Study Guide

Canto II Greed

By Ezra Loomis Pound

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And the whole twenty against me,
Mad for a little slave money. (50-51)

Poor Acoetes is the only crew member who seems to realize that his shipmates are trying to kidnap a god. But none of them care because they've been rendered totally insane by their hunger for money. In this instance, they won't rest until they've sold the boy-god Dionysius as a slave. They don't care about what fates awaits the boy, only the fact that they'll make some coin off it.

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

Now that the men have realized that something fishy is going on with the kid they've kidnapped, they all start turning into—yup—fish and porpoises. Serves them right for trying to sell a poor kid into slavery, if you ask us. And, according to Pound, no punishment is too harsh for these types of people.

"He has a god in him,
though I do not know which god."
And they kicked me into the fore-stays. (109-111)

Acoetes is one of those people who know just enough about something to get themselves in trouble. For example, he knows that there's some sort of supernatural god living inside the kid his shipmates have kidnapped. But he can't put his finger on which one it is, so his friends dismiss his pleas and smack him around. Maybe if Acoetes had known a little more Greek mythology, he might have been more convincing.

Aye, I Acoetes, stood there,
and the god stood by me, (62-63)

Acoetes reminisces about the feeling of standing at the edge of his ship and staring out over the sea. He also seems to feel comforted by the thought that a god is standing beside him. The phrase "stood by me," though, also seems to suggest that Dionysius realizes that Acoetes is on his side. So Acoetes hopes he's done enough to avoid punishment by Dionysius.

"Aye, that way is Naxos."
And I said: "It's a straight ship." (46)

Acoetes isn't totally innocent in the whole kidnapping thing. After all, he's the one who convinces the young boy from Scios to come onto the ship, claiming that it's an honest and "straight" ship. Little does he know that he's actually helping his money-hungry crewmates to kidnap a little kid and sell him into slavery. It makes you wonder if Acoetes would have had a problem with the whole thing if the little kid had just been some random kid and not a god.

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