And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
Crice’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day’s end.
Sun to his slumber, shadows o’er all the ocean,
Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,
To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays
Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven
Swartest night stretched over wreteched men there.
The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hip
I dug the ell-square pitkin;
Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death’s-heads;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and of the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the herds, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.
But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
Unwept, unwrapped in the sepulchre, since toils urged other.
Pitiful spirit. And I cried in hurried speech:
“Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?
“Cam’st thou afoot, outstripping seamen?”
And he in heavy speech:
“Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Crice’s ingle.
“Going down the long ladder unguarded,
“I fell against the buttress,
“Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.
“But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
“Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-bord, and inscribed:
“A man of no fortune, and with a name to come.
“And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows.”

And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
“A second time? why? man of ill star,
“Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
“Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
“For soothsay.”
And I stepped back,
And he strong with the blood, said then: “Odysseus
“Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
“Lose all companions.” Then Anticlea came.
Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outwards and away
And unto Crice.
In the Cretan’s phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, oricalchi, with golden
Girdle and breat bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicidia. So that:

Analysis, meaning and summary of Ezra Pound's poem Canto I


  1. Sheryl Skoglund says:

    Venerandam, In the Cretans phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite, Cypri munimenta sortita. Hypothesis: Could be the name of the girl classified as Aphrodite.

  2. Sheryl Skoglund says:

    Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
    “Crices this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.”
    Kirke (Circe) is the daughter of Helios (the Sun) and Perseis, which would make her the grand-daughter of Okeanos (Ocean).

    On her island… in her palace… Kirke waits for lost sailors to come wandering to her door as supplicants. Normally, a traveler is treated as a special guest but with Kirke, travelers are drugged and then served as dinner. A hypothesis for the word Circe.

  3. Sheryl Skoglund says:

    “Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Crices ingle.”
    crise    /kriz/ Show Spelled
    [kreez] Show IPA

    –noun, plural crises  /kriz/ Show Spelled
    [kreez] Show IPA
    . French .

  4. Sheryl Skoglund says:

    Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
    Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
    Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
    A sad tragedy of humans mourning the loss of the gods and humans.

  5. Guillermo says:

    I annot find the reason by which my teacher asked me to read this, His life was interesting but this production does not suit my interest.

  6. bn fatima says:

    In fact,this poem if I can call it so is a kind of draft…smn expressing his thoughts randomly without respecting any rule.In fact he was lucky…he got the chance to be known as a poet.I can write poems too but more amazingly!

  7. Seymour Guado says:

    I’m actually pretending to do work in my English class, so really, I’m just trying to fool the teacher. So far, it’s working quite nicely. Anyway, it seems to me, this poem is long, and I am quite sleepy. Therefore, I have concluded that this poem is unworthy of spending my time on and also, that I am going to sleep. Good night, and farewell fellow poetry enthusiasts. Good night, and farewell.

  8. misaki says:

    better if we will be able to read canto 2 immediately. i m in search of canto2

  9. Peter Pantsanburg says:

    i love this so much it is beautiful work u have done here!!!!! ill give u 2 kisses and an apple for that performance!!

  10. jess says:

    AHHHHHH…this poem is probably one of the hardest i’ve had to read…harder than Eliot!…i’m supposed to do a short (really short) anaylsis of it and i can’t get it…what is he writing about…or is it just the obvious retelling of Homer?

  11. Tomasz Pilch says:

    I’m not sure what this problem with appreciation of Pound’s language is but perhaps what matt refers to are the lines which start ‘Lie quiet Divus’ where narration abruptly shifts from the fragment of Odyssey to a direct address to one of Renaissance translators of Homer, afterwards, the narration (changing the narrator) shifts back to Odysseus, then to Aphrodite and then, there is this famous ‘So that’ at the end, which, it is believed was borrowed from ‘Sordello’ by Robert Browning. This peculiar non-traditional structure of communication is the effect of application of the ideogrammatic method, i.e. Pound communicates the meaning trying to avoid direct naming the object of communication but ‘giving it to understand’ in the way he believed Chinese ideograms communicate their contents, indirectly, suggesting their meaning by the fact of selecting given objects – Pound gives an example of what he means in ‘ABC of Reading’ where he juxtaposes the Western communique of the colour = red; with a hypothetical Chinese ideogram structure suggesting the meaning through collection of ideograms of ‘rose’ ‘rust’ ‘cherry’ ‘flamingo’ in one ideogram, thus, on one hand, avoiding naming the colour red, and on the other, giving it to understand. To cut it short, Pound wants to prevent his communique from becoming ‘pseudeto’ and become ‘aletheia’ speaking through ‘unhiding’. I do not want to continue further because I do not know whether I might not be telling things that are already known – if you would specify the question, I might perhaps be of better service.

  12. matt says:

    I’m trying to study ezra for a project and i cannot grasp his language in the poems. You all talk about how amazing it it but i just dont get it! what is he talking about?

  13. Ian G. Morris says:

    I think this is one of Pound’s greatest; I think his arrangement is one that trys to mimic the same sentence sequence that it may have sounded in the original Greek. The flow of the language is very unusual: it mimics a “backwards” effect that to me, brings one back in time. He even make a reference in the poem “the ocean flowing backwards”, its like a whirlpool taking you back through the ages.

  14. Rienk Mebius says:

    At home I have got “Ezra Pound- selected cantos” ed. Faber&Faber, London. There Crice is called “Circe” and I think that is what Homer and Pound meant to write.
    For Christian Leng (first comment) I must say Ezra was a Jewish prophet, and also the 15th book in the Old Testament, thus surely no woman!! Regards, Rienk.

  15. Christian A. Leng says:

    I really enjoyed the poem. Fantastic use of language. I had no idea Pound was a modernist; I only know of him through reading T.S. Eliot all summer. However, in all my reading, I never thought Pound was a man. For some reason I thought pound was a woman; Ezra sounds more of a woman’s name. The bottom line is the poem is excellent: Extremely beautiful is the rating I give it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Ezra Pound better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.