Lyric Poetry: The Pain and the Pleasure of Words

By Mutlu Konuk Blasing | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
POUND'S SOUNDTRACK: “READING CANTOS
FOR WHAT IS ON THE PAGE

You begin with the yeowl and the bark, and you develop into
the dance and into music, and into music with words, and
finally into words with music, and finally into words with a
vague adumbration of music, words suggestive of music,
words measured, or words in a rhythm that preserves some
accurate trait of the emotive impression, or of the sheer char-
acter of the fostering or parental emotion.

When this rhythm, or when the vowel and consonantal
melody or sequence seems truly to bear the trace of emotion
which the poem (for we have come at last to the poem) is
intended to communicate, we say that this part of the work
is good.

Ezra Pound

THE CANTOS is the tale of the tales of the tribe. The action of the poem is the construction of “Ezra Pound of the Cantos” in and as an intimate conversation with written and spoken language. Pound's tale includes both living and dead languages; diverse kinds of printed texts; various writing systems; different dialects of languages, individuating accents, tones, rhythms, inflections, and pronunciations; heard or remembered speech that has “carved” its “trace” in the ear or the mind; typographical transcriptions of speech sounds and rhythms on the page space. His interest is in the physical presence and the history of the material medium.

Different genres are chapters of this story, and if the first canto opens by resounding the epic tradition, it ends by invoking lyric poems. Pound interrupts the Homeric narrative, and, in a sense the tradition of oral narration, with a switch to his “I,” a translator addressing his predecessor: “Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus.”1 He thus signals not only the “present” of his English text but, figuratively, the end of the oral and scribal traditions with the coming of print. “In officina Wecheli, 1538” that marks the medium of print also gives us the first non-English phrase used in the Cantos—Latin, a dead language circulating only on paper. If the ear remembers “The Seafarer,”

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