Canto IV commentary

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 Hymenaee!  Aurunculeia!
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.

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