Apart from the welcome given to or withheld from a fine performance, it seems to me that the vogue of Guido’s canzone, Donna mi Prega, was due to causes not instantly apparent to the modern reader. I mean that it shows traces of a tone of thought no longer considered dangerous, but that may have appeared about as soothing to the Florentine of A.D. 1290 as conversation about Tom Paine, Marx, Lenin and Bucharin would to-day in a Methodist bankers’ board meeting in Memphis Tenn.
The teaching of Aristotle had been banned in the University of Paris in 1213. This prejudice had been worn down during the century, but Guido shows, I think, no regard for anyone's prejudice. We may trace his ideas to Averroes, Avicenna; he does not definitely proclaim any heresy, but he shows leanings toward not only the proof by reason, but toward the proof by experiment. I do not think that he swallowed Aquinas. It may be impossible to prove that he had heard of Roger Bacon, but the whole canzone is easier to undestand if we suppose, or at least one finds, a considerable interest in the speculation, that he had read Grosseteste on the Generation of Light.
Ezra Pound. “Cavalcanti.” Literary Essays 149.
CANTO VI [Cunizza and Sordello]
CANTO XXII [acts of rebellion against authority]
CANTO XXIX [Cunizza’s life]
CANTO XXXIX [sex is sacred]
CANTO XLVII [sex as natural ritual and sacrament]
CANTO XXXVI - READINGS
Ezra Pound reading the canto.
Caedmon Recordings, June 1958.
Roxana Preda. Introduction to Canto XXXVI.
Paul Cunningham reading the canto. Video clip on ucreate.
Readings in The Cantos of Ezra Pound. III. Cantos of the 1930s.
Edinburgh Scottish Poetry Library, 28 February 2019.
Photo courtesy of John Glendinning, 25 April 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
From September 1927 until the end of 1931, Pound was on and off involved in the research for and misadventures of a cherished project, an edition of Guido Cavalcanti’s poetry, which was to include Italian originals with textual notes, reproductions of manuscripts, and his own essays and translations. After Faber gave up on the book in January 1929 and the Aquila Press died on it in the summer of 1930, the project was finalised as Guido Cavalcanti Rime and published at Pound’s expense by the Marsano Publishers in Genoa in January 1932. (See Pound-Cavalcanti Chronology for details). Rime included a first version of Guido Cavalcanti’s canzone, “Donna mi prega,” which Pound had published in The Dial in July 1928, in advance of the book.
By October 1931, Pound told Dorothy that he had “material” for canto XXXVI; this might be rephrased as saying that he knew what he wanted to do with the canto, had material for it, but had not yet started writing it. This he would do after the Rime edition was finalized and published. Due to similarities between the structure of the canto and the libretto of Pound’s opera Cavalcanti, on which he worked in the summer of 1932, we may assume that canto XXXVI and the opera were explorations of the same material in two different arts done in quick succession. This bespeaks of Pound’s conviction that Donna mi prega was made to be sung and that a true revival of the poem would have to work both in poetry and music (LE 163, 167). As Charles Mundye observed, “the music serves to reintroduce and expand the formal scope which was lost when the poems of Cavalcanti were consigned to their silent life on the page” (ECEPA 418). Both the opera and the canto include the Italian troubadour Sordello, whom Pound places as a possible link between Provençal poetry and the dolce stil nuovo of Cavalcanti’s and Dante’s generation.
On 6 November 1932, Pound wrote to Étienne Gilson that he had written a second, better English version of Cavalcanti’s “Donna mi prega” than that contained in Rime. This was integrated into Canto XXXVI, which he then gave to his wife Dorothy to illustrate by December 1932. The canto was then published in periodicals: The Harkness Hoot in April 1934 and The Criterion in January 1935. It was also published by Farrar & Rinehart in America in the volume of Eleven New Cantos on 8 October 1934 and by Faber in Great Britain on 14 March 1935 (Gallup 53-4).
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
I am grateful to Mauro Piccinini who gave me access to his own copies of the Pound’s correspondence with his wife Dorothy for the period 1928-33 (Roxana Preda, March 2019).
