Study Guide

Canto II Man and the Natural World

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Man and the Natural World

Whenever Pound mentions the natural world in "Canto II," it seems to be for the purpose of showing us that nature doesn't really care all that much about the drama of human life. While the Trojan War is on the verge of beginning, the seagulls and snipes tend to go about their everyday routines, not minding one way or the other what happens to the Greeks and Trojans. On the other hand, the god Dionysius seems to have an intimate connection with nature. But more than anything else, nature seems to be a weapon he uses against those who would try to imprison him. In any case, Pound definitely doesn't show us a natural world like the one we find in the Garden of Eden. For him, nature is something that chugs along in a cycle of death and rebirth, and human actions don't mean much to it.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. When you first read "Canto II," what impression did you get from lines 28-33, where Pound describes the sea birds flying around? Did you think anything at the time? On further reflection, why do you think Pound adds this description?
  2. In lines 36-39, what is Pound getting at when he says there's a "wine-red glow" in the shallow water? Whose presence does this wine-red glow signal to us? How do we know?
  3. Near the beginning of the poem, why does Pound talk about an ocean seal as having "eyes of Picasso"? Why would some ocean mammal have eyes like Pablo Picasso? How do you make sense of the comparison?
  4. What are we to make of the fact that Dionysius summons vines and jungle cats to help him defeat the greedy sailors? What is the connection between beauty and nature that's being highlighted here? What evidence from the text supports you answer?

Chew on This

In "Canto II," Pound has one thing to say about nature, and that's that nature is completely indifferent to human suffering. Of course, nature doesn't care about his opinions, either…

In "Canto II," Pound shows us that our ideas of beauty have a direct basis in the natural world. In other words, our ideas about what's beautiful aren't cultural; they're hard-wired into our brains. The problem is that culture has warped us into forgetting what's naturally beautiful. Curse you, culture.

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