BK. Ezra Pound

38. A Draft of the Cantos 17-27. London: Rodker, 1928.

    ‘In the crisp air / the discontinuous gods’. Reprinted in subsequent collections.  

Reprints with slight emendations canto XVII (36). Reprinted in 41 and 57.

a. XXI. In The Cantos Pound tends to turn to images from the nô in passages of intense lyricism. The poem ebbs and flows with the lyrical and the discursive, as in XVII-XXI, where celebrations of Dionysus and visions of earthly paradise (XVII and XX) are alternated with explorations of fraud and the issuance and control of money (XVIII and XIX). XXI is largely discursive, focusing on the rise of the Medici and Thomas Jefferson’s patronage of the arts, but turns in fifty closing lines to a difficult and highly allusive lyricism that includes lines echoing the invocation of the pines of Takasago and of Ise in canto IV (31):

And the old man sweeping leaves:
“Damned to you Midas, Midas lacking a Pan!”
And now in the valley,
Valley under the day’s edge:
“Grow with the Pines of Ise;
“As the Nile swells with Inopos.
“As the Nile falls with Inopos.”
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In the crisp air,
the discontinuous gods;
Pallas, young owl in the cup of her hand,
And, by night, the stag runs, and the leopard,
Owl-eyed amid pine boughs (57, p. 99).

Full exegesis would require a lengthy essay, but brief notes may help. As in IV Pound either confuses or conflates the pines of Ise with those of Sumiyoshi; that he has in mind the connection between the twin pines of Takasago (88d) is clear from the subject rhyme with the Inopos, a river believed in the classical world to be connected with the Nile, rising and swelling at the same time, though like the pines of the play separated by great distance. The old man is a triple subject rhyme, recalling the man/god Silenus from the Greek tale of Midas, the old man/god of Baucis and Philemon, and the old man/deity-of-the-pine-of-Sumiyoshi first met sweeping under the pines of Takasago. The immediate contrast is to ‘Midas lacking Pan’, a stark image of the horror of a life devoted to seeking gold without intervention by spirit: it was Pan who freed Midas from the curse of the golden touch. Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom, is associated here and in classical imagery with the owl, and the transformation to the ‘Owl-eyed [leopard] amid pine boughs’ returns the series of images to the pines of Ise and Takasago, as in canto IV set in contrast with corruption of spirit, enhanced here by conflation with Greek and Roman gods incarnate and by association with Pallas Athena. See also 36.

b. XXVI. See 36.





Home | Top | Previous | Next

Previous | Next


Creative Commons License