At last, a definitive, paperback edition of Ezra Pound's finest work.
Ezra Pound's The Pisan Cantos was 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 book of his modernist epic, The Cantos, themselves conceived as a Divine Comedy for our time. The Pisan Cantos were published in 1948 by New Directions and in the following year were awarded the Bollingen Prize for poetry by the Library of Congress. The honor came amid violent controversy, for the dark cloud of treason still hung over Pound, incarcerated in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Yet there is no doubt that The Pisan Cantos displays some of his finest and most affecting writing, marking an elegaic turn to the personal while synthesizing the philosophical and economic political themes of his previous cantos. They are now being published for the first time as a separate paperback, in a fully annotated edition prepared by Richard Sieburth, who also contributes a thoroughgoing introduction, making Pound's master-work fully accessible to students and general readers.
About the Author
New Directions has been the primary publisher of Ezra Pound in the U.S. since the founding of the press when James Laughlin published New Directions in Prose and Poetry 1936. That year Pound was fifty-one. In Laughlin’s first letter to Pound, he wrote: “Expect, please, no fireworks. I am bourgeois-born (Pittsburgh); have never missed a meal. . . . But full of ‘noble caring’ for something as inconceivable as the future of decent letters in the US.” Little did Pound know that into the twenty-first century the fireworks would keep exploding as readers continue to find his books relevant and meaningful.
Award-winning translator, scholar, and essayist Richard Sieburth has translated books by Henri Michaux, Friedrich Hölderlin, Louise Labé, Gérard de Nerval, and Nostradamus.
Read an Excerpt
THE PISAN CANTOS
By EZRA POUND
A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOKCopyright © 2003 Mary de Rachewiltz and Omar S. Pound
All right reserved.
The enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant's bent shoulders Manes! Manes was tanned and stuffed, 5 Thus Ben and la Clara a Milano by the heels at Milano That maggots shd/ eat the dead bullock DIGONOS, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], but the twice crucified yet say this to the Possum: a bang, not a whimper, 10 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, What you depart from is not the way 15 and olive tree blown white in the wind washed in the Kiang and Han what whiteness will you add to this whiteness, "the great periplum brings in the stars to our shore." 20 You who have passed the pillars and outward from Herakles when Lucifer fell in N. Carolina. if the suave air give way to scirocco [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Odysseus 25 the wind also is of the process, Fear god and the stupidity of the populace, but a precise definition transmitted thus Sigismundo 30 thus Duccio, thus Zuan Bellin, or trastevere with La Sposa Sponsa Cristi in mosaic till our time / deification of emperors but a snotty barbarian ignorant of T'ang history need not deceive nor Charlie Sung's money on loan from anonimo 35 that is, we suppose Charlie had some and in India the rate down to 18 per hundred but the local loan lice provided from imported bankers so the total interest sweated out of the Indian farmers rose in Churchillian grandeur 40 as when, and plus when, he returned to the putrid gold standard as was about 1925 Oh my England that free speech without free radio speech is as zero and but one point needed for Stalin you need not, i.e. need not take over the means of production; 45 money to signify work done, inside a system and measured and wanted "I have not done unnecessary manual labour" says the R. C. chaplain's field book 50 squawky as larks over the death cells im. Westen nichts neues and the Constitution in jeopardy and that state of things not very new either
55 "of sapphire, for this stone giveth sleep" not words whereto to be faithful nor deeds that they be resolute only that bird-hearted equity make timber 60 and Rouse found they spoke of Elias in telling the tales of Odysseus [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "I am noman, my name is noman" but Wanjina is, shall we say, Ouan Jin 65 or the man with an education and whose mouth was removed by his father whereby cluttered the bushman's baggage vide the expedition of Frobenius' pupils about 1938 70 to Auss'ralia Ouan Jin spoke and thereby created the named the bane of men moving and so his mouth was removed 75 as you will find it removed in his pictures from the death cells in sight of Mt. Taishan @ Pisa as Fujiyama at Gardone 80 when the cat walked the top bar of the railing and the water was still on the West side flowing toward the Villa Catullo where with sound ever moving 85 in the stillness outlasting all wars "La Donna" said Nicoletti "Cosa deve continuare?" 90 "Se casco" said Bianca Capello "non casco in ginnocchion" and with one day's reading a man may have the key in his hands Lute of Gassir. Hooo Fasa came a lion-coloured pup bringing fleas 95 and a bird with white markings, a stepper Absouldre, que tous nous vueil absoudre lay there Barabbas and two thieves lay beside him infantile synthesis in Barabbas 100 minus Hemingway, minus Antheil, ebullient and by name Thos. Wilson Mr K. said nothing foolish, the whole month nothing foolish: "if we weren't dumb, we wouldn't be here" 105 Butterflies, mint and Lesbia's sparrows, the voiceless with bumm drum and banners, el triste pensier si volge ad Ussel. A Ventadour 110 va il consire, el tempo rivolge and at Limoges the young salesman bowed with such french politeness "No that is impossible." I have forgotten which city But the caverns are less enchanting to the unskilled explorer 115 than the Urochs as shown on the postals, we will see those old roads again, question, but nothing appears much less likely, 120 and there was a smell of mint under the tent flaps especially after the rain dark sheep in the drill field and on wet days were clouds 125 in the mountain as if under the guard roosts. A lizard upheld me the wild birds wd not eat the white bread from Mt Taishan to the sunset From Carrara stone to the tower 130 and this day the air was made open for Kuanon of all delights, Linus, Cletus, Clement the great scarab is bowed at the altar 135 the green light gleams in his shell plowed in the sacred field and unwound the silk worms early in the light of light is the virtù 140 as of Shun on Mt Taishan and in the hall of the forebears the paraclete that was present in Yao, the precision in Shun the compassionate 145 in Yu the guider of waters
4 giants at the 4 corners three young men at the door and they digged a ditch round about me lest the damp gnaw thru my bones 150 to redeem Zion with justice sd/Isaiah. Not out on interest said David rex Light tensile immaculata 155 "sunt lumina" said the Oirishman to King Carolus, all things that are are lights" and they dug him up out of sepulture soi disantly looking for Manichaeans. 160 Les Albigeois, a problem of history, and the fleet at Salamis made with money lent by the state to the Never inside the country to raise the standard of living 165 but always abroad to increase the profits of usurers, and gun sales lead to more gun sales they do not clutter the market for gunnery there is no saturation 170 Pisa, in the 23rd year of the effort in sight of the tower and Till was hung yesterday for murder and rape with trimmings plus Cholkis plus mythology, thought he was Zeus ram or another one Hey Snag wots in the bibl'? 175 wot are the books ov the bible? Name 'em, don't bullshit ME.
