CANTO VI

 

 

Federico Faruffini Sordello e Cunizza

Federico Faruffini, Sordello e Cunizza, 1864

 

The original version of this canto concentrated on the rivalry between Louis VII and Henry II, Eleanor's first and second husbands, and between their heirs, Philippe-Auguste and Richard, in their dealings with Tancred, King of Sicily. Frederick II the Holy Roman Emperor was praised for his shrewd and honorable dealings wth the Saracens and Conrad of Montferrat for his courage in defending Tyre against Saladin. It is important to notice how in the final version of this canto the emphasis has radically shifted from the political problems and intrigues of these men to the presence of the two powerful and passionate women, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Cunizza da Romano.

Wendy Flory. Ezra Pound and The Cantos, 292.

 

Pound wrote a history of the Provençal civilisation in Canto VI. Canto VI is very short – only two-and-a-half pages – but it is very selective. The way its parts are put together amounts to a view of the way in which the Provençal culture worked. The Canto begins with the first known troubadour, William IX of Aquitaine (1086-1127); moves to the marriage of his granddaughter Eleanor with Louis VII of France, to her second marriage with Henry II Plantagenet, and her relations with Bernart de Ventadorn; and shifts finally to Sordello one of the last great troubadours, an Italian, whose lady Cunizza was known to Guido Cavalcanti. What the Canto says is that there was a continuity of culture and awareness of human possibilities from the circle of William IX of Aquitaine right through to the circle of Dante, and that this continuity depended on personal influence and contact.

Peter Makin. Provence & Pound, 73.