … with eyes pervanche,     three generations, San Vio darker than pervanche?      Pale sea-green, I saw eyes once … (97/696) He is trying, with references to Dante’s account of Fortuna, to add a goddess to his pantheon, and even brings in a nostalgic reminiscence at the end. Why Fortuna should have the “pale sea-green” eyes of the family that passed them on for three generations is not clear, especially since three generations are a token of continuity. But Pound is here claiming the right to mythopoeia, and he reverts to the theme in his notes, with a characteristic aside on Aquinas: Even Aquinas could not demote her, Fortuna,     violet, pervanche, deep iris      beat’è, e gode the dry pod could not demote her, plenilune,     phase over phase. (97/698) Which is not different, though more elliptic, from what he had claimed in “Three Cantos I”: Oh, we have worlds enough and brave décors, And from these like we guess a soul for man And build him full of aery populations.4 A signal example of the vagaries of Fortuna is John Law, the Scottish financier who, after a prodigious career in France (he seems to have been one of the early issuers of paper currency), died a poor man in Venice. In The Cantos he makes two appearances, the first in the anticlimactic Canto 100:

City vs. Country—Venice


and the old bitch de Medicis died in miseria,     ’29, John Law obit as you may see in San Moisé, in the pavement,                 SUMBAINAI (100/734) Here Pound seems to be contemplating the fall of the exalted, a classic tragic theme: Marie de’ Medici, former Queen of France, who dies an exiled pauper in 1643, and John Law, who after running the finances of France is reduced to poverty. San Moisé is the Venetian church in whose pavement a tablet marks Law’s burial place. Pound had dwelt on John Law in some drafts from the thirties included in Posthumous Cantos. The first begins: is burried the great financier, Lawvi or Levi of Edinburgh origin,          genius after debts left by Louis Soleil (PC, 48) Given Pound’s conviction that financiers are often Jewish, he makes a wild guess that John Law was really a Scottish Jew, i.e., that Law was a cover for Levi. In the same vein he was to imply in Rock-Drill Canto 95 that Calvin may have been Cohen. This is a pathological example of his conspiratorial reading of history. In another passage included in Posthumous Cantos he sees a secret significance in the fact that Law “is buried under the floor of St Moses”—the church’s name confirms Law’s secret identity! Mr Law (regii Galliae) is burried under the floor of St Moses sui cineres, sui generis with the poodle dogs on the façade      inscribed in a bit of paving just inside the door                  J. Law inglese on this rock “shalt thou build Prudential       and a great flock of holdings” Morosini in proposito                  QUOTE


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos I am serious, as a judge, I am serious in St Moses church, that is in Venice with the mouldly sheeplike façade (PC, 49)

Another point dear to Pound is that usury creates bad art, thus it is significant that San Moisé has an overdecorated façade to which Pound objects with Ruskinian purism. John Law is a considerable figure, and Pound went into the church and looked up the inscription (which he characteristically misquotes). His fascination with detail even prevails on his ideological fixations. So when he cites John Law in Canto 100 we can’t be sure about his intention: and the old bitch de Medicis died in miseria,     ’29, John Law obit as you may see in San Moisé, in the pavement,                 SUMBAINAI (100/734) While he is careful to mention San Moisé, thus probably intending the antiJewish undertext, Law is simply presented as a man of power who has fallen upon evil days. This confirms Pound’s ambivalence, which is in any case an undercurrent in his Jewish fixation. The Jews are wanderers as Pound was, The Cantos are an equivalent of the Bible and Ezra aspires to be a new prophet. In any case, the Greek SUMBAINAI, which is from Herakles’ revelation in the Trachiniae (“What SPLENDOUR it all coheres”) does suggest that Pound is pointing at an alleged revelation. There is a mystery under the slab of San Moisé, and Pound is giving us the key. It is the Jewish world-conspiracy. But by the time Pound recurs to John Law in Canto 114, the animus is no longer directed against the master of finance but towards an ungrateful world, and Law is beginning to look very much like a self-portrait of Pound, dying in Venice “in poverty”: And before Mr Law scarcely 300    and now 1800 great vessels and he, John Law, died in Venice in poverty.       We far from recognizing indebtedness. (114/811)

City vs. Country—Venice


When Pound wrote or copied these lines around 1959, he felt very much forgotten and left behind. This attitude was not new with him. Already Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is an ironic account of a life’s failure and vindication of work done by E.P. and dismissed by “the age,” and though comic in part it is born out of a hurt sense of disregard for his achievement. Also, the Pisan Cantos are grounded on the marginalization and sorrows of their author. So John Law ends up it seems as an image of the lost leader, like Malatesta and E.P. And Pound is once again saved by his inconsistency—he also is “to be found among those who have not observed regulations.” In closing this chapter I’d like to mention a fact so obvious that it may go unregarded. This is Pound’s Italocentric worldview. It is no surprise that Italy and Italian should be prominent everywhere in The Cantos, since he lived there most of his life. Yet it is possibly unique for an American or even British poet to have taken it for granted to such an extent that Italy is the center of the world, and that readers would want to follow him in his passion. True, there was the precedent of Dante which he took as example—Dante had seen the world from an Italian perspective. But in Dante’s time the world was much smaller. And Pound in fact travels far afield to China and even Australia and Africa. But they are travels in a library, and in an Italian library at that. So I’d like to close with two observations on Pound from his fellow Italian poet Eugenio Montale: What did Ezra love in our country? It is difficult to say. Florence seemed to him a city of cardboard. Venice, his first love, had lost its appeal. Rome was horrible. Only in Rapallo, which he called “the world’s navel,” did he feel at home. Here, affectionately tended by his good and loyal wife Dorothy Shakespear, Ezra composed on his typewriter those Cantos which were to be both epic and lyric, history and legend. He needed Italian pretexts, that’s all.5 This, written in 1949, is a convincing portrait of Pound in early middle-age, having renounced the city—every city—for a little town which he could call once again “my chosen and peninsular village.” Montale was to refine his analysis in his 1953 review of the Pisan Cantos, where he again wondered about Ezra the inveterate Italophile: Italy was probably the most appropriate pied-à-terre for someone engaging in this kind of experiment, the vastest Dantean–Joycean


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos poem of our time. Not the Italy of today, but the Italy of all times: the land where nature and culture are as one and where even the ­landscape appears to be permeated by centuries of civilization.6

This is as good a description as we’re likely to find of Pound’s landscape poetry, as we meet it for example in Canto 17: With the first pale-clear of the heaven And the cities set in their hills, And the goddess of the fair knees Moving there, with the oak-woods behind her, The green slope, with white hounds       leaping about her; And thence down to the creek’s mouth, until evening, Flat water before me,      and the trees growing in water, Marble trunks out of stillness, On past the palazzi,         in the stillness, The light now, not of the sun.         Chrysophrase, And the water green clear, and blue clear; On, to the great cliffs of amber. (17/76)


Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome


peaking in Washington in 1946 to Jerome Kavka, a psychiatrist, Ezra Pound said that he did not drink habitually but “had a few historic drunks, one when I arrived at the Russian point of view and another when I prophesied the return of the Pagan gods about ten years ago.”1 This seems to be the occasion referred to in an Italian fragment printed in English in the same 1991 issue of Paideuma in which the Kavka interview appeared. Here Pound remembers an episode of about 1931 when he “entered the Albergo Pace” near Rome’s Capitol and “there was a bottle of Bologna Gran Spumante.” After a few glasses, his memory brought back images of “Rimbaud at the Cabaret-Vert” and of “Iseult [Gonne] who was the great love.”2 In his tipsiness he sees that “everything lasts,” “war follows upon war,” i.e., he has the feeling of eternal recurrence familiar to readers of The Cantos. After a break he continues, “Under the Rupe Tarpeia … ‘that the Roman gods’ … have returned.” Rupe Tarpeia could be the restaurant in Via Veneto, whose passing is mourned in Canto 76 (“La Rupe no longer La Rupe, finito”—76/473), or the Tarpeian Rock itself, not far from the Albergo Pace. Possibly Pound is evoking two different occasions of bibulousness, both in Rome: one associated with memories of love lost long ago and of awareness of the eternal return, the other with a new conviction that the Gods would return. In this second section there is a mention of the Venus of Terracina, who figures in Canto 39: “By Circeo, by Terracina, with the stone eyes / white toward the sea.” The image of the goddess replaced on her pedestal would haunt Pound 31


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

and be repeated in his Carta da visita of 1942, where the act of reinstating her is said to be “worth more than any metaphysical argument” (SP, 320). In the Italian fragment Pound capitalizes “DEI ROMANI,” though he finishes with a Greek invocation of “Κόρη καὶ δήλια” (PC, 87)—two avatars of the goddess. The qualification “Roman” is consistent with Pound’s increasing suspicion in the 1930s of “Greek rascality” (79/505) and endorsement Roman purposefulness and earthiness (“Latin is sacred, grain is sacred”—SP, 317). But when he returns to the memory of this “historic drunk” in the first Pisan Canto he places it in the context of a vortex of mythical images, Greek, Latin, Japanese: now Genji at Suma      , tira libeccio      as the winds veer and the raft is driven      under our cliff, is driven     and the voices   , Tiro, Alcmene      with you is Europa nec casta Pasiphaë         Eurus, Apeliota as the winds veer in periplum Io son la luna”  .  Cunizza         as the winds veer in periplum   and from under the Rupe Tarpeia   drunk with wine of the Castelli   “in the name of its god” “Spiritus veni”      adveni / not to a schema        “is not for the young” said Arry, stagirite      but as grass under Zephyrus        as the green blade under Apeliota (74/463–64)3 Pound recalls briefly his vision of the gods when “drunk with wine of the Castelli” (a common Roman white) and draws us into the whirlpool where, as the winds blow, the ladies of yesteryear make their appearance (Europa, Tiro, Cunizza …). It is interesting to note that Pound is at the same time evoking his sense of drifting hopelessly and drunkenly on Ulysses’ raft and debating metapoetically the form of his writing, “not to a schema.” It is as if a performer were both dancing and describing his dance. The passage that follows, one of the best known of The Cantos, beginning “Time is not, Time is the evil,” evokes a “beloved hour” with a woman or human goddess “against the half-light of the window” (74/464). This is what Pound means by the return of the gods. A moment of epiphany torn

Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome


from the iron gates of time. On the other hand, Pound was always quite sure that he had the knack of enjoying himself, that he was the life of the party, and The Cantos are largely about his energy and his attempt to make the good life available to his readers while remembering his own moments of vision and well-being.4 Considering Pound’s frequent visits to Rome, especially at the time of his broadcasts, the city plays a small role in his personal myth (which is after all what The Cantos really are). Rome is largely a great monument of baroque art, that is of the “false fronts, barocco” decried in Canto 87, where they are contrasted with the medieval tower in Poitiers (87/593). Pound’s tastes in art were essentially medieval, so he could not appreciate the turbulence and ambiguous grandeurs of the Roman Baroque of Bernini and Borromini, though as a young man he joined in the cult of Velásquez. In the end, he returned to the severe and naked art of the non-usurious (as he thought) preRaphaelite centuries. Consequently, of Rome he mentions neither the classic remains nor the renaissance and baroque monuments, but the medieval churches he admired. The Pisan Cantos begin with a threnody for Mussolini but go on with no delay to teach us some art history: but a precise definition    transmitted thus Sigismundo    thus Duccio, thus Zuan Bellin, or trastevere with La Sposa Sponsa Cristi in mosaic till our time / deification of emperors but a snotty barbarian ignorant of T’ang history need not deceive one (74/445–46) This is the great permanent art that has been allied with just or at least generous rulers, in Rimini (Agostino di Duccio), in Venice (Giovanni Bellini, his name affectionately given in Venetian dialect form), and in Rome, where we can still see the image of the Virgin Mary “espousing” Christ in the apse of Santa Maria. Before the war Trastevere must have been a quiet place, where Pound could wander and meditate. The mosaic is in itself a form that he admires, because of its clarity and durability, and which reminds him inevitably of Justinian and Theodora in Ravenna (“deification of emperors”). But what he insists on is that there in the apse of the church (no “false fronts, barocco”) is an image of Mary: the goddess, already returned to her pedestal, placed next to Christ, equally important,


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

the female principle to which Pound was mainly susceptible. She is “Sponsa Cristi,” she is a sposa, a bride, who “eats the flame” as the “sponsa” says at the end of Canto 39. (And we remember that Pound got this image from the Russian dancer Astafieva, i.e., Eliot’s Grishkin (77/486), also recalled at Pisa (79/509) as “conserv[ing] the tradition.”) The celebration of Rome’s medieval remains is apparently contradicted by Pound’s enthusiasm in 1933 for the construction of the Via dell’Impero (today Via dei Fori Imperiali) across (and over) the Roman Forum, which Pound celebrated in an article in Italian, aptly, and I believe sincerely, titled “Ave Roma.” In order to open this grandiose avenue between the Capitol and the Coliseum, Mussolini’s architects demolished a section of medieval Rome, just as they did some years later to open Via della Conciliazione, leading up to St. Peter’s (to mark the “reconciliation” between Italy and the Papacy after decades of diplomatic stand-off): AND MEDIEVAL SQUALOR disappears! I speak of garbage advisedly. The garbage of fifteen centuries ignored human glory, see Joachim du Bellay’s sonnets, adapted by the Renaissance Latinists, translated in English by Spenser, etc. Since last April [1932] when I went to Rome, to December, Mussolini has done more to ­disencumber this glory than all the Popes from the 7th to the 19th century. Aided by modern machinery? This aid counts for 3% of the matter. What has disencumbered the Via dell’Impero is WILL.5 Du Bellay, in a sonnet that Pound also translated, lamented the passing of Rome’s greatness, which now the New Italy has brought to light, recovering the old by freeing it of medieval trappings, as Pound wanted to do in his translations of Propertius, Arnaut, and Guido. The purist principle remains the same: the clear classic or medieval line is to be revealed by clearing away the rubble and garbage of superstructure. (Pound interpreted the “Make It New” Chinese characters as an axe clearing the underbrush.) In his “Ave Roma” article of 1933 Pound can scarcely control his enthusiasm for the regime’s and its leader’s achievements, and he marvels (as on other occasions) that Italians should be rather less sanguine. His fellow-citizens of Rapallo, he writes, would do well to buy a train-ticket to Rome to see its

Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome


newly revealed glory, and to visit the exhibition celebrating the first decade of Fascist rule. Of the exhibition, he wrote, “the first impression is confusion, but a salutary confusion.” Which looks very much like his own recipe for The Cantos. The “Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista” opened in Rome’s central Via Nazionale on October 28, 1932, the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome. It included a reconstruction of Mussolini’s editorial office at the Milan newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, as Pound was to record in Canto 46, where he compares it to the office of The New Age where his own conversion to the new economics began: “Didja see the Decennio? / ? / Decennio exposition, reconstructed office of Il Popolo, / Waal, ours waz like that, minus the Mills bomb an’ the teapot …” (46/231). Pound continues in the same familiar tone, whether it be from the columns of Il Mare or from the elegant pages of The Fifth Decad of Cantos, published by Faber & Faber. We should have visited the “Decennio” (as he calls it). The suggestion that Pound’s career and Mussolini’s are following converging trajectories from different yet analogous beginnings in editorial offices seems intended. However, it is worth pointing out that Pound’s response to Mussolini remained a dialogue between equals and had nothing of the fawning subservience to the Duce of many writers, Italian and foreign. There is admiration of a fellow artist, pride in having “discovered” him (like another Eliot or Antheil), and, as always in Pound, a wish to instruct. After all, in his one and only face to face meeting with “poor old Benito” (80/515), the poet gave him an economic memorandum to study and hopefully act upon. Pound always claimed the role of tour guide. The Cantos are among other things a new Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, mostly through Italy. He likes to show his reader around, to take him into his confidence. Were we to spend a day with him in Venice we know exactly that he would show us Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the “mouldly sheeplike façade” of San Moisé, the Carpaccios, the small lions in the Piazzetta San Marco, the “new bridge of the Era”6—and end the day in Torcello’s “quiet house.”7 As for Rome, there would be fewer sights and he would not have quite as much to tell us about them. The Santa Maria in Trastevere mosaics would be probably the central exhibit, and for an example of “false fronts, barocco,” he would go to St. Peter’s. Here there are also mosaics, but they are nineteenth-century copies of paintings, done just to show off wealth since mosaic is costlier than canvas, and the paintings were baroque to begin with.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

We are fortunate that in The Cantos a brief tour of Rome is recorded, when Pound takes his thirteen-year-old daughter sightseeing for Christmas 1938:   so the arcivescovo fumbled round under his    ample overcloaks … and produced a cornucopia from “La Tour” … but this was before St Peter’s     in move toward a carrozza from the internal horrors (mosaic)   en route to Santa Sabina       & San Domenico where the spirit is clear in the stone8 Mary tells us that it was during this visit that her father took her to see Walt Disney’s Snow White, and would have stayed to see it a second and third time so enthralled was he by that art from California. The enjoyment of the scene with the Arcivescovo is boyish fun, one of the many moods of The Cantos. It is interesting that Canto 93, which opens with pharaoh Kati and the Arcivescovo, culminates with lines about the poet’s daughter, the first of which, if truth be told, is plagiarized from her: For me nothing. But that the child    walk in peace in her basilica, The light there almost solid.9 “The basilica” is the image of the great good place that Pound seeks throughout The Cantos, “as the winds veer and the raft is driven.” Here it does appear, one walks quietly into it, as later in “thy quiet house at Torcello.” The contrast between the basilicas and the “horrors” of St. Peter’s returns in the catalogue at the end of Thrones: “Helios, / Kαλλιαστράγαλος Ino Kadmeia, / San Domenico, Santa Sabina, / Sta Maria Trastevere; / in Cosmedin / Le chapeau melon de St Pierre / You in the dinghey (piccioletta) astern there!”10 The alchemist-poet pronounces beautiful names of goddesses and places, while at the same time teaching us a lesson. As it were, he has prepared a list of churches to visit for the Poundian in Rome. He has put them

Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome


down on a slip of paper, and (as it were) tells us in an aside: “As for St. Peter’s, Michelangelo’s famous cupola is just a ‘chapeau melon,’ you know, a bowler hat.” This is the challenge implicit in the final line, with its well-rehearsed allusion to Dante’s Paradiso (II, 1): can we follow the poet’s guidance? If we do we will reach a safe harbor. Or at least, so Pound would have us (and himself) believe. Look, I have brought it off, and I will bring it off. There is the same mood at the end of Rock-Drill: “And there is something decent in the universe / if I can feel all this, dicto millesimo” (95/667). The Latin is a reminisce of a Venetian document quoted in Canto 25, where it is rendered as “in the said date.”11 Here it is an outlandish way of saying “in this year” (i.e., 1954, when Canto 95 was composed). One could object that this is a very self-centered proof that there is some decency in the universe. Perhaps the close of the Pisan Cantos sounds a deeper and more humble, though equally hopeful, note: “Under white clouds, cielo di Pisa / out of all this beauty something must come” (84/559). Speaking of Canto 84, it reminds us of another favorite Poundian haunt in Rome: “and the he leopard lay on his back playing with straw / in sheer boredom, / (Memoirs of the Roman zoo) / in sheer boredom.”12 Boredom also features in the tantalizing Roman episode recalled at the end of Canto 78: Tre donne intorno alla mia mente but as of conversation to follow, boredom of that roman on Olivia’s stairs        in her vision that stone angle all of his scenery          with the balustrade, an antipodes (78/503) Olivia Rossetti Agresti, a Roman friend and correspondent, may have discussed with Pound a homeless man who used to hang out on the staircase of her condominium.13 Or Pound may have questioned him when visiting Agresti. The opening reference to the “three women” that Pound remembers is followed by an elliptic reflection that it is not easy to converse with figments of the imagination (“but as of conversation to follow”). Just so the Roman squatter is bored. One could suggest that the import of the passage, whatever the precise reference, points to Pound’s own boredom in the long Pisan days, when the hours pass slowly, when a small angle of the D.T.C. is “all of his


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

scenery.” What to make of these restricted circumstances? Well, if you are Pound, you make the Pisan Cantos, letting the voices, present and past, speak and sing:        on doit le temps ainsi prendre qu’il vient or to write dialog because there is      no one to converse with to take the sheep out to pasture to bring the g.r. to the nutriment    gentle reader  to the gist of the discourse      to sort out the animals (80/519–20) The self-therapy doesn’t cease to intend a lesson for the reader. This has taken us far from Rome, and I haven’t even touched upon Pound’s dealings with the Latin poets. It is fascinating to follow his footsteps, and one would want to set out with him as he did on September 10, 1943 along the Via Salaria past Fara Sabina, the trip to which he recurs so often in his notes and then in Canto 78: “Goedel’s sleek head in the midst of it, / the man out of Naxos past Fara Sabina / ‘if you will stay for the night’” (78/498). Rome is falling, Fascism has been dispatched (in July) only to be resurrected—a living corpse—in North Italy. But Pound, true to himself, would not abandon his allegiance, as we learn from the Italian Cantos 72–73. However that may be, the image of the wanderer stays in one’s mind. In Canto 78 Pound only writes down the phrases he remembers—strangers offering him a bed or food (“no, there is nothing to pay for that bread”). A year earlier, during the war, still naively confident, Pound had introduced in the closing pages of Carta da visita the palindrome R O M A O      M M      O A  M O R —printing it as a square in the midst of a discussion of Italian literature, preceded by the phrase “We think because we do not know” (“Pensiamo perché non sappiamo”). This “ideogram” is to some extent a courtesy to his Italian and presumably Fascist readers, but it is also indicative of Pound’s

Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome


passion for verbal tricks, for ingenuous games (“Paddle your own canoe”),14 like the observation of the pack of cards at the end of Canto 88, or the graph at the end of Canto 100. By printing his verbal ideogram of AMOR ROMA Pound is asking us to contemplate something that is out there and from which we may derive inspiration, like a device, a motto, which (as mottos often do) has a defiant look and silences all questions. In Rome we shall find love, it is all one. Dante would have agreed. No matter that 1942 is not 1312. What has been continues to be. The Gods will return. Later, in Canto 113, Pound sees this dialectically: “The Gods have not returned. ‘They have never left us.’ / They have not returned. / Cloud’s processional and the air moves with their living.” The conclusion is, as ever, hopeful. The palindrome appears to be evoked indirectly in the dawn passage of Canto 93: And yet for Venus and Roma       a wraith moved in air And Rapicavoli lost for a horse-jump.       Quarta Sponda        transient as air Waste after Carthage.     not yet! not yet!       Do not awaken. (93/650) Perhaps the two opening lines are to be read as separate. The dream of Amor (Venus) and Roma remains a phantom, in the context of an elegiac Latin landscape (Tibullus is evoked later in the passage). Rapicavoli is Carmelo Rapicavoli, a Fascist enthusiast (and, strangely, a convert to Methodism), author among other works of La missione universale di Roma (1936), who corresponded with Pound in 1935–36. These are all examples of a dream failing. Thus the Quarta Sponda, which was a propaganda definition of the Italian colony in Lybia (Italy’s alleged “fourth coast”), was a transient undertaking. In his 1944 pamphlet Introduzione alla natura economica degli S. U. A. Pound compares Italy’s Quarta Sponda to the U.S. colonization of the West (SP, 177). Still, the poet can find relief in his dream, and in the anticipation that waste and agony will be followed by glimpses of paradise. Though Pound spent some time in Rome during his rapid decline in 1960–61, there is little trace of this in the final drafts. Still, the memory of the


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

“historic drunk” appears to recur in the last pages of the poem, when he says: “Under the Rupe Tarpeia / weep out your jealousies.” The restaurant or the ominous Tarpeian rock? I would vote for the latter, which would thus become with the Capitol Hill one of the “sacred places.” The Tarpeian rock was used by the ancient Romans to cast to their death children born crippled or otherwise handicapped and could remind us of Canto 30 with Artemis “complaining” against Pity. Yet for Pound it is a place of repentance, of weeping. And, true to himself, of building: To make a church      or an altar to Zagreus Ζαγρεύς Son of Semele Σεμέλη Without jealousy      like the double arch of a window Or some great colonnade. (C, 821) The paradox here is that Zagreus is a god, Dionysus, but also an avatar of Pound himself, here reconciled with his mother–lover.15 However, he builds a temple, a monument to himself with not a few redeeming traits. A temple and a basilica. He contemplates his work hopefully at the end of his life, like his friend George Santayana dying in Rome in the apotheosis provided for him by Wallace Stevens: Total grandeur of a total edifice, Chosen by an inquisitor of structures For himself. He stops upon the threshold, As if the design of all his words takes form And frame from thinking and is realized.16


The Green World


he immersion in nature, in natural process, is a recurrent situation in Ezra Pound’s poetry, often associated with the divine or numinous, what is sometimes referred to as the “Panic” (from the god Pan, of the summer stillness). In order to evoke and suggest the emotion of such moments, Pound makes use of various forms of parallelism and repetition, as if to induce a state of heightened consciousness or even drunkenness. If we look at the middle “decads” of Cantos we find these peremptory rhythms both in the Fertility Cantos (as Cantos 39 and 47 have come to be known) and in the Usura Cantos 45 and 51. These latter are an impassioned and systematic indictment listing everything that devilish Usura has lost us in the way of art and natural fulfillment—even sex, since modern man has but “whores for Eleusis,” and Usura “blunteth the needle in the maid’s hand”—a not too veiled (and somewhat ribald) allusion to male impotence.1 This is amplified in the conclusion of Canto 45, where usury “lyeth between the young bride and her bridegroom”—which may be read as a denunciation of contraception. Italy’s Fascist government implemented demographic policies to increase the birth rate and made advertising contraceptives illegal, though they were widely used by the educated. Pound berated elsewhere (and two decades earlier) the Archbishop of London, apparently for condemning contraception (LE, 42). He may have changed his views, but a more likely interpretation may be that contraception and abortion are necessary evils in a world of poverty and exploitation. 41


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

As is well known, the archaic (prophetic) language affected in Canto 45 is modernized in Canto 51’s repetition of the usury arraignment. Here Pound speaks more reasonably in standard modern English, believing that what he is saying is perfectly convincing to any unprejudiced listener: “Usury is against Nature’s increase. / Whores for Eleusis” (51/250). The tone is quiet. What should be most sacred and spontaneous, copulation (as revealed in the Eleusis rituals), is replaced by “the 4 and six-penny ’ore,” as Pound wrote in 1938 to his friend and translator Carlo Izzo: As you see, the moral bearing of the passage is vurry high, and the degradation of the sacrament which is the coition and not the going to a fatbuttocked priest or registry office for a licence has been completely debased largely by Xtianity, or misunderstanding of that Ersatz religion.2 Yet even in the more subdued repeat of Canto 51 Pound’s trick of iterating words and phrases for effect is in evidence: Wool does not come into market the peasant does not eat his own grain the girl’s needle goes blunt in her hand The looms are hushed one after another ten thousand after ten thousand Duccio was not by usura (51/250) The opening has a relaxed rhythm, though perhaps the lack of punctuation is already a marker of the metaphorical (poetical) rather than informative genre of the text. But the repetition of “after” and “ten thousand” in lines 4–5 adds a wistful (Cathay-like) note. Pound is thinking of pre-modern exchange economy, of a community that produces its own wool, clothing, and food. Today’s nature enthusiasts speak of “zero km food”—i.e., consuming food in the environs of production, as against buying (for example) nuts flown from Chile. The making of bread from one’s own wheat was still common in Liguria in the 1950s. These middle Cantos were written in the setting of the Mediterranean peasant culture Pound could still find on the hills overlooking Rapallo with its yachts and sophisticated tourists. It’s the good life as so many American and

The Green World


British expatriates found it before and between two world wars in France, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Ernest Hemingway’s books are just as much a celebration of the good Spanish earth, the fresh Swiss mountain air, the genuine food of the French worker, as are Pound’s Mediterranean Fertility Cantos. Primitivism, the return to the essential drives (food, sex), is interwoven with nostalgia, for it is a lost and irrecoverable world, “now in the mind indestructible” (74/450, 462). This line from the Pisan Cantos, about the end and vindication of Pound’s Italian utopia, could very well function as an epigraph for Hemingway’s endeavor to capture what life was like in Pamplona, Cortina, or Africa: We never will ride back from Toledo in the dark, washing the dust out with Fundador, nor will there be that week of what happened in the night in that July in Madrid. We’ve seen it all go and we’ll watch it go again. The great thing is to last and get your work done and see and hear and learn and understand; and write when there is something that you know; and not before; and not too damned much after.3 Compare these sentences from the famous finale of Death in the Afternoon with Pound’s nostalgia as expressed already in the opening pages of the Pisan sequence: el triste pensier si volge    ad Ussel. A Ventadour      va il consire, el tempo rivolge Pound is even playing with a rhyme in his approximate Italian, which incorporates the nonce-word consire, probably from consiros in Arnaut’s speech, rendered as “in thought” by the Temple Dante.4 He continues: and at Limoges the young salesman bowed with such french politeness “No that is impossible.” I have forgotten which city But the caverns are less enchanting to the unskilled explorer    than the Urochs as shown on the postals, we will see those old roads again, question,               possibly


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos but nothing appears much less likely,               Mme Pujol, and there was a smell of mint under the tent flaps especially after the rain    and a white ox on the road toward Pisa       as if facing the tower (74/448)

Past and present coalesce casually, and the tone is no longer primitivistic and insistent as in the pre-war Cantos, but tender and bemused, as of a man speaking to himself. Around him there are phenomena as remembered and even more strikingly present. The observation is distinct and precise: the smell of mint “especially after the rain”—clearly a reinvigorating whiff when one is passing “a month in the death cells” (83/550)—and the “white ox,” and, in the distance, “the tower.” Like any good tourist in Pisa, Pound mentions very often the leaning Tower which he apparently could make out in the distance: Pisa, in the 23rd year of the effort in sight of the tower (74/450) … a sinistra la Torre      seen through a pair of breeches. (74/451) … To the left of la bella Torre  the tower of Ugolino in the tower to the left of the tower     chewed his son’s head (74/456) This refers to a celebrated episode of Inferno, more recently revisited by Seamus Heaney.5 Note the playful (if that is the right word) repetition of “tower.” The reader may wonder about the unattributed Italian quotation, “la bella Torre.” It is part of the memory-game. If we should count the lines in Pound’s Cantos that open with quotation marks we would soon discover that the poem is really a hall of echoes. Pound’s memory is very concerned with things said by the great and the less great. Even in the above-quoted passage “No that is impossible” comes back from an old encounter. Later in Canto 74 the reference to St. John’s black night of the soul recalls once again Ugolino’s alleged cannibalism:

The Green World


   in short shall we look for a deeper or is this the bottom?    Ugolino, the tower there on the tree line Berlin   dysentery   phosphorus         la vieille de Candide (74/458) The reader is left to trace Pound’s associations. The old woman (vieille) in Voltaire’s Candide possibly comes in because, as Wikipedia helpfully reminds us, in Chapter X, “Cunégonde falls into self-pity, complaining of all the misfortunes that have befallen her. The old woman reciprocates by revealing her own tragic life, which included having a buttock cut off in order to feed some starving men.” Some pages later the fact that the Tower famously leans is actually mentioned, but the reader with no Italian will miss it: Περσεφόνεια under Taishan      in sight of the tower che pende on such a litter rode Pontius     under such canvas in the a.h. of the army     in sight of two red cans labeled “FIRE” (74/463) Persephone was the goddess of the underworld, so perhaps the litter and canvas refer to a funeral in the camp, a.k.a. “the arse hole of the army.” Or it may be a girl seen travelling on the road in a cart, reminding Pound of Pontius Pilate (references to Barabbas and Jesus’ Passion are frequent—and as someone observed rather immodest—in these pages). Pound’s mythical and cultural (“Taishan”) references in Pisa become graphic through the insisted contrast with the everyday ramshackle views of the camp (and its vernacular), never more so than in the lynx chorus of Canto 79, where we have both an immersion in nature replete of visionary presences and an ordinary day in camp. Towards the end of this first long Pisan Canto Pound makes an extensive list of tourist keepsakes, remembering his boyhood trips to Europe with his parents and affluent aunt. Critics speak, following Leo Spitzer,6 of Whitman’s “chaotic enumeration,” and this is somewhat the effect of Pound’s object inventory: and the cool of the 42nd St. tunnel  (periplum) white-wash and horse cars, the Lexington Avenue cable


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos refinement, pride of tradition, alabaster              Towers of Pisa              (alabaster, not ivory) coloured photographs of Europa carved wood from Venice venetian glass and the samovar (74/467)

If Pound is thinking of a late Victorian interior (like his aunt’s or his mother’s sitting rooms) the implied contrast could be between alabaster miniature Pisan towers and the real tower that is now the background of the poet’s ordeal—from privileged tourist to prisoner. He goes on to reminisce about Gibraltar and to compare his recollections with Joyce’s recreation of Molly Bloom’s Gibraltar from information gathered through many sources, possibly including Pound. It is interesting to note that Molly’s famed soliloquy also terminates with a “chaotic enumeration” of impressions of her youth and loves, quickly overlapping in her mind. But Molly is a created character, whereas Pound’s stream of consciousness is for real. In Molly every detail, being constructed, refers to other details within Ulysses. In Pound on the other hand the reference is to real or fancied events, the key to which only Pound and his intimates possess. As readers of The Cantos, we are all invited to share his thoughts. This is why The Cantos by and large can be understood as an autobiographical myth, which is also true of Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” though the result is extremely different. Though they share the pleasure and celebration of natural (and sexual) ecstasy, Pound’s myth is constructed of discrete events and quotations that he appropriates. He travels to Gibraltar, Pisa, and the 42nd St. tunnel, and thinks that its “coolness” is worth recording. Which perhaps takes us back to Hemingway’s circumstantial accounts of Pamplona and Kenya—and Paris and Venice. As we know, in Canto 74 Pound concludes the fireworks of his (intentionally) “chaotic” list of found objects with the magisterial affirmation of attained “diamond clearness”: the serene ball tossing in the fountain jet, the apparition of the rose in the steeldust (74/469). That is, he communicates the conviction that there is a pattern that brings everything together. “What thou lovest well remains,” we will be told in Canto 81. The very survival of these memories guarantees their significance. Life is worth living after all. They are “now in the mind indestructible”—like the “chaotic” memories of Spain listed by Hemingway in his own biographical myth.

The Green World


If we leaf through The Cantos we find numerous and recurrent moments of communion with the natural world, beginning with the Dionysian metamorphosis in Canto 2 (an anticipation of the moving return of the lynx in Canto 79). Canto 2 closes with resonant lines: And we have heard the fauns chiding Proteus      in the smell of hay under the olive-trees, And the frogs singing against the fauns     in the half-light. And… Unlike Whitman, Pound always introduces some mythical creatures from his small Latin and less Greek, but he is telling us about (and inviting us to share) his exquisite sensations (frog song, hay scent, penumbra). We are to join him in his exemplary life à la Whitman. Two decades later, the situation described is similar and if anything more suggestive in the lynx chorus: We are here waiting the sun-rise    and the next sunrise for three nights amid lynxes. For three nights    of the oak-wood … We have lain here amid kalicanthus and sword-flower (79/511) The Pisan Cantos are to the foregoing sections what Lustra is to the earlier volumes. Pound doffs his archaic mannerisms and speaks directly and simply, though, being Pound, he cannot forbear doing the world in different languages. It is a conversation of a canny observer with quite a few bees in his bonnet but apparently ready to take correction. Approaching sixty, he feels old (an old habit of his), but actually his mind is quicker and his lines hit the right note more often than ever before or after. When he wants to “do” the Rubaiyat (Canto 80) or the Elizabethan lyric (Canto 81) he puts on the “vurry high moral bearing”—as in “Pull down thy vanity.” Here he tells us to “Learn of the green world what can be thy place / in scaled invention or true artistry, / Pull down thy vanity, / Paquin pull down! / The green casque has outdone your elegance.” As we saw in the Usura Canto, the wreckage caused by exploitative economics is signaled by the absence of great art, Mantegna’s


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Gonzaga frescos in Mantua and Botticelli’s La Calunnia, Memling and the cloisters of Arles. There is no doubt that art is always at the center of Pound’s concern. “Pull down thy vanity” corrects this, in part ascribing to the green world the power to teach us humility, since it undoes our elegance. The reference to Jeanne Paquin is fascinating in its extreme topicality—just the name of a famous fashion designer. Compare the final reference to Blunt in this Canto. Or, an even more striking example: O puma, sacred to Hermes, Cimbica servant of Helios. (79/512) (In The Little Review, twenty-five years back, Pound had enthused about W. H. Hudson’s “puma, Chimbica, friend of man, the most loyal of wildcats” —SP, 431.) To Pound and his wonderful involuntary memory a name is what a madeleine was to Marcel Proust’s narrator. It carries with it a whole world in which we are to enter with him. The Cantos are full of proper names, which stick out in their unavoidable particularity. Take Andreas Divus in the very first canto. Thereby hangs a tale. And Pound’s poem, we know, is a book of tales, of Sagetrieb—another name, and of his own invention. I hope that these general considerations will throw some light on Pound’s true power as a poet. It is instructive to read him selectively, giving examples of his techniques, like his fondness for iteration, which, however, is kept under control especially in Pisa. Here we find a leisure that he seldom indulged elsewhere, that allows him to take his time with ample vignettes, as an artist pleased with a sketch. Take, for example, the fakir and snake in Tangier described at length on the eighth page of the first Pisan Canto. Memory for its own sake. Or the very relaxed opening recollections of Spain in Canto 81, before we come to all the poetic language of the “libretto” and “Pull down thy vanity.” Pound is good at following his advice to Laurence Binyon: I believe an opening shd. be as near normal speech as possible and a heightened or poetic diction can be slid into later if necessary or advisable. (L, 316) Most of the eleven Pisan Cantos follow this pattern, with some notable exceptions—but all openings are memorable. Even “The enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant’s bent shoulders” (74/445) is an imagistic notation, possibly of something seen along the road near the D.T.C. (or in Rapallo).

The Green World


“The natural object,” as Pound instructed all poets, “is always the adequate symbol” (“A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste”—1915). The peasant is ever the victim, sent to war as cannon fodder, crushed. He is also an exponent of the green world which takes on so much meaning to the Pisan poet, despite his constant cultural fantasizing. “Wisdom lies next thee, / simply, past metaphor,” he tells Mother Earth in another visionary and archaic-sounding passage (82/546). As in D. H. Lawrence, the primitive beckons. Another example of an episode recalled at some length is Pound’s adventurous escape from Rome and trek to the Tyrol in mid-September 1943. He made notes of this in the war years, especially remembering phrases and sounds heard during his trip: In September the barbaciani cried catlike from tree to tree in the Alban stillness … This said Eumolpas is a German, who says he is an American. Will you stay for the night (PC, 75) He returned to this material in the Pisan notebook out of which he composed Canto 74: “a german” sd. the man out of Naxos    (epic) “who says he is an American”. will you stay for the night. & the peasants wd not take pay for the minestra (PC, 130) This draft was scrapped to be brilliantly reworked in Canto 78 as published:    the man out of Naxos past Fara Sabina “if you will stay for the night” “it is true that there is only a room for the lot of us” “money is nothing” “no, there is nothing to pay for that bread”         “nor for the minestra” “Nothing left here but women”      “Have lugged it this far, will keep it” (il zaino)      No, they will do nothing to you.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos “Who says he is an American”      a still form on the branda, Bologna (78/498)

The story is told, advisedly, by quotation. Pound constructs his elliptic biographic myth, the wanderings of the hero: You who have passed the pillars and outward from Herakles when Lucifer fell in N. Carolina if the suave air give way to scirocco (74/445) Herakles… Odysseus… Dante… Pound. In the original Pisan Cantos typescript, several pages of verse occurred between the third line before last of Canto 84 (“is, at the mildest, unproven”) and the memorable final couplet (“If the hoar frost …”). These pages included yet another version of Pound’s wanderings through Italy of September 1943: INCIPIT VITA NUOVA   Tea at Norah’s and then @ the airport:   “What shall we do? We have no officers” And @ Settebagni nothing to pay for good bread—   that after Roma— (PC, 138) Pound appears to have cut these final pages of Canto 84 as first written with a view of making it more compact and forceful, which is certainly the resulting effect. But one reason for omitting them may well have been the repetition of an episode already effectively if elliptically treated earlier in the sequence. (Also, the reference to Nora Naldi, the Roman friend who gave Pound tea before he set out for the territory, may have seemed excessively private.) Though the Pisan Cantos as published depart only occasionally from the longhand drafts made during the summer months in the DTC, and are rather exceptional in this in comparison to other sequences of Cantos, the composition of which was usually more labored, the decision to cut pages that nevertheless contain fine passages and that were already in typescript would confirm that Pound was fully in control of his howbeit relaxed creative process, “lord of his work and master of utterance” (74/462). In Pisa he enjoyed the luck that, as his friend Hemingway insisted, is a necessity for writers. He

The Green World


was creating a world of memories and notations of daily events and phrases, going along with the flow, aware of sorrow, joy, and fulfillment, and able to communicate all this. In order to appreciate it fully, however, we have to submit to the same process and read these Cantos sequentially. For example, we discover that “the green casque” of Canto 81 refers back to the “green midge half an ant-size” of the beautiful finale of Canto 80. An image occurs and is then developed as the poem proceeds. The same is true of the eucalyptus pip, first mentioned as “for memory” with images of the beloved Ligurian landscape in Canto 74/455, and then often referred to as a talisman in Canto 80, until Pound tells us that this is the only thing he cares to take with him from Italy and Rapallo in a climactic compact summation of his life (80/520). And that is all we need to take from The Pisan Cantos to confirm the uniqueness and value to us of Ezra Pound’s poetry.

Part II Meetings

“‘Dante and I are come to learn of thee, / Ser Guido of Florence, master of us all.’—‘To Guido Cavalcanti’ by Ezra Pound.” 4. Max Beerbohm, Caricature of Ezra Pound, 1914.


“And Some Climbing”—Dante


zra Pound’s interest in Dante has critical as well as poetic aspects, since Pound was primarily a poet and there is a continuous interchange between his prose and his verse. Pound confirmed T. S. Eliot’s early interest in Dante, and the passion for Dante of these two American poets is responsible to some extent for the wider readership the Divine Comedy enjoyed in twentieth-century England and America. If Dante is still closely read and loved, not only (as is natural) by scholars and specialists, but also by young and engaged anglophone readers and writers, this is due in part to these poets. Such a situation could not have occurred if Pound’s criticism had been more scholarly and conventional. His passion for Dante can serve as an example for its directness, for skipping the many quandaries on which discussion would be endless, and simply saying: This book is worth reading, in fact it is fundamental. In Chapter 43 of that ultimate textbook for the aspiring Poundian, Guide to Kulchur, written in spring 1937, in his fifty-second year, Pound draws the following “fairly solid pentagon”: The Odes The Homeric Epos Metamorphoses Divina Commedia The Plays (GK, 236)



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Cranky and eccentric Pound may have been, but few of us would quarrel with this essential curriculum. (For “The Plays,” read Shakespeare.) The Divine Comedy and the Confucian Odes may seem strange bedfellows. Yet the desire to explore, for once, beyond the boundaries of Western culture can only be salutary. Surely if today’s students were familiar with the above “pentagon” they would be on the right road to an education. Another point worth mentioning here is that some of the most prominent post-World War II Italian poets have acknowledged that their response to Dante has been considerably influenced by the prose and poetry of Pound and Eliot. This is remarkable since one would imagine that approaches from abroad to a national poet would strike most native speakers as touching but inevitably limited. Signal proof of Pound’s influence can be found in the dramatizations of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, prepared in 1989–91 by three major poets (Edoardo Sanguineti, Mario Luzi, and Giovanni Giudici, respectively). Sanguineti quotes Pound on Usura and Geryon in his version of the Inferno, while Giudici introduces Pound on stage when Dante meets Cunizza da Romano, mistress of Sordello, and is surprised that such a profligate lady should be admitted to Heaven, howbeit the Heaven of Venus.1 Thus the audiences of the three plays could not escape an awareness of Pound as an exceptionally influential reader and follower of Dante. If we consider Pound’s background, we see that his interest in Dante had notable predecessors. In England there was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to cite one of the best-known translators of early Italian poetry, as many-sided, bohemian, and controversial as Pound. Texts like his “Dante at Verona” (504 lines) point the way to the recreation of the past attempted by Pound in such poems as “Near Perigord” (193 lines) and in The Cantos. In America there was Longfellow, no bohemian and possibly a minor poet, but surely among the most widely read of his day. Longfellow translated the Commedia with competence and wrote several poems on Dante and his work, addressing him as “star of morning and of liberty,” and describing the experience of reading the Commedia as a sojourn in a gothic cathedral, in which the tumult of the present ceases “while the eternal ages watch and wait.”2 And Longfellow was a distant relation of Ezra. But Pound, with some impudence, always treats his authors as if he had discovered them himself, and speaks to the reader who is ready to accept this fiction with no worry about repeating truisms (that Flaubert is a great novelist or Dante a great poet), certain as he is that his own enthusiasm is reason enough for taking up his pen. He was often derided for this by his

“And Some Climbing”—Dante


more judicious associates, but his strategy, as noted above, worked, and even generated some fresh interpretations.3 Pound had studied Dante academically in the early years of the century, taking an M.A. degree in Romance languages. Arriving in London in autumn 1908 with copies of his first book of poems, which bore the Dantesque title A Lume Spento, he gave a series of subscription lectures to the London Polytechnic on “The Development of Literature in Southern Europe” (spring and autumn, 1909). Dante was discussed towards the end of the series. Subsequently, Pound’s lecture notes became his first book of prose, The Spirit of Romance, published 1910. The chapter on Dante presents an admiring and down-to-earth reading of La Vita Nuova (quoted in Rossetti’s translation) and of the Commedia. The latter is cited by Pound (as by Eliot in his 1929 essay) in the excellent Temple Classics edition issued by Dent, also the publisher of The Spirit of Romance. The Temple edition consists of three sturdy and compact octavos, with Italian text, prose translation, ample notes, drawings, and maps. First published between 1899 and 1901, it was edited (as recorded only in the endnotes) by the Rev. Philip H. Wicksteed and H. Oelsner. The Paradiso was reprinted thirteen times between 1900 and 1932 (the date of the edition in my possession), the Inferno fourteen times between 1901 and 1926. This was a widely circulated version, and yet it is of high quality (both in format and content), possibly unmatched by current paperback editions in English. As these volumes demonstrate, Pound was hardly making a new departure. But he was addressing a new public—the readers of the poetry of the future—with a tone that was also new, or partly so. The Spirit of Romance is a rather bland production, divided between a somewhat old-fashioned professorial stance and the provocative insights of a young lion, but the mixture was already spicy, and was to become increasingly so in the future. Dante would no longer be a classic. He would be an avant-garde poet.4 Let me now summarize some of the principal subsequent stages of Pound’s rapport with Dante. The years 1915–17 saw the conception and first drafts of The Cantos, a poem that takes the Commedia as a model from its very title, but also follows Dante’s structure of an otherworldly journey among the dead, of an ascent from Inferno to Paradiso. Pound’s project is, in the words of James J. Wilhelm, an “epic of judgment,” intent (as was Dante’s) on judging epochs and people.5 Dante, its tutelary spirit, is present practically from the first page to the last, from 1917 to 1960: for in the last lines of Canto 116 Pound signals


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

the closing of his poem and of his life, announcing that he has come “to the small day and the great circle of shadow” (“al poco giorno ed al gran cerchio d’ombra”), quoting the opening line of Dante’s sestina for the Donna Pietra, one of the uncanny, despondent, and sensuous poems the Florentine wrote between the Vita Nuova and the Commedia, addressing a mysterious “Lady Stone.” The later stages of Pound’s interest in Dante converge in The Cantos, registering the deepening of the impressions recorded in The Spirit of Romance (which already in 1937 Mario Praz had declared to be more vivid than those of many professional Dante scholars).6 It is also noteworthy that as late as the final Cantos, Pound is still using Dante material which he had quoted in The Spirit of Romance—as if he were citing Pound, rather than Dante. In 1928, Pound published in The Dial the essay “Medievalism,” which contains what is perhaps his best-known prose paragraph, an evocation of the Dantesque world of energy that he proposes to recreate: We appear to have lost the radiant world where one thought cuts through another with clean edge, a world of moving energies “mezzo oscuro rade,” “risplende in sé perpetuale effecto,” magnetisms that take form, that are seen, or that border the visible, the matter of Dante’s paradiso, the glass under water, the form that seems a form seen in a mirror, these realities perceptible to the sense, interacting, “a lui si tiri”… (LE, 154) In “The Metaphysical Poets” (1921), T. S. Eliot claimed, famously, that “In the seventeenth century a dissociation of sensibility set in, from which we have never recovered.” Because of this, poets lost the capacity to “devour any kind of experience,” a capacity common to the English metaphysicals and to “Dante, Guido Cavalcanti, Guinicelli, or Cino.”7 Pound is saying something analogous though in different terms and invoking the same Italian examples of an integrated sensibility. What is, however, characteristically Poundian, is the notion of a luminous and crystalline universe, something like a mysticism of light, and of the word as light, which may be detected chiefly in Dante and Cavalcanti, whose debts to Robert Grosseteste’s philosophy of light Pound investigated. These are the years in which he visited Italian libraries to consult the codices containing Cavalcanti’s texts and offered his eccentric but passionate reading of Guido’s poems in an edition published in 1932 in Genoa at his own expense. Already in 1910 he had pointed out Dante’s clarity of image, precise

“And Some Climbing”—Dante


terminology, and coalescence of thought and feeling. He was to continue to insist on these aspects, adding in the 1930s an image of Dante as the poet of economics, the arraigner of usury—what the author of The Cantos wished also to be.8 “Usura” is the dreadful dragon of The Cantos, memorably lambasted in Canto 45, and the concept derives from Dante, as well as its association with sodomy (“Sodoma e Caorsa”—Inferno, XI, 50): Usura slayeth the child in the womb It stayeth the young man’s courting It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth between the young bride and her bridegroom           CONTRA NATURAM But Pound’s passion for Dante’s language remained constant. In 1938, he corresponded from Rapallo with his old friend Laurence Binyon on the latter’s terza rima translation of the entire Commedia. With typical generosity, the busy Pound found time to go over Binyon’s version line by line and to make detailed suggestions, putting himself modestly back to school. On Cantos XXVI–XXVII of Purgatorio, though he knew them well because of his old passion for Arnaut Daniel, he comments: “I dont think even old Wubb and Whoosia can hold out against these two canti, though ‘Rien que la bêtise humaine donne une idée de l’infini.’ I at any rate have never taken in these canti properly before. Dust on me blinkin’ ’ead!!”9 A year earlier, Pound had commented on a similar experience in Guide to Kulchur, claiming that “A REAL book is one whose words grow ever more luminous as one’s own experience increases” (GK, 317). In the latter part of his lively and bewildering Guide, Pound cites Dante as guide to “The Promised Land,” juxtaposing him with another of his masters, Thomas Hardy, but as it were suggesting the difficulty of approaching such heights: Sì vid’io ben più di mille splendori trarsi ver noi, ed in ciascun s’udia: “Ecco chi crescerà li nostri amori.” There is nothing in modern critical mechanism to deal with, and I doubt if there is anything handy in our poetic vocabulary even to translate, the matter of this and the following cantos.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Vedeasi l’ombra piena di letizia Nel fulgor chiaro che da lei uscia. Sober minds have agreed that the arcanum is the arcanum. No man can provide his neighbour with a Cook’s ticket thereto. (GK, 292)

A master of ethics and economics, Dante also continues to be the chief guide to “the arcanum,” the “paradise” that Pound was beginning to consider how to approach in the final volumes of Cantos. In the event, Pound’s entire paradisal enterprise was to be riddled by contradictions and obscurities, both subjective and objective. On the one hand, the catastrophe of World War II was to render the poetry of The Pisan Cantos desperately existential though also capable of attaining Pound’s finest visionary breakthroughs, and the events preceding and following the accomplishment of summer 1945 were to leave a deep mark on the poem. On the other hand, Pound was to continue to be aware of the elusiveness of paradisal moments, both on the level of experience and of expression, as he had foreseen in Guide to Kulchur. Yet some of Pound’s central confrontations with Dante are to be found in this last and desperate phase of his trajectory. A notable case in point are the two Cantos immediately preceding the Pisan sequence, written in Italian in late 1944–45, which are imitations of Dante and Cavalcanti, respectively. Seeking to identify wholly with the fate of Fascist Italy, which to him was all of Italy, Pound decided to address his second homeland and its declining Duce in the Italian of the national poet, not without a revisionary gesture, implicitly instructing once again whoever would listen that his Guido “is not inferior to Dante in quality.”10 Guido appears in person to converse with Pound in Canto 73, drafted in short lines and rhymes that savor of Cavalcanti, whereas Canto 72 is written in language and meter freely (and often awkwardly) imitative of the Commedia, and also reverts to the Dantesque device of vision. Here Pound meets several characters, living and dead: the irrepressible Marinetti, Futurist and Fascist, who had died a few weeks earlier, the librarian and antiquarian Manlio Dazzi (very much alive at the time!), and then, with a backward plunge into Dante’s Middle Ages, Ezzelino da Romano, who comes to defend himself from the accusation of having been a cruel tyrant, and to denounce Pope Pius XII and

“And Some Climbing”—Dante


Marshal Pietro Badoglio, and foretell an imminent Fascist counter-attack against enemies and traitors:     «Chi sei?» clamai. «Io son quell’Ezzelino che non credé Che il mondo fu creato da un ebreo. Se d’altro scatto io fossi reo     poco t’importa ora. Mi tradì chi il tuo amico ha tradotto. Cioè Mussato, che ha scritto Ch’io son fiol d’Orco, E se tu credi a simile pastocchia Ogni carota può ben farti ciuco. Il bello Adonide morì d’un porco A far pianger la Ciprigna bella. Se feci giocattolo della ragione Direi che un toro da macello, O dal zoologo, vale un piccione; Chi delle favole prende piacere e gioia Dirà che l’animale non fa la religione.» (72/429) I give Pound’s own crib (written in the 1960s), adding in brackets words omitted or mistranslated: I said: “who are you?” / “I am that Ezzelino who didn’t believe / the world was made by a jew, / [If I was guilty of] other outbreaks, / that [doesn’t concern you] now, / & [I] was betrayed by the man [whom your friend translated]11 / i.e. Mussato, who wrote that I was the son of the Devil, / and if you believe such nonsense / you are a donkey that will follow any carrot dangled before your nose. / [The beautiful] Adonis was killed by a boar to make the … fair Cyprian weep. / If I made a toy of reason / I would say a bull for slaughter, / [or for a zoologist] is worth a pigeon; / One taking pleasure in fables / Will say religion doesn’t depend on the animal.12 Pound manages to be both prophetically obscure and unintentionally comic (at least in the original Italian). But note how the model of terza rima hovers


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

in the background of the Italian and emerges clearly at the end (ragione / piccione / religione). Canto 72 has but one paradisal breakthrough, when we hear the voice of Galla Placidia, who in Pound’s Dantesque structure has a role similar to that of Francesca da Rimini and Pia de’ Tolomei in the Commedia. But Pound’s Galla is immediately silenced by a new onslaught of the violence of war (Ezzelino): Confusion of voices as [waves] from several transmitters, / broken phrases, / And many birds singing in counterpoint / In the summer morning / and through their twittering a suave tone: / “I was Placidia, and slept beneath the gold” / [Sounded like the note of a well-tightened string]. / “Woman’s melancholy and gentleness,” / I began (to say), then / My skin tensed between my shoulder blades … (72/436–37) The opening simile (more extended in the Italian text) is typically Dantean in its concreteness, and in its topical modern content. The reference to radio waves inevitably brings to mind Pound’s radio harangues, which cost him thirteen years of captivity and might have cost him his life, but also, by confronting him with his responsibilities, occasioned the palinode of the Pisan Cantos, partial but also anguished, and magnificent as poetry. Placidia had already appeared “under the golden roof ” in a Canto of the 1920s, and her “rest,” i.e., resting place, was to be mentioned again in Cantos 76 and 110. The detail confirms that these anomalous Italian Cantos are an integral part of the poem.13 Pound had enjoyed in Ravenna the golden penumbra of the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, and he had heard (perhaps in the studios of Rome Radio) certain effects of short-wave transmission: it is always first-hand experience that coalesces in the poetry. Another detail of notable textual relevance is the comparison between Placidia’s words and the “notes of a taut string,” heard among the dawn “twitterings” of “many birds.” One of the epiphanic clusters on which The Cantos dwell repeatedly is a dawn on a Ligurian hillside, with the sea trembling in the distance, birds singing, and the “sharp sound” of a violin breaking through the twittering.14 In Canto 75, second of the Pisan group, we discover that the violin is in fact playing a “Canzone de li ucelli,” a “Song of the Birds,” of which Pound even provides the score, and that the player is the poet’s constant companion, a Circe-as-fiddler who offers him a sensual and contemplative haven. It is also noteworthy that the reference to

“And Some Climbing”—Dante


“molti uccelli” in Canto 72 actually anticipates Olga Rudge’s statement quoted in Canto 75: “Not of one bird but of many.” Placidia’s voice mingles with that of Pound’s sensual and aesthetic muse. Canto 72 is therefore a late and exciting moment of Pound’s Dantesque dream, and it would be rewarding to study all its cross references to the Commedia. It is Dante the partisan and master of invective that here leads the way. On the other hand, the Dante of the paradisal arcanum is the recurrent model of the Pisan Cantos, particularly at the verge of their most exalted moment, the “Pull down thy vanity” chorus of Canto 81, which picks up the repetitive and mediaevalist tone of the indictment of Usura (45) and of the Complaint against Pity (30), analogous in archaic rhythm but wholly opposite in import. Here, before coming to his biblical litany, Pound recounts an apparition or visitation that occurs in the military tent assigned him in the U.S. D.T.C. This visitation has an explicitly Dantesque quality. I quote from the original longhand draft, which Pound abridged in the text as published: Ed ascoltando al leggier mormorio, as I was listening to the enchanted song there came new subtlety of eyes within my tent whether of spirit or hypostasis           of glad hilarities, saw no entire face    but what the blindfold hides     or at carneval nor any pair showed anger but as unaware of other presence    smiled, each pair as at loveliest Saw but the eyes & stance between the eyes,   colour, diastasis,     nor any pair showed anger     as at other presence    or careless or unaware it had not the whole tent’s space, nor was there space that a full eidos wd have taken   how? but if every soul lives in its own    & proper space, & each of these


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos can penetrate and interpass    as light thru light casting but shade beyond the other lights nor lose its forms, each soul    keeping its cosmos,    interlaced, free passing,    that can cross & intercross   sky’s clear   night’s sea    green as of mountain pool    shone from the unmasked eyes in half-mask’s room.15

As usual, Pound records in free-floating syntax the connotations of the dream-experience of which he is the spectator, an experience of intellectual and amorous clarity (like the eyes of Dante’s Beatrice), which he defines more by saying what it is not than what it really is (note the insistent butting of buts). In this he is faithful to his esoteric reading of Dante (and it is no coincidence that he was a disciple, however skeptical, of the spiritualist Yeats): Anyone who has in any degree the faculty of vision will know that the so-called personifications are real and not artificial. Dante’s precision both in the Vita Nuova and in the Commedia comes from the attempt to reproduce exactly the thing which has been clearly seen. The “Lord of terrible aspect” is no abstraction, no figure of speech. There are some who can not or will not understand these things. (SR, 126) In Canto 81 the experience is the one identified in the passage from “Medievalism” quoted earlier as characteristic of Dante’s Paradiso: “magnetisms that take form, that are seen, or that border the visible … the glass under water, the form that seems a form seen in a mirror.” Just as Dante placed these perceptions within a philosophical context that was sound and terminologically accurate, so Pound qualifies them with words like “diastasis” and “eidos,” the first of which is particularly rich in intertextual reverberations.16 These eyes seen and not seen in the air are truly “no abstraction, no figure of speech.” While in Guide to Kulchur Pound questioned the possibility of recapturing the

“And Some Climbing”—Dante


vision and expression of “the shadow full of joy / in the clear effulgence that went out of her” (“l’ombra piena di letizia / Nel fulgor chiaro che da lei uscia”— Paradiso, V, 107–8), here he actually succeeds in the endeavor. Shadows full of joy, effulgent, clear (as the sky), now appear to him and “interpass” each other. The image of the “blindfold,” the memory of a carnival (in Venice?),17 of a feast both magical and infantile, make his visitants (female) easy to visualize. And the message that they bring is truly joyful: “What thou lovest well remains, / the rest is dross.” If, in the history of Pound’s reading of Dante, the “Hell” Cantos 14–16 and the Italian Canto 72 are the moments of closest identification and transfer, then Canto 81 is the moment of greatest poetic intensity and delight, the song of the exile who finally receives his reward for “hav[ing] done instead of not doing,” for having loved much and so built himself an indestructible world—for himself, and in part for the readers who have followed him. Pound was to return to Dante both to describe the colder light of the following and concluding sections of Cantos, which were written in the anguished position of the marginalized prisoner, and to footnote his ethics and poetics (Canto 93 annotates some excerpts from Dante’s Convivio). But only in the final pages of the poem the confrontation was to be once again as problematic and decisive as in Pisa. Pound reviews falteringly, with but little confidence, his paradisal aspirations, and reads Dante’s words as if to seek in them a decisive confirmation: and some climbing      before the take-off, to “see again,” the verb is “see,” not “walk on” i.e. it coheres all right        even if my notes do not cohere. Many errors,    a little rightness, to excuse his hell       and my paradiso. (116/816–17) Notes that do not cohere … Pound’s writing is always provocatively balanced on these voids of meaning, sometimes robust and fecund, sometimes actual fault-lines, to be covered up as well as he could. This is the case in the above


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

passage, which borders on opacity and self-indulgence. But Pound manages nevertheless to move on (as in Canto 81) from his disjointed notes to a powerful and coordinated music, to find again the right expressive cadence. Even in the above shorthand we can make out some partially resolved gestures. As when he observes: “and some climbing / before the take-off ”—an allusion to his arduous ascent of Parnassus–Paradise, but also to Dante and Virgil’s climbing from the center of Earth to the summit of Mount Purgatory, before their “take off ” into the heavens. As The Spirit of Romance put it: Dante and Virgil enter the “cammino ascoso,” the hidden road, and by this ascent issue forth to see again the stars.* * E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.18 Pound insists that Dante’s verb, “to see again” (riveder), is a luminous detail, that it is not a careless “going on.” In some way, the voyage to the stars is a voyage back. And this “faculty of vision” is, he suggests, a shared feature, that can “excuse his hell / and my paradiso.” What is significant here is not so much the reasoning and conclusion of the stumbling old poet, but his manner of reflecting and hesitating and then, as mentioned above, finding the phrase that hits the mark. This is what happens immediately afterwards in Canto 116, where the narrow tunnel that leads Dante and Virgil from the bottom of Hell to the open air is associated with “charity I have had sometimes” (the Pisan theme of “j’ai eu pitié des autres”), and lets through “a little light, like a rushlight / to lead back to splendour.” So, as Dante did, Pound climbs up from darkness “to see again” those “beautiful things / that the sky holds” (Inferno, XXXIV, 137–38). The close of the Inferno is the palimpsest on which Pound has sketched the finale of his life’s work. Pound’s last significant meeting with Dante occurred extratextually, after he had abandoned The Cantos. In 1965, he was invited to read at the Festival of Spoleto, and he surprised his hosts and audience by slowly reciting not his own poetry but Inferno, XV, the Canto of Brunetto Latini, as translated by his friend Robert Lowell.19 The choice was sufficiently explained by the date, the seventh centenary of Dante’s birth, and by Pound’s unexpected modesty, but it is probable that it was also related to the memory of another friend, T. S. Eliot, who had died in January that year (and to whom Pound in a farewell statement attributed “the true Dantescan voice” [SP, 464]). Eliot had taken his

“And Some Climbing”—Dante


bearing from the Brunetto Latini episode to describe in the fourth and final Quartet, Little Gidding (1942), his meeting with the ghost, “both intimate and unidentifiable,” of a fallen master, in the apocalypse of the London Blitz. This shade with “brown baked features,” who “left [his] body on a distant shore,” resembles Pound in several aspects, particularly when he quotes Mallarmé to his interlocutor: Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us   To purify the dialect of the tribe   And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight …20 The meeting of the young Eliot and Pound had occurred under the auspices of Dante, and Dante provides the form for this poetic sublimation of their collaboration in Four Quartets. Finally, shortly after Eliot’s death, Pound reverts to that Dantean episode to reflect on his relations with his associates and followers (Eliot, Lowell), and on the problems and contradictions of his teaching. As for us, I believe we can recognize Pound, with his many errors and his little but secure rightness, in the image with which Dante takes leave, and consigns to poetic and human memory, his sinning master Brunetto: “Sieti raccomandato il mio Tesoro, nel quale io vivo ancor; e più non chieggio.” Poi si rivolse, e parve di coloro che corrono a Verona il drappo verde per la campagna; e parve di costoro quegli che vince, non colui che perde. “Read my Tesoro. In my book, my treasure, I am still alive.” Then he turned back, and he seemed one of those who run for the green cloth through the green field at Verona … and seemed more like the one who wins the roll of cloth than those who lose.21


Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


zra Pound had little interest in and contact with prominent Italian writers of his time—poets even less than novelists (Marinetti being a partial exception). The language of Italian poetry has always been somewhat forbidding even for native speakers and this may have made it difficult for him to fathom, had he wanted to. Besides, Italy in his time looked chiefly to France for literary models and parallels, and Pound detested the “nrf ” set (Proust, Gide, and company) as effete and self-indulgent. He admired, with some reservations, the poet–warrior Gabriele D’Annunzio, who for post-World War I Italian writers was very much old hat, his best work long past. So there really was to be no dialogue between Pound and his major contemporaries. On the other hand, Italian writers were curious about the American poet who had chosen to live in their midst, howbeit in splendid isolation, and was becoming increasingly strident in his championship of Mussolini (whom he believed he understood better than many tepid Italians). Newspaper articles and reviews describing the odd Byronic poet began to appear early on, mostly bemused and sympathetic in tone. This was the beginning of a long and instructive chapter in the development of Pound’s reputation and in responses to his work—which after all dealt largely with Italian history present and past and was written almost entirely in Italy. But since Pound did remain an American Abroad, however eccentric, even his dealings with Italian themes and texts are probably better read from an Anglophone perspective, as a late and 69


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

puzzling development of the Italian passion of Ruskin, Rossetti, Browning, James, and others. Italians can only wonder at the materials he chose to highlight and at what he made of them. He sailed through libraries, archives, and old sites in search of “luminous details,” and out of such facts and figures composed the heteroclite pages of his poem. This chapter will offer a close look at the somewhat parallel poetic careers of Pound and Eugenio Montale, a poet who was to acquire an international reputation and who was always attracted by British and American writers, many of whom he translated with care, though his English was far from fluent. (Unlike the hurried Pound, he availed himself of all the help he could get.) Born ten years apart, the two writers met and read each other, and for a while lived in proximity, Pound in Rapallo, Montale between Genoa (where he was born in 1895) and the Cinque Terre—seaside villages twenty miles south of Rapallo, where the Montales had a summer home. Thus, two major twentieth-century poet–critics were working in the same historical and geographical setting, within sight of each other, and they produced very different bodies of work, though these offer instructive comparisons. When they met around 1927 Pound was in his early forties, hard at work on The Cantos and Guido Cavalcanti. He had just collected his shorter poems in Personae, a copy of which he dedicated to Montale, stamping it in wax with his signet-ring.1 Montale, who was duly impressed by “Provincia Deserta,” had reported on Pound in a letter to the senior novelist Italo Svevo, written from Florence on August 22, 1927: I was talking some days ago to an American poet, a close friend of Joyce and Eliot, the poet Ezra Pound, whom I want you to send Senilità, which he admires because of the literary grapevine (address: Via Marsala, Rapallo); now, this same Pound, who is said to be a genius (Eliot dedicated a long poem to him), disparages the AngloSaxon world and sings the praises of our world. Bobi is also an admirer of Pound. What is one to make of this?2 Montale wanted to enlist Pound in his (and James Joyce’s) campaign for the unjustly neglected Svevo, author of the memorable novel As a Man Grows Older (as Senilità is known in English), but he also recorded his surprise that a writer of Pound’s reputation should have been so dismissive of the English

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


cultural milieu while celebrating Italy, a country that had consigned itself to Fascism. Montale’s bewilderment was to continue through the years. In 1927, Montale could have given Pound his recently published first collection, Ossi di seppia, which was quickly recognized as a major work. Had Pound looked at it, he would have had trouble with the somewhat literary language, closed forms, and traditional subject-matter. For example, the dedicatory poem begins as follows: Godi se il vento ch’entra nel pomario vi rimena l’ondata della vita: qui dove affonda un morto viluppo di memorie, orto non era, ma reliquiario. Be happy if the wind inside the orchard carries back the tidal surge of life: here, where a dead web of memories sinks under, was no garden, but a reliquary.3 Pound would have hardly been able to make out the exact sense of the Italian, but he would have gathered a general impression of satiety and Weltschmerz, somewhat Eliotic, quite alien to his robust invocation of brave worlds, old and new. In any case, after 1925, Pound’s interest in younger poets waned, with the exception of acknowledged disciples like Bunting and Zukofsky. It is no surprise that he did not take notice of Montale and his major Italian contemporaries—though doubtlessly his indifference rankled. One of the recurrent complaints of Montale’s articles on Pound is that, despite his rudimentary knowledge of Italian, he saw fit to pass judgment on Italian poetry, pronouncing it mostly dead since the days of Cavalcanti. A message that would have displeased a practicing Italian poet, who in turn was quite willing to read and admire Pound and his peers. But in Italy Pound was content to remain an outsider, with little contact among prominent writers and critics, appearing mainly in local periodicals with small circulation (like Il Mare, the Rapallo weekly). It was only in 1939 that he gained regular access to a national organ, the literary and political weekly Meridiano di Roma, but then this was because of his peculiar position as a


