COMPANION TO CANTO IV
Canto IV was drafted in 1915 and published in nearly final form in October 1919 by John Rodker’s Ovid Press. It can be regarded as the first canto Pound finished and preserved largely in the original form - as a first document of high modernism, it predates T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land by three years.
Annotations in the List of Works Cited:
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher [if different from website name], Date of Publication in Day Month Year format, URL. [MLA 8 format].
Example: Preda, Roxana. “Companion to Canto IV.” The Cantos Project, 5 August 2016.
OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound
(Contributor name, OCCEP IV: n.no).
Example: (Bressan, OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).
References to The Cantos
As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line number(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.7–17.
For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.
© Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto IV, 5 August 2016.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
|C||Carroll F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.|
|L&S||Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary|
|L/HP||Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound To His Parents: Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.|
|L/JQ||The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound to John Quinn: 1915-1924. Ed. Timothy Materer. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991|
|OCCEP||Roxana Preda. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project.|
|PT||Ezra Pound. Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: Library of America, 2003.|
|SR||Ezra Pound. Spirit of Romance. New York: New Directions, 2005.|
|SL||Ezra Pound. Selected Letters. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.|
|WTSF||Ezra Pound. A Walking Tour in Southern France. Ed. R. Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 1992|
Heap of smouldering boundary stones – Reference to Euripides’ play The Trojan Women. In the first scene, Poseidon visits the stage of Troy’s destruction:
“From the depths of salt Aegean floods I, Poseidon, have come, where choirs of Nereids dance in a graceful maze; for since the day that Phoebus and I with exact measurement set towers of stone about this land of Troy and ringed it round, never from my heart has passed away a kindly feeling for my Phrygian town, which now is smouldering and overthrown, a prey to Argive might.” The Trojan Women.
Anaxiforminges – “Lords of the lyre” - the hymns.
From the beginning of Pindar’s Olympian Ode II:
Gr. ἀναξιφόρμιγγες ὕμνοι,/ τίνα θεόν, τίν᾽ ἥρωα, τίνα δ᾽ ἄνδρα κελαδήσομεν;
“Hymns that are lords of the lyre /what god, what hero, what man shall we celebrate? Pindar Olympian II.
Aurunculeia – Vinia Aurunculeia is the bride in Catullus’ poem LXI, a wedding song (epithalamium) for Vinia and Manlius.
[Catullus LXI is] “in no sense a true epithalamium, sung by a chorus outside the marriage chamber. The poet himself, on the contrary, speaks throughout, acting as a sort of choragus, and, yielding fully to the joyous enthusiasm of the occasion, in a tone of purest inspiration joins in each part of the ceremonial. The poem is, then, a graceful combination of lyric reminiscences of the ceremonies attending a Roman marriage, rather than a precise dramatic representation of any of them. Hence the poet allows himself certain liberties with the rites, omitting all reference to some, altering others, and introducing a Greek flavor, especially by the invocation to Hymen, and by the singing of a true epithalamium at the end” (Merrill 82). Catullus LXI
Cadmus of Golden Prows – Cadmus is the mythical founder of the city of Thebes in Beotia, Greece. Unlike Menelaus, who from Sparta raised all Greek kingdoms in an alliance to make war on the Trojan prince who had stolen his wife, Cadmus, when sent by his father to rescue Europa, (his sister, who had been abducted by Zeus), submits to the Delphi oracle who tells him to cease looking for her and build a city instead. He is to follow a heifer and found the city at the place she falls to the ground, exhausted. Cadmus kills a dragon guarding the appointed site and on Athene's advice, sows its teeth into the ground. From this first sowing of blood and violence emerge soldiers who start killing each other. Out of the massacre, only five remain, who build Thebes alongside Cadmus (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book III: 1-137).
