Literary Zone

Poetry: Canto XLV

21 April 2017 at 05:29 | 7970 views

Canto XLV

By Ezra Pound

(With Usura)

With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face,
with usura
hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luz
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,
with usura
seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly
with usura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour
with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.
Stonecutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom
WITH USURA
wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no gain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the maid’s hand
and stoppeth the spinner’s cunning. Pietro Lombardo
came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin’ not by usura
nor was ‘La Calunnia’ painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
Came no church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura St. Trophime
Not by usura Saint Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling
Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man’s courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom
CONTRA NATURAM
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

About Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (30 October 1885 – 1 November 1972) was an American expatriate poet and critic of the early modernist movement. His contribution to poetry began with his promotion of Imagism, a movement that called for a return to more Classical values, stressing clarity, precision and economy of language, and had an interest in verse forms such as the Japanese Haikus. His best-known works include Ripostes (1912), Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and his unfinished 120-section epic, The Cantos (1917–1969).

Working in London and Paris in the early 20th century as foreign editor of several American literary magazines, Pound helped to discover and shape the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. He was responsible for the publication in 1915 of Eliot’s "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and for the serialization from 1918 of Joyce’s Ulysses. Hemingway wrote of him in 1925: "He defends [his friends] when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. ... He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying ... he advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide."

Outraged by the loss of life during the First World War, he lost faith in England, blaming the war on usury and international capitalism. He moved to Italy in 1924, where throughout the 1930s and 1940s, to his friends’ dismay, he embraced Benito Mussolini’s fascism, expressed support for Adolf Hitler and wrote for publications owned by Oswald Mosley. The Italian government paid him during the Second World War to make hundreds of radio broadcasts criticizing the United States, as a result of which he was arrested for treason by American forces in Italy in 1945. He spent months in detention in a U.S. military camp in Pisa, including 25 days in a six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cage that he said triggered a mental breakdown, "when the raft broke and the waters went over me." Deemed unfit to stand trial, he was incarcerated in St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, D.C., for over 12 years.

While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress, triggering enormous controversy. He was released from St. Elizabeths in 1958 and returned to live in Italy until his death. His political views ensure that his work remains controversial; in 1933 Time magazine called him "a cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children." Hemingway nevertheless wrote: "The best of Pound’s writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature."

Here is Ezra Pound reading Canto XLV:

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