The Cantos by Ezra Pound

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The last line is particularly telling: throughout the long stretch of ‘dark wood- inferno - purgatorio ’ the implied emphasis has generally been on thought (‘ cogito ergo sum’) – such after all is the major characteristic of the polumetis hero: he is the thinking man . From Canto LXXIV onwards, as the poem slowly but surely emerges first into the paradiso terrestre and then into the higher paradiso of the spheres, the heroic complex will increasingly include an emphasis on love as well as thought (cf. Pound’s addition to Adams’ ‘DUM SPIRO’ in Canto LXX : ‘DUM SPIRO AMO’, 792/413).

The importance given to ‘filial, fraternal affection’ implies a deeper relationship with the Divine Itself, and this, perhaps enters the imaginative nexus of the poem most vividly in Pound’s recurring images of eyes – an idea surely suggested by Dante’s beautiful descriptions of Beatrice’s eyes in the paradiso (they grow brighter and more loving as the two ascend higher). The ‘eyes’ of The Pisan Cantos often appear to be female eyes, and they are present from the sequence’s first lines:

The enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant’s
bent shoulders […]

The suave eyes, quiet, not scornful, ( Canto LXXIV , 838/425)

Later, in Canto LXXVIII , Cassandra’s eyes ‘are like tigers’ (936/477) and Pound makes an interesting reference (‘eyes of Doña Juana la loca’, 946/483) to an early poem of Federico Garcia Lorca, entitled ‘Elegia a Doña Juana la loca’, which uses the recurrent image of a pair of disembodied eyes.

Canto LXXXI has a long passage on the appearance of several pairs of disembodied eyes in Pound’s tent one night:

there came new subtlety of eyes into my tent,
whether of spirit or of hypostasis,
but what the blindfold hides
or at carneval
nor any pair showed anger
Saw but the eyes and stance between the eyes,
colour, diastasis,
careless or unaware it had not the
whole tent’s room

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Ezra Pound
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