rsz catullus villa




If there is anything that binds together the various literary allusions in this canto, it is the memory of Pound's happiest time: the months he spent in Sirmione in March-June 1910. It is here that he corrected the proofs of the Spirit of Romance and wrote his first translations of Guido, which he would publish as Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti in 1912. Dante, Catullus, Sordello, and the troubadours were all near. Pound had found his paradise and his home, the place to start. (n. Ed.)



Annotations in the List of Works Cited

Contributor name. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.gloss number. The Cantos Project. Web. Date of access.

Example: Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.13. The Cantos Project. Web. 5 September 2016.

In-text references 

([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 for the first time, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: 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.




Dante Alighieri. Purgatory II: 76-117 (Casella); VI: 58-87 (Sordello)

Boccaccio. The Decameron. The Ninth Story (Cavalcanti)

Robert Browning. Sordello. (Sordello's font); ("those girls")

Gaius Valerius Catullus. Carmina 31 (Sirmio)

Dino Compagni.  The Chronicle of Dino Compagni (Cavalcanti)

Anatole France. "Messer Guido Cavalcanti." In The Well of St Clare (Julia Laeta)

Ezra Pound. "Troubadours: Their Sorts and Conditions" in Literary Essays (Sordello) 

Allen Upward. The New Word (glaukopis)



CSP Collected Shorter Poems
G-B  Memoir to Gaudier-Brzeska.
L&S Lewis and Short. A Latin Dictionary.
LE Literary Essays.
L/HP  Ezra Pound to his Parents.
LSJ  Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon Online.
P&T Ezra Pound. Poems and Translations.
SL Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941.
SP Selected Prose 1909-1965.
SR Spirit of Romance.
TTSC Troubadours – Their Sorts and Conditions (1913) in LE 94-108


rsz sordello

1. Sordello – (ca 1200-1269) Italian troubadour of the early 13th century. The italicization of S.’s name shows that Pound is not referring to the Italian poet directly, but to Robert Browning’s poem by the same name (1840), which he read with Yeats at Stone Cottage in 1914 (Longenbach xi, 143). In Three Cantos, Pound is toying with the idea of choosing S. as the model for his projected long poem. Pound's main source of reference on S. apart from Browning was Dante's meeting S. in Purgatory (VI: 58-85), which Pound recounted in SR, following it by a prose translation of S.'s sirvente on Sir Blacatz (1237) (SR 57-59). Then Pound wrote a brief biography (razo) of S. in TTSC (1913. Republished in LE 97). Christine Brooke Rose pointed out that there are six Sordellos: 1. Browning’s; 2. Pound’s in TTSC; 3. the real poet; 4. the S. as we have him from his own poetry; 5. Dante’s; 6. the S. of the razos which Pound uses as source of information (41). Sordello.

2. Your whole bag of tricks – Robert Browning’s poetic method. Pound’s Three Cantos are structured as a dramatic monologue in Browning’s style: it is the speech of someone addressing a mute interlocutor and revealing himself to the reader in the interstices and implications of what he actually says. Browning, who is Pound’s silent listener, had written his own poem by the same method: he imagined an audience of dead poets waiting to hear what he had to say about Sordello (Browning 49-51). In a letter to Iris Barry (27 July 1916) Pound remarked: "What about Browning? Does he entertain you? Is it possible to read him after you have been reading Russian novels? [...] The hell is that one catches Browning's manner and mannerisms. At least I've suffered the disease. There is no reason why you should” (SL 90).

3. Your – Pound does not mention Browning’s name in this passage, but only towards the end of this canto. However, in 1922, when Pound edited the first two lines for what was to become Canto II, he added the poet’s name: “Hang it all, Robert Browning/ There can be but the one 'Sordello'” (II/6). By then, he had decided to give up Browning’s poem as a model.

4. intaglio – (It. intagliare-engrave). A design engraved into a material. In an earlier unpublished draft of this canto, P. is clearer on what he means: "Give up carving each stone of my edifice/ As if it were an intaglio" (quoted in Gibson Ellis 88). 

Altaforte5. red brown rounded bases – Pound is comparing Bertran de Born’s castle in Perigord, Hautefort (Altaforte), (with red brown rounded bases), and two other castles further south, in two small Provençal towns facing each other across the Rhône river: Beaucaire and Tarascon. 

