Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 8-15

By Ezra Pound

Lines 8-15

Lines 8-12

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.

  • After hearing about the sexy Roman circus, Pound sweeps us back into a solemn scene of "file and candles." Here, Pound is probably describing a group of people walking in single file and holding candles, which would be a traditional way of having a religious ceremony enter or leave a church. 
  • And while everyone's walking in a line with candles, Pound mentions "e li mestiers ecoutes," which translates from Old French as "And the heard mysteries." The mysteries here are probably the mysteries of Christian faith, or the things God knows that human beings could never possibly know. So in other words, we've gone from a dirty Roman Colosseum filled with flirting couples to a more solemn, respectful ceremony for the mysteries of God. 
  • Next, we're thrown into some sort of scene that's fit for a battle of some kind. We get a snapshot of pennants, standards, and armed horses (cavals armatz). Think King Arthur and his knights.
  • When Pound goes on to mention the "mere succession of strokes" in the next line, we might think that he's talking about these army dudes swinging their swords and spears at one another. But it might be more likely that Pound is referring to a painting of horses an army dudes from the old days. That would explain why he calls it a "Scene" that he's looking at. 
  • So when Pound says that this scene is "Not [a] mere succession of strokes," he means that the painting means more to him than just a bunch of paint stroked onto a canvas. It conveys a sense of "chivalry," which refers to all the qualities a good medieval knight is supposed to have, like generosity, courage, and strength. Pound likely doesn't feel like these qualities are very common in the modern world.
  • And now we're hearing about some dude named Dante and his "ciocco." Readers of Pound might already know that one of his favorite poets ever was Dante Alighieri, who wrote the famous long poem called Paradiso (Paradise). In this poem, Dante describes the experience of seeing a bunch of human souls rise into the air like a bunch of sparks leaping from a flaming log that's been hit with a metal poker, or what is also called a "brand." The word "ciocco" means log in Latin, so Pound wants us to think about Dante's log and about the image of souls floating into the sky. We're not quite sure why, but Pound might be using this image of rising souls to suggest that he sees some sort of salvation in the painting of men and horses that he's been looking at. Maybe.

Lines 13-15

Un peu moisi, plancher plus bas que le jardin.
Contre le lambris, fauteuil de paille,
Un vieux piano, et sous le barometer… 

  • We're back to reading French again. In fact, all of this jumping between different times, places, and languages is really starting to make Canto VII sound like T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." This isn't surprising when we realize that Pound wrote the draft for this Canto in 1919, three years before he would help Eliot edit and publish "The Waste Land."
  • In any case, lines 13 to 15 come from a novel by the French author Gustave Flaubert called A Simple Soul (published in 1877). The lines translate as "A bit mildewed, the floor lower than the garden, / against the paneling a straw armchair / an old piano, and underneath the barometer…" 
  • The story of A Simple Soul is about a modest woman who keeps loving even when everyone takes advantage of her and whose death goes unnoticed. But Pound here seems to just be giving us the layout of a French room. He's not talking about the theme of love at all, just focusing on the superficial, unimportant details of a room. Then again, maybe this is a problem with modern people, who have become so superficial that they're more concerned with the way they've decorated a room than they are with the people who come into that room.