Study Guide

Canto XLV Sin

By Ezra Pound


Pound might not have been a straight-up Christian, but Canto XLV sounds like it could have come out of the harshest books of the Bible (Leviticus, maybe?). In this poem, Pound specifically uses the Latin form of usury—usura—in order to convey a sense of how usury is a deeply spiritual sin. And in case we missed the point, he later says directly that usura is a "sin against nature" (14).

For Pound, nature has a constant cycle of production and reproduction that human beings participate in by creating objects (like chairs and buildings) and having kids. But when people start making money off of other money, nothing ends up getting produced. And for Pound, this stops the natural processes that keep human life going. And yeah, that's not a good thing.

Questions About Sin

  1. In your mind, is making money off of money as terrible a thing as Pound makes it out to be? Do you consider it a sin against nature? Why or why not?
  2. What are some of the potentially productive effects of making money off of money (for example, if you invested in a company that makes stuff people like)? Would Pound still consider this usura? Why or why not? For a clue, listen to what Pound says when he's done reading Canto XLV in this clip
  3. Do you see a connection between what Pound is saying in Canto XLV and the crisis of Western (i.e., American, European) banks and financial institutions in 2008 to the present? Why or why not?

Chew on This

In Canto XLV, Pound basically scapegoats one tiny portion of human behavior in order to explain all of his beefs with the modern world.

In Canto XLV, Pound exposes usura as something that is actually anti-capitalist, since it prevents people from ever making any real products to sell.

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