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Canto I

Canto I

by Ezra Pound

Analysis: Sound Check

Over in "Form and Meter," we talk about the way that "Canto I" takes its cue from Old English "accentual meter." Now, typically, "Form and Meter" tells us how the rhythm and structure of a poem work to create meaning, while here at "Sound Check" we check out… um, sounds, to give you the skinny on how the poem works on a sonic level.

What's wild about this poem, though, is that the nod to the Old English form means that sound is totally wrapped up with form. They can't really be separated. That's because, as we explain fully in "Form and Meter," the stressed syllables in each line are tied together through alliteration), internal rhyme, or both. In other words, the lines are held together with a sonic glue, echoing both their consonant and vowel sounds to create momentum and predictability in your mind's ear (if you can imagine that).

Hey, did we mention that we talk about this over in "Form and Meter"? Well, if you haven't already gone over there and read the whole kit and kaboodle, here's one more example of an alliterative line with internal rhyme:

Swartest night stretched over wretched men there.(16)

We get alliteration with "Swartest" and "stretched," and we also get the rhyme with those same words, plus "wretched" and "men." When you look hard enough, you can see these intricate sound-weavings all over the poem. They're not in every line, of course. Pound, remember, was not trying to recreate the past, only to show how its lessons might be useful for us today. This nod to the ancients, though, is carried out on a sonic level as much as by his retelling of The Odyssey.

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