Adding to Cadmus’s image as founder of Thebes, the Greek playwright Euripides made him a participant in the Trojan war: Pound’s reference to the golden prows seems to suggest he had Euripides’ play in view: Cadmus sends a fleet of fifty ships to Troy, led by one of the five earth-born soldiers, Leitus. The ships bear ensigns showing Cadmus and the golden dragon he had vanquished:
“Chorus: Then I saw Boeotia's fleet of fifty sails  decked with ensigns; these had Cadmus at the stern holding a golden dragon at the beaks of the vessels, and earth-born Leitus  was their admiral” (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 254-60).
Pound would use this Homeric tag on Cadmus (variations of “Cadmus of the golden prows”) in other cantos as well, see XXVII: ll. 98-120. Canto IV suggests that the killing of the dragon (sacred to Ares) and Cadmus’ subsequent years of war to expiate are the sins for which his four daughters’ lives would all end tragically and two of his grandsons, Pentheus and Actaeon, be torn limb from limb.
Choros nympharum – chorus of nymphs.
Goat foot – fauns dancing with the nymphs. They also show up in Canto II: ll.154-57.
A black cock crows in the sea foam – a premonition of the violent destructive passions associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Pound commented on the image to his father:
“The Black cock is naturally a symbolical, black magical cock and not a Plymouth rock rooster hunting pebbles on the stern and cock-bound <hidebound> coast. […] Cock in barn-yard wd. not give hypernatural atmosphere to the passage. I prefer them purely apparitional” (L/HP 450).
An old man – Probably Count Roussillon remembering the scene he is evoking, the most memorable of his life. Walter Baumann suggests that this is Pandion, King of Athens, mourning his two daughters and grandson (Rose 27).
Ityn – Itys was the son of the Thracian king Tereus and Procne. Tereus raped Philomela, Procne’s sister, while escorting her for a visit at the court. When she threatened that she would tell, he cut out her tongue and kept her in a house in the forest, claiming to Procne that her sister had died. Philomela managed to let Procne know of what Tereus had done by sending her a tapestry in which she had woven images of the deed, so Procne swore revenge. She killed her own son Itys and served him to Tereus for dinner. When he rushed to punish the sisters, they turned into birds: Procne into a swallow and Philomela into a nightingale. Tereus himself into a hopoe. Ityn is the accusative form of the name - when read aloud, this sounds similar to “eaten” (Froula 33; Cookson, 11; Moody, 366). Metamorphoses Book VI: 412-674.
Et ter flebiliter, Itys – “And thrice, pitifully, Itys.”
Pound is embroidering on Horace’s “Ityn flebiliter gemens” (Odes IV: 12 5). “Wailing her Itys in that sad, sad strain,/ Builds the poor bird, reproach to after time/ Of Cecrops' house, for bloody vengeance ta'en/ On foul barbaric crime.” (Horace Odes Book IV Poem xii:5-8).
Cabestan – Guillems de Cabestanh or Cabestaing (1162-1212). Provençal troubadour. He was in love with Seremonda, the wife of Raimond, Count of Roussilon, who out of jealousy murdered Cabestan and served his heart to his wife to eat. (Chabaneau 99-103).
Rhodez – earlier spelling of Rodez, a town and a region in the South of France, northeast of Toulouse. Rhodez is mentioned in Pound’s earlier poem “The Gipsy,” which shows that he visited it on his walking tour in the South of France in July 1912, after the Night of St John. The Gipsy.
“Cahors and Rodez: not that one should see, or sees them, for some names are so heavy with unreality that we can never find them- not tho’ our senses deceive us. Troy, with a horse outside it, is possibly to be discovered, but these planes are of romance itself, I may have been to them for surely one remembers Le Sieur de Rodez with his hand sticking out of the midmost of four castles built about each other & about, & Cahors is in Dante with mystical beasts, but that one walk into these places & out of them, ah no. This is to be doubted. […]
I admit that I have been in places having names like these, but no one fed me pomegranates, & I doubt if I could return (WTSF 41).
