'Canto 1' by Ezra Pound

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And then went down to the ship,
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, and winds from sternward
Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
Crice'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.
Sun to his slumber, shadows o'er all the ocean,
Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,
To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays
Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven
Swartest night stretched over wreteched men there.
The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hip
I dug the ell-square pitkin;
Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's-heads;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and of the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the herds, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.
But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
Unwept, unwrapped in the sepulchre, since toils urged other.
Pitiful spirit. And I cried in hurried speech:
"Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?
"Cam'st thou afoot, outstripping seamen?"And he in heavy speech:
"Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Crice's ingle.
"Going down the long ladder unguarded,
"I fell against the buttress,
"Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.
"But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
"Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-bord, and inscribed:
"A man of no fortune, and with a name to come.
"And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows."And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
"A second time? why? man of ill star,
"Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
"Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
"For soothsay."And I stepped back,
And he strong with the blood, said then: "Odysseus
"Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
"Lose all companions." Then Anticlea came.
Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outwards and away
And unto Crice.Venerandam,
In the Cretan's phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, oricalchi, with golden
Girdle and breat bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicidia. So that:

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deep Dive Into Ezra Pound's "Canto 1"

Ezra Pound's "Canto 1" is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that has captivated readers for nearly a century. Written in 1917, the poem is the first of Pound's epic Cantos, a sprawling work that he continued to write for the rest of his life. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of "Canto 1" to understand its significance and impact.

The Structure of "Canto 1"

Upon first glance, "Canto 1" may appear to lack structure or form. The poem is 120 lines long, and the lines are not divided into stanzas or regular meter. However, upon closer inspection, a pattern emerges. The poem is made up of short fragments, separated by spaces or dashes. These fragments are linked together by a set of recurring images and symbols, creating a network of associations that give the poem its structure.

The overall structure of "Canto 1" can be described as a journey. The poem begins with the speaker, who is identified only as "I," setting out on a voyage. The journey takes the speaker through a series of landscapes and historical moments, moving back and forth in time and space. Along the way, the speaker encounters a variety of characters and symbols, each of which contributes to the poem's overall meaning.

The Themes of "Canto 1"

One of the most striking aspects of "Canto 1" is its complexity of themes. The poem touches on a vast array of subjects, including history, politics, mythology, religion, and literature. At its core, however, "Canto 1" is concerned with the search for meaning in a chaotic and fragmented world.

Throughout the poem, the speaker grapples with questions of identity and purpose. He seeks to understand his place in history and in the larger scheme of things. The poem is full of references to great historical figures, from Odysseus to Dante to Confucius, as well as to literary and artistic traditions, such as Shakespeare and Chinese calligraphy. These references serve to anchor the speaker in a larger cultural context, but also to highlight the difficulty of finding meaning in a world where tradition is fragmented and distorted.

Another important theme in "Canto 1" is the idea of memory and its relationship to history. Throughout the poem, the speaker recalls past events and figures, but these memories are often incomplete or distorted. The poem suggests that the past is not a fixed entity, but rather a set of images and stories that are constantly being reinterpreted and reimagined.

Finally, "Canto 1" grapples with the idea of language and its ability to convey meaning. The poem is full of linguistic play and experimentation, as Pound draws on a wide range of literary and cultural sources to create a new kind of poetry. At the same time, the poem acknowledges the limitations of language, suggesting that words can never fully capture the complexity of human experience.

The Language of "Canto 1"

One of the most striking aspects of "Canto 1" is its innovative use of language. Pound drew on a wide range of sources, from Chinese calligraphy to medieval Italian poetry, to create a new kind of poetry that was both modern and traditional. The poem is full of linguistic play, including puns, allusions, and neologisms.

One of the most notable features of "Canto 1" is its use of imagery. The poem is full of vivid and often surreal images, such as "The enormous tragedy of the dream in the debris," which capture the fragmentation and chaos of modern life. Pound also uses a wide range of symbols and allusions, drawing on sources as diverse as the Bible, the Upanishads, and the works of Shakespeare.