Front6. slim gray – The castle in Beaucaire is a ‘slim gray’ ruin seen from the Tarascon side. Pound visited Beaucaire in 1912 and spent a week there. He found the town very Romantic, as it was the stage where the story of Aucassin and Nicolette was set (Pater 10-14). He particularly loved the tower with the dungeon at its base. From there he could observe the Chateau Tarascon on the other side of the river (WTSF 68-71).

7. Altaforte – Pound is referring here to the Chateau René in the small town of Tarascon on the other side of the Rhône from Beaucaire. It has rounded towers, like Bertran de Born’s Hautefort. 

8. Alcazar – A fortress and government building complex built by Moors or by Christians in Moorish style. An alcazar also included private apartments, patios and gardens. The most famous still existing alcazars are at Alhambra in Granada, as well as Seville, Cordoba and Segovia. Chateau Tarascon has a garden in Islamic style, with a narrow ribbon of water in the middle, so it can be considered an alcazar, combining the military fort with government spaces, private apartments and gardens. 

Chateau Rene

Chateau Tarascon garden









Chateau René in Tarascon: exterior walls and Moorish garden

9. Half a-swim with mire – “The deterioration of the condition of the castle [chateau René] was made worse by the damage done as a result of the Revolution, and the castle entered the 19th century in very poor condition. Numerous decisions to demolish the castle were passed, even as late as the 20th century, but each time circumstances or opposition prevented it taking place. It was only in 1932 that the future of the chateau was assured and restoration work began.” 

10. Trunk hose – Short ballooning breeches worn by men in the 16th century. In TTSC Pound uses the term to warn against the romantic interpretation of the work of troubadours. In his assessment of Peire Cardinal’s poetry, he comments: “His sobriety is not to be fooled with sentiment either martial or otherwise. There is in him little of the fashion of feminolatry, and the gentle reader in search of trunk-hose and the light guitar had better go elsewhere” (LE 107).

rsz cardinal11. Peire Cardinal (1180-1278) – troubadour whom Pound mentions in SR and comments on at length in TTSC (LE 103-108). Cardinal was 28 at the time of the Albigensian Crusade (1208), which marked the end of Provençal troubadour culture. Pound looks on him as the last of the troubadours and the direct link to Dante’s political and moral criticism. C.’s sirventes are for Pound shining examples of a poet’s social responsibility: C was a poet who left behind the love song to engage in social critique. In SR Pound’s take on C. is through Dante’s De Vulgari Eloquentia. Starting from Dante’s remark that no Italian poet had yet touched the subject of arms, Pound states: “in Provence itself the other troubadours may be said to have satirized the lack of courage, rather than to have praised the acts of carnage, as for example Sordello. Peire Cardinal is extremely lucid on the imbecility of belligerents and the makers of wars” (SR 48). Pound adds: “Peire Cardinal’s invectives against the corruption of the church temporal should be read by anyone interested in the history of the period (SR 61-62). Further, Pound concludes: “Peire Cardinal’s fable of the sane man in the city gone mad is a weaker equation for what Dante presents as a living man amongst the dead” (SR 132). See Cardinal's poem 'Una ciutatz fo' (A Mad City). See also Sieburth P&T 1285.

Arnaut Daniel 212. Arnaut’s – Arnaut Daniel, (active 1180-1210), the most accomplished troubadour of the late 12th century. He was much admired by Dante, who had Guido Guinicelli call him “il miglio fabbro” (the better craftsman) in Purgatorio XXVI: 117. Dante’s encounter with A. in Purgatory was dear to Pound’s heart: in their dialogue, Dante lets A. use his native Provençal as a homage to his unparalleled mastery of verse. Dante also mentions A. in De vulgari Eloquentia acknowledging his invention of the sestina form which he used himself in his own "Al poco giorno."

Pound started his study of A. from Dante and first wrote about him in SR (22-38). In 1911, he started working on a bilingual edition of verse translations. The publisher who was to bring out this edition went bankrupt in 1912 (P&T 1211). In 1917, Pound revised the translations and sent the typescript to a publisher in Cleveland, but it got lost on the way (P&T 1215). Finally, he published the translations as part of an essay on A. in Instigations (1920), republished in LE (109-148). P&T reproduces just Pound’s translations (481-503), without the Provençal originals or Pound’s biographical introduction.

