It has to be recognized, if we are to get on, that Mussolini is as much an invented or mythical figure in these cantos as Jefferson, or Van Buren, or indeed as Odysseus. He is just as much transfigured out of history into the poem Pound is making up, and he plays his part there in an ethical drama which may be not at all an accurate fit with the political drama of the era. Pound is not writing Mussolini’s story, or Jefferson’s or Van Buren’s. He is writing, as it will turn out, the epic of the capitalist era, in which the will to social justice, as embodied in a few heroic individuals, must contend against the greed of the wealthy and powerful and the abuleia of the many. It is a story based on real persons and real practices, and its credibility does depend in some degree on its truth to what is commonly known of those persons and practices. Beyond that believability, though, there is another order of reality, that of meanings and values; it is with these that the epic poet is most engaged, and in creating images of what is to be admired or hated he will bend history to his ends.
A. David Moody. Ezra Pound: Poet. A Portrait of the Man & His Work. Volume II. The Epic Years 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 180.
Mussolini is THE GREAT PEDAGOGUE/ he knows, as none of us have know, how to GET it into people heads, en masse/
I mean he know the rate of speed at which it is possible to translate thought into public action.
this is genius, just as Gaudier’s or Brancusi’s sense of form was and is genius.
Damn it, I have met the man/ there is something bloody fine, something of a sincerity, and a reality that matters. The rest of European public men are scum; or inefectual flapdoodles. Roosevelt hasn’t got it. The years of danger; with the mills bomb on the desk/ all put a he man fibre into it.
He wd/ count in the Texas rangers/.
Dont swallow any of this tin Napoleon stuff.
Declaration of independence for a country surrounded by other countries semi/corrupt, and big gin [gun] sellers, CAN NOT be the same as for a few million blokes scattered over a continent where British police and army can’t get at ’em.
Ezra Pound to Hugo Fack 30 October 1934. EPEC 124
CANTO XVI [World War I - The Italian view]
CANTO XXXI [Thomas Jefferson]
CANTO XXXV [The situation of Austria]
CANTO XXXVIII [armaments and war]
CANTO XLI – READINGS
Roxana Preda. Introduction to Canto XLI.
Paul Cunningham reading the canto. Video clip on ucreate.
Readings in The Cantos of Ezra Pound. IV. Cantos of the 1930s.
Edinburgh Scottish Poetry Library, 28 February 2019.
Photo and camera courtesy of John Glendinning, 9 May 2019.
Copyright © 1934, 1968 by Ezra Pound. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Ezra Pound and Dorothy Pound. Canto XXIX. In Shakespear’s Pound: Illuminated Cantos.
Nacogdoches, TX: LaNana Creek Press, [Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing], 1999.
Photo reproduction courtesy of Walter Baumann.
CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION
According to the scant information gleaned from the Ezra Pound-Olga Rudge correspondence, the poet started working on canto 41 in August and finished it in the fall of 1933: on 26 October, he reported to Olga that he had sent the text of the Eleven New Cantos to his agent Virginia Rice in New York to be published by Farrar & Rinehart.
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Economic Correspondence 1933-1940. Ed. Roxana Preda. Gainesville: U of Florida P, 2007.
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.
Pound, Ezra. Selected Letters 1907-1941. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
Beinecke Library, Olga Rudge Papers YCAL 54. Series I. Box no./Folder no.
To John Drummond, 18 February 1932, Rapallo
Dear Mr. Drummond:
Don’t knock Mussolini, at least not until you have weighed up the obstacles and necessities of the time. He will end with Sigismondo and the men of order, not with the pus-sacks and destroyers. I believe that anything human will and understanding of contemporary Italy cd. accomplish, he has done and will continue to do. Details later. Don’t be blinded by theorists and a lying press.
To Olga Rudge, [24 August 1933]
YCAL 54, 14/355
Ziao; cara amure
Pluggink along with preparativi for XLI/ tho havent read over the draft of XL, a dunno quite how much it needs to drug it inteh shype.
