Study Guide

Canto VII Lines 97-105

By Ezra Pound

Lines 97-105

Lines 97-100

Flame leaps from the hand, the rain is listless,
Yet drinks the thirst from our lips,
solid as echo,
Passion to breed a form in shimmer of rain-blur;

  • What's all of this about flame leaping from someone's hand? Is it Pound's hand? Is he saying that he's suddenly turned into Pyro from X-Men? 
  • Well not exactly. He's probably talking about symbolic fire, which would stand for courage and creativity, which might leap from a painter or writer's hand. 
  • But even as this flame of creativity leaps from the hand (a hopeful image), we find out that it's also raining and that the rain is "listless." This rain threatens to put out the flame in the artist's hand, and the fact that it's "listless" suggests that grayness and depression are still threatening to put out the flame of passion and genius in Pound's heroic figure. 
  • But wait a second. Pound goes with a triple-switch when he reverses his meaning one more time and says that the rain "drinks the thirst from our lips." The image of curing someone's thirst is scattered throughout the Bible, and it usually refers to salvation and the curing of sickness. So here, Pound is suggesting that the image of rain can actually be a good one, promising relief from our spiritual thirst. 
  • Finally, Pound mentions "Passion" and suggests that the artist's fiery passion can create or "breed" a "form in shimmer of rain-blur." In other words, even though the symbolic grey rain of the modern world threatens to put out the artist's passion and fire, the artist can still create something, a "form" of some kind, even though this form has to shine through the "shimmer of rain-blur." 
  • To put it bluntly, Pound says that the genius artist can still create new things in the modern world, even though the grey, dull forces of this world are always working against him.

Lines 101-105

But Eros drowned, drowned, heavy-half dead with tears
For dead Sicheus.
Life to make mock of motion:
For the husks, before me, move,
The words rattle: shells given out by shells.

  • Pound really can't seem to make up his mind about whether the symbolic rain he's talking about is a good thing or a bad thing.
  • Last time we checked, he was suggesting that the rain represented the dull, grey feelings of the modern world; but he also argued that the genius artist could find a way to create beauty in spite of this dullness. 
  • Well now, Pound is saying that "Eros" or desire is "drowned, drowned, heavy-half dead with tears." Basically, Pound has spent the last dozen lines or two moving between hope and despair, sometimes in a single line. He's really worked up, but can't decide if he's hopeful or not about what the future holds for beauty and art. He's still crying "For dead Sicheus," which means he's still mourning the loss of beauty in the world.
  • Further, when Pound talks about "Life to make mock of motion," he's getting back to his earlier ideas about modern people just being shells of the people they could be. For Pound, beauty is connected to life, to energy, and to motion. But in line 103, he says that modern life "make[s] mock of motion." In other words, everything is still, silent, and dead in the modern world, and Pound feels like the modern world not only neglects beauty and motion; it actively mocks it and dances on its grave. 
  • Returning to his images of shells and husks, Pound says he's still watching a bunch of men who are just shells, and listening to their "words rattle" like empty shells. In order to have meaning, words have to be connected to some idea of beauty. And since this is gone in the modern world, Pound just sees a bunch of shells talking to other shells.