13. font – A passage in Browning’s Sordello (I: 375-440) that Pound particularly liked. He introduced it into the list of texts at the back of The ABC of Reading (188-191). In his notes to the text, he praised it for “the lucidity of sound” and commented that “the beauty is not applied ornament, but makes the mental image more definite” (191). Sordello's font.

14. Verona – In late March 1910, Pound tried to find lodging in Verona which he considered “perhaps the most beautiful city in north Italy.” He particularly liked the church of San Zeno, calling it “the ultimate perfection.” Nevertheless, he could not find a good place to stay, so after walking in V. for two days, he left it for Sirmione. (L/HP 229, 233). Pound may also have turned to a vision of Verona because Browning started Sordello with an invocation of that city. But Pound’s personal point of departure is Sirmione, the “peninsular village” which he remembers in the lines below.

can grande smile15. Can Grande (1291-1329) – The most illustrious member of the Scala family that ruled Verona 1277-1387. Though particularly famous for his military successes, CG. is now valued as Dante’s patron after his exile from Florence. “I might have written a book on Can Grande de la Scala. – it happens I’m going to write about Guido Cavalcanti in stead. Dante wrote a good deal of the Divina Commedia in Verona & the ‘Paradiso’ is dedicated to Can Grande.” (L/HP 229) Pound may have thought of Can Grande because now he too had a patron: Margaret Cravens, whom he had met in Paris just before arriving in Verona.

16. Corpus Domini – religious feast in honour of the Eucharist, sixty days after Easter. Browning’s ‘great day’ happens in Venice, Pound’s in Sirmione (Sordello III, 766; Bush 113). In 1910, the feast was celebrated on 26 May, while Pound was there. On the day, the pavements are decorated with carpets of flowers, usually yellow and red. Infiorata.3

17. Peninsular village – Sirmione, on the shore of Lake Garda. The village was under the jurisdiction of Verona and the Scala family to whom Can Grande belonged. Pound described his situation to his mother on arrival in March 1910: "have miles of Lago di Garda under my window, what I take to be the dome & campanili of Brescia in the hills beyond it. snow capped mountains to the north when I lean out of the window & a Scaliger castle behind the hotel." (L/HP 228).

18. Half-ruined chapel – Pound is probably referring to the church San Pietro in Mavino in Sirmione, built in the 11th century – a link between the ruined Roman villa ‘on the rocks’ and the Renaissance. Ron Bush points out that the church was built on the ruins of a pagan temple (Bush 115).

rsz chiesa san pietro in mavino sirmione 1rsz 1rsz imag4216

San Pietro in Mavino, Sirmione

19. Catullus (84-54 BC) – Roman poet who is known to have had a villa on Sirmione. In thinking of Catullus as an alternative to Sordello, and of C.’s villa as a “home” Pound is evoking his own experience at Sirmione in March-June 1910. See also the evocation of the lake in “Blandula, Tenulla Vagula” and “The Flame,” two poems he wrote at the time (Moody I:125).

20. “Home to sweet rest” – Pound’s line loosely paraphrases Catullus Carmina 31: 7-10 and 13-14. OP. Catullus 31.

21. Lo soleils plovil – “the sun rains” - one of Pound’s favourite phrases from Arnaut Daniel. It is the last line of A.’s poem Lancan son passat li giure (“When the frosts are gone and over”). Pound translated this poem and published it in Instigations (1920). “Sir Bertran, sure, no pleasure’s won / Like this freedom naught so merry / ‘Twixt Nile’n’ where the suns miscarry / To where the rain falls from the sun” (LE 121).

22. Darts from the “Lydian” ripples […]“Lydiae” – The quotations allude to the final two lines of Catullus 31: “gaudete vosque, o Lydiae lacus undae; / ridete, quidquid est domi cachinnorum” (“and you, o Lydian waves of the lake:/Laugh [with] all the laughter you have at home.”) “Lydiae” in Catullus is the plural adjectival form of “Lydia,” an ancient name for a region of western Asia Minor (modern-day western Turkey). The reason for the adjective “Lydiae” in Catullus is likely a reference to the Etruscan settlements in the region of the Po, a river to the south of the lake. The Romans traditionally thought of the Etruscans as Lydian in origin, and poetically referred to them as “Lydians” (Merrill, n.13). See Pound’s reference to “Etruscan gods” further down in the poem. OP, RP, PL.

