Canto 50 deals, in a manner close to Pound’s prose polemic, with the defeat by the forces of usury of the attempts at reform and revolution in Tuscany. Most of the canto is drawn from Antonio Zobi’s five-volume history of the Tuscan state up to the failed revolution of 1848, Storia civile della Toscana (1850-2). Zobi saluted the American Revolution as a precedent for Italy’s efforts to free itself from foreign domination, especially that of Austria. And because Napoleon wrested Italy from Austria and brought in something of the spirit and laws of the French republican revolution he is named here as ‘First Consul’ rather than emperor, and figures as a righteous opponent of the usurious monarchies of Austria and England.
David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol.II: 228.
The autocratic rulers of Russia, Prussia and Austria wanted to crush the revolutionary ideas for which Napoleon stood, including meritocracy, equality before the law, anti-feudalism and religious toleration. Essentially, they wanted to turn the clock back to a time when Europe was safe for aristocracy. At this they succeeded—until the outbreak of the Great War a century later. […]
If Napoleon had remained emperor of France for the six years remaining in his natural life, European civilization would have benefited inestimably. The reactionary Holy Alliance of Russia, Prussia and Austria would not have been able to crush liberal constitutionalist movements in Spain, Greece, Eastern Europe and elsewhere; pressure to join France in abolishing slavery in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean would have grown; the benefits of meritocracy over feudalism would have had time to become more widely appreciated; Jews would not have been forced back into their ghettos in the Papal States and made to wear the yellow star again; encouragement of the arts and sciences would have been better understood and copied; and the plans to rebuild Paris would have been implemented, making it the most gorgeous city in the world.
Napoleon deserved to lose Waterloo, and Wellington to win it, but the essential point in this bicentenary year is that the epic battle did not need to be fought—and the world would have been better off if it hadn’t been.
Andrew Roberts, Smithsonian magazine, June 2015
CANTO XVIII [young Bonaparte: “I hate these French”]
CANTO XXIV [Napoleon in Ferrara; melting statues for cannon]
CANTO XXXII [revolution and the decline of monarchies viewed from the United States; Adams and Jefferson]
CANTO XXXIII [John Adams: “Poor Bonaparte! Poor devil! What has and what will become of him?”]
CANTO XXXIV [John Quincy Adams writes his diary entries in Paris, March 1815: Bonaparte’s return from Elba]
CANTO XL [usury in times of war-buying and selling gold; J. P. Morgan and the Rothschilds]
CANTO XLIV [Napoleon’s governance of Tuscany compared to that of Pietro Leopoldo and Ferdinando III]
CALENDAR OF COMPOSITION
On 7 September 1936, Pound wrote to his wife Dorothy in London that he “did frame for a fourth this a.m.” Canto 50 was a “fourth” because it continued from the Siena Cantos (42-43-44). Just five days earlier he had written to James Laughlin that he finished canto 44 leading to the battle of Marengo (1800). Pound spent August 1936 in Siena and went to Venice on 2 September to spend time with Olga Rudge and his daughter Mary. When he returned to Rapallo, presumably on 22 October when Dorothy herself returned from London (EPP 211), the canto was ready, since he left a copy of the typescript with Olga. These dates suggest that the canto was written between 2 September and 22 October 1936.
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Moody, A. David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years, 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.
Pound/Ford. The Story of a Literary Friendship. Ed. Brita Lindberg-Seyersted. London: Faber & Faber, 1982.
Pound/Laughlin. Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.
Malm, Mike. Editing Economic History. Ezra Pound’s The Fifth Decad of Cantos. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.
Taylor, Richard. “Editing the Variorum Cantos: Process and Policy.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 31.1-3 (2002): 311-34. [References in square brackets by Taylor in text.]
Beinecke Library. Olga Rudge Papers YCAL MSS 54 Box no/Folder no
To Dorothy Pound, 20 August 1936, Siena
for once a decent english politician [Palmerston] that don’t turn one’s stummuck
been twice a day on damn HARD Liberry seat: stuffing Tuscan hist 1765 - onward
To James Laughlin, 2 September 1936
J/JL 64; Var 315; Malm 279
I have done canto carrying on to Marengo.
Note. This should be canto 44.
To Dorothy Pound, [7 September 1936]
Var 315; EPP 210
will put that copy of canto in shape soon – did frame for a fourth this a.m. but must let that one set/ don’t want it thinner than the other three.
Note fourth: Pound drafted canto 50 following the Siena cantos 42-44 in early September 1936. Since 2 September he had been in Venice with Mary and Olga (EPP 209).