Actaeon – Cadmus’ grandson who stumbled on the goddess Diana (Artemis) while she was bathing in the pool at Gargaphia. She changed him into a stag so that he was hunted down by his own dogs (Ovid Metamorphoses III: 138-250). Ovid emphasizes that Actaeon could not see the naked body of the goddess, as the nymphs gathered about her to hide her from the intruder: he could see only her head, as she was taller than the nymphs. Pound caught on this detail in Actaeon’s hallucinatory vision of what he remembered to have seen: “Gold, gold, a sheaf of hair,/ Thick like a wheat swath” (IV: 60-61).
church roof in Poitiers – Pound visited Poitiers on his walking tour in 1912 and observed the fish-scale roof of the towers of the Notre Dame la Grande (WTSF 4).
Vidal – Peire Vidal of Toulouse (approx. 1175 - 1215, Chaytor 71). Provençal troubadour that in honour of his love for the lady Loba (she-wolf) de Penautier, wandered the woods wearing the fur of a wolf. He was attacked by hunters and barely escaped with his life. Loba and her husband nursed him back to health and made him welcome at their court. See also “Piere Vidal Old” (Exultations, 1909). Chabaneau. Piere Vidal Old.
Pergusa –Lake near Enna in Sicily where Hades abducted Persephone.
There is a lake
of greatest depth, not far from Henna's walls,
long since called Pergus; and the songs of swans,
that wake Cayster, rival not the notes
of swans melodious on its gliding waves:
a fringe of trees, encircling as a wreath
its compassed waters, with a leafy veil
denies the heat of noon; cool breezes blow
beneath the boughs; the humid ground is sprent
with purpling flowers, and spring eternal reigns.
(Ovid Metamorphoses V 375-84).
Gargaphia – valley where Diana was bathing when she was surprised by Actaeon:There is a valley called
Gargaphia; sacred to Diana, dense
with pine trees and the pointed cypress, where,
deep in the woods that fringed the valley's edge,
was hollowed in frail sandstone and the soft
white pumice of the hills an arch, so true
it seemed the art of man; for Nature's touch
ingenious had so fairly wrought the stone,
making the entrance of a grotto cool.
Upon the right a limpid fountain ran,
and babbled, as its lucid channel spread
into a clear pool edged with tender grass.
Here, when a-wearied with exciting sport,
the Sylvan goddess loved to come and bathe
her virgin beauty in the crystal pool.
(Ovid Metamorphoses III: 163-177):
Salmacis – A nymph who lusting after the son of Hermes and Aphrodite (Hermaphroditus) tried so hard to seduce him while he was bathing in her pool that she changed his nature from male to male/female. Metamorphoses IV 285-388.
The empty armor – Ovid recounts the story of Cygnus and Achilles who found themselves on opposite sides in the Trojan war. Cygnus was the son of Poseidon and was both valiant in battle and unharmed by weapons. Achilles attacked him relentlessly until he succeeded to crush and strangle him. When he took off the helmet, Achilles found the armor empty. Poseidon had changed Cygnus into a swan. Metamorphoses 12: 64-145.
E lo soleils plovil – “the sun rains” – line from Arnaut Daniel’s poem, Lancan son passat li giure. Pound had used the line before, in Three Cantos I: 68. See OCCEP TCI n.21.
white petals – passage which may be inspired by the Noh play Tamura. “Beneath the knees of the gods” suggests a temple with a brook underneath it which magically changes the raining sunlight into “rushing crystal.” In Tamura, the temple is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kuanon, and the keeper sweeps the cherry blossoms in the temple garden. The scene bears strong analogies with the dramatic situation of Takasago, where the wandering priest meets two enigmatic old people sweeping pine needles under an old, sacred tree. Tamura.
