Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 106-115

By Ezra Pound

Lines 106-115

Lines 106-111

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.

  • So who's this "live man" who shows up in line 106? Well if you recall that Pound is referring to modern folk as a bunch of old, dead men who talk to each other with dead talk, you have to imagine that Pound thinks of the "live man" as himself or the artist-hero who seems to be narrating this poem (hence our willingness to call the speaker Pound). 
  • This live man has apparently travelled through lands and stayed in "prisons," which makes sense, considering that the boring modern world hasn't provided him with the freedom to create beautiful things. 
  • He "shakes the dry pods" of the world around him, and these dry pods likely refer to the locust shells that Pound associates with bitter and boring modern men.
  • The artist uses every talent he has to try and "shake" these people, to find something in them that's still worth saving. He searches inside these people, "Probes" them and looks for "old wills and friendships." 
  • In other words, he's trying to find some sort of emotion in these old men that he can connect with. But it all seems to be in vain, as the "locust-casques/ Bend to the tawdry table."
  • The table in this instance is likely a dining room table, where you can picture all of the boring, pointless talk that these shell-men would exchange over dinner. "How about this weather we've been having?" they might say. They aren't saying anything deep or relevant – just empty talk to fill the silence. 
  • And for Pound, you can't even say that these men have voices, because a voice is something you use to say something worthwhile. Instead, these men just "make sound like the sound of voices."

Lines 112-115

Lorenzaccio
Being more live than they, more full of flames and voices.
Ma si morisse!
Credesse caduto da se, ma is morisse.

  • Okay, so the first thing we have to figure out here is who Lorenzaccio is. Well another quick Google search tells us that this was the nickname of Lorenzo de Medici (1515-1547 C.E.), a dude from the wealthy and powerful Medici family who murdered his cousin Alessandro because Alessandro was a tyrant as the duke of Florence, Italy. 
  • In line 113, Pound argues that the murderer Lorenzo is "more live than" the old men with dry, withered voices. Pound likely argues this because even though Lorenzo was a murderer, at least the dude was willing to get off the couch and do something.
  • At least he was full of passion (i.e. flames) and committed acts that actually meant something (had a voice). 
  • In this sense, Pound is willing to endorse people who commit violent outrageous acts, since he feels like even bad actions are better than doing nothing at all. Then again, this kind of thinking might have some connection to the fact that Pound eventually became a supporter of Fascist Italy and was later convicted of treason in the U.S. (source).
  • The next two lines of this section are in Italian, and they translate as: "But if he should die! / It would [not] be believed that he fell by himself." This is an allusion to the fact that Lorenzo initially wanted to kill his cousin Alessandro by throwing him off a high wall. 
  • But he eventually chose another method, because he wasn't sure that people would believe Alessandro fell off the wall by accident. In other words, Lorenzo might have been extreme in committing murder, but at least he thought through what he was doing and didn't sit around while his cousin acted like a tyrant.