23. locus undae – Catullus's original text has here "lacus undae" (the waves of the lake). In Pound's base text we find "lacus" as in the original (Taylor 110). However, in the setting copy of Canto I for Poetry "lacus" turned to "locus.” Pound corrected the error in his revision of the canto for Lustra and Future.

24. Lemures – Lat. for ‘shades’, ‘ghosts of the departed’. The term usually refers to anonymous, dangerous and malevolent ghosts, as opposed to the benevolent ‘lares.’ Ovid explained the origin of the word: the ghost of murdered Remus appeared to Faustulus and Acca to demand a day in his honor. Romulus then instituted a day of worship for dead ancestors, called Remuria, in memory of his brother. “In the course of ages the rough letter, which stood at the beginning of the name, was changed into the smooth; and soon the souls of the silent multitude were also called Lemures: that is the meaning of the word, that is the force of the expression.” (Fasti V: 455-484) OP, RP, PL.

25. Glaukopos – a misspelling of Ancient Gk. γλανκῶπις, (“glaukopis”), meaning “with gleaming eyes” or “bright-eyed,” a Homeric epithet of Athena. OP.

Leon Surette succinctly explained the term and its associations for Pound: “Glaukopos is an epithet of Athena, variously translated as “grey-eyed” or “green-eyed” but for Pound it probably means light that “blinks like an owl.” He gets this idea from Upward, who claims that the blinking is also a property of olive leaves, which have a shiny side and a dull side” (Birth of Modernism 134). See Bush (91-102) for Allen Upward’s influence. Glaukopis.

26. Greaves – pieces of armour used to protect the shins. OP. Pound also used the phrase ‘golden greaves’ in his “The Coming of War: Actaeon,” a poem that like this canto, depicts how the poet, finding himself in nature has a vision of ‘the divine.’ PL.

27. Apricus – Lat. for “exposed to the sun,” “warmed by sunshine,” “sunny” (L&S). Used in varying circumstances by Ovid, Horace, Virgil and Cicero. OP.

28. Your way of talk – Ricciardi commented on three of Browning's literary "tricks": ubiquity in space and time, the view from the "palace step" and finally "mesmerism" - bringing dead people back to life through poetic evocation (Ricciardi 38).

29. Asolo – Town in the region of Treviso, which was dear to Browning. His last volume of poetry, published on the day he died (12 December 1889), is called Asolando (for the love of Asolo). The town figures in Sordello as “delicious Asolo” (162) and “sparkling Asolo” (294).

30. Palace step – Pound refers to the following passage from Browning’s Sordello: “I sung this on an empty palace-step / At Venice: why should I break off, nor sit / Longer upon my step, exhaust the fit / England gave birth to?” (Sordello III/676-78). Sordello: Those girls.

31. Dogana Punta della Dogana, the place where the Grand Canal flows into the Venice lagoon and where the city placed its customs warehouses.

32. Those girls – Pound continues his address to Browning referring to the older poet’s review of Italian girls he might love (Browning 162-163). Sordello: Those girls.

33. Florian’s and under the north arcade – Florian’s is a famous café under the south arcade of Piazza San Marco in Venice. Sitting there, Pound may have observed the goings-on on the opposite side of the piazza.

34. “into the empyrean” – Reference to Dante’s Paradiso. The empyrean is the abode of God in the centre of a mystical rose of light, whose petals are the seats of the faithful (Par. XXX: 61-138).

Chaucer35. Pre-Daun Chaucer – Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) – English poet whose practice changed the prosodic rules of English poetry. Influenced by French and Italian models, like the medieval Romaunt de la Rose and Boccaccio's Decameron, he turned away from the Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse to the stress-based, rhymed meter in his major poem, The Canterbury Tales. At the same time, he referred in his Tales to works written in Latin two centuries before him. One of them was The Book of Daun Burnell the Ass by Nigel de Longchamps (also known as Nigellus Wireker ca.1130-1200), to which Chaucer refers in the Nun's Priest's Tale. (Sieburth P&T 1286).

