Study Guide

Canto I Loyalty

By Ezra Pound

Loyalty

Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast? (47)

If Odysseus is anything, he's a loyal friend. That's why he's so shocked when he finds out that his buddy Elpenor has come to the "dark coast" of the Greek underworld. The first thing he wants to know is how the heck this whole thing happened. Last he checked, Elpenor was still alive on Circe's island.

But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-bord, (54-55)

It turns out the Elpenor didn't approach Odysseus in the underworld just for the sake of saying hello. He actually wants Odysseus to turn his ship back the way he came so he can go get Elpenor's body and give him a proper burial. The Greeks were really big on proper burials, you see. But Elpenor is really testing Odysseus' loyalty here, asking him to put a whole bunch of men at risk just to bury a guy who's already dead.

And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, (58)

In case you didn't know, Anticlea is Odysseus' dead mother. Now most of us might think that if we saw our mothers in heaven, we'd go running into their arms, but not Odysseus. He's got other fish to fry, and doesn't want to have a long conversation with his mom about how he doesn't visit her grave often enough. Right now, getting home to his wife and son is his major priority, not his mother.

For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep. (26-27)

If Odysseus is going to get help from the dead prophet Tiresias, he's going to have to do something to show his devotion and loyalty to the dude. So to do this, Odysseus takes the best sheep in his entire flock (the bell-sheep) and totally kills and burns it, leaving nothing that he could possibly eat or put to use.

Lie quiet, Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus, (68)

The Andreas Divus guy Pound is talking about here isn't actually a character in Homer's Odyssey, but a dude who translated the Odyssey back in 1535. When Pound tells Divus to lie quiet, he might be saying that the dead spirit of Divus doesn't need to worry, because Pound's "Canto I" has been loyal to his (Divus') original translation.

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