Massimo Bacigalupo: On "Notes for CXVII"

In the final completed canto [116] the mind of Ixion confronts with "gaiety" the mind of the god who "comes" in marine guise, attended by the dolphins of canto 110, to greet the voyager, or to bring him the "gentle death" Tiresias had promised Ulysses [in the Odyssey]. . . .

There is a touch of truculence in the challenge to "lift" the great ball - which is at one time the acorn of light of canto 106, Pound's phantastikon, the divine vision, and the poem as distinct from its compiler, now beached among errors and wrecks - but this false note is made good by the eventual reprise, beautifully articulated, of the basic theme: the House reattaches itself, beyond (and through) negation and loss, to "the drawing of this Love" (Little Gidding) - to a post-Christian eros in the absence of which nothing can be said to exist.

The three fragments printed at the end of Drafts & Fragments under the editorial heading, "Notes for Canto CXVII et seq.," may have been written before the final struggle recorded in canto 116, yet their present location is fortunate. . . . They pass over the otiose question whether the Cantos are a ball of crystal or a wreck, and look beyond the poem, thus providing it with the open-ended and relaxed finale that it needs. The first of the set ("For the blue flash and the moments…") is readily identified as a footnote to canto 110’s envoi, with its talk of "the marble form in the pine wood" and "the shrine seen and not seen"… While "blessing" the companion and "anima" of his last verse Pound is aware of the culpability of his senile attachment - an attachment which is also, so far as it involves "jealousy," the cause of the conversion of love into hate. Yet he savors the extraordinary gift of the "benedetta": one whole day of peace, as memorable as two crucial epiphanies of his late poetry: the elm boughs leading the autumn sky in canto 106, and the foam . . . changing into snow in 98. In this "quiet" . . . Pound meditates his last project: to build a house free of jealousy, a temple which the poet himself, a feline god [Zagreus], may inhabit with his Mother.

This project is not unlike the one announced, after a memorable pause, at the end of the subsequent somber fragment, which mourns the death of love, and with it of life ("m’amour, ma vie" in one typescript). . . The diagnosis is dispassionate: Pound has worn himself out in a frightful and ridiculous tourney with windmills, and yet his unrealized plan for an earthly paradise ["paradiso / terrestre"] is more compelling than the dependable accomplishment of such as never lose themselves.

In the end, having regained his confidence, the poet rises from his own "failure" and sets out, comforted by memory, towards a world which is truly new - the world of man . . . Bernouard . . . was the first printer of XXX Cantos: Pound reaffirms his material and collective conception of the poetic artifact . . . "Lie quiet" – we think we hear him say, as in canto 1 – "Divus, Bernouard, and Pound." . . . The end is an excess of joy: the lark falls from the sweeteness that goes to her heart. With a happy gesture the Cantos hark back, while running out, to the springtime of modern Western poetry - Bernart de Ventadorn’s song - and to the dawn of the vocation of the poet Pound: the roads of Provence [Allègre] as he saw them around Midsummer Day, 1912. His guides in this first and last journey are two mice, a moth, and the butterflies or "king-wings" (canto 106) that feed on milkweed and "meet in their island," preparing for the great migratory flight. That the arcanum to which they point the way is revealed in the end as a fully human world has been indicated above - and the Dantean source of the last statement should be borne in mind. ["Be men – not wild sheep" - Paradiso 5.80.] It is only a hypothesis, a promised land at the threshold of which this huge Browningesque machine must come to a stop - like the prehistory of the tribe, or of modern consciousness, which we may take it to be.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Massimo Bacigalupo: On "Notes for CXVII" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Massimo Bacigalupo Criticism Target Ezra Pound
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 25 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Forméd Tree: The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound
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