Marco Polo at Kublais courtCOMPANION TO XVIII



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.

In–text references


OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound

(Contributor name, OCCEP IV:

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 Cantos XVIII and XIX [Geryon]. 26 September 2017.





Carroll F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.


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


Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound’s Poetry & Prose: Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, Walton Litz and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.


  1. YuanEmperorAlbumKhubilaiPortraitKublai – Kublai Khan (1214-1294), grandson of Genghis Khan [Temujin] and khan of the Khagan tribe. In 1260, he became Great Khan of the Mongols and in 1271-79, he conquered the greater part of China by defeating the Southern Song dynasty. He established the Yuan dynasty in China and became Emperor in 1271. 
    Pound wrote about Kublai’s paper money in an article he published in The New Age in 1920. Go to article.

  2. Cambaluc – Khanbaliq (“The City of the Khan”), Kublai’s capital, built 1264-1267 on the site of contemporary Beijing. The Mongols already controlled Northern China (territory north of the Yangtze) at the time. Kublai’s mint was in this city (C 18: n.2). JG.

  3. hyght – ME. “be called.”

  4. tornesel – The tornesel, tornesol, or tornese was the silver “denier tournois” (“the denier of Tours”), which was established by Philip Augustus as royal coinage of France around 1204 (Spufford 200). Marco Polo referred to the tournesel in accounts of his travels to East Asia when describing the currencies of the Yuan Empire. His descriptions were based on the conversion of 1 bezant=20 groats=133 1/3 tornesel. See also Henry Yule’s note.bezant grosso

  5. groat – (I. “grosso”), a large silver coin introduced in Venice by Doge Enrico Dandolo to pay for the Fourth Crusade around 1202 (Spufford 201). The coin had 2.2 grams of 98% pure silver. Marco Polo’s descriptions were based on the conversion of 1 bezant=20 groats=133 1/3 tornesel. See also Henry Yule’s note.

  6. bezant – (Old F. “besant” from L. “bizantius aureus”), Byzantine gold coin, which circulated in Europe, North Africa, and the Near East in Marco Polo’s time. His descriptions were based on the conversion of 1 bezant=20 groats=133 1/3 tornesel. See also Henry Yule’s note.

  7. 163 kwan1375great khan’s seal – The seal of the khan guaranteed that the worthless pieces of mulberry bark would be universal legal tender, that is, would have to be accepted in every commercial transaction in the realm. Only by his imperial guarantee could they maintain value. In other words, the khan had unlimited credit, which was the financial basis of his continuous wars. The production of mulberry bark notes, unlike pieces of gold and silver, was inexhaustible and guaranteed that whatever the war effort, the khan would never run out of money.

  8. Messire Polo – Marco Polo (?1254-1324?), Venetian traveler and merchant. Polo travelled to China and reached Kublai Khan’s court in 1275. After staying at the Yuan court for some years, he returned to Venice in 1295. In 1296, he was taken prisoner of war by the Genoese after the naval battle between Venice and Genoa at Curzola; he dictated his memoirs while in prison in Genoa to a fellow prisoner, Rusticiano di Pisa (The Travels of Marco Polo I: Introduction 52).

  9. boy in Constantinople – Basil Zaharoff (1849-1936), armaments dealer, active 1876-1927. He was born as Zacharias Basileios Zaharoff in a poor Greek merchant family in Mughla, in the Ottoman Empire and spent his youth in Constantinople, today’s Istanbul.

    napoleonyoung min2

  10. I hate these French – Pound is rephrasing a passage from Bourienne’s Memoirs of Napoleon. Remembering the days of military school, Bourienne emphasized Bonaparte’s Corsican patriotism in his young years. Napoleon resented the French annexation of Corsica in 1770 and the actions of his own father, who after having been deeply involved in the struggle for Corsican independence, had finally accepted French dominance to save himself. Bourienne quoted Napoleon as often saying to him: “I will do these French all the mischief in my power.” See Bourienne’s Memoirs 17. 
    Zaharoff seemed to be of great service to Britain, as Napoleon had been to France, yet this service consisted in continuous war. Pound’s idea that Zaharoff hated Britain is apocryphal. On the other hand, the arms merchant chose to live in France, not England and the British arms manufacturer he worked for, Vickers, bourienne ssold arms internationally, impartially including Britain’s enemies.

  11. Bourienne – Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourienne (1769-1834), French diplomat and writer, personal friend of Napoleon (1797-1802). Bourienne met Bonaparte in the military school at Brienne, when they were both nine years old. After graduation, Napoleon began a military career, and Bourienne a diplomatic one: they met again and Bourienne became Napoleon’s private secretary. Though he later fell into disgrace and his credibility was attacked, his book, Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, published in 1830, is a unique close-up of Napoleon and an important historical source on his personal and professional life.