rsz boccacciopersito36. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) –  In B.'s time, stories were told in verse, on the model of the epic. In his most important work, The Decameron, B. initiated the novella, the short story in prose that can be considered as one of the roots of the novel as literary form. For Pound what matters is that Boccaccio situated himself in a pagan lineage. He remarks in SR: "the romance of the longer narratives had come to full fruit in Chaucer. Where Dante is a crystallization of many mediaeval elements, his own intensity the cause of their cohesion, Chaucer comes as through a more gradual, gentler process, like some ultimate richer blossom on that bough whcih brought forth Beroul, Thomas, Marie, Crestien, Wace, and Gower. He is part, some will say, of the humanistic revolt. Boccaccio and the rest but carry on a paganism which had never expired." (SR 167). In referring to Chaucer's and Boccaccio as continuing classical models, Pound asks himself whether he should appeal to these, rather to the troubadour poems and stories of Arnaut and Uc St. Circ.

37. Hagoromo – (The Feather Mantle) a classical Noh play based on an eighth century Japanese legend.

rsz 1hagoromo udaka tatsushige stephane barberySynopsis: A fisherman is walking with his companions at night when he finds the Hagoromo, the magical feathermantle of a tennin (an aerial spirit or celestial dancer) hanging on a bough. The tennin sees him taking it and demands its return—she cannot return to Heaven without it. The fisherman argues with her, and finally promises to return it, if she will show him her dance or part of it. She accepts to perform the dance. The Chorus explains the dance as symbolic of the daily changes of the moon. In the finale, the tennin disappears like a mountain slowly hidden in mist. Pound found it among Fenollosa’s papers and included it in his collection, 'Noh' or Accomplishment (1917. P&T 426-32). Hagoromo in Noh or Accomplishment.

rsz de born 138. Bertran de Born (approx. 1140-1215) – Provençal baron and poet, lord of Hautefort (Altaforte), at the border of Perigord and Limousin. Pound comments and translates from his work in SR 44-48. Pound’s starting point was Dante who showed B. as a trunk carrying his head as a lantern in the 8th circle of the Inferno (XXVIII: 118-142) as punishment for his having encouraged Henry II’s son to rebel against his father, thus severing the bonds governing the family and upsetting the natural order. Pound appreciated B’s sirventes and tried to understand the real time politics embedded in B.’s poetry both about war and love.

rsz uc st circ39. Uc de Saint Circ (1217-1253) – troubadour from Quercy who, in addition to his own poetry, wrote short biographies of other troubadours, called razos or vidas. Pound refers to him often, since U. is the source of biographical information Pound has on the troubadours. See his work at

40. Agora – (Ancient Gk.  γορά). An assembly, a term particularly used to refer to the central marketplace of an ancient Greek city (LSJ)— famously, the agora of Athens. The agora was the center of political, social and religious life in the city. OP.

41. Zanze and swanzig – Zanze is the name of a girl in Browning’s Sordello (III: 879). Swanzig is not in the poem so it may be safe to speculate that here Pound is embroidering and having a laugh.

42. “Tyrrhene welk” – Browning’s passage reads: “And turn him pure as some forgotten vest/Woven of painted byssus, silkiest /Tufting the Tyrrhene whelk's pearl-sheeted lip.” (Sordello III/11-13). Byssus was a term for linen in the ancient times. Later, it came to designate the mass of filaments with which mollusks and mussels cling to the rock. “Tyrrhene” means Etruscan, “whelk” is a marine snail probably living in the Tyrrhenian sea. Pound has every right to single out this passage as especially difficult.

43. “The lyre/should animate not mislead the pen” – William Wordsworth. Memorials of a Tour In Italy. Plea for the Historian VI: 13-14.

Ricciardi points out that in the simplicity of diction which Wordsworth theorized and practiced, he had the corrective for Browning’s mannerisms. Both Browning and Wordsworth were masters of the long poem and Pound’s natural points of reference. However, Pound found W. boring and steered clear of the ordinary language as practiced by the older poet. He calls him bleating sheep (LE 277, 373) and a “stupid man” ("Landor" 1917 SP 384).

44. Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) – French post-impressionist painter. His style is recognizable by his use of pale colours evoking an otherworldly, dreamlike universe.

45. Panisks – (Lat. Paniscus – little Pan) - a male deity of the forest in Greek mythology that is half man and half goat and is commonly attendant on Pan (Merriam Webster Online).

