Study Guide

Canto XLV Lines 18-28

By Ezra Pound

Lines 18-28

Lines 18-22

with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.
Stonecutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom

  • So what does Pound mean when he says the line "grows thick" with usury? Well he tries to clarify in the next line by saying there is no "demarcation" with usury. He's sort of saying that before usury came along, our lives were organized along clear lines. Each person had a place and did what they were supposed to. But now that usury happens, no one can figure out where they belong in the world, because everything is corrupted by money. 
  • For these reasons, he thinks that usury ends up ruining the joy of work for everybody. In the old days, people might have become carpenters because they liked working with wood. But nowadays, people become stockbrokers and bond analysts because they want cash monies. So for these reasons, someone who might want to be a stonecutter is "kept from his stone" and someone who's a weaver is "kept from his loom" (a loom is a tool for weaving).

Lines 23-28

wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no gain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the maid's hand
and stoppeth the spinner's cunning.

  • And in case you didn't get the point, Pound decides to start capitalizing every letter of "WITH USURA" in line 22. Now he's really starting to preach. 
  • He says that if no one wants to be a noble worker anymore, then there won't be anymore to make wool for us and bring it to the market. They won't do this because "sheep bringeth no gain with usura." In other words, you can't make enough money off of sheep when the world's full of people playing stocks and making money without actually producing anything real. 
  • You should notice, too, that Pound uses nice quaint, rural imagery when he talks about what usury ruins in the modern world.
  • He's definitely a fan of the idea of returning to some sort of a pre-industrial peasant world. In a word, the guy's nostalgic. 
  • Next, Pound says that usury is a "murrain," which is another word for plague. And in keeping with his quaint imagery, Pound says that usury ruins the needle in the maid's hand. In other words, women can't sew clothes because there's no incentive to create anything physical in a world with billions of dollars changing hands over the stock market. The bit about usury stopping the "spinner's cunning" means the same thing, only this time it's talking about the skills of a person who spins wool.

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