To Olga Rudge, [23 September 1933]
YCAL, 54, 14/358
Ziao, cara amure
vurry XXXhausted. recd. both the Brockway guns and Venalité de la Presse/ have oggi [today] extracted 4 pages solid notes toward XLIII or 44/ and more ahead.
Note. Pound had received two important books for his education in the contemporary economics of war: Fenner Brockway. The Bloody Traffic (London: Gollancz, 1933) that he used for canto XLI which he was currently writing, and A. Raffalovitch, L'Abominable Venalité de la Presse (Paris: Libraririe du Travail, 1931).
To Sarah Perkins Cope, 15 January 1934
One of the most valued readers seemed to find the Cantos entertaining; at least that’s what he said after 20 minutes, with accent of relieved surprise, having been brought up to Italian concept of poetry: something oppressive and to be revered.
Skip anything you don’t understand and go on till you pick it up again. All tosh about foreign languages making it difficult. The quotes are all either explained at once by repeat or they are definitely of the things indicated. If reader don’t know what an elephant is, then the word is obscure.
To Olga Rudge, 16 January 
YCAL 54, 14/371
Ziao cara amure
He haz read XI cantos/ of Binbin’s Hell/ and found his Canto XLI, while looking fer a gordam Fin/Savio pogrum that WUZ blue and not yellow, and hung on his wall folded/// an he haz writ hiz article on Frobenius/
Binbin’s Hell – Laurence Binyon translated Dante's Commedia and sent Pound translation of the Inferno for comment.
Leo Frobenius – German anthropologist, author of Erlebte Erdteile (1926-9). Pound mentioned him in canto 38.
To J. Laughlin, 22 January 1934
ALL right/ copies of 35/36 discovered.
That dry twig, [Harriet Monroe] in Chicago is rooting on 37.
38 you have.
39 can’t be released save in vol/ 40 and 41... waal we’ll see how the club furnishing holds out.
To Margherita Sarfatti, 25 February 1934
YCAL 43, 46/2031; Zanotti 70.
Dear Donna Margherita
Despite your not keeping yr/ promise to send it me, I read yr “Dux” and found it a much better book than you had led me to expect.
Of course there are things about Italy that I do not comprehend, including the newspapers.
There seem to be three epochs:
I. The present, inhabited by DUX ipse, and almost no one else that one hears of, tho’ there must be a staff of aviators and architects.
II. The letterati, living about 1890
III. Scholastic italy inhabiting 1850/60.
My own educational campaign continues. I can’t get my Jefferson/ and/or Mussolini published ANYwhere. Communists curse and British Fascists groan (possibly because I can find no points of resemblance between DUX and Moseley/ or his last cabin boy Ld/ Rothermere.)
Note. Margherita Sarfatti was the author of Dux: vita di Mussolini (Milano: Mondadori, 1926). Sarfatti was the Duce's mistress and a powerful cultural figure of the Fascist era. Pound used a few passages from Dux in canto 41 - he thanked her in his letter of October 1934, see below.
To J. Laughlin, 25 March 
Better let the last canto stay NEW for the Book/ unless someone will pay. The 37 and 38 were the ones NEEDED at once.
From A. R. Orage, 6 May 1934
YCAL 43, 38/1618
My dear E.P./
Your Jefferson M.S. has not been sent me! I dont understand these […] people: I accept or return all M.SS. within 24 hours. These people sit six months on every pot.
And where are your super. high stung observations on Italy? I’ve never seen ’em. Por is here, but I can’t get any sense out of him, - only propaganda for the Corporate State. My death-bed conviction is that sans [Fr. without] National Credit control there aint nothing doing worth more than ants’ attention; it’s all only a re-arrangement within the limits prescribed by the Money Church. And this goes for B.M. as well as for Franklin D.
From A. R. Orage, 22 August 1934
YCAL 43, 38/1620; Surette, Purgatory 52
My dear E.P./
I’m not setting up to give you advice; but the continuation of your Cantos would give me stimulant satisfaction. Say what you like, I’m the better propagandist.
With submission again, my dear E.P., your Cantos are your greatest contribution to the cause; & if only you could make them the vehicle of your total being, their effect would be that of artillery. Dont argue with me; still less don’t assume I think I’m right. Take it as my sincere opinion.
