COMPANION TO CANTO XVI
Annotations in the List of Works Cited:
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher [if different from website name], Date of Publication in Day Month Year format, URL. [MLA 8 format].
Example: Preda, Roxana. “Companion to Canto IV.” The Cantos Project, 5 August 2016.
OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound
(Contributor name, OCCEP IV: n.no).
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, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line number(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.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.
© Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto XVI, 4 August 2017.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Carroll F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.
Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914. Eds. Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz. London: Faber, 1985.
Ezra Pound to His Parents – Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A. David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. Ed. T. S. Eliot. New York: New Directions, 1968.
Roxana Preda. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project 2014-present
Ezra Pound. Spirit of Romance. New York: New Directions, 2005.
Ezra Pound. Three Cantos. Poetry, June-August 1917. In Personae. The Shorter Poems of Ezra Pound. Eds. Lea Baechler and A. Walton Litz. New York: New Directions, 1990. 229-45.
Troubadours, their Sorts and Conditions. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. Ed. T. S. Eliot. New York: New Directions, 1968. 94-108.
- two mountains – Pound relies strongly on the first two cantos of Dante’s Purgatory, in which he and Virgil emerge from Hell to a new landscape. They see the dawn and stars, a plain, a sea and a mountain. Since Pound comes back to this scene after a few centuries, he makes changes in the geography of the place and adds his own mountain of Purgatory where he puts various characters from his own life who speak to him. He keeps some elements of Dante’s scene – the water where he is to bathe before proceeding, the rush with which he is to “gird” himself, the screw-like path, going around the wall of the mountains.
Dante and his guide meet the dignified, father-like figure of Cato the Younger, who oversees Purgatory: Virgil asks him to permit passage. Cato was a distinguished Roman republican who had killed himself in 46 BC as a last act of resistance against Julius Caesar’s imperial ambitions. Cato’s presence in Dante’s Purgatory seems unwarranted, as he was both a pagan and a suicide. Pound does not include him, but Cato’s anti-imperialist protest is echoed in the figures that Pound chooses to present in his canto, William Blake, Peire Cardinal, Sordello and St. Augustine.
Blake – William Blake (1757-1827), English poet painter and engraver. Pound sees him as fleeing from evil the way Blake imagined Cain in his own engraving, “The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve” (Kearns 71). As canto XVI was initially a part of an Ur-Hell canto, the evil that Blake is fleeing from and howling against is the same as the hell Pound has just emerged from: dishonest politics, war, religious dogmatism, and a corrupt press (See Beall 2-3). Pound’s choice of Blake as a fellow traveller relies on the similarity he perceives between Blake’s time and his own, as well as on his sense of identity as a politically-committed poet:
“Blake thought of himself as a prophetic bard with a harp that could prostrate tyranny and overthrow armies–or, more simply, as an honest man uttering his opinion of public matters. And although he veiled his opinion or elaborated it into a complex symbolic fabric having little to do with public matters on many of its levels of meaning, it has been possible to trace through nearly all of his work a more or less clearly discernible thread of historical reference” (Erdman ix-x quoted in Kearns 71).
- steel mountain – “The steel mountain and road like a ‘screw’s thread’ suggest the industrialism Blake protested against, as he did usury, banking, war and colonial plunder” (Kearns 71-72).
Peire Cardinal – 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. Cardinal’s sirventes are for Pound clear examples the social responsibility felt by a poet who had left behind the love song to engage in social critique.
In SR, Pound’s take on Cardinal 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 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, no sai cals (“A Mad City, I don’t know which”). Pound mentioned Cardinal in Three Cantos I: l.23 (See OCCEP TC I: n.11).
- Il Fiorentino – It. “The Florentine,” the poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).
- his mirror – Dante’s mirror is his major work the Divina Commedia, a poem in which he meditated on his times and his country.
lo Sordels – Prov. “Sordello.” Sordello da Goito (ca. 1200-1269), Italian poet who wrote in Provençal, whom Pound includes as a representative troubadour involved in the political affairs of his time. Sordello’s planh mourning the death of his patron, Sir Blacatz, shows just how informed the poet was on questions of war and diplomacy in the 13th century. Pound translated it in SR (58-60) and referred to again in Three Cantos III. See OCCEP TC III: n.21. Planher vuelh en Blacatz en aquest leugier so.