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

pro-Fascist American writer. In general, Pound did not conduct dialogues but soliloquies. Therefore the acquaintance between the two poets could not develop into friendship, though there were courteous exchanges of notes and visits. Montale remembered Pound’s terrace in Rapallo, and the “buona e fedele signora Shakespeare [sic]” (SM, 448). He recorded an occasion in the early thirties when Pound was invited to speak on troubadour poetry in the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence, when his audience was “amazed” by the paucity of his knowledge.4 Montale had moved from Genoa to Florence in 1927, soon after Pound settled in Rapallo, and this can also explain their desultory contact. Eliot must have been in their conversations, for in 1929 Montale published a fine translation of Eliot’s “La Figlia che Piange.” He may have attempted a poem from Personae at the same time, for Pound wrote him as follows, in broken Italian, on January 23, probably 1929 (one month after the dedication of Personae): Dear Montale, No, not a disaster. But there’s never been an author who looking at a translation did not see things he would change. What I don’t see in Italy is a man who wants to understand the state of contemporary literature, and to bring to Italy the so-called reforms, or rather the inventions (methods, techniques) which marked the last 20, 50 or 70 years of literature abroad. In the Quattrocento Italy was leading, and perhaps it has never understood how to study and follow (except Greek and Latin models). For me, having seen America come up from the bottom nearly to the contemporary top, it is difficult to understand this tardiness. Not to invent, not to discover, this is understandable. But not to come to the known level, or not to make an effort to reach it, this I do not understand. It seems to me like not using electricity etc. in everyday life. England has been a nest of stupidity, and now one sees translations from American into French, etc.5 As usual, Pound (who had just written his “How To Read” series for the New York Herald Tribune), is bent on instruction, and conceives of literature as

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


a form of science, a history marked by inventions, like electricity. Once an invention has been made, it cannot but become generally current. He was right in noticing the provincialism of the Italian milieu, which was as slow in responding to Joyce and Proust as were other countries, including England and the United States But he didn’t see that some Italian writers were truly “antennae” in being well-informed about other literatures, and, more important, were themselves writers of the first order. Montale was to remember and mock this “barbaric” view of culture: One was struck by the fact that this pioneer and discoverer of new worlds … pursued experiences that in Europe were long obsolete. For example, can you imagine an Italian or French poet writing around 1920, who would keep an eye on Gautier’s Emaux et Camées or even on Flaubert’s Salammbô? Yet this is how Pound was made … (SM, 2134) Pound was discovering Flaubert and Cavalcanti and urging his readers to learn from them, as if these writers had not been familiar to generations even in England and the United States—not to speak of France and Italy. There was inevitably something comic in his proselytizing. On the other hand, his urgency and care for standards, his challenge to laziness, was and still is bracing. In an aside in the obituary he wrote for Pound, Montale suggests what the appeal was: He loved Renaissance Italy and its music; he loved the France of Flaubert and Laforgue and Remy de Gourmont; he was convinced (this was his happy discovery) that poetry is born from prose … (SM, 2998) The lesson of the prose tradition was after all important, truly a “happy discovery”—from which Montale himself was to learn. Montale’s reference in the earlier quotation to Pound’s passion for Emaux et Camées alludes to the program of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, a work that the Italian poet read with attention. In 1955, twenty-five years after what may have been a first attempt at translating Pound, Montale produced an admirable translation of “There died a myriad,” the fifth poem in the Mauberley sequence, and later collected it in the volume Quaderno di traduzioni:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Ne è morto una miriade, E dei meglio, fra tutti gli altri, Per una scanfarda spremuta, Per una civiltà scassata,             Fascino, fresche bocche sorridenti, Veloci sguardi ora sotto le ciglia della terra,             Tutto per due palate di statue in pezzi E per qualche migliaio di libri squinternati.6

It is striking how Montale has preserved (and enhanced) the alliteration in bitch/botched (lines 3–4), with scanfarda/spremuta/scassata. The language is beautifully precise, and “scanfarda” comes as a shock, for it is a seldom used word for “whore.” “Squinternati” is also felicitous, giving sharper focus to Pound’s “battered books,” though it comes to the same. Somehow Pound’s rage has been remodeled in a more detached and ironic language, the language of the later, pessimistic, Montale. But to return to the years between the wars. In Florence, Montale was director of the Gabinetto Vieusseux (a long-standing circulating library and archive) from 1929 until 1938—when he was dismissed for not being a member of the Fascist Party. Pound wrote to him during his research for his edition of Cavalcanti. On a postcard from Rapallo, he wished him “BUON ANNO” (Happy New Year, possibly 1929) and enquired about securing a copy of B. Soldati, Poesia astrologica del Quattrocento, published by Sansoni; a note on the card by another hand indicates that the price was “Lire 19; 30% discount.” In turn, Montale sent Pound a card on November 8, 1929 telling him that he had mailed him a book by one Davidson, to be paid to the publisher and bookseller Bemporad (his previous employer), and offering a study on early Italian poetry by the scholar Michele Barbi for Lire 30: Shall I send it? I await your answer. I have become director of the Gabinetto Vieusseux … When will you come to Florence? I would like to see you more often. … If the new issue of Exiles [sic] has appeared … can you have it sent to me?7

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


Barbi is cited (without indication of title of work) in Pound’s Cavalcanti essay (LE, 175), so probably Montale’s offer was accepted. Seven years later Montale was still interested in Pound’s criticism and wrote to him (in Italian and in longhand) on Vieusseux stationery: 26 May 1936 Dear Pound, I would very much like to see for a few days a book of yours that I am told is out of print: The Spirit of Romance. Could you let me have it? I would keep it very briefly. For my part, I am always ready to send you anything you may need from Florence. Excuse me, and believe me yours Eugenio Montale (EPP, 1461) The Gabinetto Vieusseux habitually lent books by mail, and Pound may well have taken advantage of Montale’s offer, since he was researching early and late Tuscan history at the time. (The Vieusseux records for the period have been lost.) Whether he sent him The Spirit of Romance (or its partial reissue in the 1932 Prolegomena) I do not know. One could also speculate on why Montale wanted to see Pound’s book. Mario Praz’s path-breaking essay on Eliot and Dante, with its admiring account of The Spirit of Romance, first appeared in the Italian journal Letteratura in July 1937, and Praz and Montale may have been discussing Pound’s influential reading of Dante. Also, in this period Montale was close to Irma Brandeis, an American Dante scholar whom he had met in 1933, and he may have wanted Pound’s book in connection with her research. (An Italian translation of The Spirit of Romance by the Florentine scholar Sergio Baldi appeared in 1959, and this may be another connection.) In Montale’s correspondence with Irma Brandeis, who appears as “Clizia” in his verse, there is a lively description of a meeting with Pound in Florence at this time: 8 May 1935 Darling, I have spent the morning with Ezra Pound who is writing treatises on economics and who ardently admires the cardinal: the only man, in his opinion, who holds at bay the various comités des forges and averts further horrors. I cant decide: evidently politics


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos is beyond my strength. Yesterday he took me to a performance by Olga Rudge, his Rapallo Egeria whom I have known for years and is really very pleasant. The concert took place in a private house on Lungarno Guicciardini, with a magnificent view of the river. The door was opened by a very small and very old black servant who said many complimentary things in excellent (I think) English. Then in the kitchen he showed me several paintings of his in the fauve style. The hostess was one Mrs. Delliba John [sic], a very old woman who awaits death. American. But invisible. It appears that she has liquidated many husbands. There were only about ten persons of the international type, and two platinum blonde damsels served sherry wine and shrimp sandwiches.8

Montale is ironic about Pound and his passion for “the Cardinal” (code name for Mussolini in the correspondence), whom both he and Irma detest. But he enjoys telling his American Egeria about this quasi-Jamesian world and its incongruities. Montale was personally quite unprepossessing, so he must have felt out of place among the blond damsels. But he responded to the charm of Olga Rudge, describing her as “davvero molto simpatica.” There must have been other letters and meetings. Montale claimed to have directed Pound’s attention to Enrico Pea, a solitary writer of fiction living in Viareggio, and to his novella Moscardino, which Pound translated in the war years (Pound’s first letter to Pea is dated June 9, 1941). In any case, Montale wrote pointedly in 1955: This was the Pound I knew and met several times between 1925 and 1935; the impulsive and generous man who began translating Pea’s Moscardino when I brought it to his attention, but who in countless ways was remote from our literature, which he believed had gone astray since the Trecento. After 1940 we didn’t see each other anymore; perhaps because Pound, very likely from an excess of vitality, showed a singular incomprehension for those Italians who were unable to see in Mussolini’s anti-usurious Italy an Eden of delights. (SM, 1887) From April 1939 Montale lived with a Jewish woman, Drusilla Tanzi, whom he married in 1963, shortly before her death. (In November 1938

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


Italy had passed racial legislation banning Jews from public office.) The year 1939 also saw the publication of Montale’s second, ominous, volume, Le occasioni, dedicated to “I.B.,” i.e., Irma Brandeis, another Jew. After the war years, in which he eked out a living as a translator of Melville, Hawthorne, W. H. Hudson, Eugene O’Neill, and others, in 1948, Montale moved to Milan and was hired by the Corriere della Sera, Italy’s premier newspaper. (In the Milan telephone directory, his profession was given as “journalist.”) As a commentator and reviewer, Montale was often called upon to write on the “Pound case” as it developed through the late 1940s and beyond, and to assess the poetry. A list of these articles is indicative of the changing climate of those years: 1. “Fronde d’alloro in un manicomio” [“Laurel Fronds in an Insane Asylum”] (Corriere della Sera, March 3, 1949). On the Bollingen award. A sympathetic general assessment, with a closing comparison of “Provincia Deserta” to Joachim Du Bellay’s “D’un vanneur de blé.” An English translation appeared in 1984.9 2. “Selva” [“Forest”] (January 9, 1952). A paragraph on Pound’s Letters and on F. R. Leavis’s acerbic comments on The Cantos and admiration for Mauberley. “We are still waiting for a short study that will explain such humane traits as were doubtless hidden in him. Only his poetry can reveal them …” (SM, 1331). 3. “Lo Zio Ez” [“Uncle Ez” ] (November 19, 1953). On Alfredo Rizzardi’s Italian translation of The Pisan Cantos. His most sustained and best-known piece on Pound. Montale records his impression of Pound in person as “a man who had not grown up … a force that had not been focused in one direction, and finally was expended all on the surface” (SM, 1598). He finds the new Cantos puzzling and dazzling in places (“a flood of haikus, that, should most of the poem be destroyed, would be the marvel of posterity”).10 4. “Se i biglietti da mille fossero quelli di Ezra Pound” [“If Our Thousand-Lire Bills were Ezra Pound’s”] (November 18, 1955). On a petition by Italian writers for Pound’s release. A particularly friendly article, trying to explain Pound’s economics. The translation of Mauberley had appeared a few months earlier.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos 5. “Il mistero di un poeta. Ezra Pound” [“The Mystery of a Poet”] (April 26, 1958). On Pound’s imminent release from St. Elizabeths Hospital. The poet “was generous in helping the young of his generation, yet remained indifferent to the misery of a mass of innocents herded to the worst of deaths in the gas chambers” (SM, 2137). 6. “Il moralismo naturale” [“A Natural Moralism”] (December 19, 1965). On the Pound issue of L’Herne and on Piero Sanavio’s sympathetic reading of Pound’s politics as Jeffersonian. 7. “Esule volontario in Italia” [“A Voluntary Exile in Italy”] (November 3, 1972). An obituary. “Pound was a profoundly good man, of this I am certain. … I will continue to think of him as I met him in Rapallo and Florence—a good tennis player and an almost professional discoverer of geniuses, who did not always prove themselves such” (SM, 2998–99).11

Montale was far from sectarian or self-righteous, so his comments are usually well-informed and penetrating, and constitute an essential document in the history of Pound’s international critical reception. Rarely given to enthusiasm, he was not likely to become enthusiastic about Pound. But he bore him in mind, and referred to him, The Cantos, and the motif of usury, in the closing speech (again in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio) of the conference to mark the 1965 Dante centenary (SM, 2688). Ten years later, delivering his Nobel Prize lecture in Stockholm, he quoted (from Walter Pater) Joachim Du Bellay’s “D’un vanneur de blé,” which he had recalled in his first Pound article à propos of “Provincia Deserta,” and which was clearly for him a metaphor for poetry: “A vous troppe legere, / qui d’aele passagere / par le monde volez …” (SM, 3038). The image of the butterfly recurs in Montale, and also appears in the closing pages of The Cantos, written around 1960: “To have heard the farfalla gasping …” Farfalla di Dinard is the title of a collection (1960) of intriguing prose sketches by Montale. For his part, Pound the outcast could not be sympathetic to Montale’s efforts to explain him to the readers of the national daily Corriere della Sera. An outburst against Montale and Mario Praz, the formidable scholar and essayist who had derided Pound’s Cavalcanti edition in 1932,12 occurs in

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


a long letter of February 5, 1953 to Clark Emery. Emery had submitted to Pound a draft of his book (to appear in 1969 as Ideas into Action), where he referred to Praz’s strictures. Pound responded with characteristic fury: PRATZ is pure punk / hasn’t noticed the paleographic evidence. among the total pewks Pratz is no good / tho not so low as Montale, who is undiluted sewage. A pity to transmit the names of these vermin. are you sure, by the way, that yu hv/ quoted Pratz, not Montale?? Incidentally I was correcting proof of the Cavalcanti in the Dodici Apostoli (restaurant at cab driver level) and local whore wanted to correct the spelling (i.e. a report on reading of a particular manuscript.) Montale and Pratz at that Level/ any ass knows that the Medici Scholars and Cicciaporci CORRECTED the text/ [added above previous line:] readings of the ed/[itio] princ/[eps] Di Giunta given in margin. what the normal college senior does NOT know is that the old manuscripts do NOT use 15th century orthography. the squalor of this kind of wop choinulist measurable in Montale’s ref/ to E.P. as “bimetalist”/ this is the kind of thing that does DAMAGE Italy.13 Pound is defending his edition with the argument that all he wanted to do is reproduce the spelling of a particular codex. However, Praz had not criticized any particular reading, he had only made merry with the whole multilingual enterprise. It is obvious that Pound with his imperfect knowledge of Italian and paleography would get into trouble even in reproducing an old codex. (As if an Italian poet with a smattering of English were to undertake an edition of Wyatt and Surrey.) On the other hand, it is not the accuracy that makes his Cavalcanti edition valuable. One can appreciate Pound without taking at face value his claims as a philologist. Both Pound and Praz (a notable writer in his own right) erred in believing that philology was at stake. No one today would take Heidegger or Derrida seriously as philologists. Yet their comments and contradictory readings of Hölderlin and Plato have proved suggestive. The same is true of Pound’s incomparable “edition” of 1932—Cavalcanti as Futurist.14


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

The letter to Emery is also of value, because of the recollection of the prostitute in the Verona restaurant, which a year later Pound was to pick up in one of his most remarkable St. Elizabeths Cantos, where the allusion loses its polemic import (the whore who like Praz wants to correct) and becomes just a raucous reminiscence of the good old times, of Pound’s life à la Villon:    and damn all     I wd/ like to see Verona again …    “Dodici Apostoli” (trattoria) and the affable putana wanting to adjust the spelling of Guido as it is not in the “Capitolare”.15 Here we have an example of the poetic imagination at work. Canto 91 is about the Love Queen who helps and inspires the poet–explorer. The Verona whore discussing Guido is a humorous instance of the encounter of the poet with the real thing. Besides reminding us of Pound’s Nineties: “Dowson found harlots cheaper than hotels” (Hugh Selwyn Mauberley). As for the “bimetalism” that so enraged Pound, this was in fact incautiously mentioned in Montale’s first article of 1949: “Bimetalism and the wholesale cultivation of peanuts were the two hobby-horses of the reform which he wanted to impose upon us” (SM, 791). However, Montale made amends in his 1955 article, “If Our Thousand-Lire Notes Were Those of Ezra Pound,” for Pound wrote the Milan publisher Vanni Scheiwiller on November 23, 1955: “Montale has got it straight re/ stamp scrip.” Since young Scheiwiller was a friend of Montale, perhaps Pound is being politic in his appreciation. But there it is. He was given to passing rages. In all of this, as noticed above, there is no sign that he knew that Montale was a poet. He was too busy with his subject matter and the “Revolt of Intelligence” (as he called it) to think of literary topics, and even of the fate of his poetry. He knew, for example, that the Italian translation of The Pisan Cantos (1953) was flawed by egregious misreadings, but he didn’t do anything about it. There was scarcely time to correct the “damned New Directions and lousy Faber vols/”16—let alone translations. This is perhaps what Montale referred to when he spoke of a dispersal of energy, which

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


got lost on the surface. Yet Pound is precisely that dispersal, the vortex, the incorrect text: the text as process, that only an “affable putana” would think of correcting. So where is the mutual influence in the parallel trajectories of Pound and Montale? We have seen that Montale was well aware of Pound as a poet of stature. And there is a distinct change from Ossi di seppia (1925) to Le occasioni (1939), in the direction of obscurity, fragmentation, and collage, with foreign quotations. Montale’s encounters with Pound, and through Pound with Eliot’s The Waste Land, surely played a role in this modernist shift. More generally, it is interesting to compare Pound’s Cantos of the 1920s with Ossi di seppia. Both works are dominated by seascapes, by the Ligurian olive terraces, by a sense of the numinous. There is Montale’s famous “Riviere” (“Seacoasts”), an odelike evocation of rebirth, of tufts of grass hanging from high cliffs “sul delirio del mare.”17 And there is Pound’s Odysseus visiting the house of his lover in Canto 23: “We here on the hill, with the olives / Where a man might carry his oar up, / And the boat there in the inlet.” The two men were breathing the same sea-breeze, in Rapallo and Monterosso, and some of the suggestions it brought were similar—though in Montale there is a frequent sense of despair and Prufrockian ineffectuality, as in “Arsenio,” which Eliot published in the Criterion, in Mario Praz’s translation, in 1928. “Arsenio” describes a seafront very much like Rapallo’s: In front of the glistening lattices of the hotels. Along the promenade, facing the sea, you slide, Upon this afternoon of sun and rain …18 This is Praz’s translation. Lowell’s Imitation reads, in part: today, as you go down our main street, fronting the bay— now you are sloshed with the dreary drizzle, now you are dazzling.19 But Pound’s poetry, unlike Lowell’s and Montale’s, is not concerned with interiority—at least until Pisa. Montale duly noticed this in “Lo Zio Ez,” when he wrote:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos And so the Imagists imported “modern poetry” to America, keeping clear of the poetry derived from Virgil and Petrarch which, by way of Leopardi and Baudelaire, is still the secret of the European lyric.20

It would appear that the two models of poetry are incompatible: the Virgilian and Petrarchan Italian, the Dantean and anti-Virgilian American. Yet there is a spirit of the times that poets express, and the similarities between XXX Cantos and Ossi di seppia are not illusory. Subsequently, in the 1930s, both Montale and Pound had to take contemporary history into account. Here again there is an easy contrast: the American Fascist enthusiast, the Italian anti-Fascist. But if we look at Le occasioni (1939) and, for example, The Fifth Decad of Cantos (1937), we find in the two volumes a poetry likewise public and private, obscure and orotund. There are collective fertility rites in Cantos 47, 48, 49; Montale evokes with distaste the life of rural people and their religion in “Notizie dal Monte Amiata,” “Elegia di Pico Farnese,” “Palio.” Again, the two poets were close even in location. “Siena” is the subtitle of The Fifth Decad. And Canto 52 opens its anti-Semitic tirade with an evocation of Leone Vivante, the Jewish philosopher whose villa in Siena both poets visited. (Leone’s wife, Elena, figures with Irma Brandeis in a late poem of Montale’s, “Quartetto.”)21 The impinging of collective history is evident in the two collections, though Pound is as always more optimistic. But the consequence is that the private becomes more furtive: Lalage’s shadow moves in the fresco’s knees She is blotted with Dirce’s shadow dawn stands there fixed and unmoving    only we two have moved. (50/249) Montale’s superb “Mottetti” are similar evocations of sudden revelations in a threatening world of opaque signs: Lo sai: debbo riperderti e non posso. Come un tiro aggiustato mi sommuove ogni opera, ogni grido e anche lo spiro salino che straripa dai moli e fa l’oscura primavera di Sottoripa.

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


You know: I’m going to lose you again and I can’t. Each action, every shout jars me like a perfect shot, even the salt breeze that floods the wharves, and breeds the lightless spring of Sottoripa.22 Even in these lyric asides of The Cantos, Pound hesitates to speak in the first person, unlike Montale’s free use of the classic I–You form of love poetry. “Sottoripa” is the name of Genoa’s “low, crowded arcades along the port”:23 a talismanic name like so many in The Cantos: “Sigismundo by the Aurelia to Genova / by la vecchia sotto S. Pantaleone” (76/472). Ligurian visions both. The parallelism I have noticed so far can be extended to The Pisan Cantos, written in 1945, and La bufera e altro, Montale’s third major volume, containing poems composed during and after the War—which is the Storm of the title (one poem, “La primavera hitleriana,” evokes Hitler’s official visit to Florence, May 1938). In fact, Montale’s title, The Storm, etc., might equally fit the Pisan Cantos, which are largely about World War II, but find space for much else, principally love—the celebration of love-rites in the Pisan detention camp and the remembrance of such moments in the past. The Ligurian seascape returns in the Pisan Cantos with extraordinary potency. So also in Montale’s briefer lyrics, which often portray mediumistic embraces and visions. In Canto 81 (“Pull down thy vanity”) Pound says that certain pairs of eyes float into his tent; Montale in turn addresses angelic and sensual ladies called “Iride” and “Volpe” (Iris, Fox). With which compare Pound finding solace in a dawn-vision of lynxes (Canto 79). More generally, we can say that Pisan Cantos and Bufera, occasioned by the same world-shaking events, show both poets at the height of their power, turning from personal and historical tragedy to myth, vision, religion, and finally poetry. In the grip of the Storm, they write Paradise: there came new subtlety of eyes into my tent … (81/540) Ravished, all air, I was permeated by you, your form became my own


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos hidden breathing, your face melted into mine, and the obscure idea of God descended … (“In the Greenhouse”)24

This translation is by James Merrill, a friend of Irma Brandeis, the avatar of the “Iris” who appears in the most portentous poem of La bufera (“Iride”).25 Another common feature of Bufera and Pisan Cantos is their testamentary nature. Pound was a prisoner awaiting sentence and writing what might well have been his farewell. He remembered poignant and trivial moments of his life and concluded happily—the incurable optimist—that he had enjoyed every bit of it. If there had been “mean … hates / Fostered in falsity” (81/541), there had been also a redeeming “charity … among those who have not observed regulations” (74/454)—a charity which he also implicitly begged. The Pisan Cantos became the moving and contradictory work they are, making enormous demands on poetry to resolve the conflicts of the individual and history. It is, involuntarily, a Petrarchan and Virgilian quest. “Sunt lacrimae rerum” is a Virgilian observation; tears are mentioned in the Pisan Cantos in several languages: “Les larmes que j’ai creées m’inondent” (80/533). As for Montale, La bufera is equally testamentary, his last book in the grand style, the last “to maintain ‘the sublime’ / In the old sense” (as Hugh Selwyn Mauberley put it). It closes with two poems called “Piccolo testamento” and “Il sogno del prigioniero”—the latter a dramatic monologue first published October 1954, which seems to build upon and telescope Pound’s first person Pisan monologue that Montale had reviewed in 1953: Imagine if it were possible to radiograph the thoughts of a man condemned to death ten minutes before his execution and suppose that the condemned man was someone of Pound’s stature, and you will have the Pisan Cantos.26 Besides, the Pisan Cantos are rich in quotations from François Villon’s Le Grand Testament, while Montale’s poem borrows its title from Villon’s Le Petit Testament. Turning to “The Dream of the Prisoner,” we find Pound’s fascination with the small animals of the Pisa camp (noticed in “Uncle Ez”) and his spinning of visions in a sordid environment:

Nature, History, and Myth—Montale


Slow-witted, sore from my sharp pallet, I’ve become the flight of the moth my sole is turning into powder on the floor, become the light’s chameleon kimonos hung out from the towers at dawn.27 This will remind Pound’s readers of the following passage from Canto 79, among many others:     The moon has a swollen cheek and when the morning sun lit up the shelves and battalions of the West, cloud over cloud            old Ez folded his blankets Neither Eos nor Hesperus has suffered wrong at my hands Even here Pound cannot resist vindicating his justness. He is still constructing his defense. Montale’s tone is, as usual, less grand: I’ve looked around, I’ve conjured rainbows shimmering on fields of spiderwebs and petals on the trellises of bars, I’ve stood, and fallen back into the pit where a century’s a minute— Pound had commented similarly: “at my grates no Althea.” And in two cancelled lines of Canto 81: “So thinking of Althea at the grates / Two roselike lips pressed down upon my own” (PC, 135). Likewise, in Montale there is a sense of impending doom, and yet a reaffirmation of personal resilience—of the dream: and the blows keep coming, and the footsteps, and still I don’t know if at the feast I’ll be the stuffer or stuffing. The wait is long, my dream of you isn’t over.28


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

The Dream. “The enormous tragedy of the dream,” as Pound wrote grandiosely in the opening of The Pisan Cantos. It appears likely that Pound’s prison poetry played a role in Montale’s compact evocation of the modern condition as that of a prisoner that will not relinquish his dream. A final note about the two poets’ post-war verse. After a longish silence, Montale shifted abruptly in Satura (1971) to a low-key prosy style. The Sublime was done for. Pound struggled in three volumes of Cantos to keep up his defiance but called a small book of 1959 Versi prosaici—prosaic verse. The main difference is that Pound was in a way at the mercy of outside forces, writing as circumstances permitted, while Montale consciously planned his moves and shocked most admirers with his final vernacular incarnation. Here and there, among wry reflections on the day’s news, a flash of vision breaks through, and is no less effective for its humble context. Something similar happens in the final Cantos. But Pound worked against time until his force was exhausted and passed his last decade literally in silence. Montale wrote without much fuss to the end, and even organized posthumous publications as a final ploy.29 He remembered “the wax seal with Ezra’s beard” (“il timbro a ceralacca con la barba di Ezra”) in a typical poem of those years, triggered by the disastrous Florence flood of 1966. Many of his belongings, stored in a Florentine garage, were damaged, among them the inscribed Personae: Ten, twelve days in that savage maw of fuel-oil and shit. Clearly they suffered terribly before losing their identity.30 Thus Montale consigns the odds and ends of a life to universal destruction. Ezra is but a name—gone with the vortex. Nevertheless Pound—the poet and the man—had an impact on Montale, and Montale’s testimony, coming from so astute an observer, will permanently affect the way we think of Pound. In these days when Pound’s reputation is at an ebb, Montale’s unprejudiced admission of Pound’s importance, of his “happy discovery,” may have the unforeseen result of reaffirming Pound’s centrality to modern poetry in general.


“My Best Translator”—Izzo


ontale remained essentially a puzzled spectator of the Pound phenomenon, viewing him at a safe and somewhat uncomprehending distance; their relationship, rather one-sided, illuminates Pound’s reception by a major figure and by mainstream culture, in Italy and elsewhere. Carlo Izzo was much nearer to Pound as a translator and associate, and therefore their relationship is more revealing of how Pound acted and was seen at close quarters while trying to “make it new.” Carlo Izzo (1901–80) was one of Italy’s pioneers in the study of American literature. He produced single-handedly a notable and detailed Storia della letteratura nord-americana (1957),1 and followed this performance with an equally competent history of English literature in two volumes (1961–63). His consistently helpful and well-informed American essays were collected in Civiltà americana (2 vols., 1967); two further volumes of British essays, Civiltà britannica, appeared in 1970. He was a scrupulous and prolific translator both of poetry and prose: D. H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1939), Fielding’s Jonathan Wild (1945), Liam O’Flaherty (1945), Oscar Wilde’s poems (1952), the two early versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1954), The Beggars’ Opera (1955), selected poems of W. H. Auden (1952), Poe’s complete poems (1953), and Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense (1954)—the last three being among the projects closest to his heart. In 1958, he edited Daniel Defoe’s selected works in three volumes, and in 1960 he was one of three scholars who supervised the outstanding Italian translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses by Giulio de Angelis. 87


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

It is a notable record, to which must be added his groundbreaking and well-informed anthologies of poetry, starting in 1949 with Poesia americana contemporanea e poesia negra, and followed by a selection of more recent verse, Nuovissima poesia americana e negra 1949–1953 (1953): the two volumes were incorporated in Poesia americana del ’900 (1963). He also published an anthology of British poetry, Poesia inglese contemporanea da Thomas Hardy agli Apocalittici (1950), and a general anthology of American literature, Le più belle pagine della letteratura nord-americana (1960). These are achievements that are hard to emulate, and it is no wonder that Izzo’s pupils at the University of Bologna (where he taught after the war and after having been a schoolteacher in his native Venice) have been proud of his memory. I never met Izzo, but when I first read his history of American literature as a student in 1970, I dotted the margins with “?” and “!” He was very plain-spoken, the opposite of pretentious, and suggested naiveté to a naive sophisticate as I then was. This is to say that while engaging in these massive works of literary history he was able to remain personal and to speak his mind with freshness and unconventionality. While his near-contemporary Mario Praz (1896–1982), who as a scholar was more involved with British than with American literature, was also a first-rate writer who contributed substantially to twentieth-century non-fiction (The Romantic Agony, The House of Life, etc.), Izzo remains the scholar of great merit and wide information and productiveness, who in the course of things is inevitably laid aside as new histories and monographs are written. But we of a less robust generation ignore Izzo’s contributions at our peril. A solid researcher and talented writer, Izzo became one of Ezra Pound’s most discerning and distinguished Italian associates, and their correspondence throws light on Euro-American cultural history in a turbulent period, on Pound’s character and work (because of the explications elicited by Izzo as translator), and on the Italian reception of this anomalous American guest. The fact that Izzo, a humane and sincere man, continued to admire and to some extent revere Pound despite their ideological disagreements, can be a lesson to us who after so many years could easily err on the side of severity as well as on the side of leniency. Izzo was a liberal and married to a Jewish woman; in Venice he usually visited Pound in the company of a Jewish literary friend, Aldo Camerino (1901–66). In an article of 1958, he recorded in this connection one of Pound’s saddest failures of perception:

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


That he could have identified his world-view with the horror of doctrines that are among the most inhuman of all time, does suggest mental aberration. To say to an Italian Jew, on the day that Italy passed the racial laws that are so alien to the spirit of our civilization: “I am sorry for you, but it is well done,” is the act of someone not in his right mind. Six million of those “I am sorry” wouldn’t have saved one of the six million innocents who were “liquidated.” I remember this incident without rancor—rather as further proof of how remote at that time the poet was from reality, ergo, to some extent, irresponsible.2 Izzo is sincere when he says he bears Pound no rancor, in fact he often stressed his gratitude, and corresponded with him during the war, well after that disgraceful day of autumn 1938 when Italy passed its “racial legislation.” (Of course, Pound was not alone in 1938 in making light of the racial laws. For example, when Jews were dismissed from universities, academics had no qualms in filling the positions thus vacated.) Silence followed for over ten years, but Izzo’s pages on Pound in his anthology of 1949 are sympathetic, and he mentions only in an aside Pound’s “distressing errors in fields remote from literature.”3 Which is as much as Pound himself was to confess in the finale of The Cantos: “Many errors, a little rightness.” In his penultimate note on Pound (1973), Izzo commented on the last letter he got from his friend (January 10, 1958), which was as didactic and crotchety as usual and closed with wishes to all the Venice group: Saluti to Daz/, Cam/ and Valeri, and to Giorgio Levy if he still frequents the Piazza. “Daz” (= Manlio Dazzi); “Cam.” (= Aldo Camerino, a Venetian writer); “Valeri” (= Diego Valeri, the poet); “Giorgio Levy” (I think it was to be “Raffaello Levi”, a very well known Venetian lawyer and intellectual, a Jew, but Pound’s anti-Semitism was almost ludicrously theoretical. Also Aldo Camerino was a Jew and yet Pound held him in great esteem).4 In fact, Camerino and Izzo were introduced to Pound by a common friend, Manlio Dazzi (the writer and librarian who was to figure in Canto 72), and many of Pound’s letters and literary proposals are jointly addressed to “Izz” and “Cam.”


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

In 1956, the authoritative journal of criticism Nuova Corrente (Genoa) published a special Ezra Pound issue. It included a contribution by Carlo Izzo with the rather dry title “24 lettere e 9 cartoline inedite di Ezra Pound.” The article, written in a friendly vein, went back to the days of 1935 when Izzo met Pound, and provided a running commentary on Pound’s letters (printed in English), only one of which (Pound’s important explication of January 8, 1938 of points of Canto 45) was included in The Letters of Ezra Pound (1951)— and in an incomplete version at that. Izzo’s side of the correspondence at the Beinecke reveals his warm personality and fills out the picture of an important literary relationship. Izzo had met Pound in Venice on August 13, 1935, when the two men were 34 and 49 respectively. Izzo was no novice, having published since 1928 about twenty articles and reviews, many of which are reprinted in his collections of the 1960s. The meeting, as Izzo recalls, took place one “summer evening” in a café along the Zattere seafront: We sighted Pound from a distance: he had taken a chair and sat, monumentally erect, though leaning with both hands on a walkingstick between his legs, at a distance of at least twenty meters from all the other tables and patrons, wearing a semi-rigid lifeguard’s white hat and a large crocus-colored coat. When I was introduced and said something in English, he looked at me with some satisfaction: “It appears that you know both languages.” But it wasn’t because of this first impression that I became shortly, and remained for some years, his favorite translator.5 Izzo showed Pound his translation of the early Venice poem, “Night Litany,” and queried him about the opening: Yea the lines thou hast laid unto me    in pleasant places, And the beauty of this thy Venice    hast thou shewn unto me (PT, 69) He had understood “lines” as “nets,” and had translated “le reti hai tu gettate per me.” Pound was intrigued and seems not to have remembered his source

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


on the spot. So much we gather from Izzo’s first letter, in English, written the next day, August 14, 1935, from his Venice address, Castello 3692: Dear Mr Pound, it cost me very little effort to find out in Webster’s International dictionary the solution of the tame linguistic puzzle we discussed last night. Webster’s definition 13 of the word “line” is: “pl. The boundary lines of an estate, inheritance or the like; fig. fortune; lot. Cf. Hard lines.” Then comes the quotation: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea I have a goodly heritage. (Ps. XVI, 6),” which, in the Italian translation, runs as follows: “La sorte è caduta per me in luoghi dilettevoli; una bella eredità mi è pur toccata.” Of course I think your use of the verb “lay” instead of “fall”—as you needed an active verb—makes no substantial difference to the meaning. Now, flattered as I am with your praise of my “Le reti etc.,” I must confess my interpretation was not, as you generously inferred, an attempt at originality, but merely a mistake arising from the fact that a “line” may also be a sort of fishing apparatus, & as the misinterpretation might be easily detected by some peevish pedant in ambush I must needs give it up & change the passage thus: “Le sorti hai tu segnate per me in dilettosi luoghi” which is quite literal &, in my opinion, whatever be its worth, not bad. Unless you object to the variation, you need not trouble to answer me; as the proverb goes, your silence will give me consent enough. Only, should I translate more of your poems, I hope you will again be so kind as to revise my unpretentious efforts.6 In thus addressing the middle-aged master, Izzo showed his competence and discretion. He added a playful limerick as an epigraph to his letter. He was already a student and admirer of The Book of Nonsense,7 so this is a very personal addition: DÎS ALITER VISUM? ----- (so I hope) ----There was a young man in Venice Whose hobbies were versions & tennis,


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos But a damn arrant ass Brayed out: “Stop your gas, You foolish transl-----player in Venice!”

This seems to be a subtle compliment to Pound: “arrant asses” may well attack the “transl-player” Izzo, but “The gods thought otherwise,” i.e., he “hopes” that Pound’s judgment will be kinder. Pound responded at length on August 15 in the first letter reprinted by Izzo: Dear Izzo, Too bad we are both so IGGURANT of the original jew langwidg, Poem writ 27 years ago, when I hadn’t any more sense and was merely doing a richiamo of holy writ. Wouldn’t “la sorte m’hai gettato” be stronger, and carry more sense of destino. gettar sorte, usually malign, but not necessarily. sense of stregoneria VERY MUCH needed. segnata seems a bit burocratic. Milton’s damn parliament of angels and that bunk. as to WHAT the sorte shd. be CAST in, whether lines, borders, orle, orme, sentieri; riding the boundaries … something more precise than luoghi might be found. The best trans. is into the language the author wd. have used had he been writing IN the translators language, which leaves a whale of space for the translator’s imagination … but surely the gettato, better than segnata, while we are about it? also saves three words, or three syllables, m’hai gettato omitting tu, and per me.             Y.  EZ.P. (L/CI, 252–53) Izzo answered on August 16: “As to ‘m’hai gettata.’ I’m afraid the dative is not sound grammar in Italian (moreover the sound would be rather harsh & unpoetical),” and proposed “Le sorti hai tu gettate per me / in dilettose vie.” He also announced his intention to translate “The Return,” “Portrait d’une Femme,” and “Ballad for Gloom.” Pound replied on Saturday August 17 with an attack upon syntactic niceties:

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


My ideas of syntax are very duogento.8 never been convinced that Aeschylus was afraid of it … I still don’t get the PER. we might meet at the gelattery, on Monday evening about le nove, for another yatter unless you and Camerino are otherwise.9 Izzo’s response (typewritten) of the same day is characteristically witty and modest: Always happy to see you. I do understand and even share your contempt of grammar syntax and such rubbish. Of course great artists create their own grammar and syntax along with their poetry. The pity is I am not a great artist, perhaps not even a tolerable writer. Anyhow I’ll prepare a number of possible variations and we’ll discuss them on Monday at the “gelattery.” When Izzo’s translation was published (with “The Return” and “Ballad for Gloom”) in Ateneo Veneto for December 1935, the much debated line became “Sì, le mie sorti hai tu gettate / In dilettosi luoghi.” Thus Izzo took Pound’s advice in getting rid of “per me,” replaced by the possessive in “mie sorti.” Introducing the letters, Izzo says that Pound had a very limited capacity for suggesting Italian equivalents, since at the time his knowledge of the language was still rudimentary, “but his capacity of recognizing, once it had been discovered with his collaboration, the form more adherent or equivalent to the spirit of the original was portentous” (L/CI, 250–51). On August 19, at the second meeting at the “gelattery” (Pound always had a sweet tooth), Pound lent Izzo Jefferson and/or Mussolini and Social Credit: An Impact. Izzo responded enthusiastically on August 22, saying he was willing to attempt a translation and added some perceptive comments: Please don’t hurl your thunderbolts—I have found specimens galore in your book—at poor me. The fact is I consider “Jefferson and/or Mussolini” chiefly a study in personality: yours [, from the reader’s point of view of course].10 It may very well be that YOU interest me—I


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos am just, within my narrow limits, a damn intellectual to be deservedly dismissed with a sneer—more than the other two big men. On the other hand, your book was written chiefly for foreigners and an Eyetalian may either agree or disagree with your views but hardly find, not only in your book but anywhere else, something new on the subject … However the fact remains that the book, outspoken and violently sincere as it is, makes very interesting reading and might be an undoubted success were it presented to the Italian public in an Italian translation … Of course I do not mean to propose myself as a possible translator, especially because I do not want you to think that I mean to get any profit whatsoever out of the chance that gave me the privilege of your acquaintance. Besides I don’t know whether I have the necessary qualifications as, in any case, I should put you to no end of trouble to clear doubts and interpret obscure allusions.

Izzo added that he had found Social Credit “extraordinarily, even absorbingly and excitingly, interesting,” though he admitted he didn’t know anything about economics. He enclosed a draft of his translation of “The Return” (“a poem,” he said, “which I consider really beautiful, the real thing”). Pound responded the next day, August 23, with corresponding warmth: Whoever has the energy to translate either J/M or Impact into Italian will get his proper share of the problematical gate receipts and in the case of his being a “good guy” in Hemingway’s sense of term, he will also get my appreciation en plus. (L/CI, 261) He went on to explain the rationale behind Jefferson and/or Mussolini as “MY deMonarchica or anti-Macchiavel.”11 “After all I am a spoiled professor, with a pedagogic urge hybris, mania or what you will / footnotes will rain on yr / unoffending head.” Flattered, he invited Izzo to meet in a more intimate setting: Olga has a respectable settin’ room at 252 Calle Querini that is to say just across the canale S. Gregorio back of the dogana del sale … do you care to drift round there tomorrow (which is I believe Saturday evening …

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


I wont say anything re/ the version of the Return till we meet. you have got some things right. I cant think of any poem of mine that demands more of the translator, while seeming, possibly, not to. and the “rules” haven’t been codified. perhaps, again, the TOTAL effect shd. be aimed at, and LOCAL equivalence, of word or rhythm, melted out of the trans.12 So he did after all make various points about “The Return,” outlining his ideal of translation as recreation of the original form. But Izzo was engaged that Saturday by one of the chores that the regime imposed on loyal citizens: “Unfortunately tomorrow night I have to go to a Fascist ‘adunata,’” he wrote Pound on August 23. So the visit to the Venice house of Olga Rudge (who one assumes was present at least at one of the “gelattery” encounters, since Pound refers to her by name without further ado) was postponed to Sunday (or so Izzo proposed).13 On this or other occasions, Pound read from his work to Camerino and Izzo, who was to recall the deep impression left by the poet’s delivery in the Introduction to the 1949 anthology of American poetry. Pound “trembled … like a sibyl possessed by the god, from the effort of giving to every sound its full expressive value.”14 Meanwhile Pound tried to involve Izzo and Camerino in one of his networks of collaborators by mail, suggesting exchanges on “PROSODISTS, for tradition not limited to one time or language” between Izzo, Camerino, Bunting, Zukofsky, Laughlin, Angold, Williams, and one Selwyn Jones “who seems interested in welsh” (L/CI, 259). The two Venetian friends promptly accepted, but the scheme went no further. Izzo however continued to finesse his translations, corresponding with Pound about “The Coming of War: Actaeon,” and finally trying his hand at the opening (Venetian) passage of Canto 3, which he sent Pound on November 14. Pound responded positively from Rome on November 17: “VERY GOOD; much more satisfactory to translate my good poetry, than the early stuff ” (L/CI, 255). But Izzo, though a Venetian, had not been able to fathom some of Pound’s references: I sat on the Dogana’s steps … And the Buccentoro twenty yards off, howling “Stretti,” And the lit cross-beams, that year, in the Morosini, And peacocks in Kore’s house, or there may have been. (3/11)


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

“Morosini,” Pound told Izzo, “means Palazzo Morosini” (L/CI, 255), and he queried Izzo’s translation “nella Morosini.” Izzo overinterpreted Pound’s remark and responded: It was a laugh I can tell you! It was the ship I meant, not the Countess! The “Morosini” of the “San Marco” Company, which usually casts anchor just in front of the Dogana. (November 18) Pound was relieved that the unnoticed ambiguity had been ruled out: Thank God all chance of confusion with that damn steam boat is removed. By all means Ca’ Morosini or even Palazzo to keep the eye of the imagination in order. (L/CI, 256) Pound and Izzo seem to have ignored the question of the Bucintoro: originally a ceremonial vessel, still used on festive occasions, but in the context probably the “Venetian rowing club of the same name,”15 near the Dogana, from which the tune of “Stretti” may well have reached the ears of the young Pound of 1908. Izzo seems not to have suspected any of this, nor Pound seen fit to clarify. Likewise, “Kore’s house” is a direct quotation from D’Annunzio’s novel Notturno, a character of which is nicknamed “Corè.” Instead, Izzo divined in “Kore” just another typical Venetian name and translated: “E in casa Correr pavoni, o mi sembra.”16 Why Pound did not correct this misreading is a mystery. He probably thought that a translator should have the freedom to see what he liked in the text as long as he got the general sense. He may also have forgotten by 1935 that his Kore was borrowed from his 1922 review of D’Annunzio’s Notturno in The Dial (P&P, IV: 262–63). Pound answered only the explicit queries Izzo sent him on November 18: “Back before dew was shed” What’s the meaning of “back”? … Since we are at it, what’s the meaning of “Stretti!” Pound’s responses, from Rome on November 19, were very amusing. He parodied the song “Stretti” (“Known to Italians as ‘La Spagnola,’ this celebrated warble was known to the ignorant foreigner … by the more intelligible refrain, as sung: Str/éetti/Strééé…TI …”).17 As for “Back,” he commented:

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


way back in 1860 where the Eyetalyan purrfessors are/ BACK in 1895 where the eyetalian licherchoor is. Back refers to time past/ = in the past, “in the dark backward and abysm of time” etc.18 Izzo’s renderings of lines from Cantos 2 and 3 and of three of the poems on which he had labored (“Ballad for Gloom,” “Night Litany,” “The Return”) appeared together, under the editorship of Dazzi, in Ateneo Veneto for December 1935. This was probably the second publication of The Cantos in Italian,19 preceded by Emanuel Carnevali’s translation of Canto 8, first of the Malatesta sequence, in the Genoa journal Indice (1931). The second entire Canto to appear in Italian was 45, “With Usura,” which Izzo worked on while teaching Italian as an exchange lecturer in Copenhagen in 1937–38, and which provoked another notable exchange. While in Rome in November 1935 Pound had been able to raise interest in an Italian translation of Social Credit: An Impact. Izzo incautiously proceeded to translate this pamphlet (he sent the typescript to Pound on December 23), and corresponded at length with Pound about its obscurities, but all he got for his labors was Pound’s encouragement and condolences when Pier Maria Bardi, the editor who had promised to publish it, let the matter drop. On this or another similar occasion, he wrote Izzo: Dont tyke it to ’eart, son. If that’s how they are, that is that. At any rate I am not responsible. 99% of all effort is wasted … hence need of making 100%. I don’t know WHAT is wrong with ’em. … Haven’t heard from Bardi, myself … and can’t do anything more until I go to Roma again/ … Do you egg-spect Eyetalian editors to ANSWER letters inside of 20 days/? Pazz/ienZah!!!20 In 1936, Pound (like most Italians) got very excited about Mussolini’s seizure of Ethiopia, and wrote triumphantly to Izzo on May 12: Now you blokes have got an IMPERO, what about trying to wake up Italia Letteraria/


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos I dont suppose you can bring Bontempelli into modern life/ but Bardi means to be hodiernal and does his bit about hollow tiles, engineering, architettura etc/ Have you shot anything at him?21

Bardi was an art critic with pronounced Fascist sympathies and connections.22 He was well informed and interested in contemporary architecture, but nonetheless he let down Pound and Izzo on Social Credit. It would be interesting to recover Izzo’s translation and publish it. That even Izzo may have for a moment participated in the national euphoria of the new “empire,” and hoped that it would lead to peace, rather than to another world war, is possibly indicated by a poem he sent Pound in November 1936, calling it “a trifle of mine—in English … ’t will make you laugh I’m afraid”: The seed is sown. The hand of chance hath done the deed, Improbable, unhopéd for.           Dark winter skies are nursing it, Mists and rain wrapping— Season this of despair!           Season of hope! Of future incredible suns Of harvests incredible.        Carlo Izzo          Venice, November 1936 This could be interpreted to mean that though Fascism is a blind and dark force, it may be an unconscious stage in the progress to a more just society. If this was Izzo’s moderate hope, he was to be sorely disappointed. In June 1937, Izzo wrote Pound: “I have been working rather satisfactorily on autobiographical stuff. As a matter of fact I was thinking of bidding farewell to critical writing.” But Pound kept prodding him to contribute to various periodicals Pound was associated with: Broletto of Como, which published the translation of Canto 45 in 1938, then the literary weekly Meridiano di

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


Roma, formerly called La Fiera Letteraria, a heading it resumed after the war. Izzo was penurious during his stay in Denmark and after his return. Pound thought this should heighten his interest in economics: The live eng/ am/ writers have HEARD of the economic conditioning of the modern mind. you FEEL it, you want MONEY. what is money?23 On May 4, 1940, with Italy’s entry in the war but a few weeks away, Pound suggested that Izzo might review and translate his recent volume of Cantos LII–LXXI, adding a pointed compliment: I bin to Roma, I hope you got paid a sandwich for yr/ note on Eliot. Di M[arzio] SAID he wd/ send you something … I think ALSO that we cd/ get a bilingual version of these Cantos printed here. You are my best translator. What I shd like is an article starting from my definition. An epic is a poem CONTAINING history.24 Izzo was willing to go along with Pound’s suggestion, despite their political disagreements and the lack of pay, on which he commented wittily in a lowercase letter of May 15, 1940: o.k. I’ll try and do my best. no sandwich, not even a roll from meridiano. what about putting them all in cantos as gang of usurers? … thank you for praises, but in case you want me to do longer work must be prepared to help and help and help me: your poetry not easy to deal with. but you always DID help me. should like to translate from page 12 “know then” to page 15 “by his imposts,” but don’t know anything about chinese emperors. cummings is nearly unploughable. will try during long vacations. work at school stultifies one. (Pound was hoping to elicit from Izzo a review of his favorite Cummings work, the Russian journal Eimi.) Mussolini declared war upon Britain and France on June 14, 1940. Izzo writes in “24 lettere” (L/CI, 284) that after this he brought his correspondence with Pound to a close. Actually, he sent him two letters and a note in early


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

1942, largely about a student of his, “a heroic girl who has taken it into her head to write a tesi di laurea on you & your work.”25 Pound seems to have answered that he was willing to help,26 and to have made some comments on having abandoned literature, for Izzo wrote again on April 24, 1942: The girl, who is convinced you are a grrrate poewet, would like you to explain to her;—which might give her lights on your technique;— for instance, the main themes of Canto XVII. Now be a good boy & do not say nay. re/ your having a literary career? Of course you have: the rest is silence (for me, at least!). What if out of this thesis we may concoct an essay to be printed somewhere? Are you basking in ειµι’s limpid clarity?              Yours                izz Izzo signs himself with the nickname Pound gave him, and plays the Poundian game, even adopting the master’s comic spelling and his flippant tone. But his is not a slavish imitation, but an original riposte, ethically grounded but not self-righteous. Hence the curtain drawn with Hamlet’s farewell words over Pound’s non-literary activities. (Clearly in answer to something Pound said in a lost letter or oral comment.) His bothering to write on behalf of a deserving and enthusiastic pupil is again a sign of his (Poundian) willingness to “eddy Kate” the young. There was a coda to the Pound–Izzo correspondence. When Izzo published (in English, with Italian translation) Pound’s letters in Nuova Corrente, Pound wrote him from Washington on October 2, 1956, chiefly to complain that Izzo had omitted some proper names: Dear IZZ as you were printing ’em without formality of askink permission etc.              (gravely considered by anglo-sticklers) why shield the stuffed shirts of yesteryear by using mere initials??? Better done than the frogs cd/[.] of course you buzzards have NO national pride, now you haven’t the decor/ Italy WAS MORE interesting than Paris in 1924.

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


Though admitting that Izzo had done a better job than a Frenchman (!) of presenting the letters, Pound was whimsical about the other contributors to Nuova Corrente, whom he compared to the poets (Montale, Ungaretti, Quasimodo, Sereni et al.) whose translations had appeared in a recent Pound issue of the magazine Stagione: I note almost no lap-overs from Stagione to Nu. Cor. yet almost all of ’em babbling in the same key. Are there ANY demarcations? or is it all tea party cliquismo. The only “lap-over,” given the innovative stance of Nuova Corrente (a sort of more theoretical Partisan Review with academic circulation), was Eugenio Montale, whose generous 1953 review of The Pisan Cantos was reprinted in the special issue. By 1956, when Pound wrote this letter, age and incarceration were taking their toll, and his writing was becoming more and more onetracked. The letter’s parting salve is striking for its bravado: saluti to tooty by the Rialto, which one seldom went to, or by Todero, where they no longer decapitate the   as shd/ be. Izzo commented in his Italian Quarterly piece: “Tooty” stands for “tutti”. “Tòdaro” refers to one of the two columns in Piazzetta San Marco, Venice, bearing the statues of St. Mark and St. Theodore: it was between those two columns that traitors to the “Serenissima” republic were beheaded. There is a superstition in Venice that walking between them is of ill-omen.27 Significantly, in his sentence Pound left an ellipsis for “traitors,” as if he could not bring himself to write the word, yet the implication is clear: the Italians have betrayed their Duce and his heritage and some at least should meet the fate of the unfortunate Renaissance captain Carmagnola, “decapitated” by the Serenissima: Thither Borso, when they shot the barbed arrow at him, And Carmagnola, between the two columns, Sigismundo, after that wreck in Dalmatia.    Sunset like the grasshopper flying. (17/79)


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Who is the traitor depends on the point of view. Yet this is an extreme case of Pound turning the tables on his accusers. As we have seen, in his letter Pound also suggested parenthetically that Izzo had published the correspondence without permission. Izzo replied on October 30, 1956 that the editors of Nuova Corrente had sought permission from Pound’s daughter, living in Italy, and that she had written him “the sweetest of letters.” We may object that given their old acquaintance Izzo should have written Pound directly, but it is understandable that he may have feared a rebuff, and let the editors take charge of the matter. In any case, on October 30, 1956 Izzo responded to Pound’s fulminations with a particularly warm and endearing letter, which opens with an unexpected turn, reminding us that he was a talented writer in his own right: Dear Pound, I don’t know that I ever noticed anything sentimental about you, even though I have long been used to think that Villanelle: Psychological Hour strikes a memorable sentimental note: in the very best of meanings, of course. However it be, I must tell you that your letter gave me a real thrill, after such a long time and nothing changed in your epistolary style, your scathing humor (“Sodom on Thames,” “Woptaly”—my translation: “Guappalia”: I expect you know that “Wop” comes from “guappo,” a Neapolitan word meaning, more or less, “a bully”), your irrepressible vitality. I wonder whether you have ever seen a photo of yours given by the weekly Tempo: you are reclining in a folding-chair and look like a Jove at rest: that too gave me a thrill when I first saw it some months ago. Excuse the chattering: it’s all owing to the pleasure your letter gave me. Already before the war Pound had rebuffed an overenthusiastic message from Izzo: “Come come/ None of this alla pazza gioia.”28 But that in Pound there was no lack of sentimentality, “in the best of meanings,” no reader of the Pisan Cantos will doubt. Izzo went on to defend himself from the charge of having reprinted the letters without permission (see above). He then came to the matter of the cancelled names, and this brought him to the subject of the efforts of Pound’s well-wishers on his behalf:

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


As for the use of initials—well, you are entitled to deal with your own life and interests as best you like, but I thought it my duty not to give your enemies any pretext to cry out at you that you were friends with people highly compromised with Fascism, or that you covered others with the most unqualified contempt. I am perfectly convinced that you were “more sinned against than sinning,” but other people seem to think otherwise, and many of us are only wishing to see you here in Italy again, sooner or later, and all our efforts are directed to that end. I spent a couple of months in London during the summer—alas, I worked in the Reading Room of the British Museum all the time at—a history of American “Licherchoor” (I hope you will never see it!)—and met Eliot there. I gave him the issue of Nuova Corrente which you have apparently received, and we spoke about you, and when I told him that I considered you the greatest living “creator of language” he seemed to agree. The very last words he said to me were: “See what we can do about Pound.” Well, under the circumstances, why give your enemies arms against you? Izzo’s visit to Eliot is also reported in an article written shortly after and published in the Gazzetta del Popolo for November 25, 1956, where Izzo repeats his assessment of Pound as “un grande creatore di linguaggio,” and says more explicitly that Eliot “confirmed it” and that Eliot added: “His economic ideas have distorted his political ideas.”29 In his October 1956 letter Izzo went on to tell Pound that he had originally closed his piece for Nuova Corrente with a paragraph on his prolonged incarceration (which he quoted), but he had finally decided to omit it as inappropriate. (He would use its arguments in the 1958 article referred to above.) He loyally offered to review some of the books you mention in your letter, bearing in mind, as you know very well, that I never was much of an historian or an economist, even though I am and ever was far from liking what you aptly call “tea party cliquismo.” The letter provides insight into Izzo’s singular individuality as a writer and scholar, substantial and indifferent to fads.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

In the cancelled paragraph Izzo had said that if Pound had but renounced his American citizenship “nothing of what has happened would have been legally possible.” Pound answered rather violently on November 6: There has never been the slightest real legal difficulty / only infinite pusillanimity. Too long to go into. Sally [surely?] cd/ have had a passport. BUT all my argument was based on BEING an American Citizen, standing for the constitution against a cad and a liar who perjured himself every time he took oath of office. Stalin was at least a savage, but Churchill and Roose/ a pair of pewks.30 There is truly no time for sentimentality in Pound’s stark and barren world, in which things have gotten, if anything, more one-sided with the passage of time. He wrote Izzo one last time on January 10, 1958, fulminating (with some justice) against the recently published Annotated Index to the Cantos, with his usual Johnsonian sweep: You might even, seeing that the Universities of California and Cambridge England, which would not sponser new composition, have E-mitted a large and expensive index to Cantos / the greek well done, the whole edited by an impudent parasite etc. but the Italian part merely illiterate / or worse Now considering that Edwards could have consulted you or various educated Italians this gives a chance for constructive ­criticism of la traison des clercs/ and the CONTINUING perversion of history. Clearly, the pioneering Annotated Index was uneven, as such works are bound to be, and a little knowledge of Italian matters is a dangerous thing to wouldbe explicators of Pound. The rest of Pound’s letter is as ebullient as ever, suggesting that he might send some books that Izzo could try to get published in Italy, and reporting that “american ‘literature’ produced in situ in the past 30 years” has been justly defined as “soft shit and cold cream.” This is a man who still has the poetic fire in him. He closes with the salutations to Dazzi,

“My Best Translator”—Izzo


Camerino and Giorgio Levi I quoted at the beginning of this chapter. Izzo for his part had concluded his letter of October 30, 1956 (Pound’s birthday, though he may not have realized the coincidence): I think I never wrote to you such an open-hearted letter: I used to weigh my words so much when I wrote to you in the past: now many years have passed, and I have put up with being just what I am, without any attempt at masquerading. When Pound died, Izzo wrote at length of his old acquaintance for the journal Paragone, and noted revealingly: “I cannot say that I ever had with Pound a real human relationship, since he was so remote from reality, and conversed in fragments, occasionally somewhat childishly.”31 Izzo recapitulated with gusto the principal episodes of their collaboration, and endorsed as of permanent value Eliot’s description of Pound as a great craftsman: “Pound was essentially—apart from his rather confused political ideas—‘il miglior fabbro.’” Of The Cantos he said persuasively: “They are nothing but a search for the self of the poet, by way of the definition—through times and places—of all the historical and cultural forces that conditioned him.” Quoting the final couplet of the Pisan Cantos—“If the hoar frost grip thy tent / Thou wilt give thanks when night is spent”—Izzo said he regretted that Pound had not closed his poem there and then, at its highpoint. Then he turned to the sorry matter of politics, and reiterated his conviction that Pound’s incarceration, though possibly “legally sound,” was absurd from a historical point of view, since it was only based on the technicality of Pound’s American citizenship: “World War II was not a war between nations but between ideas: to apply the traditional criteria of treason was therefore inappropriate.” He reverted to Pound’s regrettable comment about the Italian racial legislation, and closed by saying that the late Camerino, a loyal Jewish friend, had taught Gentiles a lesson in 1965 by saluting Pound on his eightieth birthday with these moving words: His red hair has become white. The tall figure, they say, is bent. And they say that Pound has come to doubt everything he has written, proclaimed and taught. Unjustly, in our opinion … Years and decades and centuries hence, the young, without rancor or preconceptions, when discovering a book by Pound, will love him, just as


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos we loved him so many years ago. And rightly they will not expect measure, forbearing, bourgeois caution from a man who was born as a great wind, a great force of nature: with its evil, with its everconsoling good. Of this, today, though embittered, Ezra Pound can be confident and happy.32


“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin


ames Laughlin and I began corresponding circa 1971, though we only met in 1975 at his daughter Leila’s and his son-in-law Daniel Javitch’s apartment in New York. I was interested in the time he had spent in Rapallo in     the 1930s and asked him in 1991 for some memories when editing a second enlarged edition of my father Giuseppe Bacigalupo’s memoir Ieri a Rapallo. “Jas,” as he signed himself in his Poundian letters, though he was “J” to family and friends, was also writing me in 1991 about the unauthorized publication in Paideuma of my translations of Pound’s Italian Cantos and drafts of early 1945.1 As I recall, I had sent my paper (“Cantos 72 and 73: An Annotated Translation”) to Carroll Terrell and did not concern myself with asking for permission, and Terry was perhaps also somewhat cavalier in these matters. So when about thirty pages of Pound, howbeit translated, appeared in that particular issue, J took the trouble to write me at length reprimanding me and trying to settle matters with his legal consultants. This was very kind of him, in fact in the same letters in which these matters are discussed he thanks me for a review I wrote of In un altro paese, a book of translations of his poems edited by Mary de Rachewiltz which appeared in 1991 with a small publisher in Venice.2 In un altro paese is the translation of “In Another Country,” Laughlin’s memorable Rapallo sequence.3 The title raises questions, since the words appear in the epigraph (from Marlowe) to T. S. Eliot’s “Portrait of a Lady.” They reappear as title of one of Hemingway’s finest early stories. In 2013, they 107


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

became the title of a much-touted movie. Possibly Laughlin didn’t remember the earlier usage. The tempest in a teapot about the Paideuma publication was settled to everyone’s satisfaction by my drafting a letter of excuses, alleging my incompetence “in American publishing procedures,” and offering to pay a fee, as indeed I did. A few years later, Laughlin edited for The Paris Review (fall 1993) Pound’s own translation of Canto 72, and claimed to have made ample use of my notes in the contested Paideuma translation, for which he insisted that the magazine should send me a check. I guessed at the time that this was in partial compensation for the belated fee I paid for my piece. But to return to the occasion of the paper presented below, “‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo.” In the letter in which he graciously brought up the matter of my Paideuma translations, September 5, 1991, Laughlin wrote: Please give your father my good wishes. I’m so glad that he is going to add some more material to his memoir Ieri a Rapallo. Such a delightful book. I knew Father Chute only slightly, but I knew “Ma” Riess very well because EP arranged for me to board in her flat when I first came to Rapallo. A wonderful old lady. I remember her floating in her inner tube on the Tigullian waters. There may be more about her in the piece I did for Dominique de Roux’s Cahiers de l’Herne, if you have that. And will he do a few paragraphs about Ezra’s involvement with the “social set,” the nobility of Rapallo, people such as the San Faustinos, the Collis, and the Robilants, who met every day for drinks before lunch in that little café on the back street near the bank? EP was very popular at those gatherings.4 Laughlin wrote his piece on Mrs. Riess shortly after this letter, as he mentions in his second paragraph, though I have no record of when it arrived. He often sent me poems and cuttings, in view of possible translation in Italian journals or books. I translated the piece and printed it in the Laughlin chapter of Ieri a Rapallo, second edition, which appeared in July 1993 and included a portrait of Mrs. Riess by Rolando Monti and a photograph of Laughlin and Pound walking in Rapallo in the 1960s which J sent me, asking that I return it. (He’s wearing a checkered shirt and smoking a pipe, E.P. looks quite spry.) Before this we had returned to the subject of Mrs. Riess. Laughlin remembered her as being German. I told him that she was born Lucy Mabel Pigott in

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin


“I remember her floating in her inner tube on the Tigullian waters.” 5. Lucy Mabel Riess (“Mother May” to friends) bathing in Rapallo, 1930s. Yorkshire, 1864, and eventually married a German Jew, Max Riess. Her son, John Riess, who Englished his name to Holroyd-Reece, became the publisher of Albatross, as mentioned by Laughlin in his memoir. John is still attracting attention for his innovative publishing ventures. He married several times, and according to Mary de Rachewiltz did not get along with his mother.5 She, however, would read English and American classics for material suitable for publication by Albatross (which published in English for the continental market).6


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Laughlin mentions his admiration for John’s girlfriend “Berthe.” This was actually Bettina Warnant, a Belgian beauty and artist, who for a while was Gerhart Münch’s partner. She had a daughter with John Holroyd-Reece, Fiona, and later married the German poet and writer Eckart Peterich. I don’t know if I ever gave Laughlin all this information, but I did correct him on the nationality of Mrs. Riess (as she was known to me). On January 14, 1992, he wrote me: I’m astonished by your news that “Ma” Riess was English. I recall a heavy German accent, her recitations of German poetry and the German books in her library. Well, she could have picked up a lot of that from her German husband and German writer friends. I’ll have to correct my piece, or perhaps even junk it. This looks as if he was planning to publish his memoir, though I’m not aware that he did so. The only publication I have seen is an excerpt in The Way It Wasn’t, the lavish scrapbook edited by Barbara Epler and Daniel Javitch.7 I wrote Laughlin that I had translated his piece for my father’s book, and he was pleased: I’m glad you think you can use Ma Riess in Ieri, but do root out my more flagrant prevarications. When fact fails, invention sets it. (February 30, 1992) Later in 1992, he wrote, in longhand: “I corrected the English text of ‘Ma’ Riess from your Italian version.” This corrected version is the source of the excerpt in The Way It Wasn’t. However, here I reprint the text as originally written in September 1991. (With some minor corrections of Laughlin’s shaky Italian in the final paragraph.) Laughlin often wrote about his period at the “Ezuversity,” especially in two poems, “Ezra” (later included in Byways)8 and the fresh “In Another Country.” However, “‘Ma’ Riess” is one of his most successful evocations of that period and of his affair with his Rapallo girlfriend “Leoncina.”9 He wrote of this in his letter of January 14, 1992, where he had communicated his surprise about Mrs. Riess being English. I probably asked him about the “cove” where, according to “In Another Country,” he and Leoncina first flirted. His memory seems quite clear on this point (after 57 years!):

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin

“The little cove where Leoncina and I used to swim.” 6. Il Pozzetto, Zoagli, 1985.