From A. R. Orage, 27 August 1934
YCAL 43, 38/1620
What about a Canto before F&F publish? Wont do the sales any harm;
Note. Whereas the Eleven New Cantos were just about to be published in the United States in October 1934, the English edition at Faber & Faber was planned for later and came out in 1935. There was thus plenty of time for a periodical publication of a canto in Britain. Pound sent over canto 41, in view of Orage’s request for his opinion on Italy. See Orage’s letter of 6 May 1934 above.
To Margherita Sarfatti, undated [October 1934]
YCAL 43, 46/2031; Zanotti 70.
Dear Donna Margherita
I hope to send you my Cantos 31/41 in a few days. I believe they were published in New York.
If you have patience to read enough of them you will find a few familiar passages, for which my rascally thanks.
Note. Pound received his copies of Eleven New Cantos from New York on 14 October 1934, as he wrote Olga Rudge on that day (YCAL 54 15/389).
From A. R. Orage, 24 October 1934
YCAL 43, 38/1621
My dear E.P./
of course I’d like to publish this simultaneously with Max’s drawing of you – if he is so good as to do it!
Note - Max - Max Beerbohm, famous English caricaturist living in Rapallo.
To Olga Rudge, [26 October 1934]
YCAL 54, 15/392
and o’Rage sends proofs of 41/ which he whopes to print wiff a Berbumm karrykachoor/ which Max naturally hasnt done YET.
o’Rage - A. R. Orage, editor of New English Weekly.
Berbumm - Max Beerbohm. He did not provide his caricature and the canto was printed in The New English Weekly without it.
Canto 41 published in The New English Weekly on 8 November 1934.
P&P VI: 208-10.
XLI – BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES IN JOURNALS AND COLLECTIONS
- Baumann, Walter. The German-Speaking World in “The Cantos.” Paideuma 21.3 (Winter 1992): 41-61. [Republished in Roses from the Steel Dust. Orono: The National Poetry Foundation, 2000. 135-54.] Go to article.
- Casillo, R. “Nature, History, and Anti-Nature in Ezra Pound’s Fascism.” Papers on Language & Literature 22.3 (1986), 284-311.
- Dasenbrock, Reed Way. “Ezra Pound, the Last Ghibelline.” Journal of Modern Literature 16.4 (Spring 1990): 511-33. Go to article.
- Kimpel, Bernard and Duncan Eaves. “Messire Uzzano in 1442.” Paideuma 11.3 (Winter 1982): 449-50. Go to article.
- Lauber, John. “Pound’s ‘Cantos’: A Fascist Epic.” Journal of American Studies 12.1 (April 1978): 3-21.
- Redman, Tim. “Mussolini’s First Years and Last months: What Did Pound Know about Il Duce’s Beginning and End?” Ezra Pound, Ends and Beginnings. Eds. John Gery and William Pratt. New York: AMS Press, 2011. 3-16.
- Zanotti, Serenella. “Pound and the Mussolini Myth. An Unexplored Source for Canto 41.” ROMA/AMOR: Pound, Love and Rome. Eds. William Pratt and Caterina Ricciardi. AMS Press: New York, 2013. 65-80. Free online.
BOOK CHAPTERS AND SECTIONS
- Cookson, William. “Mussolini – The Present– Jefferson.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2009. 57-9.
- Davis, Earle. Vision Fugitive: Ezra Pound and Economics. Lawrence KS.: UP of Kansas, 1968. 130-1; 156-70.
- De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: XLI.” Ezra Pound. I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1528-9.
- Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto XLI.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. 1255-56.
- Liebregts, Peter. Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2004. 226-8.
- Moody, David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 177-81.
- Paul, Catherine. Fascist Directive. Ezra Pound and Italian Cultural Nationalism. Clemson: Clemson UP, 2016. 98-99.
- Stock, Noel. Reading the Cantos. A Study of Meaning in Ezra Pound. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966. 31.
- Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XLI.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: California UP, 1993. 166-9.