Study Guide

Canto VII Principles

By Ezra Pound

Principles

You might not agree with everything (or anything) Pound has to say in Canto VII. But you have to admit that the guy's pretty consistent when it comes to his principles. For Pound, all that really matters is beauty—and not your modern magazine idea of beauty. He's talking about the kind of beauty that people used to celebrate in classic times and the middle ages. In short, Pound is extremely nostalgic in his principles. He wants to bring all the greatness of bygone eras into the modern world. But the truth is that even if he could do this, he'd still find something wrong with it. That's what nostalgia is all about. You can say that things were better in the past, quite frankly, because there's no way of going back and proving whether you're right or wrong.

Questions About Principles

  1. Do you agree with Pound's notion that the most important aspect of life is the experience of beauty and what comes out of it? Why or why not? What's more important, if anything is?
  2. Do you think Pound has a bit of a messiah complex? Do you think it's okay for someone to think of themselves as trying to change the course of human history? What are the upsides to this kind of ambition? What are the downsides? 
  3. If you could find one line from Canto VII to sum up what Pound is trying to accomplish in this poem, what line would it be and why?
  4. What exactly does Pound mean when he claims that modern people are hollow and that they don't have any "life" inside them?
  5. What exactly is "life" for Pound?

Chew on This

In Canto VII, Pound lays out many of the principles that will obsess him for his entire Cantos project. And there is no principle more important to him than the principle of beauty.

In Canto VII, Pound waffles back and forth between hope and despair over whether or not beauty can exist in the modern world. And in the end, he seems to get stuck at a midway point between the two feelings.

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