46. Maenad – (Lat. maenad – mad) - a female follower of Dionysus, celebrating the god in the woods.

47. Mounts Balde and Riva – Balde is a mountain overlooking Lake Garda. Riva is a town on its north-western shore. Map.

48. Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782) – Italian poet and composer of libretti for opera. Pound was convinced that M. still believed in an age of gold when the poet sat in the grass blowing “his diversion on a ha’ penny whistle.” Pound assimilated M. to his Sirmione experience: “I would much rather lie on what is left of Catullus’ parlour floor and speculate the azure beneath it and the hills off to Salo and Riva with their forgotten gods moving unhindered amongst them, than discuss any processes and theories of art whatsoever. (“Prolegomena” (1912) in LE 8-9. See Bush 136). Pound translated M's poem "Age of Gold" (P&T 1201).

49. Lonato – town on the south-western shore of Lake Garda, near Sirmione. Map.

50. Pace – Latin ablative form of pax, “peace”. Use in this context means “with all due respect to”, politely acknowledging a disagreement with (Ficinus). OP.

rsz marsilio ficino andrea ferrucci 35407851. naïf Ficinus – Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). F. was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance.

Like Andreas Divus and Lorenzo Valla he translated Greek patrimony into Latin thus ensuring the survival of ancient texts into modernity. F. translated Plato’s Opera Omnia (1484) and Neo-Platonic thinkers like Iamblichus, Plotinus, Proclus, Psellus and Hermes Trismegistus (1497).

In Patria mia (1912), Pound refers to F. as “naïve and charming” (SP 129), probably because of F.’s wish to reconcile his studies of Plato with Neo-Platonic mysticism and with Christianity.

In his article “Affirmations” (11 Feb 1915) Pound stated his ideas on the Renaissance and delineated his departure from it by writing: "Ficino was seized in his youth by Cosimo dei Medici and set to work translating a Greek that was in spirit anything but “classic”. That is to say, you had, ultimately, a 'Platonic' academy messing up Christian and Pagan mysticism, allegory, occultism, demonology, Trismegistus, Psellus, Porphyry, into a most eloquent and exciting and exhilarating hotch-potch which 'did’ for the medieval fear of the dies irae and for human abasement generally. Ficino himself writes of Hermes Trismegistus in a New Testament Latin, and arranges his chronology by codating Hermes’ great-grandfather with Moses.” (G-B 112).

52. Hotep-Hotep – Pound’s banter with the Egyptian pharaoh dynasties goes back to a memory of himself sitting in Gaudier’s atelier while the sculptor was creating his bust. “Oh, well, mon pauvre caractère, the good Gaudier has stiffened it up quite a lot, and added so much more of wisdom, so much resolution. I should have … the firmness of Hotep-Hotep, the strength of the gods in Egypt” (G-B 50; Bush 137).

iamblichus53. When Atlas sat down with his astrolabe – Pound referred to the anthology of Neoplatonic writings, which Ficino translated into Latin and published in 1497, containing the following texts: Iamblichus’ De mysteriis Aegyptiorum, Chaldaeorum, Assyriorum (On the Egyptian, Chaldean and Assyrian Mysteries); Proclus’ In Platonicum Alcibiadem de Anima, atque Dæmone (On the Spirit and Dæmon in Plato’s Alcibiade) and De Sacrifico & magia (On Sacrifice and Magic); Porphyry’s De Divina atque Dæmonibus (On the Divine and On Dæmons); Psellus’ De Dæmonibus (OnDæmons); Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus’ Pimander and Asclepius. OP, RP.

In his “Argumentum” to Pimander, Ficino declares: “Eo tempore quo Moses natus est, floruit Atlas astrologus Promethei physici frater; ac maternus auus majoris Mercurij, cujus nepos fuit Mercurius Trismegistus.” (Ficino 361). “At the time Moses was born, the astronomer Atlas, brother of the natural philosopher Prometheus, was active; and he was the maternal grandfather of the elder Mercury/Hermes, whose grandson was Hermes Trismegistus.” (Trans. PL). Argumentum.

