The Cantos by Ezra Pound

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The elements detailed above – the sacrificial deaths of several of The Cantos polumetis heroes; Pound’s own fear of death; the return to the Nekyia and the related emphasis on the sufferings of Elpenor and the lost companions of Odysseus – all of these might seem at first to run counter to any notion of entering paradise. Equally, there is little sense in The Pisan Cantos of a ‘core of evil’– there is no ‘burning hell without let-up’ (‘Add. C.’, 820/798) – from which the ascent to paradise can begin. A dominant theme of The Cantos up until LXXIV was the search for that ‘core of evil’, firmly established as usury in the lines Pound initially wrote for ‘Canto LXXII’. With the root of all evils found and exposed, the construction of a paradise was to have begun, or such was apparently Pound’s thinking in or around 1941. The Pisan Cantos , however, offer a much more complex picture, one in which both ‘hell’ and ‘paradise’ are perceived as fragmentary experiences or impressions, and in which they are somehow inextricably mixed. That there is no ‘mali medium’ ( ibid .) is made clear in Canto LXXIV when Pound alludes to Edgar’s famous lines in King Lear – ‘the worst is not/ So long as we can say “This is the worst.”’ (IV, i, 25-8). He mentions, too, the ‘old lady’ from Voltaire’s Candide who suffers so terribly (and ludicrously) but still maintains that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,’ despite her ever increasing list of indignities and sorrows. Ugolino della Gheradesca is also mentioned, famously starved to death with his family in the Torre della Muda, apparently visible to Pound from the D.T. C.:

dry friable earth going from dust to more dust
grass worn from its root-hold
is it blacker? was it blacker? Νύξ animae?
is there a blacker or was it merely San Juan with a belly ache
writing ad posteros
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
(Hullo Corporal Casey) double X or bureaucracy?
Le Paradis n’est pas artificiel
but spezzato apparently
it exists only in fragments unexpected excellent sausage,
the smell of mint, for example,
Ladro the night cat; (862-4/438)

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Ezra Pound