The Cantos by Ezra Pound

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These lines, perhaps, present the techniques of Canto IV in embryo: two incidents are recalled by the narrator; they are on the point of achieving an enriching union, but this is restrained by the apparent necessity of ‘logical discourse’. These lines, incidentally, also contain Pound’s first use of the phrase ‘Ply over ply’, and this motif is repeated twice in Canto IV in the context of rippling brook water as part of the central ‘paradisal’ vision of the Canto:

Thus the light rains, thus pours, e lo soleils plovil
The liquid and rushing crystal
beneath the knees of the gods.
Ply over ply, thin glitter of water;
Brook film bearing white petals.
The pines at Takasago
grow with the pines of Isé!
The water whirls up the bright pale sand in the spring’s mouth
‘Behold the Tree of the Visages!’
Forked branch-tips, flaming as if with lotus.
Ply over ply
The shallow eddying fluid,
beneath the knees of the gods.
(28/15)


These beautiful images can already be seen to provide a metaphorical correlation to the new poetry of Canto IV , but more significant still is the fact that the manuscripts lying behind this passage provide the student of The Cantos with Pound’s first ideas on a structure for his poem – one he was to return to in many later references:

ply over ply – –
thin glitter
of water – –
brook-film bearing white petals .
Behold the tree of the visages – –
Ecce arborem vitae – –
The forked tips
flaming as if with lotus – –
Divine Love runs in the branches – –

Behind them the lasting images .]
ply over ply – – behind them the
floating images behind them the
recrossing images
,
behind them the lasting gods – –
Zeus set on Olympos , Pelion & Ossa
for his foot-rests
Truth caught in a
fever
[…]
a shallow eddying fluid
below the knees of the
gods

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Ezra Pound