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

“The story of Leoncina is told in my poem ‘In Another Country.’” 7. Lola Avena photographed by James Laughlin, 1935. The little cove where Leoncina and I used to swim was about a mile from the center of town. Big rocks around the water. My age. I was born 1914, my birthday the same as Ezra’s, October 30, and I think the swimming was the summer of 1935. Leoncina breathes still, in the Via Santa Caterina da Siena in Rome. She was long married to a journalist, one Tumietti, related to the literary family in Firenze, who was the reporter for the finance section of the London Times. He died a few years ago. I always call on her when I am in Rome. From another source10 it appears that Laughlin also helped Leoncina financially in these her (and his) last years. The “cove” of J’s and Leoncina’s trysts is known locally as “Il Pozzetto,” and has the distinction of appearing enigmatically in the Pisan Cantos:

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin


“C’è il babao,” said the young mother   and the bathers like small birds under hawk’s eye     shrank back under the cliff ’s edge at il Pozzetto                 al Tigullio (74/458–59) The young mother is telling the children who are bathing to come back ashore because “the bugbear is coming.” As Pound once explained, the scene is set in the war years and the “bugbear” is a reference to approaching enemy aircraft. Thus, the bathers are indeed “small birds under hawk’s eye.” There are records of occasional machine-gunning from attacking planes. You can still swim at the Pozzetto today, and only a few years ago a Japanese scholar of Lord Byron asked that his ashes be scattered there. So the cove has seen many stories (and trysts) over the years. Mrs. Riess must have bathed closer to the town center. The image of her swimming in her “inner tube,” i.e., her inflated lifesaver, is the first that comes back to Laughlin’s mind. When he boarded with her she was living in Via delle Americhe (now Corso Colombo) in the attic of the Palazzo Cardile, where W. B. Yeats had stayed a few years earlier and where Homer and Isabel Pound also lived for some years. Before moving to this apartment, Mrs. Riess had a little house on a hill over the town center, which she called Casa Beata. She would let it occasionally, and many artists and writers of her acquaintance stayed there, Walter Gropius of Bauhaus fame possibly among them. (She was also friendly with the painter Oskar Kokoschka.) In 2009, I got a call from an elderly man in Sardinia, with a curious story. After Mrs. Riess died in 1953, he, as the owner of her apartment, had come into possession of an old photo album and had kept it, though he knew little about its owner. By chance he had come across Ieri a Rapallo and had decided that the album must have belonged to Mrs. Riess. He got in touch with me proposing to give me the album so that I could return it to Mrs. Riess’s grand-daughter, my friend Fiona, who lives in France. I agreed, and when the gentleman and his wife came next through Rapallo, we met and he handed over the album. It contained many curious photographs of Casa Beata, of parties in which the family dressed up for theatricals in nearby woods. It also had pictures of Mrs. Riess in her lifesaver, just as Laughlin remembered her. I became curious to discover what had happened to Casa Beata. From the pictures one could see what the view from it looked like, so by walking the hill just north-east of the Rapallo center, one could identify the spot. I did find it, but the rustic little house with its many


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

cats had been much enlarged and become nearly unrecognizable. As for Mrs. Riess’s grave, it used to be close to Homer Pound’s in the non-Catholic section of the old Rapallo cemetery. Years ago, however, it was removed after the lease expired. So perhaps Mrs. Riess will be chiefly remembered through Laughlin’s memoir and Mary de Rachewiltz’s portrait of her in Discretions—and through the chapter in Ieri a Rapallo. I actually remember her as a vague formless figure sitting in her attic among books and textiles when my mother would visit her, bringing some offering of food, or helping her by buying some of her books. (I still have many of those vintage Albatross editions.) A propos of which, I came across this favorable account of Mrs. Riess in the postscript to a letter written on February 2, 1946, by Dorothy to Ezra in the early months of his detention in St. Elizabeths Hospital, headed by a quotation: Vers mis au bas du Portrait de M. Franklin. Honneur du nouveau Monde [&] de l’Humanité, Ce Sage aimable & vrai les guide & les éclaire ; Comme un autre Mentor, il cache à l’oeil vulgaire, Sous les traits d’un Mortel, une Divinité. (from a book on printing.) Nouveau Cara[c]tere d’Ecriture gravé à Paris pour M. Franklin, par S. P. Fournier le jeune, 1781. book Ma Riess showed me. I go to her Sunday 3–6 pm & she gives me picture books or whatever—so as not to talk all the time! Wise old thing! (L/DP, 259) In her letters from Rapallo, Dorothy sensibly tried to keep Ezra’s mind off his predicament with local news and odds and ends, and this is an example. By a striking coincidence, the book that Mrs. Riess showed Dorothy is now in my possession. A fine edition titled Caractères de l’Ecriture dans la Typographie, published in Paris in 1927 by “J. Holroyd-Reece,” it is a French translation of Stanley Morison’s Type Designs of the Past and Present (1926). The quotation comes from an illustration on page 40, a table of characters printed as an example of a font created by Benjamin Franklin and engraved by S. P. Fournier-le-Jeune. (The original is said to be in the Library of the

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin


American Type Founders Company, Jersey City.) Franklin is described as “Honneur du nouveau Monde & de l’Humanité.” The phrase may well have appealed to the author of The Cantos. This would seem a good note on which to end these annotations on the reminiscences of a publisher. But in closing it is worth mentioning that James Laughlin’s contribution as a writer should not be underestimated. Many of his poems are still fresh and moving, and I remember the fun of reading for the first time some of the more ribald episodes of Byways (like My Shoelaces), or his excellent verse memoirs of William Carlos Williams and “My Aunt.” In Italy, my selection of his poems, first published in paperback with the title Scorciatoie, was picked up in 2012 by a major poetry series and reissued with the more attractive and appropriate title Una lunga notte di sogni.11 This is the title of one of the first poems in the book, which conveys all of Laughlin’s directness and delicacy: A LONG NIGHT OF DREAMING and when I finally awoke from it we seemed to be back where we’d left off some thirty years before in the compartment of a wagon-lit somewhere in Italy loving and arguing soft words and then hard words over where we’d go next to Venice to Rome or better to split again you back to him I back to her.12 I should mention that I appended to my selection of Laughlin’s verse in Italian a translation of “‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo,” given what I believe to be its


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

significance. However, I omitted the last paragraph, which seemed anticlimactic, and contains some of Laughlin’s “prevarications” (Riess died in 1953, not circa 1965). But the paragraph is significant as mentioning Laughlin’s final visit to Rapallo (1982, not 1985!), when I joined him for dinner with my mother and father in a restaurant in the little piazza of Portofino. The director of the “Voices & Visions” Ezra Pound documentary, Lawrence Pitkethly, was with us. This was a memorable early summer evening, when the older generation that knew Pound in the thirties met for the last time. My mother Frieda passed away in early 1983; J’s wife Ann, who was with us that night, in 1989; J in 1997; my father in 1999. Thus, Laughlin’s concern in the final paragraph with the manner of old Mrs. Riess’s death is revealing. He was also hoping for “good luck” in the final stretch of his life, as in so many others. A luck which he shares with the readers of his works and of the books he published. “MA” RIESS OF RAPALLO by James Laughlin I wish that when I was young I had had the good sense to keep a journal. But I had always gotten the best marks in school and imagined I would remember everything as long as I lived. The confidence of youth. That didn’t happen. Along in my fifties the memory disk in the computer that is said to be in our brains filled up. The details, or all of old recollections, began to fade out to make room for new materials. In old age what happened last week, or even yesterday, becomes the hardest to remember. Suddenly now without my searching for it something from far back will flash into my mind very clearly. A few days ago when Massimo Bacigalupo in Rapallo wrote me a question about her I again saw “Ma” Riess floating in her inner tube on the bosom of the Tigullian Gulf. She was plump enough to have floated without the tube but reclining in it she could read a Tauchnitz paperback. On hot days she wore a tennis visor to shade her eyes and the book. Once her glasses fell off but she was in shallow water and the poet Louis Zukofsky, one of the disciples of Ezra Pound who was visiting the master, was able to dive for them. I first came to Rapallo to meet Ezra in October 1934. I had written him fan letters from boarding school, which he answered. He loved indoctrinating the young. When I took a term’s leave from Harvard and got tired of being lonely in Paris I wrote him to ask if he could

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin spare me a few hours of instruction. There was an immediate reply by telegram: “Visibility high.” Arrived in Rapallo, I put up at the Albergo Rapallo on the seafront, where Ezra and Dorothy his wife took their meals. But the “albuggero” as he called it was expensive for a student who had only an allowance from home of a hundred dollars a month. So when after a few days, not hours, of attentive listening to Pound’s polymath monologues which embraced all literature and history I was invited to enroll sans tuition in the famous “Ezuversity,” he found me a room in the apartment of his friend “Ma” Riess at about a dollar a day and tutelage in Italian with the octagenarian Signorina Canessa who hated Il Duce because he had put a tax on canaries. “Ma” Riess’s apartment was in a modern building in the western section of town, just beyond the footbridge that spans the ugly little river that comes down to the sea from the steep hills behind Rapallo. Not a large apartment but a pleasant one. It was on the top floor of the building, light and airy with a breeze coming in from the water. From my window I could look out to the small harbor, protected by a breakwater, where fishing boats and a few yachts were at anchor. Across the inner bay I could see the summer villa of the noble Venetians Robilants, who are mentioned in Dante. Needless to say, I was never invited there, though I met some of the nobili when Ezra took me to the backstreet café (they wouldn’t be seen at the seafront places frequented by the tourists) where they had drinks before lunch. Ezra was a pet of the bluebloods. Their lives were boring and he made them laugh with his stories. Ranieri, Principe di San Faustino was unbearably handsome; as in a Henry James novel his family fortunes had been restored by an American marriage. “Ma” Riess (I think the “Ma” was Ezra’s coinage) was well served by an alacritous Ligurian maid named Margherita, a soft-eyed if somewhat hefty beauty. She was engaged to a handsome young fisherman. They were saving up money to get married. Margherita picked up after me and gave me an excellent breakfast, including a boiled egg in a little china holder. I had my lunch and dinner with Ezra and Dorothy at the “albuggero,” paying for my own meals of



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

“The small harbor, protected by a breakwater, where fishing boats and a few yachts were at anchor.” 8. View of Rapallo harbor from Mrs. Riess’s balcony, by Rolando Monti, 1934. course. In the corner of the dining room stood Gaudier-Brzeska’s “hieratic head” of Pound, one of the masterpieces of modern sculpture. The waiters would bring in tourists from the terrasse to see it. “Ma” Riess ate early but sometimes she would sit with me while I had my breakfast. She told me about her earlier years in Germany. She came from a middle-class family in Thuringia. She had married a businessman in Weimar who prospered.13 They had come first to Rapallo on vacation. When Rudi died she sold the house in Weimar and moved to Rapallo for the climate. There was a photograph of Rudi, a good looking man with a Kaiser Wilhelm mustache, on the wall of the parlor. I also remember color prints of Weimar in Goethe’s time and a reproduction of Dürer’s woodcut of St. Jerome

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin and the lion. And a faded needlework her mother-in-law had done that said “Immer Gott mit uns” in Gothic script. She was a Protestant and went to the Anglican church in Rapallo. What I liked best was when she recited poems of Goethe she had learned in school. I had had a term of German at Harvard but didn’t really understand much. She would recite and then paraphrase for me in very decent English. She had learned that in school too. I can still recall some of her favorite lines of Goethe. “Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich und gut.” (Let man be noble, helpful and good.) I wish I could have modeled my life on that but I am base clay and use people. She would sing Heine’s “Lorelei”: “Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten, dass ich so traurig bin.…’’ (I don’t know what it means that I’m so sad.) I still hum the tune when I’m feeling down, now that in old age I have spells of abulia and anhedonia. These were the black moods that plagued Ezra in his last sad years, when he hardly spoke, when he had gone into the much recorded “silence.” Some thought that he was meditating about his paradiso terrestre. But he told me one day, when he did speak: “I’ve said all I have to say,” and quoting from Ecclesiastes, “Tempus loquendi, tempus tacendi.” (There is a time for speaking and a time for keeping silent.) She would adjure me with Schiller’s “Es ist der Geist der sich den Körper baut’’ (It is the spirit which builds the body). She was an example of that. At sixty, she had her aches and pains and a touch of asthma but she never let them get her down. I’m sure she was fond of me, apart from my rent. She certainly was good to me. She never intruded if she heard me typing in my room on the battered little Corona. I was still trying to write the Great American Novel. It was about dreary, philistine Pittsburgh and how an angry young man busts loose “to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of the race” (Joyce). What did I really understand about Pittsburgh that I was trying so hard to escape? I knew that Andy Mellon was a mean old man; he wouldn’t let us kids swim in his swimming pool across Woodland Road. Things like that. Just anecdotes. How could I figure that my Presbyterian forebears had built great steel mills which supplied rails for the Northern armies in the Civil War, pipes for the oil discovered in Texas, girders for skyscrapers, and sheet for the cars of Detroit? I realize now that I



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos grew up in Pittsburgh among many people who led lives more useful than mine. But I also remember the mores of some of the contemporaries of my class. They drove too fast, drank too much, and even fornicated in the golf course sandtraps of the Allegheny Country Club. How to put the pieces together? The Great American Novel will always be Moby-Dick. Even Norman Mailer with his dreams of glory will never surpass Melville. “Ma” Riess had a fine little library. She was a cultivated person. But I hadn’t enough German to read her German books. And Ezra was constantly lending me his favorites to read. He loaned me Villon and Rochester (that randy man). He gave me Gavin Douglas’s Scots version of the Aeneid and Golding’s Metamorphoses of Ovid. He beat Catullus into my head and that is still there. But I flunked on the autobiography of Martin Van Buren. Van Buren, Ezra thought, was a great president because he figured out that the banking system was crooked. He gave me Cocteau, who later told me about flying saucers when we had lunch at the Grand Véfours in the Palais Royal in Paris. What a charming man, but Valéry and Reverdy were better poets; the best of Cocteau is in his rescriptions of the Greek plays. “Ma” Riess had a brilliant son who changed his name to HolroydReece. Who was Holroyd? She never told me about him. An English lover? She must have been quite beautiful in younger days. HolroydReece had literary stature. He founded the Albatross paperback editions, much better printed than the Tauchnitzes. He reprinted all the right people: Conrad, Forster, Huxley, Joyce, Lawrence… Now and then he drove to Rapallo in his Bentley to see his mother. She was very proud of him. I remember him as florid and jovial. On one of his visits he met Berthe, the young Belgian companion of Gerhart Münch, the gifted German pianist who played, along with Ezra’s friend Olga Rudge on the violin, in the concerts Pound organized in the town hall. Wonderful concerts: Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach… Before the music Ezra would explain in Italian (with still a slight accent of Amurriker). I found Berthe most glamorous: she was blonde and honey-skinned. When I left Rapallo in the spring she was still there. But when I returned a few years later she was gone. I heard that Reece had set her up in Paris and that Münch had gone to California.

“‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin “Ma” Riess didn’t approve of my Rapallo girlfriend Leoncina. She was only the daughter of the bank janitor. But she didn’t lecture me about her. She understood that “flesh is heir.” Of course I never brought Leoncina up to my room in the apartment. We used to walk to the cemetery. Love among the cypresses and the dead. The story of Leoncina is told in my poem “In Another Country.” Now she is happily married to a journalist and lives in the Via Santa Caterina da Siena in Rome. The last time I went there for tea she asked me: “Ti ricordi, Giacomino, quando noi due siamo stati ragazzi a Rapallo?” Yes, I remember, I remember often. When I went to Rapallo in 1985 [1982] with the “Voices & Visions” film crew to shoot part of their Pound film I thought to enquire at the post office about “Ma” Riess. The clerk remembered her. “Sì, mi ricordo di lei,” he said. “Era una donna molto simpatica. È morta forse dieci anni fa. Aveva buona fortuna. È morta quando dormiva nel suo proprio letto senza sofferenze.” (She was such a nice lady. She died about ten years ago. She had good luck. She died in her sleep in her own bed without suffering.)


Part III Readings

“The shrines are filled with votive offerings of ship models and pictures of shipwrecks from which the votators have been saved.” 9. The merchant ship Narcissus in distress off Cape Horn, November 21–22, 1903. Ex voto, 1904, Church of Montallegro, Rapallo.


Poet as Anthropologist— “European Paideuma”


n this part of my study I will consider some particular episodes in Pound’s career as a producer of (unstable) texts, surely his main concern as ten volumes of Contributions to Periodicals confirm.1 I will present and discuss certain major and minor writings of the Pound canon, hoping to prove that a close look unearths striking bits of information that illuminate the whole, while profiles of collaborators and acquaintances (like Enrico Pea and Douglas Fox) emerge from the shadows of the past to claim a place in Pound’s earthly comedy. The devil is in the detail—in “microhistory” of the kind that some historians privilege. The essay “European Paideuma” reveals how Pound was casting about to provide himself, thanks to Leo Frobenius and others, with a framework for the latter and allegedly “paradisal” part of The Cantos. His translation of Pea’s Moscardino shows him at work with the usual hastiness on a text he admires but imperfectly understands and will allow the patient reader to evaluate the extent of his knowledge of Italian. It is a curious fact that a major Italian writer, Cesare Pavese, was able to produce in his early twenties a fine translation of MobyDick (1932) with scarcely any working acquaintance with English, while Pound who spoke Italian fluently if erratically sprinkled his hasty translation (or “imitation”?) of Moscardino with egregious errors. The reason may be lack of humility and time in a man engaged in more pressing matters. (This was 1941–42, when he was broadcasting from Rome.) However, Pound’s grasp of Italian was sufficient to allow him to compose the two notorious 125


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Italian Cantos 72–73, of which I here propose an annotated translation. These Cantos have been often denounced as mere propaganda and as the nadir of Pound’s oeuvre. I see them as voluble expression of passion, howbeit misdirected, and one of Pound’s most concerted writing efforts, ergo among the most successful and deliberate Cantos he ever wrote. As for the content, the opening anti-Jewish tirade of Canto 52 I find much more horrifying than these dispatches from the trenches in the last months of a lost war.2 From these fulminating declarations written in an engaging Italian we move to the process of writing The Pisan Cantos, the troubled peace after the debacle, and I hope my notes will help to understand how the poem became what it now is, somewhat improvisatorially (quite the opposite of the carefully planned Italian Cantos), even finding its title by pure chance. But let us now turn back to a summer day in Rapallo, in the year 1939, and to what Ezra was typing in his attic. On August 7, 1939, Pound sent Douglas C. Fox, at the Forschungsinstitut für Kulturmorphologie in Frankfurt, a draft paper of about 1,400 words, titled “European Paideuma,” with the following prefatory remarks: Dear Fox, As you may know, I have been in America, etc/… Is there anywhere in Germany you can usefully print the following, where it will get serious attention. Better translated into German, I think.3 This indicates that Pound was writing for a German audience, with particular reference to the anthropological interests of the Institute founded by Leo Frobenius, where Fox, an American, was employed. (Frobenius, who had died the previous year, had developed the concept of “paideuma,” the “soul” of a particular culture that is manifest in all its aspects.) After querying various points, Fox prepared an edited and toned-down version of Pound’s text (subsequently referred to as F), with a view to publication in English and German.4 The text presented below is that of Pound’s original draft. A few phrases and notes are added from F; see notes. I have corrected obvious typing mistakes and mostly regularized punctuation and spelling but have preserved Pound’s inconsistent capitalization of words like “Oriental,” “German,” and “Semitic.”

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”

“The people in Rapallo rushing down into the sea on Easter morning … have not learned it in school.” 10. Children running on Easter Saturday to catch the “New Wave,” Sestri Levante, 1930s.



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

EUROPEAN PAIDEUMA1 To hell with Spengler.2 What we believe is EUROPEAN. In this essay I distinguish between “intelligence” and “intellect” using the latter term to indicate the mental scaffolding men erect to deal with what they don’t understand. Belief is from intelligence. From the crying “Ligo” in Lithuania (to a sun freed of its winter imprisonment),3 down to the Greek archipelago, certain things are believed. Book instruction obscures them. The people in Rapallo rushing down into the sea on Easter morning or bringing their gardens of Adonis to church on the Thursday before, have not learned it in school.4 Neither have the peasant women read anything telling them about bringing silk-cocoons to church carefully concealed in their hands or under their aprons.5 1  EPP, 3323. 2  Pound takes exception to Spengler’s notion of a Decline of the West, expounded in the book of that title (1918–22). He had set Frobenius against Spengler in “Murder by Capital” (Criterion, July 1933): “England may be growing American in the worst sense of that term. The flagrant example is that of receiving Spengler instead of Frobenius” (SP, 227). Actually, Frobenius was among Spengler’s sources; see Yeats, A Vision, 258–60. 3  The parenthetical phrase is added in F. Fox had asked Pound: “What is the crying ‘Ligo’, and why does it yowl?” My friend Adolfas Mekas reported hearing a similar chant in 1949 in Latvia, and wrote in his journal: “For the Latvians last night was a great holiday—as pagan as the search for the fern blossom that brings luck. They wore on their heads wreaths made of leaves, and sang all night—liguo! liguo! They chanted that word for hours, the whole night” (June 25, 1949). 4  “Shoots prematurely forced. The seeds are put on wet flannel, sprout early and are a part of the Easter decoration in the Rapallo churches.”—Fox’s note, added in F from information provided by Pound (see below). For further details on these “gardens of Adonis,” known in Italy as “sepolcri” because they symbolize the Holy Sepulchre, see Bacigalupo, “Pound’s Tigullio,” 188 and 205 (Plate 15). For the custom of running to the sea mentioned by Pound, see Tomaso Rabajoli, “Tradizioni della Settimana Santa,” Il Golfo (Chiavari) 2, no. 9 (April 1987): 25–26: “A ritual passed down from one generation to another at the sound of the ‘Gloria’ on the morning of Easter Saturday, was to run to the nearest fountain or to the sea to wash one’s face … to gather the onda nuova [new wave].” 5  “This custom is not a matter of common knowledge even in Rapallo.”—Fox’s note (F). Actually, the women did not bring to church the cocoons but the eggs of silkworms.

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


The Xtian Church was of very mixed elements. The valid elements European. The Church went out of business about A.D. 1500, semitized from two forces, one usury, and the other the revival of jewish texts (Old Testament). The only vigorous feasts of the Church are grafted onto European roots, the sun, the grain, the harvest and Aphrodite. The folklorists have woefully neglected Ovid, a very serious compiler of known feasts. The Church went out of business when belief ceased. When, from fear, they condemned the long buried Scotus Erigena who had said “authority comes from right reason” and had defined sin as “a lapse from reality.” The amour courtois, the hidden intentions of the Ghibelline poets, are by no means negligible. Some students, L. Valli for example, have intellectualized too far, have tried to interpret too much, and from an inadequate understanding, also from an unwillingness to leave the unknown as just that, to admit that there is a great deal NOT recorded and to which they have no certain key.6 The code of the amour courtois, the love doctrine is found in the Georgian Man in the Panther Skin.7

Pound was to refer again to this tradition in 85/565 and 91/632, and in his broadcast of May 4, 1942: “I see and approve the folks in Rapallo coming down to the sea on Easter morning, not so many as used to. I see the peasant women bringing their silk worm cocoons into church about Easter time to get ’em blessed, hiding them under their aprons. All this shows respect for divinity. Nobody taxes ’em for doing it, or for NOT doing it. They bring out their grass that has been sprouted up prematurely by puttin’ the seed on wet flannel and put little rows in front of the altars. All that is very pretty, it may or may not be part of a theory. I think it conduces to the amenities; ANYHOW, it is part of the good life, part of the art of living. ANY Chinese gentleman, on Wang Chin-Wei’s side of the line at least would respect it, and Japanese Samurai would respect it” (“Universality,” EPS, 119). 6  Pound discusses at length Luigi Valli’s Il linguaggio segreto di Dante (1928) in his “Cavalcanti” (LE, 173–86) and Guide to Kulchur. Valli published a second volume in 1930, in which he replied to his critics. He died in 1931. Both volumes are collected in Valli, Il linguaggio segreto di Dante e dei Fedeli d’Amore (Milan: Luni Editrice, 1994); see review in Il Sole 24 Ore (December 11, 1994), 25. 7  Pound cites Shota Rustaveli’s twelfth-century Georgian epic, The Man in the Panther Skin, also in the title (but not in the text) of the 1942 article, “Nella pelle di


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos The valid, as distinct from the invalid arabian elements need not and certainly should not before deep examination be grouped among non-european roots. What the Arabs carried from Greece, is ours, and need not be credited to the semite. It is a pity, for the sake of our mental grasp, that the curious researchers have so often been led off onto Buddhism; onto corpse worship and ghost worship, and flopped into theosophy rather than sticking to a search for belief. The for the present extremely unfashionable Swinburne had, I think, at one time belief. (“Ballad of Life” and “Julian Apostate.”)8 He also knew more Greek than any Englishman after the happy days of Porson9 and Savage Landor. In the teeth of current snobisms I have pointed out that the German pavillion at last year’s Venetian biennial exposition was the best pavillion.10 The visitor [with] any kind of unperverted form

pantera” (P&P, VIII: 185–87) and in a letter to Boris de Rachewiltz from Washington, D.C., June 18, 1954: “Is The man in the panther skin translated from Georgian into Italian? [in margin: Georgian epos connected Provençal Troubadour Anschauung] There is an English translation. Whether it was in The Quest, G. R. S. Mead’s quarterly, I dont know” (Berg Collection, New York Public Library). The Quest ran in 1912 two articles on Georgian myths by J. Javakhishvili, but no translation of The Man in the Panther Skin, a text which Pound surely read in Marjory Scott Waldrop’s prose translation of the same year (London: Oriental Translation Fund, 1912). Rustaveli’s national epic “recalls the erotic genre of Ariosto and Ovid, while its ethical–philosophical ideas take us back to a certain kind of Neo-Platonism, and its mysticism and metaphysics point to Oriental philosophical conceptions, yet it has an unmistakeable individuality: the fusion of the Eastern and Western element, typical of Georgian culture, finds in the poem its greatest and most homogenous expression”—Dizionario letterario Bompiani delle opere … (Milan: Bompiani, 2005), II, 1416 (my translation). 8  References in parenthesis added in F. On Fascist connotations of “belief ”; cf. 78/498: “amid ruin, la fede.” 9  Richard Porson (1759–1808), English classical scholar. 10  In 1938, the Venice Biennale ran from June 1 to September 30. The German selection featured the kind of work that had official approval: academic representations of landscapes, hefty peasants, cattle, athletes, and busts of Hitler and Mussolini. On the other hand, the Italian pavilion included works by reputable artists like Felice Casorati, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Manzù. See illustrations in XXI Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte 1938–XVI: Catalogo (Venice, 1938). Pound’s unaccountable praise for

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


sense should have seen this. The failure to understand the new turn in the arts is due partly to dullness, but even more to stultification by art-merchants’ propaganda (which has gone on with steady infection for at least 50 years). I am not here trying to prove anything, I am asking for a direction of effort and research onto the sorting out of sound and unsound elements. Greek sculptors made gods, Romans emperors, Italians of the Quattrocento individuals; but all in a proper direction. Leonardo wanted to know true proportions, so did Petrus de Burgo before him.11 The function of Germany, as I see it, in the next forty years’ art is indispensable. Nowhere else is there enough force toward a purgation. The Italians are too easy going. Spain is African and Christian, and you cannot trust Christianity for ten minutes, it is full of semitic microbes. They have been implanted in its terminology.12 The overflowing of Roman order, of roman concept, graduation and hierarchy by oriental terminology has left too septic a verbal mass for any unwary reader or hearer to trust himself loose in. There are bits of Egypt in the fans used in high ceremony, phallic mitres put on and removed—mixed into all there is too much contagious allusion. The religious element is to a great extent pagan, but mere paganism is not enough. The intellectual elements are admittedly Plato and Aristotle, the latter largely destructive of faith, of belief in the sense I have used the word in my opening paragraph. Sound ethic we have from Confucius via Mencius. Their disciples were horrified by the immorality and anti-social nature of Christianity and for a long time kept it out of China on those grounds. The tradition portrait of Confucius shows him a nordic. There is no more the German selection may be intended to conciliate his German audience, but also reflects his new totalitarian tastes. See his next sentence. On Pound at the Venice Biennale, see Bacigalupo, “Pound’s Artistic Thinking and Relations in Italy,” 399–407. 11  A reference to Piero della Francesca, born c.1416 in Borgo San Sepolcro, who wrote technical treatises such as De prospectiva pingendi. Pound mentions him in 8/28 (“Maestro di pentore”), 45/ 230 (“Pier della Francesca”), and Guide to Kulchur, Chapter 23 (“Pietro di Borgo”). 12  The original reads: “terminology, the overflowing …”


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos reason to doubt the authenticity of the portrait than to doubt the stone heads of the Caesars. Chinese ethics from the 40th parallel; Athens 38th; Rome 42nd. The whole of romance, mediaeval legend, Venusberg, Tristan is ineradicably OF belief. As are feasts of planting and harvest and feasts of the turn of the sun. Say Aphrodite, Adonis, Helios. We need a much more careful analysis of the Dionysus cult before we decide what parts of it are valid. It is ridiculous to say that Europe is naturally without religion. That statement has been used tendentiously by the paudifiers,13 by the schizophrenics and by those who from questionable motives have wished to weaken all Europe. All this malthusianism, corpseworship, anti-fecundity, ghost-worship is suspect (or considerably more than [suspect]), fecal analysis, anal psychology. One may, and many good men have, wished to do honor to the intellectual (vide definition in my opening paragraph) structure built up by the Roman Church from the time of St. Ambrose down to the renaissance. Let us affirm again that the valid parts of this thought are Roman, with possibly a touch of the hellenic. Botticelli is indubitably European, 100% European. The Quattrocento is the most European century in our record. We must reinspect Leo Frobenius’ graphs.14 How far south of the 38th parallel can we go without great alertness and unsleeping suspicion of every belief, every idea, every ceremonial gesture or every form-characteristic.

13  Sic. F offers the correction “pacifiers.” 14  For examples of these “graphs,” see Fox’s series, “Frobenius’ Paideuma” (1936), which may have been undertaken at Pound’s instigation. Here there are no references to parallels or latitude, but distinctions between solar and lunar societies, and the four “Paideumatic Stages of the High Cultures”: High Mythology (Creative Childhood), High Religion (Youth), High Philosophy (Maturity), Materialism (Old Age) (New English Weekly [October 15, 1936], 17). Fox’s opening summary reads as follows: “Frobenius created a new definition of culture or, better, a new conception of it which may be defined, roughly, as follows: 1. Culture is an independent organism. 2. Man is not its subject, but rather its object or bearer. Man does not produce culture. Culture permeates man. 3. Culture is bi-polar. Its enhancements are born of the exchange of force between two diametrically opposed life streams” ([September 3, 1936], 329).

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


We can NOT permit short nobbly curves. It is measure vs/ bigotry and fanaticism. Not for nothing is one of our reviews called Gerarchia, hierarchy.15 Along with Frobenius’ study I offer my own notes on “Mediaevalism” in my Cavalcanti and my “Ethics of Mencius” (Criterion, July 1938). I should like to see my Guide to Kulchur in a German translation, however chopped and allusive, and to a systematic mind, I suppose, very unsatisfactory, that little volume may prove. Fighting on several fronts, and of necessity extremely unpopular with a press controlled by usurers and a book trade swamped by the press, I have not an unlimited supply of printer’s time at my disposal. I have to get down the essentials when some publisher has the rashness to charter me. The live thinker must put in the mortar and connecting bits for himself. I want, badly, german correspondents and answers. I want suggestions and additions. I am aware of the fragmentary state of my own knowledge. But I had, at least, the grace to entitle a series of notes back in 1910 “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris.” In the struggle to present or boot-leg the results of Frobenius’ life work into America and Western Europe I think it would be useful for someone in the Forschungsinstitut to gather into a 200-page volume (roman type)16 a brief list of the distinctly EUROPEAN beliefs encountered in the total mass of Frobenius’ writings. Better, of course, if there could be an english translation. That wd/ be one book. Another volume cd/ be usefully composed in analysis of the falsification and distortion of European belief. Vulcan into Thor, or not. Vulcan provided with a tail and made part of a semitic mythology, or not? In all this one shd/ not slight the European factors in Christianity. The sea-board shrines to the Madonna delle Grazie are NOT oriental.17 These have most emphatically NOT come from Palestine.

15  Official Fascist monthly (Milan, 1922–43), nominally edited by Benito Mussolini. 16  Pound often complained about German books and even newspapers being printed in Gothic script, which was still often the case until World War II. 17  “Sailor shrines at points commanding a view of the sea, for instance that on Monte Allegro on the limestone heights above Rapallo. The shrines are filled with


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos There is no need of going “hay-wire” and seeing pink mice. The madonna of the Italian peasant is to my knowledge a LOCAL (raumlich) divinity. It is their madonna, present in a given ambience. We need a wholly new and far more rigorous examination of the records of the Bacchic invasion. The toys of Bacchus were found in feast at Auxerre, I think the feast of Corpus, but it may have been Holy Week.18 But this is not enough for us to go on. There is that ambiguous borderline along the 38th parallel. At the date of the dionysic invasion there is no reason to suppose the cult itself wasn’t already a melange.

[The essay in its original form (six pages) ends here. Pound added the following comments to Fox.] Private Postscript Dear D.C.F.  I think you told me Klages19 was not serious character??? However, I should like to look into that. I should like for some Eng/ or U.S. mag/ a note of german neo-pagans, and attempts to be greek or whatever. even if it is mere back wash of Walter Pater/ tho more likely to be backstillfurtherwash of Goethe’s papa. votive offerings of ship models and pictures of shipwrecks from which the votators have been saved. ‘Hang me bells in Venus’ shrine.’”—footnote in F, based on information provided by Pound (see below). For Pound’s use of this motive in his Italian drafts and 106/775, see above, pp. 7–9; also Bacigalupo, “Who Built the Temple,” 54–56, 62 (Plate 1). For a reproduction of a picture or “ex voto” in Montallegro, see Figure 9, showing the Narcissus of Joseph Conrad fame after it was bought by owners in Camogli, Genoa. The little church of the Madonna delle Grazie is on the Via Aurelia between Zoagli to Chiavari, see above, p. 8. 18  Cf. 78/487: “the dancing at Corpus the toys in the service at Auxerre.” The feast of Corpus Domini, established 1264, is celebrated on the second Thursday after Pentecost or the following Sunday. 19  Ludwig Klages (1872–1956), a psychologist and contemporary of Frobenius, wrote Mensch und Erde (1933) and other speculative works; he is credited with developing scientific graphology, and was favorably looked-upon in Nazi Germany. In 75/470, Klages is mentioned as part of Gerhart Münch’s reading. It is unlikely that Pound ever read him.

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


One damn trouble is that the researchers go hindoo/ of all the damned/ or theosophic/ which is NO bloody use. none of these highfalutin pretenses to know the beyond is any good. parlor paganism/ to be guarded against as are parlor pinks. phrase might be used.                        yrz E.  [In his response of August 9, 1939, Fox asked Pound to provide “one more paragraph … for conclusion.” Pound obliged as follows.] Again I assert that there is one disease which one can stigmatize as utterly unEuropean. The European does NOT get hold of an idiotic text, proclaim it infallible or authoritative and then proceed to explain it, to give it meanings extraneous to its verbal formulation, and worship it. This plague and infection is from the near east. As I understand it the European nature is to act, observe and believe. (In this order of processes.) An attempt to superimpose a nonsensical verbal formulation on his good sense brings the sort of comment that John Hargrave20 has made on T. S. Eliot’s Anglo-Catholicism: “lots of dead cod about a dead god.” Hargrave being I think at least as religious a man as Mr. Eliot. Instead of calling the European non-religious one would do better to say that he backs his instinct against an obviously tricky or foolish text. Searching for truth he sees no reason to ham-string himself with a formula which may or may not have been constructed in the course of honest search for a difficult verity.

20  John Gordon Hargrave (1894–1982), leader of Social Credit Party and Green Shirts of England, author of Summer Time Ends (1935) and other novels and pamphlets.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Fox Edits Pound Pound drafted “European Paideuma” in Rapallo in August 1939, when, having recently returned from the United States, he was sorting out elements to be used in the later Cantos, and thinking about the respective merits of Western and Eastern religions. This makes it particularly revealing for readers of his poetry, it being one of his most extended statement on religion after Guide to Kulchur. (He was to return to the subject, in Italian, in the Meridiano di Roma articles and especially in Carta da visita.)5 As we have seen, Pound sent “European Paideuma” to Douglas C. Fox in Frankfurt, asking him to place it “anywhere in Germany where it will get serious attention—better translated into German I think.” Fox, according to Charles Norman who interviewed him for his biography Ezra Pound and quoted from Pound’s letters to him, was “a young and personable American, Frobenius’s assistant,” and had spent time with Pound and James Laughlin at the Salzburg Festival in summer 1935. Fox told Norman that since Pound often wrote to Frankfurt for information on anthropological subjects and nobody could decipher his letters, I, as the only American there, was made special correspondent for Pound. Sometimes I did not get what E.P. was driving at either … But, we communicated, and Pound apparently got the feeling that here was someone who understood. I was not so certain.6 So “European Paideuma” was dashed off as part of a letter to Fox with the barest introductory remarks. Fox replied promptly on August 9, in neat longhand, agreeing to translate the essay and submit it to the prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He said that he had already written to the editor of Germany and You—a propaganda journal published in English—suggesting that he print the English version. Fox was losing no time. He was the kind of correspondent that Pound got only too rarely—a knowledgeable person who was curious and friendly enough to try to find out what Pound was thinking, without either dismissing his statements offhand or taking them as unquestionable verities. Consequently, what was already an unusually intriguing piece of writing by Pound, treating of the kind of material he wanted for his poetry, found an unusually attentive reader. In his courteous response, Fox risked Pound’s wrath by

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


querying a number of typically obscure and portentous allusions in the original draft, and asking him to expand them for the benefit of German readers:    FORSCHUNGSINSTITUT FÜR KULTURMORPHOLOGIE         Frankfurt A.M., den 9.8.39         Stiftstrasse 30 Dear Mr. Pound:      Thank you for your letter. I’ll translate it and try to get it into the Frankfurter Zeitung, which is the best paper published in this country. If I have no luck I’ll do my best to dispose of it elsewhere. Have written the editor of Germany and You for suggestions and have also suggested that he publish the English version. If not, we can send that end of it to Duncan.7 As you know, the Germans are sticklers for thoroughness and they like to know details—particularly if said details “humanize” a given subject. I’m too ignorant to fill them in and so I’m going to trouble you with a lot of questions. 1. What is the crying “Ligo” and why does it yowl? 2. Adonis, I gather, is also a flower. Is it brought to church as an offering? to have the seeds blessed? to promote fertility? as a testament to beauty? etc. 3. Cocoons. Damned interesting. Do the women bring them every Sunday or any Sunday? What is behind it (apparently)? Is the system widespread? Where? 4. I had thought Scotus was a writer, not a work. Is the S. Erigena one of his works? Date? (circa) (Sorry to ask dam questions, but it cannot be helped.) 5. “Some students as L. Valli, for example, have intellectualized too far etc.” A quotation from Valli or one of the others illustrating how they intellectualized too far would help. 6. For Nazis and myself not properly acquainted with the amour courtois of Provence the “Man in the Panther Skin” needs amplification. 7. “Valid as distinct from invalid Arabian elements.” Examples of both. 8. “What the Arabs carried from Greece” Mathematics? 9. Names of researchers who have turned to Buddhism, corpse worship, etc.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos 10. Quote from Swinburne illustrating belief. 11. Why was the German pavillion in Venice the best? 12. “The intellectual elements are admittedly Plato and Aristotle etc.” One or two sentences of amplification. 13. “The whole of romance etc. is of belief.” A bit of amplification. 14. “Feasts of planting and harvest etc.” This I can amplify if you care to have me do so. 15. Madonna delle Grazie. Very good. Short description of the peasants’ attitude to the Madonna would make it still better. 16. What are the records of the Bacchic invasion? Archaeological and literary? Would it be possible to give sources, to say in what way they were examined and in what way they should be examined? “Date of the dionysic invasion” (circa?) Are not Dionysus and Bacchus two very different conceptions? 17. One more paragraph needed for conclusion. “The European believes that” etc., or “bases his belief on” etc. A positive note in closing. What the European does not do has been very well said. Now a strong word about what he does and will do should round the thing off properly. Or so it seems to me. I hope you will have patience with my questions. It is clear that you will probably have to thumb your notes a bit to answer some of them—and that means work. But the article, which I like very much, will be all the better for it. And the more scholarly an interpretation is—provided it has the life which is inseparable from your work— the easier it is (in this country) to get it printed. I’m looking forward to translating it and hope to be able to do it justice. When you have the time I’d like to hear some of your impressions of America and how it goes with Cummings, Laughlin, Iris Barry and others. Please give my regards to Mrs. Pound. With all good wishes,       Sincerely yours,          Douglas C.  Fox.

Pound obliged at least in part and sent Fox a few additional comments for a conclusion (see above), in which, however, he characteristically insisted again on what the European does not do, this time choosing the worship of texts (such as the Bible) as something negative and peculiarly non-European.

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


In this he was picking up his old complaints about “the slough of philology” and “the archaeological or ‘scholarly’ mind” (SR, 7), besides attempting to define once again the biblical or Jewish “plague and infection.” Pound’s protest against the canonization and worship of a text is interesting in the light of readings of the Jewish tradition as “text-centered.” On the other hand, there is a dramatic irony in Pound’s statement, for it could be argued that The Cantos are based precisely on a sort of worship of texts, regardless of their “verbal formulation”—for Pound is always quoting his authorities which are supposed to carry conviction just by being named. Furthermore, The Cantos, often portentous in tone, are addressed to readers who are ready to take them as a kind of sacred text, and not to look too closely at their inconsistencies and half-truths. What matters (so far as the poet is concerned) is that they are song (canto), word, text, ideograph. Pound kept a carbon copy of this additional passage, but not of the message in which he answered a few of Fox’s queries. However, as we have seen, Fox prepared an edited version of “European Paideuma,” adding some footnotes and bits of information provided by Pound. These refer to Fox’s queries 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 17. I have incorporated the additional information, as redacted by Fox, in the version of “European Paideuma” printed above, with the exception of the amplification of the reference to Erigena. Fox’s version reads: “For it must have been fear that prompted it [the Church], in 1208, a century or so after the man’s death, to exhume the bones of Scotus Erigenia [sic] and to damn him as an unbeliever. Scotus’ crime had been his intelligence. For he had said …” Some of the wording is doubtless Pound’s, but his readers will be unlikely to misunderstand “the long buried Scotus Erigena” as a work rather than a writer, as Fox did.8 On the whole, Fox’s edited version is less effective than Pound’s original draft. Fox tried to bring some logic to the argument, rearranged the paragraphs, omitted or toned down racy and objectionable passages, and provided a more cautious and scholarly veneer, thereby losing the liveliness which, as he well saw, was the essence of Pound’s appeal. The edited version is only of interest for what it tells us of the extra information that Fox was able to elicit from Pound. Both versions remained unpublished: Hitler invaded Poland within a few weeks of the exchange, and Fox returned to New York to be eventually drafted, thus ceasing to function as Pound’s unlikely contact with Germany. Pound reminded Fox of his paper in a subsequent letter to the United States:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Whether the F/Zeitung now wants your translation of my remarks on European Paideuma I don’t know. I keep chewing on that. Wheat god. In fact now that I have about finished with economics mebbe some sucker will putt up something for a less COMprehensible subject, namely religion taken sul serio, not Mr. Eliot’s pale Galilean rubbish.9

He was continuing to think about religion in connection with The Cantos, not foreseeing that he would soon be caught up in the turmoil of a world war. Later he appears to have lost interest in “European Paideuma,” written as it was for a German audience at a very particular time, and I have found no record of further contacts with Douglas Fox.10 Yet Pound’s notes and his additional explanations relating to Adonis, the cocoons of the Zoagli silk-weavers, and the Madonna delle Grazie, are a godsend for all readers of The Cantos, for they are very much at the center of that poem’s idea of the numinous and of its “sagetrieb”:11 the respect for vegetal powers and the worship of the motherly and compassionate goddess of all seafarers—the “venerandam” of Canto 1 and the “EUPLOIA” of Canto 106, associated with seashells and nautiluses as in Canto 80, reappearing elsewhere in the guise of Leucothea or Isis-Kuanon. From Cyprus to Montallegro to Zephyrium to Torcello—Pound’s Ulysses has worshipped her at many shrines across the Mediterranean, and beyond. “At Miwo the moon’s axe is renewed…” (106/775). Pound the Rapallo anthropologist and the worshipper in the little churches like San Pantaleo and the Madonna delle Grazie is one of the more likable of the poet’s many personae. And The Cantos are a periplus but also a prayer, an address to the Lady: “M’elevasti” (90/626), “compassion” (93/648). Pound’s epic is in fact a sort of ex-voto and could easily be placed near the naive paintings of happy rescues in one of those “seaboard shrines.”

Postscript: The Missing Letter Since the above pages were written, I have been able to locate the letter in which Pound answered as thoroughly as he could the questions raised by Fox. I was helped by Melissa Fox and by Ron Bush, who kindly provided a copy of this missing link in the post-production history of Pound’s unpublished essay. As with Poe’s purloined letter, the Fox–Pound correspondence was hidden

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


in plain sight, for it is housed in the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. Pound answered Fox’s queries in longhand, from Siena, and this explains why there was no carbon of the letter in the files acquired by the Beinecke. Pound’s answers can be usefully compared with the footnotes and additions Fox introduced in his edited version, as quoted in the above text and commentary. So here is Pound writing probably in August 1939 from Siena, where Olga Rudge was employed as a collaborator of Count Chigi, and a “Vivaldi Week” was in preparation (from September 16 to 21):              fermo posta Siena as from Rapallo Dear Fox, I have no notes and don’t travel with typewriter. 1. “Sligo” cry used in Lithuania & Riga etc. sun festival. have no idea of its meaning. “Evoe, Viva, Eljen” or whatever. 2. Adonis. Venus’ boy friend. gardens of Adonis—the shoots (grass etc.) prematurely forced—putt seeds on wet flannel & they sprout before due time—and are part of easter decorations in Rapallo churches—same process used in some Egyptian tombs—corpse found (I have read not seen) (Vide my Nicoptis poem—Akr Çaar)12 surrounded by grass shoots that took mould of body [sketch:] mummy / grass. 3. cuccoons. possibly reminiscent of Chinese empress function in ceremonies—anyhow brought to church concealed. mustn’t be seen. once a year—easter week = = never heard of it save in Rapallo—as secret—not publicly advertised. 4. Scotus Erigenia—Scotty from Oireland. (to distinguish from Duns Scotus = corpse (Erigena’s) dug up during albigensian crusades. 1208. couple of centuries post mortem—& condemned.). one of few gt theologians who was laic not priest—vide Fr. Fiorentino Storia della filosofia = These refs. I have not in suitcase. 5. L. Valli. “Linguaggio segreto di Dante” etc. Valli died about ten years ago. 6. Love code of troubadours found in Georgian epic Man in panther skin. contemporary (don’t know why date 1232 comes to mind— better not use it—say contemporary with Troubadours 12th century etc.—shows Raumlich extent of lady service. 7. illegible word. ?arabian. Avicenna mostly OK. see my Cavalcanti.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos 8. Arabs took gk philosophy—some of it = at any rate I imply what is good may be European. @ any rate “good for us” 9. all Bhuddism & Xtianity crucifix. ghosts—all the characteristics— in general—no need of researchers—the known nature of Xtianity etc.—generic term—corpse and ghost worship. 10. Swinburne—Ballad of Life & Julian apostate poem. 11. enough—cant write whole new essay on a mediocre show that was better than surrounding stink. enough that I take on all the [?] art lice of the whole art trade with a statement no one else outside germany dare make. 12.13.14. enough. 15. Madonna delle Grazie. sailors shrines by sea coast usually on cliff or promontory—votive offerings of ship models & pictures of shipwrecks from which votators have been saved = hang me Balls in Venus shrine etc. not peasant—sailor shrines. 16. I state need of entire reexamination of Dionysus cult—with regard to source. & dif. elements—It came after the general gk. religion. Zeus. Apol. etc. Bacchus may touch Gambrinus—what I want is division of europic—nordic—from possible taints. (This for you—& not to go into article.) 17. European believes (if at all) what I have stated. = sun & seed worship = generation. not death. But I am not defining (i.e. using a stinking generality). I am demanding examination—ref. Mediterranean sanity in my Cavalcanti mediaevalism. = don’t want article weakened by a definition that can be attacked = article NOT for Townsman—not for Eng. or American public at all.   EP Better use these notes as editor’s not as author’s notes—my statement is “We want” not “This is.”

This communication adds to our understanding of the context and associations Pound had in mind for some of his central images of worship and resistance. Thus, the recurrent “wheat shoots by the altar” (47/237) or Gardens of Adonis remind him of Egypt as revisited in an early poem (point 2), and the silk cocoons secretly brought to the Rapallo churches are associated with a Chinese empress (point 3). Hence: “Hulled rice and silk at easter

Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”


/ (with the bachi held under their aprons / From T’ang’s time until now)” (85/565). Point 4 confirms that a misreading of Francesco Fiorentino’s chapter on Erigena is the source of Pound’s belief that the “Oirishman” (presented as such in PC, 80–81) was bodily exhumed by his posthumous indicters,13 and his work condemned (this is true) at the time of another crusade against enlightenment and Eleusis, the persecution of the Albigensians, one of the red threads of the Cantos. Point 6 clarifies the allusion to The Man with the Panther Skin as connected with troubadour love poetry, which in turn is always linked by Pound with the Albigensians. Point 11 interestingly qualifies Pound’s approval of the German exhibit at the 1938 Biennale (“a mediocre show”), a praise due in part to his wish to please German readers but chiefly to his wholesale rejection of the commercialism of the art market. We also see that he finds that some of his comments (points 12, 13, 14) do not need amplification (“enough”). On the Madonna delle Grazie (point 15), Fox’s footnote is faithful to Pound’s important comment on ex voto paintings of endangered ships. (Fox added independently the reference to the Virgin shrine at Montallegro—perhaps he visited it in Rapallo, as did Pound, Hemingway and Bunting.) However, Fox gets Pound’s quotation (or invented line) about Venus amusingly wrong. It is not “Hang me bells in Venus’ shrine—but “Hang me balls in Venus’ shrine”—which phrase really may be said to sum up the religious (often raucous) eroticism of The Cantos.14 There is of course a darker side to Pound’s anthropology on the eve of World War II—his attempt to provide a geographical, cultural, and racial basis for a religion free from “taints,” and his obsession with health, sanity, infection, contagion, and the “purgation” to be undertaken by Germany (“the Italians are too easy going”!). Here he is misguided to say the least, but “European Paideuma” shows him in the process of trying to clarify his ideas, and willing to take correction. “But I am not defining (i.e. using a stinking generality). I am demanding examination …” His final summary of “European” belief is “sun & seed worship … generation. not death.” Essentially, the life force. This may or may not be the essence of all religion. It is surely what Pound proceeds to celebrate in the ceremonial passages of the Pisan and later Cantos: so shd/ be fire in winter with fig wood, with cedar, and pine burrs   O Lynx keep watch on my fire. (79/509)

“I hope to see again your biblical beard.”—Ezra Pound to Enrico Pea, July 1941. 11. Moses Levy, Portrait of Enrico Pea, 1935.


Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


nrico Pea (1881–1958) was a notable Italian writer, born in Tuscany, who devoted his poetic fiction to village life as he had known it and to memories of his adventurous youth, when he sold marble in Alexandria, Egypt, and made of his “red cabin” (baracca rossa) a Socialist or Anarchist meeting point, frequented among others by Giuseppe Ungaretti. He lived in Viareggio, about a hundred miles south of Rapallo along the Italian West coast, and Ezra Pound met him there on September 12, 1941 and in August and September 1942. Pound had become interested in Pea’s novella Moscardino (1922) and wrote Pea out of the blue in June 1941 asking permission to translate it: Distinguished Colleague, If you have made no better deal, I ask your permission to translate “Moscardino” in English. I’m nearly convinced of the impossibility of finding a publisher in England or the USA, but I’m interested in the book and I’m willing to make an attempt. The question of logistics seems to me purely academic, nonetheless I’d like to know yr. feelings on the subject. I do not foresee a lucrative bargain, for author or translator. HowEver! At least, please accept the expression etc. I didn’t know that the art of fiction in Italy had attained such a level… yours most cordially              E.  Pound 145


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos In general I have always been of the opinion that profits, if any, must go approximately ¾ to the author and ¼ to the translator.1

Pound knew little about contemporary Italian fiction; for example, he never read Italo Svevo’s novels, touted by James Joyce, or if he did was repelled by their psychoanalytic themes and urban setting. He took a liking to Moscardino because more than a novella it is a series of intense primitivistic vignettes, concise and often elliptic, not unlike some of his Cantos. He praised Pea in one of his Rome broadcasts (October 26, 1941), and in his Italian pamphlet of 1942, Carta da visita. He drafted his translation even before meeting Pea, whom he then questioned in person about the points he was not sure of. In fact, Pea is a writer steeped in topicality, who uses words of his native Tuscan dialect. Gianfranco Contini, one of Italy’s most eminent linguists, and an admirer of Pea, even compiled a dictionary of Moscardino. But if we consult Pound’s first draft and subsequent fair copy we are confronted with what looks like poetry notes: words and phrases scattered about the page with irregular spacings, and no sense that this is a prose text arranged in short paragraphs, with a blank between short sections, and three major though unnumbered parts, each beginning on a new page. Pound ignores the typographical arrangement and structure of the original and transforms it into his own stream-of-writing. When he made his fair copy, he probably didn’t doublecheck the Italian, and in fact the fair copy is not much more orderly than the first draft. Pound’s Moscardino was published in 1955 by James Laughlin in his annual New Directions in Prose and Poetry, with a friendly note of thanks by Pea himself. It was reprinted in 1956 in Italy in a pamphlet produced by Vanni Scheiwiller. Only in 2005 did it appear as a separate volume in the United States under the imprint of Archipelago Books (Brooklyn, NY), with on the cover a fine portrait, Petit Paysan, by Amedeo Modigliani, another artist from Tuscany. This was appropriate because, as Pea explained to Pound, Moscardino “is also the name of a fish [a small squid], but, said of a person, means: smart urchin, little scoundrel, scamp” (L/PP, 39). Pound followed this tip and titled his translation in typescript “Buck,” and refers to the autobiographical protagonist as Buck in the later part of the story (where he first appears). But again, in the characteristic confusion surrounding everything that Pound did, the translation was published in English as Moscardino, with no explanation of the title, so that the reader may well wonder who the Buck mentioned in

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


the narrative is. On the other hand, Pea is a somewhat Faulknerian narrator (without Faulkner’s wordiness) who “never explains” but presents short scenes without comment leaving the reader to make out the connections. This way of seeing the world in discrete fragments obviously appealed to Pound. Besides, Pea’s characters are types, grotesque examples of backwardness, with generic names (Grumpy, the Abbé), larger than life, hateful and yet fascinating in their monomania, which is also true of the villains and heroes of The Cantos. Pea’s narrative is animated by the earthy eroticism of the peasant women who come to the decayed house of Moscardino’s forebears to help and arouse and provoke the men to lust, jealousy, and violence. This again is in accord with the heavily stressed eroticism of Pound’s poetry, especially in its middle period. Pea is also a brilliant observer of natural phenomena, and a gifted writer of prose poetry, which would appeal to Pound’s naturalism. It is easy to see why Pound thought so highly of a writer who, though doubtless significant, was never widely known, but rather admired for his incisive style by poets like Montale and Ungaretti, the contenders for poetic preeminence before and after the war, with Montale perhaps coming out at the end as the winner, though Ungaretti, the author of a few major books of verse, was also the more likeable, extroverted, and Poundian personality of the two. (He also, unlike Montale, was not an opponent of Fascism between the wars—in fact, Mussolini wrote the preface to one of Ungaretti’s first and best books.) Pound’s Moscardino has E.P.’s characteristic vigor. It is a labor of love, conducted with the passion and skill that Pound brings to his translations or imitations. On the other hand, the sheer number of misreadings in his version of Moscardino (which I will refer to as MZ for short) is staggering and reveals that his knowledge of Italian was largely inadequate. Either he could not see the words on the page, or he just didn’t care what the original text said as long as he thought he had got it right. He always believed that it was the general impression that counts (see his comments to Izzo about his indifference to syntax), and in this light MZ does provide a fair notion of Pea’s subjects and style. But we would err if we took it as accurately reflecting the actions and events described by Pea. To do this one would have to prepare a new translation, or perhaps go over Pound’s text and correct at least the grosser misreadings and reinsert the most significant of the original spacings (like the novella’s three-part division). Clearly, when MZ was finally published fourteen years after having been drafted, Pound, now 70, did not


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

bother to check it against the original, and perhaps he wouldn’t have minded if somebody had done it for him. I don’t mean to suggest that such a corrected version should supplant MZ, but it could supplement it to give the reader a better understanding of Pea’s original. A minor source of confusion in MZ is that Pound mostly omits the original’s quotation marks when reporting direct discourse. Here’s an example. The subject is the grandfather’s mad passion for the peasant maid: Adesso mio nonno era preso da folle passione, e Cleofe non poteva più sopportare i suoi occhi senza cambiare colore. “Cleofe, mi vuoi bene?” Per quella notte non vi furono altre parole nella casa. (M, 14)2 Literally rendered, this means: Now my grandfather was taken by wild passion, and Cleofe couldn’t bear his eyes without changing color. “Cleofe, do you love me?” That night there were no further words in the house. The grandfather’s question is preceded by a space, like a curtain rising over a short dramatic exchange. In MZ, the question follows without line break (and without quotation marks) the reference to the wild passion: Then my grandfather was taken with a mad passion and Cleofe could no longer meet his eyes without changing colour. Cleofe do you like me? Nothing was said for the rest of that night, in that house. (MZ, 8) In this way the exchange loses in dramatic effectiveness, and the reader is not warned of the passage from narration to presentation of a decisive moment. (Perhaps the silence in the house is allusive to the consummation of the passion, like Francesca’s “that day we read no further” in Dante’s Inferno.) Thus, the translation is assimilated to the Poundian flux, which tends to move from impression to impression, image to image, creating, as Pier Paolo

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


Pasolini once remarked, “the effect that I suppose is produced by the most powerful and wonderful drug.”3 As mentioned above, M is divided in three parts, the first and second dealing largely with the jealousies within the house of Moscardino’s grandfather (who marries the servant Cleofe) and his brothers, the Abbé and Grumpy. The third part finally introduces Moscardino, or Buck, and tells us about his violent childhood: I lived with my gran’dad on Monte di Ripa. My mother worked in the city. My father was dead and I had a brother who had convulsions, who stayed with a woman who looked after him out of charity. That woman was the butcher’s wife and helped in the butcher shop and to kill in the slaughterhouse. On slaughter days she didn’t come home and my brother was alone shut up in the house, and he had convulsions. (MZ, 47) This gives us the tone of M. There are two discrepancies from the original. Pea says, “Mia madre era serva in città,” i.e., she “was a servant in the city,” which is more precise and telling than “worked in the city.” The reader might suppose that she has a secretarial job, rather than working as a servant as is the case. Pea also introduces a new paragraph for the description of the woman who takes care of the sick brother. (Where Pound writes, “That woman …”) On the other hand, Pea does not make a new paragraph to describe the woman’s absence “on the days that the slaughterhouse was open,” as Pea writes. We can see here Pound’s usual tendency to compression. In M, this third part of the narrative begins on a new page. In MZ it is preceded only by a one-line blank, which at least signals a change of scene. However, the division between the first and second part is not even marked by a blank in MZ, because in the previous Scheiwiller edition part one ended at the bottom of the page, and so the break has been overlooked by the typesetter of MZ. So, one of the two main divisions of the narrative is lost because of a typographical accident. A corrected edition of MZ could I suppose reintroduce the original divisions of the text without doing too much violence to Pound’s writing. Of greater importance are the many mistranslations to be found throughout MZ, due to Pound’s superficial knowledge of Italian. He obviously made daily use of it in conversation and could wield it effectively in his


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

own contributions to periodicals; but was far from mastering it. One usually thinks that the idioms that are so troubling to translators are more prevalent in English, but in looking at Pound’s renderings one discovers that they are just as frequent and misleading in Italian. Thus, in Italian one says “un muro guarda un fiume” (“a wall looks upon a river”) not to suggest that the wall is doing any literal looking, but Pound translates this as “wall from where one can watch the river” (MZ, 4). “I beni suoi” is “her goods,” “her property,” but Pound thinks that it has something to do with actual “goodness” and translates: “her good heritage” (MZ, 3). “Poveri vecchi” (poor old men) doesn’t carry any suggestion of real poverty, but only of pitiable elders. For Pound, however, they are “poor men” (MZ, 4) (he forgets about the “old,” which is the most important bit). However, the phrase “the winter sun beating down on the poor men’s bent shoulders” rings a bell. Pound was (unconsciously?) to recall it in the opening line of the Pisan Cantos: “The enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant’s bent shoulders.” This is a line which Enrico Pea would have appreciated, as belonging to the wild primal world of Moscardino. After mentioning the poor old men sitting in front of the church and catching the sun “sulle spalle curve,” Pea begins a new paragraph: “Dico di quei vecchietti, che stanno in fila …” (“I am speaking of those little elders who sit in a row”). Pound does not understand the use and grammar of “dico,” and writes strangely enough: “Be it said that these oldsters were lined up …” (MZ, 4). Pound tends to read his original cursorily and is satisfied with his first impression, often wrong, of the meaning; he seems to have had trouble with his eyesight and his spectacles, because quite often he misreads a word and takes it for a cognate one. For example, the Signora Pellegrina who appears on the novella’s first page goes to morning mass, and the servant has to look after the children during the parents’ absence, and “if they had done any mischief she had to tell them after mass, especially if the children’s mischief was of a delicate character” (se … avevano fatto qualche birbonata, lo doveva dir loro dopo la messa, specie se le birbonate dei figli fossero state di carattere delicato). Pound translates: “If the boys had committed a misdemeanor they were expected to confess after mass, especially if it had been of an embarrassing nature” (MZ, 5). So it is, absurdly, the boys who are supposed to confess their improprieties, rather than the servant who has to keep an eye on them and report. With his scant knowledge of idioms and of everyday usage, Pound is unable to distinguish an uncommon phrase from common parlance, and

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


often is content with guessing at the meaning. This happens with an unusual comment about the maids: “Così le serve in questa casa andavano e venivano con i mestrui addosso” (M, 12). Literally, “In that house, the maids came and went with their period in them,” i.e., they ran away before menstruating, i.e., before a month was out. Pound doesn’t recognize the strange raciness of this statement and translates quite wrongly: “The servants came and left when they got their month’s wages” (MZ, 6). Part of a translator’s skill is the ability to recognize difficulties, and this is lacking in Pound and leads him into error. From his correspondence with Pea we find out which words gave him pause. These are nearly always nouns, like canterale, botro, bàttima, lattíme, on which Pea, with his love of dialect words, provides ample information. Clearly, Pound had trouble in going beyond the purely lexical level, to the more important level of syntax and idioms. il dottore si aggravò così tanto all’improvviso che manco potette essere confessato. (M, 14) [the doctor worsened with such suddenness, that he didn’t even get to make his confession.] The unequivocal implication is that the doctor died suddenly, without making his confession to a priest. It is a very simple sentence, with no unusual terms. Pound completely misunderstands this: the doctor had got suddenly worse, and had almost sent for the confessor. (MZ, 8) Here the poet–translator’s carelessness really goes too far. There is the scene in which the Abbé watches the lovemaking of Moscardino’s grandfather and Cleofe: Don Lorenzo la vide nuda, morta sul letto, bianca bianca … E stette finché la morta si fu riavuta. Malaugurato testimone della procreazione di mia madre. (M, 16) [Don Lorenzo saw her naked, dead on the bed, white, white … And remained still until the dead woman had come back to life. Ill-fated witness to the conception of my mother.]


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Don Lorenzo saw her naked, white, white … The abbé stood there till the dead came to life, ill augured witness of my mother’s procreation. (MZ, 9–10)

In the first sentence Pound omits to translate “dead on the bed,” so that in the next sentence the reader of MZ doesn’t know who this “dead” is (or these dead are)—he’ll probably think of the two lovers after sex. “Ill-augured” for “malaugurato” is also an example of over-literalness. Pea’s meaning is closer to “ill-fated,” but Pound often prefers to use a cognate English word, not realizing how different the meaning can be, or ignoring the difference if aware of it. Cleofe si trovò fra le braccia di mio nonno, similmente all’uccello che va volontario in bocca del serpente incantatore, e non vorrebbe e piange, ma ha perso la memoria e non si ricorda più di aver l’ali. (16) [Cleofe found herself in my grandfather’s arms, like a bird that goes of its own will into the mouth of a hypnotizing snake, and doesn’t want to and weeps, but has lost its memory and doesn’t remember it has wings.] Cleofe found herself in his arms as a bird willingly in the mouth of a serpent, forgetting its possession of wings. Neither wanted to weep nor could help it. (MZ, 10) Here we can see Pound’s general inclination towards condensation, which leads him to omit “my grandfather,” “which goes,” “hypnotizing,” and to render two phrases just with “forgetting its possession.” This is all to the good. But Pound misreads the phrase which he moves to a new sentence, e non vorrebbe e piange, as “Neither wanted to weep nor could help it,” whereas Pea’s bird doesn’t want to be swallowed. Most of Pound’s misreadings belong to the category of false friends, or rather of a literal translation which does not see the metaphorical meaning of a word, as when he speaks of a bed’s “shore” (MZ, 27). In Italian, sponda is in fact a shore, but also the “side” or “end” of a piece of furniture. What follows is a tabulation of various misreadings due to a word-by-word translation, which reproduces the text’s letter rather than its meaning, and does not recognize an idiom or is content with an approximation:

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”) M




E la bocca non aveva più fresca (23)

Her mouth was no longer cool (16)

Here fresca means “laughing,” “clean,” “young,” “fresh”—certainly not “cool.”

voleva darsi ragione (25)

He wanted to feel he was right (17)

darsi ragione in the context means “to think over,” “to find an explanation.”

traluceva quasi la sua her beauty shone bellezza per gioco (25) through as a joke (17)

per gioco is “for play,” “playfully.” To translate gioco as “joke” is itself a Poundian joke.

nano aggomitolato (19)

dwarf leaning there on Aggomitolato is “wound his elbows (12) up,” and has nothing to do with gomito, “elbow.”

con la barella (30)

with the coffin (23)

Quel fiato caldo nel collo (33)

a warm gust of wind on fiato is “breath.” By his neck (27) translating it as “wind” Pound obliterates the allusion to the scene in which Sabina seduces Grumpy at the well.

occhio (33)

ear (27)

In his hurried way, Pound reads occhio (eye) as orecchio.

mosto (33)

beast (27)

He takes mosto (must, grape-juice) for mostro (monster).

la bambina sfrigna (34)

the baby stops whimpering (27)

Pound imagines that since frignare is “to cry,” sfrignare must mean “to stop crying.” It is actually only a variant with the same meaning.

Pound confuses barella (litter) with bara (coffin).


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos M



sballotta la bimba che sfrigna (34)

unwrapped the child which stopped whimpering (27)

Sballottare means “to toss about,” not “to unwrap.” Perhaps Pound associated sballottare with balla (“bale”), thus got the notion of “unwrapping.”

Don Pietro Galanti raffigurava i suoi poveri alle anime del Purgatorio (38)

Don Pietro Galanti considered his poor, saw them as souls in purgatory (31)

Here raffigurare has the unusual meaning of “comparing.” (“Don P.G. likened his poor to the souls …”)

chierichetto (39)

the junior clerk (32)

False friend. A chierichetto is an altar boy. You need Pound’s imagination to associate it with “clerk” and then interpret the diminutive as “junior”!

abbozzava un sorriso (43)

sketching a smile (36)

abbozzare is literally “to sketch,” figuratively “to attempt.” An appropriate translation could be: “She half-smiled.”

Ramaggi curiosi si erano formati nei letti dei fiumi, tra le marmoline di statuario e di bardiglio, e nei bozzi delle strade fonde. (44–45)

curious boughs and branchings were formed in the riverbeds as if half sculptor’s fine marble, half mottle in the rough stone ways gouging the bottom. (37)

Pea is saying that the ice had created strange boughs in the riverbeds, among the various kinds of stone to be found there. Pound takes the kinds of stone as similes for the ice.

[Strange boughs had been formed in the riverbeds, among the white and mottled marble pebbles, and in the holes in the low roads.]

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


On August 10, 1941, Pound had asked for clarification on strade fonde in the passage last quoted, and Pea had explained: “I mean the roads opened between two hills, sometimes in uneven terrain” (L/PP, 43). This was not enough for Pound even to understand the last part of the sentence, which means “in the holes in the low roads/paths.” It is strange that Pound asked for no help with le marmoline, a technical word, and rendered marmoline as “sculptor’s fine marble,” whereas they are marble pebbles in the riverbed. Nor did he ask about bozzi, an unusual term for potholes. M Cleofe avea negli orecchi il brontolìo burrascoso del mare, che il vento porta seco l’inverno (17)



Cleofe had the sea’s tempest in her ears, felt the wind bringing winter now (11)

“Sea’s tempest” is a rather lazy equivalent for “sea’s stormy muttering.” Pound also misunderstands the subordinate clause, and trips over the old-fashioned use of “l’inverno” for “in winter,” and so wholly misses the image of the wind carrying the sea’s noise. This is the sentence that closes the first section of M, which in MZ (2005) is not even separated by a blank from the next scene.

Ed ecco che si sentiva preso da un sentimento grande, che non poteva esprimere che ad occhi chiusi (22)

A great wave of feeling swept over her that she could express only with her eyes closed (14)

In the Italian it is Grumpy, not the maid, who is swept over. M reads preso (masculine), not presa (feminine).

Poi si avviò dietro la tonaca di Don Galanti (28)

Then he fixed Don Galanti’s tunic from behind (21)

The Italian means: “He began walking behind the cassock of Don Galanti.” Pound is quite at sea here.

[Cleofe had in her ears the sea’s stormy muttering, that the wind carries along in winter]

montagne che orlano la mountains that edge conca di Seravezza (35) the horn of Seravezza (28)

Conca is a basin, a valley, not a horn (corno).


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos M



vicino alla campanella (40)

Near the bell tower (33)

Pound confuses campanella (small bell) and campanile (bell tower).

traballare sulla giardiniera (45)

staggering into the wagon (38)

In M, Grumpy is shaking as he sits in the buggy, not as he enters it.

Stava a fianco di Sabina He stood beside Sabina The context indicates that (45) (38) Grumpy is sitting, not standing near Sabina. rosso di pelo (45–46) [red-haired]

red-skinned (38)

Pelo (hair) should not be confused with pelle (skin), but this is what happens in MZ.

gli occhi … come as if they were right to Here “aver ragione” doesn’t avessero avuta ragione strip Sabina stark naked mean “to be right” but “to di spogliare Sabina fino (40) have the right.” alle vergogne (47) [the eyes … as if they had the authority to strip Sabina to her hidden parts] great lake as a bed for Actually, it is the early grande lago per letto di ninfee a stupore di water lilies, amazed at summer that is amazed at un’estate anticipata (49) the soon come summer the lilies, not vice versa. (42) [le lavandaie] sdoppiano in due i lenzuoli dei letti da sposalizio (51) [(the washerwomen) unfold in pairs the sheets of the double beds]

they fold the big double The washerwomen, bed sheets (44) working in pairs (in due), “unfold the sheets of the double-beds.” In MZ they do the opposite.

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”) M Ho sessantunanno, Sabina: credo che il refe della mia vita sia alle ultime dipanate. Si scorge già il bianco sul cariolino di legno. (53)


[They assemble helterskelter the cordage and nets, against the boat, on the side already plugged and calked]


I am seventy-one, Sabina. I think my life is at its last loop. You can already see the white on the top of my wooden poll. (45–46)

In his haste, Pound adds ten years to Don Pietro’s age. The second sentence continues the image of the first: “You can already see the white of the wooden spool” (where the string is running out). MZ changes the image from the spool to Pietro’s head.

The calkers push aside ropes and nets, get astride the boats on the part plugged already and calked (47)

The calkers move the nets close to the side of the boat that has already been calked. A ridosso means “under the side,” “close to,” not “astride” —and anyhow it refers to the cordage, not to the workers.

[I am sixty-one, Sabina: I think the string of my life is in its last loops. You can already see the white of the wooden spool.] Mettono in assetto alla rinfusa i cordami e le reti, a ridosso della barca, dalla parte già sverzata e calafatata (54)


il gobbetto … alimenta the little hunch-back … Fischiare is “to whistle,” il fornello e fischia (54) who tends the fire and not “to blow.” blows (47) Si levò il vestito a scacchi (55)

She took off his checked In the original the suit (MZ 48) drunken woman who finds Moscardino’s baby brother dead takes off her clothes to cover him.

Parlava … concitatamente (56) [He talked hastily]

he talked of … manures This is a funny one. Pound (49) takes concitatamente (quickly, in haste) to refer to concime (manure).


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

We have already considered a few longer sentences that are amply misread. Though fascinated by seascapes, Pound gets into trouble with the following neat sketch: I cercatori d’arselle … con gli ordigni di ferro a staccio come i cercatori d’oro nei fiumi delle fole, silenziosi sceverano, tra la sabbia dello staccio posto fuor d’acqua ogni tanto, i frutti marini: li sciacquano nell’acqua materna, amara, pungente di sale (M, 51)

The men scratching for mussels … with iron pincers stood like the gold hunters in dime novels silently prying off shellfish amid the sieve of sand that the water left alternately dry; sousing in it the motherly water, bitter, pungent with the salt rinsing (MZ, 44)

[The mussel-fishers … with sieve-like iron implements like gold hunters in the rivers of fables, silently extricate, from the sand in the sieve which they now and again take out of the water, the shellfish: they rinse them in the water, motherly, bitter, pungent with salt] MZ doesn’t really present the image of the original—men with sieves that they take out of the water to pick out the shellfish from the sand. “The sieve of sand” is very vague and doesn’t seem to refer to the actual implements. In the last sentence, Pound probably intended to write “sousing it [the shellfish] in … the water.” Which would be correct. As always, he was content with an approximate rendition, and when he looked at the proofs he did not notice that “sousing … water” really makes no sense. If this is so, Pound’s reiterated insistence on precision of language turns out to be wholly theoretical. An “unreciprocated lover of precision,” as Mario Praz once called him,4 he appears to have been essentially unable to transcribe and translate a given text correctly. Just as his vision of the printed page must have been somewhat unfocused, so in his mind words gathered autonomously with little attention to their real context and meaning. He fantasized. A good example, in this same episode of the trip to the sea of Cleofe and the family, is his reading of an isolated sentence:

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


Un mare più chiaro dell’erba verzicante in primavera: sfiorato da un venticello così dolce. (M, 49) [A sea clearer than the grass turning green in spring: caressed by so gentle a wind.] A sea paler than spring grass feathered by so gentle a breeze, petals blown off, deflowered. (MZ, 41) The translation is quite at odds with the original and with common sense, and we catch Pound in the act of adlibbing. The verb sfiorare, “to touch lighty,” he reads etymologically as related to fiore, “flower,” and so introduces first feathers, then petals, and finally with an imaginative leap “deflowered”—a punning translation if you like of “sfiorato,” but with no real basis either in this word or in the context. Let us have fun, appears to be Pound’s motto. And why not? The procedure is similar to the method of Homage to Sextus Propertius, one of Pound’s most significant productions, which presented itself as a reading and interpretation of the Roman poet but was really once again “lots of fun with Sextus Propertius.” A common trait of both works is that Pound rarely departs from the letter of the text—he perverts it and transforms it, but he is always working on textual material. Thus Propertius’s “nocte canes” notoriously becomes “night dogs” (PT, 530) and here “sfiorato” becomes “deflowered.” Likewise, in MZ, interpolations are most rare. Everything is related, though distortedly, to the original. Occasionally, Pound introduces one of his characteristic phrases: for example, “verbal manifestations” (MZ, 34), which he had already used in Mauberley, and which here is meant to translate “motto di uso e ringraziamento” (M, 39), the “customary words and thanks” addressed to the paupers by Don Pietro after Sunday alms. This Poundism, with its two Latinate words, is actually far removed from Pea’s rough Tuscan parlance. In Pound there is a populist and primitivist streak which responds to the primitive world of Pea. But there is also a quest for subtle emotions reserved to the few, even an effete sensibility, as in the (Botticellian?) petals deflowered by the breeze. Pound’s populism is the source of the one actual interpolation in MZ. The maid Cleofe longs for the life she would have lived had she remained a peasant.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos E piangeva a giornate, lamentandosi di non aver latte assai, come le donne del suo paese, che hanno tanto latte che perfino lo fanno poppare agli agnelli. (23–24) [And she cried for whole days, complaining that she didn’t have abundant milk, like the women of her village, who have so much milk that they suckle the lambs.]