  12. ZaharoffZenos Metevsky – pseudonym for Basil Zaharoff (1849-1936), international munitions salesman of Greek origin. Zaharoff was capable and cunning, yet he could not find a stable situation until 1877, when an influential friend, Stefanos Skouloudis, recommended him for an opening as munitions sales agent. The firm that hired him was comparatively small and belonged to the Swedish engineer and inventor Thorsten Nordenfelt (Lewinsohn 57-58). Zaharoff’s position was remarkably stable through all the changes that the firm went through. In 1888, Nordenfelt associated with Hiram Maxim, the inventor of a superior machine gun, to form Maxim Nordenfelt Guns & Ammunitions Co. (Lewinsohn 77). Two years later, Nordenfelt withdrew from the firm and Zaharoff remained. In 1897, Maxim sold the factory to Vickers and Zaharoff stayed on as arms sales agent for the company until his retirement in 1927 (Lewinsohn 95-96). His talent for business made him an invaluable asset to the firm and brought it immense profits in all the wars, big and small, that occurred between 1890 and 1918 in Europe. Zaharoff also had interests in oil, international banks, casinos, and newspapers.

    Maxim portrait

  13. old Biers – Pseudonym for Hiram Maxim, (1840-1916), American engineer and inventor. After a career of various smaller-scale inventions, Maxim decided to develop the prototype of a recoil-operated gun that could shoot accurately 600 rounds per minute. It was called the “Maxim gun” and was successfully integrated into the British army during the Boer War (Lewinsohn 84). Maxim was an inventor, not a salesman, and fell prey to one of Zaharoff’s tricks. By sheer rhetoric and lies told to the decision-makers and journalists, Zaharoff was able to block the orders for the new gun, which was superior to the Nordenfelt variety he was selling. It was Zaharoff who persuaded both Maxim and Nordenfelt to amalgamate and form a bigger company that could compete with the big arms manufacturers like Vickers and Armstrong in England, Krupp in Germany and Schneider-Creusot in France. Maxim agreed to join forces with Nordenfelt to form the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns & Ammunitions Company in 1888. After Nordenfelt withdrew in 1890, Maxim sold the company to Vickers in 1897. See also nn. 11 and 13.

  14. found the back door – Richard Lewinsohn tells the story of the sensation Hiram Maxim created when he demonstrated the accuracy of his superior machine gun in Vienna to the Emperor and the military. At the demonstration, Zaharoff privately told potential buyers that the gun was difficult to manufacture and needed years of training; that it was delicate and of utmost, unique precision; that it was difficult to operate and could not be made in large quantities. He thus succeeded in blocking purchases of the new gun. Maxim was a “greenhorn” in his expectation that his superior product would naturally win orders. Only when he amalgamated with Nordenfelt did the Hiram Maxim gun become a favourite and sold internationally. The “difficulties” vanished (Lewinsohn 69-77).

  15. Metevsky died – An enemy of young Zaharoff, Stephanos Xenos, wrote in the Athenian newspaper Mikra Ephemeris [The Little Journal] that a convict by name of Zacharias Basileios Zaharoff had been shot in the attempt to escape from the prison at Garbola. Zaharoff’s friend, Stephanos Skouloudis, went to investigate and exhumed the body of the convict. Zaharoff’s dentist, who had come along, was able to ascertain that this was not him and the slander was cleared (Lewinsohn 54-56). The story of how Zaharoff sat watching the funeral is apocryphal. 

  16. Humbers – pseudonym for Vickers Ltd., a British metallurgic company founded in 1828 by George Naylor and Edward Vickers, which branched out into the armaments industry. Vickers bought Maxim Nordenfelt Guns & Ammunitions Company in 1897. Zaharoff, who was salesman for Maxim, stayed on with Vickers after the purchase and invested a part of his income from commissions in buying Vickers shares (Lewinsohn 96-8). 

  17. MrGiddings – Pseudonym for unidentified saleman of armaments (C 76). Pound does not name his source but echoes a conversation he had had in 1912 and written about in an essay of the “Studies in the Contemporary Mentality” Series in the New Age 22.10 (3 January 1918):
    “I can but quote and requote the answer I got from a maker of war materials, in, I think, 1912. Never having met a man of his profession before, I asked his views on universal peace. He said, ‘You will never get universal peace as long as you have 2,000,000,000 dollars invested in the making of war machinery” (P&P III: 11).

  18. torpedo-boat – small, rapid vessels carrying spar-torpedoes. They were invented during the American civil war as a cheap method to attack, damage or destroy large, armoured battleships, called ironclads. Torpedo boats were sold to the Russian navy, who used them in the Russo-Turkish wars. The first ship sunk by a torpedo boat in that war was the Turkish ship Seyfi on the Danube (Sandler 52).

  19. La Marquesa de las Zohas y Hurbara – Pseudonym for Maria del Pilar Antonia-Angela-Patrocinio-Simona de Muguiro y Beruete, Duchess of Villafranca de los Caballeros, whom Sir Basil Zaharoff met in 1889 on a night train to Spain. She was on her honeymoon as the new Duchess of Villafranca (Neumann 101-2). As a devout Catholic, she could not get a divorce, so she and Zaharoff had to arrange secret meetings. They married in 1924.