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Hughes, Robert, Margaret Fisher and Ezra Pound. Cavalcanti: A Perspective on the Music of Ezra Pound. [double volume with engraved music score, libretto, background, analysis, commentary.] Emeryville CA: Second Evening Art, 2003.
Preda, Roxana, ed. The Edinburgh Companion to Ezra Pound and the Arts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2019.
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin. Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1992.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns. The Letters of T. S. Eliot. Volume 7: 1934-1935. Eds. Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden. London: Faber, 2017.
Pound, Ezra. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. Ed. T. S. Eliot. London: Faber, 1954; New York: New Drections, 1968. Pagination refers to the New Directions edition.
Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 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 Dorothy Pound, 4 October 1931
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
I have now material for three canti / which with the three in XXX that aren’t in the folio, and the 3 in Pagany; makes as you might say nine towards vol. 3 of folio. so that one might have it ready some time next year. She can consider prob/ of the CAPS at her leisure.
To Dorothy Pound, 5 October 
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
He has done 2nd. version of the J. Q. Adams canto [XXXIV]. With this I see a block of four. Have writ. Neumayer and Zuk. to dig up Van Buren’s autobiography. If by chance you see anyone or pass any other book shop, OR if it cd. be weedled out any library. [...] Martin VanBuren, somethingth pres. of the U. S. call it the 8th. only sometimes they count the 8 year ones double./// With 3. in the Hours XXX, 3 in Pagany; and the 4 in prospect, one is on the way towards the 3d. folio vol.
To H. B. Lathrop, 16 December 1931, Rapallo
Dear Prof. Lathrop:
My Cavalcanti [Rime] nearly ready. I don’t know whether you can put me through to yr. Romance dept. or in fact any part of Univ. dealing with polyglot letters. The edtn. ought to serve as START for a new method of handling international texts. I want names both of men who can do the work, and of “powers” capable of assisting. Having (that is to say all but 4 pages) got through with the Cavalcanti in spite of all the devils in Eng. or Am., I am in stronger position than when merely having something of my own that “wanted doing.”
To Dorothy Pound, 15 October 
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
Don’t feel I can do a lik more at the opry till after Milan anyhow, & wd. rather do some Cantos before I go over it again.
To Dorothy Pound, 19 October 1932
I see no chance of working with Agnes in Rap. before Feb. [...] I want to clear my head and come back to the Guido from the outside.
Note: Pound had finished the opera Cavalcanti in the summer and autumn of 1932. From London, Dorothy asked whether he was ready to work again with Agnes Bedford to settle details of musical composition. Pound’s response suggests that he had finished working on the opera for now and was ready for a new approach to Cavalcanti, that of retranslating “Donna mi prega” for canto XXXVI.
To Étienne Gilson, 6 November, 1932, Rapallo
Maria Ardizzone, The Other Middle Ages, 169-70.
Dear Professor Gilson
Your review of Cavalcanti [Pound’s edition, Guido Cavalcanti Rime, Genoa: Marsano 1932] has just reached me, hence the delay in answering; […]
The translation //// I suppose, as usual, I left too much to be implied. I meant the translation to attract, and to convey the general impression that the Canzone was IN THE FIRST PLACE a poem. I knew, and thought I had made clear, that it was inexact, as translation. Have since made what I hope is a better one, both as poem and as sense.
I didn’t mean to imply that my interpretation of Guido (character etc.) cd. be proved by the isolated text of Donna mi prega but that, taking that poem with the others and with Papa Cavalcanti down in the burning tombs, etc. one had more or less the right to try the line of conjecture indicated.
To Olga Rudge, 6 November 
YCAL 54, 13/324
Mr Gilson in Criterion/ respectful opening paragraph and then several dull pages re/ Donna mi prega
From Dorothy Pound, 27 December 1932
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
I want the Madonna photos of Or San Michele and the interlacing arches on the outside walls. anything almost might be useful for the G. Cav. canto Cap.
From Olga Rudge, 14 March 
YCAL 54, 13/339
Ciao Amore –
She had seen Canto XXXVII so when it arrived on top of her question to him re present american bank wuzzle she thought he had sent it again as answer –
She has with her mss - of cantos XXXIV XXXV XXXVI & now XXXVII – in case he needs same –
To J. Laughlin, 22 January 1934
ALL right/ copies of 35/36 discovered. [...]
