rsz titian varchi

Titian. Benedetto Varchi, 1540.

Once in a lifetime [...] a man may try-without rhetoric, without hankering after grandiose utterance-to straighten out his ideas on history, the rise of nations, the developments and atrophies of civilization, and all these and other things soiled by the clichés of politicians, Fourth of July orators, Orleanists, Claudelists, etc. (including social and religious instructors). [...]

The bulk of our civilisation is very probably due to the Roman Empire, but from the death of Septimus Severus (A.D. 211) to the abdication of Diocletian (A.D. 305) there were 19 emperors, and only one died comfortably in his bed, after a reign of two years.

Any historical concept and any sociologial deduction from history must assemble a great number of such violently contrasted facts, if it is to be valid. It must not be a simple paradox, or a simple opposition of two terms. [...]

Out of the welter I get perhaps only an increasing hatred of violence, an increasing contempt for destruction. I would not, in the present state of my sensibility, I would not destroy even the Albert Memorial.

Ezra Pound. "Pastiche: A Regional" (VII). The New Age XXV.17 (21 August 1919): 284. P&P III:322-323.







Paul Cunningham reading from canto V
Scottish Poetry Library

Edinburgh, February 2017


 Copyright © 1934, 1968 by Ezra Pound. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.






canto 5

canto 5




Canto V in A Draft of XVI Cantos.
Paris: Three Mountains Press, 1925.
Illustrations by Henry Strater. 
Canto V in A Draft of XXX Cantos.
Paris: Hours Press, 1930.

Capitals by Dorothy Pound. 
Note: The above images are not to scale. The 1925 edition is a folio, whereas the 1930 one is pocket-size.







Canto V was first published in The Dial as “The Fifth Canto” in August 1921 and in Poems 1918-1921. New York: Boni & Liveright, 8 December 1921. (P&P IV: 172-175; Gallup 32).

The Calendar shows that the canto was begun in April and finished before 6 October 1919. "Between theatres" suggests that Pound wrote most of it after returning from France in September 1919.



BT Daniel Pearlman. The Barb of Time. On the Unity of Ezra Pound's Cantos. New York: Oxford UP, 1969.
L/HP 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. 
L/TW Pound, Thayer, Watson, & The Dial. A Story in Letters. Ed. W. Sutton. UP of Florida, 1994.
SL The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D.D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.




To Homer Pound, 18 December 1915 

L/HP 360-61; A11

[...] If you like the "Perigord" you would probably like Browning's "Sordello". [...]

It is a great work and worth the trouble of hacking it out.

I began to get it on about the 6th reading - though individual passages come up all right on the first reading.

It is probably the greatest poem in English. Certainly the best long poem in English since Chaucer. You'll have to read it sometime as my big long endless poem that I am now struggling with, starts off with a barrel full of allusions to "Sordello"- which will intrigue you if you haven’t read the other.

I must have the lot typed out & send it you as a much belated Xmas. – though I dare say the present version needs a lot done to it.

It will be two months at least before I can send it. - I suppose - as I dont want to muddle my mind now in the Vth canto - by typing the first three cantos - and I dont want to leave the only copy with a typist while I'm out of town.

Note. Canto V already in a first draft before Pound goes to Stone Cottage on Tuesday, 21 December 1915.




To Homer Pound, [April] 1919 

L/HP 441

Dear Dad:

Here is a draft <with a few annotations for you> of Fourth canto; not to be shown to anyone (save I.W.P. if she wishes to see it) Wont be printed until there is another bundle of three; Fifth is begun.

Have some hope of getting South. At least we have our passports, and a job lot of French bank notes.

Note: dating from collateral information in the letter. Pound had finished preparations for his trip to the South of France and would reach Toulouse by 23 April. IWP is Isabel Weston Pound, the poet's mother.


To John Quinn, 6 October 1919

BT 300

I have done Canto V... somthime [sic] between theatres... even tryscript [sic]of it not "dry" yet.


To Homer Pound, 22 November 1919

L/HP 453

Dear Dad

[...] As Liveright never answers a letter. Please phone that I have three new cantos done. THUS there is enough matter for American edition of poems, as follows. 

Homage to Propertius

Langue d'Oc

Moeurs Contemporaines

Cantos IV, V, and VI (possibly VI and VII, by the time matter is settled. Same size vol as English Q.P.A.

Liveright's agent wrote asking if they could import Q.P.A., you understand that the first three cantos are in Knopf's Lustra, therefore the English sheets of Q.P.A. can not be sold in America. 

Note: Q.P.A. - Quia Pauper Amavi [I was poor when I loved] - volume of poems published by the Egoist Press in 1919.


To Homer Pound, 13 December 1919

L/HP 455

Dear Dad,

[...] Have done cantos 5, 6, and 7, each more incomprehensible than the one preceding it; dont know what's to be done about it. Liveright says he is ready to bring out vol. of poems. Shall put Propertius first and follow by 'Langue d'oc and Cantos IV to VII, book about the same size as Q.P.A.

