Article Index

 

 

THREE CANTOS [UR-CANTOS]

CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION 

 

 

 

 

The Calendars of Composition follow mentions about the cantos in Pound’s letters and interviews, seeking to establish more accurate dates of composition and include his various assertions about individual poems around the time they were written and published. They also include what the editors consider to be indications of Pound’s relevant reading, roots and sources of poetic ideas, as well as echoes and reverberations of a canto, be they in subsequent translations, revisions in later publication, or details of third parties’ editing.

The Calendar for Three Cantos traces the emergence of Pound’s desire to write a long poem – from vague wish and youthful dream to the final reworking of cantos I-III in 1923.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.

 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

A “Annals.” Variorum Edition of Three Cantos. A Prototype. Ed. Richard Taylor. Bayreuth: Boomerang, 1991.
G-B Ezra Pound. A Memoir to Gaudier-Brzeska. 1916. New York: New Directions, 1970.
L/ACH The Letters of Ezra Pound to Alice Corbin Henderson. Ed. Ira Nadel. Austin: U of Texas Press, 1993.
L/DS Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-14. Eds. Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz. New York: New Directions, 1984.
L/HP Ezra Pound to His Parents – Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A. David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.
L/JJ Pound/Joyce: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, with Pound's Critical Essays and Articles About Joyce. 1967. Ed. Forrest Read. New York: New Directions, 1970.
L/JQ The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound to John Quinn 1915-1924. Ed. Timothy Materer. Durham NC: Duke UP, 1991.
L/LR Pound/The Little Review. The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The Little Review Correspondence. Ed. Thomas L. Scott and Melvin J. Friedman, with the assistance of Jackson R. Bryer. New York: New Directions, 1988.
P&P Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and J. Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.
P&T Ezra Pound Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: Library of America, 2003.
SL Selected Letters 1907-1945. Ed. D. D. Paige. 1950. New York: New Directions, 1971.

 

Editorial note:

The Calendars in The Cantos Project are a work in progress and contain selected information from printed and archival sources. The layout, spelling, and punctuation have been reproduced according to the original source. No normalization of spelling or standardization of editorial conventions has been attempted (Roxana Preda).

 


 

 

CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION

1904-1914

 

 

 

 

 

“I began the Cantos about 1904, I suppose. I had various schemes, starting in 1904 or 1905. The problem was to get a form – something elastic enough to take the necessary material. It had to be a form that wouldn’t exclude something merely because it didn’t fit. In the first sketches, a draft of the present first Canto was the third.”

“The Art of Poetry no. 5. Ezra Pound: An Interview.” Paris Review 28 (Summer-Fall 1962): 23.

 

The Cantos have been in Pound’s mind since 1908, at least ....

William Carlos Williams. Selected Essays 105.

 

He wanted - had always wanted - to write a long poem. Memory in later years traced the eventual direction of that impulse to a conversation - say circa 1904-5 – with professor Ibbotson who was teaching him his Anglo-Saxon. “I was in them days contemplatin a jejune trilogy on Marozia. Which Bib was naïve enough to agree wd/ be a man’s magnum opus if he pulled it off.” (Pound quoted in Norman 356)

Hugh Kenner. The Pound Era. London: Faber, 1971. 354.

 

From Scriptor Ignotus. A Lume Spento, 1908

P&T 38

And I see my greater soul-self bending

Sibylwise with that great forty year epic

That you know of, yet unwrit

But as some child’s toy ’tween my fingers,

And see the sculptors of new ages carve me thus,

And model with the music of my couplets in their hearts:

Surely if in the end the epic

And the small kind deed are one;

If to God the child’s toy and the epic are the same,

E’en so, did one make a child’s toy,

He might wright it well

And cunningly, that the child might

Keep it for his children’s children

And all have joy thereof.

 

Note: The “you” is the pianist Katherine Ruth Heyman to whom the poem is dedicated. Leon Surette considers that it was Pound’s youthful passion for Miss Heyman that made him compose Scriptor Ignotus and conceive the composition of his epic (A Light from Eleusis 28).

 

To Isabel Weston Pound, 24 November 1908

A 10; L/HP 144

My Dear Mother

[...]

I am by the way of trying a historical stunt on Portugal. Trying to hit a happy mene between “Sordello” which is fit meat only for cranks like myself who enjoy using their mental senses and the Tales of a Wayside Inn which are mostly twaddle or verging on it. (That is to say they haven’t much poetic magic about them.)

 

To Isabel Weston Pound, June 1909

L/HP 174

Dear Mothr.

Enclosed 1 tirade caused by phrase in your letter, quoting some one in Montana. […]

The tirade is to be read purely for ‘style’.

EP

Epic to the West ? ? My Gawd ! !

What has the west done to deserve it - -

Whitman expressed America as Dante did medieval europe - & america is too stupid to see it – (- of course the result is somewhat appalling , but then - )

Kindly consider what an epic needs for a foundation –

1. a beautiful tradition.

2. a unity in the outline of that tradition.

vid. the Oddessy

3. a Hero – mythical or historical –

4. a darn long time for the story to loose its garish detail & get encrusted with a bunch of beautiful lies-

Dante in a way escapes these necessities – in reality he dips into a multitude of traditions. – & unifies them by their connection with himself.

Poor Longfellow tried to hist up an american epik.

Camoens. is the only man who ever did a nearly contemporary subject with any degree of success & he had the line of Vasco de Gamas voyage for unity. & the mythical history of Portugal for background –

___

Mrs. Columbia. has no mysterious & shadowy past to make her interesting & her present – oh, ye gods!!

one needs figures. to move on the epic stage & they have to be men who are more than men, with sight more than mansight, They have to be picturesque.

