Study Guide

Canto XLV Sex

By Ezra Pound


Pound doesn't really bring up sex until the final few lines of Canto XLV. But these lines are some of the most powerful ones in the entire poem. For the most part, Pound is all about how usura and modern finance tends to take talented people away from their crafts. But toward the end of the poem, Pound gets more aggressive and says that usura is a total sin against nature that keeps anything new from ever being produced. And when he talks about "anything new," he also means human beings. In other words, he suggests that even something as simple as human sex and having children is ruined by people's obsession with money.

Questions About Sex

  1. Do you buy the comparison Pound makes between a person's inability to produce goods (i.e., to weave, to cut stone, etc.) and that person's inability to produce children? How might the two things be connected? How not?
  2. What is Pound getting at when he claims that usura has brought "palsey" or paralysis to people's beds? Please use specific examples from the text to support your answer.
  3. What do you make of Pound's claim in line 48 that "They have brought whores for Eleusis"? Who are "they"? Where is Eleusis? And what is the symbolic meaning of bringing "whores" there?
  4. What does Pound mean when he says that usura is "CONTRA NATURAM" or against nature? If usura is against nature, how is nature supposed to work?

Chew on This

For Pound, a person's ability to carve a chair or paint a picture is the same as their ability to produce a child. For him, there's only production and non-production, and non-production is the wrong way to go.

In Canto XLV, Pound undermines the traditional connection between money and power by saying that men who make their money off of lending and speculation are basically impotent, incapable of adding anything valuable to the world.

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