Study Guide

Canto II Gods

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Dionysius, Poseidon, Lir, Proteus—"Canto II" definitely has its share of gods. And what all of these gods seem to have in common is the way Pound uses them to make the history of western art a more magical and interesting place. There was a time when you couldn't live in the western world without knowing the stories of Greek and Roman mythology. But those days are gone, and like his buddy T.S. Eliot, Pound might be a little worried that not knowing these stories will make it harder for people to find common ground when they're trying to communicate with one another.

  • Line 5: Pound opens up the whole god scene in "Canto II" by making up his own, a sea god named "So-shu," whose name reflects the sound the sea makes when it swirls around. At this early point, you know that you're in for quite a bit of references to gods and to the sea.
  • Line 6: Right after mentioning So-shu, Pound mentions "Lir," the Celtic god of the sea whose name literally means "ocean."
  • Lines 24: When he brings up the "twisted arms of the sea-god" (24), Pound refers specifically to Poseidon, the Greek god of the ocean who raped the nymph Tyro by disguising himself as a river.
  • Lines 62-63: After a bunch of bad sailors kidnap a young boy, there is one man on the ship who realizes that the boy is actually the god Dionysius in disguise. As he tells the story of how he "stood there" (62) on the bow of the ship, he claims, "the god stood by men" (63). This line not only shows recognition of Dionysius, but also shows that Acoetes feels like Dionysius is on his side.
  • Lines 130-133: Just like that, we're back to listening to "So-shu churn[ing] in the sea" and "using the long moon for a churn-stick" (130-131). Here, Pound makes it seem as if all of "Canto II" is a bunch of events that So-shu has summoned out of the sea like a giant soup pot. Meanwhile, the "sinews of Poseidon" make another appearance in line 133, reminding us that there are several different sea gods in this poem, and that they have different meanings. Poseidon, for example, is a figure of sexual violence in "Canto II," while So-shu is a figure of creativity.

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