Canto IV


BTW, Pound called Cantos 1-7 "preparation of the palate."

If that metaphor seems obscure, consider 'em

an OVERTURE presenting themes that get

explored and developed in Cantos 8-120....


Palace in smoky light,

Troy but a heap of smouldering boundary stones,


a] return to Homeric world:  recurs thematically

as a root of Occidental culture. "To know what

precedes and  what follows will assist yr comprehension

of Dao"--Kungfutse quoted later.

b] first short image of the waste and destruction of

warfare, a theme  developed in much longer

passages later.

"SmOky...TrOY...smOUlder...bOUnd...stOne": nice assonance




An EXTREME example of EP's ideal of

"condensation." Foist woid, from Greek of Pindar,

relates to poetry as source of civilization;

second woid, from Latin of Catullus, relates

to sexuality as root of family/tribe/society etc


Hear me.  Cadmus of Golden Prows!


Cadmus: another ornery individualist:

metamorph of Odysseus archetype


The silver mirrors catch the bright stones and flare,

Dawn, to our waking, drifts in the green cool light;

Dew-haze blurs, in the grass, pale ankles moving.

Beat, beat, whirr, thud, in the soft turf

              under the apple trees,

Choros nympharum, goat-foot, with the pale foot



The  vegetative gods again. Cf Kung on respect

for same [later] and Frazer on fertility-worship.

EP utilized Frazer as early as "Canzone: The Yearly Slain"

[1907] and, while working  on these early Cantos,

edited Eliot's "The Waste Land," which also

incorporates the death/resurrection of

vegetation gods.


Crescent of blue-shot waters, green-gold in the shallows,

A black cock crows in the sea-foam;


"black cock crows": more subtle aliteration than

Swinburne, I'd say.

I suppose everybody living on the Mediterranean

notices its beautiful variety; but who ever

found such precise images to convey that?

"tin flash in sun-dazzle," "green-gold in shallows," WOW!!


And by the curved, carved foot of the couch,

           claw-foot and lion head, an old man seated

Speaking in the low drone... :


Et ter flebiliter, Ityn, Ityn!


The legend of Itys/Ityn involves rape

and cannibalism as revenge for

rape: i.e. mind under passion,

Pound's version of Hell.

[Shakespeare used rape and cannibalism

similarly in *Titus Andronicus*]

The Greek legend metamorphs to a medieval

horror story involving the same elements:


And she went toward the window and cast her down,

            "All the while, the while, swallows crying:


            "It is Cabestan's heart in the dish."

            "It is Cabestan's heart in the dish?"

            "No other taste shall change this."

And she went toward the window,

                 the slim white stone bar

Making a double arch;

Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone;

Swung for a moment,

                and the wind out of Rhodez

Caught in the full of her sleeve.

            . . . the swallows crying:

'Tis.  'Tis.  Ytis!


Cabestan got done in by the husband of a lady

he courted. The husband then served her Cabestan's

heart for dinner, telling her it was a deer's.

After she finished the meal, hubby told her

The Awful Truth and she jumped to her death.

Note how "It is....'Tis" swings back and forth

between the two legends, ancient Greek

and medieval French.

Sordello and Cabestan both sponsored by

Eleanor of Acquitaine, who pops in and out

of these early Cantos.

"Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone"--

EP began exploring this kind  of limpid simplicity

in his first Imagist poems, 1912, but only reached

this level in his first

Chinese translations, 1915, guided

by the notebooks of Ernest Fenollosa.

"the while, the while:" to me, the frequent

use of repetition in this Canto invokes both "poor

old Homer" and more recent sea-chanties.



             and a valley,

The valley is thick with leaves, with leaves, the trees,


The sunlight glitters, glitters a-top,


"with leaves, with leaves" "glitters, glitters"--

see what I mean?


-Like a fish-scale roof,

            Like the church roof in Poictiers

If it were gold.

            Beneath it, beneath it

Not a ray, not a slivver, not a spare disc of sunlight

Flaking the black, soft water;

Bathing the body of nymphs, of nymphs, and Diana,

Nymphs, white-gathered about her, and the air, air,

Shaking, air alight with the goddess,

             fanning their hair in the dark,

Lifting, lifting and waffing:

Ivory dipping in silver,

            Shadow'd, o'ershadow'd

Ivory dipping in silver,

Not a splotch, not a lost shatter of sunlight.


What to  say, except what W.H. Auden wrote of

Raymond Chandler: "I wish I could write

that well."

Allegorical interpretations of Acteaon legend go

back 2500 years. In context of Cantos I suggest:

Actaeon, undisciplined hunter = mind driven

by passion, Hell; Diana nude = sudden vision

of Nature Whole [Dao]; Acteaon turned to

deer = sudden empathy with his victims;

the dogs who devour him = his own

awakened conscience [cf "agenbite of

inwit" in JJ's *Ulysses*]

That church in Poctier reappears often in

the Paradiso Cantos, oddly linked to

Knights Templar & Mithraism....

Metamorphoses theme continues.


