Two themes:  the poet in poverty,
enVISIONing the world of the gods;
 My Cid as another Odysseus
I sat on the Dogana’s steps
For the gondolas cost too much, that year,
a] Autobiography: Pound at his lowest ebb financially in Venice
1908,unable even to afford a gondola;
b] foreshadowing of Venice/deMedici theme
which will dominate Cantos 17-27;
I love the assonance of Dogona/gondola….
And there were not “those girls”, there was one face,
“those girls”: echo from Browning’s “Sordello.”
“one face”: EP very sensitive to beautiful faces.
Cf Thomas Hardy’s poem about beautiful girl
seen from train, Bernstein’s speech about
ditto seen from Staten Island ferry [Citizen Kane]
etc. The poem later insists that nothing is lost
that lives in memory. Hardy & Bernstein never lost
those girls; EP never lost that face.
And the Buccentoro twenty yards off, howling “Stretti”,
And the lit cross-beams, that year, in the Morosini,
And peacocks in Kore’s house, or there may have been.
Images of beauty of Venice. Medicis later appear
as both heroes [creators of beauty] and
villians [founders of modern banking].
EP oft repeated, “Dante’s map NOT
suitable for our age,” e.g. we recognize
ambiguities, mixes, middles, grey areas……..
Gods float in the azure air,
Bright gods and Tuscan, back before dew was shed.
Light: and the first light, before ever dew was fallen.
Crowley defined Magick as “causing change by
act of Will.” Psychoanalyst Violet Wirth, student of Crowley,
defined Magick as “causing change in consciousness
by act of Will.” Assuming one of them,
oversimplified for slow learners, which
wd you suspect?
Did EP “imagine” the gods or “perceive” them?
Panisks, and from the oak, dryas,
And from the apple, maelid,
Through all the wood, and the leaves are full of voices,
Vegetation spirits; later we will hear Confucius
urge proper respect for them.
In one sense these gods exist as individuals,
with their own trees even; in another sense
they exist as manifestations or metamorphs
of Dionysus [Canto II].
Cf EP’s “Axiomata,” 1921, “We have no proof
that [the theos] is one, or is many, or is
divisible or indivisible, or is an ordered
hierarchy culminating, or not culminating,
in a unity…Dogma is bluff based on ignorance.”
The Cantos seem [to me] to lean toward
polytheism, but pantheism and even
monotheism sometimes appear…..
A-whisper, and the clouds bowe over the lake,
And there are gods upon them,
And in the water, the almond-white swimmers,
The silvery water glazes the upturned nipple,
As Poggio has remarked.
Green veins in the turquoise,
EP always presents precise images…
These I like especially: almond-white,
silvery water, green veins in turquoise.
Or, the gray steps lead up under the cedars.
Chinese theme sneaking in subliminally;
|Confucius ascends such grey steps under
cedars when taking office in Chou [in the Lun Yu]
Now we jump to the Cantar de mi Cid, 1140:
[Pound condenses as he translates]
My Cid rode up to Burgos,
Up to the studded gate between two towers,
Beat with his lance butt, and the child came out,
Una nina de nueve anos,
To the little gallery over the gate, between the towers,
Reading the writ, voce tinnula:
That no man speak to, feed, help Ruy Diaz,
On pain to have his heart out, set on a pike spike
And both his eyes torn out, and all his goods sequestered,
“And here, Myo Cid, are the seals,
The big seal and the writing.”
Myo Cid [a.k.a. Ruy Diaz] at a low point,
like EP at the beginning of this Canto.
“On pain to have his heart out, set on a pike spike”:
the sound conveys the brutality of the age;
note how “pain” reinforces “pike spike”
una nina de nueve anos: an 8-year old girl,
kept in Spanish presumably because a]
EP liked the sound; b] reminds reader that
we usually look at primary sources in these Cantos
voce tinnula: ringing voice? tinny voice?
I think EZ wd prefer latter if he
translated this phrase….
And he came down from Bivar, Myo Cid,
With no hawks left there on their perches,
And no clothes there in the presses,
And left his trunk with Raquel and Vidas,
That big box of sand, with the pawn-brokers,
To get pay for his menie;
They thought the box contained gold, not sand.
First money-swindle in the Cantos:
a Xtian cheating two Jews. Cd
EP’s reputation as antisemite contain
In any case, the rascal or scoundrel side
of the Odysseus/Individualist here emphasized.
Breaking his way to Valencia.
Exit El Cid….
Ignez da Castro murdered,
An historic detail that will recur, with horror
added, in Canto XXX.
and a wall
Here stripped, here made to stand.
Drear waste, the pigment flakes from the stone,
Or plaster flakes, Mantegna painted the wall.
That whole age of chivalry and/or brutality
suddenly fades, as in cinematic montage.
“Nec Spe Nec Metu.”
“Neither hope nor fear”: Stoic motto that
the Occidental periodically rediscovers.
Also a “Chinese” theme…
When A Draft of Cantos 1-16 published 
Pound asked publisher NOT to send a copy
to his friend Thomas Hardy because “HELL
Cantos” shd not go to old man “before later
chants bring them into proportion to
the whole.” Do not try to judge the
meaning or even the flavor of the whole
from the Infernal overture.