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Correlative myths in the Cantos of Ezra Pound : a tentative examination of the Poundian Universe Dozzi, Bryan R.

Abstract

The Cantos is first and foremost a record of a search for knowledge of synthesis: "To have gathered from the air / a live tradition." The poem is a continuing record of a quest for origins, which Pound characterises as a return to nature and reason: "to behave naturally, intuitively. Not pedagogy but harmony, the fitting thing." In the return to origins, historical figures, history, myths and even reality cease to exist as separable entities, but drift together and coalesce: "history is the continuum which man is, and if a man does not live in the thought that he is history, he is not capable of himself." The return to origins, to the place where one was born, gives rise to a sacramental vision of a world peopled with divinities. The return to origins, then, is transformation, both of the voyager and of the world through which he moves; and the world of everyday reality, where men pass time, the world cluttered by "the bane of men moving", the world of paradoxes and contradictions, metamorphoses into the ordered universe of the psyche, the unified world of divine harmony, the world whose great Mystery is accessible to the initiate. The order within the psyche is absolute; the psychic experience destroys or transforms the externalised and systematic order which is in society. The psychic experience utters itself as myth (for "the serious artist" presents "the image of his own desire, hate, or indifference. The more precise the record the more lasting . . . the work of art"). And the myth itself, alive, a moving image, is, as the psychic experiencer knows, a camouflage, behind which lies meaning. Myth embodies and enacts that moment when the world is seen as significant. Myth is the Image qualifying the perceiver's experience; myth is the touchstone for the transformation of seemingly particular, isolated and subjective data into universal, living and significant design. It is not an abstract of experience, for to abstract is to destroy, and myth vitalises: it is the perceived affinity of one thing for another. In a universe of process, myth is attuned to the absolute, evolving, energizing "fragments". In the mythic view, the world is experienced as a latent energy, ready to transform itself instantaneously into another form. The world becomes, then, a world of metamorphoses, and the Image is the signature of myth. As a "vortex", the Image is experience; as a signature of myth, the Image acts as a medium in which "historical" figures are metamorphosed into universals transcending time, recurring, ever present. The thesis delineates the central myths of the poem, and shows how these are used in conjunction with personae and Pound's Imagistic technique in a search for knowledge, a search for origins. Part I examines the central operating factors of Pound's technique and links them to Pound's attraction to myth, especially those central to the structure of The Cantos. Drawing especially on "Psychology and Troubadours" it shows how mood, myth, persona, are all part of a grander scheme that originates in Pound's view of the world he lives in. Part II examines how myths play a central role in the poem, focussing on Canto 39 and the central correlative myth-complexes of the poem: Aphrodite-Artemis (Diana) and Demeter-Persephone. These myths are the foundation of a unifying construct which reveals The Cantos as a search for origins. Part III extends the discussion to the quasi-mystical features of the image of "the great ball of crystal": we share with Pound in the creation of the poem. The poem becomes a voyage into "the great acorn of light", a voyage analog to the voyage of the soul as rendered in the Egyptian myths of Ra-Set. We become initiates of a final lasting pervasive Mystery, The Cantos itself. In the Great Ball of Crystal resides the elusive Lady of Pound's first love, the Troubadours. So the nature of poetry is affirmed as ritual, that real act in which the transitory Human meets and merges with the everlasting Forma, the divinely beautiful. Man is an order, whose mind gives shape to the ineffable.

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