___

Bret Harte, Longfellow – (epic?) So I behold a vision – Rockfellow marches in purple robes thru a cloud of coal smoke, Morgan is clothed in samite, and the spirits of the 3rd heaven foster their progress enthroned on trolley cars

‘J’ai lutte contre les empererurs de l’acier, contre les paladins du fer, contre les princes de la porcherie. Ils ont voulu me briser les reins, mais je les ai solides’ says Theethedore Rosenfeldt. – as quoted by the satirist on the Journal de Paris’

___

When business begets a religion of ‘Chivalry in affairs of money’, & when 3% per annum is metamorphosized into the clult of an ideal beauty… & when america can produce any figure as suited to the epic as is Don Quixote.

and when the would be literati cease from turning anything that might in 500 years develop into a tradition, into copy at $4 per. col. within four . hours of its occurrence.

Then there may begin to be the possibility of an American epic.

An epic in the real sense is the speech of a nation thru the mouth of one man

Whitman let america speak through him. The result is interesting as ethnology.

___

Just at present I can see America producing a Jonah, or a Lamenting Jherimiah.

But the american who has any suspicion that he may write poetry. will walk very much alone, with his eyes on the beauty of the past of the old world, or on the glory of a spiritual kingdom, or on some earthly new Jerusalem, which might as well be upon Mr. Shakletons antarctic ice fields as in Omaha for all the West has to do with it. – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – set your hypothetical scene where you like.

Epic. of the West – it is as if I asked some one to write my biography. – it is more as if I had asked them to do it 12 years ago.

 

From Walter Rummel, 16 September 1910

J.J. Wilhelm. Ezra Pound in London and Paris. University Park: The Pennsylvania State UP. 62.

When is your epic coming out! Do you see light there?!

 

From Dorothy Pound, 31 December 1911

L/DS 82; A 10

I am sure I have no suggestions for your long poem.

 

Ezra Pound, 1 September 1914

“Vorticism” FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW XCVI.573 (1 September 1914)

P&P I: 285; G-B 94; A 11

I am often asked whether there can be a long imagiste or vorticist poem. The Japanese, who evolved the hokku, evolved also the Noh plays. In the best “Noh” the whole play may consist of one image. I mean it is gathered about one image. Its unity consists in one image, enforced by movement and music. I see nothing against a long vorticist poem.

 

“The Classical Stage of Japan. Ernest Fenollosa’s Work on Japanese Noh. Edited by Ezra Pound.” Drama V.18 (May 1915); P&P II: 57-58. Republished with changes in Noh, Or Accomplishment. Macmillan 1917, 44-46. [Pound’s commentary to Suma Genji and his note. Text below reproduced from Drama]

I dare say the play, Suma Genji, will seem undramatic to some people the first time they read it. The suspense is the suspense of waiting for a supernatural manifestation — which comes. Some will be annoyed at a form of psychology which is, in the West, relegated to spiritistic séances. There is, however, no doubt that such psychology exists. All last winter I watched Mr. Yeats correlating folk-lore (which Lady Gregory had collected in Irish cottages) and data of the occult writers, with the habits of charlatans of Bond Street. If the Japanese authors had not combined the psychology of such matters with what is to me a very fine sort of poetry, I would not bother about it.

The reader will miss the feel of suspense if he is unable to put himself in sympathy with the priest eager to see “even in a vision” the beauty lost in the years, “the shadow of the past in bright form.” I do not say that this sympathy is easily acquired. It is too unusual a frame of mind for us to fall into it without conscious effort. But if one can once get over the feeling of hostility, if one can once let oneself into the world of the Noh, there is undoubtedly a new beauty before one. I have found it well worth the trial, and can hope that others will do so.

This last play of Genji shows us the Noh very near to the original, or early form of the God-dance. The first legendary dance took place when the light-goddess hid herself in a cave and the other gods danced on a tub or something of that sort to attract her attention and lure her out of her cave. The parallels with the religious origins of Greek and mediaeval drama are so obvious that I will not delay the reader by pointing them out. There are various differences: in Greece the chorus danced, in Japan the hero dances, and so on.

The arrangement of five or six Noh into one performance explains, in part, what may seem like a lack of construction in some of the pieces; the plays have, however, a very severe construction of their own, a sort of musical construction which I shall present in a future article in connection with the text of the Takasago play, when I get that latter ready for the public.

When a text seems to “go off into nothing'” at the end the reader must remember (as before said) “that the vagueness or paleness of words is made good by the emotion of the final dance,” for the Noh has its unity in emotion. It has also what we may call Unity of Image. At least, the better plays are all built into the intensification of a single Image:* the red maple leaves and the snow flurry in Nishikigi, the pines in Takasago, the blue-grey waves and wave pattern in Suma Genji, the mantle of feathers in the play of that name, Hagoromo.

 

Pound’s note:

* This intensification of the Image, this manner of construction, is very interesting to me personally, as an Imagiste, for we Imagistes knew nothing of these plays when we set out in our own manner. These plays are also an answer to a question that has several times been put to me: “Could one do a long Imagiste poem, or even a long poem in vers libre?”

 


 

 

 CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION

1915

 

 

 

To Isabel Weston Pound, 23 May 1915

L/HP 347

Dear Mother

[...]

Apart from war considerations it should be granted that I have a career or something of that sort to consider, or at least an income to make and that a trip to America would not in the least assist in the process.

I am working on a long poem.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 August 1915

L/ACH 120

[...]

I am working on a long poem which will resemble the Divina Commedia in length but in no other manner. It is a huge, I was going to say, gamble, but shan’t, it will prevent my making any money for the next forty years, perhaps.

 

To Milton Bronner, 21 September 1915

A 11

I am also at work on a cryselephantine poem of immeasurable length which will occupy me for the next four decades unless it becomes a bore.

Note: This letter, now in the Alice Corbin Henderson Archive of the Harry Ransom Research Center, is cited from Robert M. Crunden, American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism, 1885–1917 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 472 and Peter Liebregts, Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism (Madison: Fairley-Dickinson, 2004), 100. 

 

To Homer Pound, 25 September 1915

L/HP 353; A 11

[...]

Have done a few more ‘Cathay’ and am at work on a very long poem.

