Study Guide

Canto I The Golden Bough

By Ezra Pound

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The Golden Bough

At the end of "Canto I," Pound suddenly leaves his translation of Homer and talks about the Greek goddess Aphrodite holding something called the "golden bough of Argicida" (76). A bit of research tells us that this "golden bough" thingy refers to the gift Aeneas gave to Proserpine before he descended into the underworld. Aeneas was a Trojan War hero and the son of the goddess Aphrodite, and Proserpine was the wife of Pluto, god of the underworld. The golden bough was ultimately Aeneas' bargaining chip for getting into Greek heaven instead of hell. What all of this means for Pound's "Canto I" is a little murky, but let's dive in…

  • Line 76: On the one hand, the bough might be suggesting that Pound's own cantos might act as a golden bough for his readers, getting us out of the hell of our modern lives and leading us back to the beauty of a bygone age like Homer's. Still, the poem seems to leave this resolution intentionally vague, since he begins the next sentence with the phrase "So that:" (76) and then totally trails off, leaving us with the task of deciding what the golden bough image is all about. 
  • It's also important to note that The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a book by Sir George Frazer that was published around 1900 and which was a giant hit for Pound's generation. In this book, Frazer argued that there were certain myths that were pretty much universal among all developed civilizations. In this sense, Pound might also be using the image of the golden bough to suggest that the wisdom contained in Homer is actually present throughout all the classical writings of the past, and that we can improve our lives if we learn more about this universal wisdom.

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