COMPANION TO CANTO XII
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 XII, 16 April 2017.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Carroll F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.
Rainey, Lawrence. Ezra Pound and the Monument of Culture: Text, History, and the Malatesta Cantos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Ezra Pound. Posthumous Cantos. Ed. Massimo Bacigalupo. Manchester: Carcanet, 2015.
Ezra Pound. Selected Prose. Ed. William Cookson. New York: New Directions, 1973.
Ezra Pound. Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. 11 vols. New York: Garland, 1991.
- we sit here – Pound met T.S. Eliot in Verona at the beginning of June 1922 (MC 238-40). It was the second time they were on a holiday together (after Provence in 1919) and it must have been a happy time, as Pound alluded to this meeting years later, in 1930 (XXIX/145) and 1945 (LXXVIII/501).
The Verona encounter was made at a significant time for both poets. In the first months of 1922, Pound edited Eliot’s The Waste Land and became involved in its publication. He tried to set up a subscription for his friend, called Bel Esprit so that he should leave his bank employment and have freedom to write; in Verona, Eliot informed him that he would start a literary magazine, which a month later he decided to call The Criterion.
Pound himself had just published his Eighth Canto in May (which would become number 2 when published in volume in 1925). He had visited Rimini two weeks before and seen the Tempio Malatestiano for the first time; and drafted the present canto in a group with canto 13, 14, and 15, as he informed Quinn on 20 June 1922. See Calendar.
- under the wall – Though we cannot be certain which wall of the arena Pound meant, or even whether he was inside looking down or up, or outside, with the French Baedecker in his hand, a good guess is that the wall Pound meant was the rest of the original outer ring of the Arena with its third tier of galleries, called “Ala” (wing). This wall is an individual detail of the Arena in Verona, it shows that the theatre with the two tiers of galleries, as we now have it, is incomplete. As the Arena is in the middle of traffic in the Piazza Bra, it is most probable that Pound was sitting on one of the limestone steps inside it, having a panoramic view of the theatre from the top. The Baedecker also recommended the location, saying: “Fine view from the highest steps” (Baedecker 305). Rainey documents that Pound, Eliot, and Bride Scratton watched a variety show in the arena, “with clowns, dancers,/ performing dogs” which is referred to in the earliest drafts of the Malatesta Cantos (MC 238-39).
Drafts published in the Posthumous Cantos document the scene:
By the arena, you, Thomas amics, Galla Placidia, and the Roman.
inside it, the footlights, the clowns, dancers
performing dogs. (PC 32)
- Arena romana – Arena di Verona, built in the 1st century AD, the fourth largest Roman theatre in Italy capable of holding about 30,000 spectators (Bolla 24). It was originally used for shows of gladiators and fighting animals, then later for plays, opera, bullfights, and political events. The theatre originally had three tiers of galleries, but the third tier, the highest, was demolished to provide stone for the city wall in the time of Theodoric (r. Italy 493-526). (Bolla 13.)
Sitting in the arena is here used as a preamble to the canto - the funnel form of the theatre, divided in concentric circles of seats and Pound’s position at the top suggest an analogy with the geography of Dante’s inferno, where the poet and his friends (“we”) could ideally survey the sinners below.
- Diocletian – Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus (244-312), Roman emperor from 284 to 305. In the Baedeker Pound was using (French edition 66), Diocletian is given credit for building the Arena, though newer evidence situates its construction in the Julio-Claudian period (14-54 AD). The Arena of Verona is older than the Colosseum in Rome, which was built on the same principle and finished in AD 80 (Bolla 14). It has nothing to do with Diocletian.
- les gradins... calcaire – Fr. “the steps, forty-three in limestone.” Pound is referring to the French version of the Baedeker, which contained this information. Other sources indicate 44 steps, as the rows of seats are raised from the bottom floor of the arena.
"Le 43 rangées de gradins en calcaire gris ou en conglomérat rougeâtre ont été souvent restaurées depuis la fin du XVIe s. et sont en partie modernes ; elles pouvaient contenir 20,000 spectateurs." (Baedeker 66).
(The 43 tiers of steps in grey or reddish limestone have been often renovated since the end of the sixteenth century and are in part modern. They can seat 20,000 spectators.)