54. Shang – the second Chinese dynasty, which ruled between 1600 and 1046 BC.

rsz liu ding shang sacrificial vessel 255. Sea-monster – The Tao-t’ie, incised on sacrificial cauldrons (ding) of the Shang dynasty. It could be shown as a dragon, or more stylized
abstract as squares with rounded corners in a pattern. Pound was probably recalling Gaudier’s manifesto “Vortex” published in Blast: “the Shang and Chow dynasties produced the convex bronze vases. The features of Tao-t’ie were inscribed inside of the square with the rounded corners – the centuple spherical frog presided over the inverted truncated cone that is the bronze war drum.” (G-B 23)

56. Confucius – Kong Qiu (551-479), Chinese philosopher, also referred to as K’ung Fu-Tzu (Master Kong).

rsz confuciusQian dates Pound’s earliest reference to C. in a letter to his father, on 22 September, 1913: “I wonder if there is a decent translation of Confucius. I’ve Pauthier’s French version. NOT the odes, but the ‘Four Books.’” Qian goes on to stress that the initiation into C. was made earlier, in 1910-1912, via the British Museum Chinese art collection and his friendship with Lawrence Binyon (Modernist Response 47).

Feng Lan, relying on Noel Stock, states that Pound had read a little C. as early as 1907, owing to his parents’ interest in the missionary work in China (Stock 176; Lan 3-4). It is thus safe to conclude that Pound had already read the Chinese Classics by the time he met Mrs. Fenollosa on 29 September 1913 (Qian Orientalism 24). Pound published his first article on Confucius in 1914: “The Words of Ming Mao ‘Least Among the Disciples of Kung-Fu-Tse’” (Lan 4, 200: n5).

In “Provincialism the Enemy, Part II” (New Age, 19 July 1917) Pound commented: 

“Confucius’s emphasis is on conduct. ‘Fraternal deference’ is his phrase… It is a statesman’s way of thinking. The thought is for the community. Confucius’s constant emphasis is on the value of personality, on the outlines of personality, on the man’s rights to preserve the outlines of his personality, and of his duty not to interfere with the personalities of others” (SP 163; Liebregts 105).

Guanyin57. Kwannon – the Japanese name of Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, the personification ofcompassion and kindness. Ron Bush associates the mention of K. here with the Noh play Tamura (Genesis 138; P&T 379-383, 1288). Qian argues that the images of K. evoked here are a synthesis of paintings that Pound saw at the British Museum (Modernist Response 13).

It is also likely that Pound wishes to associate the presentation of K. with Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, to which he refers a few lines below. The foot on a lotus petal, the waves curled high and the genius’ homage, all point in that direction. Botticelli’s Venus is a composite image resembling the Madonna, a symbol of love, beauty and compassion transcending Christianity.

58. Guido – Guido Cavalcanti (ca 1259-1300) – Italian poet in whom Pound took a lifelong interest. At the time of writing this canto, Pound knew C.'s poetry intimately, having translated C.'s poems and published them as Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti in 1912. In his Introduction, P. stated: "Than Guido Cavalcanti no psychologist of the emotions is more keen in his understanding, more precise in his expression; we have in him no rhetoric, but always a true description (P&T 188). In SR, P. praised C. for his intensity of emotion and poignancy: he considered C. "less subtle than Dante, more passionate" (110) and followed Rossetti in excluding C.’s canzone, Donna mi prega, from his canon. But P. would revise this initial position over the years, by translating the canzone twice and publishing his final version as Canto 36 in 1934. In that Canto, P. again connects C. to Sordello.

59. Or San Michele – Florentine church, in which the face of a Madonna painted on a column wall was said to effect miracles. Cavalcanti thought her face was just like that of his lady and wrote a sonnet to Guido Orlandi telling him that (see also Canto IV: 124-25). San Michele in Orto, as Cavalcanti calls it, was the starting point of his habitual walk through Florence: from Orsanmichele to San Giovanni (Baptistery) and Santa Reparata (Boccaccio Decameron VI.9). Pound tries to think himself into C.’s life using literary sources: Boccaccio, Anatole France and Dino Compagni. See also Sieburth n.214.7-8, P&T 1271. Cavalcanti.

60. Julia Laeta – character in Anatole France’s story “Messer Guido Cavalcanti” included in his volume, The Well of St. Clare. JL.’s ghost appears to Guido one night while he was tarrying among the tombs of St Giovanni church. She has nothing to tell him about life after death. Cavalcanti.