Pound misreads a giornate (some days, whole days), as “in the daytime.” Then he is enthralled by the women who nurse the lambs and breaks into an excited aside: She wept in the daytime, lamenting that she had not abundant milk, as have the women of her own village, they have it so that they suckle the lambs. That is abundance. (MZ, 16) Pound’s interpolation recalls the philosophy and language of The Cantos. “This is grain rite,” we are told in Canto 106. And Canto 52, before descending into name-calling, celebrates … the true base of credit, that is the abundance of nature with the whole folk behind it. (52/257) As noted above, naturalism (or even environmentalism) is a common trait of both E.P.s. One passage they discussed at length is the description of the winter season and of the iced-over creeks that occur in the episode of Cleofe’s sickness: Doveva [l’acqua] gorgogliare forte là sotto, perché incespicava alla superficie del ghiaccio ed appariva schiumosa. I rami degli alberi, i cardi, le foglie secche trasportate dai torrenziali, erano rimaste imprigionate dal gelo. Erano rimasti imprigionati, come se dormissero, in un botro d’acqua, degli uccelli. (M, 44) [(The water) must have gurgled loudly down under, because it ­stumbled at the surface of the ice and looked foamy.

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


The tree branches, the thistles, the dry leaves carried by the torrents had remained imprisoned by the freeze. They had remained imprisoned, like birds sleeping in a pool of water.] On August 19, 1941, Pound asked Pea if botro was a “gabbia o piega” (cage or fold—L/PP, 41). Pea explained on August 22: “a cavity [caverna] with standing water, but also a puddle of stagnant water that you can find in a cleft in the earth in flat land or in a wood” (L/PP, 43). Pound was misled by the word caverna (by which Pea meant a cavity) and wrote on September 6 in rather broken Italian: “a licence regarding the metaphor of the botro, i.e., inverted metaphor/ our ‘caves’ are caves with or without water or puddles. Grotto etc. but botro does not exist [in English] so far as I know.”5 Actually, “pool,” “puddle,” “rock-pool,” and “gully” are all rough equivalents of botro, but Pound didn’t understand that this was the word’s simple meaning. He tended to make simple things more complicated and vice versa. Thus, he translated the passage with “licence,” and returning to his original notion of a cage: It must have been gurgling loudly, whirling strongly, because it shot up at the edge of the ice all foamy. The branches, thistles, dry leaves borne along in the torrents had been caught fast in the freeze, imprisoned as if asleep, like birds in a cage of water. (MZ, 37) Pound compacts Pea’s three paragraphs into one and doesn’t quite carry across the image of the branches and leaves stuck under the iced surface. He doesn’t seem to understand that uccelli is the postponed subject of dormissero, and thus writes that the branches and leaves are “imprisoned as if asleep,” not that they look like birds (strangely) sleeping in a pool. As usual, Pound’s improvised translation skips the original syntax but is nonetheless effective. Whereas Pea had only compared the branches to birds, Pound introduces a new element, the cage (suggested by “imprisoned”). The actual meaning of botro, however, is ignored. Yet Pea’s botro stuck in Pound’s mind. On November 16, 1954, he sent from Washington a postcard to Pea telling him in his characteristic peremptory shorthand that he had “naturally” discovered the source of botro in the Greek βόθρος (L/PP, 11)—a common term for “pit,” “hole,” “well.”6 At this time he was preparing for publication Cantos 85–95 (aptly titled Rock-Drill), where we find the following:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos As the water-bug casts a flower on stone   nel botro, One interaction. (87/594)

The image appears to imply a rock pool: while sliding on the surface of the water, the bug projects shadows on the rock bottom, shadows that are flowerlike. Already in March 1941, that is before encountering Pea’s botro, Pound had included this image in an impromptu celebration of spring clearness: “The water-bug’s mittens show on the bright rock below him.”7 He must have seen many such scenes during his hikes on the hills above Rapallo. When the image recurs in the esoteric Canto 91, equally written in 1954, the mittens are also retrieved from the wartime fragment: The water-bug’s mittens           petal the rock beneath, The natrix glides sapphire into the rock-pool. (91/636) These passages provide a good example of Pound’s search for synthesis and concentration. At first the floating bug “shows” on the rock bottom his “mittens” (“very like petals of blossom,” Pound noted), then it “casts a flower,” finally it “petals.” The latter neologism seeks to make us see the lightness of the luminous flower-like halos moving on the stone. (Actually, Pound is following in the footsteps of Dante, both by coining new words like the verb “petal” to describe his naturalistic-visionary experience and in the imagery of water and light.)8 In Canto 91, if only with reference to the natrix, the much-discussed botro (though not cited) finally finds a precise equivalent: “rock-pool.” The image of the water-snake gliding into the pool is obviously and arcanely erotic. Meanwhile another major poet had made use of Pea’s botro in what was to become one of the century’s best-known poems: l’anguilla, torcia, frusta, freccia d’Amore in terra che solo i nostri botri o i disseccati ruscelli pirenaici riconducono a paradisi di fecondazione …9

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


Robert Lowell’s imitation of these lines from Eugenio Montale’s “The Eel” reads: the eel, a whipstock, a Roman candle, love’s arrow on earth, which only in our gullies and fiery, charred streams reaches the paradise of fecundity … Lowell is nearly as free with Montale as Pound was with Pea, making a “Roman candle” out of Montale’s torch, and replacing in the last line the plural paradisi with the singular. Montale is using the migration of the eels to the Sargasso through the arid Ligurian botri as a symbol of mankind’s quest for meaning and love against all odds. This poem has become extraordinarily popular, and over thirty English translations have been published. Botri is nearly always rendered as “gullies,” but also “ditches” (John Montague, Stephen Yenser), “gulches” (William Arrowsmith, Cid Corman, Paul Muldoon), “channels,” “furrows,” “arroyos” …10 That Montale lifted botri from Moscardino is unproven, the word not being so rare in Italian after all, but not unlikely, for in his poems there are other probable borrowings from the solitary Pea. Montale claimed to have drawn Pound’s attention to Moscardino, though Pound himself gave a different account of his discovery, as we shall see in a moment. Pea appears in person in a passage of the Pisan Cantos about the “mahogany counters” he had made, “at L 60 each” for the Anglo-Egyptian Bank of Alexandria.11 Instead, in the later and less personal Cantos what recurs is the connection with botro. In Pound’s writing there is nearly always a word, a slogan, or catch-word that stands for a given person within his personal pantheon. Pea, the eccentric solitary socialist writer-worker, well deserved inclusion within the personal myth of The Cantos, with his “biblical beard,” his many trades, and his gift for friendship. Pound refers to the beard in his letter of June 15, 1941, his third to Pea, which proves that by then he had already read all of Moscardino. The novella’s last section describes as follows the grandfather: Di statura media. Occhio vivo, barba ebrea come la mia, e capegli folti e lucenti come il ferro limato. (M, 56)


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Middle high, live glance, biblical beard like my own, thick hair shining like filed iron. (MZ, 49)

Pound renders barba ebrea (Hebrew beard) as “biblical beard,” as he anticipated in his letter of June 15: I believe Rapallo once was a habit of yours, but in any case I hope to see again your biblical beard—one says “biblical” at this point, or “of the prophet,” but there is no adjective that would go into a comfortable rhythm. (L/PP, 36) Moscardino was first published in 1922, on the insistence of Pea’s friend and neighbor Giacomo Puccini, so after twenty years Pea may not have recognized immediately Pound’s quotation. In his radio speech of October 26, 1941, Pound told his listeners about his first meeting with the “biblical beard” and the origin of his translation. The passage is quoted by Mary de Rachewiltz in her introduction to MZ: So a few weeks ago Monotti sez: ever read Pea’s Moscardino? So I read it, and for the first time in your colloquitor’s life he wuz tempted to TRANSLATE a novel, and did so. Ten years ago I had seen Enrico Pea passin’ along the sea front and Gino [Saviotti] sez: It’s a novelist. Having seen and known POLLEN IDEN, some hundreds, or probably thousands I was not interested in its being a novelist. But the book must be good or I wouldn’t be more convinced of the fact AFTER having translated it, than I was before. Of course, my act was impractical so far as you are concerned. I haven’t the ghost of an idea how I am going to get the manuscript to America or get it published, Pea has never made a cent out of the original. Well neither had Joyce nor Eliot when I started trying to git someone to print ’em. What’s it like? Well if Tom Hardy had been born a lot later, and lived in the hills up back of Lunigiana, which is down along the coast here, and if Hardy hadn’t writ what ole Fordie used to call that “sort of small town paper journalese,” and if a lot of other things, includin’ temperament, had been different, and so forth … that might have been something like Pea’s writin’—which I repeat is good writing— and was back in 1921 when Moscardino was printed. Moscardino is

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


the name of the kid who is tellin’ about his grandpop, a nickname like Buck. As soon as the barriers are down I shall be sendin’ a copy along for the enlightenment of the American public. In the meantime, if anyone wants to learn how to write Italian let ’em read the first chapter of Forastiero or the couple of pages on the bloke who had been twenty years in jail. This is just announcin’ that Italy has a writer, and its some time since I told anybody that ANY country on earth had a writer. Like Confucius, knocked ’round and done all sorts of jobs. Writes like a man who could make a good piece of mahogany furniture. (MZ, xi–xii, cf. EPS 7–8) Furniture like the “mahogany counters” mentioned in Canto 80. Here Pound is in his typical didactic and confidential vein, in a way composing Cantos or his personal myth as he always does. It is not quite clear why Pea’s tales from provincial Italy at the turn of the century should carry so much weight for American readers, who after all could find life in the raw in Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. And why should Pound’s listeners want to learn to write “in Italian” is another mystery. Pound’s comments show his typical assumption of authority. If he says it’s good, then it must be so. On the other hand, in the case of Pea, Pound’s enthusiasm is justified, and quite free of ideological assumptions. Pea was no Joyce or Eliot, to be sure, but a perfectly respectable writer—and a character. The identical initials may have also played a role. Likewise, Pound’s Moscardino, indefensible though it is from the point of view of accuracy and competence, justifies itself as a didactic enterprise. A foreign writer is enamored with the rhythms and images—with the world of Pea—and illustrates it for the benefit of his Anglophone acolytes (who are actually fewer than one may imagine, and he knows it). At this point it doesn’t matter how much he actually understands the details and even whole sentences, as Pea himself reassured him: “What you call ‘small errors’ are not really such if they harmonize in the context” (L/PP, 43). Pound’s Moscardino is an impression, an artist’s copy, of Pea’s novella. The misunderstandings are revealing of Pound’s way of reading. The impression he transmits is on the whole faithful to the world of the man of the biblical beard. Who of course was flattered by the attention of his American colleague and contemporary and on various occasions expressed his gratitude.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

For Pound, Pea was an excellent educational tool, as he reiterated in a magisterial note to Pea of 1950 (in English): One pagan has received with thanks One play (entitled Passione di C) One photo to be used in civilizing barbarian tribes One more pleasant visit from E.P.’s friend A. Mastrangelo (L/PP, 66) The photo was most likely of Pea with his long white beard, perhaps sitting in the Viareggio café where he usually did his writing and socializing, and this was enough to educate the American barbarians (that is, the youngsters who visited Pound at St. Elizabeths). Note that Pound refers to himself as a “pagan” in contrast with the Christian subject of the mystery play Pea sent him (The Passion of Christ). It should be remembered that also in Moscardino Pound responded to a sort of pagan world peopled by racy gods (Cleofe, Sabina, the grandfather) and to an eroticism, now repressed, now turned loose. In the event, the translation of Moscardino that Pound took to Washington after “the barriers were down” (and not in the way he had hoped) did not, as we have seen, make much headway. Pound’s friend James Laughlin printed it only in his annual New Directions, not as a book, while publishing as a volume, with a preface by Hemingway, Elio Vittorini’s Conversations in Sicily, a much more canonical and ideological Italian novel. In fact, Moscardino may fare better than Vittorini’s Conversations in the future. It presents a timeless world—and that’s why Pound liked it. When Moscardino was published in New Directions, Pea wrote Pound that his “bellissima traduzione” had been praised by Renato Poggioli of Harvard, who in those years was an important link between Italian and American writers. (He published a volume of translations of Wallace Stevens—the first in any language.) On several occasions Pea refers to the translation of Il Volto Santo, the second volume of the Moscardino series, that Olga Rudge had prepared as early as 1949. It would be worthwhile to look up this translation in the Beinecke Library,12 revise it if necessary, and print it with MZ. This would also be a collaborative literary venture of Ezra and Olga, and a token of their long-standing association. If such a new edition were to see the light,

Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)


one could also make a few basic corrections to Pound’s text. I do not think that, looking down from his present residence on the slopes of Parnassus, he would resent this, if done with discretion and due consideration of his style. Writing in 1956 from St. Elizabeths, Pound asked Pea for details about the medieval crucifix known in Lucca as Volto Santo (Sacred Face). Pea, who had told the story in the novel Il Volto Santo that Olga had translated, recounted it for Pound’s benefit: He is generous, but peremptory and unprejudiced. He doesn’t like lamentations but actions. On His right foot … there is a golden slipper that He once threw into the face of a Lucca hypocrite who was kneeling and telling all sorts of lies … to get something without effort. Angered, He remembered what He had done as a boy to the merchants of the Temple … but having no whip He stuck out his foot and threw the slipper into the poltroon’s face. “Go to America, you fool!” he cried with the force of a summer thunder-crack. The whole city echoed with these words. And the industrious immediately picked them up, thus beginning the emigration which later made of America another Lucca. (L/PP, 74–75) Unfortunately, Pound never got around to putting this notable story into his Tale of the Tribe—but it is somehow part of it, or part of his personal myth, which he shares with us. In a draft from the St. Elizabeths period, Pound reverts to Pea, inevitably associating him with a certain arcanely luminous rock-pool: indenting the Victorian mind, perhaps as deeply as the bug’s mits      the wet rock beneath him come in un botro, sd/ Pea (pronounced peh-ah, not pea) (PC, 160) Always the instructor, Pound even warns his readers not to mispronounce his friend’s name. He remembers from the passage in Moscardino the beginning of the original simile: “come [se dormissero] in un botro.” It is always the text in its material form that recurs. The passage on the whole denies that ideas and words indent, comparing them to the projected light that moves on the bottom of the pool. On the other hand, Pound’s repetitions are all about indenting the reader’s mind. And sometimes they have the lightness and playfulness of the bug’s mitts.

“The enemy blown to hell, / twenty dead, / The girl also dead / among that rabble, / The prisoners went free.”—Canto 73 12. Walter Molino, illustration for back cover of La Domenica del Corriere, Sunday, October 15, 1944.


“Republican Correspondence”— The Italian Cantos 72 and 73


antos 72 and 73, written in Italian, have been much debated and little understood. Composed in a tragic period, the last months of World War II, they are notable for their restraint, considering the circumstances, and for their unusual straightforwardness, and as experiments by Pound in a language, Italian, which he never mastered but for which he doubtless had a very good ear. This chapter offers an annotated English translation, with commentary, of one of the most characteristic and tantalizing productions of the always unpredictable Pound, who for many years kept his readers in the dark as to the very existence of these Cantos.



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

CANTO LXXII Presenza1 If one begins to remember the shitty war2 Certain facts will resurface. In the beginning,3 God The great aesthete, after creating heaven and earth, After the volcanic sunset, after painting The rock with lichens in Japanese manner, Shat the great usurer Satan-Geryon,4 prototype Of Churchill’s bosses.5 And I am now moved to sing In rough jargon (no Tuscan song, with h for c),6 for

1  The subtitle of Canto 72 refers to the cry “Presente!” (“Here!”) at military and Fascist funerals (when the name of the deceased was called out), and accordingly to the recent death of the combative Marinetti; see below. Pound prepared a rough translation of this Canto in the 1960s; it was included in the 1995 printing of The Cantos. I offer here a more literal translation, but have used occasionally some of Pound’s wording, which is always more concerned with substance than manner (but also skips and mistranslates some lines). 2  The use of strong language was affected by Fascist exponents, among them Mussolini. Hence, possibly the truculence of this opening. To Pound, World War II is despicable because he believes it was forced upon Italy for purely mercenary motives. He was often to insist that Mussolini entered the war, after hesitating for several months, only in order to moderate between Hitler and his antagonists. 3  Pound rewrites Genesis (as he also does, in a more humorous mood, in 28/133). He spoke often of the negative influence of “the Hebrew scriptures,” but was nonetheless deeply influenced by his early admiration and “study” of “the Hebrew prophets” (L/HP, 44). 4  Geryon, a classical monster (killed by Hercules), was resurrected by Dante as a symbol of fraud in Inferno, XVII. See Cantos 49 and 51. 5  That is, of the usurers who make war against the economic freedom of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany by way of their tool Winston Churchill. 6  Tuscan is standard Italian. Pound is asking the reader’s indulgence for his occasionally erratic language and grammar (“rough jargon”). In his own translation (72/425) Pound changes the subject of the phrase: “And there came singing / Filippo Tomaso in rough dialect, with h for c.” In vernacular Tuscan, the hard c (k) is replaced by an aspirate (h). Hence the untranslatable phonetic spelling in the original: “non a (h)antar ’oscano.” Pound reverts to the subject of Tuscan “aitches” (an endless though somewhat

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


After his death Filippo Tomaso7 came to me, saying:   “Alright, I am dead, But I don’t want to go to Paradise, I want to fight some more. I want your body, with which I could continue to fight.”8             And I answered: “My body is already old, Tomaso, And then, where would I go? I need my body myself.

worn source of merriment) in 80/517, à propos of Siena: “‘non è una hontrada è un homplesso’ / explained an expert to an inexpert … where they say hamomila de hampo.” Here again the “h” replaces the “k” sound: a “contrada” is one of the Siena neighborhoods that compete in the race for the Palio. “Camomilla di campo” is plain “camomile from the field.” 7  Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, born 1876 in Alexandria, Egypt, writer and impresario of Futurism (from 1909), elected to the Accademia d’Italia 1929, with Italian troops in Russia 1942–43, died Bellagio, December 2, 1944. Thus Canto 72 must have been written between December 1944 and January 1945, though Pound may have used earlier drafts for the parts not relating to Marinetti, or completed the Canto after lines 9 through 35 were published in the fortnightly Marina Repubblicana for January 15, 1945 (according to Donald Gallup’s dating; see P&P, VIII: 245; my xerox of the relevant page, kindly supplied by Eva Hesse, gives the following information at bottom right: Marina Repubblicana. Giornale dei marinai italiani, anno II – n. 1, 1 Gennaio 1945). A draft of Ezzelino’s speech (“Chi fa giocatolo [sic] della ragione …”) is dated by Pound “3 Jan.” which confirms my dating of Canto 73 between mid-December 1944 and early January 1945. Marinetti usually signed himself “F. T. Marinetti,” and this may explain why Pound thought his middle name was spelled “Tomaso” (with one ‘m’ as in English). 8  Marinetti expressed a similar sentiment in his last prose poem, “Quarto d’ora di poesia della X Mas (musica di sentimenti)”: “I shall not shout goodbye till we meet again in Paradise for up there you would have to obey the infinite most pure love of God whereas now you smart with the desire to command an army of reasoned arguments and so go ahead with the tanks” (“Quarter Hour of Poetry of the Xth MAS,” in Futurism: An Anthology, ed. Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009], 505). The Decima Flottiglia MAS was a corps of loyalist marines, led by Prince Junio Valerio Borghese (1906–74), later an exponent of the Italian Neo-Fascist party, M.S.I. Pound first encountered the theme of preferring life’s struggles and pleasures to paradise in the thirteenth-century French “chantefable” Aucasin et Nicolete, where Aucasin says: “En paradis que j’ai a faire? Je n’i quier entrer, mais que j’aie Nicolete ma tresdouce amie que j’aim tant …” (VI: “I don’t wish to enter Paradise, but to have Nicolete my sweet friend whom I love much”). Pound mistranslates Aucasin’s question in 80/475: “in heaven have I to make?”


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos But I will give you a place in a Canto,9 I’ll let you have your say; But if you want to fight some more, go, get yourself some young fellow, Choose some stupid and faint-hearted greenhorn,10 To give him a bit of courage, to give him some brains, To give Italy another hero among many;11   So you will be reborn, so you’ll become a panther,12 So you will know the twofold birth, and die a second time, You won’t die viejo13 in bed,   rather die in the din of battle To gain Paradise.    You have already undergone Purgatory After the treason, in the days of the Twentyfirst September,14 In the days of the collapse.   Go! Go to become a hero again. Let me speak. Let me explain myself   for I sing the eternal war Between light and mud.   Farewell, Marinetti! Come back to speak to us when you want to.”

9  Pound’s translation (literally “in the Canto”). 10  In the Italian, Pound tries to mix various Italian dialects: Genoese (“Pigiate” for “Pigliati”), Tuscan (“hualche” for “qualche”), and Romagnolo (“ziovanozz” for “giovanotto,” young man). But in fact Tuscans do not use “h for q.” 11  Pound is going out of his way to please his Italian audience. 12  This plays on the “digonos” theme of 48/241, which looks like some kind of werewolf legend (“DIGONOS; lost in the forest; but are then known as leopards / after three years in the forest; they are known as ‘twice-born’”), later picked up in the opening of Canto 74 with reference to Dionysus and Mussolini. See also Pound’s repeated allusions to Rustaveli’s epic, The Man with the Panther Skin (above, pp. 129–30). 13  “Old” in Spanish, but also in approximate Genoese. 14  On September 3, 1943 (twenty-first year of the Fascist calendar), Italian officials signed the armistice of Cassibile with the Allies, who made it public on September 8. This was looked upon as treason by the Germans and by Fascist hardliners. Cf. 80/516: “[The Allies] bought the place from the concierge [King Victor Emanuel III] / who could not deliver.”

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


 “PRESENTE”15 And, after that loud cry, he added sadly: “In many matters I followed empty vanity, I loved show more than wisdom Nor did I know the ancient sages nor ever read A word of Confucius or of Mencius. I sang war, you wanted peace, Both of us blind!   I failed the inward, you failed the present.”16   And he was speaking to me Only in part, nor to his neighbor, A part of him conversed with itself, Not with the center; and his grey shadow Became more grey Until another note of the scale Emerged from the diafan17 of the void cavity:   “The nostrils vomit spirits of flame.” And I:   “Have you come, Torquato Dazzi,18    to make a lullaby of the lines

15  “HERE!” See above, note 1. 16  Pound’s translation: “Both of us blind, me to the inner things / you to the things of today.” (The original rhymes interno/odierno.) This anticipates some statements of regret in the Pisan Cantos. Marinetti is referring to his old advocacy and celebration of war (in the 1909 Futurist manifesto) as “sole hygiene of the world,” and to Pound’s insistence on peace (a motif of the Cantos well into the 1930s). 17  A word from Cavalcanti’s “Donna mi prega,” to which Pound had given much thought. I have used Pound’s spelling in Canto 36. The description of Marinetti’s spirit as a shadow of various tones of gray is reminiscent of the appearance of the souls in Dante’s Paradiso. 18  Manlio Torquato Dazzi (1891–1968), scholar, librarian, and friend of Pound, published an Italian translation of Albertino Mussato’s Ecerinis in his youth (1914), thirty (not twenty) years before Canto 73. The line quoted from Dazzi’s translation refers to the daemonic conception of the protagonist, Ecerinus (Ezzelino da Romano). It may seem strange that Pound should place a living friend (and an anti-Fascist, at that) among the recent and remote dead he encounters in these Cantos and should in the following lines pass judgment both on him and Marinetti. This suggests that here as elsewhere in The Cantos he feels free to introduce the quick as well as the dead in his imaginary


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos You translated twenty years ago to waken Mussato?19 You and Marinetti are two of a pair,   Both loving too much: he the future, You the past. Over-will produces an over-effect Unluckily in excess20 he wished to destroy And now we see more ruin than he wanted.” But the first spirit, impatient As a man who carries urgent news And cannot tolerate less urgent matters, Began again, and I recognized Marinetti’s voice As I had heard it on the Lungotevere, in Piazza Adriana:21   “Go! Go! From Makalle,22 on the far edge of the Gobi, white in the sand, a skull

conversations. On the other hand, Dazzi is here not so much a personal presence as a voice quoting his translation of Mussato, and thus bringing back to life not Mussato but the savage Ezzelino himself. 19  The implication is that to translate an ancient (in this instance Latin) text is to “waken” it to the present, as Pound believed he had done for Propertius. Mussato, from Padua, was a contemporary of Dante, and wrote his tragedy about Ezzelino to warn his fellow-citizens against Cangrande della Scala, the lord of Verona who was to become Dante’s patron. 20  “Purtroppo troppo” in Pound’s original is an attempt at wordplay. The previous line’s repetition is more felicitous (“sovravoler produce sovraeffetto”). Pound alludes to the Futurist program of destruction of all that was old and says that it has now been realized with a vengeance. The Futurists also were given to praising war (see above) and were vociferous in promoting Italy’s intervention in 1915. They lost much of their political and artistic influence by the 1930s. Pound improves the passage in his free version: “Too much eagerness shoots past the mark / He wanted to clear away too much / and now we see more destruction than he wanted.” 21  Marinetti’s Roman address from 1925. The embankments along the Tiber are known as “lungoteveri.” 22  Ethiopian stronghold, surrendered in 1896 by an Italian garrison after a long siege (Italo-Ethiopian War, 1894–96). The defeats of this war (Amba Alagi, Makalle, Adwa) are familiar to Italians and were used in Mussolini’s propaganda leading to the invasion of Ethiopia of 1936. Italian troops, under the command of the Duke of Aosta (see below, note 38), lost Ethiopia to the British in May 1941.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


 SINGS And doe not tire, but sings and sings:   —Alamein! Alamein!23    We shall return!   W E  s h a l l  r e t u r n !—” “I believe so,” I said, And he seemed to have peace from my answer.             But the other spirit returned to his refrain With:   “little less than a bull…”   (which is a line of the Eccerinus24 Translated from the Latin).   He did not finish The line.   For all the air trembled, and all the shadow With a crash And like thunder heavy with rain Darted meaningless phrases. Then with a wrench As in a submarine when the beam strikes it25 Leading perhaps to death   and surely to great pain,

23  Township in Egypt where Erwin Rommel’s German and Italian troops were decisively defeated in November 1942 by Bernard L. Montgomery’s British 8th Army. Pound is suggesting that what the Italians have suffered in Egypt and Ethiopia is only a temporary setback; 93/650 also refers elegiacally to the colonial ambitions of Mussolini’s Italy: “Quarta Sponda / transient as air.” The skull was often used as a Fascist symbol. 24  Mussato’s Senecan tragedy is called Ecerinis; its protagonist’s Latin name is Ecerinus. See above, note 18. The quotation is again from the rape scene in which Ecerinus is conceived. 25  Pound may be thinking of a torpedo. Submarine warfare was much in the news during World War II, and there was talk of a destructive “ray” that the Germans were perfecting. Some of these lines sound strange in translation because of Pound’s efforts to find rhymes and thus give his poem a Dantesque ring (ombra-ingombra, Romagna-bagna, Bologna-vergogna-agogna, distrutta-Ixotta-combutta).


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos I heard a bursting shriek:26   “Guelf slander, their weapon always Was, and is, slander, from far back.27 The ancient war rages in Romagna, Excrement climbs as far as Bologna With rape and fire, and where the horse bathes28 Are Moroccans and other garbage Shameful to mention,   So that the buried dust unlids itself29 Deep down, and stirs, and breathes, And, in order to drive out the stranger, yearns To return to life. I saw lots of dirt in my time, History offers a whole line of dirty examples Of such as betrayed cities or a province,   But that demi-foetus30 Sold all of Italy and the Empire! Rimini is burned, Forlì is destroyed, Who will see again the sepulchre of Gemisthus Who was so wise a man, though Greek?31

26  The original, “Udii in strido crepitar,” is misread in Pound’s translation as “I heard the spirit as if in torture.” He mistook “strido” (yell, shriek) as “spirito.” 27  The Guelf party in Florence was always close to the Pope, while the Ghibellines were pro-Emperor. Ezzelino presents himself as the victim of the Church’s slander. 28  A punning reference (in the style of the Divine Comedy) to Bagnacavallo near Ravenna (mentioned by Dante in Purgatorio, XIV, 114). Ravenna was taken by Allied troops on December 5, 1944, Bologna only on April 21, 1945. 29  “Affasca” appears to be Pound’s coinage. I have used his translation, “unlids itself.” 30  Victor Emmanuel III, king of Italy, a small (hence “foetus”) but determined man, who at age 74 had Mussolini arrested (July 25, 1943), formally ending the Duce’s career as head of the Italian government, and initiated the Armistice of September 1943, thus “selling all of Italy and the Empire.” His small stature is also emphasized by Ernest Hermingway in A Farewell to Arms, Chapter 1. 31  The Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini was hit on January 29, 1944 by an Allied bomb that completely destroyed the building’s apse and roof. Fortunately, much of the sculpture and the arches outside with the sarcophagi of illustrious men were not damaged.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


Fallen are the arches, the walls are blackened Of the divine Ixotta’s mystic bed …”32               “But who are you?” I cried Against the fury of his whirlwind, “Are you Sigismundo?”   But he did not listen to me, In his anger:   “Sooner will the See be cleansed of a Borgia than of a Pacelli.33 Sixtus34 was the son of a usurer  And all their gang Worthy followers of Peter the denier,35 Fattened with usury and excellent contracts! Now they come and groan to You36 that Farinacci

A cutting from the Genoa paper Il Secolo XIX for June 4, 1944, titled “I monumenti che il nemico ci distrugge: Il tempio malatestiano di Rimini” (“Our Monuments that the Enemy Destroys: The Malatesta Temple of Rimini”) was saved by Pound in his copy of Yriarte’s Un condottiere au XV siècle, one of the main sources of the Mala­testa Cantos (Die ausgefallenen Cantos LXXII–LXXIII, ed. Eva Hesse [Zurich: Arche, 1991], 13). For the Neoplatonist Gemisthus Pleto, who is buried in one of the Tempio’s sarcophagi, see the Malatesta Cantos and 83/548. Pound’s preference for the Roman vs. the Greek, for the state vs. the “irresponsible” individual, is strongly suggested by his comment on Gemisthus’s wisdom. 32  The Tempio Malatestiano was among other things a sort of homage by Sigismondo to his mistress Isotta, who is buried in it. Therefore, Pound calls it a “mystic bed.” 33  Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), pope 1492–1503 (30/149); Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), pope 1939–58. The latter has been posthumously arraigned for not doing enough to denounce Hitler and protect Jews; as this passage shows, he was also attacked from the other side. 34  Probably Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere, 1414–84), who was born in Savona, was much involved in politics, and initiated extensive urban renewal in Rome. 35  See Matthew 26:69–75. 36  Pound capitalizes the “Voi” to show his approval of official Fascist usage (which of the two possible courtesy address forms, the third person “lei” and the second person plural “voi,” sought to abolish the former as too servile or “feminine”). Cf. Pound’s endorsement of “voi” in 1939, P&P, VII: 469.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Has rough hands, for he is a leaf-eater.37 He has one rough hand, for he has given the other, Thus obtaining honor among the heroes, Of which there are many: Tellera, Maletti, Miele, de Carolis and Lorenzini, Guido Piacenza, Orsi and Predieri, And Baldassarre, Borsarelli and Volpini, To name only the generals.38 Son of a banker was Clement,39 and born From a usurer was Leo the Tenth …”40

37  Roberto Farinacci (1892–1945), a Fascist hardliner from the beginning. The idiom “mangiare la foglia” (to eat the leaf) means “to catch the meaning at once” (“because he has seen thru the swindle”—Pound’s translation). Pound appears to be saying that Farinacci is denounced by the religious because he has seen through them and other traitors. During World War I, Farinacci lost a hand (see Pound’s reference below), and customarily wore a black glove. He was among the minority who supported Mussolini on the night of his political overthrow (July 24–25, 1943), and was then taken to Hitler’s headquarters to organize the Fascist resistance in Italy. He was executed by Italian partisans. 38  That is: General Giuseppe Tellera (Bologna, 1882–Bengasi, Libya, 1941); Major General Pietro Maletti (Castiglione dello Stiviere, 1880–Alam el Nibeiwa, Libya, 1940); Brigadier General Alighiero Miele (died Bengasi, 1941); BG Ugo De Carolis (Capua, 1887–Russia, 1941); BG Orlando Lorenzini (Guardistallo, 1890–Cheren, Ethiopia 1941); BG Guido Piacenza (Mondovì, 1896–Libya, 1942); General Federico Ferrari Orsi (died Egypt, 1942); BG Alessandro Predieri (Rome, 1891–Bab el Qattara, Egypt, 1942), mistakenly spelled “Pedrieri” in Cantos LXXII & LXXIII (Milan: Scheiwiller, 1983) and subsequent editions, while the correct form appears in the typewritten “edition” of 1973; General Ettore Baldassarre (Trani, 1883–Marsa Matruk, Libya, 1942); BG Giulio Borsarelli di Rifreddo (died Libya, 1941); MG Giovanni Battista Volpini (died 1941 Amba Alagi, Ethiopia, where he was attached to Amedeo Umberto Duke of Aosta, 1898–1942). Information kindly provided by Giuseppe Conti and Niccolò Zapponi, from various sources, including Guido Boselli, I generali dell’esercito italiano caduti nella seconda guerra mondiale, 2nd ed. (Rome, 1949); Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Gli Ufficiali di S.M. caduti in guerra (Rome, 1954). Pound took the list more or less verbatim from a newspaper cutting that I have seen among his papers at the Beinecke. 39  Clement VII Medici (pope 1523–34). 40  Leo X (reigned 1513–21), another Medici pope. His father was Lorenzo de Medici, statesman, poet, and patron. Pound seems to have reconsidered his favorable treatment in 21/98: “And he begat one pope and one son and four daughters, / And an

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


              I cried: “Who are you?” “I am that Ezzelino who would not believe That the world was created by a Jew.41 If I am guilty of other outbreaks   this does not concern you now. I was betrayed by the one your friend translated,42 I mean Mussato, who wrote That I am the Devil’s son, And if you believe such a fib Any carrot will make of you an ass. Beautiful Adonis was killed by a boar So that the fair Cyprian43 would weep. If I made a toy of reason I’d say a bull in the slaughterhouse Or at the zoologist’s, is worth a pigeon; Those who take pleasure and joy in fables Will say that religion doesn’t depend on the animal.44

University, Pisa; (Lauro Medici) / And nearly went broke in his business, / And bought land in Siena and Pisa, / And made peace by his own talk in Naples.” 41  Ezzelino da Romano (1194–1259). Pound may mean that he did not believe in the Old Testament. Dante places him in Hell (Inferno, XII, 110) and has his sister Cunizza (see Cantos 6, 29, etc.) refer to him as “the flame that brought a great attack to the region” (Paradiso, IX, 29–30). He controlled several cities of northern Italy, married a daughter of Frederick II of Sicily, was excommunicated in 1254, and was proverbially cruel, though an able and courageous warrior–statesman. 42  “Mi tradì chi il tuo amico ha tradotto.” Pound’s translation is inaccurate at this point, misreading tradotto as tradito: “was betrayed by the one who betrayed your friend.” 43  Venus is called “Ciprigna” by Dante in Paradiso, VIII, 2. 44  Pound’s translation. This passage is rather obscure, and unintentionally funny. It appears to amount to a defense of fables: Mussato made up the tale that Ezzelino was fathered by Satan, just as Adonis is said to have been killed by a boar. Ezzelino may have been unreasonable as a bull, but a bull is better than a tame pigeon … And in any case the animal metaphor remains a metaphor. Ezzelino’s defense of his occasional violence (see also below) and unreason sounds somewhat like an apology for Pound’s own intermittent loss of control. The poet must have been intrigued by the discovery of another troublesome “Ez” seven centuries back; see Stefano Maria Casella, “Ez & Ez:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos A single falsehood does more ill in this hangman world Than my seizures, all of them! Spider, ugly spider! Get me that wild beast out of its hole, If it isn’t this:   Does the human animal love its fetters? If the emperor ever made that donation45 Byzantium was the mother of confusion, He did it without form and against law, Dividing himself from himself and from the right: Nor did ever Caesar split himself in fragments, Nor was Peter a rock46 before Augustus Summed up all virtues and functions.   Only the owner can give lawfully, And the Florentine knew well what befell the Ghibellines.”47             And as waves coming from several transmitters I heard then The voices mixed, their phrases broken, And many birds singing in counterpoint48 In the summer morning,   among whose twittering

Ezra Pound and Cunizza da Romano: Fragments of an Unfinished Epic Poem,” in Ezra Pound and Poetic Influence, ed. H. M. Dennis (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), 70–87. 45  The Donation of Constantine. Ezzelino may not know what Pound knows, that it is a forgery. 46  See Matthew 16:18. Pound uses the Pietro/pietra pun. 47  The Ghibelline (Imperial) party was defeated in Florence by the Guelf (Church) party around 1250. Dante is often said, somewhat inaccurately, to have been a Ghibelline (like Ezzelino) because of his Imperial ideology. By “il fiorentino,” Pound may mean the people of Florence generally or “the Florentine” Dante. Cf. 95/664: “And over an arch in Vicenza, the stemma, / the coat of arms, stone: ‘Lapo, ghibelline exile.’” 48  Cf. Clement Janequin’s Chanson des Oiseaux, referred to in “Now sun rises in Ram sign” (C, 820), Canto 75, and elsewhere. A similar description in Pound’s letter to Katue Kitasono, February 16, 1941: “Stage, a room on the hill among the olive trees, / the violinist playing the air of Mozart’s 16th violin sonata / Then a finch or some bird that escapes my ornithology tried to counterpoint (all though in key)” (Conover, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, 143).

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


In a suave tone:   “I was Placidia, I slept under the gold,”49 Sounded like the note of a well-tuned string.   “Melancholy of woman and the sweetness…”50            I began But I felt my skin being wrenched Between my shoulders,   and my wrist was taken In so iron-like a noose   that I could not move Neither hand nor shoulder, and seizing my wrist I saw a fist   without forearm That held me fast like a nail in the wall; He who has not experienced this may think me foolish.51 Then the voice that had raged before, Said to me furiously—I say furious, not hostile, In fact it was almost paternal, as one who in battle Tells an inexperienced youth what he must do.   “The will is ancient, but the hand is new. Listen! Listen to me, until I turn back Into the night.                    Where the skull sings The regiments and the banners will return.”52

49  Galla Placidia, whose Ravenna mausoleum haunts The Cantos: “Gold fades in the gloom, / Under the blue-black roof, Placidia’s” (21/98). After Marinetti, Dazzi, and Ezzelino, she is the fourth and most ancient spirit summoned in Canto 72. 50  This line, a hendecasyllabic, is imitative of such famous verses by Dante as “Amor che nella mente mi ragiona,” “Voi che intendendo il terzo ciel movete,” and “Tre donne intorno al cor mi son venute.” 51  Pound’s idiomatic rendering: “This sounds foolish to anyone who has not been thru it” (437). 52  Pound’s translation. Literally, “The soldiers will return, the flags will return.”


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

CANTO LXXIII Cavalcanti—Republican Correspondence1 And then I slept And waking in the black air2 I saw and heard, And the man I saw seemed to be on horseback, And I heard: “It gives me no joy That my race should die          muddied in shame Governed by carrion,        and perjured. Roosevelt, Churchill and Eden        bastards and small Jews Gluttons3 and liars all        and the populace exploited in every way                      and idiotic!4 Since my death in Sarzana5       I await the clarion call            of counterattack.

1  “Corrispondenza Repubblicana” was the name of the official news agency of Mussolini’s R.S.I. (Repubblica Sociale Italiana). The Italian title, in typical Pound fashion, anticipates the conjunction (ideogram?) of thirteenth-century poetry and a contemporary news item. 2  “Aer perso” in the original, from Inferno, V, 89. 3  “Lurchi” in the original is an archaic derogative adjective applied by Dante to Germans in Inferno, XVII, the Brunetto Latini Canto well known to Pound. In the context its use could be called unfortunate, since to an Italian reader it would bring immediately to mind “tedeschi lurchi.” 4  Cf. 74/445: “Fear god and the stupidity of the populace.” 5  Guido Cavalcanti (c.1255–1300) was exiled from Florence to Sarzana in 1300 but died in Florence shortly after returning there. The short lines of Canto 73 play on his intricate rhyme-schemes (especially of “Donna mi prega”), much discussed by Pound in his Cavalcanti essay.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


I am that Guido whom you loved             for my proud spirit And the clarity of my intelligence. Of the Cyprian’s sphere I have known the radiance6     having once ridden7         (never a postilion) Through the streets of the Borgo8      also called The sorrowful city9       (Florence)             always divided, An ill-tempered and light-headed people—                  what a bunch of slaves! I passed through Ariminum10       and met there        a proud spirit Who sang as though enchanted       by joy! She was a young shepherdess11

6  Pound imagines that Cavalcanti upon his death has been admitted to the Heaven of Venus (the Cyprian), the third “sphere” of the Ptolemaic system. 7  As in line 4 of this Canto Pound is playing on Guido’s surname Cavalcanti (“Rider”). “Never a postilion” may mean that he has never been servile. 8  The Borgo is an old part of Florence. 9  A quotation from Inferno, III, 1, where, however, “città dolente” refers to Hell, not to Florence. Pound put on record his dislike of Florence in Guide to Kulchur, Chapter 16: “Firenze the most damned of Italian cities, wherein is no place neither to sit, stand, nor walk. The highest aristocracy have or had one very high club, with it wd. seem no windows … Truly this town cast out its greatest writer, and a curse of discomfort has descended, and lasted six hundred years.” 10  Latin name of Rimini, Italianized in Pound’s text. 11  In one of his poems Cavalcanti tells of meeting “in a wood a little shepherdess” (“In un boschetto trova’ pasturella”), who “sang as if she were in love” (“cantava come fosse ’nnamorata”; cf. Pound’s “cantava, cantava amore”), and gives him her love. Pound has imagined a repetition of Guido’s earlier adventure, this time with the spirit of a modern “pasturella.” Compare also the “pastorella” mentioned in the final lines of Canto 84.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Somewhat stout but beautiful       arm in arm with two Germans And she sang,    sang of love     without need       to go to heaven.12 She had led Canadians      into a mine-field13 Where once was the Temple     of lovely Ixotta.14 They were walking, four or five of them       and I was hungry once again   for love      in spite of my age. Such are the girls           in Romagna.15 Canadians had come        to defeat the Germans,

12  Compare the borrowing from Aucasin et Nicolete in the previous Canto (above, p. 171n 8). 13  The story of the heroic peasant girl from Rimini who, having been raped, leads twenty soldiers from New Zealand (Pound’s Canadians) to their death in a minefield, sacrificing her life for her country, appeared in the Milan Corriere della Sera, Italy’s chief newspaper, on October 1, 1944, and was the subject of one of Walter Molino’s cover illustrations for the popular weekly Domenica del Corriere on October 15 (Giano Accame, Ezra Pound economista. Contro l’usura [Rome: Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, 1995], 131). The episode was apparently made up by a journalist, Ezio Camuncoli, whose son had died in action (Pound–Hesse, Die ausgefallenen Cantos LXXII–LXXIII, 134). 14  Sigismondo’s mistress is a symbol of “factive” love, associated with the courageous modern heroine. As in Canto 72, Pound likes to use the Latin spelling of her name (in Italian, Isotta degli Atti). 15  Romagna was the homeland both of Sigismondo and of Mussolini, hence Pound’s insistence here and in the last lines. Indeed, Emilia and Romagna still enjoy the reputation of being regions where life’s pleasures are enjoyed to the full. See Federico Fellini’s movie Amarcord (1973) for a nostalgic howbeit critical view of Romagna under Fascist rule.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


To ruin what was left        of the city of Rimini; They asked the way        to the Via Emilia              from a girl       a girl who had been raped16 A little earlier by their rabble.   —Well! Well! Soldiers!              This is the way.   Let us go, let us go         to Via Emilia!— She went on with them.          Her brother had dug Holes for the mines,       down there toward the sea. Down to the sea the girl,          a little stout but beautiful, Led the soldiers.          What a fine lass! What a fine young lass! I’d give her a caress17          just for love—               What a heroine! She defied death, She overcame fickle        fortune. A little stocky, not too much,          she accomplished her aim.

16  The fear of rape was used then as always in war propaganda on both sides. But rapes by regular and irregular troops were in fact common; see Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award-winning film Two Women (1960), where the mother and daughter of the title are raped by the Moroccan troops mentioned in Canto 72. See also Iris Origo’s revealing memoir of this period War in Val d’Orcia (1947). 17  The text as published in Marina Repubblicana reads “Le davo un vezzo.” The text in 73/440, reads, less convincingly, “Lei dava un vezzo” (“She gave a trinket”). Pound probably wrote “Lei” but intended a dative.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos                   What splendor!18 The enemy blown to hell,          twenty dead, The girl also dead        among that rabble, The prisoners went free.         Proud was the spirit              of the young lass Singing, singing,      enchanted by joy, Even now on the road         leading to the sea.   Glory of the fatherland!          Glory! Glory To die for the fatherland        in the Romagna! Though dead they are not dead, I have returned        from the third heaven             to see Romagna, To see the mountains        in the counterattack, What a beautiful winter!           In the North the fatherland is reborn, But what girls!       what girls,          what boys,             wear black!19

18  This is an important word in The Cantos, indicative of visionary, erotic, and existential illumination. See 47/238 and 116/817. 19  The Fascist black shirt. The Black Brigades of Mussolini’s Salò Republic of 1943–45 (“in the North”) were notoriously ruthless.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


Background and Foreground In December 1944, when Ezra Pound probably began Canto 72, Italy was divided by the “Gothic Line,” which crossed the country’s boot horizontally from Forte dei Marmi (West) to Ravenna in the East. The Allied troops and the legitimate Italian government were in power south of the Line; German troops and Benito Mussolini’s puppet Republic of Salò (or R.S.I., Repubblica Sociale Italiana) controlled the North. The R.S.I. had a regular army, under the orders of Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, as well as other corps: the “black brigades” or “volontari della morte” of Alessandro Pavolini, secretary of the Fascist Party; the “Decima MAS” of Junio Valerio Borghese; the Battaglione Mussolini, and others. The result was confusion and terror, the more so as Mussolini’s government was totally subordinate to the Germans, under the command of Albrecht Kesselring, and was threatened by the Italian armed Resistance (supported by the Allies). Reprisals and summary executions were frequent. Mussolini had announced the creation of the “black brigades” in June 1944. However, between spring and fall 1944 Fascist troops decreased, and also many who tried to subsist between Fascism and its opponents began to abandon Fascism, its end being evidently at hand. In autumn, however, military operations stopped on the Italian and on the Western Front. When the Gothic Line appeared to be stabilized, the Salò regime gained a respite. Nazi and Fascist propaganda attempted to galvanize the hope of victory with arguments old and new: the announcement of new secret weapons that Germany was preparing and which were to be much more effective than those already experimented with; the enormous losses and fatigue of the Allies; dissension and growing diffidence between the Anglo-Americans and the Russians; the strengthened military power of Germany after the execution of the traitors of July 20. The coalition of the plutocratic powers could never keep its promises to all people, that is, to give them peace, freedom, justice, and food. Mussolini in person journeyed, something he rarely did, from his Lake Garda residence to Milan, where on December 16, 1944 he spoke at the Teatro Lirico (La Scala having been bombed). Besides


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos announcing Germany’s new weapons and victory, he also spoke of the program of Republican Fascism, referring to the Verona manifesto.1

Ezra Pound was living at this time in Sant’Ambrogio di Zoagli with Dorothy Pound and Olga Rudge. Donald Gallup’s bibliography lists only eighteen short items from June 1944 to January 1945, including the excerpt from Canto 72. He may have been translating into Italian Jefferson and/or Mussolini (published December 1944 in Venice) and Confucius’ The Unwobbling Pivot (excerpts of which appeared in December). But he would seem to have had lots of time. Every night an Allied airplane (nicknamed “Pippo” by residents) would visit Rapallo and drop a bomb before departing, attempting to hit the railway, but always missing and often killing civilians. For example, on the night of December 31, 1944, my grandparents’ house, in the vicinity of the station, was badly damaged when a bomb fell a few feet away, killing four people in the next house. Zoagli, just below Sant’Ambrogio, was massively bombed because of its railway bridge on December 27, 1944, and many lives were lost. The insistence in Cantos 72 and 73 on the rebirth of “the fatherland” in the “beautiful winter” of 1944–45 is sufficiently explained by the rallying of the R.S.I. in the lull of Allied military operations. With these Cantos Pound contributed to the effort and the Fascist cause he espoused, while returning to the poem he had not added to for five years (Cantos 52 through 71 having been published in January 1940), though he had made several sketches and drafts in the interim.2 This, however, was his first sustained effort, leading to publication. It confirms Pound’s willingness to let his poem take the form occasion offered, even slipping out of English into his idiosyncratic Italian. This discontinuity does not impinge on a fundamental unity of purpose, for Cantos 72 and 73 pick up methods and themes from previous sections, such as the Dantesque form of the vision (see especially Cantos 14–16), and Dantesque characters like Guido Cavalcanti and Ezzelino da Romano, whose sister Cunizza plays a major role in Cantos early and late. The discontinuity of language may appear an obstacle until we remember that the reader of The Cantos is expected to be equipped with Pound’s own knowledge, no more and no less, and so should have enough Italian to attack these pages. In fact, The Cantos are primarily written for one reader—Ezra Pound.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


To be sure, Cantos 72 and 73 were supposed to convey an immediate political and poetic message to an Italian audience. Ubaldo degli Uberti (1881–1945), who printed them in part in Marina Repubblicana, prefaced his excerpt from Canto 72 with the following comments: The name of Ezra Pound is well-known to our readers, who in issue #1 of this year have admired and meditated on the eternal maxims of Confucius that he has translated for us. Ezra Pound is American, but a friend, in the highest and purest sense of the word, to Fascist Italy. He is a poet who now would almost want us to forget, as youthful indiscretions, the delicate and profound verses that made of him a master, his sonnets constructed according to all the rules with orthodox spelling—and has become famous among scholars of English-speaking countries, and others, on account of his Cantos, a poem which I would call revolutionary not only in substance but also in form, but which unfortunately I have not brought with me to the North, so as to give you some passages of it. A sincere friend of Filippo Tomaso Marinetti, he had understood the great soul of this innovative patriotic writer, and could not but be pained by the premature death of the poet who said (and acted upon his word) that he who sings the heroes (Marinetti’s last poem is a celebration of the comrades of the Decima Mas) must also go to the battlefield. On the occasion of Marinetti’s death, Ezra Pound has relived, with winged thought, a conversation which never took place, but could have taken place if the Omnipotent, whom Pound calls “the great aesthete,” would at least allow the souls of the great to return to talk to us, who must still fight and struggle in the midst of mud and destruction, to help us to keep our heads up and not be overwhelmed. Ezra Pound is no longer concerned with rhymes and sings to a rhythm at times suggestive, at other times hammering, and does not fear to use our language, the worth and significance of which he is deeply familiar with, and it does not matter if now and then he forgets a precise spelling or some other detail. This is the conclusion of the       “P R E S E N Z A”3 Lines 9 to 35 of Canto 72 follow.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Uberti’s warm reception must have stimulated Pound to go on with the poem. The next issue of Marina Repubblicana printed the briefer Canto 73 in its entirety, this time without comment. Readers of the periodical may not have recognized immediately the allusions to Cavalcanti (not to mention “Ixotta”), but the anecdote of the buxom Rimini heroine was clear enough. It could also be seen as typical of the literary and idealistic bent of Italian culture that the old admiral and his oldish poet friend should indulge in literary exchanges and in promoting The Cantos on a military journal at such a time. In this sense at least Pound had found the editor he wanted. As for the poetic quality of these Cantos, it is neither more nor less open to question than that of adjoining sections. Being written with more urgency than most other parts of the poem, Cantos 72 and 73 are accordingly more engaging and communicative. Pound’s excursion into Italian Canto-writing did not, however, terminate with Canto 73. There were several months to go until the German surrender and his arrest on May 3. He must have been happy with the result, and possibly even planned a whole Italian “decad,” for among his papers (EPP, 3387) are drafts for an Italian “Canto 74” (4 pages) and “75” (6 pages—I use quotation marks to distinguish them from the Cantos in English eventually published with those numbers). These typewritten drafts, numbered by Pound “74,” “74/2” to “74/4,” and “75/1” to “75/6,” are very rough and repetitive, in parts only lists of rhymewords. For example, “75/6” finishes as follows: da me non hai bisogno che io ti spiego non cerco sotto i vostri: a migliaia/ cadon e giac[ci]on/   fra neve e la nebbia         baia/ abbaia        sdr[a]ia/ Maia       appaia4 [from me you do not need that I tell you / I do not seek below your own: thousands of them/ fall and lie / in snow and mist / bay/barks / lies/Maia / appear] It would seem that these are rough copies of handwritten notes, some of which have in fact been preserved.

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


The notes are sufficient, however, to make it clear that (1) Pound was moving away from the immediate political concerns of Cantos 72 and 73, to a sort of mythical-erotic-ecstatic stance prelusive to certain passages of the Pisan Cantos; (2) the Italian notes, though abandoned, were recalled by Pound in Pisa, sometimes verbatim, so that the drafts contain as it were the key to some of the more puzzling and arcane passages of the Pisan Cantos, i.e., the variations on “the great periplum” and the leitmotif of Cunizza and Diana (“Io son la luna”), with the development in 80/520 (“a S. Bartolomeo mi vidi col pargoletto,” etc.) and the beautiful Artemis-hagoromo section that follows. In the drafts of “75” we also meet for the first time the mystical “triedro” where the Pisan poet’s encounter with Cunizza and Luna is invariably said to take place—the word probably being a personal name for a trivium or some such meeting of the ways.5 In fact, in some longhand notes dated “12 Feb [1945]” Pound writes: In un triedro del oliveto m’apparve ed ella: Tiranno lo chiamo      ma non tradiva i suoi    gran mio fratello negus vezer mon bel pensar no val ed io—Cunizza vostre belle chiome  color di rame              e d’ori6 [In a triedro of the olive grove she appeared to me / and she: I call him a tyrant / but he never betrayed his own / my great brother / negus vezer mon bel pensar no val / and I—Cunizza / your beautiful hair  color of copper / and gold] Cunizza da Romano is the main character speaking to Pound in these drafts. Here she is defending her “great brother” Ezzelino, who already argued his own case in Canto 72. Cunizza is always associated with her lover Sordello (hence the Provençal line, also quoted in Canto 20, though Pound appears to have forgotten that its author is Bernart de Ventadorn, not Sordello), and somehow, in “75” and “76,” with Isotta, Basinio, Sigismondo, and thrones (“in su son troni”—“74/3”; cf. Dante’s Paradiso, IX, 61). Cunizza is also associated in “74,” as again in Canto 76, with another redoubtable lady, Caterina Sforza,


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

mistress of Imola and Forlì, who when her enemies threatened to kill her children, “raised her skirt” saying: “I still have the mould.”7 Canto “74” closes with the following notes:        troni son due     sogna bellezza eterna l’indiano il bel agir, e parte di Confucio giù, giù per l’Ida corrono ragazze i gentili spiriti di grecia antica  Demofonte che mai d’amor traig pena ha conforto           traiz pena Douz brais e critz    qui cantan trobatori fra gli uzelli di foresta eterna. Yrmindrudis  perfecta Palladis arte auro subtilis serica fila parans pepla mariti     richiamata8   col filo d’oro / ricamò (“74/3–4”)9 [two thrones there are / the Indian dreams of eternal beauty / the fine action, is Confucius’ part / down down from Ida run the girls / the gentle spirits of ancient Greece /  Demophon / who never of love traig pena has comfort / traiz pena / Douz brais e critz / here sing troubadours / among the birds of the eternal wood // Yrmin­ drudis  perfecta Palladis arte / auro subtilis serica fila parans / pepla mariti / knitted  with the gold thread / embroidered] The thrones, it appears, are for Buddha (favorably referred to also elsewhere in the notes) and Confucius—action and contemplation. Then from Cunizza and her thrones we move back to Greece and the mysteries of fertility, associated as always (see Canto 4) with the troubadours (the quotations again from Ventadorn, and from Arnaut Daniel). Daniel’s birds (“Doutz brais e critz, / Lais e cantars voutas / Aug del auzels qu’en lor latins fant precs”) suggest Janequin’s uzelli “in the eternal wood” (the Sacred Wood of poetry). And in his final notes (in longhand) Pound moves back to Erigena’s Greektagged Latin poem on Yrmintrud’s knitting, familiar to readers of Canto 83.10

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


What is most strikingly anticipatory in these notes, however, is the phrase “col filo d’oro,” which provides a further gloss on the last lines of The Cantos: “But to affirm the gold thread in the pattern” (116/817). The more extensive notes for the Italian “Canto 75” go over the same ground, often repeating entire contexts from “74.” However, a new motif destined to a prominent role in the Pisan verse of a few months later appears from the start and is repeated several times. It is the encounter with the nymphs who speak, in the words of Canto 76, of “the sun in his great periplum / lead[ing] in his fleet here / sotto le nostre scoglie,” and are somehow again associated with Cunizza and her “triedro”:                  14 Jan [1945]   nel périplo che fa il vostro sole Il Sol gran ammiraglio conduce la sua flotta /  nel gran périplo           triplo nel suo gran périplo         triédro conduce la flotta sotto i nostri scoglie      Anchise sentì così cantar le donnine che lamentarono Primavera Morta, che tu che accosta questi nostri prati, senti le voci delle ninfe liete (“75/1”) [in the periplum that your sun makes / The Sun great admiral conducts his fleet /  in the great periplum  triple / in his great periplum  triédro / conducts his fleet under our cliffs / thus Anchises heard the girls sing / who lamented the Dead Spring, that you who come close / to these our fields, you hear the voices of the happy nymphs]11 So it may be said that the voice that states on the opening page of the Pisan Cantos: “the great periplum brings in the stars to our shore,” is associated by Pound with the voice from the island crying over Tammuz that Anchises hears in 23/109 (a variation on a story in Plutarch),12 i.e., with Adonis and fertility rites. In fact, Adonis was mentioned obscurely by Ezzelino in Canto  72, as well as in another longhand draft of the passage: or che la nave gea s’avvicina al bel pianoro


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos   voi sentite le voci come già anche sentii il cant’io a Lemnosi trionfò il pianto L’Adonide è morto     e rivive e non muore legge uman’ che       dura come il giglio (EPP, 3484) [now that the ship gea comes close / to the fine field / you hear the voices13 / as I also have heard the song / at Lemosì14 tears triumphed / Adonis is dead / and revives and does not die / human law that / lasts as the lily]

The connection between the periplum and the sacrifice of Adonis (who is also a flower) clarifies the connection with the death and rebirth of ManesBen-Digonos-Dioce in the explosive opening of Canto 74. And in 76/472 the nymphs and ladies speaking the periplum line are longingly evoked. Other shadows speaking or seen in Canto “75” are mostly familiar from the “74” notes: Basinio, Sigismundo, Savonarola, Lorenzo de’ Medici (at length), Erigena’s Yrmintrud (“Erigena teneva bel discorso / filava e bordava la Regina / serviva il marito; e li fece camicia”), Cunizza once more, who closes the notes and becomes the paragon of all female kindness, being identified with the Virgin “whose shrine,” as T. S. Eliot similarly put it, “stands on the promontory.”15 As in The Dry Salvages (and, later, in 106/775), she is to “pray for all those who are in ships.” Like Eliot, Pound is attracted by the image of the goddess who protects seafarers, be she called Mary of the Good Voyage, or Aphrodite Euploia. This is the haunting passage I quoted in the original Italian in Chapter 1: Ave Maris Stella sounded in my ear, in the evening air   and with the branch I saw her as Kuanon, with the willow branch,    saw the eternal sweetness formed: of compassion the mother, of sea protector   aid in shipwreck, manifest yet seen again at Prato, and at Monte Rosa   the shrine delle Grazie is ruined, she said to me

“Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos


   to Pantaleo I repair, homeless   from the Dorata, forever driven out vaga, invicta; Lucina dolentibus, so lunar am I   protectress of cocoons, humble, enduring   The little boy loves me, whom I nurse16 The pitiful virgin-mother tells her tale of woe: how she is driven out from Toulouse’s Daurade (where Cavalcanti worshipped her) and from Fano’s “long room over the arches” (80/521). But she has found a suitable resting place in San Pantaleo, just near Ezra Pound’s wartime residence in Sant’Ambrogio, and on the nearby hills (Monte Rosa, the Madonna delle Grazie). The great periplum brings all the stars to the poet’s doorstep, and into the poem. The fugitive has with her a “pargoletto,” a little boy, as she is again to appear in 80/520, in the Italian passage which finishes with the same announcement that she makes here: “Io son la luna.” Pound’s Immaculata, protectress of cocoons (85/565, 91/632), and of mothers in labor, is a traditional image of the Virgin with Child. The very word “humble,” umile, is reminiscent of the Latin text of the Magnificat: “Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae” (“For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed”—Luke 1:48). Here, as in the central epiphanies of the Pisan Cantos, it is not to the father and artificer that Pound turns for help, but to the compassionate mother, “the oval moon” of a later Canto (110/801). Far from being an irrelevant and embarrassing digression, Cantos 72 and 73, we may safely conclude, are central to Ezra Pound’s poem. For they lead directly to the Italian drafts in which Pound first conceived in Italian episodes that were to be at the very center of the Pisan Cantos. In using them a few months after the earlier drafts, he even kept some of the Italian wording (“sotto le nostre scoglie / under our craggy cliffs”—76/472) with all their approximate grammar and spelling, thus suggesting that the visionary encounters, with the words to tell them, were given, not invented, and adding to their suggestiveness. For the point is precisely that the apparitions are not entirely to be fathomed; they are there only enough to tantalize the poet—and the reader. Like the triedro in the olive-grove where Cunizza and barefoot Luna are still to be met.