Other sources indicate 44 steps, as the first row of seats is raised from the bottom floor of the arena. Pound was aware of the discrepancy when he wrote in canto XI: "I have sat here/ for forty four thousand years" (XI:85-86; see also XI: n.32).
- Baldy Bacon – Frank (Baldy) Bacon, American businessman Pound met and befriended in 1910, when he returned to the U.S. for a brief period. Noel Stock relates that Bacon tried to get Pound involved in a “sure investment.” The poet tried to get his father and his Aunt Frank to invest in Bacon’s scheme, without success (Stock 90. See also Moody 128). J. J. Wilhelm states that Pound was trying to start a magazine and was interested in Baldy’s stationery business, adding W. C. Williams’s testimony from his autobiography that Pound was trying to co-opt him in a scheme to sell an anti-syphilitic drug called 606 (Wilhelm 62). Baldy returned from Havana in September 1906 (Busto 2014). He was 33 at the time.
Pound had much sympathy with Baldy as an American adventurer and trickster, a sympathy that resonated with that for other figures like Odysseus, El Cid and Malatesta. He mentions Baldy in his article series "I Gather the Limbs of Osiris (IX)":
"We are nevertheless one humanity, compounded of one mud and of one aether; and every man who does his own job really well has a latent respect for every other man who does his own job really well; this is our lasting bond; whether it be a matter of buying up all the little brass farthings in Cuba and selling them at a quarter per cent. advance, or of delivering steam-engines to King Menelek across three rivers and one hundred and four ravines, or of conducting some new crotchety variety of employers’ liability insurance., or of punching another man’s head, the man who really does the things well if he be pleased afterwards to talk about it, gets always his auditors’ attention; he gets his audience the moment he says something so intimate that it proves him the expert; he does not, as a rule, sling generalities; he gives the particular case for what it is worth; the truth is the individual." (SP 33; P&P I: 57; Nicholls 30-31)
- centavo – S. “one cent.” Cuban centavos were minted in Philadelphia and had a concentration of 75% copper and 25 % nickel. According to the American historian Murat Halstead, the pennies were too heavy and cumbersome and no one wanted to have them: “[N]o ordinary man would think of getting change in copper, as he would have to hire a pack mule to take it home, and then he would have to get rid of it in driblets, as cabmen object to taking twenty cents in copper, and small merchants do likewise, preferring silver and insisting upon getting it” (Halstead 439).
- peons – Spanish American day labourers.
- Henry – possible reference to Henry Longfellow, as indicated in Mary de Rachewiltz’ Italian translation: “E i peones ‘alla baracca grande/Li portarono’-/ Avrebbe detto Henry Longfellow.” De Rachewiltz made her translation in collaboration with her father after he returned from St. Elizabeths in 1958, so it is fair to assume the indication of Longfellow’s name was sanctioned by him.
Henry Longfellow was an American epic poet and a strict technician of verse, famous for fitting the tetrameter of the Finnish poem Kalevala to American epic in The Song of Hiawatha. Less well-known is Longfellow’s use of the Homeric hexameter in his epic Evangeline. He would have made the inversion Pound indicated to fit the flow of syllables to a certain meter.
- Nicholas Castaño – Nicolás Castaño y Capetillo (1836-1926) Spanish businessman and banker, one of the richest persons in Cuba during his lifetime.
S. “El otro personaje citado al comienzo del Canto XII, Nicolás Castaño Capetillo (1836-1926), es bastante más conocido: a comienzos del siglo XX, fue el hombre más acaudalado de Cuba. De origen vasco, llegó a la isla en 1849 y desde 1851 trabajó en Cienfuegos como dependiente de bodega, vendedor ambulante y empleado de Esteban Cacicedo, hasta establecerse por su cuenta en una fábrica de velas y una tienda mixta que perdió en un incendio. Con un socio fundó la Castaño Intriago, casa comercial y bancaria que duró hasta 1888. Mediante créditos llego a ser acreedor de algunos de los principales negocios de la ciudad, y propietario de varios centrales. Años después, su fortuna se unió familiarmente con la de los Falla, otra de las más ricas familias cubanas. Según algunos historiadores cubanos, en el origen de su inmensa fortuna están las confiscaciones a los cubanos condenados por sus ideales o acciones separatistas, bajo el control de una Junta de Bienes Embargados. Castaño, teniente del Batallón de Voluntarios de Cienfuegos, fue miembro de una de esas comisiones. Al parecer, por esa vía muchas de las propiedades enajenadas a los patriotas cayeron en sus manos” (Busto 2014).