 

To Homer Pound, 18 December 1915

L/HP 360-61; A 11

Dear Dad

[...]

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.

 

 


 

 

CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION 

1916

 

 

To Harriet Monroe, 5 June 1916

SL 81

[...]

My next contribution will probably be a 40 page fragment from a more important opus.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 15 June 1916

L/ACH 150-51

Dear A.C.H.

[...]

Great God, what classics are you to read, without greek or latin? I read greek like a hen, but it is just possible to get good latin translations from the greek. I have always intended really to go into the matter of english translations from both latin and greek and see if there were ANY fit to read. I dare say you have read as much french as I have. Villon, Gautier, Charles d’Orleans. I dont know that there’s much new to be said. Anglo-Saxon is harder than greek or latin. and then there is hardly more than the Seafarer and a few lines in Wanderer. There remains always “Cathay” a small leaflet of translations from the chinese, but that you by now have exhausted.

In English<,> Rochester and Dorset and possibly some of the other more scurrilous restoration poets might entertain you. They are little read. Rochester has not left a great deal but some of it is as good as Heine.

Drummond of Hawthorneden is fine in spots and so also is William Dunbar.

I still think Byron amusing, but Browning and Fitzgerald are about the only later english poets that one can keep on reading. Do however read Landor<’>s Imaginary Conversations in bulk if you haven’t done so already. There are vast dull tracts but there are also priceless dialogues. The chinese one<s>, and the Petrarch-Boccaccio-Chaucer, and the Aspasia, and some of the earlier ones, also the <N>apoleonic period, and scraps elsewhere. Dents’ edition is not over expensive, I believe.

In German there is only Heine, and some of the very early Minnesingers, Von der Vogelweide etc.

Spanish next to nothing since the Poema del Cid.

except stray ballads

Italian; Dante, Guido, Leopardi.

I am temporarily off medievalism. I dont know that it will do anyone the slightest good to read Chaucer and the very early english poets. I mean for practical practicing contemporary writers to do so.

Butler’s “The Way of all Flesh” will amuse you if you haven’t yet read it. ages ago.

I think, about classics: I will send in as my next swot in Poetry some fragments from my l o n g poem. I don’t know. I dont know whether it would do me any good to print scraps until it is finished. There is one gob of classic in it that you might like. [his translation of Divus]

I dont know, If you dont read latin I should think the next best thing was Flaubert’s “Trois Contes”. One might have a lot worse “poetic” training than that of committing all three to memory, or rather the first and third. St. Julien gets a little distressing.

I suppose they contain all that anybody knows about writing.

 

To Iris Barry 20 July 1916

SL 86-7

KOMPLEAT KULTURE: Schedule at II 227 b 5 q/12/4685

The main thing being to have enmagazined some mass of fine literature which hasn’t been mauled over and vulgarized and preached as a virtue by Carlyle, The Daily Mail, The Spectator, The New Witness, or any other proletariat of “current opinion.” This mass of fine literature supposedly saves one from getting swamped in contemporaneousness, and from thinking that things naturally or necessarily must or should be as they are, OR should change according to some patent schedule. ALSO should serve as a model of style, or suggest possibilities of various sorts of perfection or maximum attainment.

Greek seems to me a storehouse of wonderful rhythms, possibly impracticable rhythms. If you don’t read it and if you can’t read Latin translations from it, it can’t be helped. Most English translations are hopeless. The best are in prose. […]

I don’t know that one can read any trans. of the Odyssey. Perhaps you could read book XI. I have tried an adaptation in the ‘Seafarer’ metre, or something like it, but I don’t expect anyone to recognize the source very quickly.

Certainly the so-called “poetic” translations of Greek drama are wholly ‘impossible.’

Wharton’s “Sappho” is the classic achievement. That you should find in any decent library.

I am mailing you MacKail’s Latin Literature.  It is in many ways untrustworthy and vicious, BUT MacKail has the grace really to care for the stuff he writes of. He is the poor dam’d soul of the late Walter Pater. Has written some poems which I thought, fifteen years ago, were finely chiseled. […]

Catullus, Propertius, Horace and Ovid are the people who matter. Catullus most. Martial somewhat. Propertius for beautiful cadence, though he uses only one metre. Horace you will not want for a long time. I doubt if he is of any use save to the Latin scholar. I will explain sometime viva voce.

Virgil is a second-rater, a Tennysonianized version of Homer. Catullus has the intensity, and Ovid might teach one many things.

The “Pervigilium Veneris” is beautiful; it is, however, MacKail’s own pet infant and he is a little disproportionately lyric over its beauty.

To the best of my knowledge there is no history of Greek poetry that is worth ANYthing. They all go on gassing about the “deathless voice” and the ‘Theban Eagle’ as if Pindar wasn’t the prize wind-bag of all ages. The “bass drum,” etc. […]

Cathay will give you a hint of China, and the ‘Seafarer’ on the Anglo-Saxon stuff. Then as MacKail says (p.246) nothing matters till Provence.

After Provence, Dante and Guido Cavalcanti in Italy.

Very possibly ALL this mediaeval stuff is very bad for one’s style. I don’t know that you have time to live through it and???? to survive? (If I have survived.)

The French of Villon is very difficult but you should have a copy of Villon and not trust to Swinburne’s translations (though they are very fine in themselves); they are too luxurious and not hard enough. Not hard enough, I mean, if one is to learn how to write. There are dull stretches in the “Testament” but one has to dig out the fine things.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 14 October 1916

L/ACH 169-70

[...]

You are quite right in saying that W.B.Y. in his Wind Among the Reeds, gets a sort of unity which my books have never had.

He also produces the effect of having only one note or one key or one colour.

I know that I loose [sic] a certain amount, but then...

Then there’s so much unacknowledged cribbing. And a personal cult is usually rot. Look at the Tagore muck. And if what rotten personality I’ve got cant stand the strain of admitting that Q. Septimius translated some greek epigrams four centuries ago, the said personality had better “git out or git under.”

