by Ezra Loomis Pound
Canto II Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Seal sports in the spray-whited circles of cliff-wash, (6)
To start "Canto II," Pound wants to give us a sense of being near or on the open sea. So he gives us this early line describing seals playing in the ocean surf. It's a very vivid image, and it sets up all of the action that unfolds for the rest of the poem, since this action is all connected to the sea in one way or another.
Quiet sun-tawny sand-stretch,
The gulls broad out their wings,
nipping between the splay feathers; (28-30)
Even while the nymph Tyro is being sexually assaulted nearby, the sea birds just keep performing their usual routines. They nip at their feathers, fly around, and look for fish. Nothing changes for them, even though there's brutal human suffering going on nearby.
Naviform rock overgrown,
algae cling to its edge,
There is a wine-red glow in the shallows,
a tin flash in the sun-dazzle. (36-39)
We might not notice it right away, but the "wine-red glow" in the shallow water here is our first hint that the Greek god Dionysius might be nearby. After all, he's the god of wine and fertility. The problem is that none of the greedy men who've landed on this island seem to take the hint. This is one of those situations where it might come in handy to know your classic mythology.