Pound’s special assessment of Sordello is built on Dante’s meeting the poet in Purgatory (Purgatorio VI: 58-87. Dante and Sordello) and on Robert Browning’s poem Sordello (1840).
- his shield – Sordello looked at the hell of war through his own life as a soldier and diplomat (Lollis 39-46).
Both “shield” and “mirror” protect Pound in the emergence from hell in Canto XV: Plotinus tells the poet: “keep your eyes on the mirror” and provides the shield of the Medusa, which, kept face downwards, hardens the soil under his feet.
Augustine – Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (345-430), early Christian theologian and philosopher, author of The City of God and Confessions. Augustine’s life was marked by two concurrent histories: that of the emergence of the temporal power of the Christian Church and that of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Augustine believed that due to the original sin and fall of man, mankind was condemned to live in an earthly city marked by evil and violence. However, the righteous had to believe in the eternal city, that of God, in which no wars could exist.
- crimen est actio – L. “crime is action.” In one of the drafts of the canto, Pound is more explicit: “Crimen est actio, crime is an action/ evil a state of being (YCAL 178 2/87: 8).
- Palux Laerna – L. Palus Lernae (“swamp of Lerna”), a lake in the Argolid region in Greece believed to be an entrance to the underworld. The swamp of Lerna was the home of Hydra, the monster that Hercules killed in his second labour (Hesiod 314-20).
- aqua morta – L. “dead water.”
- here an arm upward – the formula, which Pound repeats three lines below, may refer to the failed attempts of individuals to get out of the morass of contemporaneity, to clutch at a fragment of the past or make a sign, however arbitrary, of identity. The image may be said to provide a ruling symbol for the canto, where various voices, anonymous or hidden behind pseudonyms, provide personal narratives of historical events in which they took part.
stiff herbage – a reference to Dante’s Purgatory. Cato tells the travellers that Dante needs to wash his face and gird himself with a stiff reed growing around a water nearby (Purgatorio I: 94-105).
- patet terra – L. “the earth lies open.”
- Sigismundo – Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1417-1468), Italian condottiere and ruler of Rimini. For Pound, Sigismondo’s true legacy did not consist in his military exploits, but in his constructive side. In Rimini, Sigismondo rebuilt the city fortress, Castel Sismondo, and the San Francesco church, which is now known as the Tempio Malatestiano. Pound celebrated Sigismondo in cantos VIII-XI, which are dedicated to his life.
- Malatesta Novello – Domenico Malatesta, (1418-1465) also called Malatesta Novello, Sigismondo’s younger brother and Lord of Cesena. “Novvy,” as Pound calls him, built two important edifices for the city: the hospital and the library. Pound also alludes to Domenico’s town in canto XI.74: “Cesena, Zezena d'''e b'''e colonne.” See OCCEP XI: n. 28.
- one man – Victor Gustave Plarr (1863-1929), an English poet born in Strasbourg with mixed French-English parentage. Plarr was a librarian at the Royal College of Surgeons and amateur poet. Pound befriended him in his early London days and commemorated him under the name Mr. Verog in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.
- et j’entendis des voix:... – Fr. “I heard voices.”
wall ... Strasbourg – a reference to Victor Plarr’s poem, “Strasbourg,” published in 1918, celebrating the French takeover of the city from the Germans at the end of WWI. Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace-Lorraine, had been lost to the Prussians in the war of 1870; in his poem, Plarr was revisiting the past sorrow and today’s triumph. He wrote: “Oh, do we dream as oft we did–/Watchers on visionary walls?”
Pound was aware of the poem, as he reported to his mother:
“Old Plarr has let loose on subject of Strasbourg, 11 stanzas in yesterdays’ Times. He was on the walls there in ’70 at the age of seven and saw the Gallifet charge” (Letter to Isabel Weston Pound on 19 December 1918. L/HP 430).
Pound was not very certain of his geography here – there are over 300 km between Sedan, where Galliffet’s charges took place, and Strasbourg. However, the battle of Sedan and the siege of Strasbourg were both won by the Germans in September 1870, Sedan on September 2nd and Strasbourg on the 28th.
- Galliffet – Gaston Alexandre Auguste, Marquis de Galliffet (1830-1909). Here, the unnamed Plarr recounts his memories and opinions of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It is unlikely that as a boy of seven he would have been able to witness the battle of Sedan, but the stories around the feats of French heroism fired his imagination.
