Study Guide

Canto II Appearances

By Ezra Loomis Pound

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Sleek head, daughter of Lir;
eyes of Picasso
Under black fur-hood, (7-10)

Toward the beginning of "Canto II," Pound starts us off by describing a "daughter of Lir," which is actually an ocean seal, then says that this seal has "eyes of Picasso." This is interesting because the painter Pablo Picasso was famous for being able to find beauty in ordinary things by showing those things from a new angleā€”or in some cases, from a bunch of angles at once.

Moves, yes she moves like a goddess,
And has the face of a god (17-18)

The men of Troy want Helen out of their city because they know she'll bring war to their people. They realize that she's incredibly beautiful, almost god-like in her beauty. But at the same time, they feel like her beauty will eventually destroy them, so they want her gone.

And by the rock pool a young boy loggy with vine-must, (42)

When Acoetes and his buds first get to the island of Scios, they see a young boy hanging out by a rock pool. None of them realize that the handsome young boy is the god Dionysius in disguise, even though the smell of vines should give them a bit of a hint. In any case, the men totally disregard the boy's freedom and decide that he'd make them a bit of money if they sold him as a slave. That choice will come back to haunt them, though.

Black snout of a porpoise
where Lycabs had been,
Fish-scales on the oarsmen. (103-105).

So it turns out that this guy named Lycabs was one of the guys who thought it'd be a good idea to kidnap a kid and sell him as a slave. But next thing you know, Dionysius is turning this guy into a porpoise. And yes, he's doing it on porpoise (okay, we'll stop with the puns now). But hey, that's what you get when you can't recognize beauty for what it is.

"When they brought the boy I said:
He has a god in him,
though I do not know which god." (108-110)

Of all the crew members who land on the island of Scios, only Acoetes seems to realize that there is some kind of god inside the young boy they try to kidnap. In this sense, Pound might be using Acoetes to symbolize a person who sort of knows how to recognize beauty, but who doesn't have the proper education to know specifically what he's looking at. That's why Acoetes can tell there's a god in the boy, but doesn't know which god it is.

If you will lean over the rock,
the coral face under wave-tinge, (121-122)

When Pound brings up the story of Ileuthyeria, the woman who got turned into coral to avoid being sexually assaulted, he seems to suggest that the only way this woman can stay "pure" is if she gets turned into a dead, but still beautiful object. Pound's not really giving women a great option here: either turn yourself into an object of beauty, or be an object of sexual assault. Either way, you're still an object. No one ever accused the guy of having progressive ideas about women, but yeesh; this is pretty bad.

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