The Pisan Cantos in Progress


ver half a century after their composition (1945), The Pisan Cantos remain widely admired, imperfectly understood, and hotly debated. In 1991, Lois Bar-Yacov compared unfavorably their moral stance to war with Marianne Moore’s declaration of faith, “In Distrust of Merits.”1 Some of the discussion turned upon the central passage of the eleven-cantos sequence, the “Pull down thy vanity” lyric in Canto 81. Long seen as Pound’s recantation, the passage has been authoritatively reread as Pound’s irate address to his captors, the American army: Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail, A swollen magpie in a fitful sun, Half black half white Nor knowst ’ou wing from tail Pull down thy vanity     How mean thy hates Fostered in falsity,     Pull down thy vanity, Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity, Pull down thy vanity,     I say pull down. But to have done instead of not doing     this is not vanity … (81/541) 197


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

The third line, in particular, has been interpreted as a reference to “the American partially integrated army.”2 This hardly fits with Pound’s sympathetic attitude to blacks throughout the Pisan Cantos. Besides, few notice that the lines are a rewriting of François Villon’s classic “Ballade des Pendus,” which Pound had quoted directly in the opening of the sequence (“Absouldre, que tous nous vueil absoudre”—74/447): La pluye nous a büez et lavez, Et le soleil dessechiez et noircis; Pies, corbeaulx, nous ont les yeux cavez, Et arrachié la barbe et les sourcis. The rain has washed and laundered us all five, And the sun dried and blackened; yea, perdie, Ravens and pies with beaks that rend and rive Have dug our eyes out, and plucked off for fee Our beards and eyebrows…3 Villon is describing the appearance of the hanged men, exposed to the rain, the sun, and the depredations of ravens and magpies. Pound follows Villon’s sequence, giving one line to the rain (“hail”) and one to the sun, but takes Villon’s magpie into the second line as a metaphor of vanity (“a person who chatters noisily”—Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary), and makes a separate line for the black/white opposition, which corresponds to Villon’s “desechiez/ noircis,” besides being an accurate description of a magpie. He also adds, brilliantly, the adjective “fitful” to Villon’s sun, reminding us of “the dust and glare evil” (74/469) to which he was exposed in the Pisan cage, and creating a perfectly balanced structure, in conformity with the symmetries and rhythms of the whole passage: “A swollen magpie in a fitful sun” (adjective–noun/ adjective–noun). Now, the reprise of Villon does not in itself prove anything about the intention of the passage, and Villon uses the first person “nous” where Pound uses the archaic second person “thou.” However, the condemned and suffering Villon is invoked throughout the Pisan Cantos as a precedent for Pound, and the Grand Testament is even a formal model of the sequence, because Villon alternates (as Pound does) personal reminiscence or testament, and formal lyrics written for various personae (his mother, the aged prostitute,

The Pisan Cantos in Progress


the hanged men). The “vanity” passage is precisely one of Pound’s lyrics, and therefore does not yield to too literal an enquiry into the intentions of its speaker. It is in some ways an exercise, a calling up of ancient lyric voices in the English poetic tradition. Yet, when all has been said, it is obvious that it is in line with other admissions of inadequacy to be found in the Pisan Cantos. Especially the line “Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity,” repeats the statement in Canto 76 “J’ai eu pitié des autres / probablement pas assez, and at moments that suited my own convenience.” And it is difficult to read “how mean thy hates” as referring to a collective entity like the army, whereas it makes perfect sense in the context of Pound’s own painful record of “mean hates.” Furthermore, by “vanity” Pound understands not only personal conceit in relation to other people, but chiefly, as the whole passage suggests, man’s conceit in relation to nature. In this sense his injunction is a general moral utterance, with no particular listener in mind: “Learn from the green world what can be thy place.” All of us should learn and are continually learning this in our environment-conscious times. Pound is instructing others as well as himself. There is a final point, however. Canto 81 closes with a palinode, a defense—Pound’s own defense of his personal achievement (and modesty) against the imputation of vanity: To have, with decency, knocked That a Blunt should open   To have gathered from the air a live tradition or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame This is not vanity. There is no doubt that Pound is, however impersonally, speaking of himself, and even recollecting a private circumstance—his 1913 visit to the rebellious old poet Wilfred Scawen Blunt. He presents himself as willing and able to learn from his elders—the opposite of vain. This personal palinode, or answer to the previous imputation, is another confirmation that the “Pull down thy vanity” passage has a personal bearing, and I believe disproves the notion that Pound was thinking of the U.S. Army. He was thinking of vanity in humanity in general and in himself in particular. The personal import of “Pull down thy vanity” does not justify, however, a sentimental reading of the Pisan Cantos as recantation. As in the passages we have just read, in the whole sequence admission of error is always


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

accompanied by vindication of rightness, according to a pattern established early in Pound’s poetry, and central to Hugh Selwyn Mauberley as to the final Cantos (“To confess wrong without losing rightness”—116/817). Above all, Pound is always aware that he is composing poetry, not a journal or a confession, though he may use the journal and confessional form “at moments that suited my own convenience.” The Pisan Cantos are the longest section of Cantos4 (or “decad,” to use Pound’s approximate count). Pound wrote them with determination and regularity through summer and early autumn 1945 during his Pisan detention, surely as self-therapy and testament (“to write dialog because there / is no one to converse with”—80/519) but also as a concerted poetic effort, just as he wrote throughout his life. We know he sent the “Pull down thy vanity” passage to his wife Dorothy in Rapallo on September 23, commenting that it would be “more human than a dull letter,” and suggesting that it was “mild enough to suit” his mother Isabel, then also living, a widow, in Rapallo (L/DP, 91). Since we know that Isabel was not sympathetic to Ezra’s later poetry, always preferring A Lume Spento and Personae, and didn’t hesitate to say so to his face, it is amusing that Pound should think “Pull down thy vanity” fit for her to read, being sure that she’d appreciate its traditional noises.5 This also suggests the artist’s detachment in relation to his writing—the masks that he tries on successively. Many of Pound’s readers have followed Isabel’s footsteps, by liking the Pisan Cantos for those pages that unambiguously carry the message: You are now reading poetry. But this was only one of Pound’s voices, and the greatness of the sequence is precisely in the masterful alternation of the prosaic and the lyric. This alternation even falls into a regular pattern in Cantos 79 through 82, all of which open with apparently casual reminiscences and close with lyric show-pieces, all too tempting for anthologists. So when Pound writes Dorothy on October 2 “I have done a Decad 74/83 … which dont seem any worse than the first 70” (L/DP, 101), the tone is unmistakable: Look, I have done it again! An occasion for celebration. (We know from Olga Rudge’s journals that she and Pound celebrated the happy completion of a Canto by making love.) For a poet, a new book coming out of his notebooks is an exciting thing and may even for a moment make him forget other and graver matters, like “The enormous tragedy of the dream” memorialized in the sequence’s opening line. Note also the understatement when Pound evaluates the new “Decad 74/83” as not “any worse than the first 70.” We know, and Pound must have been aware, that the Pisan Cantos were

The Pisan Cantos in Progress


the climax of The Cantos to date, though they must be read as part of them to be appreciated and fully understood. Being unburdened by sources and too much didacticism, and with finally lots of time on his hands, Pound was able to doodle as he pleased, to invent forms and lines out of mental experience as it occurred in those summer months.6 He was, in his sixtieth year, at the height of his power, and strong emotion had made him more eloquent, without impairing his control of the material. By control I also mean the ability to use within a larger pattern passages of free association, which are surely the majority in the sequence, but which always lead somewhere, and nevertheless function as a musical background. This is the case with the early memories of Spain in the first part of Canto 81, not in themselves overly significant, but telling as gesture, as a going back of the mind to its inception: a disposition as one waits for the muse to take the scene. Which she does, not alone but in a whole company of muses: Ed ascoltando al leggier mormorio As I was listening to the enchanted song there came new subtlety of eyes into my tent whether of spirit or hypostasis7 The alternation of personal and impersonal is also noteworthy. In general, Pound rarely says “I,” thus avoiding an overt diary form. Occasionally however, he will speak directly, if only by way of the adjective “my,” as in the above passage. As in a film, the impression is that of a sudden focusing. As he does not say “I,” so Pound never explains in so many words the prison context of the Pisan Cantos. It slowly dawns on the reader as he or she goes along, phenomenologically. We are in medias res, in the middle of many things that we don’t know. Pound explains this by a metaphor in Canto 79: the imprint of the intaglio depends   in part on what is pressed under it the mould must hold what is poured into it (79/506) The artist will use the material at hand to carve his form into it, to tell his story or version of the real. Reading the Pisan Cantos remains an unsettling experience. We should be able to follow the argument as it unfolds from the beginning, by repetition,


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

introduction of new themes, changes of emphasis. Pound surely had several working patterns in mind as he went along and changed them at his convenience. In general, it is true that his political self-defense and account of himself and of the war occupy the early part of the sequence (Cantos 74 to 78), whereas with the lynxes and music of Canto 79 we enter a more lyric phase, and memories (as in the long Canto 80) are pursued for their own dear sake, only to return full-circle to a stronger political stance in Canto 84, with its renewed praise for “il Capo” (Mussolini), its disparagement of Churchill and Roosevelt, and its careful overture to Stalin, whom Pound was half-seriously hoping to counsel in the war’s aftermath. As he puts it at the beginning of Canto 74:   and but one point needed for Stalin you need not, i.e. need not take over the means of production (74/446) It has been claimed that Pound changed his intention in the Pisan Cantos and “heavily revised” them in October 1945, when he added an unforeseen political Canto, 84, and the invocation of Manes and Mussolini that now opens the sequence.8 This argument has gained currency but is not persuasive. It is true that early typescripts begin with what is now line 11 of Canto 74 (“The suave eyes, quiet, not scornful”), and that Pound wrote “INCIPIT” over it, but Pound drafted the previous lines (“The enormous tragedy” to “colour of stars”) early on, and when he created on his typewriter what is now Canto 74 he may well have intended to place them in their present position, and he had copied and preserved them on a separate unnumbered page because of their strong political message. (This, I believe, is what he meant by writing “INCIPIT” above “The suave eyes”—that the Manes/Mussolini “incipit” was to be placed here.) The connection of Mussolini with the question of Confucius’ disciple after the master’s death: “What whiteness will you add to this whiteness,” which if the revisionary argument is correct would be only established by the late insertion of the opening lines, is repeated explicitly in Canto 80.9 Further, it is not true that the insertion of the opening invocation in any way changes the import of Canto 74, which attacks Churchill on page two, and on page twelve states brazenly that “the only people who did anything of interest were H., M. and Frobenius” (74/456)—praise for the “interesting” doings of Hitler and

The Pisan Cantos in Progress


Mussolini. The typescript of Canto 74 does skip several inchoate pages in Pound’s draft notebook (the draft overture among them), but there was little substantial revision after Canto 74 was typed.10 In fact, the Pisan Cantos are exceptional for the lack of significant revision. While Pound usually typed several versions of a Canto before celebrating its completion with Olga Rudge, his Pisa typescript went straight into the published version with very minor changes; surely an exceptional feat. Finally, the addition of the allegedly unforeseen Canto 84 was a predictable consequence of the extension of Pound’s stay near Pisa, and far from changing the direction of the sequence, returned to political themes stated at its beginning. It is interesting that Pound omitted several typescript pages that originally followed between the final couplet and the previous line (PC, 137–41). He rightly saw that they were not as powerful as the preceding ones, and that for the close of the sequence he needed a strong and compact statement. Far from being an afterthought, Canto 84 was written with a precise sense of completion. Pound also cancelled two melodramatic lines that in the first version followed the final couplet; surely a false note: If the hoar frost grip thy tent Thou wilt give thanks when night is spente. Italy, my Italy, my God, my Italy Ti abbraccio, o terra santa. (PC, 141) By omitting the final outburst and preserving the couplet Pound gave the Pisan sequence a magnificently assured close. The above confirms Pound’s control and insight in working with so ample and so potentially dangerous material. Prison journal, plangent personal memories, a defense of “M., H.”, poetic pastiche. This seems an unpromising combination. And yet the Pisan Cantos are among the most compelling American poetry to have come out of World War II. And they are particularly significant insofar as they present an adversarial view, that will not espouse the accepted dogma of the righteousness of the winners. It records the common American soldiers’ low opinion of the military, and leaves the final word on the war to an Italian girl, “sister of the little swineherdess” (thus associated with two characters of the Odyssey, Circe and Eumaeus), whom Pound by all appearances interviewed in the flesh “thru the barbed wire” of the prison camp:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos      e poi io dissi alla sorella della pastorella dei suini: e questi americani?        si conducono bene?   ed ella: poco.     Poco, poco. δῖα ὑφορβά11    ed io: peggio dei tedeschi?      ed ella: uguale, thru the barbed wire (84/560) [and then I said to the sister / of the little swineherdess: / and these Americans? / do they conduct themselves well? / and she: scarcely. / Scarcely, scarcely. δῖα ὑφορβά / and I: worse than the Germans? / and she: the same, thru the barbed wire]

This wise opinion is voiced in Italian, the language of the defeated, thus making subtly the point histrionically restated in the cancelled invocation to “my God, my Italy.” It is ironical that a major American poetic statement about World War II should come from the other side, or from no side. Pound deleted from Canto 84 also the seven lines which originally ­prefaced it: Yet from my tomb such flame of love arise that whoso passes shall be warmed thereby;     let stray cats curl there         where no tomb stone is & girls’ eyes sparkle at the unmarked spot let rancours wane    & a slow drowse of peace pervade who passes. (PC, 136) Though moving, and relevant in the context of confession and defense that I have outlined, the passage was too soft at this point, and Pound opted ­ruthlessly for the present much starker beginning: 8th October:   Si tuit li dolh el plor    Angold τέθνηκε

The Pisan Cantos in Progress


tuit lo pro, tuit lo bes    Angold τέθνηκε Pound was following the poetics he had outlined earlier in the sequence: La beauté, “Beauty is difficult, Yeats” said Aubrey Beardsley    when Yeats asked why he drew horrors    or at least not Burne-Jones    and Beardsley knew he was dying and had to    make his hit quickly hence no more B-J in his product.    So very difficult, Yeats, beauty so difficult. (80/531) Pound will not accept an easy beauty, in others or in himself. Note how in the last line it is crucially Pound himself who addresses the dead Yeats with a hint of criticism and impatience. This is also Pound’s answer to the always nagging Isabel. Hence no final offer of reconciliation at the beginning of Canto 84. This follows upon the unrepentant figure Pound has presented from the very start, the sequence’s proem: yet say this to the Possum: a bang, not a whimper,    with a bang not with a whimper, To build the city of Dioce whose terraces are the colour of stars. (74/445) T. S. Eliot once lamented that some of his phrases (like this particular line from “The Hollow Men”) had gained too much currency. But in this case he will have forgiven his one-time mentor and long-standing friend, who found in his phrase the most apposite way of stating his unrepentant position. It came as no surprise that the next “decad” of Cantos was to be called RockDrill. Pound was to read Canto 84 on his first Caedmon record, together with a passage from Canto 76, quite poignant but also containing the following:    and the spring of their squeak-doll is broken and Bracken is out and the B.B.C. can lie


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos    but at least a different bilge will come out of it      at least for a little, as is its nature can continue, that is, to lie. (76/478)

Bracken, Carroll Terrell’s Companion to the Cantos, heartily explains, “had been boss of the British Ministry of Information.”12 The verse is striking for its non sequitur syntax, which, however, makes for rhetorical effectiveness. There is no mistaking the intention of the speaker of the Pisan Cantos, a sequence that is very much of one piece from its arresting opening to its equally ­brilliant close. On the other hand, as suggested, Pound was all for experiment and in the way of form constructed the sequence by ear. The notebooks show an occasional canto-division which was later cancelled. There is no absolute reason why the flow of notes should be segmented as is, but the result is finally satisfactory. It is supposed to guide the reader, creating blocks of material that can be considered per se before being related to the rest. When reviving an old play, a director will have the curtain fall between acts at a point of his choice. So with the pauses in Pound’s written speech. But we only have to think of the finales of the individual cantos to see how well he knew where to stop for breath. “[S]unset grand couturier” is the effective last line of Canto 80. Whereas “and that day I wrote no further,” which is the line with which he originally intended to close what is now Canto 83, would have been weaker. Among the formal ideas that Pound used as he went along, I’d like to mention two. One is the anecdotal portrait of a friend or associate, be it the Spanish priest José Maria de Elizondo (77/486, 81/537), the “dear” pianists Walter Rummel (80/513) and Gerhart Münch, to whom Canto 75 is devoted in its brief entirety, the dancer Miscio Ito and admiral Ubaldo degli Uberti, both in Canto 77. Here the typescript in the Butler Library at Columbia shows that Pound wanted the names “Ito” and “degli Uberti,” unmentioned in the text, to be printed “Italic in margin,” in conformity with the marginal glosses occasionally used in earlier volumes of Cantos. These vignettes, not particularly effective, can be understood within the pattern of the Pisan Cantos as personal testament. Villon had done the same, if more expressively. On the other hand, in the Pisan Cantos it is rare that a vignette appear wholly pointless and not worth the trouble of exegesis (as is more often the case elsewhere in The Cantos).

The Pisan Cantos in Progress


Another formal device is the alternation of the free flow of reminiscences and lyric set-pieces in Cantos 79–82, as mentioned above. An interesting confirmation and clarification of this is available in a letter Pound wrote his daughter Mary on October 19 from the Pisan camp. Here he says that “The English cantos could be printed separate from new decad,” and explains: by “English cantos” I mean the ones that give a resume of Eng/ history and telescopic squash of development of English metric. “Oh to be in England” etc.13 The quotation from Browning occurs towards the end of Canto 80. This Canto is in fact largely about (pre-World War I) London, and shows a change of direction in the sequence, from argument to memory as such. It closes with the famous imitation of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat and the even more beautiful “couturier” passage referred to above. Pound’s explanation clarifies the transition in the following Canto 81 to earlier kinds of lyric, first Tudor (“Yet / Ere the season died a-cold”), then Chaucerian (“Your eyen two”), then roughly King James (“What thou lovest well remains … Pull down thy vanity”). Pound even instructs us that “for 180 years” there was, lyrically speaking, “almost nothing”—meaning that nearly two centuries elapsed between the great Chaucer (whom he appreciated even more than Shakespeare) and the Elizabethans.14 This historical project is characteristic of The Cantos and in general of Pound’s poetry: Mauberley (1920) is already a telescopic history of English poetry. The Cantos, after all, are epic, thus “contain history.” They are American heirs of ages of English poetry. Moving on to Canto 82, we find symmetrical evocations of Swinburne and Whitman, the former more nuanced, the second (never a great passion to Pound) merely by quotation. And Canto 83 is largely centered on memories of Yeats. Thus we can see one line of thought running through the sequence, a pattern never much noticed in so many exegeses. Commentators have pointed out the resume’s immediate occasion, recorded in Canto 80—Pound finding in the camp latrine an abandoned copy of M. E. Speare’s Pocket Book of Verse, in which he encountered some of the poems he quotes and imitates—a teasing situation which reminds him of Rossetti’s rescue of Fitzgerald’s remaindered Rubaiyat from a bookstall (80/530). But the narrative occasion is simply an element in what amounts to a major formal decision. In Jakobsonian terms it is the projection of the metaphoric on the metonymic axis, but the former level remains undetected


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

because it is a pattern, a form (or Poundian “ideogram”), which we see in action, without explicit gloss. As Pound’s letter suggests, he even thought of printing Cantos 80–83 as a separate group, like Cantos 8–11, 31–34, 42–44 in earlier sequences. This is a helpful clarification of a pattern within a larger pattern. Pound left Pisa on short notice on November 16, and brought his poem with him to Washington, where, as we know, he was not received as an expert in international relations and possible emissary to Rome, Tokyo, and Moscow. The Pisan Cantos only appeared in 1948, and in 1949 set off the Bollingen Prize controversy, surely a crucial crisis in mid-century American culture. The poem as published does not wholly follow Pound’s wishes, since many of the Chinese characters he wanted in the text have been omitted. (He also vainly hoped that an African rock-drawing could be inserted in a passage about Frobenius; see L/JL, 153–54.) In the following years Pound made only slight corrections to the poem, and I believe his text should not be revised posthumously, for the form in which it appeared and was authorized is part of its history, and all we need to appreciate this extraordinary work. There are two final matters connected with pre-publication history that I’d like to mention. One has to do with the fact that the first Pisan Canto, 74, was as we know preceded by the two Cantos 72–73, written in Italian in support of Mussolini’s war of resistance, which Pound for obvious reasons thought better to keep out of the public eye for the time being. His publisher James Laughlin suggested as a matter of course that the omission of two Cantos be accounted for: Now as I recall you don’t want to print now the two Cantos of Cavalcanti written in scurrilous wop. Now there ought to be a little note in the book if we jump two numbers. Wot shd the wording of that note be???? (L/JL, 165) In the same letter Laughlin brought up a second point—the essential one of the title to be given the sequence: METRICAL MONARCH— I have been going along calling the new batch of Cantos THE PISAN CANTOS, but I don’t know whether this is what you want

The Pisan Cantos in Progress


them called or not? Do tell. There will be the separate volume of them, you recall, so they ought to have a separate name. Wot? Pound’s answer (May 19, 1947) was typically brief and definite: Call um Cantos 74–84 or wotever the numbers are & say nothing about any lacuna. … They can be referred to on jacket (or wherever else you like) as Pisan cantos even in sub title if you insist. (L/JL, 166) So we know for certain that Pound did not want the sequence called The Pisan Cantos, except (as a concession) as a subtitle, so as to underline continuity with the previous volume, published as Cantos LII–LXXI. The title by which this crucial poem is known is not the poet’s but the publisher’s. Not a worldshaking discovery, but a telling detail of an already confusing textual history. A book is a collaboration between author, publisher, reader—in the end, however, the author is presumed to be responsible for the collective product. And Pisan Cantos the title has remained, however ambiguous for the noninitiate. (Note also that Pound is not even quite sure what the numbers are.) In the 1950s, an Italian well-wisher wrote that he hoped that Pound would continue to write his beautiful Pisan Cantos, which he clearly believed to be the title of the whole work. And not a few first readers will perhaps wonder why this poem begins with a section labelled “LXXIV,” rather than “I.” They will have a long way to go. The other interesting point in Pound’s reply is his instruction to keep silent about the missing Cantos, thus starting many readers on all kinds of guesses. Pound thrived on being elusive. In this case the secretiveness had also a reason of expediency, given the “scurrilous wop,” as Laughln calls Pound’s Italian text. But, after all, Cantos 72–73 are rather arresting poems. So what motivated Pound in enjoining secrecy was a very old (Poesque) position of his, already stated in the (pseudonymous) preface to his second pamphlet, A Quinzaine for this Yule (1909): Beauty should never be presented explained. It is Marvel and Wonder, and in art we should find first these doors—Marvel and Wonder— and, coming through them, a slow understanding (slow even though it be a succession of lightning understandings and perceptions) as of


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos a figure in mist, that still and ever gives to each one his own right of believing, each after his own creed and fashion. (PT, 68)

The phrasing is “soft,” but the poetics is still active in the Pisan Cantos, where we are often reminded of the Bible phrase, “each in the name of his god,” and where perception of the whole is to proceed both slowly and by intuitive flashes, and above all nothing is ever explained, everything is taken for granted. So much so that, as I hope I have shown here, there is much in the Pisan Cantos that remains elusive at this late date (and misconceptions are numerous). It is, after all, the elusiveness of the best poetry. Pound laid the plot, with the help of circumstances, and his readers are still unravelling it, presumably because there is no escaping the power of the writing. In Pisa Pound really saw that whatever he was experiencing and remembering was amenable to expression, and this gift of the gods was a revelation even to himself. It was up to him, an unlikely candidate, to tell the story of a war that he had seen wholly from the adversarial side. The loss, he mused, was to become a poetic asset, and the City of Dioce, “whose terraces are the colour of stars” (74/445), was in fact to be built. Here, on the page.

Part IV Endings

13. Sheri Martinelli, Portrait of Ezra Pound, undated.


“I wish he would explain his explanation”


n the final part of this book, I first turn to Pound’s writings and conditions during the St. Elizabeths period, again seeing him in action and dealing with his poem and flighty associates. I treat his changing attitudes to explication, in comparison to Wallace Stevens’s characteristic aplomb in this matter, then I come to that curious and fraught work by his old companion in life and art, H.D.’s memoir End to Torment, which is discovered to have a troubled textual history of its own. When Pound, having finally returned to Italy, read H.D.’s account of their relationship and of his more recent sentimental imbroglios, he responded with a series of dramatic and little-known letters, an extraordinary document of his last confrontation with the personal and historical dilemmas of his career. The “torment,” however, did end in the final decade of Pound’s life (1962–72), when he was mostly silent, depressed, and unproductive, but was affectionately taken care of by Olga Rudge. Chapter  15 offers a personal account of this period, when I was occasionally in their company. By then Pound was as it were burned out and though Olga tried to stimulate him to further writing by having him read aloud nothing came of it but a few touching fragments acknowledging her courage and love (PC, 173–80). Thus, Pound’s relationship with women—wife, companion, daughter, muses—is revealed in this section (see also the last chapter, on the Posthumous Cantos) to be the secret mainspring of his creative work. We would not have the Pisan Cantos without the Rapallo years with Dorothy, Olga, and Mary, nor the St. Elizabeths Cantos (especially 90–95 and 106) without the muses of that period, Sheri Martinelli 213


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

and Marcella Spann. The mournful summing up of the final Drafts and Fragments came out of the personal tensions that confronted Pound after his release, as his powers were dwindling, and his world and life were coming apart. After so much turmoil, his final haven in the capable care of the loving Olga was indeed “a nice quiet paradise” (116/816). “I wish … that he wd. explain his explanation”—Ezra Pound quoted Lord Byron from memory towards the end of Guide to Kulchur, after a few particularly intense and fanciful pages called “The Promised Land.” “That was in another country,” he went on, “and a different connection, but I admit that the foregoing pp. are as obscure as anything in my poetry” (GK, 295). Actually, the country was the same, for the Dedication of Don Juan was written in Venice in 1818, and Guide to Kulchur in Rapallo 119 years later; and the connection was similar, for Byron was speaking of Coleridge’s “explaining metaphysics to the nation,” and Pound attempts in “The Promised Land” to explain (obscurely) his own metaphysics, and in fact goes on to put it in a nutshell: “I mean or imply that certain truth exists. Certain colours exist in nature though great painters have striven vainly … Truth is not untrue’d by reason of our failing to fix it on paper.” Pound’s is a naturalistic world, based on the assumption that there is something out there which it is the poet’s business to communicate. But it is difficult to explain, and explanations of such truths will be difficult. Accordingly, the approach to “The Promised Land” ends with a reflection on the means of expression, just as The Cantos end with a reflection on their own writing-block: “it coheres all right / even if my notes do not cohere” (116/817). This is really a more emotional repetition of the statement in Kulchur: “I mean or imply that certain truth exists … Truth is not untrue’d by reason of our failing to fix it on paper.” It is a favorite procedure for commentators to turn up examples of parallel statements in prose and verse by a given poet, that presumably cast light upon each other, or tell us something about the occasion of a poem. For example, a college anthology quotes John Keats’s letter of September 1819: “I never liked stubble fields so much as now—Aye, better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow a stubble plain looks warm.”1 The quotation occurs in an introductory footnote for “To Autumn”: Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue … The relationship between the two statements here is self-evident, though a consideration of the difference between the casual observation of the letter and the elevated music of the poetry opens up the entire question of Keats’s style, and a question of content. Can two statements say much the same thing in such vastly different ways? Some would even claim that the elevation in the verse is factitious, and that the naked perception of the stubble-fields in the letter is more spontaneous and more genuine. This really amounts to asking, what is poetry and why does one write it? The young Wallace Stevens remarked that “It is a great pleasure to seize an impression and lock it up in words: you feel as if you had it safe forever.”2 He also said, famously, that “Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”3 The latter (and later) statement concentrates on present satisfaction, leaving the sense of getting a job done only implicit. In fact, in a late poem, “The Planet on the Table,” Stevens appeared to deny the desire to preserve the moment: “It was not important that they [his poems] survive. / What mattered was that they should bear / Some lineament or character, / Some affluence, if only half-perceived, / In the poverty of their words, / Of the planet of which they were part.”4 While denying the importance of survival of the written word, Stevens still spoke of representation of events and phenomena (the planet), and representation implies survival. Here I would like to call attention to the surprising agreement of Stevens with Pound (in a common self-deprecating mood) in pointing to the objective world and slighting the written word: “Truth is not untrue’d by reason of our failing to fix it on paper.” Both are very much concerned with “getting the world right.” A comparative reading of “The Planet on the Table” and Pound’s final Cantos is illuminating. Stevens’s poetry is often glossed with reference to the essays in The Necessary Angel and to his letters, chiefly in connection with poetic theory, the subject of much of the poetry. A direct parallel between an impression and a poem, as in Keats, is possibly less easy to come by. Here, however, is an example. He wrote on October 3, 1952 to Sister M. Bernetta Quinn: This morning I walked around in the park here for almost an hour before coming to the office and felt as blank as one of the ponds


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos which in the weather at this time of year are motionless. But perhaps it was the blankness that made me enjoy it so much.5 

On November 12, 1952, Stevens sent The Nation a group of poems, among them “The Plain Sense of Things,” which describes the same scene as the letter: After the leaves have fallen, we return To a plain sense of things. … It is difficult even to choose the adjective For this blank cold, this sadness without cause. … Yet the absence of the imagination had Itself to be imagined. The great pond, The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves, Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see, The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge, Required, as a necessity requires.6 The poem gives us more natural detail and a heavier theoretical apparatus than the letter, developing the theme of the consolations of philosophy, of the sovereign act of the imagination. The letter goes more quickly to the heart of the matter by speaking of the enjoyment of blankness. As with Keats, the relation between the two statements could be compared to that of a sketch to the finished painting. With several painters (for example, Ingres), modern taste sometimes prefers the sketch to the solemnity of the final work. Ezra Pound rarely if ever gave information on his walks and more mundane doings to his correspondents. His communications mostly relate to his reading, or comment on current events, sometimes bringing in anecdotes and references from memory. Still, since he wrote his letters and essays concurrently with his poetry, the former often function as a running commentary on the latter. Given Pound’s insistence on concentration, the more expanded versions of the same statements are often to be found in the correspondence,

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


rather than in the poetry. The sketch in this case is more expansive than the final painting. For example, in a letter from St. Elizabeths to Clark Emery dated 16 October 1954, Pound writes: Incidentally John Ad/ to Rush in 1811 anticipates Gesell and is five years ahead of Jeff ’s approach from the other, or AN other angle. A decent Biddle (Alex) printed some “Old Family Letters” whether to avoid family suspicion I dunno, nothing on cover to indicate that they are Adams to Rush.7 Canto 94, written late September of the same year, begins impenetrably, yet memorably: “Brederode”       (to Rush, Ap 4. 1790) … treaties of commerce only,    Blue jay, my blue jay that she should take wing in the night by the Kingdom of     T’ai 太     Wu 武     Tzu 子     as mentioned in Rollin, re/ Lincoln, 14th May. 1810 “or whose depreciations are to the favour of the whole people”   Mr Adams saw thru the bank hoax … & the Medici failed from accepting too many deposits. Alex …, a respectable     or at least meritorious Biddle,                alive 1890 “& consequently the corruption of history”        J.  A. to Rush          18 ’leven. (94/653–54)8 In the poem Pound alternates quotation, inevitably opaque, with unambiguous generalization (“Adams saw thru the bank hoax”), but fails to make explicit


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

the relation between Alexander Biddle and the quoted Adams–Rush letters, as he was to do some days later in the letter to Emery. He throws us into the deep waters of his fragmentary historiography, and as it were challenges us to sink or swim. But probably only a John Adams expert could discover the source in the innocuously titled Old Family Letters. While denouncing “the corruption of history,” and implying in his letter that the Adams–Rush exchange was too sensational and had to be hidden away, Pound continues to hide it away. The champion of a conspiratorial interpretation of history, Pound couldn’t but be himself a conspirator. This by the way is the point about the Dutchman Brederode, mentioned by Adams in connection with the reputation of Washington: “Brederode did more in the Dutch Revolution than William 1st Prince of Orange. Yet Brederode is forgotten and William [is called] the Savior, Deliverer and Founder.”9 Pound is saying rather cryptically that what Brederode is to Holland, Adams is to the United States—a lost leader, like Pound himself. It is also worth noting that the implicit negative reference to other Biddles (Nicholas of the Bank War, and probably U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle, who indicted Pound in 1943) passes unchanged from poetry to letter or vice versa: the Cantos are Pound’s conversation, “the theatre, the record of flux of consciousness.”10 So far I have spoken of parallel statements, to be found in Keats as in Stevens and Pound, with possibly the interesting difference that in Pound the poetry is more condensed than the prose, in accordance with his poetics, while with the others the opposite is the case—the poetry develops a germ that is recorded more briefly in a letter. However, there is one kind of parallel statement where the process of expansion is comparable in Pound and Stevens, and that is the overt explication by the author of a given work or passage. Interestingly, we have a lot of authorial explication by Stevens, and very little by Pound. This is because Stevens’s poetry has more of the character of the finished product, compact and self-contained, something that one can talk about and around, while with Pound the poem is not the well-shaped urn, but, as he often told us, a Vortex, where it is difficult even to begin to ask questions, for everything leads to something else. Besides, while Stevens was very patient, at least as a letter-writer, with well-meaning enquirers and translators, and provided detailed glosses on some of his most famous and obscure poems, Pound was usually impatient, thinking of the next job and postponing revision and correction and clarification (which he occasionally mentioned) until it was too late. Here again, however, I would like to point out that also Stevens suggested several times that he was much

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


more interested in what he was going to write than in what he had written. Both men were similarly concerned with Making It New, rather than with dwelling on what was behind them. Authorial explication seems to be a modern phenomenon. We only have to think of Ulysses with its tables and The Waste Land with its notes. But then one remembers Dante’s letter to Cangrande, explaining the four levels of interpretation to be applied to the Commedia: … istius operis non est simplex sensus, ymo dici potest polisemos, hoc est plurimum sensuum; nam primus sensus est qui habetur per litteram, alius est qui habetur per significata per litteram. Et primus dicitur litteralis, secundus vero allegoricus sive moralis sive anagogicus.11 Perhaps the similarity is not entirely a coincidence, for Joyce and Eliot were, like Pound, much concerned with the Middle Ages and Dante. But Stevens wasn’t, except in his playful use of Ursula and the like.12 Still, he seems to have been naturally inclined to coded writing, and did use to a certain degree private symbolism, so that in some of his work he may well be the most obscure of major modernists. What status does authorial explication have? Stevens was quite willing to accept readers’ responses as authoritative and made frequent disclaimers about the value of his paraphrases. “What I intended,” he wrote a correspondent in 1941, “is nothing.” And he went on: A critic would never be free to speak his own mind if it was permissible for the poet to say that he intended something else. A poet, or any writer, must be held to what he puts down on the page. This does not mean that, if the critic happens to know the intention of the poet, it is not legitimate for him to make use of it, but it does mean that, if he does not happen to know, it is not of the slightest consequence that he should know, even if what he says the poem means is just the reverse of what the poet intended it to mean. The basis of criticism is the work, not the hidden intention of the writer.13 Stevens gets at the center of the issue with a lawyer’s instinct, and he is right of course. Yet many of us read through his 890-page Letters for clues to his


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

poems, and are thankful, even at this late date, for a statement such as the following, about that perennial conundrum, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”: the true sense of Let be be the finale of seem is let being become the conclusion or denouement of appearing to be: in short, icecream is an absolute good. The poem is obviously not about icecream, but about being as distinguished from seeming to be.14 This is enlightening—up to a point. In fact, one may want to respond, with Byron (and Pound): “I wish he would explain his Explanations.” In this matter of authorial explication, I believe we have learned to take all the help we can get, that is we do not disqualify a reading only because it is the writer’s own, as we would have done in the days of the Intentional Fallacy or the Death of the Author. We know that no word will be the last, that all statements are provisional, may mean the opposite of what they say. But this radical doubt is just as pertinent to the statements within a text. For example, when Stevens in “The Plain Sense of Things” presents “this sadness without a cause,” the bleakness of the autumn weather in Hartford, as a victory of the imagination, is he just consoling himself by vindicating the pleasures of asceticism? The question is not irrelevant, for Stevens suggests as much when he says that his act of imagination is “an inevitable knowledge, / Required, as a necessity requires.” One must survive, so one makes up a consolatory version of the event that one has to face. Stevens was intolerant of people who condemned escapism.15 So I would argue that our attitude to authorial explication has become wary but open, just as our present attitude to biographical interpretation. We have become less sure of what constitutes literature, where the well-shaped urn finishes and the fallacy begins. We have all been drawn into the Vortex. Unlike Stevens, Pound had little patience, as I have said, when questioned about his work, and was apt to throw out cryptic comments that have misled generations of critics. A famous instance is his remark about Hugh Selwyn Mauberley in a letter to Thomas E. Connolly: “The worst muddle they make is in failing to see that Mauberley buried E.P. in the first poem; gets rid of all his troublesome energies.”16 This has been understood, by Connolly and others, to mean that the character Mauberley is the speaker of the first poem, though the title unambiguously tells us that this is “E.P.”’s (not Mauberley’s) “Ode Pour l’Élection de Son Sepulchre”: “For three years, out of key with his time …”

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


Pound, who was puzzled by the monumentalization of the Eliotic Mauberley at the expense of The Cantos and Homage to Sextus Propertius, a delightful poem, was only pointing out that the poem Mauberley buries (figuratively) “E.P.” at the very start. The idea that Mauberley should be the speaker never occurred to him.17 Once again, authorial interpretations are in themselves needful of interpretation. At best, they answer a problem with another problem. It follows that we don’t have for Pound the long letters of self-enquiry in which Stevens tries to puzzle together an explication for the benefit of critic or translator. Though it is true that in writing to translators like Eva Hesse Pound did provide detailed comments, and a very interesting area of study would be the translation of The Cantos that he worked on in collaboration with his daughter Mary. It may be that Pound rarely had correspondents who were curious and persistent and sensitive enough to conduct a discussion of his poetry. When in the 1950s Clark Emery was writing Ideas in Action, one of the first and still among the best studies of The Cantos, Pound went over his typescript with extreme care, even pointing out typos—and came up with such characteristic comments as the following: “why buggar up a good blue-jay, for example, by making it a SYMBOL of some bloody thing ELSE?” (February 13, 1953). Compare this with Stevens’s “imagined pine, imagined jay” (“The Man with the Blue Guitar”), and the reference to blue jays in Canto 94, quoted above. If Pound did not explain The Cantos at any length, he did occasionally give readings of them, especially in the St. Elizabeths years, when he would hold forth to his acolytes during visiting hours. One of his protégés at the time was the Greenwich Village model and painter Sheri Martinelli, whose work Pound admired to the extent of having his Milan publisher, Vanni Scheiwiller, issue (at Pound’s expense) a booklet of reproductions of her art under the title La Martinelli (1956), with his own appreciative introduction. To Scheiwiller, who did not care for Martinelli’s work, he justified it as explication of his own poetry: “There is more about my Cantos in ten of these reproductions than in all the prose comment yet written.”18 In fact, Pound was both paternal and flirtatious with his strange visitor, and the sudden reappearance of love as a dominant motif in the St. Elizabeths Cantos, especially the beautiful second part of Rock-Drill, is surely connected with this. It is not difficult to recognize Martinelli in the Sibylla and Ra-Set and Leucothea that are praised for their compassion and their bikinis in some moving and amusing passages: “Sibylla, / from under the rubble heap / m’elevasti / from the dulled edge beyond pain, / m’elevasti …” (90/626). For the


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

captive poet, this intellectual love-game with the uncanny flower-child Martinelli was an unexpected godsend, and he proceeded very thriftily to put it to poetic use. (Actually, Martinelli was 36 in 1954, hardly a youngster, but she was elf-like in appearance, a diminutive sorceress with stories of ghosts, a sense of humour, and a peculiar prose style.)19 After Rock-Drill was published in 1955, Pound read it to his visitors, providing a running commentary, especially on foreign words that American beatniks could not be expected to understand. Martinelli dutifully made notes in her copy of Rock-Drill, adding a few sketches of her “Maestro.” These notes have been preserved and provide the only complete authorial commentary we have on a section of Cantos, though not everything is glossed. Sometimes a disturbance occurs, and the annotator gives up, as in this note for Canto 88 (dated January 24, 1958): “Kathy is here today. … She’s a fake. Cdn’t make any damn notes because Grampa starts bellowin’ & roarin’ & showing off for the cunts who listen & DONT hear & who beam & dont love ought but self.”20 Sibling rivalry is common in interpretative communities. The notes are a commentary at second hand, as recorded by a faithful disciple, yet they fill in a good number of blanks, and allow us to see what Pound thought he was saying or wanted to suggest. For example, Rock-Drill is notorious for its deluge of Chinese characters, that (as we all know) are taken by Pound as ideograms, pictures of things. In the poem, however, he does not always say what he wants us to read in a given character. In the Martinelli notes we find that several of these come from the I Ching, a littlestudied source for The Cantos; we also discover some improper innuendos. “Jen” (elsewhere glossed by Pound as man with erect penis) appears twice on the second page of the sequence. But it is news to this reader that the character for heart “hsin” (xīn in current transliteration) is also phallic: “Granpa sez this ‘is cock and balls but dictionary sez heart.’ Grampa would.” This throws quite a bit of light on the previous lines: Mohamedans will remain,—naturally—unconverted If you remove houris from Paradise       as to hsin 心 (87/593) I suppose the Chinese sound xīn may also playfully echo our Western concept of sin. (“So much for sin!”) The passage continues listing the kind of connections that Pound likes to posit tentatively:

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


In short, the cosmos continues     and there is an observation somewhere in Morrison, leading to Remy?    Bombs fell, but not quite on Sant’Ambrogio. Baccin said: I planted that      tree, and that tree (ulivi) Since Morrison’s dictionary is made up, as Terrell’s Companion tells us, of “6 quarto volumes,” it would be hard to find the “observation” Pound is referring to even if we knew what it was about. The reference becomes a little less opaque with Martinelli’s note: “Chinese dictionary on mind.” The point seems to be, as in Remy de Gourmont, the relation between intellect and sex. This is suggested by another gloss, apparently referring to the peasant Baccin’s proud statement about the olive trees that he planted himself. Martinelli’s note says simply: “copulation’s good effect.” Whether Baccin’s and Pound’s amatory activity also kept the bombs away from their house in Sant’Ambrogio, near Rapallo, or whether the RAF was trying unsuccessfully in 1944–45 to stop the fun, the notes do not tell us.21 There is plenty of this kind of material in the glosses, often the product of afterthought, for Martinelli worked over the pages adding retrospective comments. For example, this is the opening of Canto 89: To know the histories 書            to know good from evil          經 And know whom to trust            Ching Hao. Chi crescerà      (Paradiso) Somebody familiar with Pound’s system of quotations knows that “Chi crescerà” stands for a phrase in Dante’s Paradiso, “Ecco chi crescerà li nostri amori.”22 The full phrase is translated in the margin by Martinelli, under Pound’s instruction, as “Behold one who will increase our love” (though it should be “loves”). We may think we are moving in the sphere of heavenly love, but Martinelli’s personal comment brings us down to earth with a bump: “Behold one who will increase our love—Grampa’s excuse when he spots a


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

weak-backed broad.” This is to be taken with a grain of salt, for Pound enjoyed little privacy in St. Elizabeths Hospital, but it does remind us of the perennial playfulness of The Cantos. Predictably, the notes are particularly rich in the amorous section of Rock-Drill. In a way, Pound was reading to Martinelli poetry that she herself had evoked. Here we can never be sure how far we can believe her notes, for she may be claiming for herself a greater role than she in fact had, or Pound in a flirtatious mood may have told her that she was meant in a given line, to please her. Canto 90 begins, as perhaps the majority of Cantos, with a quotation that has puzzled critics: “From the colour the nature / & by the nature the sign!” Martinelli, after writing at the beginning of this, the first St. Elizabeths love-canto, “Sheri’s Cantos,” thereby as it were appropriating the sequence, notes that the quotation comes “from S.M.’s early letters.” She herself wrote the words! Terrell’s Companion tells us that the lines refer to the doctrine of signatures (colors and signs as revelations of the true nature of plants and living beings in general). But the formulation is Martinelli’s. The muse herself speaks.23 A few lines on, the fountain of poetry on Parnassus, near Delphi, makes a propitious appearance: Castalia is the name of that fount in the hill’s fold,      the sea below,            narrow beach Templum aedificans, not yet marble,        “Amphion!” And from the San Ku 三          孤     to the room in Poitiers where one can stand       casting no shadow, That is Sagetrieb,        that is tradition. (90/625) In reference to Castalia, Martinelli notes: “a vision dear Green Eyes had of her”—where Green Eyes is Pound, who may very well have told “her” that this was the import. Whatever we make of the note, a “fount in the hill’s fold” is in itself enough to suggest woman and sex. I have noted elsewhere that Pound

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


was also thinking of Henry James’s The Sacred Fount, of which he was one of the few admirers;24 a Pound–Martinelli annotation refers us also to “Boethius, Consolations of Philosophy.” In Boethius’s imprisonment, and consolatory vision of Philosophy as a woman, Pound may well have seen an image of his own plight. The feminine image of the fold is then spliced by Pound with the masculine “Templum aedificans” which Martinelli herself later glossed as an explicit reference to erection: “Templum aedificans, not yet marble.” I quote from this later gloss (1960), which seeks to recapture the very moment of poetic origin that the critic is always pursuing: now let us begin.. we are on the lawn of St. Liz..under that great tree, an Elm, I believe..                 birds & squirrels are around us—two blue-egyptian blue posts are to our right..Merlin is sitting in a lawn chair..he wears a green sun-shade cap of crossed bands over his silvery gold copper hair..he is ½ naked..the sun causes him to become be-dew’d— it is wet and delicious..            his mer-maid is sitting on a fawncoloured coat “the deer skin”..at his left side..    Merlin is of the opinion..that when he erects his love god..the crops will be good that year..         his poem then..is in the act of erection..and rising..               everything is rising..within it..25 If this is a dream, it integrates significantly the powerful dream of Cantos 90–95, with its elaborate make-believe and its lackadaisical return to adolescent love-play. In the unlikely setting of a hospital for the criminally insane, Pound was once again in touch with the deepest sources, personal and cultural, of his poetry. Martinelli’s notes on the close of Canto 93, just before the “Brederode” passage quoted and discussed above, are particularly revealing. Where Pound writes, possibly addressing her,     You are tender as a marshmallow, my Love,     I cannot use you as a fulcrum.       You have stirred my mind out of dust. (93/652)


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

she comments self-defensively: “he didn’t wait long enough to SEE his hawk spread wing,” then adds poignantly: “maestro forgive me & gods forgive maestro.” These words uncannily anticipate (echo?) what Pound wrote in a late fragment: “Let those I love try to forgive / what I have made” (C, 822). An even more touching note comes at the top of the following (“Brederode”) page, referring to the previous comments and reflections. It is addressed to Norman Holmes Pearson, at whose request Sheri annotated his copy of RockDrill: “Boss I’m sorry but grampa made me cry on your book,”—and probably refers to tear-stains on the paper. Poetry and life converge, even physically, as they must if the former is to have any significance. A final word about the heresy of authorial explication. We know from Peter Brazeau about the time Elder Olson, of the University of Chicago, asked Stevens about Rouge-Fatima in “Academic Discourse at Havana.” After correcting Olson’s pronunciation (it should be FAtima, not FaTIma), Stevens said “he had originally intended to put in something like Helen of Troy but decided the poor girl was overworked, especially in poetry, and so he thought of another beautiful woman.” Olson persisted: “That’s fine, but what about the rouge?” “Oh,” said Stevens, “that’s just to dress her up a bit.”26 If we turn to another lady, this time invented by Pound, Ra-Set of Canto 91, we find a similar comment in the Martinelli notes: “A name that came to him from the air.” And a few lines above: Miss Tudor moved them with galleons from deep eye, versus armada from the green deep         he saw it in the green deep of an eye:     Crystal waves weaving together towards the gt/ healing (91/631) Pound is speaking of Queen Elizabeth’s sea-green eyes moving men and making history, as in the war against the Spanish Armada—and a literary source has in fact been found, for the image of the warrior–lover seeing shipwreck in the Queen’s eye.27 Martinelli notes dutifully that “Drake saw it in Queen Beth’s eye.” At this point she seems to have asked Pound the inevitable question: How did he know? The answer was adamant. “Grampa sez: I said so!” There is no explanation but the text itself (or the poet’s authority).

“I wish he would explain his explanation”


On April 30, 1993, John Ashbery visited my class in Genoa and read a then unpublished poem called “The Mandrill on the Turnpike”: It’s an art, knowing who to put with what, and then while expectations drool, make off with the lodestar, wrapped in a calico handkerchief … I pointed out that in Italian “mandrill” can be used to indicate a person who is (in Shakespeare’s phrase) “lecherous as a monkey,” and asked Ashbery if this is also the case in English. He said: “That’s very interesting, because man-drill would seem to have a sexual connection too, but I don’t think the animal has that reputation in English.” I then noted that there was no further reference to the mandrill in the poem and asked him what that peculiar animal was doing in the title. “Oh,” answered Ashbery, “he’s just there on the turnpike.”28

Postscript on Structure It would be rewarding to gather Pound’s statements over the decades on the form of The Cantos to see how he rationalized or explained his undertaking to himself and others. In the 1920s, he spoke of a fugue-like structure, in the 1930s of a crime novel, with the revelation of villains Usura and Geryon at the turning point, and of a “record of struggle” and “tale of the tribe” (GK, 135, 194), in the 1940s of a poem that sought to travel from hell to an enlightened heaven,29 a none too “orderly Dantescan rising” (74/463) that allowed exterior events to “impinge or break into the main flow”30 (this in Pisa). In the 1950s, the dust-jacket of Rock-Drill, which shows traces of Pound’s authorship, tells us that now “the Cantos move into their third and final phase: the ‘domination of benevolence,’” rising as in Ferrara’s Schifanoia frescoes from “the casual” and “the recurrent” to “the permanent.” The back flap also provides two characteristically contrarian pronouncements by Pound. The first reads: “To hell with cookie-pushers who think poetry is a bun shop and are busy making eclairs.” Poetry is serious business, building a world of knowledge and emotion from “a sense of responsibility to the life of the mind” (as the second statement tells us). Pound worried, but not overmuch, about the general structure of the poem. In a preface to Canto 98 written soon after his return to Italy, he insisted that Cantos 98–99 “indicate that the poem has a structure,” leading


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

from Confucius in 13 to China in 52–61 to “the Manchu administration” in 98–99.31 The fact that recurrence of a theme does not make a structure did not trouble him. The writing to him was necessary as enlightenment, its own justification, and there was no reason to stop or not to include another important discovery of benevolence or resistance. Illness, not the necessities of form, brought The Cantos and their ex post facto explanations to an end. When in the final Canto, 116, Pound wrote “I have brought the great ball of crystal,” he was taking the will for the fact—a life of discoveries and enthusiasms and attempts to communicate them. The poet’s authority demands of the reader surrender and belief contrary to all the evidence of failure and madness. But this is the realm of poetry, dream, of striking memorable words describing a certain situation in time, a confidence in success which will be inevitably followed by despondency. All we can learn from Pound’s comments is how he thought of his enterprise at a certain time, and we can in turn consider how we as readers have responded differently at different times according to our own developing attitudes to those magical and tantalizing pages—the long accumulative poem. Speaking of the Confucian Odes in 1964 (when an Italian version appeared), Pound made a far more modest claim for his work: I’ve written perhaps some crude, third-rate poetry. At times perhaps I have found some sentiment of folk melancholy.32 Thus, mood follows mood, and happily Pound discovers again and again (though rather unfrequently) that sadness and failure beckon. As always, he responds to the urge to tell us about it, to create a scene of which he is the center: “Tard, très tard, je t’ai connue, la Tristesse” (80/533).


End to Torment?— E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


n February 1956, a booklet of 9.9 centimeters by 7.2 centimeters was published in Milan. The frontispiece read: LA MARTINELLI Introduction by Ezra Pound Milan MCMLVI

No name was given for the publisher, but the colophon of the edition of 500 copies stated: “This booklet … has been edited by Vanni Scheiwiller.” In his introduction,1 Pound praised the painter he called La Martinelli, comparing her to the three artists with whom he had been most concerned (Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Wyndham Lewis, Constantin Brancusi) and insisting on the religious nature of her work. The preface was followed by ten reproductions in color of thin and emaciated madonnas and other symbolic figures, plus a portrait of Pound. Scheiwiller had published in September 1955 the book which he later said was the most important of his publishing career—eleven new Cantos written by Pound in Washington and bearing the bizarre title Section: Rock-Drill 85–95 de los Cantares—and the project of La Martinelli had proceeded parallel to the poetry. But in this instance the young publisher had been adamant: the drawings and portraits were not to his liking, he thought them amateurish and incompetent. In fact, at first sight they are reminiscent of the clowns and 229


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

puppets displayed by itinerant artists through Europe and America. He also criticized the title. But the inventor of so many titles, movements, and strange names was unmoved by these remonstrations, and insisted on his discovery, for both its artistic value and its literary implications, as artwork parallel to his poetry. As mentioned in the previous chapter, he advised Scheiwiller: “There is more about my Cantos in ten of these reproductions, than in all the prose comment yet written.” Pound got his way, though his correspondent expressed his silent dissent by removing his imprint from the title-page. He was doing a favor to Pound (who in the event paid part of the cost), in exchange for the wonders of Rock-Drill, the manuscript that had reached him in Milan as a Christmas present for 1954. La Martinelli circulated among Pound’s friends and received little notice, though Donald Davie pointed out (in Poet as Sculptor) that there were notable parallels between Pound’s introduction and the themes of Rock-Drill.2 On the identity of the artist (whom Davie called “Ceri Martinelli”) and on her relation with Pound some light was thrown by an article that appeared in The Nation for November 16, 1957, “Weekend with Ezra Pound” by David Rattray. This was the chronicle of two successive visits to Pound at St. Elizabeths by a young man with literary and classical interests who knows and admires the seventy-year-old poet but has never met him and is far from uncritical. The article is ably written, in the form of an apparently objective and precise account of events and of the visitor’s impressions. The first day Rattray finds Pound in the company of his wife Dorothy, of “a young novelist named Jean Marie Châtel, and a painter, Miss Martinelli.” The last is sketching a portrait of Dorothy. It was late afternoon. Miss Martinelli was perched like a bird at dusk, her feet planted on the rung of the wooden chair. She was still at work on her sketch. Looking at her, with her golden hair falling down around her thin shoulders, I thought of Pound’s line,    In the gloom the gold gathers the light against it. She was dressed in blue jeans and a checkered blouse. Her appearance suggested a frayed and faded survivor of the early bobby-sox days. She had huge eyes like a cat. They bulged in a flushed face that tapered down from an enormous forehead to a tiny chin and a tinier double chin. Her lips were tight and pale, but sometimes relaxed

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


and parted into a naive smile. I assumed that she was a patient from another ward.3 But, surprisingly, at the end of the visiting hours the two youngsters leave with Rattray and invite him to spend the night, after dining on the leftovers Pound has given them at departure. Rattray presents Pound’s acolytes as lunatic and fascistic. He attributes to Martinelli homophobic and antiSemitic statements, to Châtel an admiration for Nazism, to “Grandpa” Pound a self-satisfied delight with the disciples he has indoctrinated so well. Pound makes several compromising statements, going so far as to suggest that his American publisher, “Laughlin of ‘No Directions,’” would not be above “selling E.P.’s typescript to the Jews.”4 (Pound wrote a letter of disclaimer which appeared in the TLS for December 6, 1957: “I have not accused Mr. Laughlin of selling my manuscripts but did mention that he had detected someone else doing so.”) In sum, we are in a madhouse. Pound is described as physically attracted to the painter, a fact that embarrasses Rattray more than Mrs. Pound: [The second day] Miss Martinelli appeared just as Pound was gathering up the jars and tins for tea-making. She was wrapped in a heavy wool overcoat and a long winding scarf, and was flushed and winded. Pound embraced her and ran his hand through her hair, and they talked excitedly, each interrupting the other. I turned and talked with Mrs. Pound.5 … It was time to leave, and Pound embraced Miss Martinelli as on the day before. As we went down the stairs, she said, “Grandpa loves me. It’s because I symbolize the spirit of Love to him, I guess.” “It’s true,” said Châtel. “He wrote a whole passage in the ‘RockDrill’ about her.” I didn’t have a chance to find out where that passage was.6 Rattray’s article turned out to be a small bomb. Though the weekend it describes must have occurred in December 1956, it appeared at the end of 1957, on the eve of the happy solution of the Pound case (so far as the U.S. government was concerned) with the poet’s release in custody of his wife. It was therefore a delicate time, in which the less was said about Pound and his unregenerate views so much the better. Reprinted in 1959 in A Casebook on


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Ezra Pound, Rattray’s piece became an important and mostly reliable source for Pound’s biographers. First among them, Charles Norman, who in 1960 published a reticent biography that sought to present the poet in the best light. Of this biography a very special review is in existence, written by Martinelli herself and printed in a magazine that she mimeographed in San Francisco, where she had moved in the meantime, The Anagogic & Paideumic Review (No. 5, c.1961). Here the artist shows that she has mettle, and that she belongs to a generation that wants to change the world: On page 442: Mr. NORMAN: “two other visitors were present—Sheri Martinelli, whom Pound called LA Martinelli, a Greenwich Village painter …” That is correct. I am a Greenwich Village painter; an art functionary; who paints sacred art for this world. Greenwich Village was my stable where I was born in thin rags. My mother was Stanley Gould & my father was a Pidgeon. An Ugly Duckling that was laid in St. Liz & hatched in San Francisco. It was clever of Mr. NORMAN to detect my Greenwich Village accent all the way from California to New York with no communication of any sort … On page 442: Mr. NORMAN tries to draw us into the VORTEX OF SMALL TALK—the Nadir of the Bredouilleur: “GRAMPA’S Got to do it with suicide troops. Like Kasper”7 (Miss Martinelli as        r e p o r t e d              by D.  Rattray) (Confucius:    FIRM IN DECISION & ON GUARD AGAINST CALUMNY & ITS MAKERS. Calumny: “false accusation of a crime or offense, maliciously made or reported to the injury of another.” “Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny”                   Mr. Wm. Shakespeare) What a land & what an age when persons with literary pretensions must search at the bottom of the social pyramid for an innocent to use as amunition in the war between Orders. I’d say off-hand—they are hard-press’d for what to toss up.

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


Miss Martinelli loved her teacher beyond her own good name; she could not sue that magazine because her teacher’s wife had asked her not to make a fuss. The husband was going to be released from 12 & ½ years of political confinement & a scandal would NOT help. There has never been an artist whose life was NOT scandalous judged by the standards of the suburbanites & Miss Martinelli is not different in this respect from other artists—therefore she did not take action & only love of her teacher saved that magazine from the sort of wrath that is not easy to turn away once started. Meanwhile, in Küsnacht, the village near Zurich associated with Carl Gustav Jung, Pound’s old associate and sometime fiancée H.D. began on March 7, 1958 to keep a notebook on her relation with Pound, present and past. Titled End to Torment, it was finished on July 13, 1958, but published only twentyone years later, posthumously, though one of its first readers, Norman Holmes Pearson, described it with some justice as “a small masterpiece.” (H.D., born 1886, one year after Pound, died in 1961.) In the entry for March 8, there is the first of many references to Rattray’s article, the reading of which jumpstarted H.D.’s reminiscences, and the very project of a memoir devoted to Pound lore (“it all came back”):8 There is the Wyndham Lewis Tate Gallery portrait in the “Weekend” by David Rattray, in The Nation of November 16, 1957. Wyndham Lewis used to come to our little flat in Kensington to borrow Richard Aldington’s razor. This annoyed Richard. Ezra and Dorothy had a slightly larger flat across the narrow hall. I found the door open one day before they were married,9 and Ezra there. “What—what are you doing?” I asked. He said he was looking for a place where he could fence with Yeats. I was rather taken aback when they actually moved in. It was so near. … I am anonymous here or try to be. But talking and thinking of Ezra creates a human, humanizing bond. But this has only happened lately; I mean this simple, natural approach has come to me since reading and rereading the “Weekend.” (ET, 5–7) H.D. had not forgotten her association with Pound, which in fact is the central subject in the 1958 journal. On March 10 she writes:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos It was Richard Aldington from Sury-en-Vaux, France, who sent me the “Weekend” article. I returned it, then asked to have it back again. I wanted Erich Heydt [H.D.’s analyst] to read it, and Bryher [H.D.’s companion], and George Plank who was here for a few days. I said to George: “It was the first time that I laughed about Ezra, for—how many years? It was the jam-jar or peanut-butter jar with tea.” (ET, 9)

On March 27, H.D. records her impressions upon reading Canto 90 and in the next entry, dated “March 30, Palm Sunday,” she quotes Rattray’s description of Martinelli sketching Dorothy Shakespear and saying: “I think she has a beautiful profile, but it is so difficult.” By coincidence, the lines from Canto 90 quoted by H.D. (“from under the rubble heap / m’elevasti”) are the very ones that Pound wrote for Martinelli, who becomes a key figure also in the journal, an alter ego of H.D., as a protégée (and close friend) of Pound, as H.D. had been. And as a woman whom, again like H.D., Pound at a certain point was to leave behind. On March 30, 1958, the day of the entry last quoted, Norman Holmes Pearson, an old friend and counsellor of H.D., professor of English at Yale, wrote H.D. one of his long and memorable letters describing a recent weekend with Pound (March 22–23): So at nine o’clock on Saturday morning I was driven by one of his followers to Saint Elizabeths where he met us in the main office, got into the car and drove to a point of land within the grounds from which one could look out over the Potomac and see the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, and all of the symbols of his chief present concern. Our companion was Horton, of the Square Dollar Series, and the morning was spent chiefly (it seemed to me) in their conversation about politics, economics, and the injustice of Ezra’s incarceration. There was much talk of kikes and kikeressas, although not vicious; but it was a little difficult for me to join enthusiastically. We left at 11:30, his luncheon time, and drove to Dorothy’s little apartment in the basement of a lower-middle-class frame house about three miles away. She cooks her breakfast and suppers there, and eats out each noon at the Hong Kong Restaurant which is en route to the Hospital. Perhaps she receives a few people there, but if so they are chiefly Ezra’s “students” towards which she is in something of the role of a headmistress, lending them

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli books, giving them little scoldings, and holding aloof from the naughtiest of them until they come to heel. She looked amazingly well, and we were most friendly; talked about Ezra and the hopes for his release, which she now feels she anticipate [sic] enough to plan where they will go “first,” and then afterwards. But what a life it is for her! We were back at the hospital, she and Horton and I, at 1:30 and found Ezra at the point of land (when there one is quite out of “it” in spirit), this time with a young lady school teacher of 27, Marcella, who came from Texas to Washington, to study under him, and supports herself meanwhile by work at school. It is she with whom he is planning an anthology. Into our car they piled, Ezra with several pamphlets for me, and a vast array of foodstuffs: chocolate brownies cooked for him by Horton’s wife; a jar of peaches, two kinds of bread, cheese, breakfast cake, etc., all given him by the kitchen workers at the hospital (“otherwise it would go to the pigs in Virginia”) out of left-overs, at which he munched, we munched, and the rest Dorothy took home with her (“I needed some more bread.”). The afternoon’s conversation was more literary, Ezra read some poetry, we told jokes and laughed. And the afternoon was soon over. Sunday morning I was met again, and taken out to the hospital. This time there was a message that we were to go to his ward where he had things to show me. We climbed the stairs, rang the bell (which chimed like a glockenspiel), and entered the iron door after the key turned to admit us. The last time, you may recall, was a Saturday afternoon and there had been a football game on television: turned up to the maximum roar of static and cheerleaders, so that to walk down the hallway between the patients was like a procession in Hades, the descent to Tiresias. This time it was quieter and better: the patients lay stretched out upon the benches, their heads bandaged, or walked slowly up and down carrying what seemed like pillows on their heads (perhaps only two did, in fact, but the sight of them was overpowering). But there was Ezra like a monument of sanity, running down to greet us with three great folio volumes of Coke in his hands at which I must look and marvel, for Coke is the latest addition to the paideuma and the rocks upon which the city of Dioce is to be built. Then he took me to his room, which he has to himself, and which I was delighted to see. It was like a boy’s room in school, or the room of an old bachelor.



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos Books were on the floor, under the bed, piled high on dresser and stands. Papers were in boxes, like a helter-skelter muniment room of a man who never throws anything away. On the walls were paintings and drawings, chiefly of his protege La Martinelli (Mrs. Pound: “I do not see her, I do not know her address, there are things it is better to keep away from”), who does paint very well indeed, and perhaps you know her work from the little Vanni Scheiwiller volume for which Ezra wrote an introduction. Have you this? You’d better. And this? He filled two string bags with documents of one sort or another; or little booklets I might not have seen; or letters from various people which he wanted to read to me; and an agenda which he had carefully prepared. Half running, half skipping, like a twenty-year old, full of vigor and good humor, he led us down the corridor and out the door and to the car. The temperature had risen, it was nearly sixty and springlike, and he was in top form. We followed the agenda carefully, things were planned for decades to come, enemies were scouted, friends were embraced, in the almost ceaseless conversation. He lay back in the seat and relaxed. I think I’ll have a cigarette. I only smoke three a month. I think I’ll have another. Stories of the past, of Idaho and Wyncote, of London and Rapallo, of Eliot and Williams and you. He was at complete ease, and when I left he could hardly say goodbye. He looks exceptionally well, his beard jaunty, his skin as fresh as a baby’s. He tires easily, Dorothy says, and forgets things a little now, but the writing goes on, and he seems to touch life even at his distance. There does seem to be an increasing hope that he might be released, and at least the outlook is not cloudy. I lunched with Dorothy Pound again at her Chinese restaurant, and packed the messages of love to you from her and Ezra, and caught my train back to New Haven.10

Pearson’s letter of March 30 arrived in Küsnacht on April 3, and H.D. commented on it in the entry for April 4, Good Friday. Bryher and Sylvia Beach were her guests over Easter, and they reminded her of Pound’s misdeeds. “I said, ‘But.’ There is no argument, pro or con. You catch fire or you don’t catch fire. ‘This fruit has a fire within it, / Pomona, Pomona’” (April 5). But Bryher writes Pearson complaining about his inconsiderateness and

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


lenience to Pound, and Pearson answers spiritedly in a letter to H.D. of April 8, a quotation from which appears in End to Torment under the date of April 12. The daughter of a Jewish business mogul, Bryher had good reasons for resentment, and was nevertheless generous enough to offer money through Pearson to Pound’s daughter so that she could visit her father in Washington. But given her partnership with H.D., jealousy of H.D.’s old flame, which End to Torment reveals to be far from forgotten, must have played its part. The letters evoke an intricate relationship of four—because Pearson is also something more than a friend: a confidant, a patron saint, who demands to play a role of his own. And we can imagine the gloating of H.D.’s psychiatrist, Erich Heydt, on whose insistence End to Torment—diary, homage, epistolary novel—was undertaken. On April 14, H.D. reports that Heydt is “shocked” that her youthful correspondence with Pound has been destroyed. “I did not ask about the letters when I met my parents in Genoa, autumn 1912—was it? But my mother took me aside, ‘I think you will be relieved to know that your father burnt the old letters. …’” (ET, 38). But the triangle (or quadrangle) was soon to be complicated and enriched by other correspondents. In his letter from March 30, Pearson mentioned “the little Vanni Scheiwiller volume” of Martinelli, and on April 18, H.D. notes that she has been able to get a copy: Joan found me the little La Martinelli in Zurich, with Ezra’s introduction. The pictures turn on the wheel or turn the Wheel. “La Martinelli, who is the first to show a capacity to manifest in paint, or in la ceramica what is most to be prized in my writing.”11 This seems a return to the early D. G. Rossetti and the Vita Nuova translation and pre-Raphaelite pictures that Ezra brought me. Concern with “The Blessed Damozel”! Surely, Ezra read it to me—yes—and the “Dante in Verona.” La Martinelli seems myself then. One esteems Ezra’s Gaudier-Brzeska, Wyndham Lewis, Brancusi enthusiasms. But this is something different. A hand (Ezra’s?) holds a tiny ceramic head, in the first picture, called “Testa Invocatrice.” All the heads in the little book are an invocation; there is “Patria” with the “Christo” and the sad “St. Elizabeths Madonna.”12 H.D.’s identification with Martinelli is immediate, and she sees at once the PreRaphaelite and Tuscan character of Pound’s new lyric-amorous phase, which


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

is similar to the phase of 1906, half a century back. In a review of Pound’s Literary Essays, Donald Davie had spoken with admiration of the famous 1928 essay on Cavalcanti (“Mediaevalism”): The early pages of this essay are as carefully written as anything in Pound; they are earnest and eloquent and they attempt to define a mode of experience now lost.13 In the introduction to La Martinelli, reprinted with the combative title “Total War on ‘Contemplatio,’”14 Pound refers to the comment of his sympathetic British critic: What Yeats called the “pragmatic pig”15 had so triumphed and the filth of hell, the squalor of degradation, had so overflowed the world that I have been credited with reviving a lost form of sensibility. (EPVA, 178) The quotation recurs ironically in the close of one of the most beautiful Cantos, 91, written in summer 1954, in juxtaposition with a Cavalcanti reference: “Ghosts dip in the crystal,            adorned” That the tone change from elegy               “Et Jehanne”          (the Lorraine girl) A lost kind of experience?            scarcely, O Queen Cytherea,         che ’l terzo ciel movete. (91/637) Cavalcanti, Villon, Dante …16 But Pound is saying that his ladies are not of yesteryear: as always, his loves want to be realized in the world of praxis, like the vision of “Jehanne la bonne Lorraine”—Joan of Arc. “Whom the English burned in Rouen,” as Villon glosses in his “Ballad of Dead Ladies”: and Pound probably wants us to remember this, since he also considered himself a victim of perfidious Albion and its allies. The finale pays homage to Queen Venus, who (in the words of Dante’s canzone) “moves the Third

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


Heaven” (i.e., the sphere of Venus). After all, love present and past is what holds together these multifarious texts (Rock-Drill, End to Torment, the letters). And we notice Pound’s assumption of masterly confidence in his understated reply to (or dismissal of) Davie: “Scarcely.” After which he turns to the great goddess. On April 19, Pearson writes H.D. that Pound is free at last, mentions H.D.’s journal and provides what was to become its title: As you will have known from the radio, Ezra is free! … It is satisfying. Ezra committed treason of course, though not in his mind; the point is that whatever the penalty should be, he has more than paid it.   If the hoar frost grip thy tent   Thou wilt give thanks when night is spent. The whole thing has been a kind of birthday week present for me. … Your letter about Ezra and yourself warmed my heart. I knew it already of course … But there has always been this little veil between the admission of it to yourself … I think somehow of the exhibition at Yale as having restored you to your father so that he became no longer the “professor” but Daddy (“Did I call him Daddy?” you asked Harold). And now another canyon has been bridged by Ezra’s end to torment; perhaps even Bryher’s fury (which may have a little jealousy in it) may have helped. And these things are a birthday present to me too. I am glad you are writing it down, and unser [Erich Heydt] knows how important it is for yourself that you should write it down.17 Martinelli surfaces again in Pearson’s letter of April 27: I have had the most curious long letter from Sheri Martinelli, the little painter, whom Ezra has adopted as protege and whose work you may have seen in the little Vanni Scheiwiller booklet devoted to her work, with an introductory note by the maestro himself. She is off to Mexico, and Ezra has asked me to buy something to help her. She is obviously an original. I can send you her letter if you’re interested. It is really something quite extraordinary.18


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

H.D. records the news of Martinelli’s departure on April 30, and is immediately brought to reflect on betrayal: What now? The curtain falls. I don’t seem to see any further. They walk out, the battered Poet and the Faithful Wife. In my muchquoted “Weekend,” Miss Martinelli is reported to have said, “Grandpa loves me. It’s because I symbolize the spirit of Love to him, I guess.” (ET, 42) On May 13, H.D. notes that she no longer identifies with the young woman, but would like to help her: Pearson has written (May 10) that she sent him “a self-photograph in bikini, with the banner very much at half-mast,” and requested him to keep her art-works for her while she is away in Mexico. This photograph, sent by Pearson to H.D. on May 25, is described in the entry for June 4, and suggests an identification of Martinelli with “Undine,” the mermaid Pound speaks of in Canto 91 (“Thus Undine came to this rock”): In the meantime, La Martinelli emerges. She is a reflection-in-amirror, Undine, ghost-like. This is a picture Norman sent me with a number of photographs of her own drawings and paintings. … She took the photograph herself (of herself), reflected in the mirror, in a “bikini,” Norman wrote. It is a graceful little body, and the triangular face belies Rattray’s description in the “Weekend.” No doubt, the young man was puzzled and disturbed at the apparition, “perched like a bird at dusk … with her golden hair falling down around her thin shoulders.” As I reread the “Weekend,” the description, in light of later events, becomes even more poignant and revealing. “I assumed that she was a patient from another ward.” Norman writes that as he left St. Elizabeths after his first visit, Pound “told me he was not seeing her but gave no reason and still asked me to help her.” Norman wrote me, asking my advice about some of the pictures. I feel we have inherited La Martinelli. (ET, 52) From Pearson’s letter of May 25 we learn that H.D. has already sent him a check for the artist, and that Pearson (contrary to H.D.’s wishes) has told Martinelli where the money comes from. In a subsequent letter of June 1, whence the quotations in H.D.’s notes for June 4, Pearson spoke explicitly of

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


“She took the photograph herself (of herself), reflected in the mirror, in a ‘bikini.’” 14. Sheri Martinelli, Self-portrait in Mirror, 1956. a break (“I rather guess that she and Pound broke; he told me he was not seeing her but gave no reason and still asked me to help her”), and mentioned Pound’s intricate family situation (Dorothy Shakespear and her son Omar, Olga Rudge with her daughter Mary): “Of course the ménage à trois, of D, EP, and OR, lived together during a part of the war, which must have made the P stand for Purgatory. If indeed DP is to live in Brunnenburg [Mary’s house in Italy] we must include her in our prayers.” H.D. reverts in the notes for June 5 to the embraces between the old poet and the young painter as described by Rattray, to the painter’s snapshot, and again identifies with her:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos I see this Undine.19 Somewhere in Rock-Drill, Ezra writes of dry rocks, desolation, no water, no place for his Undine. When Ezra left finally for Europe, Frances20 came into my life. She completed or “complemented” the Dryad or Druid that Ezra had evoked so poignantly. Now, it almost seems that we have a super-imposition, as Ezra leaves or will leave or has left this Undine, again so poignantly evoked—but in what desolate surroundings. June 6, Friday Martinelli. Martin is a boy’s name—another cosmogonic Eros? Martin is a bird of the swallow-kind, with a swallow-call, a swallowflight.21 “O swallow—my sister … the world’s division divideth us …” off to strange adventure, looking for a Temple, an answer. I tremble at the words, Aztec, Aztlan, which Norman quotes from one of the letters … and a Tomb, a Venus, her own creation, to go with her—where? Frances Josepha completed me after her “father,” as the Martin calls Ezra, left America for Europe, in 1908. This is 1958. The year’s division divideth us? No. (ET, 53)

The plot, we see, is thickening: H.D. has learned from analysis to interpret, and what we get are vague events and reflections. Pearson has sent H.D. Martinelli’s letters (“by surface mail: there were so many of them, and so heavy”) and these contribute to the reconstruction she attempts on June 8 of the break-up: Did he tell her, then and there, it was the last time, or did he leave it at that, and write one of his all but undecipherable letters, to be understood at least in that connection, “We won’t meet again.” They won’t meet “outside.” She has friends, work, she is not alone. Why did she write Norman of herself, Undine, “He killed her”? (ET, 54) This opens the way to a reminiscence, how accurate we cannot know, of H.D.’s first break with Pound: It was at the Burd School where we had the dances and the coasting parties. “Father won’t be back,” Margaret said, “you and Ezra can stay in the study.” There was a couch. There were fiery kisses. There

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


is a tentative knock. Ezra answers the door and turns to the heavy long velvet curtains. “What is the matter?” It was another shock, again “caught in the very act,” such as it was. It was enough to draw an audience. The school girls, it was discovered, had assembled on the balcony above—one of them loyally had come across to their private apartment and told Margaret. There must have been a gap in the folds of heavy velvet; anyhow, the girls had their peep-show. I was frozen, then. Now, I think of La Martinelli, the last time at St. Elizabeths, and the background of dark faces, a jungle. (ET, 54–55) The scene has its comic side, of which H.D. is partly aware, as revealed by the comment: “‘caught in the very act,’ such as it was.” The situation of 1958 is more charged and dramatic. The notes for June 20 register the opening of a new bridge, with the beginning of a direct correspondence between Martinelli and H.D.: “In this [second] letter of June 9, I am all the things that I would forget, ‘seeress,’ ‘most high,’ ‘most beautiful,’ and all the rest.” And then: June 25 Poor Martin! They don’t want you, they really don’t. How shall we reconcile ourselves to this? … Sentiment, sentimentality struggle with reason … June 26 The Martin writes, “The male just can’t go about like that, ditching a spirit love.” She writes, “I have known Ezra for 6 years.” She says, “The last 4 years I took a vow in St. Anthony’s Church in NYC not to leave the Maestro until he was freed. A month before he was freed he made me break that vow.” (ET, 57) On June 28, the copy of Modern American Poetry arrives, with the artist’s embellishments in the margin of H.D.’s poems, who notes: … one is a full page drawing of Ezra, done over the “Evadne” lines, “I first tasted under Apollo’s lips / love and love sweetness …” I find the reference to Amaral: “Now José Amaral, the Aztec, has given me another name … and I can not do other than use it.” If only she would consent to be just Martin now, which is the legitimate abbreviation of the Martinelli of the Ezra period. It is the