At Sedan, Marquis de Galliffet led his cavalry unit, Les Chasseurs d’Afrique, through three desperate charges, attempting to break through the Prussian encirclement. Though the cavalry men knew they were going to certain death, they obeyed their orders and were ready to sacrifice themselves for the honour of the army. See also C XVI: n.17.
- Brother Percy – probably Algernon Percy 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792-1856), who, as a second son, began his naval career in 1805 at the age of 12 and served as a midshipman on a succession of frigates. In 1811, Percy became lieutenant, and in 1815, commander. Though his active service ended that year, Percy became admiral of reserve in 1862. Percy may have seen Lord Byron while the poet was on his Grand Tour of the Mediterranean, 1809-1810, and he was still a “middy.”
- our brother Percy – the phrase indicates that Pound had the story of Byron and the old admiral from a member of the family, conceivably from Henry Percy, 7th Duke of Northumberland (1846-1918). In his childhood, Henry could have heard the story about Byron from Algernon, the old Admiral, who was a cousin of his grandfather’s. See genealogy.
- Ragusa – Italian name of contemporary Dubrovnik, in Croatia.
- Lord Byron – George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), British Romantic poet.
- Franz Josef of Austria – Franz Joseph (1830-1916), Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The assassination of the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 led to WWI. The emperor was 84 at the time. Pound’s juxtaposition of Franz Josef with Napoleon III also suggests that he made the two emperors responsible for the rise of a unified Germany as a military power which, by 1871, had already gained important territory from its neighbours. Austria declared war on Prussia in 1866 but lost: as a consequence, Prussia included some former Austrian territories like Hanover, Kassel, Darmstadt and Frankfurt into the German confederacy. Similarly, in the Franco-Prussian war of 1970, France lost to Germany the territories of the Alsace-Lorraine, which it would only recover through WWI in 1918.
Through his French friends, particularly Francis Picabia, Pound was made aware that the Franco-Prussian war had laid the grounds for WWI. As he came to remember in canto CIII: “‘Europe’ said Picabia: exhausted/ by the conquest of Alsace Lorraine” (CIII/753).
- Napoléon Barbiche – Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-1873) was Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew. By means of a political coup, he established the second Empire and ruled France under the name Emperor Napoleon III, 1851-1870. His defeat in the Franco-Prussian war at Sedan on the 2nd, and Strasbourg on 28th September 1870 marked the end of his rule and of the second Empire. It was followed by the Paris Commune of 1871 and the restoration of the Third Republic. Napoleon was called “Barbiche” because of his goatee.
- Aldington – Richard Aldington (1892-1962), English poet and novelist; Pound’s friend of many years. Aldington was a fellow imagist and Pound’s neighbour in London. Between 1915 and 1917 he served as a junior officer in the British army and documented his experiences in the war novel Death of a Hero (1929).
In the first edition of A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925), followed by all editions until 1970, Aldington was not named, but referred to by a non-committal “him.” When reading the canto at Spoleto in 1967, Pound did not supply the name either.
Henri Gaudier – Henri Gaudier Brzeska (1891-1915), French sculptor and one of Pound’s dearest friends. Gaudier enlisted in WWI immediately and was killed at Neuville St. Vaast on 5 June 1915. Pound wrote a homage to him, Gaudier Brzeska. A Memoir, which he published in 1916.
- T. E. H. – T. E. Hulme (1883-1917), British critic, poet, and theoretician of modernism. His lectures and translations were influential in mediating French and German philosophical and aesthetic thought in the intellectual and artistic circles of London. His few poems, collected by Pound and added to his own volume Ripostes (1912) are among the earliest instances of imagist poetry.
Hulme volunteered as an artillery-man in 1914 and was hit by a shell on 28 September 1917.
- Kant – Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), German philosopher, author of the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and Critique of Practical Reason (1788).
Wyndham Lewis – Wyndham Lewis (1884-1957). British painter and writer, one of Pound’s closest friends. Like Hulme, he was an artillery man. Pound stayed in touch with Lewis throughout the war, organizing exhibitions and sales of his paintings, as well as the publication of his novel Tarr.
In A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925), and in all editions until 1970, Pound used a pseudonym for Lewis, calling him Maxy Larmann.
- mitrailleuse – Fr. “machine gun.”
