Study Guide

Canto VII Summary

By Ezra Pound

Canto VII Summary

Pound starts Canto VII off by alluding to a historical figure named Eleanor of Aquitaine and saying she spoiled in a British climate. And, well, the poem doesn't get any easier to follow after that. In fact, the poem's way of jumping between different historical moments, classical artworks, and languages is very similar to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," which Pound would have actually started editing very shortly after writing Canto VII in 1919.

In any case, Pound goes on to describe (in order) a Roman Colosseum, a medieval religious procession, and a parade of knights with flags and spears. In this sense, Pound seems to walk us through different eras of history before bringing us into a more modern, wood-paneled room.

Once inside this room, Pound describes himself wandering from room to room and knocking at doors, hoping that "beauty" will answer him. He represents beauty through the symbol of a beautiful woman, but he's actually talking about the experience of beauty in general.

Unfortunately, no dice. Beauty doesn't answer when Pound knocks and calls for it. This leads Pound to wonder if beauty is dead for good in the modern world, and he starts to mourn like a person at an old friend's funeral. While mourning, he hears the voices of old men whom he considers to be mere "husks" or shells of human beings. According to Pound, these modern folks don't care about true beauty, and they don't have any principles or ideals that motivate them. They're just a bunch of old men who don't care about anything worthwhile and who don't want anyone talking about beauty, either. For Pound, these men are symbols of what's wrong with the modern world, which only cares about stupid things like home decorating or tacky furniture.

Toward the close of the poem, Pound identifies himself as a living person in a world full of zombies, or at least people who don't have any "life" in them anymore. Modern people are boring, petty, and generally unpleasant. Pound isn't totally ready to give up on bringing beauty back into the world. But at the same time, he's not totally optimistic about his chances, either. And that's what he sort of leaves us with. Maybe we can bring beauty back, and maybe we can't.