If I’m merely a collection of antiquities there is no use in pretending the contrary. Nihil humanum nisi nom meum gets more and more difficult as time goes on, or perhaps it doesn’t.

There is undoubtedly a present loss. A fake would get more immediate notoriety, but I cant see that it’s worth it.

 


 

 

CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION 

1917

 

 

To Homer Pound [ca 4 January 1917]

L/HP 387; A 11

Dear Dad,

Here’s the first 3 cantos of the long poem.

Send me your first impressions & second impressions as soon as you can.

I don’t want you to show it about until it’s printed or until I have decided on the final form of some of this.

 

To Homer Pound, [c. 5 January 1917]

L/HP 388-89; A 12

[...]

I mailed the first three cantos of POEM yesterday or the day before. Hope it reaches you safely. It is a bit of a chaw, but remember it is only a beginning of a much longer affair and that some of its incomprehensible places will be elucidated later on. (I hope.)

I want very much to know what you make of it, both as a whole (i.e. the lot sent) and in detail.

So write at length on the matter.

 

Note: Homer’s reply is included in L/HP 387-88. 

 

To John Quinn, 10 January 1917

SL 101-2

Dear John Quinn: The Dec. number of Seven Arts has just arrived. I don’t know whether I owe it to you or to the editor.

I have just sealed up Fenollosa’s “Essay on the Chinese Written Character,” to send to them. It is one of the most important essays of our time. But they will probably reject it on the ground of its being exotic.

Fenollosa saw and anticipated a good deal of what has happened in art (painting and poetry) during the last ten years, and his essay is basic for all aesthetics, but I doubt if that will cut much ice. […]

Seven Arts don’t seem to me much better than The Egoist, though you needn’t say so publicly, as I want to be paid for it. It’s damn well worth it.) China is fundamental, Japan is not. Japan is a special interest, like Provence, or 12-13 Century Italy (apart from Dante). I don’t mean to say there aren’t interesting things in Fenollosa’s Japanese stuff (or fine things, like the end of Kagekiyo, which is, I think, ‘Homeric’). But China is solid. One can’t go back of the “Exile’s Letter,” or the “Song of the Bowmen,” or the “North Gate.”

 

To John Quinn, 24 January 1917

SL 104

Dear John Quinn: I am glad you really enjoyed Lustra and aren’t going on with it merely out of esprit de corps.

I have always wanted to write “poetry” that a grown man could read without groans of ennui, or without having to have it cooed into his ear by a flapper.

[...]

Then came the proofs of Noh, and then work on a new long poem (really L O N G, endless, leviathanic).

 

Note: Pound is telling Quinn about work he had done in the autumn of 1916. He had finished correcting the proofs of Noh: Or Accomplishment for Macmillan in September (L/HP 379). It is the first time Pound mentions The Cantos to Quinn. 

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson to Harriet Monroe, 6 February 1917

L/ACH 193-4

E.P. has sent me a long poem for POETRY. He sent it so I could read it and then send to you. Of course it will be caviar to the general, no doubt, but I like it. I am mailing it, registered, tomorrow.  (HM Poetry Collection Chicago).

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson to Harriet Monroe, 7 February 1917

L/ACH 194

Dear H.M. Here are Ezra’s Cantos. I really hate to let them go. I really like them tremendously. Another hard answer that could be made to idiots like Braithwaite. Of course they are erudite – but there is life – and a poet’s life – in it & through it all – considerable vision and depth – and beauty of style. You need to read it several times – at least I did – to get the full value. In fact, it can be read indefinitely –  & give up new meanings – which is a good deal to say – I am sending the mss. to your house, so you can read it away from “official” distractions. Let me know what you think about it. It was nice of E.P. to send it through me so I could read it & I am sorry I kept it longer than I meant!

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 February 1917

L/ACH, 186

Dear Alice,

You will by now have the long poem, for nutriment.

Nothing will replace “Poetry’s” fat subsidy. H.M. must have credit for that always and anyhow. If Poetry peters out it will deplete one’s income. BOMBBBBB.

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson, 17 February, 1917

L/ACH 190

Dear Ezra,

[...]

Your cantos are very beautiful and I long for more to come. I’ve sent the mss. on to Harriet though I hated to give it up. I hope she will put them in April. I really like them tremendously. You’ve explored worlds beyond worlds, and it’s a pleasure to follow you. Bueno, Bueno!

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 March 1917

L/ACH 198, 203

Dear Alice,

I am glad you like the poem. It seems very difficult to get any CRITICISM. Padre José brings back his copy with “Muy bien, son muy bien”. He hadn’t understood ‘em all “pero los padres han compreso y dicen que son muy bien”. I said the padre couldn’t possibly have approved of Valla’s “Nec bonus etc.” at which the good father looked depressed and went on to say the part about Corpus Christi was very enjoyable and that the dances in Cathedral at Seville on Corpus <day> etc. etc.

Eliot said it was worth doing and after standing over him with a club I got some very valuable objections to various details. I can’t remember whether I’ve included the emendations in the mss. I sent you. Don’t delay publication in trying to find out, the changes were all very minute and dont matter for a first publication.

[...]

I hope Harriet will print it in April. If I see the first lot in type I may feel it more “cleared up” and better able to get on to the next swot. At present I’ve only chunks and stray incidents.

[...]

Yrs. questions re/ metre. Yes, I think my “music” is too disconnected, and that I must ‘put?] more resonance into the poema lunga as it proceeds. 203.

 

Note: The “padre” is Padre José Maria de Elizondo, whom Pound had met in Madrid in 1906 and whom he found again by chance in London in January 1917 (L/ACH 181). Pound was very fond of him and gave him his typescript of Three Cantos to read. 

 

To James Joyce, 17 March 1917

L/JJ 102

[...]