- Windeler – B. Cyril Windeler (1866-1961) was an Australian sheep farmer and wool broker whom Pound met in London during the war. William Bird republished Windeler’s story “Elimus,” (LR 1918) in 1923, using 12 illustrations by Dorothy Pound (Wilhelm 283). See also Geni.
In A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925) and in all editions until 1970, Pound used a pseudonym for Windeler, calling him Barham Vanderberg. See also Calendar for Windeler’s letter of 1921.
- Ægæan – the Aegean Sea, the arm of the Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey.
- Captain Baker – Lionel Guy Baker (ca. 1874 – 1918), one of Wyndham Lewis’s friends, whom Pound often mentions in the letters to his parents. On 20 December 1914, he wrote to his father: “Have met a very interesting Capt. Baker full of stray facts about India & Cashmere – very intelligent – also interested in Chinese” (L/HP 339). On 29 October 1917, he reported again, “Baker has been out of hospital, and generally adding to life, but may have to go back in again, as formalities demand etc...” (L/HP 407). And on Christmas Eve 1917, he remarked to his mother: “Baker has gone to Bath to see if it will cure his rheumatism.” (L/HP 410).
Baker died of influenza in 1918, which prompted Lewis to write an affectionate short memoir with more tales about the captain in his autobiography Blasting and Bombardeering (208-9).
In A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925) and in all editions until 1970, Pound used a pseudonym for Baker, calling him Captain Corcoran.
Fletcher – Gareth Hamilton Fletcher (1895-25 January 1915) a family friend of Dorothy Pound’s. The Fletchers lived in Leveston Manor, near Sherborne in Dorset, where Gareth is now commemorated among the fallen of WWI (Longburton War Memorial). Dorothy mentions him in a letter to Ezra on 26 December 1913 (EP/DS 288) and is probably the source of the vignette.
In A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925) and in all editions until 1970, Pound used a pseudonym for this acquaintance, calling him Bimmy.
- Ernie Hemingway – Pound refers to this anecdote in his letter to John Quinn on August 10, 1922: “Hemingway is a good chap. Was with the Italian Arditi, buried alive, or rather dead for five days, with no special reason for coming to. Nonsense knocked out of him, if there ever was any in him” (L/JQ 217). A similar detail is in Hemingway’s own story of 1933, “A Way You’ll Never Be,” where Nick Adams obscurely refers to a burial in a “cave-in” (Complete Short Stories 310). JB.
In A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925) and in all editions until 1970, Pound used a pseudonym for Hemingway, calling him Cyril Hammerton. Not only is the insertion of the name questionable, but “Ernie” is unjustified.
Et ma foi ... fabrique – The following passage in French is the commentary on the war by the painter Fernand Léger, who had been a combatant at Verdun and told his memories and opinions to Pound in private conversation. Léger’s account is in stark contrast to Plarr’s: while Plarr had romanticized Galliffet’s charge of 1870 and the French victory in WWI, Léger’s realism is merciless, showing that there could be no question of glory and honour in war, rather the opposite: terror, fraud, greed, and madness. The poet made sure that Léger approved the passages below before publishing the canto. See letter to Dorothy Pound on 20 October 1923 in Calendar.
Fr. “And really, you know,/ all the nervous ones. No,/ There’s a limit; the animals, the animals are/ Not made for this, a horse does not amount to much./ Men 34 years old on all fours/crying “mommy.”/ But the sturdy ones,/ In the end, there at Verdun, there were only these big fellows/ And they saw it extremely clearly./What are they worth, the generals, the lieutenant,/ they are a dime a dozen,/ there’s nothing but woods,/ Our captain, was all, but all shut in himself/ old engineer, but solid,/ his head solid. There, you see,/ everything, everything works, and the thieves, all the vices,/ But the scavengers,/ there were three in our company, all of them killed./ They went out to plunder a corpse, for nothing,/ they went out for nothing but that./ And the Krauts, whatever you like,/ militarism, etcetera, etcetera./ All that, but, BUT,/ the Frenchman, he fights after he has eaten./ But these poor guys/ In the end they attacked each other to eat,/ Without orders, wild beasts, they were made/ Prisoners; the ones who could speak French said:/ “Why? Really, we attacked to eat.” It’s the fat, the axle-grease/ their trains ran at three kilometres an hour/ And they were screeching and creaking, one could hear them five kilometres away. / (It’s this that finished the war)/. Official list of the dead 5,000,000./ He tells you, well, it all smelled of oil./ But, No! I bawled him out./ I told him: “You’re a saphead! You learned nothing from the war./ Oh yes, all men of taste, I admit,/ They are at the rear./But a bloke like you!/ This man, a dude like that!/ What he could have collected!/ He was in a factory./”
The term "axle-grease" is Pound's own, to be found in the drafts of the canto.
