THREE CANTOS OF A POEM OF SOME LENGTH
O “VIRGILIO mio,”
Send out your thought upon the Mantuan palace,
Drear waste, great halls; pigment flakes from the stone;
Silk tatters still in the frame, Gonzaga’s splendour,
Where do we come upon the ancient people,
Or much or little,
Where do we come upon the ancient people?
“All that I know is that a certain star” -
All that I know of one, Joios, Tolosan,
Is that in middle May, going along
A scarce discerned path, turning aside
In “level poplar lands,” he found a flower, and wept;
“Y a la primera flor,” he wrote,
“Qu’ieu trobei, tornei em plor.”
One stave of it, I’ve lost the copy I had of it in Paris,
Out of a blue and gilded manuscript:
Couci’s rabbits, a slim fellow throwing dice,
Purported portraits serving in capitals.
Joios we have, by such a margent stream,
He strayed in the field, wept for a flare of colour
When Coeur de Lion was before Chalus;
Arnaut’s a score of songs, a wry sestina;
The rose-leaf casts her dew on the ringing glass,
Dolmetsch will build our age in witching music,
Viols da Gamba, tabors, tympanons.
Yin-yo laps in the reeds, my guest departs,
The maple leaves blot up their shadows,
The sky is full of Autumn,
We drink our parting in saki.
Out of the night comes troubling lute music,
And we cry out, asking the singer’s name,
And get this answer:
“Many a one
Brought me rich presents, my hair was full of jade,
And my slashed skirts were drenched in the secret dyes,
Well dipped in crimson, and sprinkled with rare wines;
I was well taught my arts at Ga-ma-rio
And then one year I faded out and married.”
The lute-bowl hid her face. We heard her weeping.
Society, her sparrows, Venus’ sparrows.
Catullus hung on the phrase (played with it as Mallarm6
Played for a fan: “Reveuse pour que je plonge.”);
Wrote out his crib from Sappho:
God’s peer, yea and the very gods are under him
Facing thee, near thee; and my tongue is heavy.
And along my veins the fire; and the night is
Thrust down upon me.
That was one way of love, flamma demanat,
And in a year: “I love her as a father,”
And scare a year, “Your words are written in water,”
And in ten moons: “O Caelius, Lesbia ilia,
Caelius, Lesbia, our Lesbia, that Lesbia
Whom Catullus once loved more
Than his own soul and all his friends,
Is now the drab of every lousy Roman”;
So much for him who puts his trust in woman.
Dordoigne! When I was there
There came a centaur, spying the land
And there were nymphs behind him!
Or procession on procession by Salisbury,
Ancient in various days, long years between them;
Ply over ply of life still wraps the earth here.
Catch at Dordoigne!
Vicount St. Antoni-
“D’amor tug miei cossir”- hight Raimon Jordans
Of land near Caortz. The Lady of Pena
“Gentle and highly prized.”
And he was good at arms and bos trobaire,
“Thou art the pool of worth, flood-land of pleasure,
And all my heart is bound about with love,
As rose in trellis that is bound over and over”;
Thus they were taken in love beyond all measure.
But the Vicount Pena
Went making war into an hostile country,
And was sore wounded. The news held him dead,
“And at this news she had great grief and teen,”
And gave the church such wax for his recovery
That he recovered,
“And at this news she had great grief and teen”
And fell a-moping, drove off St. Antoni,
“Thus was there more than one in deep distress,”
So ends that novel. Here the blue Dordoigne
Placid between white cliffs, pale
As the background of a Leonardo. Elis of Montfort
Then sent him her invitations (wife of de Gordon).
It juts into the sky, Gordon that is,
Like a thin spire. Blue night pulled down about it
Like tent-flaps or sails close hauled. When I was there,
La Noche de San Juan, a score of players
Were straddling about the streets in masquerade,
Pike-staves and paper helmets, and the booths
Were scattered align, the rag ends of the fair
False arms, true arms:
A flood of people storming about Spain:
My Cid rode up to Burgos,
Up to the studded gate between two towers,
Beat with his lance butt. A girl child of nine years
Comes to the shrine-like platform in the wall,
Lisps out the words a-whisper, the King’s writ:
Let no man speak to Diaz (Ruy Diaz, Myo Cid)
Or give him help or food, on pain of death :
His heart upon a pike, his eyes torn out, his goods sequestered.
Cid from Bivar, for empty perches of dispersed hawks,
From empty presses,
Came riding with his company up the great hill
(Afe Minaya !) to Burgos in the Spring,
And thence to fighting, to down-throw of Moors
And to Valencia rode he. By the beard! Muy velida!
Of onrush of lances, of splintered staves
Riven and broken casques, dismantled castles ;
Of painted shields split up, blazons hacked off,
Piled men and bloody rivers. Or
“Of sombre light upon reflected armour”
When De las Nieblas sails-
“Y dar nueva lumbre las armas y hierros”
And portents in the wind, a pressing air;
Full many a fathomed sea-change in the eyes
That sought with him the salt sea victories,
Rumble of balladist.
And Kumasaka’s ghost comes back to explain
How well the young man fenced who ended him.
The kernelled walls of Toro, las almenas
Afield, a king come in an unjust cause,
Atween the chinks aloft flashes the armoured figure,
“Muy linda!”, “Helen!”, “a star,”
Lights the king’s features . . .
“No use my liege. She is your highness’ sister,”
Breaks in Ancures.
Mai fuego s’enciende !”
Such are the gestes of war.
Court sinecure, the court of Portugal,
And the young prince loved her, Pedro,
Called later, Cruel. Jealousy, two stabbed her,
Courtiers, with king’s connivance.
And he, the prince, kept quiet a space of years.
And came to reign, after uncommon quiet,
And had his will upon the dagger-players:
A wedding ceremonial: he and the dug-up corpse in cerements.
Who winked at murder kisses the dead hand,
Does loyal homage
“Que despois de ser morta foy Rainha.”
Dig up Camoens:
“That once as Proserpine
Gatheredst thy soul’s light fruit, and every blindness;
Thy Enna the flary mead-land of Mondego.
Long art thou sung by maidens in Mondego.”
What have we now of her, his “linda Ignez”?
Houtmans in jail for debt in Lisbon, how long after,
Contrives a company, the Dutch eat Portugal,
Follow her ships tracks. Roemer Vischer’s daughters
Talking some Greek, dally with glass engraving:
Vondel, the Eglantine, Dutch Renaissance.
The old tale out of fashion, daggers gone,
And Gaby wears Braganza on her throat,
Another pearl, tied to a public gullet.
I knew a man, flat corn-lands run mile on mile,
Born on a farm, he hankered after painting,
His father kept him at work, no luck,
Married and got four sons,
Three died, the fourth he sent to Paris. And this son:
Ten years of Julians’ and the ateliers,
Ten years of life, his pictures in the salons,
Name coming in the press;
and when I knew him:
Back once again in middle Indiana,
Acting as usher in the theatre,
Painting the local drug-shop and soda bars,
The local doctor’s fancy for a mantle-piece:
Sheep! jabbing the wool upon their flea-bit backs.
“Them sheep ! Them goddamd sheep ! !”
Giving his family back what they had spent on him,
Talking Italian cities,
Local excellence at Perugia;
dreaming his renaissance,
Take my Sordello !
Pound, Ezra. Three Cantos of a poem of Some Length. New York: Knopf, 1917.
Pound, Ezra. Three Cantos I. Quia Pauper Amavi. London: Egoist Press, 1919. 24-28. Quia Pauper Amavi.
Pound, Ezra. Poems and Translations. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: The Library of America, 2003. 322-326.