Another notable aspect of "Canto 1" is its use of rhythm and sound. Pound was deeply influenced by the rhythms of classical Greek and Latin poetry, and his poetry often incorporates elements of these languages. The poem is also full of sonic echoes and repetitions, which serve to create a sense of unity and coherence in the midst of fragmentation.

The Significance of "Canto 1"

"Canto 1" is a significant work of modernist poetry that has had a deep and lasting impact on the literary world. Pound's innovative use of language and imagery helped to usher in a new era of poetry, one that was marked by experimentation and exploration. The poem also helped to redefine what poetry could be, breaking free from traditional forms and structures to create something new and unique.

At the same time, "Canto 1" is a deeply personal work that reflects Pound's own struggles with identity and purpose. The poem is full of references to Pound's own life and experiences, as well as to his literary and cultural influences. Pound was deeply committed to the idea of poetry as a means of exploring the human experience, and "Canto 1" is perhaps his most powerful expression of this idea.

Ultimately, "Canto 1" is a poem that invites multiple interpretations and readings. Its complex structure, themes, and language make it a rich and rewarding work that continues to captivate readers today. Whether read as a meditation on history, a reflection on the nature of language, or a personal journey of self-discovery, "Canto 1" remains a powerful and influential work of modernist poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Ezra Pound's Poetry Canto 1 is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that has captivated readers for over a century. This poem is the first of a series of cantos that Pound wrote throughout his career, and it is widely regarded as one of his most important works. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of Poetry Canto 1, and examine why it remains such a powerful and influential piece of literature.

The poem begins with the famous lines "And then went down to the ship, / 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, and winds from sternward / Bore us out onward with bellying canvas." These lines immediately establish a sense of movement and adventure, as the speaker and his companions set out on a voyage across the sea. The use of the word "godly" suggests a sense of reverence and awe for the natural world, which is a recurring theme throughout the poem.

As the voyage continues, the speaker reflects on the nature of poetry and its relationship to the world around us. He writes, "O, how incomprehensible everything was, / And that vague memories of Old Wrath Drove / Sleep from my eyes tonight, and light on my crown / And I heard the sea-gulls crying about the tower, / And under the horses' hooves, / And under the sail the ship's bells / Struck harder and more harshly." These lines suggest a sense of confusion and disorientation, as the speaker struggles to make sense of the world around him. The reference to "Old Wrath" suggests a sense of ancient, primal forces that are beyond human understanding.

Throughout the poem, Pound uses a variety of literary techniques to create a sense of rhythm and musicality. For example, he frequently uses alliteration and assonance to create a sense of repetition and pattern. In the lines "And under the horses' hooves, / And under the sail the ship's bells / Struck harder and more harshly," the repetition of the "h" sound creates a sense of urgency and intensity, as if the speaker is being driven forward by some unseen force.

Another important aspect of Poetry Canto 1 is its use of imagery and symbolism. Pound frequently uses images from nature to convey complex ideas and emotions. For example, he writes, "The sea was calm to the north of us, / The stars were clear, and the moon was yellow, / And the foam of the wave sparkled like fire / Or a million golden helms on the sea." This image of the foam sparkling like fire suggests a sense of energy and vitality, as if the natural world is alive and pulsing with energy.

One of the most striking aspects of Poetry Canto 1 is its use of language. Pound frequently uses archaic or obscure words, as well as words from other languages, to create a sense of depth and complexity. For example, he writes, "And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold." The use of the word "dripping" to describe the sunrise is unexpected and vivid, and creates a sense of richness and abundance.

Overall, Poetry Canto 1 is a powerful and complex work of modernist poetry that explores themes of nature, poetry, and the human experience. Pound's use of language, imagery, and symbolism creates a sense of depth and complexity that rewards careful reading and analysis. Whether you are a fan of modernist poetry or simply appreciate great literature, Poetry Canto 1 is a work that deserves your attention and admiration.

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