- Verdun – the longest battle of attrition in WWI, conducted between the French and German troops for 300 days between 21 February and 19 December 1916. It was finally won by the French under the command of Philippe Pétain.
- leur trains – Fr. “their trains.” Leger’s point in the controversy with his unnamed acquaintance is that it is not the control of fuel, but the importance of the food supply lines that decided the fate of Verdun. The Germans believed in railways and their supply was brought to the front by trains from Metz. The French ran their provisions on trucks on the Voie Sacrée (the Sacred Way) a road of about 60 kilometres from Bar-le-Duc to Verdun. Along the road, there was a single-track railway line, Le Chemin de Fer Meusien, which also served to carry food, supplies, and the wounded, but amounted to a mere 10% of the traffic. At three kilometres an hour, Léger seems to imply, trains were too slow to be efficient and hunger became a decisive factor in the war. See resource on The Sacred Way.
- terrasiers... exact – Fr. “the burying squad, with their heads/ turned back, looking like this/ risked their lives for a shovelful/ it [hole in the ground] had to be square, exact.”
Dey vus – Pound’s imitation of a thick Russian accent may indicate that the speaker is the military attaché Nikolay Lavrentyevich Golijewski, who after leaving Russia in 1918, lived in London, Paris and the U.S. until 1954, when he returned to Moscow. In October 1922, Pound reported to his mother: “Hueffer over here for month. They and the Golijewskis, in last night. Gol. an ex russian general of the ole regime. Large amt. of jaw between him and F.M.H” (L/HP 503). See article on Golijewski in the Russian Wikipedia (MH). On notating Russian accent in English, see here.
The hypothesis that Golijewski is the speaker is also supported by the fact that “Golly” corrected the spelling of the word “Pajaluista” in the canto (Letter to Dorothy of 20 October 1923, see Calendar).
- bolcheviki – F. “bolsheviks.” Members of the Bolshevik faction, meaning “majority” of the Russian Social Democrats in the 1917 October Revolution.
Lincoln Steffens commented on the word:
“the Bolshevik party was not a majority; it was a small minority party, but it was a left party that was most demandful. And that’s what Bolshevik meant to the Russian lady and came to mean all over the world, the party that demanded the most, all, and would take nothing less. And Lenin personified the Bolsheviki, and his speech expressed the patience, determination, and wisdom, practical and ideal, of the small minority which won finally in October” (Autobiography 761).
- Trotzsk – Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), Soviet revolutionary and politician. He was the Head of the Soviet delegation at the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations between Russia and the Central Powers (Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire).>
- Brest-Litovsk – treaty between Russia and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey) signed on 3 March 1918, whereby Russia withdrew from her military alliances in WWI and stopped the war on the eastern front. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty went down in history for the harshness and unfairness of the conditions imposed by the Germans on the emergent Soviet Union. Russia had to renounce claims on Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States and give up regions won in the Russo-Turkish war of 1878. The peace thus signed was highly volatile: the treaty was abrogated with the defeat of the Central Powers in WWI in November 1918. See Resources: Brest-Litovsk.
- He vinneh the vore – The statement that Trosky won the war, not despite the Brest-Litovsk Treaty but because of it, seems strange at first. However, Trotsky was aware of considerable fraternizing between the Germans and Russians on the Eastern front and also of the continuous infiltration of revolutionary ideas into the German army, a belief that is corroborated by Steffens:
“The Russian Revolution, started thus in the metropolis, was spread by the world word, ‘The Revolution’ which gave point, program, and an objective to the fire that burned through the city out into the country up to the Russian front, which called it as good tidings across to the Germans, who hailed it as peace and sat down with the Russian peasants to rejoice that the war was over and ‘the’ world revolution had begun. ‘Begun’ they thought. It had begun in Russia and would sweep the world, armies, governments, the ‘system’” (Autobiography 752).
