CANTO XII

 

 

EP and JQ sitting

Ezra Pound, John Quinn, Ford Madox Ford, and James Joyce gathered in Pound's Paris studio on 12 October 1923 to discuss the creation of transatlantic review, the literary magazine where canto XII was published for the first time.


In Canto 12 copper, the Homeric oricalc, reappears in the form of little copper pennies. This Canto consists of three fiscal parables, two long ones grouped round a short one. The first long parable is the story of Francis (Baldy) Bacon, whom the young Pound had met in New York and the middle-aged Pound kept in touch with till the 1940’s, another tricksome Odysseus who had discovered that currency might be something to monopolize. He bought up all the little copper pennies in Cuba and released them again at a premium. They were public centavos, but Baldy had the supply cornered. The other long parable is John Quinn’s Tale of the Honest Sailor, who rose to the ownership of a “whole line of steamers,” all the time supposing the boy he was bringing up had sprung from his belly, begotten by “a rich merchant in Stambouli.” This misapprehension rhymes with the sentiments of the bankers to whom Quinn is talking, bankers who invest

                                                             in new bank buildings
                                            productive of bank buildings
                               
And not likely to ease distribution, 
                                                                                   (12/55:59)

and suppose (“quintessential essence of usurers”) that some natural process increases the amount of money they share. So usury rhymes with sexual perversion.* The unobtrusive story, between these two, of the Portuguese whose great fortune was founded on the natural increase of little pigs, anticipates the story (Cantos 42-43) of the Bank of Siena whose base of credit was

                             the abundance of nature   
with the whole folk behind it

                                                                                (52/257: 267)


Note: * Hence when we read, “interest on all it creates out of nothing/ the buggering bank has” (77/468:497) we may note the calculation behind the epithet (HK 426).

 (Hugh Kenner The Pound Era 425-26)