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos family name, I remember, too of the Saint whose picture I find her Undine photograph resembles. There is a Little Flower pressed and carefully mounted on the initial page of the H.D. section. We would like to confide Martin to the care of Marie-FrançoiseThérèse Martin, Sainte Thérèse of Lisieux.22

In the last pages of her journal, H.D. continues to reflect on the “little flower of Jesus” Thérèse of Lisieux (Thérèse Martin, 1873–97), on her sisters, and on the aid that she can offer, superimposing her image on those of “Martin” and H.D.’s friend Frances-Florence Gregg—“all boy’s names,” she notes with reference to her own bisexuality, identifiable with “the ‘lost companion’ who figures so prominently in many analytical histories” (July 2). The Pounds sail from New York City on the Cristoforo Colombo on July 1, and the journal closes on the date of July 13 with a fine letter from Pearson, who (always on the scene) has gone to his friends’ cabin to say farewell: There on the bunk lay Ezra, stripped to the waist, his torso rather proudly sunburned. At his knees on the bunk sat Marcella shoeless. On the other side of the cabin was Dorothy, smiling and looking very well. She rose and kissed me, to my surprise; and I gave her a single yellow rose. “H.D. wanted me to give you this,” I said. I told her you knew she was going but not when. “You were commanded, then!” Dorothy said, and she was really touched. “Yes,” I answered, for the Spirits had told me you did command.   … Ezra was no different from ever. For half an hour he lectured me on college entrance examinations, and the program I must follow to improve them. He talked about Marcella Spann’s anthology and what I must do about it. He showed me Canto 99 which has just appeared. I will get you a copy eventually. And so it went. Then the whistle blew at 3:30 and we bade farewell. Ezra took both my hands and pressed them warmly; Dorothy gave three affectionate kisses to me and an invitation to Brunnenburg. “Don’t look so sad,” Ezra said. And so that is ended and I wonder if I shall ever see either of them again. And in any event your rose was with them. “It is for the Paradiso,” I said at the end. (ET, 61–62)

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


But the story was not ended. “Torment title excellent,” Pound wrote H.D. on November 13, 1959, “but optimistic.” In fact, Pound after his release from the asylum and his return to Italy was quite a different and more tormented figure than the “grampa” of St. Elizabeths Hospital who gave tea to friends and disciples, conducted his correspondence, drafted Cantos, planned anthologies, and had no anxiety about his income. The visiting hours had protected Pound from his personal problems but returning to Italy he found the unresolved conflicts he had left behind in 1945, with further complications. Then he only had to deal with his wife Dorothy and his companion Olga, whose tensions he had claimed to have been able to defuse (three lines deleted from the Pisan Cantos read: “if you can keep the peace between / those two hell-cats / you will have no trouble in running the Empire”—PC, 140). Now there was also an adult daughter, with whom he went to live in Meran in the first years of his return; furthermore, from America he brought a young woman, Marcella Spann, who since 1957 had replaced Martinelli as Antigone–muse–helpmate of the old Oedipus. From the United States, Martinelli kept writing fiery letters, accusatory or conciliatory as the spirit moved her. And in H.D.’s memoir Pound found a portrait of himself which gave him pause, besides taking him back to that early literary flirtation. So the women were no longer two, but six, and to keep the peace between them was beyond his dwindling powers. Like T. S. Eliot’s Elder Statesman, Pound had a rendezvous with the ghosts of his past and present, and this precipitated the crisis expressed by his last letters and Cantos. In the summer of 1958 Pound sent “H. Aldington” a postcard from Venice: “Daniele full only Bella Venezia had room 1910–58—E.” He had returned to the hotel where he stayed with H.D. and her husband in 1913, forty-five years before, a holiday mentioned in End to Torment (March 8). Another postcard of October 6, from Meran, seems to answer an offer from H.D. to send him a “panel” by Martinelli: Thanks, DON’T send anything yet. 13 years Wash/ archives plus Rapallo junk to be arranged, alZo, work of living artists shd/ be in gtst/ number of places possible to be seen by more different people. Not that the mutts ever PAY till the artist is dead. Bless N.H.P. for existing.         yrz            E23


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

H.D. for her part underlined the last sentence and sent the postcard to Pearson, adding: “Yes, yes, yes! This card seems to be for you. I offered to send the panel!” Now H.D. asks if she can send him her memoir, and Pound answers on January 5, 1959: “Yes, glad to satisfy curiosity as to how the hell you cd/ have covered 51 pages (typscript I hope) with my glories. Of course rectification of error has its uses.” The typescript goes to Meran but meanwhile Pound has sought a milder climate by moving with Dorothy and Marcella to Rapallo. From here he writes H.D. on March 31, 1959, commenting on the photograph of an emaciated H.D. on the cover of the Selected Poems edited by Pearson and recently issued by Grove Press: Gheez, I tho’t yu’d deyed yr/ ’air. Weight of bloody war of then. and etc. cetera on yr/ shoulders, soulful eggspression as of Martinelli. have you copy to send her?       she will do a dozen Ondine or tragic victims.      must stimulate the arts. … Marcella goin wild over Fordie’s nobl products. Pound’s references to Martinelli are ironic yet sympathetic: he wants to keep her at a distance but wants to help. And if one reads her letters one sees why. She is too explosive and uncontrollable a force, except in the small doses allowed by the St. Elizabeths visiting hours. And one should remember that Pound had also a concern for propriety and conventions, good manners that can be violated only to a certain point, and in this context a young visionary like Martinelli was undesirable company. She realized this and protested in her letters against this contradiction of the Savage Messiah who is nevertheless a slave of convention: Maestro I RESENT      being good enough to           bring yr tea & make you honey cakes    in     JAIL

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


and when you return to       respectable society            to be treated with cold words .. harsh thoughts …… who are now in a REAL jail      THE JAIL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS … Shame   Maestro carissimo..        to pay love with business letters in yr fear …that Italy wont like what you liked when you were stuck in jail/   the American daughter might not please.. O! my curse on those who       PLEASE.. To this exciting but dangerous fury Pound preferred the more discreet company of Marcella Spann, the young Texan who accompanied him and Dorothy to Italy: she was not an artist, but young, attractive, and intelligent (and, unlike Martinelli, reliable), and knew how to type, and so could be of real use to him. In Rapallo she would have passed nearly unnoticed. Besides she was a schoolteacher, and teaching had always been Pound’s passion and fixation. Having conceived with (and for) her the project of an anthology of world poetry for schools and colleges, Pound threw himself with his usual gusto into the job, asking friends for suggestions, commissioning translations, drafting and annotating selections himself (among them Ford’s “On Heaven,” see letter above). One daughter-muse had replaced the other, and Pound seemed to have extricated himself once again, doing only his own interests and those of his poetry. But he had not taken his family into account, nor his income: apparently with little reason, he began to worry about scarcity of funds and to write despondent letters to acquaintances asking suggestions for selling his memorabilia (rare editions, letters). Ernest Hemingway sent him a check for $1,500. Pound did not cash it but didn’t stop worrying. Besides, in September 1959, his association with Spann came to an end, and she returned to the United States. There had already been signs of physical and mental decline, and within a few months Pound was a sick and silent old man, his writing permanently over. But in the spring and summer of 1959, Pound was in Rapallo with Marcella and Dorothy and was living his last period of poetic creativity and


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

personal independence. “Wd. have liked to get over to see you when I was at Brunnenburg,” he wrote to Hilda: Curious, but evidently I cant stand high altitude. Got enough surpluss bone (calcination) on nekk to fit out a giraffe, but it aint malignant. It has slowed me up, but am reviving in gulf of Tigullio. Hope even to git to Roma, tho Zellerbach hasn’t invited me to deliver the 4th of Lug/ oRation, or mention the honest characters in american history. … It is rather fun to survive. LeZope I wunt overdo it. The tone is less confident in a letter of September 8: You once said: Serenitas, Dieudonné, Imagist, or nagiste, or whatever dinner. and I have just made a draft line for a canto from it If I ever get order into the decad after 109 (where end present proof sheets) You also said: not if you were the last man.             not since Brigit, Richard, the four of us, has there been any harmony around me. their irritations with each other used to amuse me,              never seeming to have any very serious root.         Having known me longer than any surviver save old Bull Wms/ (said to be recovering from last operation)     having also critical eye, if not much connected with utterance.     What, damn it, do you think is the reason why my friends don’t get on with each other? Cher R/ writes he is purty ill. Did I write that Venice being full, last autumn, I finally refound “La Bella Venezia,” nigh 40 years after. This letter allows us to date some lines of Canto 113 (“H.D. once said ‘serenitas’/ (Atthis, etc.) / at Diedonné’s / in pre-history”). While the question about the “friends” who disagree (such as Olga, Dorothy, Martinelli, and Spann?) occurs in Canto 115, probably written at the same time: “When one’s friends

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


hate each other / how can there be peace in the world? / Their asperities diverted me in my green time.” He used to enjoy literary squabbles, but this is no longer the case, especially since the quarrels are now possibly more personal. With the next letter, of November 6, Pound is back in Meran, and is “low,” as he says. Marcella has left and only that day has he pulled himself together and read the typescript of End to Torment. His first comments follow, among obscure allusions, all of them sombre—the sense of a destiny that has come to a close, of too many accumulated errors: the flaying started on July 1st this year / / and destino … Margaret’s death / the idiocy of rushing to Dolmetsch’s concert in 1938. [This refers to Pound’s last meeting with H.D.] W.B.Y.: shall not lie with the proud Mary had mentioned End of Torment but I thought she had sent it back to you and only this a.m. found that there was a copy here and in the autumn of ’58, the failure to make two day motor trip to Küsnacht … No Frobenius not Ulysses. apart ça Mein Schwesterlein, die stolze / Brer Rabbit this time is LOW. And when Helen was thought to be dying, the crow and the raven the mouse and the field mouse opened her heart to see how the valves worked. and as to the Rat [Rattray], stopping the food supply to poor Chatel who had been mostly living on what I cd/ scrounge, against regulations. and who had put him up for the night. and you have already emended to           reality of the white sand destino.   che con amore al fine combatteo and from Cournos’ time you never looked over yr/ shoulder by which I don’t mean, I mean I am using the name only chronologicly. And La Bella Venezia, as pilgrimage. And I did not put anyone into Buchenwald.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Pound calls H.D. “my little sister, the proud one,” and now the roles have been reversed: it is he who feels the weight of destiny (“destino,” as he calls it in Italian), who sees himself “brought to death by love” like Dante’s Achilles, “che con amore al fine combatteo” (Inferno, V, 66), like Herakles in the Women of Trachis that he had recreated. In a note written on the same day he says that he cannot finish his letters and calls himself “too dumb to learn,” therefore he sends her only some disjointed notes on End to Torment. Though in a depressed mood, he disagrees with the role of Ariadne forsaken by Theseus in which H.D.’s memoir casts Martinelli: I am beaten down low as a louse egg. … document, or a dangerous document[:] I am no longer particularly pleased with my past life, and the moments of extreme blindness and insensitivity have been PHEnomenal.              HOW ever, when it comes to the perjured sail motif and identification. There might be a limit. The rule in the bughouse after some years was that I was permitted not ground patrol but to use a bit of lawn say about 50 by 90 yards in sight of the main door WHEN accompanied by member of family (extended to Miss M/, as D/ needed occasional rest in summer in Washington[)]. AND the number of days I suffocated inside due to NON appearance of the artist might be considered.24 celtic love of excess, not Quattrocento. which is not to retract the positive, but to leave Theseus some shreds of decency. the said Sibyl had an allowance, about what I wd/ have had to run on had I been out, and was given a hospital bill, and studio to paint in, rent sometimes more than that of D’s flat (basement most of the time). AND the struggle to get the artist off heroin, and D’s anxiety lest I get legally encoiled in the dope racket. S/M was tried … etc. all of which is not complaining, and the cost of the brochure. O.K. and said “Martin” couching with anything black white or yellow in two or more cities. This is not to complain. Her mind goes up as far as you can take it, and then DOWN to the bottom of the pozzo nero, with squalor and to a point that is not Rabelasian but obscene, so that it was not Upper Darby or Miss Bessie Ellicot. AND she had sense enough to see at some juncture that you cannot booze and dope in some areas such as small Italian localities without causing admiratio. Young T/ whom

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


she had got to tote a load of dope to Ohio, thinking she was really possessed of devil brought her to be exorcised, etc. The process of dumping the poubelle or ash can. 45 minutes tirade vs/ all acquaintances, before you cd/ get up into higher air. Painting as in brochure, but also rubbish. In contrast to someone who goes into debt for a car so one cd/ get out of ward into air in bad weather. All of which is very flat but that was the last winter when everyone’s nerves were about FINISHED and sans which … the perjured sails motif rounds out the story. but .. and I haven’t read as much in any one day for months as I did yesterday. lets not try to get it all into one letter. This is one of the most lucid pages written by Pound, a sort of countermemoir which reduces the importance of the relationship with the “Sibyl” while at the same time admitting its relevance. In another page of these days (November 6–7?), he writes: “also enough tragedy without putting it where it ain’t.” Then he cancels the phrase and adds: “of course my moments of blindness, incomparable.” It is curious that Pound continues to recall the myth of faithless Theseus, to which there is no allusion in H.D.’s memoir. Perhaps he read the last scene of setting sail from the Manhattan pier as a repetition of Theseus’s departure by sail from Ariadne. On November 13, he is still trying to exculpate himself: N.H.P. will deduce that I am a fair swine, from general data, but the Martin as Ariadne a bit over done, and the sails not quite so perjured as he may have supposed. The association may have been suggested by a poem quoted in Rattray’s article and cited in End to Torment (March 8), where it is said that Pound is “tracing / the lay-out for the Labyrinth”—which makes him a Theseus. In a passage of Canto 93 associated with Martinelli, we find: “to enter the presence at sunrise / up out of hell, from the labyrinth / the path wide as a hair.” And in Canto 116, the last completed canto, Pound remembers that “beauty” visited him “twice” “under the elms” of St. Elizabeths, and mentions Ariadne. So the theme was in his mind when he read the memoir.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

In a subsequent letter of November 16, Pound seems to want to defend his second St. Elizabeths “beauty,” for whom Pearson and H.D., impressed by Martinelli’s eloquent account of her grievances, had little sympathy, and he attributes to Dorothy part of the responsibility for the rupture with Martinelli: When one has had one’s life saved, as that is what it amounts to[,] one does not like injustice to the hand of mercy. I didn’t want to complain of dear Sheri, BUT, angel-devil switch, sublimity to viciousness, and wounded vanity NOT wounded affections, AND have you had much to do with addicts? … as to chronicle, an initial trifling exuberance. Hocked the typewriter and threw a marahuana party in the village. I am not uttering a word of blame, all these incidents provide copy for aspiring novelists of the beat generation. [in margin] This is of no importance. One got thru a good deal of work from July ’58 to Feb. 59 and now that I am recovering am very much impeded by lack of typist. ET cetera. Pound’s self-defense does sound sensible and throws much light on the tangles of his life in these final years. On the other hand, he discovered in H.D.’s pages some vivid memories of their youth together and found there a great “dignity” of style (“Bernhardt in La Sorcière took off a cloak, but not with such dignity”). When in 1956 H.D. had fallen and broken her hip, Pound had written (February 28, 1957): “After walking on perilous brinks of Darby creek etc. the Aeschylean irony brings you down in a corridor etc. BUT after a respectable interval. PANTA SUMBAINAI.”25 The memory of this early episode recurs (with a drawing of the “creek”) in the letter of November 13: the 2000 memories. creek bank straripido [very steep], i.e. Hokusai—wave over reach, breaking, you playing the fool on the edge. Willow-Grove scenic railway, ten years of beauty … and the Gods can envy This process of reminiscence and comparison culminates in a hand-written note, one of the last:

End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli


Marvelous, marvelous evocation—That you shd have remembered them in such detail —The beauty of yr mind thru it all, permeating—the marvelous retention of visual detail—& abundance & innocence, blessed innocence H.D. sent these notes to Pearson, who commented on January 1, 1960: The little package of Ezra’s letters has also come. I was deeply moved. He writes to no one else as he does to you; they are an expression of that vein of warm gold that he keeps hidden so often. Actually the letters are invaluable, make a kind of extra coda in themselves to END, almost as Freud’s letters do to the TRIBUTE. Don’t you see it: EP’s own comments. They explain and express themselves to us now, and eventually to others. I am sure Ezra’s ghost will not stir. You can ask him if you like. It might content him to know, that he has made his own explanation. Only it could not have been planned. The mystery is at it again. H.D. died on September 27, 1961, a few days after her seventy-fifth birthday, so that End to Torment is almost her artistic and existential testament. The same can be said of Pound’s letters and coeval Cantos, even though he survived until 1972, a shadow of his former self. Pearson died in 1975, before seeing End to Torment in print: it was published in 1979 with omissions and changes, and without Pound’s epistolary commentary which Pearson envisaged as its proper coda.26 But in October 1988, as I was reading these letters in the Beinecke Library, I was called to the desk to answer a phone-call from Virginia. It was la Martinelli. That, however, is another story.

“We here on the hill with the olives” (Canto 23). 15. Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge with publishers Giovanni and Vanni Scheiwiller, Sant’Ambrogio di Zoagli, 1963.


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lga Rudge was often in my parents’ house in Via Libertà 4, Rapallo, from the time I was a child. I remember a summer day of swimming at Parco Tigullio, the beach just below “Casa 60,” Sant’Ambrogio, then the climb up the “salita” to the house where my brother and I played with her grandchildren. This could have been about 1955, when I was eight. I recently found a picture taken in the summer of 1959 in a neighboring town, in front of a local monument. It shows her grandson Siegfried Walter (then known as “Cricri”), me with my first Zeiss holding his arms protectively, her granddaughter Patrizia smiling, our young German governess Gudrun, and Olga, looking as always distinguished, and for once relaxed. It’s likely that the picture was taken by my younger brother Andrea, who would have been six. Olga was a youthful sixty-four. Many years later, I discovered what a trying period this summer of 1959 was for Olga, with Ezra in Rapallo with Dorothy and Marcella Spann, and communications between the Hotel Italia (Pound’s headquarters) and Sant’Ambrogio being only by post. There was an attempt to arrange a meeting between grandfather and grandchildren during their stay, when the photograph was taken, but it appears to have fallen through. This is all from the correspondence. Pound was trying for the last time to arrange his world strictly according to his own lights and drafting the self-searching final Cantos. That is also the first time I, at 12, caught sight of him, walking in the street with the older and younger women, an unmistakable swaggering 255


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

figure. There was no sign of weakness, but his 1959 letters already complain of physical pain, mental anguish, and inability to write. Within the year he was to return to the Tirol, his determination broken, and his dependence on others more and more conspicuous. Before the estrangement of 1955, Olga’s correspondence with Ezra had been very warm and loving, often suggesting the thoughts and feelings of a woman lonely for her companion, hungering for letters from him. I have seen at Yale one she wrote at Christmas 1954, in which the main news is that an American uncle had sent the Bacigalupo boys a Lionel train set, and that our father was having trouble setting it up for Christmas Day despite the help of the Rapallo electricians. But on Christmas day Olga was alone on the seafront, writing about other families. In 1955 she visited St. Elizabeths for the second time, when the major rift with Pound occurred, and correspondence thereafter was sporadic. Olga had been close to my mother, Dr. Frieda Natali Bacigalupo (1909– 82), American by birth, who was supportive and loyal, and visited Ezra in St. Elizabeths with messages a first time in 1949, and again in October 1957. By then, however, Pound had cooled toward Olga, and he didn’t receive Frieda with pleasure as he had in 1949. On October 17, 1957, he mentioned the visit in a curt note to Olga: “Frieda B/o blew in enraged at not being able to press it over all regulations etc.” In fact, Pound had not wanted to talk to Olga’s friend, and Frieda remembered that when she arrived Ezra said he could not speak to her, though she had all the necessary permissions. She was taken aback by his changed behavior, perhaps not knowing the extent of the rift with Olga. I remember the scene as she described it, Ezra nervously getting up and walking away with his deck chair, saying, “I cannot speak to you now, I cannot speak to you now.” Let me revert to the years 1959–61, in which Pound was failing at Brunnenburg and in Rome, but had yet to make his peace with Olga. A scene that I remember from that time is Olga taking my brother and me to see an American Western movie—a treat she had wanted to give us for some time, but which ended in disappointment. I can’t remember the title of the film, but it turned out to be a rather violent and dark affair, not the right thing for boys of eleven or twelve. Olga wasn’t pleased by the tenor of the film and promised to look out for the real thing next time it came to town. I had begun to read with some avidity, and I remember telling her at about that time that I had just finished “un romanzo”—a novel. I thought that this was an impressive enough

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accomplishment. On that occasion, in my parents’ living room, I also asked her if there were any books by Ezra Pound she thought I would like. She was nice, as always, with the boy I was. Pound’s letters to Olga became repentant and self-accusing in 1960. For Christmas he wrote her: “Mi vergogno [I am ashamed] to mention the season.” And elsewhere: “You are the miracle.” I think that the dramatic story of Pound’s estrangement from Olga in 1955–60 is largely accountable for the drama of the last Cantos, for Pound finally came to judge severely his cruel behavior to “la cara,” his major muse, of whom for a moment of bravado he thought he could very well do without. This sin against love, or sin of pride, was to weigh increasingly on his conscience. On December 29, 1960, he wrote her: “the mystery of my evil—What can I write you having done so much evil?” But Olga was forgiving of Ezra’s truance. The next memory I have is of the first time I saw them together at Sant’Ambrogio, as soon as they got there in spring 1962. My German grandmother, Dr. Elfriede Antze Bacigalupo (1888–1973), was excited by the news and wanted to walk to Sant’Ambrogio from her Rapallo house, “La Buona Terra,” one afternoon. It may have been Easter. So we set out on the footpath. Olga was then staying provisionally in a small house on the Rapallo side of the Sant’Ambrogio church. She had probably lost the lease to the top floor of Casa 60, where she had lived since 1930, and was arranging to move in on the second floor. Ezra being in need of medical help, she took him from Meran directly to Rapallo. When we got there, she was happy to see Elfriede, and for me she played the first of the Caedmon recordings, recently issued (“I have something you will like!”). I heard for the first time Canto 1 being intoned by Pound and was immediately captivated. As for Pound, he hardly spoke. But he greeted us warmly, especially Elfriede, who had been his doctor in Rapallo in the thirties. He wore baggy trousers and shirt. I was fifteen and thrilled by the apparition. His face was thin. He had prostatitis, and probably Elfriede offered some counsel. But my father Dr. Giuseppe Bacigalupo was in charge thenceforth. At the end of May, Pound had a hemorrhage, and his condition became critical. Dr. Bacigalupo ordered immediate hospitalization in his clinic Villa Chiara, which was a fifteen-minute walk down the hill from Olga’s temporary quarters. Pound looked so weak that Olga asked her doctor friend on that occasion: “Do you think it’s any use? Hadn’t he better die at home?” But clearly there was still much that could be done. The urologist from Genoa who was called in, Prof. Sacco, operated successfully, twice, in June 1962


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

and 1963. So Ezra was in Villa Chiara in June and July. I went to see him there with a copy of the new Lerici edition of Cantos 1–30. I left it with him, and he wrote in it a very friendly dedication: “Hoping Massimo may find some good in it somewhere. 24 June 1962.” At Villa Chiara I took some pictures of Ezra and his grandchildren, who visited him. There is also one, taken by Sizzo, I suppose, of Ezra, Dr. Bacigalupo, and me. It was perhaps on one of these days, perhaps in July 1963, when Ezra was recovering from his prostatectomy, that father drove him to the Rapallo harbor at the time of his daily sail, 11:30, and out we sailed into the Tigullio—an occasion also duly recorded by my Leica. I know that from Villa Chiara Pound scrawled several rather incoherent letters. (He was “euphoric” on July 14–15, 1962, the head-nurse noted.) On another occasion, as we were having dinner at home, there was a call from the clinic. Mr. Pound was nowhere to be found. Doctor Bacigalupo and I got into our car and drove slowly to the clinic. We found Pound quietly walking into town. We got him into the car and drove him back to the hospital. At this time, I think, Pound would say things that sounded delusional—he was being eaten by worms, and he worried endlessly and unnecessarily about money. In the following note (found among the Olga Rudge papers at the Beinecke) the idea of being persecuted and trapped surfaces in relation to his hospitalization: came out of Martinsbrunn [the Meran clinic] unbathed operations on credit but cash for cafe & barber— operations unpaid  mine at Villa Chiara Olga emphatic that they were paid. which I do not believe why? Boobie [Dr. Bacigalupo] emphatic that they were paid. I believe Olga sincere in believing that they were paid. money for operations a trap? whose trap? I don’t understand where it comes from. Hem. confused at end. Ironically, Pound implies that he may be confused, like Hemingway in his last days. He has fears of being taken in and trapped by a conspiracy. The note is dated “Venice ’66” in Olga’s hand. In August 1962, Pound was back in Sant’Ambrogio, where I visited him and Olga often in the afternoon to have a cup of tea, which was graciously offered. I was usually alone on these occasions, and the conversation was

Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light


between Olga and me. I remember her speaking once condescendingly of James Joyce, as of a social inferior. I’m exaggerating this, for Olga was not a snob—only she would naturally notice and remark upon improprieties. And her loyalty to Ezra made her always feel that he had not received the acknowledgment due to him. She usually addressed him—and spoke of him—as “Mr. Pound”—“Ezra” only on special occasions, trying to coax a remark out of him. Another time, when I had ignorantly repeated something I had read, that Wyndham Lewis’s book Hitler was intended as criticism, not praise, she did not lose time in setting me right. But there was never any political discussion in those peaceful summer afternoons. Nor did I ever hear Olga or Ezra refer to Jews. Only much later, after Ezra’s death, when Olga became obsessed about the anti-Semitism issue, did she mention the fact of Jewishness, for example in her preposterous claim that Ezra’s broadcasts were a comfort to European Jews because of the broadcaster’s biblical name! But I, as many Italians at the time, knew little of racial differences, except for schoolboy jokes, and I think Olga had even to point out to me, when speaking of her pleasure in the New York Times Magazine profile of Pound by Alan Levy (January 9, 1972), that one of the reasons she was happy about it was because of the author’s Jewishness. Olga’s statement on the broadcasting quoted above is from her last somewhat embittered years, when she was no longer as beautifully in control as she had been through a life of dauntless campaigning. She would never have said anything silly until long after Ezra’s death, and I have seen a letter (I think of the 1950s) in which she rightly points out to Ezra that he should shut up about Jews, complaining that he is always bringing them in with no justification, “like the head of Charles I” (a reference to Tristram Shandy). She knew the obsessions of the man she loved, and forgave them, also knowing that they would not be easily forgiven by others. She tried to warn him, but, as always, believing himself innocent of prejudice, Ezra went his way. Olga did use in a letter about Ezra the expression “bats in the belfry,” suggesting that he was not wholly of sound mind. She would come out with these idioms, which to me were an education. We spoke English, and drank tea. Everything was completely reasonable. Ezra scarcely spoke, except on one or two occasions. Then he would hold forth overexcitedly, repeating statements which even I had read in his books. He lent me his copy of Gaudier-Brzeska, annotated, which I enjoyed, and I think Gaudier was the subject that got him off that afternoon. “What happened to Sophie Brzeska?” I asked. “Oh, she just went nuts,” was his curt


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

answer. In July I left for a month in London and went to say good-bye. A look was exchanged between Olga and Ezra. I suspect that she considered giving me (at fifteen!) an introduction to T. S. Eliot. I think she liked me and was so grateful to my father for taking such good care of Ezra and giving him a new lease on life—another decade—that she was clearly happy to do anything that would please me, and through me my parents. As for Ezra, he was always distinctly friendly, though in the last years of his life I found him sterner, at least with me. But he never made any comments, one way or another. So with 1962 the routine was established: the summer mostly in Rapallo, the winter in Venice. (This only as a general rule: Lisetta Carmi took her haunting series of paparazzo-photographs of Ezra in Sant’Ambrogio on February 11, 1966.)1 In 1964, Olga and Ezra moved back to Casa 60, where a new road had been built right past the house, which as a child I had always reached by footpath. In one of my afternoon calls that summer, I found that a friend from St. Elizabeths days was visiting—Guy Davenport, back from Greece with a young travel-companion, Steven Diamant. Olga took us to lunch in the little restaurant behind the Sant’Ambrogio church and insisted upon paying the bill. This is the lunch Guy embellished from memory in his short story “Ithaka.”2 Afterwards, we helped Olga move some of her belongings to the old place on the other side of the hill, half-way between Sant’Ambrogio and San Pantaleo, the church that in The Cantos seems to have some mystical import. We then took Ezra for a swim at a bathing establishment where my family rented a cabin, the “Bagni Tigullio.” Ezra was in great form, dived and emerged from the water with algae twined in his white hair— the old man of the sea. He was seventy-seven, not as old as all that, but Pippo, the middle-aged lifeguard, kept a careful eye on “Erza” (as he always called him) while he was thrashing about in the water. On another day there was a visit from the Scheiwillers, father and son, who bicycled down perhaps from Genoa. Giovanni Scheiwiller was old but strong, and had published Pound in the thirties. Vanni had inaugurated his publishing career with the first and best edition of Rock-Drill. I took a good photograph of the four standing in front of the little house where Olga and Ezra were still staying. Olga looks her best, simple and strong and beautiful. In all of this very little was said of The Cantos. In the first days of our acquaintance I had brought Ezra a list of questions and had the cheek to ask him a few. The answer was silence, and then a message from Olga that

Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light


question-sessions were not in order. Olga had some of Pound’s secretiveness, and never seemed to volunteer any information by the way. In this, she made a contrast with Dorothy Pound, who when questioned about some lines was happy to make suggestions, and (perhaps because of the years at St. Elizabeths) was patient with enthusiasts and their enquiries. When I once gave her tea in Rapallo she spoke of the ills of fluoride in tap-water, which I later learned was one of Pound’s hobby-horses. Olga’s approach was altogether more grand, and she didn’t like the bohemian set that sought out Pound in the sixties. But Olga arranged something that was beyond Dorothy’s ability. Wellconnected in Italy because of her half-century residence and her secretarial work for Count Chigi in Siena, she single-handedly engineered the comeback of Ezra Pound in his last incarnation—that of the Silent Master. In this she showed great acumen and tact, always leaving the stage to Ezra. Photographs of her are few. Perhaps she achieved the most masterly P.R. feat in modern literature. Pound was suddenly there, beautiful and old, the author of great poetry, who could be forgiven because he had suffered much, and in fact had a lot to teach. Olga left academics and fans to their own devices and took Pound to the right places, like the Spoleto Festival to which Gian Carlo Menotti invited them in 1965, arranging for a performance of Villon. In a 1996 interview Menotti said that there was practically no score and that he worked it over and orchestrated it with another musician. Perhaps his memory was at fault, but whatever the circumstances Villon was performed with the singers in the orchestra pit and dancers for the characters, as a triple bill with Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis and Britten’s Abraham and Isaac. Pound’s readings at the Festival were received with great emotion, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti recorded in a poem (in the 1973 collection Open Eye, Open Heart). I find a happy postcard Olga wrote my mother from Spoleto, July 6, 1965: Dearest Frieda—This is a heavenly place and much maligned!! Hope Massimo will be here for the “Villon” which will be given 14th–16th & 17th July ore 21. Only wish you could be here too!! E. very difficult!! However think he enjoys it. Air very good—cool nights—sleeps well. We are in clover! chez M.o Menotti. Much love Olga So this was clearly a high-water mark. Just a few months before Spoleto, Olga had taken Ezra to T. S. Eliot’s memorial service in London, and on to Dublin;


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

in October, he was to be in Paris for his 80th birthday. It was all very cannily organized, with extraordinary energy and courage, because Pound was more often than not uncollaborative, and all out of a woman’s love and conviction, not for personal vanity. Olga may have seemed too imperious and high-handed to some—but she was unfailingly generous, to Ezra above all, but also to other people. She was right in suspecting publicity-seekers and thesis-writers, who (she probably thought) would get good jobs out of writing about Pound, who, though not impoverished, was living (and had subsisted) on little. So there is much to admire in this woman, especially her intelligence and her reserve. She would occasionally appear at my parents’ with an indignant letter to the editor about some recent outrage at the Accademia Chigiana (where she had worked before and after the war) or on Parnassus, but after I had carefully corrected every sentence she usually decided not to send it. Sometimes her protectiveness of Ezra went too far even in the good days. When in the 1950s Tommaso Gallarati-Scotti, the Italian ambassador in London, wrote in the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera a friendly paragraph on Pound, remembering him as obstreperous and unkempt in dress and behavior, there was a flurry of activity in the world mails. Olga did not hesitate to bother poor T. S. Eliot, who obliged her by writing a letter to the Corriere, swearing that Pound had always been most neat in appearance. What Gallarati-Scotti saw in Rapallo must have been a mirage. The anecdote is indicative of the direction in which Olga doctored Pound’s image, denying and pushing in the background the Savage Messiah personality which no biographer could possibly ignore. But it remains true that her love and energy did not stop even at the Possum’s threshold. Her correspondence with Eliot, always a friend, will make an interesting chapter. Other visitors were sometimes being entertained when I walked up to Sant’Ambrogio in the hot summer sun—Olga’s pleasant brother, Sister Bernetta Quinn, small and dry and determined, Cyril Connolly, a bit of a sputtering tank of nicotine from my memory, and later Professor Singh from Queen’s University, Belfast, a scholar of Italian literature who was often with Olga after Ezra’s death and even wrote a series of poems to Olga, in the mode of Eugenio Montale’s Xenia to his (Montale’s) dead wife.3 Olga and Ezra came often for lunch or dinner at the Bacigalupos. My American grandmother Mary had become a member of the household after the death of her husband, and made excellent cherry pie, much appreciated by Ezra. On August 4, 1965,

Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light


Olga and Ezra came to dinner at my parents’ with the Isaiah Berlins and the Stephen Spenders. I was not present but heard that the evening was pleasant and friendly, truly in Olga’s style.4 They also signed the guest-book on August 23, 1963, at a dinner given to celebrate (as my mother noted in the margin) the “American Academy of Poets Award—Champagne for EP’s resuscitation.” One evening in early July 1964, I remember going with them to the Nervi Ballet Festival for an open air performance of the Bolshoi Theatre, which we all agreed was rather dull. No notice was taken, apparently, of the distinguished guest among the audience. In March 1966, Pound’s mental condition having remained depressive, it was decided to hospitalize him in the neurological clinic of the University of Genoa, where he stayed a little over a month. The director was a close friend of ours, Professor Cornelio Fazio, but the psychiatrist who took charge of the patient was a young specialist, Romolo Rossi. I drove Olga and Ezra to the clinic, and there we left Ezra. To avoid publicity, in the hospital rolls he was registered under a pseudonym, namely “Bacigalupo.” (Later Olga said that she had understood that I would also be staying in the clinic to look after E.P., but I don’t know where she got the idea.) In an interview thirty years after the event (1996), Rossi claimed that Pound was “autistic” and called him a “Cotardian type,” but went on to say that, technically, all of us are mentally ill, so his thoughtful report (quoted in part in Humphrey Carpenter’s biography) won’t answer the question of Pound’s sanity. In any case, Pound was dismissed but his mental condition did not improve. It was suggested that the situation was irreversible. A comment of Dr. Bacigalupo’s made perhaps more sense to me. Pound had always been peculiar, he said, and even his senile depression was unlike any other he had seen. That summer (1966), a short film of mine, Quasi una Tangente, won a prize in a national competition, and one evening I showed it to Ezra and Olga in Via Libertà. Some scenes were shot in my room and showed a pair of Vorticist obelisks drawn by Wyndham Lewis that the Pounds had left in keeping with my parents during the war. Olga was ruffled by the use of the two works in the background and seemed to think that permission should have been requested. Since this was an 8 mm movie, not Hollywood, and the pictures had been hanging in my room for years, I couldn’t quite see her point. In any case, a few days after the showing I was surprised to receive a letter in Ezra’s handwriting, dated July 31, 1966, in which he congratulated me on the prize, said that he was in the process of “getting his Wyndham Lewis items settled,”


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

and therefore could I bring to him the paintings deposited with my parents. I did so at once, though the request was a little sudden, and, anyhow, as it turned out, the pictures were not Ezra’s but Dorothy’s, and went to Omar a few years later. That was the only letter Pound wrote me, though he signed postcards and wrote thank you notes now and then. It is highly probable that Olga, being reminded by the film that the pictures were still in our home (though she had always seen them hanging there every time she visited), couldn’t rest until she had Ezra write demanding their restitution. I suppose she thought a letter from E.P. would compensate at least in part for my relinquishing the Lewises. I think her relations were probably best with people who were not too closely interested in Pound as scholars, though she expected everyone to be familiar with the details of the Pound universe. She liked Giancarlo Ivancich, who published in 1970 Spots and Dots (Ezra Pound in Italy) with her fine notes, and was often with Alberto Pescetto (Valparaiso, 1911–Novi Ligure, 1981), a brilliant conversationalist and translator from Russian who had never read a line of Pound but “knew everybody”—also a family friend of ours. Our relations were bound to become more difficult when I began looking too closely at the poetry and would insist on ferreting out the answer to questions more complicated than those I had naively listed in 1962. In 1967, I helped a team from the Bavarian Television shoot a documentary on Pound in Rapallo and Venice. The result is not successful but contains good footage. In Venice I met Allen Ginsberg, who was then submitting to the Pound spell and “doing” Venice with The Cantos as guidebook. At the same time, another poet, Pier Paolo Pasolini, obtained from Pound an interview which is highly interesting. Pasolini was asked to prepare questions in writing, and Olga coaxed answers out of Ezra and got them written and blown up so that he could read them. So the whole thing was bordering on fabrication. However, on a couple of occasions during the filming of the interview, Pound actually spoke out impromptu, deprecating his own work, to extraordinary effect. When Pasolini read the lines “Under white clouds, cielo di Pisa / Out of all this beauty something must come,” Pound exclaimed (in Italian) “Those are good lines.” And Pasolini: “Certainly, they are very good.” Pound: “But it’s not all like that.” Pasolini was moved and said: “Let me, as a reader, assure you that there is a lot of good in it.” It was a brief moment of contact between the despondent old poet and his young radical admirer, worth the whole doctored interview.

Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light


As the decade of Pound’s “resuscitation” went on, I seem to remember his mood getting darker, at least in my presence. On at least one occasion I spent an afternoon with him in Sant’Ambrogio, in charge while Olga was out. I brought my homework with me. He was lying down and made some gloomy comments. He said, I vaguely remember, that he had nothing to tell or communicate to the young. A notable reversion for a man who had brought news with unremitting urgency over the better part of the century. During the filming of the Bavarian documentary he was equally impassive and unparticipating, though he read passages from the poetry, and complied with the cameraman’s instructions. One day we went to Torcello to photograph him in the cathedral, standing in a shaft of light, in front of the mosaic of the Virgin addressed imploringly in Canto 110 (“Thy quiet house”). But a livelier image presented itself as we were walking up to the old church and a black cat materialized and began to purr and push against Pound’s legs. His long-standing sympathy for cats seemed to be reciprocated. Olga was very kind about allowing the film-crew into her cramped Venice quarters. She thought these productions would be beneficial to Ezra’s reputation, but was often disappointed. And it was a little sad that Ezra should be asked in his final years to act for the camera. Another reason for Olga’s approval of the Bavarian and Italian television projects (and of Spots and Dots), was that she thought it important that the Poundian locales should be recorded. For example, we filmed Pound reading Canto 45 in Santa Maria dei Miracoli on a dreadfully cold December day of 1967. A few years before, perhaps in 1963, she had asked me to take some photographs for her in Sant’Ambrogio—Casa 60 with its old painted walls and the rubble of the new road being built in front of it, the view from the church with a lone cypress, the winepress in the basement, a footpath with a mule “gabled with slate” (47/237). She also took me to the little cemetery behind the church and had me photograph the cross above the tomb of Gio Batta Solari, who had died in 1959, and had lived under Olga and Ezra in Casa 60, and is the “Baccin” of The Cantos. When we returned to the house in the twilight, I thought of the beautiful final lines of Canto 2: And we have heard the fauns chiding Proteus      in the smell of hay under the olive-trees, And the frogs singing against the fauns     in the half-light. And…


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Ezra and Olga stood in front of the window looking west towards the Castellaro and the sea as the shadows lengthened. I took a photograph of them, but it was nearly dark, and I can barely make them out on the print. It was, to me at least, a magic moment. Another cherished memory is of an evening in summer 1971. Olga wanted to take us out to a new restaurant under the church, but my father could not make it, so only mother and I joined her and Ezra on the terrace. It was a clear summer evening, we had good Ligurian food, and afterwards sat around chatting. By then I had nearly completed the first version of the book that was to be published in 1980 as The Forméd Trace, so I knew a lot about The Cantos, and even asked, circumspectly, some questions. I think Olga was, as usual, evasive. There was a secrecy that had to be preserved, as if the poetry were a private language for her and Ezra alone. This is finally true of The Cantos, that it isn’t the meaning, but the meaning of the meaning that matters: not so much what is said as the tone of the saying, the awareness that something is being said and lived through. But, of course, one must be able to make one’s way at the first level of communication in order to be able to dispense with it. Pound himself probably forgot in time what many of the names and references in The Cantos were about. He remembered, perhaps, his interpretation of them, which wasn’t necessarily correct. The feeling, not the meaning. What he wanted to say, not what he in fact said. So the four of us sat under the stars, and talked astrology (among other things)—Ezra’s scorpio sign came up. I don’t remember what was said, but, as with the poetry, I remember very well the pleasantness of the occasion. Ezra didn’t speak but was a friendly presence. The last time I saw them together was in August 1973. I called at Sant’Ambrogio, perhaps to say good-bye as I was leaving for a year on a Fulbright at Columbia University. It was an overcast day, and I suggested to Ezra a game of chess. I knew he had often played in the Caffé Rapallo with my grandmother Elfriede and with her father Paul Antze, who was nearly a professional player of the game. Ezra accepted and we played for a while. I barely know the moves and lost rather quickly. I congratulated Mr. Pound, but he would not take any credit. He said he had only won because Olga with her stream of talk had kept my mind busy on other things. So in 1972 Pound wasn’t much weaker (or happier with himself) than in 1962. Perhaps had he been in Rapallo rather than Venice for his 87th birthday, he would have made it to 90.

Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light


I saw Olga again in September 1973. She came to lunch, by chance, the day my grandmother Elfriede had died, and was her usual youthful self, though born only seven years after the deceased. So life continued normally, though as the years passed Olga became more and more embattled and irritable. There was usually a major enemy at any given time. I remember once trying to calm her by quoting Shelley’s Preface to Prometheus: “Let the punishment of unaccomplished purpose be sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap the dust of oblivion upon his efforts; the pile they raise will betray his grave which might otherwise have been unknown.” My point was that, if anybody had done or written something offensive about Pound or anything else, the best one could do was to ignore it. This Olga had usually understood in earlier years. It was only in old age that her emotions got the better of her. Her monologues were interrupted by her characteristic interjection, “Capìto?” (Understood?), still pronounced with an attractive American accent. The best years had passed, the years of quiet contentment and brilliant moves behind the scenes. We still held her dear, as an old friend, but were sorry that she wasn’t any longer the gentle and forbearing presence we remembered. She was incensed by my book The Forméd Trace when it came out in 1980, and I deeply regret needlessly offending her. But I had written according to my lights, and with the idea that Pound’s poetry and life could be better defended if accepted in all their aspects, light and dark. The whole modern movement was based on contrasts and paradoxes. Pound’s greatness was closely linked to his unwieldiness, to his being out of bounds in all fields. To castrate him to make him look respectable was not doing his memory a service. The Pound vortex had to be acknowledged in all its bewildering violence and historical dimensions. Olga was angry with me for a while (and took it out even on my innocent and ever-loyal mother), but eventually became forgiving, also because she may have found more notable objects of resentment to preoccupy her. In 1985, when I organized a Pound centenary exhibition in Rapallo, she came to the opening on June 1. The scheduled speakers were Donald Davie, Rolando Monti the painter, and myself. I have since seen Olga’s journal for that day. She noted that she kept away from the “speechifying,” to avoid blowing up, but joined us afterwards for the exhibition viewing, and liked it. On July 13, the American mezzo-soprano Constance Bevon and the British pianist Keith Griggs gave a concert of Pound-related music in the Auditorium next to the exhibition. Olga enjoyed the music and the young musicians and came to the reception that followed in my house in the hills. She was still returning to


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Sant’Ambrogio after her evenings in town, only that this time a guest of ours, Pat Brancaccio, drove her home. In the old days she walked up the hill, storm or moonlight, in summer among swarms of fireflies. Pound remembered this in one of many fragments he wrote for her in the sixties, celebrating her (and implicitly demanding her forgiveness): flood & flame thru the long years      by night & hill path great courage in frail frame toughened by four decades of climbing thru dark             on hill paths knowing each stone almost as if by name (PC, 178) Olga represented one side of Pound’s personality—pride, beauty, stillness. In his life she had a soothing influence, calling him back to his true heritage, as the memory of her did at Pisa: O white-chested martin, God damn-it,      as no one will carry a message,    say to La Cara: amo.              Her bed-posts are of sapphire      for this stone giveth sleep. (76/479) Pound could not write to Olga from Pisa, so he sends her his message by air. And after speaking to her, he remembers her bed. It is only here that the “sapphire” refrain, appearing three times in Canto 74, is fully developed and associated with the lovers’ bed. The lines express the depth of mature physical love between man and woman. This is what Olga gave Pound. She was the perfect intellectual and sensual companion of his explorations. And to me, an education by example.


America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


n 2002, I published a selection of drafts of Cantos, from Ezra Pound’s manuscripts, typescripts, and magazine publications, under the title Canti postumi. (An English-language edition appeared in 2015.) Some questioned this title, Posthumous Cantos, which clearly indicates a posthumous collection of material related to The Cantos. Similarly, Wallace Stevens’s Opus Posthumous is a book of uncollected and rejected prose and verse written by Stevens over his long life.1 Perhaps I stretched the title by calling “Cantos” what are in fact “drafts and fragments” of Cantos, to use a well-worn phrase, alternative versions, and rejected passages, but this is largely justified by Pound’s own practice and by editorial expediency. Thus Posthumous Cantos presents material written by Pound over fifty years, from the “Three Cantos” of 1917 in the Poetry text, to some “Lines for Olga” that he composed not long before his death in homage to his loyal companion. Therefore, as one reviewer suggested, Posthumous Cantos is a sort of Cantos in a nutshell, since we are confronted with Pound’s various modes of writing, from the more discursive style of circa 1916, to the visionary allusiveness of the 1920s, to the toughening of the 1930s, to the breaking down and recovery of the 1940s, to the “atomic” style of the 1950s and the final softening as “Old Ez” approaches death. These are styles that readers of The Cantos are familiar with, as they are familiar with the historical and mythical material that engages Pound. So one could ask, why publish these left-overs of the feast of The Cantos?2 The answer is that The Cantos are finally neither well-known nor 269


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

widely read, and this volume could be used as a compact guide to its phases; no new poetry by Ezra Pound has appeared since his death,3 only letters and polemical writings that have in some cases detracted from his image as a poet of genius. Therefore, a selection of unpublished and uncollected drafts of intrinsic value (i.e., not merely of documentary or academic interest) would remind readers of the stature of Pound the poet. Judging by the responses from readers in Italy and abroad, my project has been successful. I have tried to rescue Pound from the archives and to present him once again in front of his natural audience, the readers of poetry. To this a footnote must be added. It is strange that a new collection of poetry by a major American writer of the twentieth century should have first appeared not in the United States or Britain but in Italy, with an Italian translation opposite the English original (except for those drafts that Pound wrote directly in Italian). But Pound spent most of his life in Italy, wrote extensively in Italian, and in fact published in Italy the original editions of two volumes of cantos, Rock-Drill and Thrones. So this is only yet another curious turn of Pound’s irregular publishing history. Even his posthumous verse has first come to America by way of Rapallo. Indeed, there is not much about America in Posthumous Cantos. It goes without saying that all the drafts related to the American Cantos of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s are steeped in American materials, observations, notes from Pound’s reading in Rapallo and Washington, D.C. As these are mostly rather arid stretches of Cantos, it will be no surprise that they contribute little to my selection in Posthumous Cantos. When we think of America in The Cantos, we think of Jefferson, the Adams’s, Jackson, Van Buren, and John Randolph—all of which stand out with some memorable trait or saying. Contemporary America is mostly absent from the Cantos written in Washington during Pound’s confinement. Arguably, the most “American” section of Cantos is The Pisan Cantos, because of the large presence there of American inmates and guards at the prison camp near Pisa. Pound is intrigued by their doings and comments, by the songs they croon and their down-to-earth and unheroic take on the war for democracy. Since he did not believe that this had been a war for democracy, he was quite willing to record the misgivings and jokes of the common soldiers. They proved his point, howbeit indirectly. And they injected the patterns of American speech (some of it African American) into the fragmented page of Pound’s poem.

America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


Posthumous Cantos, though I had no other end when making my selection than to present a volume of significant verse by Pound, confirms the above. If we look at the “Three Cantos” of 1917, we only find a grudging American episode: the story of the failed painter in Indiana who had been to Paris, had begun to be recognized, but had been recalled to the American wasteland only to vanish into anonymity, “acting as usher in the theatre, / painting the local drug-shop and soda bars.” The moral is all too clear. Pound will not return to be reduced to a nobody. “Take my Sordello!” he exclaims (PC, 15). That is, these “Three Cantos” are proof of his independence and success in refusing to conform. Pound’s bragging is so candid, and his anecdote so obvious, that one is tempted to remind him that “Sunday Morning” and “After Apple-Picking,” arguably more successful than “my Sordello,” certainly much more widely read not only in America, were composed in the same years by writers who stayed at home or returned. But this is an old controversy, and were it not for Pound’s certainty that he has chosen the right path, the only path, we would not have his tales of an untiring Odysseus, exploring everything, sometimes even America. This image of the explorer, which has an American connotation, is evoked in a rejected version of what is now Canto 2: Dissatisfaction of chaos, inadequacy of arrangements, At les Eyzies, nameless drawer of panther, So I in narrow cave, secret scratched on a wall, And the last reader, with handshake of departing sun drifts from sorrowful horizon, patient thus far, now impatient e tu lettor, with little candle long after, have pushed past the ruined castle, past the underbrush         tangled and netted past the ant-hive, in narrow dark of the crevice On the damp rock, is my panther, my aurochs scratched in obscurity (PC, 27) Pound is thinking of the cave-dwellers in Périgord and compares his writing to their drawing of aurochs in the darkness. The civilized American poet identifies with primitive man: time is meaningless for the artist. This is a notable passage of which nothing has remained in The Cantos as we have them, except for a much later reference to “aurochs,” as if the unusual word had stayed in his mind.4 But the context of the cliff-dweller etching in the darkness, though


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

self-dramatizing as is common with Pound, is a passage that we would be sorry to have lost. In fact, Pound usually did well in choosing what to preserve from his drafts, but there are lines like these which I think prove the value of my selection. Since a “Canto” is a consecutive piece of writing, however fragmented, sometimes fine passages are sacrificed in the cause of general effect. This is the case with the two original verse prefaces to Canto 49, the “Seven Lakes Canto,” one of which (quoted above, pp. 19–20) criticizes a paragraph in Italian Hours, where Henry James presumes to mock Byron. Pound comes to the defense of the more virile Byron, whom he cannot but admire for his Poundian confusion of life and art, his battle for freedom and involvement in foreign affairs, and his international perspective. The Byron/James opposition is another version of the E.P./Mauberley contrast. And, as we know, though Pound is all on the side of Byron and E.P., he does not lack sympathy for the decadent and “effete” Mauberley and James. They represent his aesthetic side. The other (earlier) verse preface to Canto 49 commends aesthetic attention to detail by opening with a quotation not from Henry James but from Dorothy Shakespear, and providing a more direct introduction to the classic scenes depicted in the following paraphrases from the Chinese: “Spent yesterday drawing a grasshopper”                  19 Aug. 1928 And To Fan pasted these things in a book, scraps, tatters, of Thsung Tç’ihng lake, went there, habit, a great lot of them went there           that would have been around 1750 drew, and then wrote their tanka.                Wild geese on the sand bar … (PC, 42) Here we are given a glimpse of Pound at his desk, making Cantos out of life in Rapallo. On August 19, 1928, he wrote his father Homer: D. spent day drawing large GREEN grasshopper that has arrived on ter[r]azza. G. h. loafed and chawed thru large chunk of grape. last seen climbing rope of tenda. (awning). remains to be seen if present tomorrow. about size of katydid.5

America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


Such events to him gain in importance, and signal a continuity between China 1750 and Rapallo 1928. A selection like Posthumous Cantos makes it possible to exhibit brief passages in isolation, giving them the prominence that poets usually avail themselves of, while Pound had to sink “his jewels of conversation”6 in the flow of the Canto. Take this very succinct note jotted in Washington: and my gt/ aunt’s third husband received in ms/ from a friend     the 49th canto— you do not HSIN JI dip twice in one stream           sd/ Ocellus (PC, 145) This is once again private history, but Pound is evoking the process of transmission of texts so important to his work. Canto 49 is based on a series of eight Chinese poems on traditional views in a manuscript volume of paintings and poems that came down to Pound through his parents, to whom it had come from relatives.7 By a series of coincidences the “form” of Canto 49 travelled from Japan to America to Rapallo where it was realized, but in some way it was always there: “For the seven lakes, and by no man these verses.” This opening line is all that remains of the second prologue in which James and Byron were set against each other and which Pound omitted probably as too distracting and unrelated to the Chinese pastiche that follows. By 1935, when he was preparing Canto 49 for publication in The Fifth Decad of Cantos, he was seeking a “totalitarian” simplicity and directness, and the obscure anecdote about Byron and James had to go, though I am glad I recovered it and gave it the prominence it deserves, for it is a fascinating digression. As for the reference in the close to “hsin ji,” i.e., Pound’s motto “Make It New,” on one hand it is clear that by translating/creating Canto 49 Pound has made it new, on the other hand the line is a striking variation because it brings together the oriental motto about the river never being the same, the Confucian “Make It New,” and Platonism via Ocellus. Pound was to use this juxtaposition as a close to Canto 94, but left out the bit about the stream. The point seems to be that Making It New has become inevitable. The world is in flux. Things change. The Japanese heirloom “becomes” or “is” Canto 49. “We that look on but laugh in tragic joy.”8 So this is another fragment that is worth pondering on its own merit, and is self-contained.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Before leaving the ever-absorbing subject of the Seven Lakes Canto, it is worth noting that twenty years before Pound composed his version of the traditional eight scenes (with the assistance of a Miss Zeng who was passing through Rapallo and helped him decipher the Chinese),9 another major American poet had discovered the classic sequence for himself, and with equal delight. In March 1909, the young Wallace Stevens wrote from New York to his fiancée Elsie Moll: I have just been reading about the Chinese feeling about landscape. Just as we have certain traditional subjects that our artists delight to portray … so the Chinese have certain aspects of nature, of landscape, that have become traditional.—A list of those aspects would be as fascinating as those lists of “Pleasant Things” I used to send. Here is the list (upon my soul!)— The Evening Bell from a Distant Temple Sunset Glow over a Fishing Village Fine Weather after Storm at a Lonely Mountain Town Homeward-bound Boats off a Distant Shore The Autumn Moon over Lake Tung-t’ing Wild Geese on a Sandy Plain Night Rain in Hsiao-Hsiang.10 These are some of the very words Pound was to use in his imitation, where the various “aspects” are run together so as to form a single portentous scene: Autumn moon; hills rise about lakes against sunset Evening is like a curtain of cloud, a blurr above ripples; and through it sharp long spikes of the cinnamon, a cold tune amid reeds. Behind hill the monk’s bell borne on the wind. (49/244) This is Pound’s rendering of the “Autumn Moon” and “Evening Bell” scenes, which also borrows details (like the cinnamon spikes) from the drawings in the manuscript source (as Zhaoming Qian points out). Note also that where

America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


Stevens mentions “Lake Tung-t’ing” to Elsie, Pound writes of “Thsung Tç’ihng lake” in connection with Dorothy’s drawing of the grasshopper.11 In any case, it is a striking coincidence that both Pound and Stevens should have been attracted to the remote literary landscape of the Eight Views of Xiaoxiang, and that such different results should have emerged as the more literal Canto 49 and, as it were, the calligraphy of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” (Stevens’s poem of 1917): “Among twenty snowy mountains, / The only moving thing / Was the eye of the blackbird.” Stevens made up his twenty mountains; and Pound’s seven lakes are equally apocryphal. But they sound Chinese. The source of both poems is to some extent the same, confirming Pound’s concept of “resurgent icons,” or “immortal form.”12 Yet, as he put it, “you do not … dip twice in one stream.” Posthumous Cantos includes some notable variant versions of the fertility Cantos 39 and 47, and a long passage of denunciation of usurious practices that was originally part of the Seven Lakes Canto but that Pound deleted for the same reason that he cancelled the striking Henry James– Byron overture: to make his visit to the Seven Lakes brief and unified in tone. In working towards Canto 47 he devoted many notes to the theme of woman, the eternal feminine, the counterpart of Ulysses. “She has a mind in her middle / therein is her comprehension.” The totalitarian bard that Pound would like to be identifies woman with her sexual organs, quite in accord with the machismo of Fascism, for which woman’s role was subordinate and confined to the home and to rearing more recruits for the fatherland. But, as many party officials may well have been henpecked husbands, so Pound in his heart knows better: “By her dost thou mount to the stars / in her is thy liberation” (PC, 38). No one can claim that these lines are of great value, but they show us Pound in the coils of a very human contradiction, between ideology and reality. So he puzzles over woman, and knows that he is dependent on her favor. Certainly, Dorothy Shakespear and Olga Rudge were two strong-minded ladies that could not easily be ordered about, and who gave much to Pound, in some ways could be said to have given him the contours of his life.13 The fertility Cantos are largely about Pound’s fascination with the natural and human world of Liguria, which becomes a model of the earthly paradise. A beautiful passage evokes early summer nights with the fireflies that enchanted Charles Dickens when he visited the same hills in 1845,14 one hundred years before Pound:


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos when the winged sparks of an evening      flow under boughs, come to rest on the grass         under cypress, float between high bough and the lower branch of the olive trees. for the calm night, by St John’s eve. (PC, 40)

St. John Eve’s is the Summer equinox, Midsummer Night, which in the 1930s was still celebrated along the Ligurian coast with bonfires.15 Pound goes on to contrast this habitable world with the plains, where it is suggested no humane culture can develop: But your wheat, kubanka, red Kharkov;      that you will sow in the plain land, that you will sow in the far level country,      with no sea under your eaves; with no grey of the branch, no light thrown and ret[o]rted      by the trees of good council, green by the over leaf, and gray under … But your wheat that      Carleton brought out of Kharkov,          and for which he was never paid … in this world. (PC, 40) The reference to Mark Alfred Carleton, who introduced Russian wheat to the United States, was to resurface in the context of the grain rites celebrated fragmentarily in Pisa (80/533). Here there is a suggestion that Carleton is another unacknowledged Poundian explorer and legislator. One of the many forgotten heroes onto whom Pound projects his own image and whom he memorialized in his poem. In these lines he apostrophizes the people of the plains, the Russians but also the Americans, who live an impoverished life: for this you will do your plowing. and give no thanks to the god. Sitalkas will not walk in your harvest … nor will the gift of healing be found there … Nor will the lights float in your harbor (PC, 40) Pound composes his Jeremiad for his fellow Americans, whom he looks upon as condemned to a life without spiritual and sensual significance, to an

America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


“air-conditioned nightmare,” as his friend Henry Miller called it. The Cantos are a moral tale from which Americans are to learn that a better life is possible for them. I had first thought that this passage was chiefly about Russia (a traditional contrast for Fascist Italy in which Pound was writing and responding to official ideology); but it is clear that it is really America that he has in mind, the importer of Russian Kubanka wheat, and America was also much discussed in Italy in those days: all were enthusiastic about Hollywood, jazz, and writers like John Dos Passos, but the official party line was that America was a barbarous land, in fact “a half-savage country.” So there was a curious agreement between Pound the critic of American mores and Fascist stereotypes, which became more strident after the United States denounced Italy at the time of the invasion of Ethiopia (1935). Emilio Cecchi, one of Italy’s foremost intellectuals, published a book of travel notes called America amara, in which pictures of lynchings were prominently displayed. As if to say: Here are those who presume to criticize our treatment of Africans.16 Pound was surely sensitive to all of this, but the passage about the benighted inhabitants of the plains is somewhat earlier and is chiefly plangent in its criticism of a lost American dream. Culture is based on nature, and where are America’s Seven Lakes and olive-groves? Where is its religion? Surely not in the Presbyterian church of Hailey Idaho in which Ezra Pound was baptized. The Cantos purport to be America’s new Bible, since the old one has done so much damage. In his exaggerated way, Pound can be compared to other twentieth-century Jeremiahs like Carl Sandburg, T. S. Eliot, Robinson Jeffers, E. E. Cummings, to mention only the poets. Even his young protégé James Laughlin wrote tirelessly about the cultural deprivation and hypocrisy of the United States, in his own humorous and indirect way: A BIT DIFFERENT Things are a bit different in some other countries even in some of the countries of poor old broken down Europe not long ago I was in Italy waitting for a train in the station


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos restaurant in Bologna when a young woman came in with a baby and sat down at the best table in the middle of the dining room (first class) from the way she behaved with that baby you could see that she was proud of it all right and an elderly man at another table came over and played with the baby letting it pull his nose & his ears yes it was a beautiful baby beautiful and black as a negro baby can be.17

This is only an example, and could be multiplied. It refers to Italy immediately after the war but is addressed to Americans as an object lesson. Laughlin is often more direct than this, but it is notable that even in such a little scene he should be urging a point for the benefit of his compatriots. Pound was explicitly intent on presenting the model of a new religion, or “European Paideuma,” for the benefit of Americans, in the paradise of The Cantos that he was unrealistically planning in 1940, as his world was falling apart. Posthumous Cantos presents many such notes and evocations of islands, forests, and fountains with nymphs or villagers coming down to them for water, and to hospitably receive travelers, the Ulysses of the day. This archaic utopia was to remain unchanged, only Pound was able to make it much more powerful when he came to present it in the contrasting squalor of the American detention camp in the Pisan Cantos. These constitute a Paradiso of sorts, but projected by a purgatorial soul, and this makes the narrator’s many visions more moving. It was a stroke of luck and of genius that allowed Pound to complete his project in the worst circumstances, which turned out to be the best for the sake of his poetry—as he very well saw, and grasped the occasion. Posthumous Cantos includes little of Pound’s Pisan verse because this is one of the sections on which Pound had fewer second thoughts. What he

America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


typed during the summer of 1945 in Pisa (working from and editing his notebook drafts) went practically unchanged into The Cantos as published. As discussed in Chapter 12, he only omitted a few typescript pages from the end of Canto 84. This passage (PC, 137–41) is one of the most trenchant in Canti postumi, since Pound at Pisa was in top form, and was writing with more forcefulness than ever before or after. On the other hand, these musings are a little repetitive, they touch upon private matters (even mentioning Olga Rudge by name), and in general probably would have weakened Canto 84 by prolonging it. So Pound (as in Canto 49) sacrificed some good lines, and the plangent opening testamentary message (quoted above, p. 204), to keep faith with his ideal of streamlined hardness. One could object that in the Pisan Cantos there is a lot of repetition and redundancy. But this is mostly functional, and Pound chose to strengthen the close by making it shorter and less sentimental. No “Italy, my Italy, my God! my Italy / Ti abbraccio o terra santa” (I embrace thee, O holy land) in the close. There is a limit even to Poundian posturing. Actually, Pound’s longhand notes continued for a few lines after “terra santa” (the last words in the original typescript) with some observations and doggerel (marked “not in Cantos” just to make sure). I have printed this passage at the end of the deleted section of Canto 84 (PC 141), and it is quite telling and moving.18 The St. Elizabeths Cantos are on the whole less purposeful than the Pisan sequence, and Pound wrote many drafts and notes before the final text. But a distinction must be made. Rock-Drill, though based on notes of several years, was composed in a burst of activity not very different from the composition of the Pisan Cantos. Especially Cantos 90–95, whose principal muse was the mercurial Sheri Martinelli, were written as printed, with few changes from notes to typescript to volume. Pound continued with the same élan in the opening Cantos of Thrones (96–99), but then hit an arid patch from which he never quite recovered. So Posthumous Cantos does not offer much from the St. Elizabeths period. In the Beinecke I have come across a long typescript copied directly from Pound’s notebooks, which Pound mined for these Cantos. (According to Dr. Jerome Kavka, he always had his notebook at hand as he lay on his cot in the hospital.) From this, which contains much distasteful material related to Pound’s obsession with Jews, I have excerpted a number of passages, and called them, after Pound, “Prosaic Verses.” The passages I present I have left uncut, but I have made the decision of where to begin and end a selection. (In one case I have scrupulously presented a page of


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

typescript in its entirety [PC, 146–47]; clearly it was not my intention to avoid embarrassment by printing a censored text; I only followed criteria of interest, quality, and representativeness.)19 Among these “atomic facts,” America comes up, but no more prominently because of Pound’s residence there. The Pisan delight in American speech heard after so many years has subsided, and Pound is suffering because of his circumstances (no longer a natural paradise, with Pisan alabaster in the background, though the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital were quite beautiful). Here is Pound speaking sardonically to Americans (and quoting his own “Exile’s Letter”): Juan Ramon has flattened out and Ivan S. taken to farming Now I remember that you built me a special gorilla-cage    and that the foetor of Roosevelt       stank thru the shitpile that succeeded him    moon bright like water    water like sky usury, monopoly, changing the currency                  METATHEMENON (PC, 152–53) The condemned poet registers in his notebooks (and in his Cantos) his protest against his captors and judges. He has not changed his mind and is as strident as ever. Who is to blame him, given the pitched battle—and his aging mind? I will leave the final “Lines to Olga” to the curiosity of the reader of Posthumous Cantos. (For one fragment see above, p. 268.) Pound left countless pages of notes and drafts, and some scholars may object that he would be better served by a photographic reprint of the archive. I do not deny that this would be useful, though one may just as well go and read the material at the Beinecke (or online) for oneself, but clearly it would in no way further Pound’s position as a poet worth reading in his own right. Therefore, the only solution if one wants to reach a readership is judicious selection, the same principle he worked from in putting together The Cantos and making selections like Versi prosaici (1959). Thus, Posthumous Cantos presents a volume of largely unknown poetry by Pound, excerpted and salvaged from thousands

America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos


of pages, most of which are only of academic interest. I have done my best to present faithful texts and have annotated the selections in brief form. This is a book by Pound. A different selection could have been made, but I believe this to be true to the material and to Pound’s writing, and to make again the case for the pleasure of reading Pound. This is something easily forgotten in the proliferation of studies that address only fellow-scholars. Meanwhile, the author becomes more and more arcane and his presence in college anthologies is reduced from twenty pages to five—to one or two poems from Cathay. It was a pity that so much notable, howbeit somewhat specialized, material should remain tucked away in the archives and footnotes. There was a job to be done and I tried to do it. Judge ye! Have I dug him up again?20

16. Nicola Verlato, Hostia, 2014. In Verlato’s symbolic depiction of the death in Ostia of Pier Paolo Pasolini, now a mural painting in Torpignattara, Rome, Ezra Pound is portrayed as a major presence in Pasolini’s universe.