I have begun an endless poem, of no known category. Phanopoeia or something or other, all about everything. "Poetry" may print the first three cantos this spring. I wonder what you will make of it. Probably too sprawling and unmusical to find favour in your ears. Will try to get some melody into it further on. Though we have not ombra and ingombra to end our lines with, or poluphloisbious thallassas to enrich the middle feet.

dina para thallassa poluphloisboio, I think it is, the attempted anglicisation does not look well. 

 

From Harriet Monroe to Alice Corbin Henderson, 19 March 1917

L/ACH 194

I read two or three pages of Ezra’s Cantos and then took sick - no doubt that was the cause. Since then I haven’t had brains enough to tackle it, and the other day I let Robert Frost take it east with him. But lord! - think of his expecting us to print 24 pages of that sort of thing in one number. I don’t know what to do about it.

 

From Harriet Monroe to Alice Corbin Henderson, 9 April 1917

L/ACH 194

Well, I have read Ezra’s poem at last. Of course it has his quality - though more diluted than usual, but I can’t pretend to be much pleased at the course his verse is taking. A hint from Browning at his most recondite, and erudition in seventeen languages. Of course it would be suicidal to [do] the three cantos - or even two - in one number; I shall make it a serial in three numbers, if he consents, beginning probably with June. Is he petering out, that he must meander so among dead and foreign poets? has he nothing more of his own to say?

 

From Alice Corbin Henderson to Harriet Monroe, 16 April, 1917

L/ACH 194-95

I liked Ezra’s poem - in spite of it being a tuning up of fiddles, it seemed to have some body of its own[.] Of course if nothing crystallizes further on, I can’t see that it would be sufficient excuse for itself, except in method and quality. It is a preparation, and a linking up of times and classics, etc. preparatory, let us hope, to an individual vision. Of course, as far as popularity is concerned, that’s different. I don’t think that’s your prime concern after all - it never has been, and that’s why Poetry has been worth something. But I think your suggestion of printing one canto a number ought to do.

 

To Harriet Monroe, 24 April 1917

SL 110; 12

As to poem, string it out into three numbers if that’s the best you can do. Price named for magazine rights is satisfactory. Only for gawd’s sake send it along as soon as possible.

Let us hope you may get over your dislike of the poem by the time the last of it is printed, you disliked “Contemporania” and even the first of Frost himself, and you loathed and detested Eliot. “Contemporania” didn’t exactly wreck the magazine. You have even put some of them into the anthology.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 24 April, 1917

L/ACH 209

Dear A.C.H.

Have at last had a letter from Harriet, consenting to print the Divina Commedia, in three sections during the silly season.

It will lose a good deal of its force being split up, but I am past struggling with these things.

two days ago on receipt of cheque for $3.69 dollars, pointing out that two such cheques during six months did not show very high estimate of cash value of a foreign correspondent. [...]

If she prints the poem, even in fragments and sends me the £24 we will be able to art amiably. I shall for the moment be free of pressing necessity.

That is perhaps better than a row and a rage.

 

Setting copy, POETRY, [May 1917]

Regenstein Library Chicago: POETRY/ ‘Note to Printer’ (Carbon) - Beinecke: Pound, YCAL 43: Series V

A 12-13

no Ids HM                                                                 “Ur III: 14.1”

no lds HM                                                                “Ur III: 23.1”

no sp HM                                                                  “Ur III: 26.1”

no Ids HM                                                                 “Ur III: 34.1”

no Ids HM                                                                 “Ur III: 39.3”

pica Id HM                                                               “Ur III: 40.1”

lc rom HM                                                                “Ur-III: 68”

no lds HM                                                                 “Ur III: 74.1”

Gal 1/Gal 2 HM                                                      “Ur HI: 91.4”

space as usual EP                                                   “Ur III: 111.1”

Indent/ Ital EP                                                        “Ur III: 112-113”

space as usual EP                                                   “Ur III: 113.1”

usually kwannon HM                                             “Ur HI: 126”

Or HM                                                                       “Ur III: 136”

<he'd is vile> HM                                                  “Ur III: 138”

Pica Id HM                                                               “Ur III: 138.3”

<n?> HM                                                                 “Ur I: 10.8”

<Ezra Pound> EP

<Further Cantos in a year or so.> EP                “Ur I: 148.1”

My attitude in attempting a long poem, and in presenting it whether whole or in parts, is, as I think any man's should be, ^one^ of extreme diffidence toward the few hund< e >red people who are capable of recognizing what I am about; of amiable respect for those who know that it does not concern them, and who therefore leave it alone; and of contempt for those few who ^,^ incapable of comprehension ^,^ rush in <with their ubiquitous malevolence> to meddle with what is not for them. ^E.P.^

</////>

<The theme is roughly the theme of “Takasago”, which story I hope to incorporate more explicitely in a later part of the poem.> < ^E.P.^ >

^The Three Cantos will be printed, a canto at a time, in our three summer numbers. The Editorˆ EP

 

To Homer Pound, 27 April, 1917

L/HP 394

Dear Dad

[...]

The long poem is coming out in poetry. Thru’ June. July. Aug.

Quinn has fixed up the book publication in New York.

 

Note: Pound and Quinn agreed to publish a revised Three Cantos at the end of Lustra, published by Knopf. 

 

To Homer Pound, 15 May, 1917

L/HP 396-7; A 13

Dear Dad

After all our struggles. Quinn sent the wrong proofs of Lustra to Knopf. So a lot of poems have been omitted from the galley proofs, which I am returning today. or Tomorrow.

I enclose a list of errors in the proofs, and also a list of the OMISSIONS.

I shan’t see the final proofs, so it devolves on you to see that ALL THESE ERRORS get corrected, and ALL the poems mentioned get included. [...]

With the THREE CANTOS added, the book will be stronger than it would with the S. Maynard poems and the Cantos omitted.

Poetry is printing one canto a month. through June, July, Aug.

that will finish in time for Knopf. to use the poem.

 

Note: The list of errors in the galley proofs as well as the list of poems to be reintroduced in Lustra are both included in L/HP 397-9.

 

To John Quinn, 15 May 1917

L/JQ 111-112.