If 35/ 36/ 38 dont show main design at any rate they indicate the variety of the opus. [...]
|NOTE double spacing between words in 36; a different KIND of Canto from the others/ different tipographical disposition.|
Canto XXXVI is published in Harkness Hoot IV.4 (April 1934): 26-9.
From T. S. Eliot, 19 July 1934
Ezzling my blessling
Here you are a Ware that canotetoes cantose would have been acceptable in the Mortuary [Eliot’s magazine, The Criterion] A Quarterly Review at any time but you never offered any on the contrary you said etc of course that was some time ago but why should not a intelligent man change his Mind Im askin you not sure about room in September but send it along one at a time one at a time or perhaps two in any case at this Rate the choirs where late the etc will be bare and Ruined before the book comes along so send some along send them along Before the fall of the Leaf Shall I go to Social Credit at bracing Skegness or not that is a Question […]
Note: Eliot is riffing on lines in Shakespeare’s Sonnet LXXIII: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold/ When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/ Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, / Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”
From T. S. Eliot, 30 July 1934
L/TSE 7: 289
Yassur Podesta I gass your bour right, I kno I am Erritatin podesta I cant elp it its something in my natur that just Erritates people exceptin those what is pure in eart and they are not Erritated only mildly amused but what I have to say is to Ell with Francklin what about a canto for December sein that there is no plausibility of the book before that given date we might have a canto canto canto three cheers for the Headmaster three cheers for the governors three cheers for the Dean hip hip canto cantoo cantooo yrs. etc.
“Erritatin” – Frank Morley from Faber had given Pound a copy of F. D. Roosevelt’s book On Our Way. Pound wrote a review for the Criterion, but Eliot intimated it was too long. In an undated letter, Pound retorted: “Yerr a niritatin little kuss/ why don’t you say what about that rev/ of Frankie […] if you had said 900 words for Frankie/ you wd/ prob have got 900.” (L/TSE 7: 289n)
“no plausibility of the book” – The Eleven New Cantos was going to be published at Faber, but Eliot had not yet received the manuscript, so he still had time to print a canto in the Criterion in advance of the volume. Pound sent Morley a set of spare proofs from Farrar’s American edition the next day. After reading them, Eliot chose canto XXXVI for the Criterion. See entry on 11 October below.
To Dorothy Pound, 31 July 
Lilly Library, Pound Mss. III
spare set of proofs 31/41 been sent to Morley.
Eleven New Cantos is published by Farrar in the U.S. on 8 October 1934.
From T. S. Eliot, 11 October 1934
L/TSE 7: 347-8
still possible to print Canto in Same number I Think, I shall pro-propose to print no. 36 I think it is because I am afeared that that about Jeff and John Quincy might frighten off the publikum which is not yet being acquainted with niceties of American history; and will send rest to Orage asking him to return BUT Is this the Copy WE ARE SUPPOSED TO SET UP FROM???
To Olga Rudge, 13 October 
YCAL 54, 15/389
Ow: ow wowmeYeow!!
No 31/41 arruv YET.
Crit[erion]/ to print 36 whichever thet iz/ as Psm [T.S Eliot] fears effek of murkn histry on Brutish iggurence. I tole him to print what he d/n well pleezez. I mean what pleeze him not ez. Anyhow; any Canto, wd/ be a honour to his bloody morterarium. an thass that.
To Olga Rudge, 25 November 
YCAL 54, 15/394
yes, yes darrling, you said it
an the Possum sez he izza print a Canto, in Dec/
Canto XXXVI is published in The Criterion XIV.55 (January 1935): 204-207.
A Draft of Eleven Cantos is published by Faber in London on 14 March 1935.
XXXVI – BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES IN JOURNALS AND COLLECTIONS
- Ambrus, Nicolas Z. “The White Light that is Allness: Ezra Pound’s Cantos on Love.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 29.3 (2000): 207-15.