“The other character mentioned at the start of canto XII, Nicolás Castaño Capetillo (1836-1926) is quite better-known. At the beginning of the 20th century he was the wealthiest man in Cuba. Of Basque origin, he arrived in the island in 1849 and starting with 1851 he worked in Cienfuegos as salesclerk of a winery, street vendor and employee of Esteban Cacicedo until he established himself on his own in a candle factory and a mixed store that he lost in a fire. With a partner, he founded the Castaño Intriago, a commercial and banking house which lasted until 1888. By means of loans he succeeded in becoming creditor of some of the most important shops in the city and owner of various centres. Years afterward, his fortune made a union with that of the Falla family, one of the richest in Cuba. According to some Cuban historians, the origin of his immense fortune was the confiscation of properties belonging to Cubans condemned for their ideals or separatist actions, under the aegis of a Committee of Confiscated Goods. Castaño, lieutenant of the Battalion of Volunteers of Cienfuegos, was a member of one of these committees. Apparently, many of the properties confiscated from the patriots fell into his hands in this way.” (Tr. Roxana Preda)
- Public centavos – The one cent coin was money issued by the state as a national service, not a commodity produced by an individual and bearing a price tag. Cornering a public good was both immoral and illegal.
Pound shows this, in spite of his obvious sympathy for Bacon.
Baldy took advantage of several factors: first, the state of Cuba was new, having attained a short period of independence from the U.S. only in 1902. When the U.S. invaded Cuba again in September 1906, Baldy left the country immediately, as his ship ticket of September 1906 shows (Busto 2014).
The second factor was the situation described by Halstead in 1898: the centavos were a burden, no one wanted them because they were too heavy, so that they were not accepted in all possible currency transactions. The effect of this national disrespect was that copper pennies were devalued in proportion to silver and people could be induced to get rid of them for under their nominal prices. Bacon bought the pennies by exchanging them into silver: 1 silver real was 10 centavos, 1 peseta 20 and 1 peso 100, but it is probable that Baldy did not pay those prices, but less. By accumulating a large quantity of copper pennies in his “shack,” he could create a scarcity and raised demand, which allowed him to sell them back at a premium, “with a percentage.” In this way, he interfered with a free service of the Cuban state, an abuse he could commit among other things because he was American: he could look at Cubans’ emotions concerning their money as a foreign observer and had a plentiful supply of silver pesos and dollars. He could also profit by the inexperience of people working in the recently founded fiscal institutions so as not to get caught too soon.
- Guardia regia – S and I. “royal guard.”
- Pollon d’anthropon iden – Gr. πολλῶν δ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἴδενἄστεα (“and he saw the cities of many men”) Odyssey I.3.
This Greek tag suggests that Pound looked upon Baldy as a sort of comic Odysseus, a trickster figure with the kind of life experience and skill that help him survive in varied and dangerous circumstances.
- Hermes – The Greek god of messengers, commerce and thieves.
- angelos – Gr. “messenger.”
- 11,000 in four months – Baldy’s profit from cornering the copper pennies in Cuba. The whole adventure had lasted a summer in 1906, as Baldy returned to the U.S. in September 1906 (Busto 2014).
- Habitat cum – L. “lives with.”
- Mons Quade... elsewhere recorded – Pound met Quade at the same time with Baldy, in 1910, and recorded him in a short piece called “Stark realism” which he published in Pavannes and Divisions in 1918.
“This little American went to the great city of Manhattan. He made two dollars and a half per week. He saw the sheeny girls on the East side who lunch on two cents worth of bread and sausages, and dress with a flash on the remainder, He nearly died of it. Then he got a rise. He made fifteen dollars per week selling insurance. He wore a monocle with a tortoise-shell rim. He dressed up to ‘Bond St.’ No lord in The Row has surpassed him. He was a damn good fellow” (45-46).