Takasago – Noh play, which Pound tried and failed to publish in the Chicago magazine Poetry in 1915. He told Alice Corbin Henderson, the assistant editor of Poetry that the play was considered “perfect” and was used to start a Noh performance (usually a series of five plays). It tells of a visitor who meets the ghosts of two old people who are now the spirits of two pines, one growing in Takasago, the other in Sumiyoshi. Though they are separated by the bay, the two pines are growing together. The Takasago pine signifies the past, whereas the pine at Sumiyoshi signifies the present beneficent rule. Here Pound does not bind the Takasago pine to the one in Sumiyoshi, but rather with the pines in Isé, which are saved from war by the light-bringing Kuanon in the play Tamura. Takasago.
Isé – reference to the Noh play Tamura. The pine trees in Isé are full of evil spirits which are destroyed by the light-bringing arrows of Kuanon. Tamura’s war at Isé parallels the Trojan War and is won only through Kuanon’s agency.
“CHORUS: Look to the sea of Isé, on the pine-moor of Anono the evil spirits rain their black clouds. They pour down fires of iron; they move like ten thousand footmen; they are piled like the mountains.
TAMURA: Look forth on the carnage!
CHORUS: The battle! Senji Kuanon pours lights on our banner. Her lights fly about in the air. She holds in her thousand hands the bow of “Great Mercy.” Hers are the arrows of wisdom. Fly forth her thousand arrows. They harry the spirits; they fall in a swirl of hail. The spirits are dead from her rain.
HOW GREAT IS THE MERCY OF KUANON! (Tamura 78)
The pines of Isé are mentioned again in Canto XXI l.120. See also OCCEP XXI n.48.
“Behold the Tree of Visages” – Christine Froula mentions that the tree of visages is the tree of life, as it occurs in the draft she calls C1: “Ecce arborem vitae” (45). Like Walter Baumann, she observed the similarity to Pound’s short poem “In a Station of the Metro,” where faces are as seen as petals on a bough.
Gourdon – town in the South of France which Pound visited in 1912 and which he mentioned in Three Cantos II: 119-127 (WTSF 40). See also OCCEP nn.29-30.
Saffron sandal – reference to Catullus LXI, the wedding song of Vinia and Manlius. Hymen, the god of marriage, has wreath, veil and yellow sandals for the bride (Lat. “Luteum pede soccum”). See also IV:n. 3. (Catullus LXI:10).
In his article “on Virtue” in his series “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris” (1911) Pound quotes the passage from Catullus LXI as a particular instance of his poetic “virtú”: “certain people think with words, certain with, or in, objects; others realise nothing until they have pictured it; others progress by diagrams like those of the geometricians [...]. It is the artist’s business to find his own virtú. This virtue may be what you will:
Luteum pede soccum, ...
Viden ut faces
Splendidas quatiunt comas! ...
It may be something which draws Catullus to write of scarlet poppies, of orange-yellow slippers, of the shaking glorious hair of torches” (SP 28-29).
Hymen Hymenaeus Io! /Hymen, Io Hymenæe! (also Gr. Ύμηνή/ Ύμέναι ώ) – “Hymen hail” - Catullus’ invocation of Hymen, the god of marriage at the wedding of Manlius and Aurunculeia (Carmen LXI). The invocation is a refrain in Catullus’ poem, the same as in his source, the finale of the play Peace, by Aristophanes.
In 1950, Pound requested from New Directions that the passage be in Greek to emphasise the continuity between the Greek playwright and the Latin poet and also the musicality of the passage (see Calendar). Aristophanes, Peace.
So-Gyoku – (also So Gioku). Japanese name for Song Yu, a Chinese poet of the Warring States period (ca. 319-298 BC) living in Chu, and author of literary compositions in the fu genre (a combination of prose and verse, often in the form of dialogue). Through the recommendation of a friend, Yu entered the service of King Xiang of Chu (r. 298-263). Among the fu attributed to Song Yu, there is the piece quoted by Pound called Feng Fu (Rhapsody on the Wind). Pound worked from Fenollosa’s notes on the first part of the poem, on the “male” wind and turned the didactic message of the original into the opposite direction (Tao 121; see also Hesse, Jan-Feb 1964 in Calendar and Kenner in Editorial Note). In the Rhapsody, the poet has no difficulty persuading the king that the wind belongs to him. Rhapsody on the Wind.
