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Canto I

Canto I


by Ezra Pound

Canto I Memory and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line)

Quote #1

And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, (1-2)

From the opening lines of this poem, we realize that we're listening to a story told in the past tense by a narrator who keeps talking about "we." So in other words, we're hearing this story from an older, maybe wiser Odysseus, which raises all kinds of questions we might not ask if the whole thing was in third-person. Now, we wonder to ourselves, "Why is Odysseus (or his spirit) taking the trouble to tell us this story about himself? What is he trying to teach us?" There's something very intimate about telling this ancient myth as if it's one man's memory, and in this sense, Pound does a great job of drawing us in.

Quote #2

and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, (4-5)

All of a sudden, we realize that Odysseus and his men have been crying. That means they're probably carrying some pretty fresh bad memories. Oh yeah, most of their friends just got killed, so that definitely makes sense. What's so great about the way memory gets used here, though, is that it's implied instead of stated directly, which arouses our curiosity about what's going on.

Quote #3

And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, (58)

Okay, so Odysseus isn't going to win any son of the year awards. The guy runs into his mother in the underworld, but then swipes at her and makes her go away because he'd rather talk to a blind prophet. Odysseus' memory of this doesn't seem to show any guilt at first, but the fact that Odysseus brings his mother up again in line 67 suggests that there's definitely a lingering feeling there.

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