Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 38-47

By Ezra Pound

Lines 38-47

Lines 38-42

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.

  • Now Pound is complaining about some sort of partition. Okay, we got this. A partition is something that keeps two things separate, and this particular partition seems to be "Flimsy" and made of "Paper, dark brown and stretch." 
  • Maybe Pound is talking about a partition that's separating the rooms of the house he's walking through. Or maybe (and more likely) he's talking about some sort of symbolic partition separating him from the past, or from the beauty that he's looking for in life. 
  • Now he's talking about someone named Ione, who has apparently been dead for a year or so. This is just one of those places where you need to know Pound's allusions to understand what he's talking about. Basically, this is the title of an earlier poem Pound published back in 1913, and it's about someone whose death leaves the whole world feeling empty. So Pound seems to be referring to it to help convey the sense of despair or mourning he feels toward the beauty he can no longer find in the world.
  • Or he's just shamelessly self-promoting. Maybe a bit of both?
  • Next, he starts talking about his lintel, which is basically the top of a window or doorway in a house. In other words, Pound now wants to talk about thresholds—places that mark the transition from inside a house to outside, or from one room into another. Lintels are like borders between rooms, and Pound seems to be using it to convey his sense of being caught between two worlds. 
  • But who is Liu Ch'e, and why does he have a lintel, too? Well again, Pound is referring to another one of his earlier poems here, called "Liu Ch'e," which he translated from a 14th-century Chinese poet named Liu Ch'e. Basically, the poem is pretty zen and talks about finding deep beauty in nature and in the everyday things of life. 
  • This might be the type of beauty Pound is still searching for, but doesn't find. The fact that he's translating a Chinese poet here also suggests that Pound thinks beauty is something that's universal to humans and not culturally specific. 
  • Finally, Pound seems to wipe away all of the beauty he's on the verge of grasping. His next line simply says, "Time blacked out with rubber," which might make us think of a pink rubber eraser just plopping itself down and erasing "time" or history so that modern folks can't appreciate all the beauty of the past. 
  • Every time Pound seems to start building up a sense of beauty, you get these eraser images that come sweeping through and ruining everything.

Lines 43-47

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.

  • Well for starters, you're probably going to want to know what the "Elysée" is. It's actually the name of the palace in France where the President of France lives. The fact that it "carries a name on" probably means that this place is named after Elysium, a place in Greek myth where good people go when they die (like heaven). 
  • The fact that this place is carrying a name on might suggest that it's doing justice to the beauty of the past. But Pound might also be saying that the name is the only thing it carries on, while leaving out the beauty itself. 
  • After some vague encounter with a bus, Pound finds himself walking through a room with a "Low ceiling" with "the Erard and silver." Erard was the name of a famous piano maker in 18th-century France, so we know that the piano Pound is talking about is super nice. And in case that didn't tip us off, the inclusion of true silver in the room tells us that we're looking at a more upscale home than the one with the phony Greek decorations Pound was in earlier. 
  • But what does Pound mean when he says that the piano and the silver are "in 'time'"? Well, by putting quotation marks around the word "time," he might be hinting at the idea that time is just a concept invented by human beings; but he also seems to suggest that all beautiful things are connected to time, and that these things fall apart and get forgotten about unless we make an effort to appreciate them in the future. And for Pound, modern folks fail to do this. 
  • The rest of these lines just describe other furniture that's in the room, including four chairs (which are empty), a dresser, and a desk. We're still getting a pretty strong sense that even though this room is nicer than the last one Pound was in, it's still totally empty, which gives us a feeling of loneliness and emptiness.