Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 76-88

By Ezra Pound

Lines 76-88

Lines 76-81

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…

  • Pound is still reminiscing about "another day" when he was talking to husks of men. He elaborates on his setting here when he says that he was talking to these men "between walls of a sham Mycenian." 
  • The word Mycenian here refers to the Mycenaean Age of Ancient Greece, meaning that the room is decorated in a bunch of tacky stuff that tries to make it look like Ancient Greece. So it sounds like we're back in the phony room Pound first started describing back in line 16. The imitation or "Toc" sphinx statues and "sham" columns helps confirm how bad a job the room is doing in imitating he beauty of the Ancient world. 
  • Pound drives home his point about the room's phoniness when he claims that there is a "stiffness or stillness" beneath all of this fake decoration. There's nothing living beneath all of it. It's all just a shell, like the modern men who inhabit it. 
  • And even though these men might be well educated, it doesn't mean that their words have any real meaning. For Pound, all of their talk is just "Dry professorial talk…" His use of ellipsis here leaves it to our imaginations to think of how boring and uninspired these men and their words are. 
  • But where's the hope, Ezra? Where's the hope?

Lines 82-88

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.

  • It's pretty clear to Pound that his audience still doesn't understand how awful it is to be in a room with the modern men he's talking about. So now he says that the men's dry talk "still[s] the ill beat music." Or in other words, there might have been music playing in the room, but it gets silenced by the old men and their dry conversation. Nothing musical or even remotely beautiful can exist in their presence, not even music that's rough and "ill beat."
  • But what is Pound getting at with the phrase "House expulsed by this house, but not extinguished"? How can a house expel or banish another house? Well when you think of how Pound has been jumping between different times in this poem, he might be talking about how the new, tacky decorations in the house have ruined the beauty that might have once belonged to the same house. In this sense, renovations have erased the history of what was once a great house.
  • But Pound insists that there's still a trace of greatness left in this house. It might be covered over by lame decorations, but its presence is "not extinguished."
  • Now we're back to hearing about the woman Pound's been looking for. You remember, the one who symbolizes beauty, and whom Pound can't seem to find. Well he seems to have another vision of her here, imagining her square shoulders and satin skin. But unfortunately, her cheeks are "gone," which suggests that these beautiful features are no longer present in the room.
  • It might also mean that the woman herself is "gone," and Pound might be using the image of her beautiful cheeks as a metonymy that represents the entire woman. 
  • Instead of the woman being at the center of the room, all we get is the "old dead dry talk" of the old men in the room. Worse still, all of this dry talk "makes stiff about [the woman] a glass." If you close your eyes and picture it, you can almost see the beautiful woman dancing into the room; but all of the old men's boring conversation creates a glass bottle around the woman, turning her into an object or specimen instead of a living, beautiful person. 
  • The "petrification of air" line reinforces the idea that the men's talk can even turn something as fluid as air into something stiff, motionless, and dead.