The Cantos by Ezra Pound

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It is illuminating to read these lines with Pound’s ‘three kinds of poetry’ in mind: melopoeia , phanopoeia and logopoeia .

Melopoeia : He begins with an alexandrine that might effectively end the whole passage, but which here ‘contains’ a moment to be dwelt on for some lines. Then a pentameter follows with its familiar balladic ‘catch’ – ‘the while, the while,’ ‘Ityn!/“It is…’ – while, after this, the repeat of ‘It is Cabestan’s heart in the dish’, has, as its inevitable rhythmic consequence, ‘No other taste shall change this’ – a line ‘missing’ a syllable, a technique which puts particular stress on each word. The movement of Cabestan’s lady to the window is then caught in strong, pure, stressed monosyllables – ‘slim white stone bar’; ‘Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone’ – which are then resolved into the equal metric of ‘and the wind out Rhodez/Caught in the full of her sleeve.’

Melopoeia plies with phanopoeia as the reader’s attention is focused on the static arch, with the woman’s motion poised for a moment: ‘the slim white stone bar/Making a double arch.’ The next line itself ‘arches’, bent with energy to jump: ‘Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone.’

Logopoeia : the ‘dance of the intellect among words’, as Pound called it, reaches its sharpest focus as the ‘wave’ from Ovid crosses the ‘wave’ from Provence, and ‘the wind out of Rhodez/Caught in the full of her sleeve’ – which becomes a wing ; properly belonging not to Cabestan’s lady, but to Philomela, Procne or Tereus.

When two such ‘crests’ meet, the image is raised to a special, almost mythic status, that transcends both its contexts. This, in fact, is the beginning of The Cantos second great theme (alongside that of the polumetis hero ): the theme of metamorphosis , transfiguration, a ‘bust thru’ into the ‘divine or permanent world’ as Pound himself expressed it.

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Ezra Pound