The Pisan Cantos

The Pisan Cantos

The Pisan Cantos

The Pisan Cantos

Synopsis

Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos were written in 1945, while the poet was being held in an American military detention center near Pisa, Italy, as a result of his pro-Fascist wartime broadcasts to America on Radio Rome. Imprisoned for some weeks in a wire cage open to the elements, Pound suffered a nervous collapse from the physical and emotional strain. Out of the agony of his own inferno came the eleven cantos that became the sixth hook of his modernist epic, The Cantos, itself conceived as a Divine Comedy for our time. The Pisan Cantos were published in 1948 by New Directions and in the following year won the Bollingen Prize for poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress. The honor came amid violent controversy, for the dark cloud of treason still hung over Pound, now incarcerated in Washington’s St. Elizabeths Federal Hospital for the Insane. Yet there is no doubt that The Pisan Cantos display some of the finest and most affecting writing in his long poem, marking an elegaic turn to the personal while synthesizing the philosophical, economic, and political themes of his previous cantos. They are now available for the first time as a separate paperbook, in this fully annotated edition prepared by Richard Sieburth, who also contributes a thoroughgoing introduction, making Pound’s masterwork fully accessible at last to students and general readers.

Excerpt

THE enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant’s bent
shoulders
Manes! Manes was tanned and stuffed,
Thus Ben and la Clara a Milano
by the heels at Milano
That maggots shd/ eat the dead bullock
DIGENES, but the twice crucified
where in history will you find it?
yet say this to the Possum: a bang, not a whimper,
with a bang not with a whimper,
To build the city of Dioce whose terraces are the colour of stars.
The suave eyes, quiet, not scornful,
rain also is of the process.
What you depart from is not the way
and olive tree blown white in the wind
washed in the Kiang and Han
what whiteness will you add to this whiteness,
what candor?
“the great periplum brings in the stars to our shore.”
You who have passed the pillars and outward from Herakles
when Lucifer fell in N. Carolina.
if the suave air give way to scirocco
Odysseus
the name of my family.
the wind also is of the process,
sorella la luna
Fear god and the stupidity of the populace,
but a precise definition
transmitted thus Sigismundo
thus Duccio, thus Zuan Bellin, or trastevere with La Sposa
Sponsa Cristi in mosaic till our time / deification of emperors . . .

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