Ideas into Action: A Study of Pound's Cantos

Ideas into Action: A Study of Pound's Cantos

Ideas into Action: A Study of Pound's Cantos

Ideas into Action: A Study of Pound's Cantos

Excerpt

Taking a hint from Mr. Pound's ABC of Reading and ABC of Economics, I might have called this collection of essays An ABC of Ezra Pound's Cantos. For it pretends to be no more. Literary critics have written excellent studies of the poem--for other critics; scholars have made original contributions to the knowledge of other scholars. It appears to be time to offer the lay-reader who stands in bemusement before the epic's variegated bulk something in the way of aid and comfort.

That the need exists is evidenced by the interesting case of the junior executives who, a few years ago, were sent to the University of Pennsylvania to acquire a liberal education. While there, they were compelled to read literary works from various ages and cultures and on various levels of difficulty--from, for example, the Odyssey of Homer to the Ulysses of Joyce. Of all the works they read, the one which most successfully defied their efforts toward comprehension was Pound's Cantos. This despite the fact that commentary was supplied by one of the nation's leading Pound scholars.

I propose, in this present study, to approach the poem indirectly, through Pound's prose, bringing to attention the ideas which he has expressed with remarkable consistency (and even more remarkable vigor) over the forty-year period which has seen the growth of his major work. Having done this, I shall try to show what means he has employed to incorporate these ideas in the poem, and what means have served to form the ninety-seven cantos (as the poem stands; more are to follow) into a unified whole.

But no really informative book about the Cantos, however carefully organized to afford a gradual approach, can succeed in being an ABC. The. poem's scope is so vast, on the one hand, each page so closely packed with allusive (and elusive) materials, on the other, that even the most glittering generalities must ultimately fail to illuminate. There are, therefore, many pages in this book which can be of no possible value to the reader who does not have his copy of the Cantos at hand and, if he is a truly serious student, John Edwards's excellent Annotated Index to the Cantos of Ezra Pound. Still, if what is presented here is not an ABC, I hope that it will prove sufficiently elucidative to ensure that, when the next group . . .

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