Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 28-37

By Ezra Pound

Lines 28-37

Lines 28-33

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.

  • Pound still seems to be moving through rooms, only now he's kickin' it with the ghost of his Italian idol, the poet Sordello.
  • Now, though, they're making "ghostly visits," which could mean that they're moving through the rooms of Pound's memory. 
  • In any case, it seems like the rooms Pound is moving through might be more symbolic than literal. They give us a sense of Pound wandering through empty chambers and looking for something he hasn't been able to find.
  • But what's the deal with "the stair / That knew us"? Shmoop thinks this is probably Pound's way of saying that he's been through these rooms at some earlier point in his life. But now he finds himself "knocking at empty rooms, seeking a buried beauty." 
  • Throughout his poetic career, Pound claimed to look for beauty in human life, and he suggested that it's a lot harder to find in the modern age than it would've been in old times. The idea that this beauty is "buried," though, suggests that it's still somewhere in the world, just hard to see through all the layers of ugliness we've put over it. 
  • Suddenly, Pound starts talking about "gracious and well-formed fingers," which probably refer to the hand of a beautiful woman. This woman, like the rooms Pound is moving through, is probably symbolic. 
  • In other words, Pound is comparing his search for beauty to the experience of wandering through an empty house. He keeps knocking on doors, hoping to find beauty (symbolized here by a woman), but unfortunately, beauty has left the building. 
  • We can tell that beauty doesn't answer Pound's knocks because the "well-formed fingers" of the symbolic woman "Lift no latch of bent bronze […] no voice to answer" (32-33). Instead, Pound has to keep wandering and keep looking. He knows that beauty is out there somewhere, but he hasn't managed to meet it face-to-face.

Lines 34-37

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.

  • As he continues to walk through the symbolic rooms in search of beauty, Pound finds that the only figure he encounters is a "strange concierge." Now a concierge is supposed to welcome and guide you into a building, but this person doesn't seem to be doing Pound any good. 
  • Instead, Pound seems to think of himself as a "Sceptic against all this." In other words, he's probably referring to all the phony-baloney decorations of the rooms he's moving through and saying that he doesn't buy their cheap attempts to look beautiful.
  • Instead, he says he "seeks the living, / Stubborn against the fact."
  • But what's he on about now? How does he seek the living? Is it because his only company so far has been the ghost of Sordello? Is this Pound's way of saying that he wants to find beauty in the present-day world, and not have to rely completely on classical literature to give him a sense of it? 
  • In a word, probably. The world might discourage him and make him feel like he'll never find the beauty he seeks, but the guy keeps pressing on, "Stubborn against the fact."
  • Next, Pound sees that the room he's in has a bunch of wilted flowers that have been brushed or swept away "seven year since," meaning that they died and got swept up seven years earlier, and that they are now "of no effect" and can't do anything to make the room feel nicer. 
  • What Pound is probably getting at here is that you can't just put some flowers in a vase and think that you've made a room beautiful. There are no quick fixes when it comes to beauty. It takes years of study and commitment to either create or see true beauty, and this is something that average people in the modern world don't seem to understand.