Nature and Eleusis in Ezra Pound's Cantos 1-11

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Geoffrey Carlyle Mangum (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Fred Chappell

Abstract: This study concentrates on the significance of nature in Cantos 1-11. The purpose or the Cantos is understood to be the formulation of a permanent hierarchy of values for a new culture by returning to the origins of Western civilization. Pound finds those origins in the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece. An understanding of Cantos 1-11, since they are "preparation of the palette," is essential to an understanding of the Cantos as a whole. After correlating Pound's thought on epic poetry, culture in general, and the Eleusinian tradition as "secret history" informing Western values, the study proceeds to a detailed examination of individual cantos. The Eleusinian tradition is considered in the three determinative phases of Western civilization: ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Provencal, and Renaissance Italian. Coordinating Pound's prose writings with the poetry, one finds that these cantos portray Eleusinian consciousness as intimate awareness of "the germinal universe of wood alive, of stone alive." Pound's use of the Circe episode from Homer's Odyssey dramatizes the necessity and the difficulties involved in properly relating man's will with the forces of nature. The basic polarity in these cantos is between man's will and the dualistic power of nature—at once creative or destructive, depending on the will of the individual. The reading developed for Cantos 1-11 is checked for Cantos 39 and 47 and is found to be valid.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1977
Pound, Ezra, $d 1885-1972 $x Criticism and interpretation
Pound, Ezra, $d 1885-1972. $t Cantos
Nature in literature

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