Study Guide

Canto VII Principles

By Ezra Pound


Not mere succession of strokes, sightless narration,
To Dante's 'ciocco,' the brand struck in the game (11-12)

Comparing himself to the classic poet Dante Alighieri, Pound claims here that the stuff he's talking about isn't just a bunch of random literary references thrown together for no reason. Instead, he's telling us that there's a hidden order to all of the sparks that fly off from his poetry. It's our job, however, to figure out what the connections are. Pound won't do it for us.

And the great domed head, con gli occhi onesti e tardi
Moves before me, phantom with weighted motion (23-24)

As he wanders through life looking for beauty, Pound finds himself following the lead of the Italian poet Sordello, whose "slow and honest eyes" and domed head lead the way whenever Pound feels lost. In other words, Pound looks to poets from hundreds of years ago to inspire himself whenever the modern world is getting him down.

Knocking at empty rooms, seeking a buried beauty (30)

When it comes to symbolizing the principles behind his Cantos project, Pound draws on the image of knocking at empty rooms and hoping to hear an answer from the principle of beauty itself. Knocking at empty rooms could refer to reading classic literary texts, but it could also symbolize Pound's attempts to find people in the modern world who can appreciate beauty in the same way he does.

Damn the partition! Paper, dark brown and stretched,
Flimsy and damned partition (38-39)

When Pound gets frustrated in his efforts to look for beauty, he begins to blame the "partition" or barrier that separates him from the classic beauty he admires so much. In this case, the partition keeping him from what he wants is time itself. Pound seems to feel like he was born in the wrong century, since he admires medieval and classic art and culture so much more than the 20th century stuff.

House expulsed by this house, but not extinguished (83)

No matter how much he starts to despair about ever recovering the past, Pound is also hopeful about the fact that the "house" of the modern world can never fully get rid of the "house" of the past. In other words, Pound feels like he can still catch brief glimpses of the beautiful past he reads about in literature, and he finds some hope in this fact.

The live man, out of lands and prisons,
shakes the dry pods (106-107)

Eventually, Pound starts to think of himself as a "live" man in a world full of dead people. Because for Pound, you can't really call yourself a living person if you aren't governed by some worthwhile principal. But Pound isn't willing to give up on us just yet. As a live man and as a poet, he thinks of himself as someone who travels around "shaking the dry pods" of our minds and trying to fill us with something more worthwhile than whatever worthless stuff we supposedly think about. It's not clear why Pound thinks his audience is so dumb, but it seems to have something to do with Pound feeling disappointed that not everyone knows as much about poetry as himself.