a man on whom the sun has gone down the ewe, he said had such a pretty look in her eyes; 180 and the nymph of the Hagoromo came to me, one day were clouds banked on Taishan or in glory of sunset and tovarish blessed without aim 185 wept in the rainditch at evening that the drama is wholly subjective stone knowing the form which the carver imparts it the stone knows the form 190 sia Cythera, sia Ixotta, sia in Santa Maria dei Miracoli where Pietro Romano has fashioned the bases [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] a man on whom the sun has gone down nor shall diamond die in the avalanche 195 be it torn from its setting first must destroy himself ere others destroy him. 4 times was the city rebuilded, Hooo Fasa now in the mind indestructible, Gassir, Hoooo Fasa, 200 With the four giants at the four corners and four gates mid-wall Hooo Fasa and a terrace the colour of stars pale as the dawn cloud, la luna 205 Hooo Fasa, and in a dance the renewal with two larks in contrappunto a sinistra la Torre 210 seen thru a pair of breeches. Che sublia es laissa cader between NEKUIA where are Alcmene and Tyro and the Charybdis of action to the solitude of Mt. Taishan 215 femina, femina, that wd/ not be dragged into paradise by the hair, under the gray cliff in periplum the sun dragging her stars a man on whom the sun has gone down and the wind came as hamadryas under the sun-beat 220 Vai soli amid the slaves learning slavery and the dull driven back toward the jungle are never alone "HAION HEPI 'HAION 225 as the light sucks up vapor that had been a hard man in some ways a day as a thousand years as the leopard sat by his water dish; 230 hast killed the urochs and the bison sd/ Bunting doing six months after that war was over as pacifist tempted with chicken but declined to approve of war "Redimiculum Metellorum " 235 to the shame of various critics nevertheless the state can lend money and the fleet that went out to Salamis was built by state loan to the builders 240 and in this war were Joe Gould, Bunting and cummings as against thickness and fatness
black that die in captivity night green of his pupil, as grape flesh and sea wave undying luminous and translucent
245 Est consummatum, Ite;
surrounded by herds and by cohorts looked on Mt Taishan
but in Tangier I saw from dead straw ignition fire came to the straw 250 from the fakir blowing foul straw and an arm-long snake that bit the tongue of the fakir making small holes 255 dirty straw that he took from the roadway that wd/ have been in the time of Rais Uli when I rode out to Elson's near the villa of Perdicaris 260 or four years before that elemental he thought the souls of the children, if any, but had rented a shelter for travelers by foot from Siria, some of them nor is it for nothing that the chrysalids mate in the air 265 color di luce green splendour and as the sun thru pale fingers Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven these the companions: Fordie that wrote of giants 270 and William who dreamed of nobility and Plarr talking of mathematics 275 or Jepson lover of jade Maurie who wrote historical novels and Newbolt who looked twice bathed And this day the sun was clouded 280 -"You sit stiller" said Kokka "if whenever you move something jangles." and the old Marchesa remembered a reception in Petersburg and Kokka thought there might be some society (good) left in 285 opinion in 1924 Sirdar, Bouiller and Les Lilas, Uncle George stood like a statesman "PEI IIANTA fills up every hollow 290 the cake shops in the Nevsky, and Schöners not to mention der Greif at Bolsano la patronne getting older Mouquin's or Robert's 40 years after and La Marquise de Pierre had never before met an American "and all their generation" 295 no it is not in that chorus Huddy going out and taller than anyone present Mr James shielding himself with Mrs Hawkesby as it were a bowl shielding itself with a walking stick 300 as he maneuvered his way toward the door Said Mr Adams, of the education, Teach? at Harvard? Teach? It cannot be done.
Excerpted from THE PISAN CANTOS by EZRA POUND Copyright © 2003 by Mary de Rachewiltz and Omar S. Pound. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.