61. That street charge – “Guido was active in Florence politics. In the peace concluded by Cardinal Latino in 1280 he was one of the guarantors for the Guelf party and in 1284 he served, together with Brunetto Latini and Dino Compagni, on the Consiglio Generale del Commune. In his chronicle, Compagni refers to the animosity between Guido and Corso Donati, a hatred based on political affiliations (Guido was a white Guelf, Corso a leader of the black Guelf faction) and this enmity led to Corso’sattempted assassination of Guido while he was on pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Compostela (1293-1295). The passage of the Ordinances of Justice in 1295 effectively excluded Guido from serving in the Florentine government. Fierce partisan rivalry continued, however, and Guido took part in an attack on the Donati family in Florence and was wounded. On June 24, 1300, Guido and other leaders of both the white and the black factions of the Guelf party were exiled to Sarzana in an attempt to restore civic order. On August 19, 1300, the ban was lifted, but Guido had contracted an illness, probably malaria, and died shortly after his return to Florence on August 29” (Kleinhenz 422). Cavalcanti.

62. Phantastikon – “We have about us the universe of fluid force, and below us thegerminal universe of wood alive, of stone alive. Man is - the sensitive physical part of him - a mechanism, for the purpose of our further discussion a mechanism rather like an electrical appliance… As for his consciousness, the consciousness of some seems to rest, or to have its center more properly in what the Greek psychologists called the phantastikon. Their minds are, that is, circumvolved about them like soap-bubbles reflecting sundry patches of the macrocosmos. And with certain others the consciousness is “germinal”. Their thoughts are in them as the thought of the tree is in its seed… these minds… affect mind about them, and transmute it as the seed the earth. And this latter sort of mind is close on the vital universe…” (“Psychology and Troubadours” SR 92-93). See Liebregts 43-47 for a detailed archeology of the concept.

rsz birth of venus63. His Venus – Simonetta Vespucci, the inspiration for the figure of the love goddess in Botticelli's painting, The Birth of Venus (1482-1485). The painting was commissioned by the Medici family for a wedding and is an accomplished homage to human beauty and spiritual love. Simonetta had been dead for ten years before the painting was done.

“In their search after the pleasures of the senses and the imagination, in their care for beauty, in their worship of the body, people were impelled beyond the bounds of the Christian ideal; and their love became sometimes a strange idolatry, a strange rival religion. It was the return of that ancient Venus, not dead, but only hidden for a time in the caves of the Venusberg, of those old pagan gods still going to and fro on the earth, under all sorts of disguises” (Pater 16).

64. Aufidus – Latin name of the Italian river Ofanto. Pound, however, thought it was the West wind, as it is clear from his note to a previous use of the name he makes in his poem “Occidit.” (CSP 83; P&T 86; Bacigalupo 137)rsz botticelli primavera

65. “Apparelled like the spring” – “There she comes appareled like the spring /Graces her subjects” – (Shakespeare, Pericles I 1 12-13). Possible allusion to the companion picture to Birth of Venus – Botticelli’s La Primavera, (1482). Pound seems to conflate the figures of Flora and Venus, now dressed in a flowery robe and carrying roses in her arms.

66. Mantegna – Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) Italian painter. In 1460, Lodovico III Gonzaga chose him to be court painter of Mantua, where M. worked until his death in 1506. M. was Botticelli's contemporary and has equal claim to be regarded as the creator of Renaissance painting. See also Three Cantos II: 2-4.

67. Picasso – Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Spanish painter who is central to what Pound conjures up as the modernist Renaissance. In his invention of the new paradigm of Cubism, P. was crucial in the turn of the visual arts from representation (imitation of nature) to formalism (art as a formal arrangement of form and colour).

68. Lewis – Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) painter, writer, and critic. Pound met him in 1909 and counted him among his lifelong friends and models. L. was the head of the British avant-garde in painting and gathered around him a group of artists in a movement which Pound dubbed Vorticism. Together, they brought out two issues of the Vorticist magazine Blast, in June 1914 and July 1915. In the suggestion of a contemporary Renaissance of the arts, which Pound is implying here, Picasso and Lewis are the modern analogues to Botticelli and Mantegna.

69. Casella – Pound refers to Dante’s friend, Casella, a singer and composer from Florence, whom the poet finds in ante-Purgatory. C. set Dante's lyric poems to music and performed these arrangements, as he did even beyond death with the poet’s canzone, Amor che ne la mente mi ragiona ("Love that speaks within my mind") at Dante’s request (Purgatory II: 76-117). Pound recounts Dante's encounter with C in SR 138. Casella.