Then Acteaon: Vidal,

Vidal.  It is old Vidal speaking,

            stumbling along in the wood,

Not a patch, not a lost shimmer of sunlight,

            the pale hair of the goddess.


Metamorph of Actaeon into Pierre Vidal,

Vidal into Acteaon.

[Vidal, a poet in tradition of Sordello

and Cabeston, in order to impress a certain

noble lady spread rumor that  he had

magick powers and cd metamorph into

a wolf. Unfortunately, the Holy Inquisition

believed the rumors and he had to flee,

pursued by dogs like Actaeon]


The dogs leap on Actaeon,

            "Hither, hither, Actaeon,"

Spotted stag of the wood;

Gold, gold, a sheaf of hair,

            Thick like a wheat swath,

Blaze, blaze in the sun,

            The dogs leap on Actaeon.

Stumbling, stumbling along in the wood,

Muttering, muttering Ovid:

            "Pergusa... pool... pool... Gargaphia,

"Pool... pool of Salmacis."

            The empty armour shakes as the cygnet moves.


Since Acteaon unlikely to quote Ovid, Vidal

must speak here, mixing rape legends with the

Acteaon story. Why DO so many Greek gods

appear as serial rapists?????


Thus the light rains, thus pours, e lo soleills plovil

The liquid and rushing crystal

            beneath the knees of the gods.

Ply over ply, thin glitter of water;

Brook film bearing white petals.


Lovely imagery, but where are we now?


The pine at Takasago

            grows with the pine of Ise!


JAYsus Christ, we've landed in Japan....

& same themes pursue us. Both pines

started out as humans. Metamorphoses

as common theme in both Occident & Orient.

"Tree of Visages" below from Noh play

about these pines.


The water whilrs up the bright pale sand in the spring's


"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.

Torches melt in the glare

            set flame of the corner cook-stall,

Blue agate casing the sky (as at Gourdon that time)

            the sputter of resin,

Saffron sandal so petals the narrow foot: Hymenaeus Io!

            Hymen, Io HymenaeeAurunculeia!

One scarlet flower is cast of the blanch-white stone.


Quotes and translations from Latin marriage songs.

Aurunculeia! as before, from marriage poem

[hymenial] by Catullus.

Scarlet flower on blanch-white stone sounds

like one of EP's Chinese translations. Ez

learned a lot from Fenollosa.


            And So-Gyoku, saying:

"This wind, sire, is the king's wind,

            This wind is wind of the palace,

Shaking imperial water-jets."

            And Hsiang, opening his collar:

"This wind roars in the earth's bag,

            it lays the water with rushes."

No wind is the king's wind.

            Let every cow keep her calf.

"This wind is held in gauze curtains..."

                 No wind is the king's...


Back to China for the poem's first statement

of limits on monarchy; humorous, like

Canute vs. the Ocean, but foreshadows

later canti on Coke, Jefferson, Adams

and limitations on all government.


The camel drivers sit in the turn of the stairs,

            Look down on Ecbatan of plotted streets,


Ecbatan: ancient city which allegedly models

the whole universe. Recurs in final Cantos....

[linked to real and imagined Paradiso Terrestre...]


"Danae!  Danae!


Another rape victim; locked in a tower

but Zeus got her anyway, coming as

a shower of gold light.


            What wind is the king's"

Smoke hangs on the stream,

The peach-trees shed bright leaves in the water,

Sound drifts in the evening haze,

            The bark scrapes at the ford,

Gilt rafters above black water,

            Three steps in an open field,

Gray stone-posts leading...

Pere Henri Jacques would speak with the Sennin, on


Mount Rokku between the rock and the cedars,


A very tolerant, or very pragmatic, Jesuit, accused

by the Vatican of converting himself to Confucianism

instead of converting Chinese to Christianity.

Here he attempts to communicate with the Sennin,

Chinese isomorphs of the vegetation gods

we've already met.



As Gyges on Thracian platter set the feast,

Cabestan, Tereus,

            It is Cabestan's heart in the dish,


Vidal, or Ecbatan, upon the gilded tower in Ecbatan

Lay the god's bride, lay ever, waiting the golden rain.


Danae/Zeus legend interpreted as magick

ritual [hierogamy]


By Garonne.  "Saave!"

The Garonne is thick like paint,

Procession, - "Et sa'ave, sa'ave, sa'ave Regina" -

Moves like a worm, in the crowd.

Adige, thin film of images,

Across the Adige, by Stefano, Madonna in hortulo,

As Cavalcanti had seen her.


A Catholic feast which Ez said [in a letter to his

dad] reminded him of Voodoo.

Guido Cavalcanti: not here by accident. He will reappear

often, as both poet and philosopher.

Dante put Cavalcanti's family in Hell as

heretics, but EP will dig them up again.


            The Centaur's heel plants in the earth loam.

And we sit here...

            there in the arena...


More cinematic technique, I think: gods, mortals, places

all seen as from above, like one of Griffith's

or Kubrick's tracking shots.