Study Guide

Canto XLV Lines 41-50

By Ezra Pound

Lines 41-50

Lines 41-46

Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling
Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man's courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom

  • Apparently, usury gives a "canker" to "azure." Azure is a clear color of blue, as in a clear blue sky. To say that this color of blue has a canker, though, means that a nice, peaceful shade of blue has a cancer growing on it in a world with usury. So in other words, things that are pretty and peaceful are ruined by usury—as if you didn't see that coming. 
  • Similarly, cramoisi is "unbroidered" in a world with usury. Cramoizi is a type of crimson-colored French cloth. In the old days, a person would embroider this cloth with nice patterns, but there's no point to doing all that hard work when people won't pay for it anymore. 
  • Basically, in a world run by efficiency and moolah, people just want plain cloth and don't care if it has any beautiful embroidery. 
  • Line 41 tells us that emerald finds no "Memling." This is an allusion to Hans Memling, a Flemish painter from (you guessed it) the 1400s, who likely had a really good way of using the color emerald. 
  • And Pound's not done yet. He says that usury kills children while they're still in the womb. Yikes. He might not mean this literally, but might be saying that anything that has a lot of potential ends up being cut off before it can grow into something beautiful, because the modern world doesn't care about anything that takes a long time to accomplish. 
  • Usury also stops the young man from "courting" a girl, because the young man is presumably more concerned with making money than making love. Usury leaves people paralyzed or "palsied" in their beds, and it splits up husbands and wives (brides and bridegrooms).
  • And if you think that Pound is being melodramatic about this stuff, just remember that money is by far the number one cause of divorce today

Lines 47-50

                          CONTRA NATURAM
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

  • Shmoopers, it's time for Pound's final flurry. He opens with a real haymaker, shouting in all caps that usury is CONTRA NATURAM or "against nature."
  • The allusion to "Eleusis" in line 47 refers to an ancient Greek town where ceremonies of beauty and sexual fertility were celebrated. But instead of bringing beautiful, chaste women to these ceremonies, Pound says that the world of modern money brings "whores" to these sacred ceremonies. 
  • Without a doubt, the dude has to work on his gender politics. But here, he's basically saying that feminine beauty and sexuality are ruined by the world of money. 
  • And finally, Pound closes with the outlandish claim that all of us modern folks are basically just chowing down on a banquet of corpses in a world with usury. This could mean several things. It could mean that we live in a dog-eat-dog world where we're all just chasing money all the time at the expense of other people. It could also mean that the beautiful art of the past is all we have left to enjoy because we aren't making our own anymore. 
  • In either case, Pound is basically saying that unless the modern world can get over its obsession with money, we will never be able to make good art again. And our souls will keep suffering…
  • With usura.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...