“There is no substitute for a lifetime”—Canto 98


ome time has passed since the above chapters were written. I had prepared a first version of this book in 2001, when a Fellow of the Center for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Since then I added some chapters. I hope the volume as it now appears, though still a gathering, suggests a sense of what it means to read Pound the person and poet against his chosen Italian background. The reader will find a “phalanx of particulars” (74/461), to each of which a story is attached. The Cantos are a collection of stories, or allusions to stories. The talk of a life. In Italy since 2001 Pound continued to receive a fair amount of attention as new editions of some of his works were published. In 2004, Corriere della Sera issued a series of volumes of world poets. Pound was one of seven Americans (the others were Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, Plath, Ginsberg, and—Edgar Lee Masters). The choice was clearly connected with popularity and newsworthiness. Modern poets are usually not much read abroad, unless (for reasons not necessarily literary) they become well-known icons. This explains why Frost and Stevens are appreciated in Italy only by a minority of cognoscenti. This does not mean that Pound’s poetry is more widely read in Italy than in the United States or in the U.K., only that he is perceived for various reasons as one of the incarnations of the modern poet, or even as one of a kind—unclassifiable. His political and legal vicissitudes have also permanently associated him with Italy, for better or worse. Thus, he has been put to political uses, and has obviously appealed to writers and activists who wish 283


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to revalue Fascism—just as he had played in the hands of Fascist propaganda before and during the war given his peculiar stance as an American supporter of Mussolini and his undertakings. The Neo-Fascist, the conservative, and the middle of the road press have equally found in Pound a worthy subject. But also the Italian Left has been attracted by the tale of the intellectual victimized and consigned to a madhouse by his compatriots. (During the Cold War the European Left inherited the anti-Americanism and the anti-capitalism of Fascism, and this to some extent persisted to the end of the century and beyond, uniting Right and Left.) Many of these commentators on Pound have shown a sketchy knowledge of his work and biography. For example, one often reads in Italy that in summer 1945 he was detained south of Pisa in Coltano—a camp created by the Allies for Italian and German military and police. Books have been written on the hardships of Coltano in which eyewitnesses claim to have actually seen Pound there. When visitors in Pisa from abroad ask to see the site of Pound’s detention, they are still taken to Coltano—there is even a long poem by Sam Hamill, A Pisan Canto, about his feelings when visiting Coltano.1 Only a few know enough to drive north of Pisa to Arena Metato on the banks of the Serchio, where Pound was actually detained. Yet, as early as 1966, Patricia Hutchins had published in The Southern Review a sensitive article about Metato.2 Pound is the stuff of legend, and he also, somewhat like William Faulkner, did little to set the record straight. A more troubling turn in Pound’s Italian reputation has been the emergence since about 2003 of CasaPound, a Neo-Fascist political organization based in Rome but with branches in many Italian cities, which claims to take its inspiration from Pound’s economic and anti-capitalist (and pro-Fascist) writings. Members of CasaPound take over abandoned buildings allegedly to accommodate the homeless, Robin Hood style, organize (anti-)demonstrations, and occasionally resort to violence. In fall 2011, a man claiming a connection to CasaPound killed a Senegalese in Florence. (The organization quickly denied the link.) At this point, Pound’s daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz, who had been following these developments with concern, initiated a legal action to forbid the use of Pound’s name by his soi-disant followers. At the opening hearing the counsel for CasaPound questioned Mary’s status as Pound’s legal heir; eventually, the judge found that since CasaPound is a legitimate organization it is free to use the name it has chosen. So, forty years after Pound’s death, the ghosts of his “many errors” continue to haunt him. Mary’s



action had chiefly a symbolic import, since, as the proceedings showed, there is little one can do to claim property of a name of historical significance. One can only denounce the reduction of a major poet to his most regrettable writings and actions, to the detriment of his many gifts to his readers.3 For the record, in January 2012, a group of Italian writers and scholars, mainly associated with the Left, published in various newspapers a letter of support of the action of Mary, who at an advanced age was still struggling to rescue her father’s reputation. From California, Lawrence Ferlinghetti sent in a letter of his own. This public statement was again the subject of controversy. In Corriere della Sera, a well-known editorialist objected that since there was no doubt that Pound, like Heidegger, Céline, and others, had supported Mussolini and Hitler, one should let his reputation take care of itself. This of course is true. But the purpose of the letter was to call attention to the fact that CasaPound propounds a reductive image of Pound, and that Mary was to be applauded for saying so in public. This is all very curious because Italians were slow in discovering the political aspect of Pound, that is, his polemical writings. Scheiwiller, a small but influential Milan publisher, reprinted in 1954 as Lavoro ed usura three wartime pamphlets, but these were actually surprisingly restrained (in comparison to his incendiary broadcasts). It was only in the 1990s that some of his articles in Meridiano di Roma were reprinted, as well as his own Italian version of Jefferson and/or Mussolini.4 These writings are surely not widely known even today, but intellectuals of various persuasion, especially defenders of Fascism, make use of them, quote them, and reprint them. Comparatively little of consequence has been written instead in recent years about Pound the poet. A conference at the Cini Foundation in Venice, in 1984, was possibly the last occasion in which major Italian academics gathered to discuss Pound, and the result, Ezra Pound a Venezia, was a book full of insights and qualified admiration.5 Since then the work of studying various aspects of Pound has gone on. The publication in 2002 of Canti postumi was an occasion for reviewers to air their impressions and beliefs. Ten years later, in 2012, I brought out my new translation of XXX Cantos, which provided an opportunity to reconsider Pound’s use of Italian sources (never much studied in Italy, since it falls between two stools—Italian studies and American studies), and more generally the efficacy and staying-power of his poetry. “Nobody today reads Pound,” said Billy Collins in a recent interview.6 I suppose they don’t read Pound for “gems” or wit as they read Billy Collins and “The Road


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Not Taken.” But among readers of poetry there are still those who respond to Pound’s oeuvre. (Seamus Heaney testified in 2012 to his admiration for Canto 1 and spoke eloquently and kindly at the opening of the 2013 Ezra Pound International Conference in Dublin—perhaps his last public statement.)7 This work requires full immersion, a capacity of suspending disbelief (and even, sometimes, moral judgment), and may look arid and unpromising. But that there is much to discover there, in the way of pleasure in the variety of experience, I hope is shown in this book. Pound was the center of a vortex, as he liked to say, and if one allows oneself to be carried away in it, with all its detritus and luminous detail, one never ceases to discover connections, and one actually is indebted to Pound for having absorbed and given back so much life. By life he meant what to read and what to do. We will probably not want to spend much time with Kangxi of The Sacred Edict or Leo the Wise of Canto 96, but it is thanks to The Cantos that many of us learned of the Naxi people of Yunnan—a place that one would like to visit, but which one can visit vicariously if one follows Pound’s tips to read Rock and Goullart.8 And, as for Italy, Pound’s Tigullio is one of the central settings of his poetry, which we can fantasize about or visit looking for traces and place-names, just as we can visit Venice, Pisa, Rimini, or Pitigliano, to which he directs us at various points. Thus, the modern reader who bears with Pound will not regret it. I personally owe many friendships to the Pound aura. Such deceased friends like Paul Montgomery, Peter Bennett, Niccolò Zapponi—even Heaney perhaps—I would not have met if I had not been fascinated as a teenager by the strange echoes of The Cantos and by the gaunt figure who occasionally sat at my parents’ table. Even then, I could see that XXX Cantos was an uneven volume, but so could Pound. As mentioned previously, when I brought to him in 1962 my copy of Mary de Rachewiltz’s fine Italian edition of XXX Cantos, issued in 1961 and partly prepared in consultation with her father, and I asked him to inscribe it, he wrote: “Hoping Massimo may find some good in it somewhere.” I trust this book shows “some of the good I found there.” As I write these words, I realize this is a quotation from Dante. “But to tell of the good I found there (in the dark forest), I will speak of the other things I saw.”9 I don’t mean to suggest that Ezra was quoting the beginning of the Divine Comedy when he inscribed my copy. The coincidence, however, is appropriate. There is in The  Cantos a whole world, and we can pull out now one thread and now another, and we will often be intrigued, fascinated, moved, sometimes repelled, at the result. Again, with some exceptions, we will not be bored.


1885 October 30: Ezra Pound born Hailey, Idaho, to Homer Pound (1858–1942) and Isabel Weston (1860–1948). 1887 Family moves to Philadelphia. Parents active in charity work among Italian immigrants. 1898 June 8–September 6: First trip to Europe with mother and great aunt Frances (“Frank”) Weston. London, Brussels, Cologne, Bingen, Lucerne, Milan, Genoa, Pisa (July 16), Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, Como, Paris. 1901 Admitted to University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; takes courses in Arts and Sciences. 1902 Summer: Second European tour with Aunt Frank and parents. Granada, Gibraltar, Tangiers, Venice, London. 1903 Transfers to Hamilton College. Studies Romance languages and Dante with William P. Shepard. 287


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

1905 February: Writes parents of his passion for “Dante & the Hebrew prophets.” May: “Belangal Alba” published, Hamilton Literary Magazine. Awarded B.A.  Returns to University of Pennsylvania, takes courses in Romance languages and literatures with Hugo Rennert. 1906 April 28–June: Travels to Europe on Penn fellowship: Gibraltar, Madrid, Paris, London. June 13: Awarded M.A. in Romanics, University of Pennsylvania. 1907–8 Instructor of Romance languages, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. 1908 March 17: Sails from New York to Gibraltar. April: Proceeds by ship from Gibraltar to Genoa. Travels in North Italy (Pavia, Verona). Settles in Venice. July 20 (circa): A Lume Spento (poems) self-published in Venice. Includes several poems on Italian subjects, among them “Cino” and “Scriptor Ignotus.” August 7: Writes poem “For Italico Brass,” about the latter’s painting The Bridge of the Dead (published posthumously in CEP). August 9: An “Italian paraphrase” of poem “Nel Biancheggiar” appears in the magazine La Bauta (Venice) as part of an article by Marco Londonio on Katherine Heyman. August 15 (circa): arrives London. December: A Quinzaine for this Yule: Being Selected from a Venetian Notebook published in London by Elkin Mathews. Includes “Night Litany” and “Nel Biancheggiar.” 1909 Delivers lectures on “Development of Literature in Southern Europe” at London Regent Street Polytechnic. Meets W. B. Yeats through Olivia Shakespear. April 16: Personae published by Elkin Mathews. Includes poems from A Lume Spento and more recent work, e.g., “Guillaume de Lorris Belated: A Vision of Italy,” a description of various cities, chiefly Verona. September: Moves to Kensington, 10 Church Walk.



October 25: Exultations (Mathews): poems from previous volumes, plus “Sestina: Altaforte” (imitated from Bertran de Born) and “Francesca” (borrowing name of the ill-starred lover in Dante’s Inferno, V). 1910 Second series of lectures on “Medieval Literature” at Polytechnic. March–May: In Paris and Sirmione, on Lake Garda. Works on The Spirit of Romance (essays published by Dent in June) and translates poems by Guido Cavalcanti. Joined in Sirmione by Olivia and Dorothy Shakespear. June: Returns to United States. Publishes Provença, American edition of poems. Continues work on Cavalcanti. 1911 Late February: Returns permanently to Europe. March–May: In Paris with Walter Morse Rummel, Margaret Cravens, and Yeats. July: In Sirmione. Tours Verona with Edward Williams (architect brother of William Carlos). Visits Mantua and Goito. In Milan at Biblioteca Ambrosiana to see codex with poetry by Arnaut Daniel. July: Canzoni published by Elkin Mathews. Includes sonnet “To Guido Cavalcanti” and imitations of Dante, Pico della Mirandola, and Leopardi. August: Stops in Freiburg-in-Breisgau to discuss Arnaut with professor Emil Lévy (as reported in Canto 20). Visits Ford Madox Hueffer (Ford) in Giessen, Germany. August 21: Returns to London via Cologne and Brussels. November: Begins contributions (1911–36) to London weekly The New Age, edited by A. R. Orage, with “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris,” a series of articles incorporating translations of “The Seafarer,” Cavalcanti (December 14), and Arnaut Daniel. December: Christmas at Salisbury with Maurice Hewlett (see Canto 80). 1912 April 27: Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti published in Boston by Small, Maynard. May–July: Paris and walking tour in Southern France. June: Margaret Cravens commits suicide in Paris. Pound returns briefly to Paris.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

October: Becomes foreign correspondent of Poetry magazine, edited in Chicago by Harriet Monroe. Ripostes published in London by Stephen Swift, includes poems on Guido Orlando and Jacopo del Sellaio. 1913 April–May: Paris, Sirmione. In Venice with Richard Aldington and H.D.  November: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in London. Pound may have met him at Yeats’s on this occasion. December: At Stone Cottage, Sussex, doing secretarial work for Yeats. (Pound was to spend further periods there with Dorothy in winter 1914–15 and 1915–16.) December 15: On Yeats’s recommendation, initiates correspondence (1913– 37) with James Joyce in Trieste. 1914 March–April: Publishes Des Imagistes: An Anthology in New York and London. April 20: Marries Dorothy Shakespear (London 1886–Cambridge 1973). Moves to Holland Place Chambers, Kensington. June 20: First issue of Blast: A Review of the Great English Vortex, edited in London by Wyndham Lewis. In his contribution, “Vortex,” Pound attacks Futurism (“only an accelerated sort of impressionism”) and its leader Marinetti (“a corpse”). September: Meets T. S. Eliot. 1915 April 6: Cathay published by Elkin Mathews. December 18: Writes to his father that he has begun a “big long endless poem” and advises him to read Browning’s Sordello. 1916 April: Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (John Lane). September: Lustra published by Mathews. Includes long poem “Near Perigord,” about Bertran de Born and Dante’s presentation of him as a stirrer-up of strife. September 16: Certain Noble Plays of Japan: From the Manuscripts of Ernest Fenollosa, Chosen and Finished by Ezra Pound, with an Introduction by William Butler Yeats (Cuala Press).



1917 January 12: “Noh” or Accomplishment: A Study of the Classical Stage of Japan by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound (Macmillan). June–August: “Three Cantos” (I, II, and III) published in three consecutive issues of Poetry. “Canto I” (later revised for inclusion in Canto 3) offers a lengthy description of Pound’s life in Sirmione. September: U.S. edition of Lustra (Knopf). 1918 June 29: Pavannes and Divisions (prose), published in New York by Knopf. 1919 April 22–September 10: With Dorothy in Toulouse, Provence, and Paris. In August, Eliot joins the Pounds in Excideuil (as recorded cryptically in Canto 29). October: Quia Pauper Amavi (with “Homage to Sextus Propertius” and “Three Cantos”) published in London by Egoist Press. The Fourth Canto privately issued by John Rodker in London; closes with references to Verona and Cavalcanti. 1920 April 25: Instigations (prose essays) published by Boni and Liveright, New York. May–July: Venice and Paris. Begins in Venice the autobiographical series “Indiscretions” for The New Age. Resides at Albergo Bella Venezia, then at the Manin Pilsen. June 8: Meets James Joyce in Sirmione. June: Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, initials by Edward Wadsworth (London: John Rodker). Umbra: The Early Poems (London: Mathews). December: The Pounds move to Paris, 70bis rue Notre Dame des Champs. 1921 January–March: Saint-Raphaël (French Riviera). December 8: Poems 1918–1921: Including Three Portraits and Four Cantos [4–7] (Boni and Liveright). Cantos 5–7 offer tableaux of the assassinations of Alessandro de’ Medici in Florence and “John” Borgia in Rome.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

1922 March–June: With Dorothy in Siena, Venice, and Rapallo, where they return at year’s end. Visits Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini. Meets T. S. Eliot in Verona (Canto 78). September 15: Writes to Francesco Massera, director of Biblioteca Gambalunga, Rimini, requesting materials on Sigismondo Malatesta. October 28: Benito Mussolini stages the “March on Rome” (Marcia su Roma); is asked by King Victor Emanuel III to form a new government. “Fascist Era” dates from this day. Autumn: Paris. Meets Olga Rudge (Youngstown, Ohio, 1895–Tirolo di Merano, 1996) in Natalie Clifford Barney’s salon at 20 rue Jacob. 1923 January–February: In Rapallo with Henry Strater and Ernest Hemingway. The Pounds tour Latium with the Hemingways in the wake of Sigismondo Malatesta and continue travels in Romagna. In Rome at Vatican Library. In Cesena at Biblioteca Malatestiana, whose director, Manlio Torquato Dazzi, also a scholar and poet, becomes a friend. March: Florence, Bologna, Rimini. Friendship with Averardo Marchetti, owner of Palace Hotel, Rimini. April: In Venice, at State Archive, reading on Malatesta. Begins contributing to T. S. Eliot’s Criterion, which publishes four “Malatesta Cantos” in the July issue. Indiscretions, about his family and childhood, issued as a book by William Bird at Three Mountains Press, Paris. August: Tours Dordogne region with Olga Rudge. 1924 February: With Olga in Rome. April: Florence, meets Bernard Berenson. May: Perugia and Assisi. October: In Rapallo. Antheil and The Treatise of Harmony. December: Taormina. 1925 January: Meets Yeats in Syracuse, Sicily. A Draft of XVI Cantos published by Three Mountains Press, Paris, with artwork by Henry Strater. Volume includes Malatesta Cantos (8–11) and a modern recreation of Dante’s Inferno and Purgatory (14–16).



February: Writes from Palermo to his parents about his choice of residence: “I think Rapallo as good a port as one is likely to find.” March: Rents attic apartment in Via Marsala 12 (today 20, apt. 5), with view on Rapallo seafront. May 26: Cesena. Deposits a copy of Draft of XVI Cantos in the Biblioteca Malatestiana; transcribes a public notice praising surgeon Aldo Walluschnig of Cesena for performing a difficult Caesarian operation (Canto 28). June 6: Writes in Italian to critic Carlo Linati: “XVI Cantos is perhaps the first American book in which author, engraver, and printer collaborated to create a whole. Since they could not construct another Parma Baptistery, since they don’t have the money for a unity of the arts in an architectonic structure, they have chosen to reunite three arts in a small thing: drawings and capitals, as in the manuscripts of the Middle Ages.” Praises as “incompressible” Hemingway’s in our time (1925), published by Three Mountains Press in the series “The Inquest” edited by Pound. June 20: Mussolini launches national campaign to increase domestic production of wheat (“Battaglia del Grano”). July 9: Daughter Maria born to Olga Rudge in Bressanone-Brixen. December 19–23: T. S. Eliot in Rapallo. 1926 May 6: Olga Rudge and composer Alfredo Casella perform music by Satie, Pound, and others at Sala Sgambati, Rome. June 29: Excerpts from François Villon opera Le Testament premiered in Paris. September 10: Omar Shakespear Pound, Dorothy’s son, born in Paris. December 22: Personae: The Collected Poems published in New York by Boni & Liveright. 1927 February 13: Fascist Government initiates demographic policy, with bonuses for large families, public nursery services, and taxes on celibates. February 19: Olga, and Daniel Amfitheatrof perform Mozart and Antheil at Sala Capizucchi, Rome. Olga gives private recital at Mussolini’s residence. March: Ernest Hemingway and Guy Hickok visit Pounds in Rapallo. Hickok reports in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 17, 1927: “Ezra Pound, American Author, Now in Genoa, Has Regular Bathtub and Charming Wife.” Hemingway sends postcard from Rimini: “Gave your card to Sigismundo and the Elephanti” (March 22).


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Spring and autumn: Pound edits in Rapallo two issues of the little magazine The Exile. Receives Dial Award. 1928 February: W. B. Yeats arrives with family in Rapallo, where he settles until spring 1930, writing among other things A Packet for Ezra Pound. March: “Mediaevalism and Mediaevalism,” an important essay on Dante, Cavalcanti, and their times, published in Dial. Followed by Cavalcanti’s “Donna mi prega” and commentary in July issue. May–June: Accompanies Olga Rudge to Vienna, meets Arthur Schnitzler, and is photographed by Bill Brandt. July 1: Mario Praz’s translation of “Provincia Deserta” appears in weekly La Fiera Letteraria. Autumn: Homer and Isabel Pound arrive in Rapallo to settle permanently. Olga Rudge purchases an apartment in Calle Querini, 252 Dorsoduro, Venice. In subsequent years Pound joins Olga and daughter Mary in Venice in late summer. The Exile, issues 3 and 4. “Part of Canto XXIII” (The Exile, 3) presents images of the Ligurian landscape (“the hills and the olives … the inlet”). September: A Draft of Cantos 17–27 published in London by Rodker. Includes Cantos devoted to the history of the Medici of Florence, the Este of Ferrara, and the Venetian republic. November 23: Selected Poems: Edited with an Introduction by T.S. Eliot (London: Faber and Gwyer). Ta Hio: The Great Learning (translation of classic Confucian text). 1929 January: “How to Read, or Why” (three articles for New York Herald Tribune, collected in pamphlet, 1931). April and September: Verona, at work on Cavalcanti in Biblioteca Capitolare. Sees Manlio Dazzi. Basil Bunting, poet and associate of Pound, makes his home in Rapallo until 1933. Desmond Chute (1895–1962), Roman Catholic priest and associate of Eric Gill residing in Rapallo, draws portraits of Pound and (in 1930) of Yeats. December 24: Pisa. Inscribes copy of collected Personae for poet Eugenio Montale.



1930 April: Begins contributions (1930–32) to L’Indice of Genoa, monthly literary tabloid edited by Gino Saviotti. Olga rents an apartment in Sant’Ambrogio (“Casa 60”), on the hill between Rapallo and Zoagli, accessible by footpath only. May 25: Attends premiere of George Antheil’s opera Transatlantic in Frankfurt. Meets anthropologist Leo Frobenius. Late summer: Visits Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art and praises Futurist pavilion (“Venezia bella,” L’Indice, February 1931). August: A Draft of XXX Cantos published in a limited edition by Nancy Cunard at Hours Press, Paris; capitals designed by Dorothy Pound. Three added Cantos (28–30) contain references to the Romagna, Cunizza da Romano, Pitigliano, Perugia, the Borgias, and Girolamo Soncino’s edition of Petrarch. 1931 October 26–27: The Testament of François Villon, words and music by Ezra Pound, broadcast by BBC. Begins work on a second radio opera, Cavalcanti. November 10: “Canto ottavo,” Emanuel Carnevali’s translation of Canto 8 (on Malatesta), appears in L’Indice. 1932 January: Self-publishes folio volume Guido Cavalcanti: Rime (Genoa: Marsano), subtitled “an edition salvaged among the ruins.” It includes essays, translations, variant texts, and an Italian preface signed “E.P.” Editor’s name does not otherwise appear in the book with the exception of the initials “EP” on back cover. April 9: James Joyce declines an invitation to lecture in Florence on Italian literature and suggests that the organizers invite Pound. May: Speaks on Cavalcanti in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, as part of a “Settimana di Cultura.” Giovanni Scheiwiller publishes Pound’s anthology Profile in Milan. June: Begins collaboration (1932–40) with the London New English Weekly. August 13: Mario Praz, authoritative Italian scholar of English, reviews wittily Guido Cavalcanti: Rime in La Stampa, a national newspaper; describes Pound as a Byronic eccentric.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

August 20: Rapallo weekly Il Mare begins publication of Supplemento Lette­ rario, edited by Saviotti and Pound, which replaces L’Indice and runs until March 18, 1933. The Italian section is prepared by Saviotti, Emanuel Gazzo, and Edoardo Dodsworth; “Foreign Affairs” are covered by Pound, Bunting, Juan Ramón Masoliver, Eugen Haas, Francesco Monotti. The first issue reports a conversation in Rapallo between Pound and Ford Madox Ford (reprinted in Pavannes and Divagations [1958]). December 21: Le fiamme nere, a film script by Pound and F. Ferruccio Cerio on Mussolini’s March on Rome, privately printed in Rapallo. Visits in Rome the exhibition for the tenth anniversary (“Decennale”) of Fascist government. 1933 January 30: Audience with Mussolini in Palazzo Chigi, Rome (Canto 41). March 21–31: Lectures on poetry and economics at prestigious Università Bocconi, Milan. April 6: ABC of Economics, based on Bocconi lectures, published by Faber. May 24: ABC of Reading (Routledge and Yale University Press). June 26–28: Rapallo, “Settimana Mozartiana”: Olga Rudge and Gerhart Münch play Mozart’s violin sonatas in Teatro Reale, Rapallo. Summer: In Siena with Olga, who has taken a secretarial position (1933–61) with Count Guido Chigi Saracini and his Accademia Musicale Chigiana (which offers master classes to international students). August: Louis Zukofsky visits Pounds in Rapallo. September: In Venice with Olga and Mary. Works in rented room at San Gregorio 310. September 27: Make It New: Essays published by Yale University Press; reprints studies of Cavalcanti, Henry James, Arnaut, etc., with a new preface, “Date Line,” which refers enthusiastically to “the dawn of the year XII of the present [Fascist] era.” October 10: First concert season organized by Pound opens in City Hall, Rapallo. Performances by Gerhart Münch, Olga Rudge, Luigi Sansoni, and others. 1934 April 1: Ubaldo degli Uberti (1881–1945), a retired naval officer, writes about Pound in Giornale di Genova (“Foreign Lies Refuted by a Foreigner”). The two become friends.



June: Yeats briefly visits Rapallo, finds Pound much changed and obsessed by economics and politics. Fall: Visits Venice Biennale. Comments on “pore ole Marinetti” and American and French exhibits in a letter to the New English Weekly, May 30, 1935. October: Eleven New Cantos XXXI–XLI [Jefferson—Nuevo Mundo] published by Farrar and Rinehart in New York. (English edition, A Draft of Cantos XXXI–XLI, is issued by Faber in May 1935.) Canto 36 is devoted to Cavalcanti and the canzone “Donna mi prega”; 39 describes fertility rites in a Mediterranean setting; 41 recalls Pound’s encounter with Mussolini and recounts episodes from The Life of Benito Mussolini (1925) by Margherita Sarfatti. November: James Laughlin (1914–97), Harvard undergraduate and heir to a steel fortune, visits Pounds in Rapallo. 1935 May: Social Credit: An Impact published by Stanley Nott in London. July: In Gais (Tirol), Wörgl, and Salzburg with Olga and Laughlin. Jefferson and/or Mussolini: L’Idea Statale: Fascism as I Have Seen It (Stanley Nott). August: Meets in Venice writers and critics Carlo Izzo and Aldo Camerino. Izzo publishes a selection of verse in November–December issue of Ateneo Veneto. October 3: Beginning of Italo-Ethiopian War (1935–37). Pound “in Rome during the two months of greatest tension” (British–Italian Bulletin, March 21, 1936). Meets and corresponds on economics with Olivia Rossetti Agresti, daughter of William Michael Rossetti, active as translator and interpreter at international conferences. 1936 April: Rapallo. “Hours of Study” (“Ore di studio”) devoted to Vivaldi as part of program of “Amici del Tigullio.” May 2: Advocates in an article for Il Mare that Rapallo become an “International Cultural Center” for “students of outstanding promise,” overseen by the Mare literary supplement group. 1937 February 11: Polite Essays (Faber).


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

February 18: The New Hungarian Quartet plays Bartok and Haydn in Rapallo City Hall. Concerts of Vivaldi and others performed by Rudge and Münch follow in March and April. June 3: The Fifth Decad of Cantos [Siena—The Leopoldine Reforms] published by Faber in London, and by Farrar & Rinehart in New York (November). Cantos 42–44 and 50 treat the foundation of the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena, the eighteenth-century reforms in the Grand-duchy of Tuscany, and Napoleon. Canto 46 mentions the Rome exhibition for the first decade (“Decennio”) of Fascist rule (1932). Canto 47 presents folk rituals in Rapallo. 1938 January 21: Second Rapallo concert of New Hungarian Quartet; in February, Rudge, Sansoni, and Renata Borgatti perform Purcell sonatas. July 21: Guide to Kulchur published by Faber. Fall: Visits Venice Biennale; in “European Paideuma” (1939) singles out for praise the German pavilion. November: Travels to London to dispose of Olivia Shakespear’s belongings. Fascist government introduces racial legislation; Jews are registered, forbidden to marry Gentiles and attend public schools, dismissed from teaching positions. December: In Rome with Olga and Mary. 1939 January 4: Meets in Rome George Santayana. March: Series of Mozart concerts, Rapallo. April 13–June: Travels to the United States: New York, Washington, Cambridge, Hamilton College (awarded honorary doctorate, June 12). May 14: Publication of first of many contributions (1939–September 12, 1943) to Meridiano di Roma, a cultural weekly founded in 1936 by Pietro Maria Bardi as a continuation of La Fiera Letteraria and edited 1938–43 by Cornelio Di Marzio. August 7: Sends from Rapallo “European Paideuma,” an article for German readers, to Douglas Fox, a collaborator of Leo Frobenius in Frankfurt. Fox had edited Pound’s article “Totalitarian Scholarship” for publication in propaganda magazine Germany and You (1937). September 1: Hitler invades Poland. Pound writes to Olga: “Mebbe still some chance of Eng & Italy keepin’ out of the shindy.” Great Britain and France



declare war on Germany two days later. Mussolini announces Italy’s “non belligerence.” September 6–21: Attends “Vivaldi Week” organized by Alfredo Casella at Accademia Chigiana, Siena. 1940 January 25: Cantos LII–LXXI [China—John Adams] (Faber). Canto 52 opens with a reference to Leone Vivante of Villa Solaia, Siena, and goes on to lambast a Rothschild “pot-bellied yacht” in Rapallo (the latter diatribe suppressed in the printed volume). February 11: Writes in Dorothy’s copy of new Cantos: “To build up the city of Dioce … Whose terraces are the colour of stars” (lines later to appear in the opening of The Pisan Cantos). March 31: Ubaldo degli Uberti reviews Cantos LII–LXXI in Meridiano di Roma: “Altri venti canti di Ezra Pound.” June 10: Italy declares war on France and England. Meetings with George Santayana at Danieli Hotel in Venice. August: Meets and starts correspondence with Chinese-Italian sinologist Lionello Lanciotti (Fengchi Yang) of Roman Institute for Middle and Far East (ISMEO). September: Attempts unsuccessfully to return to the United States. 1941 January: Begins broadcasts from Rome Radio. March 12: Sends Katue Kitasono verse fragment “Now sun rises in Ram sign” about Spring in Sant’Ambrogio. June–July: Translates Moscardino, a novella by Enrico Pea. 1942 January 29: Resumes Rome Radio broadcasts, which he had interrupted after Pearl Harbor. February 25: Homer Pound dies; buried in non-Catholic section of Rapallo cemetery. Confucio: Studio integrale, by Ezra Pound and Alberto Luchini, printed in Rapallo. This is a new version of the Ta Hio, with James Legge’s Chinese text, Italian translation, and commentary. Luchini, a Fascist official, probably collaborated only nominally. December: Carta da visita, an Italian pamphlet, published in Rome by Edizioni di Lettere d’Oggi, edited by Giambattista Vicari.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

1943 May 3: Pound reviews for Meridiano di Roma Elio Vittorini’s Americana, a massive anthology of U.S. fiction, from Washington Irving to John Fante; notes that short fiction is not enough to give the measure of U.S. literature, especially of Henry James (represented by “The Beast in the Jungle”), and laments the omission of W. C. Williams and Robert McAlmon. On June 26, Americana, which sold well, is withdrawn from circulation by government order. July 24: Mussolini outvoted by Fascist Grand Council; arrested by order of King. July 26: Pound indicted for treason by Federal Grand Jury, D.C.  August 4: Writes letter in his defense to Attorney General Francis Biddle. September 8: Armistice between Italy and Allies announced; German army occupies Italian territory under its control. September 12: Pound’s last contribution to Meridiano di Roma. Leaves Rome on foot and travels north by various means to his daughter Mary’s home in Gais, Tirol. September 12: Mussolini rescued by German paratroopers and flown to meet Hitler. September 23: Proclamation of Italian Social Republic (R.S.I., a.k.a. “Republic of Salò”), nominally led by Mussolini in the part of Italy under German occupation (including Latium until the liberation of Rome, June 1944). November: Begins series of articles (1943–45) for fortnightly Il Popolo di Alessandria, a publication of the Republican Fascist Party in Piedmont edited by Gian Gaetano Cabella. Corresponds with Ferdinando Mezzasoma, minister of culture, Nino Sammartano, and other functionaries of the R.S.I.  December 27: Heavy bombardment of Zoagli by Allied aircraft. 1944 February 27: Il Popolo di Alessandria publishes a manifesto of “Scrittori del Tigullio” declaring allegiance to Salò Republic, written and signed by Pound and four others. May: The Rapallo seafront is militarized. The Pounds move to Olga’s apartment in Sant’Ambrogio. October 15: Domenica del Corriere devotes its back-cover color illustration to propaganda story of “Rimini heroine” who allegedly led Canadian



soldiers to a minefield, sacrificing herself for Italy. Pound composes a Canto in Italian (73) in which the ghost of Guido Cavalcanti narrates this episode. December 2: Marinetti, returned from the Russian front, dies in Bellagio. Pound at work on an Italian Canto (72) in which he imagines a conversation with Marinetti’s spirit. Publishes in the course of the year with Edizioni Popolari of Venice pamphlets in Italian on politics and economics: L’America, Roosevelt e le cause della guerra presente; Introduzione alla natura economica degli S.U.A; Orientamenti (a selection of contributions to Meridiano di Roma); Jefferson e Mussolini (a revised Italian version of the earlier book). Another pamphlet, Oro e lavoro: alla memoria di Aurelio Baisi, printed in the spring by Tipografia Canessa, Rapallo, was pulped by the printers at war’s end. 1945 January 15: “Presenza di F. T. Marinetti” (part of Canto 72, in Italian) published in Marina Repubblicana, a paper edited by Pound’s friend Ubaldo degli Uberti. The text is reminiscent in form and content of episodes in Dante’s Inferno. February 1: “Canto LXXIII: Cavalcanti—Corrispondenza Repubblicana” appears in its entirety in Marina Repubblicana. Pound suppressed Cantos 72–73 during his lifetime, despite offers to issue them in the 1950s by his Italian publisher Vanni Scheiwiller. February: Chiung Iung: l’asse che non vacilla (Venice: Edizioni Popolari). A translation of the second of the Confucian Four Books, this edition was destroyed after the Liberation (April 1945) because of the allusive word “axis.” April 25: American troops in Rapallo. German troops surrender in Genoa. April 28: Mussolini executed by partisans near Dongo on Lake Como; body exposed with others in Piazzale Loreto, Milan, April 29. May 3: Pound arrested in morning by two partisans while alone in Olga’s apartment in Sant’Ambrogio. Taken to Zoagli and thence, with Olga, to Chiavari headquarters. Asks to be handed over to American troops in Lavagna and is driven to U.S. Counter Intelligence Center in Genoa, Via Fieschi, 6. Olga remains with him until May 7. U.S. officers visit Sant’Ambrogio and confiscate papers.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

May 8: Interviewed in Genoa by Edd Johnson for Philadelphia Record and Chicago Sun. Has access to typewriter and works on English version of Studio integrale as The Great Learning. Also composes and signs statement about wartime activities. May 24: Transferred to U.S. Disciplinary Training Center in Arena Metato, north of Pisa. Writes (July–November) The Pisan Cantos (Cantos 74–84), in which descriptions and memories of Italian landscapes and associates play a central role. October 3 and November 3: Visited in D.T.C. by Dorothy. October 17: Olga and Mary visit D.T.C. November 16–18: Taken from Pisa to Rome and flown to Washington, D.C. November 19: Appears before Chief Judge Bolitha J. Laws. November 26: First hearing in court. December 4: Transferred “for observation” to Gallinger Hospital, Washington, as requested by counsel for defense, Julien Cornell. December 14: Psychiatrists report Pound “insane and mentally unfit for trial.” December 24: Motion for bail denied. Pound committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital. 1946 February 13: New court hearing confirms insanity. July: Dorothy arrives in Washington. September: Part of Canto 80 appears in Poetry; Cantos 77 and 84 in other journals. October: Mary marries Boris de Rachewiltz. 1947 March: Confucius: The Unwobbling Pivot & The Great Digest published by New Directions (Norfolk, CT). This edition of the Confucian classics was prepared in Genoa and Pisa, working from the Italian versions of 1942 and 1945. Birth of grandson Siegfried Walter de Rachewiltz. 1948 January: Siena. Olga issues If This Be Treason, a pamphlet containing six wartime broadcasts.



July 30: The Pisan Cantos published by New Directions. Reviewed appreciatively by Robert Fitzgerald in New Republic (August 16) and Reed Whittemore (Poetry, November). October 18: The Mayor of Rapallo, Giovanni Maggio, and Rapallo citizens sign a statement declaring that Pound never participated in Fascist gatherings or “anti-Semitic actions.” 1949 February 20: Pisan Cantos awarded Bollingen Pize for poetry by Library of Congress. Controversy follows. 1950 Birth of grand-daughter Patrizia de Rachewiltz. May 24: Publication of Patria Mia (reprint of articles written in 1912). October 26: Letters 1907–1941, edited by D. D. Paige, with preface by Mark Van Doren (Harcourt, Brace). Paige had obtained access to Pound’s apartment in Rapallo and worked from the carbons of his letters. Confucian Analects published in Hudson Review, spring and summer issues. 1951 March 3: Guido Piovene, prominent Italian author, publishes in Corriere della Sera an account of a visit to St. Elizabeths; subsequently collected in De America (1953). Confucian Analects reprinted in Square $ Series, pamphlets chosen by Pound (Ernest Fenollosa, Louis Agassiz, Alexander Del Mar, Thomas Hart Benton). Hugh Kenner’s study, The Poetry of Ezra Pound, published by Faber. 1952 April 13–15: Olga visits St. Elizabeths on her 57th birthday. First publication of Mary de Rachewiltz’s Italian translation of Cantos 1–10 in L’Alleluja: Poesie di Ennio Contino e la prima decade dei Cantos (Mazara: Società Editrice Siciliana). Artist Sheri Martinelli (née Shirley Brennan, 1918–96) visits Pound and becomes a protégée. 1953 March: Mary visits her father in Washington.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

August 31: The Translations of Ezra Pound, introduction by Hugh Kenner (New Directions). Canti pisani, Alfredo Rizzardi’s translation of Pisan Cantos, published by Guanda of Parma. November 19: Eugenio Montale’s article “Lo Zio Ez,” a sympathetic review of Canti pisani, appears in Corriere della Sera. 1954 January: Literary Essays, edited with an introduction by T.S. Eliot (Faber; includes the 1928 Dial essays on Cavalcanti). First issue of Pound Newsletter (1954–56), edited by John H. Edwards at University of Berkeley. September: The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius (Harvard University Press). October 31: Il Mare prints a letter from T. S. Eliot, dated October 27, about his 1925 visit to Rapallo and his hope that Pound may be released. Contributes short pieces to Melbourne New Times (1954–57). 1955 June: Olga’s second visit to Pound leads to a crisis in their relationship. September: Section: Rock-Drill 85–95 de los Cantares published in Milan by Vanni Scheiwiller (1934–99), who had been corresponding with Pound for some years. Passages of these new Cantos, written in St. Elizabeths, refer to Verona (91), Dante (93), and Pound’s Italian associates (92). Ezra Pound: A Collection of Essays Edited by Peter Russell to Be Presented to Ezra Pound on His Seventieth Birthday. Includes contributions among others by Eliot, Edith Sitwell, Tate, Hemingway, George Seferis, Wyndham Lewis, and an article by former associate John Drummond on “The Italian Background of The Cantos.” October 30: Iconografia italiana di Ezra Pound, edited and published by Vanni Scheiwiller. The minuscule booklet offers new translations of poems by— and verses for—Pound by Italian poets (Montale, Rebora, Sbarbaro, etc.), photographs, and portraits. December 12: Pound writes at length in Italian to Manlio Dazzi, defending himself from imputations of Fascism and anti-Semitism. December 15: Pound’s translation of Enrico Pea’s Moscardino appears in New Directions annual. Reprinted as a pamphlet by Vanni Scheiwiller in 1956.



1956 February: La Martinelli, a booklet of reproductions with introduction by Pound, issued by Scheiwiller. May 15: Fernanda Pivano, translator and friend of Hemingway, visits St. Elizabeths. August: A petition for the release of Pound by forty Italian writers, prepared by Vanni Scheiwiller, is submitted to U.S. Ambassador in Rome. October: Contributes items to Melbourne Edge (1956–57), little magazine edited by Noel Stock. Nuova Corrente, a Genoa journal of criticism and theory, devotes double issue to “Pound Symposium”; Elizabeth Bishop contributes poem “Visits to St. Elizabeths.” November: Sophokles: Women of Trachis (London: Neville Spearman). 1957 March: “In Captivity,” a prison notebook of 1943 by Mussolini, appears in Edge, translated or revised by Pound. University of California Press publishes An Annotated Index to the Cantos … I–LXXXIV, edited by John Hamilton Edwards and William W. Vasse, with Desmond Chute’s 1929 portrait as frontispiece. Pound comments: “the greek well done … but the Italian part merely illiterate / or worse” (to Carlo Izzo, January 10, 1958). Saggi letterari, a translation by Nemi D’Agostino of Literary Essays (1954), published by Garzanti in Milan. 1958 March 7: In Küsnacht (Zurich) H.D. begins notes posthumously published as End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound (1979). April 18: Pound’s indictment dismissed in District Court by Judge Laws. May 7: Discharged from St. Elizabeths Hospital in custody of Dorothy. June 12, 13, and 26: Records in Washington selected poems and Cantos, issued as Ezra Pound Reading by Caedmon Records in two albums (1960, 1962). Canto 84 and a long excerpt from Canto 76, both written in Pisa largely on Italian subjects, are included in volume 1. June 27–29: Visits Philadelphia and spends last night in United States at home of Bill and Flossie Williams in Rutherford, N.J. Photographed with Williams by Richard Avedon.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

June 30: Sails from New York on Cristoforo Colombo, with Dorothy and Marcella Spann, “a young woman who had first visited St. Elizabeths in 1956 and was helping Pound to compile an anthology” (Stock). July 10: Arrives Genoa. Martino and Anna Oberto and Gabriele Stocchi distribute a special issue of journal Ana Eccetera, with excerpts from Cantos 91 and 96. After lunch in Genoa at home of Carlo Rupnik, is driven to Verona by Ugo Dadone (born 1886), a friend of Boris de Rachewiltz. Arrives in Brunnenburg, Mary’s residence in Tirolo di Merano, on July 11. September: Revisits Venice and Verona with Dorothy and Marcella. Canto 98 published with Mary’s translation in Illustrazione Italiana. November: Meran exhibition of Poundiana (books, papers, artwork) curated by Vanni Scheiwiller. Clark Emery’s Ideas in Action: A Study of Pound’s Cantos published by University of Miami Press. 1959 January: In Rapallo at Albergo Italia, with Dorothy and Marcella. Rents apartment in Passo Tigullio. Drafts final Cantos (110–16), where Italian landscapes are again prominent (Garda, Venice, Portofino). Returns to Brunnenburg for filming of BBC documentary by D. G. Bridson. Long and lively interview recorded by Bridson (published New Directions in Prose and Poetry, 17 [1961]). Interviewed on Italian public television, Rapallo, May 27 (“I am sleeping now; I don’t know if I will awaken”). September: Marcella Spann returns by ocean liner from Genoa to United States. Pound weak and depressive. October: Vacates Rapallo apartment and moves back to Brunnenburg. Thrones 96–109 de los Cantares (Scheiwiller). Versi prosaici (Caltanissetta: Salvatore Sciascia). 1960 January: Nemi D’Agostino’s Ezra Pound, the first scholarly book in Italy devoted to the subject, is published in Rome by Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura. D’Agostino sees Pound as “the last Decadent”; he chiefly appreciates the work of his early middle age, especially his “two masks of the artist” (Propertius and Mauberley) but is mostly skeptical about The Cantos and abhors the politics. D’Agostino’s assessment of Pound’s poetry as a late product and criticism of Decadence culminating in the London years was to be largely shared by Italian scholars and critics.



Le poesie scelte, a selection of poems edited and translated by Alfredo Rizzardi, issued by Mondadori in the Specchio poetry series. January 11–spring: In Rome as houseguest of Ugo Dadone. Interviewed by Donald Hall for Paris Review. Increasingly exhausted and despondent. June: Impact: Essays on Ignorance and the Decline of American Civilization, edited by Noel Stock (polemical essays with revisions), published by Henry Regnery in Chicago; includes versions by John Drummond of four Italian wartime pamphlets. 1961 March 15: Reads at University of Milan, introduced by Salvatore Quasimodo (recipient of 1959 Nobel Prize for Literature). March–May: In Rome with Ugo Dadone. In May is treated at Villa dei Pini, Rome, then taken by Olga and Mary to Martinsbrunn clinic in Meran. In August appears to be failing. I Cantos (1–30), translated by Mary de Rachewiltz in consultation with her father, published by Lerici-Scheiwiller. 1962 April 26: Moves to Sant’Ambrogio in the care of Olga. Spends remaining decade with her between Rapallo and Venice, meeting Dorothy only occasionally. May 30–July 23: Seriously ill, undergoes prostate surgery in Villa Chiara, Rapallo clinic of Dr. Giuseppe Bacigalupo. Regains strength but remains depressive and silent. Receives award from Academy of American Poets. 1963 March 24: An interview with writer Grazia Livi, “I Know that I Know Nothing,” appears in weekly magazine Epoca with photographs of Pound in Venice. May 4–July 14: Readmitted to Villa Chiara for second operation in late May. November: Treated free of charge in Paul Niehans’s clinic near Montreux. Visits Oskar Kokoschka in Villeneuve and is photographed with him by Horst Tappe. 1964 Confucius to Cummings: An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Pound and Spann.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

L’antologia classica cinese, translation of Confucian Odes by Carlo Scarfoglio, published by Scheiwiller; Pound speaks and reads briefly at book launching in Venice on November 19. 1965 February 4: Attends T. S. Eliot memorial service, Westminster Abbey. Short visit to Dublin and Mrs. Yeats. April 9: Scheiwiller publishes Il diapason by Mary de Rachewiltz, a small collection of poems in which her father appears several times. July 14–17: A ballet version of Le Testament, with music arranged by Gian Carlo Menotti, is produced at Spoleto Festival. Gives readings at Festival. September 26: Paris première of Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II (composed for seventh centenary of Dante’s birth); the libretto, by Edoardo Sanguineti, includes extracts from Canto 45 (“Usura”). October–November: In Paris for his 80th birthday, invited by L’Herne, which devotes two volumes to his work. Travels to Greece (Athens, Delphi), accompanied by George Seferis. 1966 February 11: Photographed in Sant’Ambrogio by Lisetta Carmi. March 11–April 10: Hospitalized for depression in Neurological Clinic, University of Genoa. Treatment brings little improvement. Autumn to winter 1967: Treated by Walter Pöldinger at the Basel psychiatric clinic Friedmatt. 1967 January: Visits the grave of James Joyce at Fluntern Cemetery in Zurich. September 23: Photographed by Ettore Sottsass in Portofino with Allen Ginsberg and Fernanda Pivano. September 28: Attends in Zafferana Etnea, Sicily, a literary conference organized by Vanni Ronsisvalle; meets Pier Paolo Pasolini. October: Alfredo Di Lauro and Vanni Ronsisvalle produce for Rai, Italian state television, An Hour with Ezra Pound, which includes interview with Pasolini (October 26). October 28: Conversation with Allen Ginsberg recorded by Michael Reck. November: Bayerischer Rundfunk sends to Venice a crew to shoot documentary directed by Harald Hohenacker and supervised by Eva Hesse; broadcast in 1969, it features Pound reading in Venice and Torcello.



1968 May: Daniel Cory, associate of George Santayana, publishes in Encounter magazine a revealing memoir of Pound in Rapallo and Merano. 1969 April: Drafts & Fragments of Cantos CX–CXVII.  June 4–19: Brief trip to United States. New York, Philadelphia, Hamilton College for James Laughlin’s honorary degree. Meets Valerie Eliot in New York Public Library to review the recovered Waste Land drafts. 1970 October: Vittorugo Contino’s large-format book of photographs Ezra Pound in Italy published in Venice by Gianfranco Ivancich, a friend of Hemingway. Includes notes by Olga Rudge and reproductions in longhand of Pound’s answers to questions by Pasolini and Ronsisvalle during 1967 television interview. November: New Directions publishes collected edition of The Cantos. 1972 Spring: First issue of Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship, edited by Carroll F. Terrell for the National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine at Orono. March: Publication of Hugh Kenner’s study The Pound Era, which devotes much attention to Pound’s “sacred places” in France and Italy, with photographs. November 1: Dies in Venice at Ospedale SS. Giovanni e Paolo. November 3: Funeral service in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. A gondola crosses the Bacino di San Marco to the Island of San Michele, where the poet is buried. A simple tombstone is designed for Pound and Olga Rudge by Joan Fitzgerald. 1973 January: Selected Prose 1909–1965, edited by William Cookson (Faber). June: Discrezioni by Mary de Rachewiltz, Italian translation of Discretions (1971), published by Rusconi in Milan; reviewed by Pier Paolo Pasolini in magazine Tempo, December 16. Scheiwiller publishes Stesure e frammenti, Mary’s translation of Drafts & Fragments; reviewed by Pasolini in Tempo, April 5, 1974.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

1975 Opere scelte, a major selection of Pound’s poetry and prose (1,466 pages), edited by Mary de Rachewiltz, appears in Mondadori’s new classics series “I Meridiani,” with introduction by Aldo Tagliaferri. 1976 L’Italia di Ezra Pound, by Niccolò Zapponi, published in Rome; the first scholarly overview of the subject, it includes research in Italian government archives. A review of this and of Cantos scelti (1973), by Gianfranco Contini, one of Italy’s foremost scholars and linguists, appears in TLS, April 1, 1977. Translations of letters to Mussolini, Galeazzo Ciano, and Fernando Mezzasoma are included in C. David Heymann’s biography, Ezra Pound: The Last Rower. 1977 Piero Sanavio, a progressive writer and critic who visited Pound at St. Elizabeths and corresponded with him, publishes La gabbia di Ezra Pound (Scheiwiller), with extracts from unpublished letters. 1978 Texts of 120 broadcasts and scripts for Rome Radio issued in “Ezra Pound Speaking”: Radio Speeches of World War II, edited by Leonard W. Doob (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press). 1984 May 31–June 1: Major conference, “Ezra Pound in Venice,” held at Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. Among scholars attending are Sergio Perosa, Nemi D’Agostino, Alfredo Rizzardi, Marcello Pagnini, Agostino Lombardo, Rosella Mamoli Zorzi, A. Walton Litz, and Michael Alexander. 1985 I Cantos, complete translation of The Cantos by Mary de Rachewiltz, issued by Mondadori in Meridiani series. This is the first edition anywhere to include Italian Cantos 72–73. A centenary exhibition of photographs, papers, and artwork is held in Rapallo. Markers are placed on Pound’s and Yeats’s residences in Via Marsala and Corso Colombo. 1986 Cantos 72–73 added in tenth printing of New Directions Cantos.



1991 May 31–July 28: Major exhibition on Pound and art, “Beauty Is Difficult,” curated by Vanni Scheiwiller for the Museum for Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano. Idee fondamentali, a selection of Pound’s Meridiano di Roma articles, edited by Caterina Ricciardi; reviewed by Guido Fink, a prominent Americanist, in Il Messaggero for August 26. Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism, by Tim Redman, published by Cambridge University Press. 1995 First New Directions paperback edition of Cantos (thirteenth printing), including Pound’s English version of Canto 72. Giano Accame, right-wing economic journalist, son-in-law of Carlo Delcroix (Fascist official cited in Cantos), publishes his study Ezra Pound economista. Contro l’usura. 1997 January 15–February 23: Ezra Pound e le arti, an exhibition in Milan curated by Andrea Beolchi, Maurizio Cecchetti, Vanni Scheiwiller. Catalogue issued by Skira of Milan. G. Singh, a professor of Italian at Queens University Belfast, issues a selection of the poetry, Poesie (Rome: Newton), with his own translations and cover portrait of Pound by Leonardo Castellani (1928). 2002 Canti postumi, a bilingual edition of uncollected drafts of Cantos, 1915–70, issued by Mondadori of Milan in the “Specchio” poetry series. Includes a selection of unused drafts of further Cantos written in Italian in early 1945. An English-language edition, Posthumous Cantos, is published in Britain in 2015. 2003 CasaPound, a neo-Fascist organization and political party, begins activity in Rome; soon establishes chapters around Italy. Claiming Pound as its main inspirations, it proposes to fight economic inequality, help squatters, etc. Poems and Translations, edited by Richard Sieburth, issued in The Library of America series.


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

2004 Rizzardi’s Canti pisani reissued with a preface by Giovanni Raboni, prominent poet and critic. 2011 Mary de Rachewiltz sues, unsuccessfully, CasaPound for the appropriation of her father’s name. Forty Italian writers and editors sign an open letter in her support. 2015 April: Nicola Verlato, Italian-American artist, creates in Torpignattara, a poor Roman suburb, a mural homage to Pasolini in which Pound figures prominently (Fig. 16). 2016 Giorgio Agamben contributes a brief introduction to Dal naufragio di Europa, an Italian translation of Selected Prose 1909–1965, published by Neri Pozza of Vicenza in a series of which Agamben is the editor. 2018 Ho cercato di scrivere paradiso, a book-length interview of Mary de Rachewiltz by Alessandro Rivali, issued by Mondadori. 2019 December 18: Rai Storia, a channel of public television, broadcasts an hourlong documentary by Bruno Testori, Ez for Prez: Storia di Ezra Pound, that incorporates little-known footage from previous Rai programs.


Chapter One: How to Read The Cantos—Rapallo Canto/page references are to the 1995 New Directions edition: The Cantos of Ezra Pound, 13th printing (New York: New Directions, 1995). 2 See Pound’s complaint in his letter of congratulations to Eliot upon the completion of The Waste Land: “Complimenti, you bitch. I am wracked by the seven jealousies, and cogitating an excuse for always exuding my deformative secretions in my own stuff, and never getting an outline. I go into nacre and objets d’art” (L, 169)—in this edition the letter is misdated December 24, 1921; it was actually dated by Pound “24 Saturnus, An 1,” by which he meant January 24, 1922. 3 Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Section 24. 4 T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (London: Faber, 1963), 57–58. 5 See Phyllis I. Alt, Rapallo Past & Present (Siena: Enrico Torrini, 1905), 18. A contemporary painting by Kurt Craemer (1912–61), a German artist living in Positano, depicts a similar scene. See Massimo Bacigalupo, “Ezra Pound’s Tigullio,” Paideuma 14, nos. 2–3 (1985): 208. 6 Alt, Rapallo Past & Present, 138. 7 Victoria Forde, The Poetry of Basil Bunting (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1991), 25–26. For Bunting’s association with Pound in Rapallo, see Richard Burton, A Strong Song Tows Us: The Life of Basil Bunting (Oxford: Infinite Ideas, 2013), 156–62. 8 Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Briefe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montanari (Munich: DTV, 1986), VI, 288. 9 See Massimo Bacigalupo, “Who Built the Temple? Or, Thoughts on Pound, Res and Verba,” Paideuma 13, no. 1 (1984): 54–56. 1



Notes to pages 8–13

10 See Chapter 9, footnote 17 (pp. 133–34). 11 But see pp. 142–43 for clarification of what turns out to be Douglas Fox’s misreading of Pound’s quotation, whatever its original source might be. 12 Dorothy Shakespear, Etruscan Gate: A Notebook with Drawings and ­Watercolours, ed. Moelwyn Merchant (Exeter: The Rougemont Press, 1971). 13 PC, 108 (an edited text of Pound’s notes, EPP, 2672). Some lines are quoted in CDR, 1576, with the suggestion that the occasion was the bombing of the Rapallo cathedral. 14 Eliot, Collected Poems, 59. 15 A regrettable early version of the conversation with Vivante (whose comment on Mussolini, “Plutocracies were less violent,” Pound obviously thought was self-indicting), in which Vivante is referred to as “the jew,” appeared in Townsman, January 1939 (PP, VII: 418). 16 Laura Crovetti, a first cousin once removed of mine who knew Pound (she worked in a Rome ministry and actually handed him the paycheck for his broadcasts), told me that she was herded with other government employees to Piazza Venezia to listen to Mussolini’s announcement that war had been declared. She remembered that many in the crowd were not cheering but weeping. 17 Daylight saving time was first introduced in Italy during the Great War (1916–20), and again 1940 to 1948. 18 W. B. Yeats, A Vision (London: Macmillan, 1962), 3–5. For an extended discussion of this episode, see Warwick Gould, “The Unknown Masterpiece: Yeats and the Design of the Cantos,” in Pound in Multiple Perspective, ed. Andrew Gibson (London: Macmillan, 1993), 40–92. Gould sets out to prove that Pound’s attempts to explain the unity of The Cantos, and in fact to unify the poem, are fruitless. But there is no doubt that The Cantos are at least as unified as Yeats’s Collected Poems, as a portrait of an artist in his times, complete with loves, hates, wonders, and trivia. See Massimo Bacigalupo, “The Cantos— Introduction,” in The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia, ed. Demetres Tryphonopoulos and Stephen J. Adams (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005), 24–25. 19 Yeats, A Vision, 5–6. 20 Eugenio Montale, Il secondo mestiere. Prose 1920–1979, ed. Giorgio Zampa (Milan: Mondadori, 1996), 792. 21 In context, the point of the “lattizzo” story is the ingenuity of womankind and, more generally, the hopelessness of fixing the flux of reality in words. See Massimo Bacigalupo, “The Law and How to Break It: Reading and Translating Ezra Pound’s Canto 22,” Publifarum 18 (2013), http://www.publifarum. farum.it/ezine_articles.php?art_id=265. For a thorough sequential reading of this and other Cantos, see Roxana Preda’s The Cantos Project, http:// thecantosproject.ed.ac.uk/index.php.

Notes to pages 16–31


22 On Chute, see Pietro Berri, “Il Rev.do Desmond Chute e la Rapallo culturale di anteguerra,” Rapallo 5, no. 6 (1963): 20–22; Giuseppe Bacigalupo, Ieri a Rapallo, 2nd ed. (Udine: Campanotto, 1993), 119–28. 23 Berri, “Il Rev.do Desmond Chute,” 22. 24 This had already been quoted in a rather personal poem in Lustra (1916), “To a Friend Writing of Cabaret Dancers” (PT, 311–13). 25 The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), III, 126, 137. 26 PC, 43. What appears to be the first version (in longhand) of this passage and the subsequent Chinese pastiche is in a notebook dated March 30, 1926 (EPP, 804). “Portovénere” is accented as shown here (i.e. on the central syllable, as in “unambiguously”). 27 Henry James, Collected Travel Writings: The Continent (New York: Library of America, 1993), 399. 28 For further topographical details, see Massimo Bacigalupo, “Tigullio Itineraries: Ezra Pound and Friends,” Quaderni di Palazzo Serra (University of Genoa), 15 (2008): 371–48. Chapter Two: City vs. Country—Venice L/CI, 256 (Pound to Izzo, November 19, 1935). A notable and somewhat ominous early poem about the isle and feast of the dead in Venice is “For Italico Brass” (CEP, 253–54), dated August 7, 1908, which Pound strangely never collected. See Rosella Mamoli Zorzi, ed., Venezia 1908. Ezra Pound e Italico Brass (Venice: Edizioni della Laguna, 2004). 3 See Rosella Mamoli Zorzi, John Gery, Massimo Bacigalupo, Stefano M. Casella, In Venice and in the Veneto with Ezra Pound (Venice: Supernova, 2007), 35–36. 4 “Three Cantos, I,” Poetry 10, no. 3 (1917): 121; PC, 8. 5 Montale, “Laurel Fronds in an Insane Asylum,” Paideuma 13, no. 1 (1984): 59 (“Fronde d’alloro in un manicomio,” Il secondo mestiere. Prose, 791–92). 6 Montale, Il secondo mestiere. Prose, 1594. 1 2

Chapter Three: Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome 1 2

Jerome Kavka, “Ezra Pound’s Personal History: A Transcript,” Paideuma 20, no. 1–2 (1991): 157. PC, 85. For Pound’s affair with Iseult Gonne, see Francis Stuart, Black List Section H (1971) and Massimo Bacigalupo, “‘Iseult who was the great love’: Ezra Pound, Iseult Gonne, and Francis Stuart,” in Ezra Pound and Modernism:


Notes to pages 31–36

The Irish Factor, ed. Walter Baumann and William Pratt (Brighton: Edward Everett Root, 2017). 3 The line “under our cliff, is driven” is not in the text as printed but in Pound’s longhand draft (Beinecke Library, Pisan Notebooks, 109). 4 See, for a telling example, this unguarded self-congratulation of 1912: “And these things being so, I came to rest that night at the hotel of the White Horse upon the Quai in Agde. I came here along the canal, under a mediterranean sky, ah surely I know my métier, there are artists in other media but when it comes to living I know my métier. I have made horrible mistakes, I have lived thru horrible things—but horrible—but still I know métier, as perhaps no one since Flaccus has known it” (WTSF, 60). Possibly also on this occasion the young Ezra had a glass taken. 5 “Ave Roma,” Il Mare. Supplemento letterario 11 (January 7, 1933): 3–4; P&P, VI: 9. My translation. 6 76/480. The reference is to the Ponte dell’Accademia, inaugurated in 1933, “where was the old eyesore.” 7 110/797. Compare Pound’s advice to Olga Rudge, October 22, 1924, quoted in Anne Conover, Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound: “What Thou Lovest Well” (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 55: “Has she been to San Giorgio Schiavoni and S G dei Graeci, and Sa M Miracoli? Also S Marco … she guarda the fonte a destra, per i riflessi della tettoia.” Twenty years later the same list is offered to the reader of the Pisan Cantos: “for the jewel box, Santa Maria Dei Miracoli, / Dei Greci, San Giorgio, the place of skulls / in the Carpaccio / and in the font to the right as you enter / are all the gold domes of San Marco” (76/480–81). 8 93/643. Cf. Mary de Rachewiltz, Discretions (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971), 111–15. “‘Latour’ was a celebrated (and the Royal Family’s favorite) patisserie in Rome”—Caterina Ricciardi, Ezra Pound and Roma (Rome: Addenda, 2009), 21. 9 93/648. In Discretions, Mary remembers living in Sant’Ambrogio with her mother in 1939, and quotes “the refrain of a poem I wrote then”: “Nulla per me io desidero e / che la vita continui così” (151). The lines can be translated: “For me I desire nothing, and / that life continue like this.” Clearly Pound remembered this when he wrote “For me nothing.” 10 109/794. Τhe Greek word kalliastrágalos (“beautiful-ankled,” repeated in 110/800) is a synonym of kallísphuros, Homer’s epithet (Odyssey, V, 333) for Ino Leucothea in the episode referred to here. In the current New Directions text “dinghey” has been normalized to “dinghy”—one of many superfluous corrections—and there are misplaced accents on kalliastrágalos (and the semicolon after “Trastevere” is omitted). Coincidentally, a review article by Frederick K. Sanders of books on Pound is titled “The View beyond the Dinghey,” Sewanee Review 79, no. 3 (1971): 433–60.

Notes to pages 37–43


11 25//115. Literally, “in the aforementioned thousandth.” Years were called “thousands” because (after 1000 c.e.) they were—in the thousands. 12 84/558. Pound and Rudge visited the Rome Zoo together in early 1925, and Olga wrote him at length about the male leopard on February 25; see Conover, Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound, 57. 13 I have the information about the tramp from Helen Dennis Guglielmini, Olivia’s grand-niece and William Michael Rossetti’s great-granddaughter. See Notes and Queries 256, no. 4 (2011): 584–85. 14 See William Pratt on Pound quizzing a visitor at St. Elizabeths: “He wrote out on a scrap of paper ‘Pas de leur on que nous’ and asked her to read it aloud so that it came out as ‘Paddle your own canoe’ to everyone’s amusement”—Ezra Pound and the Making of Modernism (New York: AMS Press, 2007), 146. 15 See Massimo Bacigalupo, “‘Safe with My Lynxes: Pound’s Figure in the Carpet,” in Ezra Pound’s Cantos: A Casebook, ed. Peter Makin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 111–19. Pound’s last lonely stay in Rome before his health took a turn for the worse is poorly documented. One glimpse is provided by Carlo Laurenzi (1930–2003): “I met Pound in person only in old age, when he returned to Rome as if to die there. He lived with friends on the Colle Oppio [near the Coliseum]; he rarely went out; he tried to meet only close friends; he did not like to converse with Americans; he was 75” (Il Giornale, August 6, 1977). Mario Praz (1896–1982), Italy’s premier scholar of English literature, also met Pound at this time: “I saw him again in Rome, his face marked by Time’s fishnet, his mouth, formerly so eloquent, uttering words reminiscent of Jonathan Swift in old age (Poor old man!): ‘I cannot connect’”—Studi e svaghi inglesi (Milan: Garzanti, 1983), II, 444. See also Desmond O’Grady’s account of walks and exchanges with a despondent Pound in Rome in “A Personal Memoir,” Agenda 17, nos. 3–4 (1979–80): 285–99. 16 Wallace Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, ed. Frank Kermode and Joan Richardson (New York: Library of America, 1997), 434. Santayana lived from 1942 to his death in the Irish Sisters’ Nursing Home in Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, on the Caelian Hill. Chapter Four: The Green World 1

2 3

45/229. Confirmation is offered by a note in the folder for Canto 51 at the Beinecke: “taglia l’uzeo di ziovinozzi e porta vecchiuzzo sifilitico a zuvinissima spusa” (EPP, 2612): “cuts off young men’s cocks and brings syphilitic old man to very young bride.” The phrase seems to be in Venetian dialect. L, 303, with variants from L/CI, 271. Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 278.

318 4 5 6

Notes to pages 43–59 Purgatorio, XXVI, 163; cf. 83/549. Seamus Heaney, “Ugolino,” in Opened Ground: Poems 1966–1996 (London: Faber, 1998), 187–90. Leo Spitzer, Essays on English and American Literature, ed. Anna Hatcher (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962), 14–36. Chapter Five: “And Some Climbing”—Dante

Giovanni Giudici, Il Paradiso. Perché mi vinse il lume d’esta stella (Genoa: Costa & Nolan, 1991), 28–34. Edoardo Sanguineti had already used lines from Pound’s Cantos 45 (“With Usura”) and 46 in his libretto for one of Luciano Berio’s better-known compositions, Laborintus II (1965). 2 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Divina Commedia,” I, Poetical Works Including Recent Poems (London, n.d.), 52. 3 See Max Beerbohm’s wonderful caricature of 1914 of a young dandyish Pound conducting Dante to a lowering Cavalcanti (Figure 4)—a literal rendering of the lines “Dante and I are come to learn of thee, / Ser Guido of Florence, master of us all” (“To Guido Cavalcanti,” Canzoni [1911], PT, 140). Cf. Rupert Hart-Davis, A Catalogue of the Caricatures of Max Beerbohm (London: Macmillan, 19872), 112 (No. 1188). 4 For more information, see Nicholas Havely, “Wider Circles: Popularizing Dante, from Temple Classics to Penguin Classics,” in Journeys through Changing Landscapes: Literature, Language, Culture and their Transnational Dislocations, ed. Carla Dente and Francesca Fedi (Pisa: Pisa University Press, 2017), 54–61. See also Havely’s ample survey, Dante’s British Public: Readers & Texts, from the Fourteenth Century to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 5 James J. Wilhelm, Dante and Pound: The Epic of Judgment (Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1974). Pound had already envisioned as a graduate student a poem on the model of Dante’s ascent, “The First Great Song Of All The World Cosmopolite Of Tolerance I Sing.” See A. David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet … I: The Young Genius 1885–1929 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 45–49. 6 Mario Praz, “T. S. Eliot and Dante,” in The Flaming Heart: Essays on Crashaw, Machiavelli and Other Studies of the Relation between Italian and English Literature from Chaucer to T. S. Eliot (New York: Doubleday, 1958), 349: “Pound could give to his Dante that flavour of experience for which one would vainly seek in the pages of orthodox scholars.” Praz (no Pound enthusiast) proves in detail Eliot’s indebtedness to Pound’s writings on Dante. 7 T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (London: Faber, 1951), 287–88. 8 Compare Eliot’s notable early reading of Dante (quoting Landor) as “the great master of the disgusting” (The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism [London: Methuen, 1960], 168)—a reading in accord with Pound’s


Notes to pages 59–64






14 15 16


scatological Hell Cantos 14–15, though Eliot was famously to complain that these Cantos offered only “a Hell for the other people, the people we read about in the newspapers, not for oneself and one’s friends” (After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy [London: Faber, 1934], 43). L, 315 (8 May 1938). Webb is Sidney James Webb. The French quotation is attributed elsewhere by Pound to Renan. The Binyon letters attracted the attention of Luciano Anceschi (1911–95), an Italian scholar of aesthetics and modern poetry, who was always sympathetic to Pound, and befriended the editor of the Letters, D. D. Paige, when the latter was working in Pound’s archive in Rapallo. See Anceschi, “Due lettere su Dante,” Nuova Corrente 5–6 (1956), 58–69. GCR, 9. English translation in Pound’s Cavalcanti, ed. David Anderson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 9. “These two,” Pound continues in his Italian Preface, “gave the poetry of the world something that did not exist and does not exist elsewhere; and for six centuries after their exiles Italian poetry has not reached their level.” Manlio Torquato Dazzi, Pound’s friend and consultant in his research on Cavalcanti, and a poet in his own right, published an Italian translation of Mussato’s Ecerinus, where Ezzelino’s demonic birth is depicted. By the 1960s, when he wrote his interlinear crib, Pound (whose eyesight was poor) apparently misread “tradotto” as “tradito,” and wrote “was betrayed by the man who betrayed your friend.” 72/435–36. The inclusion of Pound’s crib of Canto 72 in the current text of The Cantos is a questionable decision, given Pound’s misunderstandings of his own text. Besides, he probably would have preferred to include these two Cantos only in Italian, without further explanation. See below, Chapter 11, for a full account of Cantos 72–73. When I first drafted this chapter, some of Pound’s critics and well-wishers, worried by the explicit Fascism of Cantos 72–73, still claimed that they were not “really” part of the poem. My regard for Cantos 72–73 as a poetic performance is shared by a historian of the Italian language, Furio Brugnolo; see his La lingua di cui si vanta Amore. Scrittori stranieri in lingua italiana dal Medioevo al Novecento (Rome: Carocci, 2009), 95–111. See Cantos 23, 39, 47, “Now sun rises” (C, 820), 74, 75, 76, etc., and Chapter 1, above. PC, 134–35. This is a transcription of Pound’s draft in the Pisan Notebooks (Beinecke), on the pages numbered 249–48 (in that order). Cf. Pound, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Part II, Poem II (PT, 559). “εἶδος” (with an omicron) means “form.” In his Notebook, p. 250, Pound wrote (in Latin letters) “for the full / eidos / the form.” In the printed text of this passage (81/540) the word appears in Greek type as Εἰδώς (with a capital and an omega), which can be read as “knowing.” But it seems likely, given the ms. evidence, that Pound intended the common word εἶδος/form.


Notes to pages 65–74

17 Note Pound’s Italianate spelling “carneval,” preserved in the final text (81/540). 18 SR, 136. My italics. The line quoted in Pound’s footnote is the close of Inferno (XXXIV, 139). 19 Robert Lowell, “Brunetto Latini,” Near the Ocean (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1967), 109–16. The way in which Pound came to know of this translation was quite accidental. In Summer 1964, I came across Lowell’s text in the magazine Encounter, and made a typed copy of it, which I brought to Pound. This transcription Pound read in Spoleto and then returned to me with “many thanks.” 20 Eliot, Collected Poems, 218. See Stéphane Mallarmé, “Le tombeau d’Edgar Poe,” line 6. 21 Inferno, XV, 119–24; Lowell, Near the Ocean, 115–16. Chapter Six: Nature, History, and Myth—Montale 1 Montale, Il secondo mestiere. Prose, 793. Subsequently cited as SM in text. Pound’s autograph reads: “Ez. Pound / 1929 / 24 Dec. / Pisa.” See Alessandro Zaccuri, “Un poundiano in Via Wildt. Piccola storia di libri tra Milano e Pisa,” in Ezra Pound e il turismo colto a Milano, ed. Luca Gallesi (Milan: Ares, 2001), 101. 2 Eugenio Montale and Italo Svevo, Lettere: con gli scritti di Montale su Svevo (Bari: De Donato, 1966), 87. Translations, unless otherwise stated, are mine. Bobi Bazlen (1902–65), a native of Trieste, was a friend of Svevo and Montale, and a tireless and discerning literary talent-scout. 3 Eugenio Montale, Collected Poems 1920–1954, ed. Jonathan Galassi (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), 4–5. 4 According to the more accurate but equally censorious Mario Praz (Cronache letterarie anglosassoni [Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1950], I, 180), the lecture was on Cavalcanti. Pound gave his talk in the context of the “Settimana Internazionale della Cultura,” May 1932. See Conover, Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound, 107. James Joyce, who had been invited to speak in the first instance, declined and suggested that the organizers ask “my friend, the American poet Ezra Pound, who has translated in English a great Florentine writer, Guido Cavalcanti, [and who] could very well replace me” (Lettere, ed. Giorgio Melchiori [Milan: Mondadori, 1966], 536 [April 9, 1932]; my translation). 5 Ezra Pound, Lettere 1907–1958, ed. Aldo Tagliaferri (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1980), 105. 6 Euigenio Montale, Tutte le poesie, ed. Giorgio Zampa (Milan: Mondadori, 1990), 759. 7 Photographs of this and the previous postcard are included in the catalogue of the exhibition Ezra Pound e le arti. La bellezza è difficile, curated by Andrea Beolchi, Maurizio Cecchetti, and Vanni Scheiwiller (Milan: Skira, 1997), 72.

