Canto V

- 1885-1972
Great bulk, huge mass, thesaurus;
Ecbatan, the block ticks and fades out;
The bride awaiting the god’s touch; Ecbatan,
City of patterned streets; again the vision:
Down in the viae stradae, toga’d the crowd, and arm’d
Rushing on populous buriness, and from parapets
Looked down—at North
Was Egypt, and the celestial Nile, blue-deep
                    cutting low barren lands,
Old men and camels working the water-wheels;
                    Measureless seas and stars,
Iamblichus’ light, the souls ascending,
Sparks like a partridge covey,
                    Like the “ciocco,” brand struck in the game.
“Et omniformis”:
                                Air, fire, the pale soft light.
Topaz, I manage, and three sorts of blue;
                                but on the barb of time.
The fire? always, and the vision always,
Ear dull, perhaps, with the vision, flitting
And fading at will. Weaving with points of gold,
Gold-yellow, saffron . . .
                                         The roman show, Aurunculeia’s,
And come shuffling feet, and cries “Da nuces!
“Nuces!” praise and Hymenaeus “brings the girl to her man.”
Titter of sound about me, always,
                                          and from “Hesperus . . .”
Hush of the older song: “Fades light from seacrest,
“And in Lydia walks with pari’d women
“Peerless among the pairs, and that once in Sardis
“In satieties . . .
                  “Fades the light from the sea, and many things
“Are set abroad and brought to mind of thee,”
And the vinestocks lie untended, new leaves come to the shoots,
North wind nips on the bough, and seas in heart
Toss up chill crests,
                    And the vine stocks lie untended
And many things are set abroad and brought to mind
Of thee, Atthis, unfruitful.
                    The talks ran long in the night.
And from Mauleon, fresh with a new earned grade,
In maze of approaching rain-steps, Poicebot—
The air was full of women.
                                            And Savairic Mauleon
Gave him his land and knight’s fee, and he wed the woman.
Came lust of travel on him, or romerya;
and out of England a knight with slow-lifting eyelids
Lei fassar furar a del, put glamour upon her . . .
And left her an eight months gone.
                   “Came lust of woman upon him,”
Poicebot, now on North road from Spain
(Sea-change, a grey in the water)
                     And in small house by town’s edge
Found a woman, changed and familiar face;
Hard night, and parting at morning.

And Pieire won the singing, Pieire de Maensac,
Song or land on the throw, and was dreitz hom
And had De Tierci’s wife and with the war they made:
                                             Troy in Auvergnat
While Menelaus piled up the church at port
He kept Tyndarida. Dauphin stood with de Maensac.

John Borgia is bathed at last.
                    (Clock-tick pierces the vision)
Tiber, dark with the cloak, wet cat gleaming in patches.
Click of the hooves, through garbage,
Clutching the greasy stone. “And the cloak floated”
Slander is up betimes.
                                             But Varchi of Florence,
Steeped in a different year, and pondering Brutus,
                    “SIGA MAL AUTHIS DEUTERON!
“Dog-eye!!” (to Alessandro)
                    “Whether for Love of Florence,” Varchi leaves it,
Saying, “I saw the man, came up with him at Venice,
“I, one wanting the facts,
“And no mean labour.
                                            “Or for a privy spite?”
                    Good Varchi leaves it,
But: “I saw the man. Se pia?O impia? For Lorenzaccio had thought of stroke in the open
“But uncertain (for the Duke went never unguarded) . . .
"And would have thrown him from wall
“Yet feared this might not end him,” or lest Alessandro
Know not by whom death came,
                                            O si credesse
“If when the foot slipped, when death came upon him,
“Lest cousin Duke Alessandro think he’d fallen alone
“No friend to aid him in falling.”
                                            Caina attende.
As beneath my feet a lake, was ice in seeming.
And all of this, runs Varchi, dreamed out beforehand
In Perugia, caught in the star-maze by Del Carmine,
Cast on a natal paper, set with an exegesis, told,
All told to Alessandro, told thrice over,
Who held his death for a doom.
In abuleia.
                  But Don Lorenzino
“Whether for love for Florence . . . but
            “O si morisse, credesse caduto da se.”

                                             SIGA, SIGA!
The wet cloak floats on the surface,
Schiavoni, caught on the wood-barge,
Gives out the afterbirth, Giovanni Borgia,
Trails out no more at nights, where Barabello
Prods the Pope’s elephant, and gets no crown, where Mozarello
Takes the Calabrian roadway, and for ending
Is smothered beneath a mule,
                                            a poet’s ending,
Down a stale well-hole, oh a poet’s ending. “Sanazarro
“Alone out of all the court was faithful to him”
For the gossip of Naples’ trouble drifts to North,
Fracastor (lightning was midwife) Cotta, and Ser D’Alviano,
Al poco giorno ed al gran cerchio d’ombra,
Talk the talks out with Navighero,
Burner of yearly Martials,
                  (The slavelet is mourned in vain)
And the next comer
                    says “were nine wounds,
“Four men, white horse with a double rider,”
The hooves clink and slick on cobbles . . .
Schiavoni . . . the cloak floats on the water,
“Sink the thing,” splash wakes Schiavoni;
Tiber catching the nap, the moonlit velvet,
A wet cat gleaming in patches.
                                           “Se pia,” Varchi
“O empia, ma risoluto
“E terribile deliberazione”
                   Both sayings run in the wind,
Ma si morisse! 

More by Ezra Pound

Hugh Selwyn Mauberly [excerpt]

For three years, out of key with his time,
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime"
In the old scene.  Wrong from the start--

No, hardly, but seeing he had been born
In a half-savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait;

[idmen gar toi pant, hos eni Troiei]
Caught in the unstopped ear;
Giving the rocks small lee-way
The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

His true Penelope was Flaubert,
He fished by obstinate isles;
Observed the elegance of Circe's hair
Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

Unaffected by "the march of events,"
He passed from men's memory in l'an trentuniesme
De son eage; the case presents
No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.


The age demanded an image
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
Of the inward gaze;
Better mendacities
Than the classics in paraphrase!

The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
Made with no loss of time,
A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.


These fought in any case,
and some believing,
		pro domo, in any case . . .

Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later . . .
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some, pro patria,
		non "dulce" non "et decor" . . .
walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.


There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.

Sestina: Altaforte

Loquitur: En Bertrans de Born.
  Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a 
  stirrer-up of strife.
  Judge ye!
  Have I dug him up again?
The scene in at his castle, Altaforte.  "Papiols" is his jongleur.
"The Leopard," the device of Richard (Cúur de Lion).


Damn it all!  all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come!  Let's to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah!  when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.


In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth's foul peace,
And the lightnings from black heav'n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God's swords clash.


Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour's stour than a year's peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah!  there's no wine like the blood's crimson!


And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might 'gainst all darkness opposing.


The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth's won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.


Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There's no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle's rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges 'gainst "The Leopard's" rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "Peace!"


And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought "Peace!"

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion. Fere=Mate, Companion.

Ha' we lost the goodliest fere o' all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O' ships and the open sea.

When they came wi' a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
"First let these go!" quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Or I'll see ye damned," says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
"Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?" says he.

Oh we drank his "Hale" in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o' men was he.

I ha' seen him drive a hundred men
Wi' a bundle o' cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They'll no' get him a' in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha' snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
"I'll go to the feast," quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Though I go to the gallows tree."

"Ye ha' seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead," says he,
"Ye shall see one thing to master all:
'Tis how a brave man dies on the tree."

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha' seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha' seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o' Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi' his eyes like the grey o' the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi' twey words spoke' suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha' slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha' seen him eat o' the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed him to the tree.