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.
Eleanor (she spoiled in a British climate)
'Ελανδρος and Ελέπτολις, and
poor old Homer
blind, blind as a bat,
Ear, ear for the sea-surge—; rattle of old men's voices.
And then the phantom Rome,
marble narrow for seats
"Si pulvis nullus…"
In chatter above the circus, "Nullum excute tamen."
Then: file and candles, e li mestiers ecoutes;
Scene – for the battle only, –but still scene,
Pennons and standards y cavals armatz
Not mere succession of strokes, sightless narration,
And Dante's "ciocco," brand struck in the game.
Un peu moisi, plancher plus bas que le jardin.
Contre le lambris, fauteuil de paille,
Un vieux piano, et sous le barometer…
The old men's voices—beneath the columns of false marble,
And the walls tinted discreet, the modish, darkish green-blue,
Discreeter gilding, and the panelled wood
Not present, but suggested, for the leasehold is
Touched with an imprecision… about three squares;
The house a shade too solid, the paintings
a shade too thick.
And the great domed head, con gli occhi onesti e tardi
Moves before me, phantom with weighted motion,
Grave incessu, drinking the tone of things,
And the old voice lifts itself
weaving an endless sentence.
We also made ghostly visits, and the stair
That knew us, found us again on the turn of it,
Knocking at empty rooms, seeking a buried beauty;
And the sun-tanned gracious and well-formed fingers
Lift no latch of bent bronze, no Empire handle
Twists for the knocker's fall; no voice to answer.
A strange concierge, in place of the gouty-footed.
Sceptic against all this one seeks the living,
Stubborn against the fact. The wilted flowers
Brushed out a seven year since, of no effect.
Damn the partition! Paper, dark brown and stretched,
Flimsy and damned partition.
Ione, dead the long year,
My lintel, and Liu Ch'e's lintel.
Time blacked out with rubber.
The Elysée carries a name on
And the bus behind me gives me a date for peg;
Low ceiling and the Erard and silver
These are in "time." Four chairs, the bow-front dresser,
The pannier of the desk, cloth top sunk in.
"Beer-bottle on the statue's pediment!
"That, Fritz, is the era, to-day against the past,
"Contemporary." And the passion endures.
Against their action, aromas; rooms, against chronicles.
Smargagdos, chrysolitos; De Gama wore striped pants in Africa
And "Mountains of the sea gave birth to troops,"
Le vieux commode en acajou;
Beer bottles of various strata.
But is she as dead as Tyro? In seven years?
Eλeνaus, eλανδρος and eλέπτολις,
The sea runs in the beach-groove, shaking the floated pebbles,
The scarlet curtain throws a less scarlet shadow;
Lamplight at Buovilla, e quel remir,
And all that day
Nicea moved before me
And the cold gray troubled her not
For all her naked beauty, bit not the tropic skin,
And the long slender feet lit on the curb's marge
And her moving height went before me,
We alone having being.
And all that day, another day:
Thin husks I had known as men,
Dry casques of departed locusts
speaking a shell of speech…
Propped between chairs and table…
Words like the locust-shells, moved by no inner being,
A dryness calling for death.
Another day, between walls of a sham Mycenian,
"Toc" sphinxes, sham-Memphis columns,
And beneath the jazz a cortex, a stiffness or stillness,
The older shell, varnished to lemon colour,
Brown-yellow wood, and the no colour plaster,
Dry professorial talk…
now stilling the ill beat music,
House expulsed by this house, but not extinguished.
Square even shoulders and the satin skin,
Gone cheeks of the dancing woman,
Still the old dead dry talk, gassed out
It is ten years gone, makes stiff about her a glass,
A petrification of air.
The old room of the tawdry class asserts itself.
The young men, never!
Only the husk of talk.
O voi che siete in piccioletta barca,
Dido choked up with sobs for her Sicheus
Lies heavy in my arms, dead weight
Drowning with tears, new Eros,
And the life goes on, mooning upon bare hills;
Flame leaps from the hand, the rain is listless,
Yet drinks the thirst from our lips,
solid as echo,
Passion to breed a form in shimmer of rain-blur;
But Eros drowned, drowned, heavy-half dead with tears
For dead Sicheus.
Life to make mock of motion:
For the husks, before me, move,
The words rattle: shells given out by shells.
The live man, out of lands and prisons,
Shakes the dry pods,
Probes for old wills and friendships, and the big locust-casques
Bend to the tawdry table,
Lift up their spoons to mouths, put forks in cutlets,
And make sound like the sound of voices.
Being more live than they, more full of flames and voices.
Ma si morisse!
Credesse caduto da se, ma is morisse.
And the tall indifference moves,
a more living shell,
Drift in the air of fate, dry phantom, but intact,
O Alessandro, chief and thrice warned, watcher,
Eternal watcher of things,
Of things, of men, of passions,
Eyes floating in dry, dark air;
E biondo, with glass-gray iris, with an even side-fall of hair
The stiff, still features.