Notes to pages 76–81 8

9 10 11 12



15 16 17 18 19


Eugenio Montale, Lettere a Clizia, ed. Rosanna Bettarini, Gloria Manghetti, and Franco Zabagli (Milan: Mondadori, 2006), 149. The italicized words are in English in Montale’s letter. On Montale and Brandeis, see David Michael Hertz, Eugenio Montale, the Fascist Storm, and the Jewish Sunflower (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013). Pound wrote of this private concert of Münch and Rudge (which included Debussy’s piano sonata and a piano version of Petrushka) for Il Mare, May 18, 1935, noting the attendance of “Delfino Cinelli, Eugenio Montale and other Florentine celebrities” (P&P, VI: 285)—possibly his only reference to Montale in print. In the same article he also praised at length Katherine Dalliba-John for her patronage of musicians in London and Florence. On Dalliba-John as a “second mother” to Olga Rudge, see Anne Conover, Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound, 22, 38, 44, 122, 124, etc. Paideuma 13, no. 1 (1984): 58–61. A translation of “Lo zio Ez” is included in Eugenio Montale, The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays, ed. Jonathan Galassi (New York: Ecco Press, 1982), 203–8. Translated in Montale, The Second Life of Art, 283–85. Mario Praz, “Ezra Pound,” La Stampa, August 13, 1932. Rpt. in Praz, Cronache, I, 175–80. English translation in Italian Images of Ezra Pound, ed. Angela Jung and Guido Palandri (Taipei: Mei Ya Publications, 1979), 102–11. Ezra Pound to Clark Emery, February 5, 1953, pp. 5–6. Special Collections Department, Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. Quoted by permission. Montale’s candid opinion of Pound is recorded, perhaps maliciously, by Peter Russell in his obituary for Olga Rudge: “I first heard of her existence under sinister auspices: in Le Giubbe Rosse, a café favoured by Florentine literati, in the summer of 1947, I was introduced to Eugenio Montale, the poet, and I asked him what he thought of Ezra Pound. In his dry acridulous [sic] manner, Montale replied ‘Sporco’ and then launched into a long story about the American poet’s ‘red-haired mistress’ well-calculated to shock a young Englishman before the days of permissiveness …”—Paideuma 26, no. 1 (1997): 90. For a sympathetic account of Pound’s research in connection with the Cavalcanti edition and its reception, see Lorenzo Fabiani, “Tra i libri di Ezra Pound la bibliografia ‘nascosta’ nei saggi su Cavalcanti,” Il lettore di provincia 146 (2016): 129–38. 91/634. The correct Italian spelling would be “puttana.” Pound to Vanni Scheiwiller, July 4, 1955. “Above the frenzied sea”—Montale, Collected Poems 1920–1954, 142. Eugenio Montale, Selected Poems, introduction by Glauco Cambon (New York: New Directions, 1965), 25. Robert Lowell, Imitations (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969), 117.


Notes to pages 82–93

20 SM, 1594–95; Montale, The Second Life of Art, 205. 21 Montale, Tutte le poesie, 718. On Leone Vivante in Canto 52, see above, p. 11. 22 Montale, Collected Poems 1920–1954, 192–93. 23 James, Italian Hours, Collected Travel Writings: The Continent, 394. 24 Montale, Selected Poems, 131. 25 See James Merrill, A Different Person: A Memoir (New York: Knopf, 1993), 83–85, 175–81. 26 “Uncle Ez,” Montale, The Second Life of Art, 207 (SM, 1596–97). 27 “The Prisoner’s Dream,” Montale, Collected Poems 1920–1954, 409. 28 Montale, Collected Poems 1920–1954, 411. 29 Eugenio Montale, Posthumous Diary [Diario postumo], ed. Jonathan Galassi (New York: Turtle Point Press, 2001). 30 “The flood has drowned the clutter” (“L’alluvione ha sommerso il pack dei mobili”), The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale (Xenia, 2:14), translated by William Arrowsmith, ed. Rosanna Warren (New York: Norton, 2012), 321. The copy of Personae, minus the seal, which was lost to the flood, is now with Montale’s books in Biblioteca Sormani, Milan (Zaccuri, “Un poundiano in Via Wildt,” 97–98). Chapter Seven: “My Best Translator”—Izzo 1 Revised edition 1963, rpt. as La letteratura nord-americana (Florence: Sansoni-Accademia, 1967). See Marina Alpi, “Bibliografia degli scritti di Carlo Izzo,” Hurrahing in Harvest. Saggi in onore di Carlo Izzo, ed. Marina Alpi (Imola: Galeati, 1972), 1–30. 2 Carlo Izzo, “Ezra Pound ha espiato” (1958), in Civiltà americana (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1976), II, 125–26. 3 Izzo, Civiltà americana, I, 246. 4 Carlo Izzo, “Three Unpublished Letters of Ezra Pound,” Italian Quarterly 16, no. 64 (1973), 117–18. Izzo is in error about Raffaello Levi, for Giorgio Levi was a Venetian pianist who often accompanied Olga Rudge. Pound probably had the latter in mind when he wrote in an article on “Jews and This War”: “Practically, the only friend I still have with whom I can discuss this subject was born with the surname Levi and still bears it” (Meridiano di Roma, March 24, 1940; P&P, VIII: 19). 5 L/CI, 250. The translations of Izzo’s Italian texts are mine. 6 The Izzo–Pound correspondence is in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (EPP, 1054–56), to whose staff I am much indebted. 7 An article on Lear and humor (reprinted in Civiltà britannica) appeared in Ateneo Veneto in November 1935; his translations of Pound in the December issue. 8 A reference to Cavalcanti and the thirteenth century (duecento or “dugento”).

Notes to pages 93–98 9

10 11 12 13



16 17

18 19 20 21


L/CI, 257–58. This is a letter that Izzo prints out of order since it is only dated “Saturday, I suppose.” With the benefit of Izzo’s correspondence at the Beinecke it can be assigned to August 17, 1935 for it fits perfectly within the sequence related to “Night Litany.” Gelateria is in Italian an ice-cream parlor. The bracketed phrase is added in longhand. De Monarchia is Dante’s political treatise; the Anti-Macchiavel, a work by Frederick II of Prussia. The implicit comparison with Dante is hardly modest. L/CI, 254. The part about Olga is omitted in Izzo’s transcription. A meeting seems to have taken place on Thursday, August 28, for Izzo perhaps sent Pound one of his own works on August 29, referring selfconsciously to “your oral request of overnight” and to himself as “purveyor of cheap laughing-stocks to the world at large.” “Chi ha sentito il Pound leggere le sue poesie, tremando—sia detto senza ombra di ironia—come una sibilla invasata, per lo sforzo di dare a ogni suono il suo pieno valore espressivo, avrà anche capito come la traduzione di The Seafarer e i versi dei Cantos dicano lo stesso tormento, non contaminata la traduzione dalle inframmittenze perturbatrici di pretesti contingenti …” (Civiltà americana, I, 245). John Hamilton Edwards and William W. Vasse, eds., Annotated Index to the Cantos of Ezra Pound (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1959), 26. Cf. Roxana Preda, The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, III: note 4, The Cantos Project, web, May 15, 2019. Poesia americana contemporanea, 241. The Museo Correr is in Piazza San Marco. I suppose Izzo imagined Pound was referring to the peacocks in the famous painting of two women attributed to Carpaccio in the Correr. L/CI, 254. It is still popular. An American singer, Doris M. Carlino, wrote me in a note for Christmas 2004: “In November I gave a concert for the [Boston ] Dante Alighieri Society of songs by all-Italian composers. … We had a good crowd and they all joined in on the choruses of ‘La Spagnola.’” L/CI, 256. Pound’s quotation is from Shakespeare’s Tempest, I:2. Donald Gallup, Ezra Pound: A Bibliography (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983) lists a translation by Ubaldo degli Uberti of the “Opening of Canto XLI” in Il Mondo d’Oggi, dating it “Mar.? 1935” (396). Excerpts in L/CI, 266. Izzo dates the letter June 21, 1937, but it seems likely that it was written on January 21, 1936 in response to a despondent letter from Izzo of January 20, 1936. Letter not included in L/CI. On Pound’s response to the Abyssinian war, see Tim Redman, Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 164–68; also 52/257: “Thus we lived on through sanctions, through Stalin / Litvinof.” Redman comments: “Pound was apparently proud of Italy’s defiance of England and the League of Nations, as he mentions that act as among his reasons for admiring the fascist government in one of the radio speeches later on” (168).


Notes to pages 98–107

22 See Mamoli Zorzi, Venezia 1908. Ezra Pound e Italico Brass, 85–87; Massimo Bacigalupo, “Ezra Pound’s Artistic Thinking and Relations in Italy, 19251944,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Ezra Pound and the Arts, ed. Roxana Preda (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), 402–3. Bardi (1900– 1999) was co-editor of Meridiano di Roma from 1936 to 1938, when he was succeeded by Cornelio Di Marzio. 23 L/CI, 272–73. Izzo dates this letter December 16, 1938, but it was written on December 16, 1937, since it responds to Izzo’s of December 14, 1937: “Remember that I am in sore need of money. I am not badly paid by the Italian Government but the cost of living is very high in Denmark.” 24 L/CI, 273–74. Izzo’s note “Idee e forme di T. S. Eliot” appeared in Meridiano di Roma for April 14, 1940. It was reprinted in Civiltà americana, I, 349–54. 25 Dated March 19, probably 1942. 26 This answer was apparently lost, which explains why Izzo in 1956 did not recall having corresponded with Pound during the war. 27 Izzo, “Three Unpublished Letters,” 118. 28 L/CI, 270. This is the letter of December 16, 1937 (misdated 1938 by Izzo). 29 Izzo, “Più americano e più inglese di Henry James,” Civiltà americana, II, 130. 30 Photocopies of Pound’s letters to Izzo of 1956 and 1958 are included in Italian Quarterly with Izzo’s “Three Unpublished Letters.” 31 Carlo Izzo, “Ezra Pound: ‘il miglior fabbro,’” Paragone 280 (1973): 89. 32 Aldo Camerino, “Auguri a Pound,” in Scrittori di lingua inglese (Milan: Ricciardi, 1968), 426, quoted in Izzo, “Ezra Pound: ‘il miglior fabbro,’” 96: “I suoi rossi capelli sono diventati bianchi. L’alta persona s’è, dicono, curvata. E, raccontano, Pound è giunto a dubitare di tutto quanto ha scritto e proclamato e insegnato. A torto, secondo noi … Tra anni e lustri e secoli, i giovani, senza rancori e senza prevenzioni, nello scoprire un volume di Pound, l’ameranno, come l’amammo noi, tanti anni fa. E non penseranno, e quanto a ragione, a chiedere misura, precauzione, borghese cautela a chi è nato come un gran vento, come una forza della natura: col suo male, col suo consolantissimo bene. Di questo, oggi, nel compiere gli ottant’anni, pure amareggiato, Ezra Pound può essere convinto e felice.” Chapter Eight: “‘Ma’ Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin Paideuma 20, nos. 1–2 (1991), 9–41. A revised version of the annotated translation of Cantos 72–73 and commentary appears below, pp. 170–86. 2 James Laughlin, In un altro paese, ed. Mary de Rachewiltz (Venice: Edizioni del Leone, 1990). 3 “In Another Country,” The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, ed. Peter Glassgold (New York: New Directions, 2014), 155–59.


Notes to pages 108–26



Excerpts from James Laughlin’s letters, copyright 2014 by the New Directions Ownership Trust; used by permission of the Trustees and New Directions Publishing Corporation. For the whereabouts of “that little café” and other local details, see Bacigalupo, “Tigullio Itineraries,” 400 and passim. 5 Mary de Rachewiltz, Discretions, 259. 6 See Michele K. Troy, Strange Bird: The Albatross Press and the Third Reich (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017). 7 The Way It Wasn’t: From the Files of James Laughlin, ed. Barbara Epler and Daniel Javitch (New York: New Directions, 2006), 254. 8 Byways: A Memoir by James Laughlin, ed. Peter Glassgold (New York: New Directions, 2005), 83–87. 9 Her real name was Lola Avena. J met her during his leave from Harvard and first extended stay in Rapallo, 1934–35. See Ian S. MacNiven, “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), especially Chapter 6, “The Ezuversity.” J’s contemporary account of the affair in a letter to Pound is not as romantic as his later recollections: “Boss, do you know that big beautiful blonde with the ten foot boobs that lives in the town? Jeez, it is awful, she is taking my mind off my work” (June 28?, 1935, qtd. in MacNiven, “Literchoor,” 84). On July 15, he reported that he had made little progress: “aupres de ma blonde / but proper, oh very / ie. no ring / no cherry!” (MacNiven, “Literchoor,” 85). According to MacNiven, the two youngsters became lovers on a subsequent visit, in spring 1938. 10 The Way It Wasn’t, 318. 11 James Laughlin, Scorciatoie. Poesie 1945–1997, ed. Massimo Bacigalupo (Milan: Mondadori, 2003); Una lunga notte di sogni. Poesie 1945–1997 (Milan: Ugo Guanda, 2012). 12 Laughlin, Collected Poems, 154–55. 13 As corrected by Laughlin, the foregoing three sentences read: “She would tell me about her earlier life. She was English, from a middle-class family in Yorkshire, but she had met and married a businessman in Weimar. Her husband, Max, had prospered” (The Way It Wasn’t, 254). In the next lines, “Rudi” becomes “Max.” Chapter Nine: Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma” 1 2

On Pound’s unstable textuality, see Michael Kindellan, The Late Cantos of Ezra Pound: Composition, Revision, Publication (London: Bloomsbury, 2017). This is also partly a question of perspective. When in September 1940 James Laughlin published Cantos LII–LXXII and “had been worried that the charge of anti-Semitism would be leveled against Pound … Delmore [Schwartz]


Notes to pages 126–39

assured him: ‘Your concern about attacks on the Jews can be dismissed.’ Pound had only quoted a remark, probably apocryphal, attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Apart from that, there was nothing in these cantos ‘about us poor bastards’” (MacNiven, “Literchoor,” 170). 3 EPP, 600. Pound had revisited the United States in April–June 1939—his first trip there since 1911. 4 Fox had edited an earlier Pound article, “Totalitarian Scholarship and the New Paideuma,” which appeared in the propaganda magazine Germany and You, April 25, 1937 (P&P, VII: 178–80). An abridged version of F is included in Ezra Pound e la scienza, ed. Maria Luisa Ardizzone (Milan: Scheiwiller, 1987), 224–31 and in Machine Art and Other Writings: The Lost Thought of the Italian Years, ed. Maria Luisa Ardizzone (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 131–34. Some passages from the original draft are cited in Norman, Ezra Pound (New York: Minerva Press, 1969), 372–73. Fox (1906–79) had published a series of articles on “Frobenius’ Paideuma” in the New English Weekly. With Frobenius he co-authored African Genesis and the catalogue of the MOMA exhibition Prehistoric Rock Pictures in Europe and Africa (1937). For a disenchanted view of Frobenius and “paideuma” see Leo Surette, Pound in Purgatory: From Economic Radicalism to Anti-Semitism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 259–60. 5 See also “Statues of Gods” (P&P, VII: 457), “On the Degrees of Honesty in Various Occidental Religions” (P&P, VII: 464–68), “Religio” (P&P, VII: 470). The first of these articles (published in Townsman in the same month in which “European Paideuma” was written) is in fact a compact version of “European Paideuma” and reverts to the Rapallo rituals: “We want an European religion. Christianity is verminous with semitic infections. What we really believe is the pre-Christian element which Christianity has not stamped out. The only Christian festivals having any vitality are welded to sun festivals, the spring solstice, the Corpus and St. John’s eve, registering the turn of the sun, the crying of ‘Ligo’ in Lithuania, the people rushing down into the sea in Rapallo on Easter morning, the gardens of Adonis carried to Church on the Thursday. [new para.] The peasant women carrying silk cucoons to Church carefully hidden in their clasped hands, cannot be, we suppose, European, but at any rate it is real, if almost unknown to the reading world” (P&P, VII: 457). 6 Norman, Ezra Pound, 372–73. 7 Ronald Duncan (1914–82), British dramatist and author, was editor of Townsman (London), to which Pound contributed, 1938–41. See note 5. 8 Pound’s oft-repeated statement that Erigena’s body was exhumed (“they dug up his bones”—83/548) is based on a misreading of his Italian source, Francesco Fiorentino’s Manuale di storia della filosofia (1879–81; 3rd edition, 1921, II, 67), according to which Erigena’s oeuvre was “dissotterrata” (“unearthed,” in a metaphorical sense) at the time of the Albigensian Crusade

Notes to pages 139–61

9 10

11 12 13 14


and condemned by the Pope in 1225. Cf. Roxana Preda, Online Companion, XXXVI: note 33, The Cantos Project, http://thecantosproject.ed.ac.uk/index. php/eleven-new-cantos-index/canto-xxxvi/xxxvi-references. Quoted in Norman, Ezra Pound, 374, no date given (probably late 1939). “Sul serio” is Italian for “seriously.” “Pale Galilean” is Swinburne’s description of Christ, “Hymn to Proserpine,” line 35. Fox wrote to Dorothy Pound on August 12, 1946 proposing lunch in Washington (“I’m still in the army”). It is likely that he visited Pound at St. Elizabeths, for he says: “I would like to see your husband, too, if I can get permission to do so” (Lilly Library). In 1948, Fox was Operations Coordinator for the U.S. Information Services Bureau in Austria, where, according to one source, he played an equivocal role. Fox’s Washington Post obituary (February 2, 1979) fills in his biography as follows: “Douglas Claughton Fox, 72, retired exhibits project director with the old U.S. Information Agency, died of cancer Thursday in a Lewes, Del., hospital. He had lived in Ocean View, Del., for the past four years. Mr. Fox retired from USIA in 1972 after 11 years there. Before that, he worked for the Department of Commerce and was acting chief of the Office of International Trade Fairs when he left there in 1961. He was born in Betwsy-Coed, Wales, and was brought to this country as an infant. He grew up in Westfield, N.J., Plandome, N.Y. and Centreville, Md. He received his higher education in England and Germany. During the 1930s, Mr. Fox was with the Frobenius Anthropological Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a captain in Army Air Force intelligence in Italy in World War II. After the war, he was with Radio Free Europe in Vienna, Austria.” Pound’s word for “the oral tradition” (hinting at Frobenius); see 85/579, 90/625. Pound, “The Tomb at Akr Çaar,” PT, 232–33 (Ripostes, 1912). See above, note 8. Sheri Martinelli speaks of “cunt-o’s” in a letter to Pound of March 21, 1960 (Beinecke). Chapter Ten: Moscardino and Enrico Pea (“pronounced peh-ah”)

L/PP, 31–32. My translation. I use the abbreviation M for the original Italian text of Moscardino; page numbers as in Moscardino. Il servitore del diavolo (Milan: Garzanti, 1963). MZ (as noted in text) refers to Ezra’s version in the 2005 edition. 3 Pier Paolo Pasolini, Descrizioni di descrizioni, ed. Graziella Chiarcossi (Turin: Einaudi, 1979), 239 (December 16, 1973). 4 Praz, Cronache, I, 176 (“amante sfortunatissimo della precisione”). 5 “una licenza aproposito il metaforo del ‘botro’ cioè metafora invertita / i nostri ‘caves’ sono caves con o senza acqua o stagnini. Grotto etc. / ma botro non esiste per quanto io so” (L/PP, 46). 1 2


Notes to pages 161–89

6 The word βοθρῶν (genitive plural of βόθρος) occurs, with some queries about its etymology, in Canto 96, excerpted from a tenth-century Byzantine text (where it carries the metaphorical meaning of a “dealer in animals”). Pound comments humorously that “the name … ought to explain what it means … but doesn’t exactly / dealing with animals” (96/681–82). It is likely that Pound made these notes because he was still thinking of Pea’s botro, hence his postcard with the information. 7 C, 820. This is the last line of a fragment Pound sent on March 12, 1941 to his Japanese friend Kitasono Katue, with the note: “If I were 30 years younger I would call ’em his boxing gloves. I wonder if it is clear that I mean the shadow of the ‘mittens’? and can you ideograph it; very like petals of blossom” (L, 348). 8 Cf. Paradiso, V, 100–3: “As in a fish-pool still and clear …” This line precedes a passage much quoted by Pound, “chi crescerà”; cf. GK, Chapter 52. See also the lines quoted in SR, 142: “As, from glasses transparent and polished, or from waters clear and tranquil …” (Paradiso, III, 10–11). 9 Montale, “L’anguilla” (1948), collected in La bufera e altro (1957), Collected Poems 1920–1954, 384. 10 See Corno inglese: An Anthology of Eugenio Montale’s Poetry in English Translation, ed. Marco Sonzogni (Novi Ligure: Joker, 2009), 161–238. Lowell’s translation (as quoted above) is on p. 196, revised from the Lowell version in Montale, Selected Poems, 155–57. Tom Paulin’s erotic imitation reads: “tail and fins fletched / like love’s arrow / in a ditch / in that dry or wet— / either way hairy—slit / where this sperm always fits …” (240). Also Charles Wright and James Merrill translated “L’anguilla,” always using “gullies,” as does Jonathan Galassi in Montale, Collected Poems 1920–1954, 385. 11 80/530. See Pea’s note in MZ, xviii, where he recalls his conversations with Pound about Egypt and his emotion when, reading the Pisan Cantos, he found that Pound had remembered him in the poem: “from the confinement of the prison camp near Pisa a treasured message reached me that recalled to mind the red mahogany desks of that bank in Egypt …” (MZ, xix; cf. 80/530). 12 Beinecke, Olga Rudge Papers, YCAL MSS 54, Folders 2834–43. Chapter Eleven: “Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos 72 and 73 1 Luigi Salvatorelli and Giovanni Mira, Storia d’Italia nel periodo fascista (Milan: Mondadori, 1972), II, 582. My translation. The last word in Mussolini’s speech is “riscossa” (comeback), which occurs twice in Canto 73. “Diana” (73/438, “clarion call,” archaic) also appears in this speech (Caterina Ricciardi). 2 A sample is collected as “Voices of War,” PC, 57–81. 3 Marina Repubblicana 1, no. 2 (January 15, 1945); P&P, VIII: 245. The fact that Uberti speaks of the “conclusion” may mean that when Pound sent

Notes to pages 189–94


the poem to him Canto 72 was still to be completed. Note also that Uberti accepts Pound’s spelling of Marinetti’s second name “Tomaso,” which is relatively infrequent in Italy. 4 EPP, 2672. Further drafts, always in Italian, of the same and other materials were acquired by the Beinecke with the Olga Rudge papers and are discussed by Ronald Bush, “Towards Pisa: More from the Archives about Pound’s Italian Cantos,” Agenda 34, nos. 3–4 (1996–97): 89–124. An edited version is presented, with English translation, in PC, 129–41. 5 In Sheri Martinelli’s copy of The Cantos (Beinecke), which contains some of Pound’s own explications, “triedro” is glossed as “Tri Cornered place” and “tri road” with a drawing of three converging lines. 6 EPP, 3484. An edited transcript with English translation appears in PC, 90–91. 7 76/472. The story is told somewhat fancifully (after Machiavelli, Istorie fiorentine, VIII, 34) in Yriarte, Un condottiere au XV siècle. Actually, Machiavelli does not mention that Caterina lifted her skirt when she said that “ella aveva seco il modo a rifarne degli altri” (she carried on her body the means of making more [children]), while, according to Yriarte, “elle lève sa jupe en leur criant: ‘Il me reste la moule pour en faire d’autres’” (p. 328, note 2). This confirms that Pound got the story from Yriarte. The dramatist Sem Benelli wrote in 1938 the tragedy Caterina Sforza, and may have discussed it with Pound, his neighbor and acquaintance in Rapallo. 8 “Recalled”—probably an error for “ricamata” (embroidered). Hence the translation below. The last five lines are added in longhand. 9 EPP, 2672. For a regularized transcript and translation, see PC, 94–97. 10 See discussion in Massimo Bacigalupo, The Forméd Trace: The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 170, where the Latin poem is quoted à propos of these lines—a source not mentioned in Carroll F. Terrell, A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 459. When I suggested in 1980 the source in Erigena I did not know the 1945 draft quoting the Latin original. 11 For an edited transcript and translation, see PC, 98–99. 12 Plutarch, “The Obsolescence of Oracles” (De Defectu Oraculorum, Chapter 17), in Moralia, vol. 5, ed. Frank Cole Babbitt (Cambridge, MA: Loeb, 1936), 401–3. 13 Cf. 74/463: “And the voices, Tiro, Alcmene.” 14 I.e., the Limousin region and Limoges. A quotation from Dante (Purgatorio, XXVI, 120), who has Guinizelli compare unfavorably “quel da Limosì” (“that fellow from Limoges,” SR, 23), i.e., Girautz de Borneill, to Arnaut. 15 Eliot, The Dry Salvages, IV, Collected Poems, 211. 16 PC, 108–9. This translation follows the edited text (see above, p. 8), in which punctuation is regularized, repetitions are omitted, and some words


Notes to pages 194–203 are inserted from parallel passages in these drafts. I have displayed these translated lines (rather than compacted them as in previous quotations) on account of the significance of this passage. Chapter Twelve: The Pisan Cantos in Progress

1 Lois Bar-Yacov, “Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound: In Distrust of Whose Merits?” American Literature 63 (1991): 1–25. 2 Mary Ellis Gibson, Epic Reinvented: Ezra Pound and the Victorians (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 166. See also Jerome McGann, Towards a Literature of Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 114. The argument is resumed by Peter D’Epiro, “Whose Vanity Must Be Pulled Down?” Paideuma 13, no. 2 (1984): 247–52, who reaches (I believe) the wrong conclusion. 3 Swinburne’s translation. The poem’s first stanza is quoted by Pound (after Swinburne) in SR, 178. 4 With the exception of XXX Cantos, and Cantos LII–LXXI, but these contain thirty and twenty Cantos, respectively, as against the Pisan eleven. 5 She was not impressed. Dorothy reported on October 15 her comment: “after five months undisturbed (sic!) I expected something more valuable” (L/DP, 133). 6 Olga Rudge made this point in a letter to Pound at Pisa, October 9, 1945: “The last batch of Cantos came since she [i.e., Olga] started this. She is glad he has begun to sing again away from the archivi. I had felt it best thing they could have done for Cantos to shut you up for a while!” (Beinecke, Olga Rudge Papers, YCAL MSS 54, Folder 2609: Rudge Copybook, p. 37). 7 81/540. The second line (freely translating the first) is not in the text as published but in Pound’s longhand draft, reprinted in PC, 134. See above, Chapter 1, for a discussion of this passage in a Dantean context. 8 Ronald Bush, “Modernism, Fascism, and the Composition of Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos,” Modernism/Modernity 2, no. 3 (1995): 80–82; Richard Sieburth, “Introduction,” in The Pisan Cantos (New York: New Directions, 2003), xxxvi. 9 “Nenni, Nenni, who will have the succession? / To this whiteness, Tseng said / ‘What shall add to this whiteness?’ / and as to poor old Benito …” (80/515). Canto 80 was mostly written in August. The notebook draft reads “Nemi! Nemi! who will have the succession?” (p. 185), linking the murderous succession of the Nemi high priests to Mussolini’s. 10 Canto 74 was derived from notebook pages numbered by Pound 1–119 (July 1945). The notebook draft of the Manes-Mussolini overture is on p. 91. Two earlier penciled drafts have been preserved: one on toilet paper, the other on the end-papers of Legge’s The Four Books (Hamilton College Library), and these may well pre-date the Pisa notebooks. See Massimo Bacigalupo, “The

Notes to pages 203–19


Myth of the Revised Opening of The Pisan Cantos,” Notes & Queries 25, no. 2 (2007): 169–71. 11 The Greek, “divine swineherdess” (a variant of the epithet of the swineherd Eumaeus in the Odyssey), appears only in the old Faber text of The Cantos (1954 etc.). Mary de Rachewiltz’s Italian edition (CDR) mostly follows the old Faber text, with some typographical errors. 12 Terrell, Companion, 397. 13 Quoted by permission of Mary de Rachewiltz. 14 Other interpretations have been offered of “180 years” (81/540) but this seems the only plausible one in the context. Chapter Thirteen: “I wish he would explain his explanation” M. H. Abrams, ed., The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 5th ed. (New York: Norton, 1986), II, 844. 2 Souvenirs and Prophecies: The Young Wallace Stevens, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1977), 48. 3 Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, 913. 4 Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, 450. 5 Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1966), 762. 6 Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, 428. 7 Archives and Special Collections Division, Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami. 8 On this dense and opaque passage Terrell’s Companion (570–72) is very helpful. One of the intended messages is a fanciful identification of the (imaginary?) Chinese personage T’ai Wu Tzu with the Dioce of Ecbatana and 74/445, because of a similar pronunciation; see also Kindellan, Late Cantos, 17–18. Pound had already made the connection in his 1940 dedication to his wife of Cantos LII–LXXI: “To build the city of Dioce / (Tan Wu Tsze),” see Noel Stock, The Life of Ezra Pound (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), 479. “Dejoces” and Charles Rollin’s The Ancient History of the Egyptians (London, 1768) are mentioned by Adams in a letter to Rush of September 1807. The “Lincoln” referred to by Adams is general Benjamin Lincoln. In Sheri Martinelli’s annotations (discussed below), T’ai Wu Tzu is glossed as “Kingdom built up out of his justice / kingdom of Dioce lasted in Asia Minor where terraces color of stars.” “Blue jay, my blue jay” is explained as “his love” (i.e., Martinelli). 9 Terrell, Companion, 570. 10 Allen Ginsberg to Ezra Pound, October 1967, as reported by Michael Reck, Ezra Pound: A Close-up (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), 154. 11 Dante Alighieri, Le opere di Dante (Florence: Bemporad, 1921), 438. 12 Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, 17. 1


Notes to pages 210–24

13 Stevens, Letters, 390 (June 3, 1941). 14 Stevens, Letters, 341 (June 1, 1939). 15 See, for example, Stevens, “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” 5: “The chatter about escapism is, to my way of thinking, merely common cant” (Collected Poetry and Prose, 662). Compare comments on the Ivory Tower in Letters, 403. 16 Quoted in Thomas E. Connolly, “Further Notes on Mauberley,” Accent 16, no. 1 (winter 1956): 59 (a review of John J. Espey, Ezra Pound’s Mauberley). The letter cited by Connolly is written in the persona of Dorothy Pound, and begins: “Dear Dr Connolly E.P. asks me to deal with your troubles as follows: The worst muddle …” The typing, however, seems to be Pound’s. In the same letter, of which Professor Connolly kindly sent me a copy, Pound writes, with reference to line 3 of Mauberley’s “Envoi”: “thou: book.” Students of the critical history of the poem will be thankful for the tip. 17 The name “Mauberley” only appears in the title of Part II of the poem, the full name “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” only in the title of the whole. Pound probably wrote the first part about the “demise” of EP (i) and its antecedents (ii–xiii) as a sort of part-ironic autobiography; then the thought of the Prufrockian Mauberley occurred to him and he wrote Part II about that ineffectual Jamesian character. He then used his name as a title for both sequences, though strictly speaking only the second is about the fictional Mauberley. If my reconstruction is correct, Pound had not even thought of the character Mauberley when he wrote the “Ode”—let alone thought of him as speaker of the same “Ode.” 18 November 23, 1955 (Fondo Scheiwiller, APICE—Archivi della parola dell’immagine e della comunicazione editoriale, Università degli Studi di Milano). 19 Born Shirley Brennan, Martinelli (1918–96) took her surname from her first husband, an Italian-American artist. She was also friendly with William Gaddis, Allen Ginsberg, and Charles Bukowski. See Steven Moore, “Sheri Martinelli: A Modernist Muse,” Gargoyle 41 (summer 1998): 29–54. Anatole Broyard devotes to her much of his Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir (New York: Vintage, 1993). 20 Beinecke, Martinelli Papers. Martinelli copied her annotations in another copy of Rock-Drill for Norman Holmes Pearson. This is also in the Beinecke. 21 As noted in Chapter 11, Zoagli, the village just below Sant’Ambrogio, was badly hit by air-strikes aimed at its huge railway bridge, with many civilian casualties, on December 27, 1943. 22 Paradiso, III, 105. Pound quotes this passage in Italian in “The Promised Land” chapter of Guide to Kulchur; see above, p. 59. 23 Terrell, Companion, 340. A typescript of Canto 90 among the Martinelli papers lacks the two opening lines, and Pound explicitly attributes to her the

Notes to pages 224–33


phrase “From the colour the nature and by the nature the sign” in another fragment (EPP, 343; Kindellan, Late Cantos, 103–5). 24 Bacigalupo, Forméd Trace, 266. 25 Sheri Martinelli, “The TAO of Canto 90 …” Stencil sent to Clark Emery with a letter postmarked August 13, 1960. Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami. Emery commented wittily on his epistolary relation with Pound and Martinelli in the poem “St. Elizabeths,” The Carrell: Journal of the Friends of the University of Miami Library 21 (1983): 14–16. 26 Peter Brazeau, Parts of a World: Wallace Stevens Remembered (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1985), 210. 27 José-Maria de Heredia’s sonnet “Antoine et Cléopatre,” as first pointed out by George Dekker, Sailing After Knowledge: The Cantos of Ezra Pound (London: Routledge, 1963), 105. 28 John Ashbery, “A Poetry Reading in Genoa,” RSA Journal 3 (1992): 28. 29 “An Introduction to the Economic Nature of the United States,” SP, 167. 30 “Note to Base Censor,” Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, 2nd Series (New York: Viking, 1963), 36. 31 “Canto 98,” L’Illustrazione italiana, September 1958, 34 (P&P, IX: 235). 32 Venice, November 19, 1964; from a broadcast on Italian public television: “Ho fatto forse un po’ di poesia rozza, di terz’ordine. Qualche volta forse ho trovato un po’ di sentimento di malinconia popolare.” Pound went on to read Ode 2: “Shade o’ the vine / Deep o’ the vale…” (PT, 756). Chapter Fourteen: End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli 1 Pound, La Martinelli (Milan: Scheiwiller, 5–12); rpt. in EPVA, 177–79. The introduction appeared separately in Edge, 1 (October 1956), as “Total War on ‘Contemplatio’” (P&P, IX: 176–77). 2 Donald Davie, Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor (London: Routledge, 1965), 221–22. 3 David Rattray, “Weekend with Ezra Pound,” in A Casebook on Ezra Pound, ed. William Van O’Connor and Edward Stone (New York: Crowell, 1959), 107–8. 4 Rattray, “Weekend,” 115. 5 Rattray, “Weekend,” 113. 6 Rattray, “Weekend,” 116. 7 John Kasper, a visitor of Pound at St. Elizabeths, published with David Horton the “Square Dollar Series,” pamphlets chosen by Pound (Confucius, Fenollosa, Agassiz, Alexander Del Mar, Thomas Hart Benton). Around 1955, he campaigned against desegregation in the South and was arrested. This is the import of the reference to “suicide troops.” See Alec Marsh, John Kasper and Ezra Pound: Saving the Republic (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).


Notes to pages 233–42

8 H.D., End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound, ed. Norman Holmes Pearson and Michael King (New York: New Directions, 1979), 5. Subsequently cited as ET in text. 9 The wedding took place on April 20, 1914. 10 Beinecke, H.D. Papers. Pearson’s letter is also included in Between History and Poetry: The Letters of H.D. and Norman Holmes Pearson, ed. Donna Krolik Hollenberg (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997), 213–15. 11 A quotation from Pound’s introduction. The sentence is the only one in which Martinelli’s name is mentioned. It reads in its entirety: “The unstillness that delayed my recognition till quite a while after that of my less restless contemporaries runs parallel with the unstillness in the work of la Martinelli, who is the first to show a capacity to manifest in paint, or in la ceramica what is most to be prized in my writing” (EPVA, 78). This fits in with the celebration of unstillness in a contemporary Canto, 92. Pound repudiated this statement in the sixties (clearly at Olga Rudge’s insistence) in a manuscript note (Beinecke, Rudge Papers, Folder 2603, pp. 178–79). 12 ET, 39. Here and in the following quotations from ET I follow H.D.’s typescript (Beinecke, H.D. Papers, 1921). In the printed version the name Martinelli is mostly substituted with “Undine.” While Martinelli did not proceed against Charles Norman (see above), she threatened to sue New Directions if her name appeared in print. The suppressions in the published text were lamented by Guy Davenport, New York Times Book Review, July 15, 1979. See Questioning Minds: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner, ed. Edward M. Burns (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2018), 1699, 1703. 13 Ezra Pound: The Critical Heritage, ed. Eric Homberger (London: Routledge, 1972), 426–27. Davie’s review appeared in the New Statesman and Nation, March 27, 1954. 14 The phrase is taken from Canto 85, the first Rock-Drill canto. 15 W. B. Yeats, “Blood and the Moon” (1933), Collected Poems (London: Macmillan, 1965), 268: “this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem, / Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme.” The phrase is quoted also in GK, Chapter 28, and in 79/507. 16 The ghosts dipping in crystal and “adorned” allude to lines in a sonnet of Guido Cavalcanti which Pound translated as follows in the 1932 GCR (PT, 577): “I send Pinella a river in full flood // Stockéd with Lamia-nymphs, that are foreby / Served each with her slave hand-maids, fair to sight / And yet more fair by manner of gentlehood” (bell’e adorne di gentil costume). Apparently, when Cavalcanti sends to his love Pinella un grande fiome pieno di lammie he means “a great number of witches”—not an actual “river in full flood” as Pound takes him to say. Idioms are treacherous, especially when six centuries old. But the literal misreading of fiome is essential to the crystal dipping of 91/637. 17 Between History and Poetry, ed. Hollenberg, 221–22.

Notes to pages 242–69


18 Beinecke, H.D. Papers. This letter is not included in Between History and Poetry. 19 This is one of the instances in which H.D. refers to Martinelli as “Undine.” 20 Frances (Fanny Josepha) Gregg (Philadelphia, 1884–Plymouth, 1941), first woman loved by H.D., who in Her (1922) gave a fictionalized account of her relations with Frances and Pound. 21 The previous sentences are omitted in End to Torment as published. 22 ET, 58–59. As above, I quote from H.D.’s typescript in the Beinecke. 23 Pound’s letters to H.D. are in Beinecke, H.D. Papers, 484–89. 24 There are some letters from Pound to Martinelli in the Beinecke in which he complains precisely of this kind of treatment. 25 This is the Greek original of the phrase translated “It all coheres” in Pound’s Women of Trachis. Also quoted in 87/591. 26 I have included Pound’s letters in my Italian translation of H.D.’s uncensored text, Fine al tormento (Milan: Archinto, 1994; rpt. 2013). Chapter Fifteen: Sant’Ambrogio in the Half-Light 1

2 3 4

Lisetta Carmi’s photographs have been often reproduced; see, for example, C. David Heymann, Ezra Pound: The Last Rower (New York: Viking, 1976), 289–91; Bacigalupo, “Tigullio Itineraries,” 432. The whole series can be seen in Lisetta Carmi, L’ombra di un poeta. Incontro con Ezra Pound (Milan: O barra O edizioni, 2005). Guy Davenport, “Ithaka,” in Da Vinci’s Bicycle: Ten Stories (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 114–20. G. Singh, Canzoniere per Olga (Udine: Campanotto, 1999). For Isaiah Berlin’s account of the dinner, see Building: Letters 1960–1975 (London: Chatto & Windus, 2011), 395. Chapter Sixteen: America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos



In Italian the title has an added piquancy, for it recalls Eugenio Montale’s Diario postumo (1996), a volume which occasioned a heated debate concerning its authenticity. It is available in Jonathan Galassi’s bilingual edition: Eugenio Montale, Posthumous Diary (New York: Ecco Press, 1982). When I discussed the possibility of City Lights bringing out a U.S. edition, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, thinking mistakenly that the contents were mostly a reprint of well-known material, wrote me characteristically (April 30, 2013): “Allora, signore, since these Canti are easily available if not pretty, myself and my cohorts at City Lights (not relishing the role of becchini [undertakers]) see no reason to further spread the disinterred mutterings of Le Grand Ventriloque, despite some great hoary aperçus (oft pickpocketed from baggy pants of poetasters like Browning and Sordello). J’suis toujours ton


Notes to pages 269–76

hypocrite serviteur—Lawrence.” But on May 10, he wrote again: “Massimo primo—I wish to atone for my recent acerbic wit (i.e ‘disinterred mutterings’) gratuitously denigrating that great poet whose lyrics in PERSONAE and his first thirty CANTOS meant so much to me when I was growing upward.— Lorenzo primo.” 3 With the noteworthy exception of Cantos 72–73, long excluded from The Cantos for their inflammatory politics. 4 See the down-to-earth remark about Périgord early in Canto 74: “But the caverns are less enchanting to the unskilled explorer / than the Urochs as shown on the postals.” Another reference, with the same misspelling, occurs two pages later, à propos of memories of the Rome zoo: “as the leopard sat by his water dish; / hast killed the urochs and the bison sd/ Bunting.” These aurochs are connected with “the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsmen,” famously mentioned by T. S. Eliot in “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” Pound and Eliot were together in Périgord in summer 1919; see PC, 32 (1922?) and 29/145. 5 L/HP, 666. Pound had sent his father a rough version of the source of Canto 49 on July 30. 6 PC, 17 (“Three Cantos,” III). 7 The full text of Pound’s source is reproduced in facsimile in Ezra Pound e i Sette Laghi, ed. Maria Costanza De Luca (Reggio Emilia: Diabasis, 2004). See also Zhaoming Qian, “Painting and Poetry: Pound’s Seven Lakes Canto,” in Ezra Pound & China, ed. Zhaoming Qian (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), 72–95. “Aunt Frank” figures largely in Pound’s personal mythology: “and my old great aunt did likewise / with that too large hotel / but at least she saw damn all Europe / and rode on that mule in Tangiers / and in general had a run for her money” (84/559). 8 Yeats, “The Gyres,” Collected Poems, 337. 9 Stock, Life of Ezra Pound, 417–18. 10 Stevens, Letters, 137–38. The New York Metropolitan Museum has a set of the Eight Scenes by the Southern Song painter Wang Hong. See Qian, Pound & China, 74 and Alfreda Murck, “Eight Views on the Hsiao and Hsiang Rivers by Wang Hong,” in Images of the Mind, ed. Wen C. Fong (Princeton, NJ: Art Musem, 1984), 216–34. 11 Dongting Lake in recent spelling, as Wikipedia informs us; see article “Eight Views of Xiaoxiang.” 12 See 74/450 (“stone knowing the form which the carver imparts it”) and Guide to Kulchur, Chapter 23. 13 His despondent letters to Marcella Spann of 1960 are another example of his dependence; see A. David Moody, Ezra Pound … The Tragic Years 1939–1972 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015), 471–75. 14 Charles Dickens, American Notes and Pictures from Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 353 (“To Rome by Pisa and Siena”).

Notes to pages 276–85


15 See Giovanni Descalzo’s journal, Pagine di diario (1930–1932), ed. Francesco De Nicola (Genoa: Edizioni San Marco dei Giustiniani, 2000), 67–68: “I fuochi per il Battista si sono visti anche ieri sera. Tutto il Golfo Tigullio aveva bracieri sui versanti marini e il grigiore del cielo, comunicato alle acque coi bagliori dei falò, creava un quadro ammirevole. Questa gioia pagana del fuoco persiste ed è bene che duri” (June 18, 1932). 16 Compare Jane Dunnett, The “mito americano” and Italian Literary Culture under Fascism (Rome: Aracne, 2015), 184–203. 17 Laughlin, Collected Poems, 115. 18 It is possible that the omission of the final pages of Canto 84 in The Pisan Cantos as published was inadvertent, given the confusion surrounding Pound’s life at the time. But it seems unlikely that he would not discover the lacuna when, after going over and carefully annotating the corrected typescript (in the Butler Library, Columbia), he read the book in proof. And the omission of the impressive opening valediction (“Yet from my tomb such flame of love arise …”) must have been a conscious choice. The English edition of PC also includes Ron Bush’s transcript of an extensive omitted passage of the Pisan Notebook from which Pound composed Canto 74 (PC, 129–33; see Ronald Bush, “Remaking Canto 74,” Paideuma 32 [2003]: 158–86). Indeed, there are many striking lines in the Notebooks that Pound chose to skip when preparing his typescript, usually working towards compression, and discarding some overly personal references. For example, two haunting lines about the Ligurian landscape, “and eucalyptus that is for memory / under the olives, by cypress, mare Tirreno” (74/455), are all that is left of the following notes: “& eucalyptus that is for memory / while one button thereof remains / up from Rapallo / where Pyrrha embraces Deucalion [in margin: Baucis / Philemon] / & the path runs to the ridge’s edge— / under olives / by cypress— / mare Tireno / & manico del lume / a quando?— / the grass round the tent pole / moves nel vento Tireno— / aspetto la diana—” (Pisan Notebooks, p. 86 in Pound’s pagination). 19 Kindellan, Late Cantos, 92, 183–84, etc. quotes extensively from the St. Elizabeths poetry notebooks, illustrating Pound’s procedures when creating from his notes the text as we know it. Several unused passages would be worth including in a future edition of PC. 20 Pound in 1909 speaking of his alter-ego Bertrand de Born; “Sestina Altaforte,” PT, 105. Afterword Sam Hamill, Un canto pisano [A Pisan Canto], translated by Arturo Zilli (Pisa: ETS, 2007). 2 Patricia Hutchins, “Ezra Pound’s Pisa,” Southern Review 2, no. 1 (1966): 77–93.



Notes to pages 285–86

On CasaPound (which has a sophisticated website), see Daniel Swift, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017), 122–50; Elia Rosati, CasaPound Italia. Fascisti del terzo millennio (Milan: Mimesis, 2018). The movement, later a party, was named after Pound possibly at the suggestion of Giano Accame (1928–2009), an influential right-wing journalist and the author of Ezra Pound economista. Contro l’usura (Rome: Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, 1995). 4 Ezra Pound, Idee fondamentali. Meridiano di Roma, 1939–1943, ed. Caterina Ricciardi (Rome: Lucarini, 1991); Jefferson e Mussolini, foreword by Mary de Rachewiltz, preface by Luca Gallesi (Milan: Asefi-Terziaria, 1995). 5 Ezra Pound a Venezia, ed. Rosella Mamoli Zorzi (Florence: Olschki, 1985). Later tributes to Pound by Italian poets and others are collected in I poeti della Sala Capizucchi/The Poets of the Sala Capizucchi, ed. Caterina Ricciardi, John Gery and Massimo Bacigalupo (New Orleans: UNO Press, 2012). 6 Billy Collins, Balistica, ed. Franco Nasi (Rome: Fazi, 2011), 16. 7 Seamus Heaney, “Welcoming Address,” in Ezra Pound and Modernism: The Irish Factor, ed. Baumann and Pratt, xvii–xxiii. 8 Joseph Francis Rock, The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom of Southwest China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947); Peter Goullart, Forgotten Kingdom (London: John Murray, 1957). 9 Inferno, I, 8: “ma per trattar del ben ch’io vi trovai, / dirò de l’altre cose ch’io v’ho scorte.” 3


Accame, Giano 311, 338n3 Adams, John 218 Adonis 12, 140, 142, 193–94 Agamben, Giorgio 312 Agresti, Olivia Rossetti 37, 297 Aldington, Richard 290 Alexander, Michael 310 Alighieri, Dante 25–27, 29, 37, 43, 55–67, 75, 170n4, 173n17, 179n41, 219, 223, 238, 286, 318n3 Alt, Phyllis I. 313n5 Anceschi, Luciano 319n9 Anchises 193 Angold, J. P. 95 Annotated Index to the Cantos of Ezra Pound 104, 305 Antheil, George 293, 295 Ashbery, John 226 Aucasin et Nicolete 171n8, 184n12 Avedon, Richard 305 Avena, Lola 112, 325n9 Baccin (Gio Batta Solari) 223, 265 Bacigalupo, Elfriede Antze 257, 266–67 Bacigalupo, Frieda Natali 116, 256 Bacigalupo, Giuseppe 107, 257, 263, 307

Bacigalupo, Massimo 128n4, 131n10, 134n17, 313n5, 313n9, 314n18, 314n21, 315n28, 315n3, 317n15, 324n22, 329n10, 330n10 Baldi, Sergio 75 Barbi, Michele 74–75 Bardi, Pietro Maria 97, 98, 298, 324n22 Barney, Natalie Clifford 292 Bar-Yacov, Lois 197 Beach, Sylvia 236 Beerbohm, Max 17, 53, 318n3 Benelli, Sem 329n7 Bennett, Peter 286 Berenson, Bernard 292 Berio, Luciano 308, 318n1 Berlin, Isaiah 263, 335n4 Berri, Pietro 315n22 Biddle, Francis 218, 300 Binyon, Lawrence 59 Bishop, Elizabeth 305 Blunt, Wilfred Scawen 199 Boethius 225 Borghese, Junio Valerio 171n7, 187 Brandeis, Irma 75, 76, 82 Brass, Italico 288, 315n2 Bridson, D. G. 306



Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Britten, Benjamin 261 Browning, Robert 207, 290 Broyard, Anatole 332n19 Brugnolo, Furio 319n13 Brunnenburg (Tirolo di Merano) 256, 306 Bryher 236–37 Buddha 192 Bunting, Basil 7, 13, 95, 294, 296 Burton, Richard 313n7 Bush, Ronald 140, 329n4, 329n13, 337n18 Byron, George Gordon 19, 20, 214, 272 Cabella, Gian Gaetano 300 Callimachus 7 Camerino, Aldo 88, 89, 95, 105, 297, 324n32 Camuncoli, Ezio 184n13 Carleton, Mark Alfred 276 Carmagnola, Francesco 24, 101 Carmi, Lisetta 260, 308, 335n1 Carnevali, Emanuel 97, 295 Carpenter, Humphrey 263 Casella, Alfredo 293, 299 Casella, Stefano Maria 179n44 Castellani, Leonardo 311 Cavalcanti, Guido xvi, 9, 58, 60, 74, 75, 173n17, 182n5, 183n6, 183n7, 183n11, 188, 190, 195, 238, 289, 294, 295, 301, 320n4, 321n14, 334n16 Cecchi, Emilio 277 Céline, Louis-Ferdinand 10, 285 Cerio, F. Ferruccio 296 Cesena 292, 293 Chigi Saracini, Guido 296 Churchill, Winston 170n5, 202 Chute, Desmond Macready 16, 294, 305 Confucius 192, 202, 333 Connolly, Thomas E. 220, 332n16 Conover, Anne 317n12, 320n4, 321n8 Conrad, Joseph 134n17 Contini, Gianfranco 146, 310 Contino, Vittorugo 309 Corriere della Sera 184n13, 262, 283, 285, 303, 304

Cory, Daniel 309 Craemer, Kurt 313n5 Cravens, Margaret 289 Cummings, E. E. 99 Cunizza da Romano 56, 179n41, 188, 191, 194 Dadone, Ugo 307, 308 D’Agostino, Nemi 305, 306, 310 Daniel, Arnaut 43, 59, 192, 289, 329n14 D’Annunzio, Gabriele 69, 96 Davenport, Guy 260, 334n12 Davie, Donald 230, 238–39, 267 Dazzi, Manlio 60, 89, 97, 104, 173n18, 292, 294, 304, 319n11 degli Uberti, Ubaldo 189, 206, 296, 299, 301, 323n19 Dekker, George 333n27 Delcroix, Carlo 311 Dennis, H. M. 180n44 D’Epiro, Peter 330n2 de Rachewiltz, Boris 130n7 de Rachewiltz, Mary 107, 109, 114, 164, 207, 284–85, 293, 298, 300, 302, 303, 306, 308, 309, 310, 312, 338n4 de Rachewiltz, Patrizia 303 de Rachewiltz, Siegfried Walter 302 Descalzo, Giovanni 337n15 De Sica, Vittorio 185n16 Dickens, Charles 276 Di Marzio, Cornelio 298, 324n22 Dionysus 40, 172n12 Disney, Walt 36 La Domenica del Corriere 168, 184n13, 300 Drummond, John 304, 307 Du Bellay, Joachim 34, 77, 78 Duncan, Ronald 326n7 Dunnett, Jane 337n16 Eliot, T. S. 3, 10, 11, 23, 34, 55, 56, 58, 66–67, 72, 81, 103, 107, 194, 205, 260, 261, 290, 291, 292, 293, 304, 308, 313n2, 336n4

Index Emery, Clark 79, 80, 217, 221, 306, 333n25 Encounter 309, 320n19 Epler, Barbara 109 Erigena, John Scotus 129, 139, 143, 182, 194, 326n8 Excideuil 291 Ezzelino da Romano 60, 172n18, 179n41, 179n44, 188 Fabiani, Lorenzo 321n14 Farinacci, Roberto 178n37 Fellini, Federico 184n15 Ferlinghetti, Lawrence 261, 335n2 Fink, Guido 311 Fiorentino, Francesco 143, 326n8 Fitzgerald, Edward 207 Fitzgerald, Robert 303 Florence 72, 73, 75–76, 78, 183n9, 295 Ford, Ford Madox 247, 289, 296 Fortuna 26 Fox, Douglas C. 125–43, 298, 327n10 Fox, Melissa 140 Franklin, Benjamin 114–15 Frobenius, Leo 125, 126, 128n2, 132n14, 134, 208, 295, 298 Galassi, Jonathan 328n10, 335n1 Galla Placidia 62–63, 181n49 Gallarati-Scotti, Tommaso 262 Gallup, Donald 171n7 Garda, Lake 21, 289, 306 Gemisthus Pleto 177n31 Genoa 58, 83, 97, 263, 287, 288, 301–2, 306, 308 Germany and You 136 Gery, John 315n3 Gibraltar 46 Ginsberg, Allen 264, 308, 331n10, 332n19 Giudici, Giovanni 56 Gonne, Iseult 31, 315n2 Gould, Warwick 314n18 Goullart, Peter 286


Greece 308 Guglielmini, Helen Dennis 317n13 Haas, Eugen 296 Hall, Donald 307 Hamill, Sam 284 Hardy, Thomas 59 Hargrave, John Gordon 135n20 Hart-Davis, Rupert 318n3 Havely, Nicholas 318n4 Hawthorne, Nathaniel 23 H.D. 233–53, 290, 305 Heaney, Seamus 44, 286 Hemingway, Ernest 43, 46, 107, 165, 166, 176n30, 247, 258, 292, 293 Hertz, David Michael 321n8 Hesse, Eva 171n7, 177n31, 184n13, 308 Hewlett, Maurice 289 Heymann, C. David 310, 335n1 Hickok, Guy 293 Hitler, Adolf 11, 12, 83, 202 Holroyd-Reece, John 109–10, 114, 120 Hudson, W. H. 48 Hutchins, Patricia 284 L’Indice (journal) 97, 295 Ivancich, Giancarlo 264, 309 Izzo, Carlo 22, 42, 87–106, 147, 297, 305 Jakobson, Roman 207 James, Henry 20, 225, 272 Janequin, Clément 18, 19, 62, 180n48, 192 Javitch, Daniel 107, 110 Joyce, James 46, 70, 87, 146, 290, 291, 295, 308, 320n4 Kasper, John 333n7 Kavka, Jerome 31 Keats, John 214–15 Kenner, Hugh 303, 304, 309 Kindellan, Michael 325n1, 331n8, 337n19


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Kitasono, Katue 180n48, 299, 328n78 Klages, Ludwig 134n19 Kokoschka, Oskar 113, 307 Lanciotti, Lionello 299 Landor, W. S. 130 Latini, Brunetto 66–67 Laughlin, James 13, 95, 107–21, 136, 146, 166, 208, 277–78, 297, 309, 325n2 Laurenzi, Carlo 317n15 Law, John 26–29 Lawrence, D. H. 19 Leavis, F. R. 77 Legge, James 330n10 Leopardi, Giacomo xvi, 289 Lerici (La Spezia) 19 Leucothea 23 Levi, Giorgio 104, 322n4 Levy, Alan 259 Levy, Moses 144 Lewis, Wyndham 229, 259, 263–64, 290, 304 Linati, Carlo 293 Litz, A. Walton 310 Livi, Grazia 307 Lombardo, Agostino 310 Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth 56 Lowell, Robert 66–67, 163 Lucca 167 Luchini, Alberto 299 Luzi, Mario 56 McGann, Jerome 330n2 MacNiven, Ian S. 325n9 Maggio, Giovanni 303 Malatesta, Sigismondo 184n14, 184n15, 292, 295 Mamoli Zorzi, Rosella 310, 315n3, 324n22 Marchetti, Everardo 292 Il Mare 296, 297, 304, 321n8 Marina Repubblicana 171n7, 185n17, 189–90, 301, 328n3 Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso 60, 171n7, 171n8, 173n16, 174n21, 290, 301

Marsh, Alec 333n7 Martinelli, Sheri 211, 221–26, 229–47, 250, 253, 303, 305, 327n14, 329n5, 331n8, 332n19, 332n20, 333n25, 334n11, 334n12 Mary (mother of Jesus) 7, 8, 15, 33, 194–95 Masoliver, Juan Ramón 296 Mekas, Adolfas 128n3 Menotti, Gian Carlo 261, 308 Meran 306, 307 Meridiano di Roma 98–99, 298, 300, 322n4, 324n24 Merrill, James 84, 328n10 Mezzasoma, Ferdinando 300, 310 Milan 296, 307, 311 Modigliani, Amedeo 146 Molino, Walter 168, 184n13 Monotti, Francesco 296 Montale, Eugenio 13, 29–30, 70–86, 101, 147, 163, 294, 304, 335n1 Montgomery, Paul 286 Monti, Rolando 108, 118, 267 Moody, A. David 318n5, 336n13 Moore, Marianne 197 Moore, Steven 332n19 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 12, 24, 293, 296, 298 Münch, Gerhart 16, 18, 110, 120, 134n 19, 206, 296, 298 Mussato, Albertino 173n18, 319n11 Mussolini, Benito 11, 12, 34, 35, 76, 97, 99, 178n37, 184n15, 187, 202, 292, 293, 296, 297, 300, 301, 305, 310, 342n9 The Nation 230 Naxi 286 The New Age 35, 289 Nietzsche, Friedrich 7, 313n8 Norman, Charles 136, 232, 326n4, 334n12 Nuova Corrente 90, 100–102, 102, 103, 305

Index Oberto, Martino and Anna 306 O’Grady, Desmond 317n15 Origo, Iris 185n16 Ovid 128 Pagnini, Marcello 310 Paideuma 31, 107, 108, 309 Paige, D. D. 303, 319n9 Paris 291, 292 The Paris Review 108, 307 Pasolini, Pier Paolo 149, 264, 282, 308, 309, 312 Pastene, Guido 16 Pater, Walter 78 Paulin, Tom 328n10 Pavese, Cesare 125 Pavolini, Alessandro 187 Pea, Enrico 144–67, 299, 304 Pearson, Norman Holmes 226, 231, 234–44, 246, 253 Perosa, Sergio 310 Perugia 292, 295 Pescetto, Alberto 264 Petrarch 84, 295 Piero della Francesca 131n11 Piovene, Guido 303 Pisa 20, 44, 284, 294, 302 Pitigliano 286, 295 Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) 60, 177n33 Pivano, Fernanda 305, 308 Plutarch 193, 329n12 Poetry 290, 291, 302, 303 Poggioli, Renato 166 Il Popolo di Alessandria 300 Porson, Richard 130 Portovenere (La Spezia) 19, 20 Pound, Dorothy Shakespear 1, 8, 13, 17, 72, 114, 117, 188, 200, 230–31, 261, 272, 289, 290, 293, 295, 299, 302, 306, 314n12, 330n5, 332n16 Pound, Ezra “The Alchemist” 9 A Lume Spento 57, 288 “Ave Roma” 34


The Cantos 227–28, 260–61 1: 15, 23, 286 2: 47, 265 3: 21–23, 95–96 4: 9, 291 8: 97 14–16: 65, 319n8 17: 23–24, 30, 101 21: 178n40, 181n49 22: 13, 314n21 23: 6, 7, 8, 294 25–26: 24, 37, 317n11 30: 63 35: 12 36: 297 39: 31, 34, 297 41: 297 45: 41, 97, 308 46: 10, 17, 35, 298 47: 6, 15, 16, 142, 172n12, 275, 298 49: 20, 272–75, 336n7 51: xvii, 42, 317n1 52: 10, 11, 126, 322n21 72–73: 60, 169, 188–90, 195, 208–9, 310, 319n13 72: 60–62, 108, 170–81, 301, 319n12 73: 182–86, 190, 301 74: 3–4, 25, 32, 43–46, 50, 182n4, 172n12, 183n11, 202–3, 205, 336n4 75: 18, 62–63 76: 17–18, 22, 25, 83, 193, 194, 205–7, 268, 305 77: 206 78: 37–38, 38, 49–50, 134n18, 292 79: 32, 47, 48, 85, 143, 201 80: 38, 51, 140, 171n8, 172n14, 191, 205 81: 5, 15, 47–48, 63–66, 85, 197–201, 207 82: 207 83: 25, 182 84: 37, 183n 11, 202–5, 279, 305, 331n11, 337n18


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

85: 142–43 87: 33, 222–23 88: 222 89: 223 90: 4, 221, 224–25 91: 80, 162, 226, 238 93: 36, 39, 175n23, 225, 251 94: 217 95: 27, 37 96: 328n6 97: 26 98–99: 227–28, 306 100: 27 106: 7, 140 109: 36–37, 316n10 110: 195 113: 39, 248 114: 13 116: 13–14, 25, 57–58, 65–66, 193, 251 Cantos LII-LXXI 99, 299, 325n2, 331n8 Carta da visita 32, 38, 146, 299 Confucian Odes 228, 304, 308 A Draft of XVI Cantos 292–93 A Draft of XXX Cantos 295 “English Cantos” 207–8 “European Paideuma” 8, 125–43, 298 The Exile 294 Ezra Pound Speaking 129n5, 310 “For Italico Brass” 288, 315n2 Guide to Kulchur 18, 59–60, 183n9, 214, 298 Guido Cavalcanti Rime 78, 79, 295, 334n16 Homage to Sextus Propertius 159 Hugh Selwyn Mauberley 29, 73–74, 80, 207, 220–21, 291, 332n16, 332n17 Jefferson and/or Mussolini 93–94, 188, 285 La Martinelli 229–30, 305 Lettere 1907–1958 320n5

Letters of Ezra Pound 90 “Lines for Olga” 268, 280 Literary Essays 304 “Medievalism” 58, 64 Moscardino 76, 125, 145–66, 299, 304 “Near Perigord” 56 “Night Litany” 90–93 “Now sun rises in Ram sign” 18, 162, 180, 299, 319n14, 328n7 Personae: Collected Early Poems 70, 293, 294 The Pisan Cantos 60, 83–86, 197–210, 301 Pisan notebooks 203, 316n3, 319n15, 319n16, 330n9, 330n10, 337n18 Posthumous Cantos 8, 11–12, 19–20, 27, 269–81, 311 “Provincia Deserta” 70, 77, 78, 294 A Quinzaine for this Yule 209, 288 “The Return” 94–95 Rock-Drill: 85–95 de los Cantares 222, 224, 226, 227, 229, 278, 304, 332n20 Social Credit: An Impact 93, 94, 97, 297 The Spirit of Romance 23, 57, 58, 64, 66, 75 The Testament of François Villon 293, 295, 308 “Three Cantos” 21, 26, 271, 291 “To Guido Cavalcanti” 53, 318n3 Versi prosaici 86, 306 Women of Trachis 28, 250, 306, 335 Pound, Homer 13, 16, 113, 114, 272, 287, 294, 299 Pound, Isabel Weston 13, 113, 200, 287, 294 Pound, Omar Shakespear 241, 264, 293 Pratt, William 317n14 Praz, Mario 58, 72, 78–79, 80, 81, 88, 294, 295, 317n15, 318n6, 320n4 Preda, Roxana 314n21, 323n15, 327n8

Index Qian, Zhoaming 274 Quasimodo, Salvatore 307 The Quest 130n7 Quinn, M. Bernetta 215, 262 Raboni, Giovanni 312 Rapallo 6–19, 128, 255, 292, 293, 294, 304, 306 Casa Beata 113 Castellaro (Zoagli) 17 Madonna delle Grazie (Chiavari) 8, 134n17, 140, 143, 195 Montallegro 7, 9, 123 Pozzetto (Zoagli) 17, 111–13 San Bartolomeo 9, 13 San Pantaleo (Zoagli) 9, 17, 18, 19, 140, 195 Sant’Ambrogio (Zoagli) 9, 12, 17, 188, 195, 223, 254, 255, 257, 258, 265, 266, 268, 295, 299, 300, 301, 307 Tigullio 13, 15, 25, 286 “triedro” 191, 195, 329n5 Via delle Americhe (Corso Colombo) 113, 310 Via Marsala 6, 16, 310 Vico dell’oro 14, 15, 25 Villa Chiara, 17, 257–58, 307 Rapicavoli, Carmelo 39 Rattray, David 230–34, 251 Ravenna 33, 62 Reck, Michael 308, 331n10 Redman, Tim 311, 323n21 Ricciardi, Caterina 311, 316n8, 328n1, 338n4 Riess, Lucy Mabel 108–10, 113–14, 116, 118 Rimini 176n31, 183n10, 184n13, 292 Rivali, Alessandro 312 Rizzardi, Alfredo 77, 304, 307, 310, 312 Rock, Joseph Francis 286, 338n8 Rome 31–40, 293, 296, 297, 298, 307, 317n15 Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista 34–35


Santa Maria in Trastevere 35 St. Peter’s 36–37 Tarpeian Rock 31, 40 Trastevere 33 Via dell’Impero 34 Zoo 37 Rome Radio 299, 310 Ronsisvalle, Vanni 308, 309 Rossetti, Dante Gabriel 56, 57, 207 Rossi, Romolo 263 Rudge, Olga 9, 12, 16, 17, 18, 25, 62, 76, 95, 120, 141, 166, 188, 200, 254–68, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 298, 303, 304, 309, 330n6, 334n11 Rupnik, Carlo 306 Russell, Peter 304, 321n13 Rustaveli, Shota 129n7, 172n12 Sanavio, Piero 78, 310 Sanders, Frederick K. 316n10 Sanguineti, Edoardo 56, 308 Santayana, George 40, 298, 299, 309 Sarfatti, Margherita 297 Saviotti, Gino 295, 296 Sbarbaro, Camillo 304 Scarfoglio, Carlo 308 Scheiwiller, Giovanni 295 Scheiwiller, Vanni 80, 146, 221, 229, 254, 260, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 311 Schifanoia (Ferrara) 13, 18, 227 Schwartz, Delmore 325n2 Seferis, George 304, 308 Sforza, Caterina 191, 329n7 Shakespear, Olivia 288, 298 Shakespeare, William 56, 207, 322n18 Shelley, Percy Bysshe 20, 267 Sieburth, Richard 312 Siena 11, 82, 141, 171n6, 296, 298 Singh, G. 262, 311, 335n3 Sirmione 21, 23, 289–91 Smart, Christopher 18 Sordello 56, 191 Sottsass, Ettore 308


Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos

Spann, Marcella 13, 214, 245, 247, 255, 307, 336n13 Speare, M. E. 297 Spender, Stephen 263 Spengler, Oswald 128n2 Spitzer, Leo 45 Spoleto 66, 261, 308 Stagione 101 Stevens, Wallace 40, 166, 215–16, 218–20, 226, 269, 274–75, 332n15 Stocchi, Gabriele 306 Stock, Noel 305, 307, 331n8 Strater, Henry 292 Surette, Leo 326n4 Svevo, Italo 70, 146, 320n2 Swift, Daniel 337n3 Swinburne, A. C. 130 Syracuse 292 Tagliaferri, Aldo 310, 320n5 T’ai Wu Tzu 331n9 Terracina 31 Terrell, Carroll F. 206, 222, 224, 308, 329n10, 331n8 Testori, Bruno 312 Thérèse of Lisieux 244 Toulouse 9, 195, 291 Townsman 314n15, 326n5, 326n7 Troy, Michele K. 325n6 Ungaretti, Giuseppe 145, 147 Valli, Luigi 129n6 Venice 21–30, 89, 90, 91, 95–96, 265, 288, 291, 292, 294, 296, 306, 308, 309, 316n7, 333n32 Biennale Internazionale d’Arte 130n10, 143, 295, 297, 298 Ponte dell’Accademia 316n6 San Moisé 27–28

Santa Maria dei Miracoli 25, 35, 265, 316n7 San Todaro 24 Torcello 15, 25, 265, 308 Venus 5, 7, 8, 9, 16, 23, 31–32, 143, 179n43, 183n6, 238 Verdi, Giuseppe 19 Verlato, Nicola 282, 312 Verona 21, 22, 80, 288, 289, 291, 292, 294, 304 Viareggio 20, 76, 145, 166 Vicari, Giambattista 299 Victor Emmanuel III 172n14, 176n30 Vienna 294 Villon, François 84, 198, 238 Virgil 66, 82, 84 Vittorini, Elio 166, 300 Vivaldi, Antonio 297, 298 Vivante, Leone 11, 82, 299 Voltaire 45 Warnant, Bettina 110 Weston, Frances 287 Whitman, Walt 5, 45, 46, 47, 207 Wilhelm, James J. 57 Williams, William Carlos 95, 115, 305 Wright, Charles 328n10 Yeats, William Butler 12, 13, 18, 113, 128n2, 207, 288–90, 292, 294, 297, 310, 334n15 Yriarte, Charles 177n31, 329n7 Yrmintrud 192, 194 Zaccuri, Alessandro 320n1 Zafferana Etnea 308 Zapponi, Niccolò 178n38, 286, 310 Zephyrium 7, 140 Zoagli 8, 140, 188, 301, 332n21 Zukofsky, Louis 13, 95, 116, 296