Ethan Lewis: On "Canto 45"

Clarity remains Pound’s chief preoccupation, with reflection of conditions secondary, albeit important. That explains, perhaps, why, rather than subvert his medium, Pound prefers to employ linguistic means in order to illustrate. One might even catalogue the syntactic exposures of usura.

1.) grammatical obstruction—such as that separating "Stonecutter" from stone, "weaver from loom" by lodging "is kept from" between agent and object.

Stonecutter is kept from his stone,

weaver is kept from his loom (45/229)

Akin to this spatial obfuscation, intruding a negative between subject and object:

wool comes not to market

sheep bringeth no gain with usura

2.) "still-birth syntax,"—more devastating than obstruction because the structure glosses

Usura slayeth the child in the womb (45/230 )

Here the verb, invariably harsh, precedes a healthy combination, rendering it nugatory, Compare:

It rusteth the craft and the craftsman

It gnaweth the thread in the loom

The line following demonstrates the variant: an affirmative verb itself aborted by a negative—

None learneth to weave gold in her pattern.

 

Cf. "With usura hath no man a house of good stone" (45/229)

These are constructs less powerful (to my mind) than the still-birth triggering off the verb. Consistent with the crescendo in offenses, Pound cleverly refrains from verbal still-birth syntax until the second half of the canto, whence it supervenes obstruction as the principal register:

                                        usura

blunteth the needle in the maid’s hand

and stoppeth the spinner’s cunning.

. . . .

It stayeth the young man’s courting

                                        (45/229-230)

3.) The first of three less frequent modes: transitive annihilation.

Usura is a murrain, . . .

. . . .

Usura rusteth the chisel

In remarking this simplest strategy, it's worth noting that Pound invented none of these exposures, unless the term be construed in its original (Latin) light, through the cognates in + venire, meaning to come upon. Pound recognized quite early in his career (his overstating the discovery underscores its impress upon him) that the syntax of uninflected idioms mimes nature. From the Fenollosa essay on "The Chinese Written Character," which Pound edited:

The sentence form was forced upon primitive men by nature itself. It was not we who made it; it was a reflection of the temporal order in causation. All truth has to be expressed in sentences because all truth is the transference of power. The type of sentence in nature is a flash of lightning. It passes between two terms, a cloud and the earth. No unit of natural process can be less than this. All natural processes are, in their units, as much as this. . . . The form of the Chinese transitive sentence, and of the English, omitting particles, exactly corresponds to this universal form of action in nature.

It follows that any interruption of this form goes "CONTRA NATURAM." Even obstruction and still-birth syntax merely forestall the inevitable progress forward. Unimpeded, usura will naturally (transitively) raze its object. It will perversely weight that to which it attaches, or from which it grows like a cancer. Hence, Pound shows us 4.) cankered syntax.

Azure hath a canker by usura; . . .

                                            (45/230)

. . . .

sheep bringeth no gain with usura

The second (and earlier) instance neatly imitates the production of "nonexistent values" (Douglas' term) against which Pound rails—the casting forth of some thing ("with usura") from nothing ("no gain") Cf. "Nothing we made. . . ." [25/118]; and

Said Paterson.

                                            Hath benefit of interest on all

the moneys which it, the bank, creates out of nothing.                                                                         (46/233)

5.) The most fanciful, thus most moot, form of exposure, which, if genuine, damns as viciously as still birth syntax freezes. Structural rather than syntactic, a grotesque exchange, plausibly transacted in

It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth

between the young bride and her bridegroom

                                    CONTRA NATURAM                                                                 (45/230)

Since the second line "lyeth / between" the first and third, the second may be equated with usura. I.e., "young bride and her bridegroom" equals usura—which formula reflexively supports and is supported by: "It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth" equals "young bride" / "CONTRA NATURAM" equals "her bridegroom."

From "Grammaria Usurae: Representational Strategies in Canto XLV." Paiduema 28. 2-3.

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Criticism Overview
Title Ethan Lewis: On "Canto 45" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Ethan Lewis Criticism Target Ezra Pound
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 10 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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