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

The inclusion of “THREE CANTOS”, the last stuff I have done, will make the book a good deal stronger than the inclusion of the early work should have done. And bring it up to date, and also put into it “hitherto uncollected” matter.

And am now blind-drunk with correcting the Lustra proof sheets.

 

From John Quinn, 22 May 1917

A 13

I received this morning your cable as follows: Knopf await my manuscript three Cantos. I at once sent a copy of it to Knopf.

 

Setting copy, LUSTRA, [23 May] 1917

A 13-14

Note to printer:

This poem comes last of all in my book. It has a separate sub-title page: sic:

A DRAFT OF THREE CANTOS

FOR A POEM OF SOME LENGTH

on the reverse of this sub-title page is the following note: sic:

An earlier version of these Cantos appeared in “Poetry” during June, July and August 1917. Most of the poems in the section headed “Lustra” had appeared there at earlier dates. To the editors of this magazine, and of the others where his poems have appeared, the author wishes to make due acknowledgement.

THREE CANTOS begin on the page following. Certain things rather odd, I have specially marked stet or O.K in the margin. lest they be queried, or supposed to be slips of the typewriter. Proofs of this poem to be sent to my father, H.L. Pound, Wyncote, Pa. for correction. I should like a set sent to me also, but you need not wait for a reply from me about them, before printing. My father will be able to do the proof reading from this typescript.

Ezra Pound

23/5/1917

bowe OK. stet EP

OK stet EP                                                                                    “Ur III: 106”

note to printer. Or cap O is correct. EP                                  “Ur III: 136”

cap. (Panting and Faustus), O.K. EP                                       “Ur III: 161”

three commas ,,, EP                                                                     “Ur II: 54”

stet. Myo EP                                                                                   “Ur II: 102”

Muy velida EP                                                                                “Ur II: 111”

O.K. kernelled EP                                                                           “Ur II: 127”

stet canvass EP                                                                               “Ur I: 62”

OK. stet EP                                                                                       “Ur I: 79”

stet EP                                                                                               “Ur I: 115”

 

To Homer Pound, 23 May, 1917

L/HP 399

Dear Dad:

[…]

Have completely rewritten my long poem, cut it down six pages. See that Knopf uses the new mss.

I sent it this a.m. to Quinn. You will get the proofs to correct. I shan’t see ‘em. There are various queer points that I have especially marked “stet” or “O.K.” so that they shant be mistaken for slips, of the typewriter.

I began the revision on Saturday about 11.15 p.m. it is now Tuesday morning.

 

To Margaret Anderson, 24 May 1917

L/LR 54; L/ACH 195 n.2

I revised and condensed my long poem, i.e. the first three cantos of it, between Saturday 11.15 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. it goes at the end of the volume Knopf is bringing out (Lustra) and also runs as a serial in Poetry June, July, Aug.  (At least that’s what they wrote me they were doing with it.) Dont say I have revised it. I want them <i.e. “Poetry”> to go on with the text they’ve got.

 

Poetry, X.3 (June 1917)

P&P II: 220; L/ACH 204 n.5

[Pound’s note to Three Cantos I]

“As POETRY circulates among people definitely interested in the art, I do not feel apologetic about presenting the opening cantos of an exceedingly long poem. Most of the long poems that one can read were written before printing was invented, and circulated in fragments. More recent precedent may be found in the publication of separate cantos of Don Juan.

It has been one of POETRY’s chief service to make possible the current publication of work that otherwise would have been available only upon the issue of a complete volume of an individual’s work. The harm which other magazines have done to poetry is largely in that they have fostered a habit among poets of setting forth only so much of their work as may be intelligible and acceptable in bits, only a page or so at a time.”

 

From John Quinn, 4 June 1917

A 15

I have given Knopf the copy of “Poetry” for June and he will read the first canto. I am strongly in favor of their inclusion. I think it will make the book stronger. Knopf wants to read the three Cantos before he agrees, which I think is quite reasonable, but I have not the slightest doubt that they will gain.

 

From John Quinn, 12 June 1917

A 15

Three Cantos received seasonably. Stunning.

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 14 June 1917

L/ACH 212

[...]

The long poem is to be split into sections. Good or bad it should have been lumped into one issue.

 

From John Quinn, 16 June 1917

A 15

I received yours of May 22d on Monday, June 11th and also received "Three Cantos". I had three copies made, made some suggestions as to punctuation, and have sent your original and two copies to your father with a letter of which I enclose a copy. "Poetry" printed the first canto m the June number and promised the second and third of the first draft in the July and August numbers, so there will be no complications there. As soon as I receive back the "Three Cantos" from your father I will send the first copy, with his approval, to Knopf and he will, I feel sure, begin setting up from that.

 

To John Quinn, 18 June 1917

L/JQ 121, 123

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

I am very glad you like the three cantos. [121]

[…]

Thanks again for letting me know mss. Three cantos rec’d. I suppose that finishes off “Lustra”, so far as I am concerned, for the present. 123

 

Note: Pound had sent “Three Cantos of a Poem of Some Length” so that Quinn could add them to the American edition of Lustra.

 

John Quinn to Alfred Knopf, 22 June 1917

A 15-16

I received from Pound the other day the revised form of the “Three Cantos”. I had his copy copied out by the typewriter and sent two copies to his father, one for the father to keep, which he has kept, and one which he has returned. The father makes the following suggestions:

Page 1: “Beaucaire” instead of “Biaucaire”, and cap in the phrase “Knave of Hearts”.

Page 4: The father suggests “Maenids” instead of “Maelids”. But these are matters for E.P. to settle himself. I understand that you are to send final proofs of it to him. Space between the words “white” and “swimmers”, as indicated at the bottom of page 4.

Space as indicated before the word “ringing”, six lines from the bottom of page 7.

I enclose you with this the copy returned to me by Pound’s father.

 

To Margaret Anderson, June 1917

SL 113

Dear editor: The one use of a man’s knowing the classics is to prevent him from imitating the false classics.

You read Catullus to prevent yourself from being poisoned by the lies of pundits; you read Propertius to purge yourself of the greasy sediments of lecture courses on “American literature,” on “English literature form Dryden to Addison,” you (in extreme cases) read Arnaut Daniel so as not to be over-awed by a local editor who faces you with a condemnation in the phrase “paucity of rhyme.”

The classics, “ancient and modern,” are precisely the acids to gnaw through the thongs and bulls-hides with which we are tied by our schoolmasters.

They are the antiseptics. They are almost the only antiseptics against the contagious imbecility of mankind.

I can conceive an intelligence strong enough to exist without them, but I can not recall having met an incarnation of such intelligence. Some does better and some does worse.

The strength of Picasso is largely in his having chewed through and chewed up a great mass of classicism; which, for example, the lesser cubists, and the flabby cubists have not.

 

To John Quinn 4 July 1917

L/JQ 124

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

Thanks very much for your trouble with “Three Cantos”. It is more than kind of you to have had it copied and gone over it. ALL the punctuation suggestions are improvements.

“Maelids” is correct. They (the nymphs of the apple trees) are my one bit of personal property in greek mythology. The professed and professional Hellenists have, I believe, let them alone. I scored with them on even the assiduous Aldington, who had translated the greek as “apple-trees”.

 

To James Joyce, 17 July 1917

L/JJ 122

[…]

I hope to God you wont try to read my beastly [long] poem in “Poetry”, I have revised the whole thing and it is at least better than it was, and will appear in my American edition, which you will receive, if it, you, and I survive till late autumn.”

 

From John Quinn, 8 August 1917

A 16

The Three Cantos were no trouble. Knopf sent me a copy of the page-proof yesterday, and I will read it before I go west.

 

To Harriet Monroe, 21 August 1917

SL 115

Dear H.M.:

[…]

I am sorry Sandburg don’t like Three Cantos, F[letcher] is too low in the scale of God’s creatures to bother about. I can’t see how anyone can see the thing in such small sections. However, the printing it in three parts has given me a chance to emend, and the version for the book is, I think, much improved. Eliot is the only person who proffered criticism instead of general objection.

I discount Sandburg’s objection, by the fact that he would probably dislike anything with foreign quotations in it. Flint used to be the same (may be yet). Still one can’t stop merely because some people haven’t read Latin. It is the complex of the uneducated, in the same way class hatred works on the basis of money. Don’t for God's sake say this to Sandburg. A decent system would give him time to loaf in a library. Which while perhaps less important than loafing in pubs, is still a part of the complete man’s loafing.

Anyhow my next batch of stuff will be short poems, which, let us hope, someone will enjoy. Also one should not do the same thing all the time. The long poem is at least a change.

 

From John Quinn, 28 August 1917

A 16

He [Knopf] claimed that the line of safety for him was to follow galleys corrected by you even if there were mistakes.

 

To John Quinn, 4 September 1917

L/JQ 125, 126

Dear John Quinn,

[…]

Re/ Lustra. It is amazingly painstaking of you to go through it with such care, and I am very grateful, BUTT Dios Christos, JHEEZUS-potamus!!! If and author went into those details, unless he was a “seller” like Bennet or Kipling, I doubt he would ever print twice with the same publisher.

[…]

Now to detail. I agree, naturally, with practically all your suggestions. I don’t remember whether the big caps were in my proof (galleys) or not. They certainly overbalance the very short poems. I don’t know they harm the poems of over a page. Anyhow, I am, I suppose, hardened and “past” seeing anything of this sort. IF I can get a type I can read and a moderately correct version of my work, I rest content… I don’t much remember caps. or no caps. In my proof, and I’ve only the proofs of Three Cantos, which haven’t any caps in. I shall sleep quiet in either case.  [125]

[…]

I rather meant Three Cantos to go at the end of the book, and to have the end of that poem marked “End of Third Canto”. There could be a separate “END” for the book.

I didn’t want it thought that the cantos are presented as a whole poem. [126]

 

To Alice Corbin Henderson, 8 September 1917

L/ACH 216

Taciturn Female,

[...]

H[arriet].M[onroe]. has sent me £5. since the £20 for the long pome. The Aug. number however, has not arrived YET. She might try sending only two copies, and sending the rest in a separate packet.

 

From John Quinn, 13 September 1917

A 16

Lustra proofs completed.

 

From John Quinn, 21 September 1917 (carbon)

A 16

[...] the Three Cantos are the end of the book. If he had the end of that poem marked as you suggest “End of Third Canto”, you would have to have the end of the first marked "End of First Canto" and the end of the second marked “End of Second Canto”. But this is unnecessary, for the Three Cantos begin Roman numerals, I: II: III. Therefore the last page of the book should have merely the word “End”, or else close up to the end of the third Canto the words “End of Three Cantos”, and then at the bottom merely the word “End”, which is what I will suggest to Knopf. It is an easy change and not expensive. I think you are right in not wanting it thought that the three Cantos are presented as a whole poem.

 

To Homer Pound, 29 October 1917

L/HP 407; A 16

[...]

Granville in yesterday looking for copy. He will probably use some selections of the long poem in his paper “The Future.”

 

To Homer Pound, 18 November 1917

L/HP 409; A 17

Dear Dad

[...]

Quinn has certainly contrived to get Lustra very well printed. There are numerous misprints all the same. I thought you were to have page proofs. However none of the slips are very terrible.

 

From John Quinn, 2 December 1917 (carbon)

A 17

Glad to do all I did re Lustra. It was worth it. It would have been murder to let it go out as he had it first.

 


 

 

CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION

1918-1923

 

 

To Homer Pound, 24 January 1918

L/HP 411

Dear Dad

[…]

“The Future” is printing some chunks out of the long poem.

 

Note: These are “Passages from the Opening Address in a Long Poem” (February 1918); “Images from the Second Canto of a Long Poem” (March 1918); and “An Interpolation taken from the Third Canto of a Long Poem” (April 1918). (Bush Genesis 301-309).

 

To John Quinn, 2 December 1918

A 17

The book* is to contain the stuff from the May L.R., the Three Cantos (not yet pub. here in book form) and the new Propertius series. Best shaped book of verse I have had since Personae. As the Cantos appear in the American "Lustra" I think I had better wait until spring of 1920 for another American vol. poems.

 

Note:

* The book in question is Quia Pauper Amavi, published by the Egoist Press in 1919. The “stuff from the May L.R.” is the Langue d’Oc series (Homage à la Langue d’Or [sic] LR V.1 (May 1918): 19-31; P&P III: 98-105). The Three Cantos had already appeared in Poetry June-July-August 1917 and in the American edition of Lustra (October 1917) in an abridged form, which would be reproduced in the new volume; “Propertius” would appear in Poetry March 1919 (under the title “Poems from the Propertius series” Sections: I-IV. After Prof. Hale’s attack, it would be serialized in the New Age (where the name “Homage to Sextus Propertius” appears for the first time: June – August, 1919: Sections: I-VI).

It is clear that by the end of 1918, “Three Cantos” signified for Pound the abridged version in the American Lustra, not the original one in Poetry.

 

To John Lane & Co., [1918]

A 17

Enclosed proof as per your letter of 10th inst. As to right hand head lines. I was particularly pleased to find none had been used and hope the printers wont insist on inserting any. It is in a very excellent tradition of printing. I can produce the Divus’ “Homer” Wecheli 1538 without right hand headlines. if he wants proof.

 

Setting copy, QUIA PAUPER AMAVI: [1919]

A 17-18

Proofs Property of Ezra Pound EP

E.P. Please look these over & cable anything specially important. Knopf; AK

small italics in margin EP                                                “Ur III: 1, 7, 26-27, 51-52”

First Selection. Start here.> <Begin> EP                      “Ur Ill: 35”

<no spaces > EP                                                                 “Ur III: 58.2”

no spaces > EP                                                                    “Ur III: 59.1”

dele xxx > < dele > EP                                                      “Ur III: 89-92”

Begin follow> EP                                                                “Ur III: 93”

End. 1st Selection.> <end> EP                                        “Ur III: 111”

Second Selection.> <Begin> EP                                      “Ur II: 2”

End. 2nd Selection> <end> EP                                       “Ur II: 87”

Begin 3d Selection.> EP                                                    “Ur I: 54”

end either here or at foot of next page.> EP                 “Ur I: 132”

end> EP                                                                                “Ur I: 149

 

To Dorothy Pound, [13 July 1923] Lilly: Pound, III

A 20

Am rewriting the first three cantos; trying to weed out and clarify; etc, a BHLoody JHobb.

 

To Dorothy Pound, [17 July 1923]

A 20

also have been trying to rewrite Cants I. II. III. so haven’t been back to museum myself.

 

From Dorothy Pound, [21? July 1923]

A 21

Dearest Mao

Have found Roscoe’s Life of L. De Medici in the library - with the poems at the end: they are most charming. Am copying a word or two of Roscoe’s for you re earlier subjects than Lorenzo.

Are you wise to be already revising the first Cantos? Don’t kill them.

 

To Dorothy Pound, [23 July 1923]

A 21

Re Cantos, I shdnt, have started revising if it hadn’t been for the edtn? de LOOKS; probably no harm, I have now a sense of form that I hadn’t in 1914, (very annoying, in some ways). Also I shd have rested a few months before tackling it. May save time in the end. Anyhow, anything I leave out can be restored later from earlier edtns, if needed. With sense of form, very difficult to get it all in, hodge podge, etc,

Note: de LOOKS - the de luxe folio edition of A Draft of XVI Cantos that Pound was preparing with Bill Bird and Henry Strater in 1923. His revision was done by November 1923. The volume was published in Paris in January 1925.

 

To Dorothy Pound, [25 July 1923]

A 21

Have started some sort of revision; cuts down the opening to two cantos instead of three, beginning with Odysseus descent into Nekuia, and doing the Browning item after that, with Bacchus ship as second canto). & then the miscelany. & then 4. 5 etc. Also various repetitions, even in later cantos, can go. Mostly its too cluttered.

 

From Dorothy Pound, 28th [July 1923]

A 21

HE not entirely rewrite those early cantos: or HE’ll lose the life in them: She’s coming back soon to put a stop to it!

 

To Dorothy Pound, [1] Aug. [1923] Lilly: Pound, III

A 21

Ugh, have got draft of first three cantos done.

 

REFERENCES

Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1971.

Norman, Charles. Ezra Pound. London: McDonald & Co., 1969.

Pound, Ezra. A Memoir to Gaudier-Brzeska. 1916. New York: New Directions, 1970.

Pound, Ezra. The Letters of Ezra Pound to Alice Corbin Henderson. Ed. Ira Nadel. Austin: U of Texas Press, 1993.

Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-14. Eds. Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz. New York: New Directions, 1984.

Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound to His Parents – Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A. David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.

Pound, Ezra. Pound/Joyce: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, with Pound's Critical Essays and Articles About Joyce. 1967. Ed. Forrest Read. New York: New Directions, 1970.

Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound to John Quinn 1915-1924. Ed. Timothy Materer. Durham NC: Duke UP, 1991.

Pound, Ezra. Pound/The Little Review. The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The Little Review Correspondence. Ed. Thomas L. Scott and Melvin J. Friedman, with the assistance of Jackson R. Bryer. New York: New Directions, 1988.

Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and J. Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.

Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard SieburthNew York: Library of America, 2003.

Pound, Ezra. Selected Letters 1907-1945. Ed. D. D. Paige. 1950. New York: New Directions, 1971.

Surette, Leon. A Light from Eleusis. A Study of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979; XLibris, 2000.

Taylor, Richard, ed. “Annals.” Variorum Edition of Three Cantos. A Prototype. Bayreuth: Boomerang, 1991.