The Cantos start on easy enough ground – The Odyssey. But they soon start to get pretty obscure. Pound himself said you are not supposed to look stuff up. But we do anyway, sometimes. Not enough to spoil the mystery; that would be a fool’s errand. And Ezra was no fool – just mad, which is not the same thing at all. And anyway, he was a terrible name-dropper.
Here are few short bits from Cantos that I have re-read recently:
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, so winds from sternward
Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,
Circe’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day’s end.
Go, song, surely thou mayest
Whither it please thee
For so art thou ornate that thy reasons
Shall be praised from thy understanders,
With others hast thou no will to make company.
Afloat on the sea wave
Came Mava swimming with light hand lifted in overstroke
Sea blossom wreathed in her locks,
‘What are you box?’
‘I am Hathor.’
Che mai da me non si parte il diletto
Fulvida di folgore
Came here with Glaucus unnoticed, nec ivi in harum
Nec in harum ingressus sum.
Discuss this in bed said the lady.
And the yellow leaves float in the air
And Iong Cheng (Canto 61)
Of the line of Kang Hi
By the silk cords of the sunlight
SHENG U, the Edict
Each year in the elder spring, that is the first month
Of the spring time,
The herald shall incite yr/ compliance
As to building temples for the benefit of contractors
Or images for the benefit of gilders,
The incense market will benefit
From your wives’ green dresses
As they run around mid riff-raff
Acquiring merit by comedy
Or by tragedy after fool vows.
To release souls with burnt paper?