To Ford Madox Ford, 11 September 1936
My dear ole Freiherr von Grumpus ZU und VON Bieberstein
Waaal I have just knocked off three more Cantos on a patch of hizzery wot the woild needz to be told and have a fourth nearly set up. and this time it is Siena. and to hell wiff the saboteurs, especially the bastids in licherary commerce.
To James Laughlin, 17 September 1936
L/JL 65; Var 316; Malm 279
DEAR J A S
my mind is on concrete things. Have shipped the three Sienese Cantos, and have a fourth pretty well set. but a few hunks of Orient and Adonis cult already drafted must intervene.
To Olga Rudge, 30 October 1936. Anno XIV, Rapallo
YCAL 54, 17/447
He has typed out some sort of a draft fer the rest of 42/51. That is he has typed new all except the four he did in Venez [42-44, 50] and the one printed in Nude Emocracy .
only he haint got the forza to read it thru YET; but if/when he gits it; he may send on a carbong. an thazatt.
He izza sumin that with 42/44 and 46 and 50; the rest fit in and FLOW. only he don’t KNOW it yet.
waal he thinks hiz attempt at elucidatin the 42/51 iz about all than can be xxpected of him fer the momeng.
printed in Nude Emocracy – Pound published canto 46 in the American Social Credit journal New Democracy on March 1936.
Pound did send on all the carbons of the Fifth Decad, apart from 50 which he said she had already.
To Olga Rudge,1 November 
The carbon she had is simply L=5o I think. The Monte de’ Bue [Paschi] is 42/44 and the 46/ wez in Nude Emocracy [March 1936]· [...] I wrote to Bruce Rogers re/ a de Looks 1/51.
To Benito Mussolini, 12 February 1940
Dieci anni fa ho ricevuto una consegna, non so se fu autentico o apocrifo. La forma era “Dite al Sig. Pound che le sue idee a proposito di Napoleone sono putridi” ovvero fu tradutto quando io l’ho ricevuto. Tell Mr P. his ideas on Napoleon are rotten. Ne ho meditato. E spero di fare amenda avendo fatto tradurre dal Com. U. degli Uberti questo saggio sulla lotta fra Napoleone e la finanza ebraica, appena visto sul British Union Quarterly. Se l’autore non è Gen Fuller no so chi può essere. Mi pare molto chiaro, e credo che la versione merita pubblicazione in Italia.
[Ten years ago I received a message, I don’t know if authentic or apocryphal as it was translated when I received it. The form was ‘tell Mr Pound his ideas on Napoleon are rotten.’ I have thought about this. I hope to make amends by telling Coomander Uberto degli Uberti to translate an essay about Napoleon’s struggle with Jewish finance that I have just seen published in the British Union Quarterly. If the author is not Gen. Fuller, I don’t know who else it can be. The article seems to me to be very lucid and I think a translation deserves to be published in Italy. ]
L – BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES IN JOURNALS AND COLLECTIONS
- Kimpel, Ben and T. C. Duncan Eaves. “The Source of Canto L.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 8.1 (1979): 513-8.
- McGann, Jerome. “The ‘Cantos’ of Ezra Pound, the Truth in Contradiction.” Critical Inquiry 15.1 (Autumn 1988): 1-25.
BOOK CHAPTERS AND SECTIONS
- Cookson, William. “Napoleon.” A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil, 2009. 70-1.
- De Rachewiltz, Mary and Maria Ardizzone. “Commento: L.” Ezra Pound. I Cantos. A cura di Mary de Rachewiltz. [Bilingual English-Italian edition]. Milano: Mondadori, 1985. 1537-8.
- Flory, W.S. Ezra Pound and The Cantos: A Record of Struggle. New Haven: Yale UP, 1980. [Section: 294-296.]
- Ickstadt, Heinz and Eva Hesse. “Anmerkungen und Kommentar: Canto L.” Ezra Pound. Die Cantos. Tr. by Eva Hesse and Manfred Pfister. 1265-6.
- Malm, Mike. “Canto 50.” In Editing Economic History: Ezra Pound’s The Fifth Decad of Cantos. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. 89-90; 218-20.
- Moody, A. David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years, 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. 228-31.
- Terrell, Carroll F. “Canto L.” In Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound.” Berkeley: U of California P., 1980. I: 192-7.
- Zapponi, Niccolò. L’Italia di Ezra Pound. Roma: Bulzoni Editore, 1976.
- Sellar, Gordon. “Canto L.” Part 36 of 55 in the series Blogging Ezra Pound’s The Cantos. gordsellar.com, June 11, 2013. Free online.
- Guidi, Paolo. “Canto L.” Diamond Point, selective hard ground, lift, etch, aquatint, copperplate. The Cantos of Ezra Pound, 17 February 2014. Free online.