Note: The volume produced by Liveright is Poems 1918-21 and was published in 1921. 




To Scofield Thayer, 24 March, 1920

L/TW 18; BT 301

Queery, would you have printed Fenollosa's essay on The Chinese Written Character? Do you want serious contributions to thought... or merely second hand jaw? Mr. Quinn implies you want my verse rather than my prose. I [am] send[ing] [sep. cover] four cantos. Canto IV is o.k. by itself, Cantos V.VI.VII shd. appear together as the Lorenzacchio [sic] Medici begins in V. and ends the VII.

I shouldn't insist on their being printed all together, but it wd. be better. It wd. also affirm my connection with the magazine, as I shd. not print this long poem in any paper which I was not backing. There are not likely to be more than two cantos each year, the rest of my stuff wd. be shorter poems (or prose if wanted).


From Scofield Thayer, 30 March 1920

Beinecke, YCAL 43, Box 13/581

Dear Pound:


Thank you for the verses. Canto IV is now in the press and will appear in our June issue. Cantos V, VI, and VII we are returning to you.



To Isabel Weston Pound, 30 Sept 1920

L/HP 472

Dear Mother:

[…] Sent mss. of new vol. poems to Liveright two days ago. Also mss. of Cantos  V-VII to dad.


To John Quinn, 9 October 1920

L/JQ 195-96

C. re Liveright. I have sent the rest of copy for

            “Three Portraits”

It contains the Imperium Romanum (Propertius)

            The Middle Ages (Provence)

            Mauberley (today)

                        And cantos IV-VII,

It is all I have done since 1916, and my most important book, I at any rate think Canto VII the best thing I have done;

If America won’t have it, then Tant Pisssss as the French say. I have my answer, and it means twenty more years of Europe, perhaps permanent stay here.

[…] At any rate the three portraits, falling into a Trois Contes scheme, plus the Cantos, which come out of the middle of me and are not a mask, are what I have to say, and the first formed book of poem[s] I have made. Lustra being, I admit, simpler and more understandable. 




To Homer Pound, 30 July 1921

L/HP 487

Dear Dad:

[…] By the time you get this Cantos shd. have appeared in Dial. (cantos V-VII)




To Felix E. Schelling, 8 July 1922

SL 180, L 247

[…] Perhaps as the poem goes on I shall be able to make various things clearer. Having the crust to attempt a poem in 100 or 120 cantos long after all mankind has been commanded never again to attempt a poem of any length, I have to stagger as I can.

The first 11 cantos are preparation of the palette. I have to get down all the colours or elements I want for the poem. Some perhaps too engmatically and abbreviatedly. I hope, heaven help me, to bring them into some sort of design and architecture later. 




To Homer Pound, End of August 1924

L/HP 539

Dear Dad:

Went to print show while Bill corrected a sheet of Canto V. and saw various other bits of later cantos. It looks like a very fine bit of printing.









  1. Hesse, Eva. "'Schiavoni,' Or: When St. Hieronymus Turned His Back." Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 4.1 (1975): 105-10. Print.  
  2. Moramarco, Fred. "Schiavoni: 'that Chap on the Wood Barge'." Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 4.1 (1975): 101-4. Print.
  3. North, Michael. “Towers and the Visual Map of Pound’s Cantos.” Contemporary Literature 27.1 (1986): 19-21.
  4. Tritschler, Donald H. "A Guide to Ezra Pound's Cantos (V)." The Analyst II (July 1953): 1-7.



  1. Bacigalupo, Massimo. The Forméd Trace. The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound. New York: Columbia UP, 1980. 28-31.
  2. Bush, Ron. The Genesis of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1976, 211-214. 
  3. Cookson, William. “V: The Barb of Time.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2001. 13-16.
  4. Dennis, Helen. Cantos Five. A New Approach to the Poetry of Ezra Pound Through the Medieval Provençal Aspect. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Pres, 1996. 294-304. See also Cantos Five and Six 368-73.
  5. Flory, Wendy. Ezra Pound and The Cantos: A Record of Struggle. New Haven: Yale UP, 1980. 115-120; 290-291.
  6. Gelpi, Albert. [Canto V]. A Coherent Splendour. The American Poetic Renaissance 1910-1950. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987. 198-199.
  7. Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. London: Laber & Faber, 1971. 55-59. 
  8. Liebregts, Peter.  Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism. Madison: Farleigh Dickinson, 2004. 147-151.  
  9. Moody, David A. Ezra Pound Poet. Volume I: The Young Genius. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. 404-405.
  10. Pearlman, Daniel D. The Barb of Time. On the Unity of Ezra Pound's Cantos. New York: Oxford UP, 1969. 56-67.
  11. Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound's Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Perodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz, and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991. III: 172-175.
  12. Surette, L. A Light from Eleusis. A Study of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1979; XLibris, 2000. 55-69.




  1. Bressan, Eloisa. Canto V. Il Vortice Greco-Provenzale nell'inferno de I Cantos. MA Thesis. U di Padova, 2012. 123-161. Free online.
  2. Sellar, Gord. Canto V. Blogging the