- Ardizzone, Maria Luisa. “La Sapienza del sensibile. Pound (Cavalcanti) Aristotele: Prolegomena.” Galleria 25.3-6 (1986): 155-82.
- Ardizzone, Maria Luisa. “Pound as a Reader of Aristotle and His Medieval Commentators and Dante’s Commedia,” Dante e Pound. Eds. Maria Luisa Ardizzone and Mario Luzi. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1998. 205-228.
- Ardizzone, Maria Luisa. “The Genesis and Structure of Pound’s Paradise: Looking at the Vocabulary.” Paideuma 22. 3 (Winter 1993): 13-37.
- Bush, Ronald. “La Filosofica Famiglia: Cavalcanti, Avicenna, and the ‘Form’ of Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos.” Textual Practice 24.4 (2010): 669-705.
- Byron, Mark. “Canto 36.” Readings in the Cantos. Ed. Richard Parker. Clemson: Clemson UP, 2018. 285-96.
- Byron, Mark. “The Aristotelian Crescent: Medieval Arabic Philosophy in the Poetics of Ezra Pound.” The Medieval Presence in the Modernist Aesthetic. Unattended Moments. Eds. Simone Celine Marshall and Carole M. Cusack. Leiden: Brill, 2017. 78-98.
- Cavalcanti, Guido & John Lash. “Donna mi priegha” [A literal translation]. Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 15.1 (spring 1986): 79-82.
- Epifania, Giovanna. “Cavalcanti’s ‘Canzone d’Amore’ and Pound’s Translation Strategies in Canto 36.” ROMA/AMOR: Ezra Pound, Rome, and Love.Eds. William Pratt and Caterina Ricciardi. New York: AMS Press, 2013. 145-58.
- Fisher, Margaret. “Donna Mi Prega” Between Cavalcanti Rime and Canto XXXVI.” Part I. Make It New 1.1 (Spring 2014): 17-22. Free online. Part II. Make It New 2.1 (June 2015): 68-76. Free online.
- Henriksen, Line. “‘Chiaroscuro’: Canto 36 and ‘Donna Mi Prega.’” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 29.3 (Winter 2000): 33-57.
- Kaye, Jacqueline. “Pound And Heresy.” Paideuma 28.1 (Spring 1999): 89-111.
- Lash, John. “Making Sense of Donna mi priegha.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 15.1 (spring 1986): 83-93.
- Liebregts, Peter. “Love God And Do As You Please”: Ezra Pound And Augustine.” Paideuma 38 (2011): 55-88.
- Liebregts, Peter. “Between Alexandria and Rome: Ezra Pound, Augustine, and the Notion of Amor.” ROMA/AMOR: Ezra Pound, Rome, and Love.Eds. William Pratt and Caterina Ricciardi. New York: AMS Press, 2013. 133-44.
- Little, Matthew and Robert Babcock, “‘Amplius in Coitu Phantasia’: Pound’s ‘Cavalcanti’ and Avicenna’s De Almahad. Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 20.1-2 (1991): 63-75.
- Makin, Peter. “Ezra Pound and Scotus Erigena.” Comparative Literature Studies 10.1 (March 1973): 60-83.
- Michaels, Walter B. “Pound and Erigena.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 1 (1972): 37-54.
- Moody, David A. “‘They Dug Him Up Out of Sepulture’: Pound, Erigena and Fiorentino.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 25.1-2 (1996): 241-7.
- Morrow, Bradford. “De Lollis’ Sordello and Sordello: Canto 36.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 4.1 (1975): 93-8.
- Tay, William. “Between Kung and Eleusis: Li Chi, the Eleusinian Rites, Erigena and Ezra Pound.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 4 (1975): 37-54.
- Terrell, Carrol F. “An English Version of Grosseteste’s De Luce.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 2.3 (1973): 449-62.
- Terrell, Carrol F. “Canto Thirty-Six.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 18.1-2 (1989): 215-26.
- Albright, Daniel. “Early Cantos I-XLI.” The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound. Ed. Ira Nadel. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. 86-7.
