Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 89-96

By Ezra Pound

Lines 89-96

Lines 89-91

The old room of the tawdry class asserts itself.
The young men, never!
Only the husk of talk.

  • In case we've missed the point until now, Pound states his case directly when he says that the "old room of the tawdry class asserts itself." So in other words, the old room is the symbolic room he's been talking about throughout this poem, the room that's full of tacky decorations and boring old men. 
  • When he says that these people are a "tawdry class," Pound means that these men and their "type" are all tawdry, which means that they're showy in a cheap, tacky way. 
  • Before we know it, we suddenly hear someone saying "The young men, never!" It's important to remember that Pound was a fairly young man when he was writing this poem. So here, he's probably talking about how the old men in the room will never listen to anything that young men have to say. 
  • This is part of why Pound thinks these men are old and bitter. They have no interest in hearing any new ideas. So they just sit around and talk about boring things with no substance, which is "only the husk of talk."

Lines 92-96

O voi che siete in piccioletta barca,
Dido choked up with sobs for her Sicheus
Lies heavy in my arms, dead weight
Drowning with tears, new Eros,
And the life goes on, mooning upon bare hills;

  • Hooray, Pound is writing in another language again. This time, he's chosen Italian, and the line translates as "You there who sits in the little boat." The line is from Dante Alighieri's long poem Paradiso, and it shows the poet Dante comparing his poem to the ocean, warning the reader that they'll get lost in it if they don't follow his instructions closely. 
  • Pound could be saying the same thing of his own poem, which is super easy to get lost in. But he's kind of telling us this a bit late in the game, don't you think? It would've been better to warn us about how tough this poem was back at line 1.
  • In any case, we move on. And now Pound is talking about someone named Dido, who is "choked up with sobs for her Sicheus." A quick Google search tells us that Dido was the queen of the ancient city of Carthage. Sicheus was Dido's husband, and he went and got himself murdered, which caused Dido to mourn him for the rest of her life. She even refused to ever remarry. 
  • But why would Pound bring up Dido and her dead husband? Well if you think about it, Pound spends a lot of this poem mourning the loss of beauty in the world, and he refuses to give up on beauty and to just accept the modern world and move on. So in that sense, he's kind of like Dido, faithful to the beauty he's lost no matter how impossible it might be to get it back. 
  • Like the body of Sicheus, the beauty Pound is looking for seems to "Li[e] heavy in my arms, dead weight." We've definitely reached a despairing part of the poem at this point, where Pound finds himself "Drowning with tears" like the old queen Dido and feeling like the only reason for him to live—beauty—is dead and gone from the world forever. 
  • Again, Pound seems to return to an image of the peacefulness of nature when his emotions get too strong to bear anymore.
  • Even as he finds himself holding the dead body of beauty and crying to himself, he realizes that "life goes on, mooning upon bare hills." In other words, the moonlight still shines down on hills the same way it always did, just like the tides of the ocean rise and fall. At his moments of greatest despair, Pound seems to find comfort in the idea that the natural world keeps doing its thing, no matter how low humanity sinks.