  20. las once – S. “at eleven o’clock.”

  21. da Fabriano detailthe Este to Louis Eleventh – Pound is referring to Ercole d’Este’s extravagant gift to Louis XI, the king of France: a leopard:
    “In 1473 Ercole paid 350 ducats (nearly £ 1,000) for two leopards and a civet cat, and in 1486 bought another leopard from a Venetian for 50 ducats (£157). An indication of the prestige associated with the ownership of such animals is suggested by the duke sending a leopard and two dogs as a gift to the king of France, Louis XI, in 1479. The duke went to some trouble to establish which kind of dog the king preferred and the leopard was fitted with a crimson cloth.” (Tuchy 245-46).

  22. fine pair of giraffes – Pound’s information is by word of mouth and inaccurate. Zaharoff donated a significant sum to the Paris Zoo after WWI (Lewinsohn 211). Further, he endowed chairs of aviation in Paris, London and St. Petersburg.

  23. mine – marine mines were a neglected but very effective weapon in the sinking of battleships. They were used successfully in the American civil war and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05.     
    “The earliest mines were simple yet destructive. Confederate mines (often confusingly called torpedoes at the time) consisted of little more than gunpowder-filled beer barrels with coned ends and five fuses. A passing ship would bend a projecting lead tube, rupturing a glass tube within containing sulfuric acid in a mixture of potassium chlorate and sugar. The resulting chemical reaction detonated the gunpowder in the barrel” (Sandler 51).

  24. Gethsemane Trebizond Petrol – company name spoof. Gethsemane is the garden in Jerusalem where Jesus spent the last night of his freedom. Trebizond (contemporary Trabzon in Turkey) is the name of a late Byzantine kingdom by the Black Sea conquered by the Ottomans in 1461. The comic pseudonym could refer to Zaharoff’s role in the oil industry after WWI. While the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., the ancestor of British Petroleum, was striking oil in Iran, it also wanted to extend its use of French ports, markets, and oil fields in Algeria. This was achieved by Zaharoff, who created companies apparently under French control and with French capital. In reality, they were controlled by his own Banque de Seine and close associates, to mask British interests (Lewinsohn 173-77).

  25. locomotives – 19thc locomotives were steam engines powered by coal, but the discovery of oil in Persia and the British interest in oil, made coal obsolete, clearing the way for the oil-powered Diesel locomotive after WWI. Particularly after the Conference for Naval Disarmament of 1920, Vickers had to diversify and reduce arms production, as it was not receiving any more orders for warships from the British Government. One of the regions where Vickers became particularly active was investment in railroads. The fact that Zaharoff, as an agent of Vickers, was also involved in the transport and sale of oil, made investing in locomotives particularly logical and profitable (Lewinsohn 177-80).

  26. Hamish – Pseudonym for Taffy Fowler, an engineer whose wife conducted a salon for young musicians and poets in Knightsbridge, London, 1908-1909 (C 18: n.25). Pound often visited the Fowlers and reported to his parents about them. (See L/HP 154, 182, 217, 224 etc.)
    In the Lerici edition of the Italian translation of A Draft of XXX Cantos, also called i primi trenta, Mary de Rachewiltz replaced “Hamish” by “Fowler.” This replacement must have been made with Pound’s approval around 1960.

  27. Melchizedek – (Heb. “My king is righteousness”), biblical figure, king of Jerusalem and priest of the most exalted Lord, symbol of the eternal king-priest. He is mentioned in Genesis 14: 18: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” He also appears in Psalm 110.4: “The Lord has sworn and will not repent: ‘Thou art a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.’”

  28. MinilkKing Menelik – Menelik II (1844-1913), Emperor of Ethiopia (1889-1913). In the First Italian War, Menelik successfully prevented the Italian colonization of Abyssinia in 1896 and ensured its independence. Later, he fought several military campaigns to extend the territory of his state. Menelik was highly interested in bringing modern technology to his country. He instigated the building of a railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa, introduced electricity, postal services, telephones and modern plumbing in the capital. 

  29. Qu’est qu’on pense – Fr. “What do people think.”

  30. Mais … Metevsky – Fr. “But, what do people think of metallurgy in England, what do people think of Metevsky?”

  31. [...] – In the English text of I cantos di Ezra Pound (Lerici 1961), we read: “Take the French regimental badges.” 

  32. old Hamish went out there  – “every man who does his own job really well has a latent respect for every other man who does his own job really well; this is our lasting bond; whether it be a matter of buying up all the little brass farthings in Cuba and selling them at a quarter per cent. advance, or of delivering steam-engines to King Menelek across three rivers and one hundred and four ravines.” (Ezra Pound, “Osiris, Part IX: On Technique.” New Age, X (25 Jan. 1912): 298) P&P I: 57; SP 33.

  33. Also sabotage – Pound ends Canto XVIII with “sabotage” and picks up Canto XIX with “sabotage,” foretelling of the next canto’s continuation of the theme. JG.