Hsiang – King Xiang or Qingxiang of Chu (r 298-263 BC). Though Yu was a skilled poet, rhetorician and musician, Xiang never promoted him and kept him at court in minor positions, for entertainment. Xiang was said to resent him because Yu reminded him of another poet and eminent fu stylist, Qu Yuan, who had been in the service of his father. He later dismissed Yu much like his father had dismissed Qu Yuan (Knechtges II: 1007-1022). If the wind poem was meant as a piece of flattery intended to save Yu’s political career, it was unsuccessful.
Ecbatan - City built by the Median king Deioces, one of the oldest still-existing cities in the world. It now is the modern city of Hamadan, in Iran. (Herodotus Histories I: 97.3-99.1). Like Thebes, Ecbatana was created from the will of one man and bore the marks of his controlling design. The city is surrounded by seven walls, Thebes had seven gates. Map 1. Map2
Danaë – daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos. Learning from the oracle that his grandson would kill him, Acrisius shuts up Danae in a bronze room (sources differ as to cellar or tower). Pound imagines her in a tower with an opening in the roof. Zeus, desiring her, transforms himself into a shower of gold and impregnates her. She gives birth to Perseus who would indeed accidentally kill Acrisius, thus fulfilling the prophecy. The myth of Danae.
smoke hangs … stone-posts leading – Pound’s evocation of Wang Wei’s poem, “The Song of the Peach Blossom Fountain.” Pound had a deep appreciation for Wang’s style and associated him with ineffable beauty and the spirit of love (Froula 103; Tao 123-126). The poem, based on an older prose tale, relates how a fisherman, by rowing on a stream whose banks were covered in peach blossoms, found a magic realm outside time with happy, quiet villagers leading their lives far from politics and war. After he left it to go back home, he could not return: though he had memorized the way, the landscape had changed beyond recognition. Wang modifies the story by making the inhabitants of this hidden realm immortal, “sennin.” Pound can thus connect the fisherman’s journey with his own impression of Rhodez in 1912 and with Père Jacques. See also n.12. Peach Blossom.
Père Henri Jacques… Rokku – In a letter to Felix Schelling on 8 July 1922, Pound explained: “Sennin are the Chinese spirits of nature or of the air. I don’t see that they are any worse than Celtic Sidhe. Rokku is a mountain. I can perhaps emend the line and make that clearer, though ‘on’ limits it to either a mountain or an island (an ambiguity which don’t much matter at that point). The name and title indicate a French priest (as a matter of fact he is a Jesuit).” (SL 180).
See also Pound’s translation of the “Sennin Poem by Kakuhaku” (PT 299).
Polhonac – The story of the unfortunate Count of Polonhac who unwittingly sang to his wife the song of the troubadour Guillaume de St Leidier (or Didier) thereby participating in the poet’s scheme of seducing her. St Leidier.
Gyges – king of Lydia. The story of Gyges’ accession to power is told by Herodotus: He was trusted friend of his king, Candaules, who was exceedingly proud of his wife’s beauty and wanted to show it off. Despite his protests, Gyges was made to watch as the queen disrobed for the night. She saw Gyges as he was leaving the room and the next day forced him to choose between killing his king and marrying her, or dying himself. He chose the first alternative and took over power. Candaules and Gyges.
Garonne – river flowing through Toulouse. Pound stayed in the city on his holiday to the South of France from April to July 1919.
Saave Regina – a procession in the honour of the Virgin that Pound saw in Toulouse. The Daurade church is proud to own a black Madonna, hence Pound’s remarks to his father in a letter of October 1919 about “African superstition” and “totem magnificently swung.” (L/HP 450. See Calendar).
Across the Adige – River flowing through Verona.