- Ardizzone, Maria Luisa. Guido Cavalcanti: The Other Middle Ages. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002. [5. Cavalcanti at the Centre of the Western Canon: Ezra Pound as Reader of Donna me prega, 134-164; Appendix B: The Letters of Ezra Pound and Etienne Gilson, 169-173].
- Bacigalupo, Massimo. The Forméd Trace. The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound. New York: Columbia UP, 1980. 82-8, 331-5.
- Byron, Mark. “Canto XXXVI and Cavalcanti’s ‘Donna mi prega.’” In Pound’s Eriugena. London: Bloomsbury 2014. 30-50.
- Cookson, William. “Cavalcanti-Erigena.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2009. 50-2.
- De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. ”Commento: XXXVI.” Ezra Pound. I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1524-5.
- Dekker, George. “Cavalcanti’s Canzone d’amore and Canto XXXVI.” In Sailing after Knowledge. The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Routledge, 1963. 111-28.
- Dennis, Helen. “Canto Thirty-Six.” In A New Approach to the Poetry of Ezra Pound Through the Medieval Provençal Aspect. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Pres, 1996. 316-24.
- Froula, Christine. “from Canto XXXVI.” In A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 1983. 161-3.
- Gelpi, A. A Coherent Splendor. The American Poetic Renaissance 1910-1950. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 213-217.
- Hesse, Eva. ‘Ich liebe, desto bin ich.’ In Der unbekannte Ezra Pound. Berlin: Osburg Verlag, 2008. [V. Guido Cavalcanti und/oder Ezra Pound 283-93; Ezra Pounds Canto 36 mit deutscher Übersetzung von Eva Hesse 294-303; Anmerkungen zu Canto 36 von Ezra Pound und zu Guido Cavalcantis “Donna mi prega” 304-56.]
- Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto XXXVI.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. Zürich: Arche Verlag, 2013. 1247-8.
- Liebregts, Peter. “Canto XXXVI.” In Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2004. 203-223.
- Makin, Peter. “Cavalcanti: Canto XXXVI.” In Pound’s Cantos. London: Allen & Unwin, 1985. 179-90.
- Moody, David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 169-71.
- Nicholls, Peter. Ezra Pound: Politics, Economics and Writing. A Study of The Cantos. London: Macmillan, 1984. 60-69.
- Pearlman, Daniel. The Barb of Time: On the Unity of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969. 154-9.
- Pryor, Sean. W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and the Poetry of Paradise. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. 124-31.
- Sicari, Stephen. Pound’s Epic Ambition: Dante and the Modern World. New York: SUNY Press, 1991. 49-51.
- Sieburth, Richard. “Notes: Canto XXXVI.” Ezra Pound New Selected Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 2010. 318-9.
- Stevens, Anthony William. Ezra Pound and Guido Cavalcanti. A Study of Conscious Design in Pound’s Poetry. MA Thesis, Hamilton, ON.: 1974. [“Canzone d’Amore,” 25-8; J. E. Shaw’s Translation, 101-3].
- Stock, Noel. Reading the Cantos. A Study of Meaning in Ezra Pound. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966. 25-7.
- Surette, Leon. “Cavalcanti’s ‘Donna mi prega.’” In A Light from Eleusis. A Study of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979. 70-77.
- Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto XXXVI.” A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: California UP, 1993. 133-9.
- Stock, Noel. Reading the Cantos. A Study of Meaning in Ezra Pound. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966. 23-7.
- Wilhelm, J. J. Dante and Pound. The Epic of Judgement. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1974. 75-85.
- “XXXVI.” A Canto a Day. Blog. 19 March 2009. Free online.
- Gilbert, Stephen W. “Pound and Cavalcanti.” Sincronía (Summer 2008). 13 Feb. 2016. Free online.
- Guidi, Paolo. “Canto 36.” Diamond Point, lift, etch, aquatint copperplate. Printed on Arches 88 paper. 9 December 2012. Free online.
- Prynne, J.H. “Reading Pound: Four.” [On Canto XXXVI, “Donna mi prega” (Cavalcanti), and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley]. August 2007. Free online.
- Sellar, Gordon. “Blogging Pound’s The Cantos: Cantos XXXIV-XXXVI.” gordsellar.com, 8 August 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. Free online.