- José María dos Santos – The origin of the anecdote about the Portuguese merchant Dos Santos is not known. (It is conceivable that Padre Don José Elizondo may have been the source, as he was living in London around 1920 and Pound was in contact with him.) However, it illustrates Pound’s belief inspired by Social Credit that capital investment should be made in what grows naturally and contributes to the increase of real wealth, not financial values. His example of increasing wealth by natural fertility anticipates the cantos on the Monte dei Paschi, which derives its wealth from the use of pastures outside town (Kenner 426). The anecdote is a contrast both with Baldy’s adventure in Cuba (where Bacon had created scarcity and impeded the natural flow of goods) and with the story of the Honest Sailor, who perpetuates an economy of same, by buying shares in a ship, then a whole vessel, then a line of steamers, but imagines he is able to procreate as a woman would.
- Tagus – L. Tagus; S. Tajo; Port.
- nemo obstabat – L. “nobody opposed it.”
- e tot lo sieu aver – Prov. “and all his wealth.” The use of Provençal suggests a possible contrast with a phrase of Bertran de Born’s which Pound liked, “barons, metetz en gage!” ("mortgage your castles, lords"). De Born was eager for battle and enjoined the barons to pawn their castles to finance a war campaign for greater reward (PM).
- undsoweiter – G. “and so on.”
Apovitch– a pseudonym. Stephen Adams suggested it may be Carl Sandburg (Pai 131)
Chicago ain’t the whole punkin’– Pound may be referring to Carl Sandburg’s poem Chicago, which starts with: “Hog Butcher for the World!” (Adams 131-32). See poem.
Jim X – John Quinn, who told Pound the story of the Honest Sailor. See Calendar.
- usurers – in this canto, Pound introduces the theme of usury for the first time, as he told Prof Schelling in July 1922: “The first 11 cantos are preparation of the palette. I have to get down all the colours or elements I want for the poem.”
As illustrated by the story of the Honest Sailor, usurers are not simply lenders at extortionate interest, but any person or organisation that use capital to increase financial values for their own sake, without producing any concrete wealth. Baldy and the bankers are usurers, but Dos Santos is not.
- in excelsis – L. “to the highest degree.”
The phrase is used in the "Sanctus," sung or recited during the Catholic ritual of communion: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus/ Dominus Deus Sabaoth./ Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua./ Hosanna in excelsis./ Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini./ Hosanna in excelsis. ("Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts./ Heaven and earth are full of your glory./ Hosanna in the highest./ Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord./ Hosanna in the highest. (PL)
- S.A. – South-American securities.
- investment in new bank buildings - As Pound would later repeat and refine in the poem, banks have a social responsibility. Bankers can decide to be simply usurers and invest in money itself (or own slums to exploit the poor) or may use a part of their wealth to support the city, people, country where they work and live. They can choose to be patrons of the arts, philanthropists, benefactors, saviors.
"Quinn's banking friends are tailor dummy copies of once vital bankers like the Medicis. Canto XII handles them in the same style as Baldy, with one considered difference: Because Quinn's bankers have more responsibility than Baldy Bacon, their hollowness is more pernicious" (Bush 250).
- but your mother – Through the parable of the Honest Sailor, Pound insists on a basic distinction concerning the nature of true wealth. In classical economics, wealth is calculated in money, on the understanding that producing wealth consists in creating profit out of existing capital – money “begets” money. But this line of reasoning was proven wrong by Aristotle and Dante: money does not give birth – a coin is the same as another coin – two coins together do not naturally beget something else, different from them. This is why Dante places the usurers together with the sodomites in the 7th circle in the Inferno (XVII). The irony of the anecdote is that the sailor honestly believes that an economy of same functions like a natural one – it portrays the logical absurdity of financial capitalism. Canto XII thus introduces the idea that would be so important to Pound, particularly in cantos XLV and LI, that usury is against nature.
“Pound draws upon the Dantean condemnation of usurers and sodomites as those who pervert nature through economic and sexual practices that prevent natural increase. Quinn's story mocks the bankers he addresses ("Alias usurers in excelsis" ) by suggesting that the sailor's belief that he has produced a child due to a homosexual encounter is a bawdy version of what the bankers themselves practice by charging interest” (Davidson 214).