The Brest-Litovsk treaty freed the Germans to move 50 battalions from the Eastern to the Western front by April 1918. However, the German “Spring Offensive” was short-lived and petered out by July. It was followed in August by the counterattack of the Allies called “The Hundred Days offensive,” which forced the Germans to withdraw from France and Belgium and capitulate by November 1918.
- Un de posch – Fr. “un des boches” (“one of the Germans.”) This phrase indicates that the person speaking with a heavy Russian accent has lived in France long enough to use French expressions even when speaking English. This matched Golijewski’s situation, who was married to an Englishwoman (Honor, a cousin of Churchill’s wife, see letter of 18 August 1921 in the Churchill Archive) and working in Paris at the American consulate. (See also n.43).
- That’s the trick – The voice changes to that of Lincoln Steffens, who recounts his observation of the stirrings of the Russian Revolution in Petrograd in the spring of 1917. Steffens sailed from New York on the same ship as Trotsky on 27 March 1917 and arrived in Petrograd at the beginning of April (Autobiography 745-46). While Trotsky was detained in Halifax for a month, Steffens had the opportunity to watch Lenin’s first speeches to the crowd.
Steffens observed that:
“A mob in doubt would turn away, and leaving one crowd to stay and watch, the committee of hundreds would march off across the city, picking up other crowds to stand in front of the palace of the Czar’s mistress, where ‘a man named Lenin,’ seeing them, would come out and speak” (Autobiography 760).
- a man – Lenin. See his speech in Steffens’ Autobiography 760-61.
- the crowd there – Steffens commented that the czarist ministers were aware that a revolution was brewing, especially as horrific news from the battlefields circulated among the people. Their solution, which had worked well in 1905, was to assemble the crowd in the streets of St. Petersburg to distribute bread and then “shoot the fear of God into them as we do in strikes” (Autobiography 750).
- Cossacks – mounted troops usually loyal to the tsar, who could be counted on to terrorize the crowd. But this time (1917-1918) the Cossacks behaved indecisively and fraternized with the people.
- Pojalouista – R. “If you please.” Instead of hitting and killing people that had gathered for bread in the streets, the Cossacks were polite and kind. This is how Steffens relates the incident:
“Ready! The Cossacks were summoned. These most loyal mounted troops did come out, and they rode in and out through the packed masses of men and women, but it was noted that as they rode, gently, among the people, they did not draw their swords or their knouts. On the contrary they moved carefully, and they used the polite Russian word, “Pajalista,” which means “If you please,” or “By your leave.” Cossacks saying “Please!” The crowd whispered, “The Cossacks are with us. The Cossacks!” And they understood that this meant that all the soldiers were with them. So far had the sufferings of the troops at the front affected the army, the main support of the government. Not propaganda.
The government was making a mistake” (Autobiography 750).
- lieutenant of infantry – this is another episode recounted by Steffens:
“On the afternoon of the third day of the bread riot–which was no riot–out in the great square in front of the Moscow railroad station an infantry officer was trying to command and incite his men to shoot across the open into the quiet mob. They would not. A student standing by jeered at the officer, who, in a rage, thrust the student through. A Cossack in line on the opposite side of the square saw this; he put spurs to his horse, charged from the ranks, and drawing his sword as he rode, he cut that officer down. There was a cry: ‘The soldiers arewith us!’ and then there was another cry ‘The revolution! The revolution is on!’” (Autobiography 751).
- Nevsky – The Nevsky Prospekt, the main avenue of St. Petersburg, planned by Peter the Great to begin the route from the city to Moscow and Novgorod. The Moscow station, placed half-way on the Nevsky as it crosses the city, is at the very centre of St. Petersburg. See map.
- Moscow Station – railway terminal in St. Petersburg on the Nevsky Prospekt, designed to serve the main connection between the city and Moscow. The same architect, Konstantin Thon, built the corresponding railway station in Moscow, called the Leningradsky Station. Both stations were built mid-19th century at the order of Emperor Nicholas I.
- Haig – Douglas Haig (1861-1928). Commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) during WWI.
- advance – probable reference to the Hundred Days Offensive which took place between August and November 1918. The attack ended the war by pushing the German army back from territory acquired on the Western front since 1914. The British were part of an Allied counter-offensive coordinated by the French general and Maréchal de France Ferdinand Foch.