Stefano, Madonna in hortulo – Pound liked to associate the Madonna of San Michele in Orto (Florence) with Madonna in hortulo (Verona, also known as Madonna del Roseto, by Stefano di Verona), which in Pound’s time was located in the Palazzo Lavezzola Pompei, across the river from the old city. The painting is now exhibited in the Castelvecchio Museum, this side of the river. “Hortulo” (L. “garden”) is a Latin equivalent of the Italian “orto.” Moreover, the name of the architect who built the Palace Lavezzola Pompei is Michele Sanmicheli (Ricciardi 45).
As Cavalcanti had seen her – The face of the Madonna that Cavalcanti was adoring as a likeness to his lady was to be found in the Florentine church Orsanmichele (San Michele in Orto), painted on a column.
In a sonnet sent to Guido Orlandi, C wrote:
“Una figura della Donna mia/ s’adora, Guido, a San Michele in Orto.” (MY Lady's face it is they worship there. / At San Michele in Orto, Guido mine,” (trans. Ezra Pound, 1912).
Orlandi responded with a madrigal, rebuking C for his impiety and setting the priorities straight: “If thou hadst offer’d, friend, to blessed Mary/ A pious voluntary,/ As thus: ‘Fair rose, in holy garden set:’/ Thou then hadst found a true similitude (trans. D. G. Rossetti).
Orlandi’s answer may thus have been another element in the ideogram of Pound’s re-imagining Cavalcanti’s lady in the rose garden (Madonna del Roseto).
A fire destroyed a great part of Orsanmichele in 1304 and the figure of the Madonna that Cavalcanti was worshipping faded and was replaced by Bernardo Daddi’s painting in 1346. History of Orsanmichele. It is clear that Pound preferred a less conservative lineage for Cavalcanti’s poetry, which in his view continued the poetry of Provence. Indeed, as Ricciardi remarks, quoting R. Longhi, Madonna del roseto which Pound now associated with Cavalacanti’s lady, represents a “recuperation of the Occitan tradition” with a certain Oriental taste and a madrigal-esque sensibility, “a rhythmical score of so many vegetal neums” (Ricciardi 45; Longhi I:104, tr. RP)
Thinking how easily Cavalacanti could assimilate a religious image to the woman he loved, Pound remarked in “Psychology and the Troubadours” (1912):
“The rise of Mariolatry, its pagan lineage, the romance of it, find modes of expression which verge over-easily into the speech and casuistry of Our Lady of Cyprus, as we may see in Arnaut, as we see so splendidly in Guido’s “Una figura della donna mia.” And there is the consummation of it all in Dante’s glorification of Beatrice (SR 91). Cavalcanti Sonnet XXXV.
Centaur – Pound’s symbol for poetry. Though at the beginning of the canto he sees the goat foot among the nymphs, he likes to think of it as firmly planted in reality:
“Poetry is a centaur. The thinking, word arranging, clarifying faculty must move and leap with the energizing, sentient, musical faculties. It is precisely the difficulty of this amphibious existence that keeps down the census record of good poets” (LE 52).
We… in the arena – This ending was added in the final revision of the poem for A Draft of XVI Cantos in 1923, as Pound was recalling his meeting Eliot in Verona (June 1922).
Born out of Browning’s idea of the showman’s booth in Three Cantos I
(“Or shall I do your trick, the showman’s booth, Bob Browning,
Turned at my will into the Agora,
Or into the old theatre at Arles,
And set the lot, my visions, to confounding
The wits that have survived your damn’d Sordello?”),
the original stage for Pound’s visions shifted to the Arena of Verona and became one of the major leitmotifs of The Cantos.
Pound recalled the steps of the arena in Verona in canto XII:
in canto XXI:
Eliot’s presence becomes clear in Canto XXIX, where Pound recalls the two meetings with Eliot, at Excideuil (August 1919) and Verona (June 1922):
The arena is recalled in canto LXXVIII:
and in Canto LXXX:
Pound is reminiscing in Canto XCI: