COMPANION TO CANTO XXI
The Renaissance is a convenient stalking horse for all young men with ideas. You can prove anything you like by the Renaissance; yet, for all that, there seems to be something in the study of the quattrocento which communicates vigour to the student of it, especially to such scholars as have considered the whole age, the composite life of the age, in contradistinction to those who have sentimentalized over its aesthetics. […] It may be a hallucination, but one seems able to find modern civilization in its simple elements in the Renaissance. The motive ideas were not then confused and mingled into so many fine shades and combinations one with the other.
Never was the life of arts so obviously and conspicuously intermingled with the life of power. Rightly or wrongly, it is looked back to as a sort of golden age for the arts and for the literati, and I suppose no student, however imperfect his equipment, can ever quite rest until he has made his own analysis, or written out his own book or essay.
Ezra Pound “Affirmations. Analysis of the Decade” New Age, 11 February 1915. Reprinted in G-B 111.
Private people can give stipends to individual artists. […] If you endow enough men, individuals of vivid and different personality, and make the endowment perpetual, to be handed down from artist to artist, you will have put the arts in a position to defy the subversive pressure of commercial advantage and of the mediocre spirit which is the bane and the hidden terror of democracy.
Democracies have fallen, they have always fallen, because humanity crave the outstanding personality. And hitherto no democracy has provided sufficient place for such an individuality. If you so endow sculptors and writers you will begin for America an age of awakening which will over-shadow the quattrocento; because our opportunity is greater than Leonardo’s: we have more aliment, we have not one classic tradition to revivify, we have China and Egypt, and the unknown lands lying upon the roof of the world – Khotan, Kara-shar and Kan-su.
Ezra Pound “Renaissance” (1914) in LE 224.
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 XXI, 12 December 2017.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Carroll. F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1980.
Ezra Pound. Jefferson and/or Mussolini. London: Nott, 1936.
Ezra Pound. Literary Essays. New York: New Directions, 1968.
Ezra Pound To His Parents: Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project.
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by A.T. Murray. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard UP; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.
|TC||Pound, Ezra. Three Cantos [Ur-Cantos]. Poetry June-July-August 1917. Personae. The Shorter Poems. Eds. Lea Baechler and Walton Litz. New York: New Directions, 1990. 229-45.|
Beinecke Library, New Haven. Ezra Pound Papers. Box no./Folder no.
- Borso – Borso d’Este (1413-1471), son of Niccolò d’Este III and Marquis of Ferrara. Pound refers to Niccolò’s advice in canto XX, and now changes the scene to Florence. This connection reflects Pound’s opinion that the great political rulers of the quattrocento created a balance of power in Italy:
“For if Rome was a conquering empire, renaissance Italy evolved the doctrine of the balance of power, first for use inside the peninsula. Italy produced notable peacemakers who based their glory on peace tho’ it came by the sword, Nic. Este, Cosimo, Lorenzo Medici even Sforza condottiero, all men standing for order and, when possible, for moderation” (Ezra Pound J/M 79).
- Keep on with the business – the speaker is Giovanni di Bicci de Medici (1360-1429), the founding father of the Medici banking empire. Pound imagines him talking to his son, Cosimo, the way he had imagined Niccolò d’Este’s message to Borso in the previous canto. Pound is here relying on the historiographical device of inventing speeches and dramatizing situations to which the historian could not have been present, on the model of his main source, Machiavelli’s Istorie fiorentine, which Pound read in Italian and to which he refers (See Machiavelli IV: 16 for his version of Giovanni’s deathbed advice to his sons; see also Giovanni Cavalcanti's (1838) quoted in Ross 6).
Pound’s own version of parental advice seems to be nearer to J. A. Symonds’ characterisation of Giovanni:
“To his sons Cosimo and Lorenzo he bequeathed on his deathbed the rule that they should invariably adhere to the cause of the multitude, found their influence on that, and avoid the arts of factious and ambitious leaders. In his own life, he had pursued this course of conduct, acquiring a reputation for civic moderation and impartiality that endeared him to the people and stood his children in good stead. Early in his youth Giovanni found himself almost destitute by reason of the imposts charged upon him by the oligarchs. He possessed, however, the genius for money-making to a rare degree, and passed his manhood as a banker, amassing the largest fortune of any private citizen in Italy. In his old age, he devoted himself to the organisation of his colossal trading business, and abstained, as far as possible, from political intrigues. Men observed that they rarely met him in the Public Palace or on the Great Square” (Symonds II: 216).
- cittadini – I. “citizens.”
- Intestate – die without a will. Pound repeats the word like a refrain, thus taking over the motif of “he would not make a will” recurring in Lorenzo’s Ricordi.
“Giovanni d’Averardo, surnamed Bicci, de’ Medici, our great-grandfather, died on the 20th February 1428, at the fourth hour of the night. He would not make a will, and left property to the amount of 179,221 scudi di suggello, as appears in a record in the handwriting of Cosimo our grandfather in his red leather book on page 7. The said Giovanni lived sixty-eight years, and left two sons, Cosimo our grandfather, then about forty, and Lorenzo, aged thirty.” (Lorenzo de Medici Ricordi in Ross 151). Ricordi.
- di sugello – I “with seal.” Pound repeats the word, as it is in the source. Ricordi.
- with his credit – Pound is here quoting Machiavelli, who commented on Cosimo:
“Cosimo with his own credit emptied Naples and Venice of money, so that they were constrained to accept the peace that he was willing to concede to them” (Machiavelli VII: 5, Banfield 282).
- Cosimo – Cosimo de Medici, also called Cosimo the Elder (1389-1464), Florentine banker and statesman.
Here is a short characterization of Cosimo by J. A. Symonds:
Commanding the enormous capital of the Medicean bank he  contrived, at any sacrifice of temporary convenience, to lend money to the State for war expenses, engrossing in his own hands a large portion of the public debt of Florence. At the same time his agencies in various European capitals enabled him to keep his own wealth floating far beyond the reach of foes within the city. A few years of this system ended in so complete a confusion between Cosimo's trade and the finances of Florence that the bankruptcy of the Medici, however caused, would have compromised the credit of the State and the fortunes of the fund-holders. Cosimo, in a word, made himself necessary to Florence by the wise use of his riches. Furthermore, he kept his eye upon the list of burghers, lending money to needy citizens, putting good things in the way of struggling traders, building up the fortunes of men who were disposed to favour his party in the State, ruining his opponents by the legitimate process of commercial competition, and, when occasion offered, introducing new voters into the Florentine Council by paying off the debts of those who were disqualified by poverty from using the franchise. While his capital was continually increasing, he lived frugally, and employed his wealth solely for the consolidation of his political influence. By these arts, Cosimo became formidable to the oligarchs and beloved by the people. His supporters were numerous, and held together by the bonds of immediate necessity or personal cupidity. The plebeians and the merchants were all on his side” (Symonds 216-17).
Ficino – Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), Florentine philosopher and translator of Plato and Neoplatonist philosophers into Latin. Pound considered Cosimo’s “catching” or “seizing” Ficino in his youth and sponsoring his studies of Greek to have been the banker’s main contribution to the culture of the Renaissance. Cosimo was Ficino’s lifelong patron and ensured that he could work on his translations of Plato and Neoplatonist philosophers without worries about money. After Cosimo died, his son Piero and grandson Lorenzo continued to be Ficino’s patrons. Pound mentioned Ficino in Three Cantos I and III. See OCCEP TC I: n.51; TC III: n.10-13.
- With two ells – Cosimo was famous for a few pithy remarks: one of them, as reported by Machiavelli, was that “two lengths of cloth made a man of means” (Machiavelli VII: 6, Banfield 283) (“e come due canne di panno rosato facevono uno uomo da bene”) (IstorieVII: 6, 125). An ell is 18 inches (457 mm). The two ells were the length of cloth for the coat of a Florentine Prior.
Pound’s formulation is nearest to a passage we find in Pasquale Villari’s Life of Machiavelli. Villari was an author with whom Pound was familiar and whom he referenced in The Cantosby comparing his opinions to those of Burckhardt (OCCEP TC III: n.29):
“To those who accused him [Cosimo] of excess, and of ruining too many citizens, he was accustomed to answer: that States could not be governed by paternosters, and that a few ells of crimson cloth, new and worthy citizens could easily be manufactured” (Villari I:52).
- col credito suo… pace – I. “With his credit… Naples and Venice of money… constrained… Naples and Venice… that peace.” Reference to the passage in Machiavelli quoted above: “Cosimo con il credito suo vacuò Napoli e Vinegia di danari in modo che furono constretti a prendere quella pace che fu voluta concedere loro.” (Machiavelli, Istorie VII: 5, 124). (“Cosimo with his own credit emptied Naples and Venice of money, so that they were constrained to accept the peace that he was willing to concede to them” (Machiavelli VII: 5, Banfield 282). See also n. 6.
- Piero – Piero di Cosimo de Medici (1416-1469), Cosimo de Medici’s eldest son and father of Lorenzo the Magnificent. He was nicknamed “Il Gottoso” (the “gouty”), as he was suffering from the gout, an illness which kept him mostly in bed, away from business and politics. After Cosimo’s death, the enemies of the Medici conspired to overthrow the family by first discrediting and then killing Piero, who was perceived as sick and weak.
- Diotisalvi – Diotisalvi Neroni (1401-1482) held the trust of Cosimo, who advised his son Piero to let him administer the business. Piero asked Diotisalvi to do a review of accounts and investments: Diotisalvi showed him irregularities in the accounts and advised Piero to call in his debts; this looked like sound financial advice, but was actually intended to ruin the family’s political standing, built as it was on Cosimo’s generous credits to both state and citizens of Florence and abroad (see also n.7). Diotisalvi intended to discredit the house of Medici to acquire political power for himself and his co-conspirators Luca Pitti, Agnolo Acciaiuoli, and Niccolò Soderini (Machiavelli VII: 10; see also Ricordi). His conspiracy was discovered and he was exiled from Florence in 1466.
- young Lauro – Lorenzo de Medici (1449-1492), called “The Magnificent,” Piero’s eldest son. At the time of the episode Pound is referring to, Lorenzo was 21.
“At first they strove to undermine the credit of the Medici with the Florentines by inducing Piero to call in the moneys placed at interest by his father in the hands of private citizens. This act was unpopular; but it did not suffice to move a revolution. To proceed by constitutional measures against the Medici was judged impolitic. Therefore, the conspirators decided to take, if possible, Piero's life. The plot failed, chiefly owing to the coolness and the cunning of the young Lorenzo, Piero's eldest son” (Symonds 226).
- father is coming – an episode of Lorenzo’s early life that Pound could have read in William Roscoe’s Life of Lorenzo de Medici. See also Young 111-12, as narrated in C XXI: n.16).
[Luca Pitti and his allies] “resolved upon the assassination of Piero de Medici, believing, that if they could succeed in such a project, his sons were too young to occasion any formidable opposition to their views. Debilitated by gout, Piero was generally carried in a chair by his domestics from his house at Careggi to his residence at Florence. Having received intimation of an intended commotion, and being alarmed at the sudden approach of Ercole d’Este, brother of Borso, marquis of Ferrara, whom the conspirators had engaged to enter the territories of the republic, at the head of 1300 cavalry, he conceived his presence to be necessary in Florence, and accordingly set out from Careggi, accompanied only by a few attendants. Lorenzo, who had left Careggi a short time before his father, was surprised to find the road to the city beset by armed men, and immediately suspecting their purpose, despatched one of his followers to him with directions to proceed by a more retired and circuitous path, whilst taking himself the direct road, he informed those who inquired with apparent anxiety for his father, that he was following at a short distance. By these means Lorenzo rescued his father from the impending danger, and gave a striking proof of that promptitude of mind which so eminently distinguished him on many subsequent occasions” (Roscoe 85-86).
- Intestate ’69 leaving me – When Piero de Medici died without a will in 1469, he left his son Lorenzo, 237,988 florins (Ricordi in Ross 154). Ricordi.
- carta di capretto – I. “book bound in kid.” Ricordi.
- Nic Uzano – Niccolò da Uzano (1359-1431) [also Uzzano], Gonfaloniere of Justice at the time of Giovanni di Bicci’s rise to power. This is how Machiavelli described the situation in Florence at the time:
“Thus every day these men [the Albizzi] with their sinister modes were renewing the hatred of the generality of people; and by not watching out for harmful things because they did not fear them or by nourishing them through their envy of one another, they made the Medici family regain authority. The first of that family to begin to rise again was Giovanni di Bicci. Having become very rich and being of a kindly and humane nature, he was brought to the highest magistracy by the concession of those who were governing. This made for such joy throughout the generality of people in the city, since to the multitude it appeared that it had gained a defender, as was deservedly suspect to the wiser because all the ancient humors were seen beginning to reawaken. And Niccolò da Uzzano did not fail to alert the other citizens by pointing out how dangerous it was to foster one who had such reputation in the generality of people, and how easy it was to oppose disorders in the beginnings, but how difficult it was to remedy them when they were left alone to increase; and he recognized in Giovanni many parts superior to those of Messer Salvestro. Niccolò was not heeded by his peers because they were envious of his reputation and desired to have no partners in defeating him” (Machiavelli IV: 3, Banfield 147-48).
- Giuliano – Giuliano de Medici (1453-78), son of Piero de Medici and Lorenzo de Medici’s younger brother. He was assassinated by Francesco da Pazzi and Bernardo Baroncelli in April 1478 in the Florence Cathedral St. Maria del Fiore. The assassins brought the two unsuspecting Medici brothers to church with the design to murder them at the same time. Giuliano was hit first and with greater determination. Lorenzo was able to defend himself and escape the murderers by taking refuge in the sacristy. Francesco da Pazzi was caught and executed on the same day, but Bernardo managed to flee. It was the Turkish sultan who sent Lorenzo “his brother’s assassin,” as Machiavelli noted in his panegyric of Lorenzo at the end of Florentine Histories. Pound noted that in the canto (XXI: 78).
- E difficile… stato – I. “it is difficult in Florence to live as a rich man without owning the state.” Statement written by Lorenzo in capitals in his Ricordi. He makes it clear that as he was still very young at his father’s death, he did not want to take over government power in Florence. He was only persuaded to take this step by the fear of greater risk to himself and the family if he did not do it. Ricordi.
It is important to mention that Pound is here creating a whole new persona for Lorenzo, the way he had done with Giovanni de Bicci’s advice to his sons. This persona has an American nuance, as in Lorenzo’s phrase “they did in Giuliano.” Pound correspondingly italianizes Jefferson, by including a scrap of Malatesta’s letter to Giovanni de Medici into his letter.
- E non avendo stato … stato – I. “And Piccinino, not having a state, whoever had a state needed to fear him” (Machiavelli VII: 7, Banfield 285).
This is Macchiavelli’s assessment of the balance of power in Italy around the time of Cosimo de Medici’s death in 1464:
“Here therefore, were Ferdinand of Aragon and Francesco Sforza, one Duke of Lombardy, and Prince of Genoa, the other king of the whole kingdom of Naples. Having made a marriage alliance together, they were thinking of how they could establish their states so that they could enjoy them securely while they lived and leave them freely to their heirs when they died. And for this they judged it was necessary for the king to secure himself against those barons who had offended him in Jean d’Anjou’s war and for the duke to work to eliminate the arms of the Bracci, natural enemies of his bloodline. They had risen to very great reputations under Jacopo Piccinino, because he now remained the first capitan in Italy. Since Jacopo had no state, whoever did have a state had to fear him, and especially the Duke, to whom, moved by his own example, it did not appear that he could either hold his state or leave it secure for his children so long as Jacopo was living. (Machiavelli 7: 7 285)
- Piccinino - Jacopo Piccinino (1423-1465) was a stateless condottiere who lived out of military services to the various Italian states. His goal was to carve out a province for himself out of the steady stream of wars during his lifetime: he could be hired by any king or prince who would promise him a state of his own. He was Sigismondo Malatesta’s ally in the war against Ferdinand, King of Naples (1461-64) who had promised him lands of the Malatestas and did not hold on to his word. Ferdinand, tired of Piccinino’s demands, finally invited him to “lunch” and had him executed in 1465. (See also canto X: 49-57; Malatesta timeline.)
Pound is juxtaposing Lorenzo’s statement with Machiavelli’s description of Jacopo Piccinino’s fate, to show what happened when a rich man did not own a state. Piccinino’s death in 1465 was a dire warning for Lorenzo in 1478, when after the assassination of his brother, Giuliano, Florence was attacked both by Naples and the pope. Lorenzo decided to visit Ferdinand and negotiate a peace, fully aware that the king could execute him in the same way. See also note 34.
- that man – Thaddeus Coleman Pound, Ezra Pound’s grandfather. From the stories of his father, Pound knew that Thaddeus had built a railway, but had been bankrupted by the competition. (See L/HP 560) Pound will take up this line again at the beginning of canto XXII.
Pound did not believe his grandfather had built the railway out of profit motive, but from the desire to create something good and useful. This aligned him with the constructors of the Italian Renaissance and with Jefferson. He wrote:
“I have never believed that my grandfather put a bit of railway across Wisconsin simply or chiefly to make money or even with the illusion that he would make money, or make money in that way than in some other” (J/M 33).
- Mr Jefferson – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), American revolutionary stateman, author of the American Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States (1801-1809). The letter below (to Giovanni Fabbroni 8 June 1778) is taken from the Works of Thomas Jefferson that Pound had received as a gift from T. S. Eliot. See Calendar. Letter.
Pound would dedicate cantos XXXI and XXXII to a detailed composite portrait of Jefferson, a portrait whose poetic method has its roots in canto VIII. Jefferson’s request of a gardener who plays the French horn recalls Sigismondo Malatesta’s request to Giovanni de Medici to persuade a Florentine painter to come and work at his court in Rimini.
Canto XXXI starts with another reference to Sigismondo Malatesta, this time to his family motto: “tempus loquendi/tempus tacendi.” See XXXI and XXXII.
- id est – L. “that is.”
- affatigandose… non – I. “exerting himself for his pleasure or not.” Phrase taken from Sigismondo Malatesta’s letter to Giovanni de Medici (Lorenzo’s uncle) in 1449. In that letter, which Pound introduced at the beginning of his canto VIII, Sigismondo is asking for Giovanni’s mediation to hire a certain painter to work in Rimini long term, saying “And for this I mean to make due provision,/ So that he can work as he likes/ or waste his time as he likes/ (affatigandose per suo piacere o no/ non gli manchera provixione mai)/ never lacking provision” (VIII: 49-53).
- Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s house in Virginia. As the plantation around the house is extensive, Jefferson needed quite a number of gardeners. Jefferson’s agrarian foundation resonates with Lorenzo’s decision to buy land and stay away from banking.
Pound may not have had the original letter to hand when he wrote the canto: the letter was written from Williamsburg and addressed to an Italian, Giovanni Fabbroni, not somebody in Burgundy (see Ricciardi Ghiande 107).
- I went up – This is a passage recorded in Lorenzo’s memoirs:
“In July 1469 I went to Milan at the request of the  Illustrious Duke Galeazzo to stand godfather as proxy for Piero our father to his firstborn child. I was received with much honour, more so than the others who came for the same purpose, although there were persons more worthy than I. We paid our duty to the Duchess by presenting her with a necklace of gold with a large diamond, which cost near 000 ducats. The consequence was that the said Lord desired that I should stand godfather to all his children” (Ricordi 152-53).
- Duke Galeaz – Galeaz Sforza Visconti (1444-1476), son and heir of Francesco Sforza, and Duke of Milan after his father’s death in 1466. The Duke was a precious military aid to the Medici during the crisis and wars that followed the conspiracy of Luca Pitti and Diotisalvi Neroni to kill Piero (1464-69). See notes to Ricordi. See also n. 11-14.
- Another war – Pound’s rephrasing of a passage from Machiavelli: “così per la guerra non acquistavano gloria né per la pace quiete.” (Machiavelli V:2, 81); “they did not acquire glory from war or quiet from peace” (Machiavelli V: 2, Banfield 186).
- Sultan – The summary of Lorenzo’s accomplishments as they appear in the last chapter of Machiavelli’s Florentine Histories (VIII: 36): The historian mentioned that “the Sultan sent him his spokesmen and presented his gifts: the Grand Turk put into his hands Bernardo Bandini, the killer of his brother” (362). Bandini was the only conspirator who had managed to escape Florence after killing Giuliano de Medici in 1478.
Though the line in the New Directions edition of The Cantos is correct in relation to the drafts of the canto, it has to be amended by the version of the passage in the Lerici edition of 1961, which was probably corrected by Mary de Rachewiltz in dialogue with Pound in 1958-59. The line should read: “And the Sultan sent him his brother’s assassin” (I cantos 212).
- A lion – A piece of information we find in Francesco Guicciardini’s Storie fiorentine: the historian mentioned that Lorenzo had received from the sultan a giraffe, a lion and castrated animals (probably horses). (“Gran turco, al Soldano, dal quale negli ultimi anni della sua vita fu presentato di una giraffa, di uno lione e di castroni” (Guicciardini IX). During the last years of Lorenzo’s life, the Turkish Sultan was Bayazid II, the son of Mehmet II. See source.
- begat one pope – Lorenzo was diligent in insuring that his second son, Giovanni (1475-1521), embarks on an ecclesiastical career early. By the time he was 14, Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici was already cardinal. He would rise in the ranks after his father’s death and become Pope Leo X in 1513 (Machiavelli VIII: 36, 360-61).
- University – Lorenzo de Medici did not found the University of Pisa, but was active in re-opening it in 1473 and financing its development. His commitment to the university resonates with that of Jefferson, who founded the University of Virginia in 1819.
- nearly went broke – Unlike his grandfather and great-grandfather, Lorenzo was not an able banker. He lived lavishly and dispersed the fortune he had inherited.
This is how Machiavelli describes Lorenzo’s financial situation:
“he was very unprosperous in trade; for through the disorder of his agents, who administered his things not as private men but as princes, in many regards much of his movable property was eliminated; so it was required that his fatherland help him with a great sum of money. Hence, so as not to try the same fortune further, he set aside his mercantile interests and turned to landed property as a more stable and fixed kind of wealth; and around Prato, Pisa, and Val di Pesa he developed properties that for their utility, the quality of their buildings, and their magnificence were those not of a private citizen but of a king” (VIII: 36, 361).
- made peace – after the failure of the Pazzi conspiracy to murder Lorenzo in April 1478, more than seventy people died in the street fights and arbitrary executions, including the archbishop Salviati. Pope Sixtus IV excommunicated the whole city of Florence and attacked it through his ally, King Ferdinand of Naples. Seeing that the public disorder had happened as a result of his own family’s enemies, Lorenzo decided to assume responsibility and save Florence from a war it was already losing; in December 1478, he went to Naples himself to negotiate a peace with the pope’s ally. Ferdinand of Naples was known for summarily executing undesirables that ventured into his domains. Just 13 years before, he had murdered Jacopo Piccinino, a stateless condottiere who was a danger to his kingdom. Lorenzo evidently knew the risk, but faced it.
Machiavelli contented himself in assuming that Ferdinand came to admire Lorenzo’s courage and knowledge of political affairs, mentioning that the king kept him for 3 months in Naples to see if Florence assumes another leadership in his absence. By contrast, Pasquale Villari is a historian that reconstructed what Lorenzo may have said to Ferdinand to save his rule in Florence and return to the city with the glory of having turned an enemy into an ally:
“Lorenzo, without losing a moment, went straight to Naples, and made the king understand how much better it served his interests that Florence should have but one ruler instead of a republican government, always liable to change and certainly never friendly to Naples” (Life of Machiavelli I: 37).
This assessment is germane to Pound’s implicit comparison between Lorenzo and Jefferson, whom he presents as de facto rulers over a republic.
- Gold fades in the gloom – a variation of an older motif (“in the gloom the gold gathers the light around it”) that Pound used in cantos XI and XVII. It recalls the gold stars on dark blue background on the ceiling of Galla Placidia’s mausoleum in Ravenna. In each context, the motif is used with different meanings – in this canto, it suggests that high moments of cultural value fade with the passing of time, that times or persons of brilliance are forgotten in the ignorance and folly that surrounds them. See also OCCEP XVII: n.24.
- Placidia’s – Galla Placidia (388-450) Empress consort and regent of the Western Roman Empire. Pound may have visited her mausoleum in Ravenna on his holiday trip in 1922. From Ravenna, he travelled north to Venice, then to Verona and Sirmione. The canto seems to follow that trajectory in the lines that follow.
- exarchate – Province of the Byzantine Empire. The term came to be used after the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire in 476, 26 years after Galla’s death. The Roman emperor Justinian, ruling in Constantinople, attempted to regain control of Italy and succeeded for a time.
- by the arena les gradins – a reference to the steps of the Arena di Verona, which is a motif Pound established in 1922, when he was in the city with T. S. Eliot. See also cantos IV and XII.
- palazzo – probably the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
- nel tramonto – I. “in the sunset.”
- tesserae – the individual tiles of a mosaic.
- new shambles – in one of Pound’s early drafts, we find more elaboration on the idea that after the deaths of Francesco Sforza (1466), Sigismondo Malatesta (1468), Cosimo de Medici (1464) and Lorenzo (1492), the political balance they had kept was ruined by the wars of their successors:
“And after him [Lorenzo] all bloody fools/ 25 years, Gone Sigismundo, and Francesco, and Cosimo, / the Piccinini, that built up nothing/ The Brachesci, war, one war after another, / shits, like the exchange riggers and bankers in/ our day, spreading ruin, /epargne and avarice,/ the shoddy builder, the ruin of architectura/ and the destroyer, sabotage” (YCAL 43 71/3195 8).
- Gignetei kalon – Gr. “a beautiful thing is born.”
Here Pound’s Greek is incorrect as the verb “gignetei” does not exist. It should most likely read γίγνεται [gignetai], the 3rd person singular present indicative, of the verb γίγνομαι [gignomai], a difficult word to give a direct translation of as it admits of great variety in paraphrase, but it is always linked to its root meaning of “coming into a (new) state) of being.” Hence it can mean “to be born,” “to arise,” “to grow,” “to take place.” “Kalon” can mean “beauty,” “a thing of beauty,” “something beautiful.” Thus Pound’s phrase “gignetei [sic] kalon” appears to have been used to mean “A thing of beauty is (being) born,” “Beauty is born,” or “Something beautiful is happening.” [Peter Liebregts]
- Actium – naval battle between Octavian and Marc Antony and Cleopatra. The Egyptian queen, who left the battle with her 60 ships, betrayed Marc Antony. He was defeated and his ships were set on fire. The Roman fleet would have returned from battle in the port of Classe, near Ravenna, which in Roman times would have been a city on water, similar to Venice (Symonds II: 1).
- Midas – Midas was a king of Phrygia and the subject of two stories Ovid tells in Book XI of his Metamorphoses: “Midas aureus” and “Midas aures.” Poems.
The first story recounts how Midas restores to Bacchus (Roman name of Dionysus, the god of wine) his old teacher Silenus. Bacchus grants him a wish as a reward and Midas wishes that everything he touches be turned to gold. Bacchus granted him his wish and let the unfortunate king find out for himself what “gold touch” meant. Seeing that he would die of hunger, Midas asked the god to take away the gift. Bacchus told him to bathe in the river Pactolus and escape the gold curse.
The second story, which Ovid tells straight after the first one, presents Midas as an arbiter of the arts: he is asked to judge who is a better musician, Phoebus (Apollo) or Pan. Midas again makes a bad decision: he chooses Pan. Apollo then punishes him by giving him the ears of a donkey.
- Pan – In classical mythology, Pan is traditionally the god of woods and shepherds, a half-human creature with the legs and feet of a goat. He was also a companion of Dionysus and his satyrs with whom Pan had his half-divine, half-animal nature in common. In philosophical-mystical circles, following the lead of the Homeric and Orphic Hymns to Pan, he was seen as the All-god as the Greek word pan means “everything.” [Peter Liebregts] Read more.
- Pines of Ise – reference to the Noh play Takasago, which Pound translated in 1915 and referred to in canto IV (OCCEP n. 22-23). The play presents a visitor who meets the ghosts of two old people who are 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, under beneficent political rule. Here Pound does not bind the Takasago pine to the one in Sumiyoshi, but rather with the pines in Isé, which are much farther away and saved from war by the light-bringing Kuanon in the play Tamura. Takasago. In this canto, Pound compares the idea of “growing together despite the distance” to the tradition regarding Inopos and the Nile.
From Takasago to Sumiyoshi From Takasago to Isé
- Inopos – River in on the Greek island Delos called “Egyptian” and said to be fed by the waters of the Nile. See Callimachus’ Hymn to Artemis. Theoi.
- Phoibos – L. Phoebus, Latin name of the god Apollo.
- turris eburnea – L. “ivory tower.” As the next two lines suggest, the tower is a tree with white branches seen against a clear sunny sky.
The phrase was first used in the Song of Songs Book 7.4: “collum tuum sicut turris eburnea” (“your neck like an ivory tower”).
- Pallas – Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess of intelligence and wisdom. Her symbol is an owl. See also cantos XVII and XX.
- Pale in the moon shaft – passage inspired by Book XI of the Odyssey, that Pound had focused on and translated in Canto I. After talking to Tiresias, Odysseus lets other spirits drink of the ritual sheep blood so that they can speak to him. He talks with his mother, Anticlea and then with other women, like Tyro, Antiope, Megara, Epicaste, Chloris, and Leda. Pound imagines a dance of the dead spirits of women who had been caught by Hades, but danced again with blood in their veins, that is, with the vitality that is again brought to them by remembrance and pagan blood ritual.
When Odysseus asked his mother how she died (“Was it long disease, or did the archer, Artemis, assail thee with her gentle shafts, and slay thee?”), Anticlea told him:
“Neither did the keen-sighted archer goddess assail me in my halls with her gentle shafts, and slay me,  nor did any disease come upon me, such as oftenest through grievous wasting takes the spirit from the limbs; nay, it was longing for thee, and for thy counsels, glorious Odysseus, and for thy tender-heartedness, that robbed me of honey-sweet life” (Od XI: 198-205).
- Titania – Circe was the daughter of Helios and grand-daughter of Hyperion the titan. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Glaucus addresses her as “Titania” when he asks her to help him win Scylla’s love with a magic potion. Circe, after falling in love and being rejected by Glaucus, poisons an inlet where Scylla used to bathe. Pound mentions “Circe Titania” in canto 20; Glaucus in canto 39; and Scylla in canto 47. Ovid Metam 14:1.
- Athame – Nymph invented by Pound to replace Phaethusa’s sister, Lampetie.
- Phaethusa – Nymph who guarded the sheep of Helios, the sun god and her father, on the island of Thrinacia (Sicily). Persephone was caught by Hades in Enna, also in Sicily. The canto drafts explicitly show that Phaethusa was taken away by Dis, [Hades], as Persephone was:
“Danced there Althame, danced, and there
Phaethusa, the mother of Apollo, of thick braids,
Dis caught her up
and to his hollow mountain
And in that hollw weald, dead spirits danced” (YCAL 43 71/3197)
- Dis – name for Hades, the god of the underworld. Bacigalupo (Trace 426) and William Cookson (Guide 36) noted the origin of the line in Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses V: 500-504, which Pound quoted in his essay “Notes on Elisabethan Classicists.”
While in this garden Proserpine was taking her pastime,
In gathering either Violets blue, or Lillies white as Lime,
And while of maidenly desire she filled her maund and Lap,
Endeavouring to outgather her companions there, by hap
Dis spied her: loved her: caught her up and all at once, well near (LE 235)
- Mule – Midas grew donkey’s ears from preferring Pan against Apollo. Silenus is represented as riding a mule, which is a “favourite animal of Dionysos” (Kereny 169). The mule is comic and pastoral, but no less holy than the tiger, bull, or lion. Judging by the comic stanza from Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, included in “Notes on Elizabethan Classicists,” Pound was aware of that:
[…] Throngs of Fownes and Satyres on thee tend
And that old Hag that with a staff his staggering limmes doth stay
Scarce able an his Asse to sit for reeling every way.
(Metam IV: 25-27 in LE 237; Bacigalupo “Annotazioni” XXI: 347).
- Asphodel – a plant associated with the underworld. Homer mentions the “field of asphodel” as a place where dead souls roam (Od XI: 539).