Three decades ago I picked it up, finished nearly half, then was overwhelmed with his words and the strife of my then life. Two decades ago I picked it up and nearly finished the thing until others' words got in the way of his words and I had to use my own words to defend against said words and got lost in the sway. Pray nay, the misuse of money, tis mankind's fray.
To some extent (in my opinion) to really be able to understand the Cantos you have to strive to become Pound. This is the craziness of someone who sees something that other people don't see (which is not in itself crazy) and who expects that other people will also see it if he just shows it to them.
The Cantos linger on my shelf (it's a gorgeous stark New Directions); sometimes I find them open in my palms and I don't know how they got there; often they achieve that place that rare poetry does, where you feel like it's actually the voices of Time, Mind, and Earth; at other instances you feel that you're having the golden fleece pulled over your eyes; still, I am intrigued- fascism and mental instability are intriguing, among many other things- when poetry is added into the mix, we're just all ambiguously rattling the chains of HISTORY and the voice through which it sometimes speaks clatters clatters.
History as poetry, a grand tour.
the cat, the cats meeter, the meeters cats wife, the meeters cats wifes half better, the meeters cats wifes half betters meeter, and so back to our horses, for we also know, what we have perused from the pages of I Was A Gemral, that Showting up of Bulsklivism by Schottenboum, that Father Michael about this red time of the white terror equals the old regime and Margaret is the social revolution while cakes mean the party funds and dear thank you signifies national gratitude. sinsin!) and the curate one who brings strong waters (gingin! Feueragusaria iordenwater; now godsun shine on mendays daughter; a good clap, a fore marriage, a bad wake, tell hells well; such is manowifes lot of lose and win again, like hes gruen quhiskers on whos chin again, she plucketed them out but they grown in again. O dear!" JOYce - Funnigans Wake - Book Won. and not just because of Ezra/Esra/Arse/Erase/Usury but because passages such as this contain everything lacking in the Cannots - they are just so darn Po-faced. Diving into the Wake was pleasure, the Cantos often felt like Work.
It is difficult to estimate the totality of effect of Pound's having been. Thus, and as simply, may we owe the finer and distinct shapes of poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, and music--each, when working, interpenetrating its neighbor--to Pound's having been--and operatively, done.
a lesson, or that the Reverend Eliot has found a more natural language...you who think you will get through hell in a hurry..." - opening lines of Canto XLVI You will not find a better summary of all that modernist poetry had to offer than Ezra Pound's decades long collection of poetry, written with The Divine Comedy in mind, that he simply called The Cantos. "Knowledge the shade of a shade, Yet must thou sail after knowledge Knowing less than drugged beasts." - from Canto XLVII Ezra Pound was a main-stay in modernist/American/European literature for decades. He would become extremely controversial for his anti-semitic, pro-Mussolini views and would spend his long post-WWII life in seclusion in Italy after being released from US custody for assisting Mussolini during the war (he was diagnosed as having advanced bi-polar disorder). This hatred of usury leads to one of the most famous canto from this collection and which Pound felt essential to understanding these poems: Canto XLV "With Usura".
These lines, written by Basil Bunting, are about Ezra Pounds Cantos, one of the pillars of Modernism. You need help with this, unless you are a polyglot with an encyclopedic knowledge of economic, political, and literary history (not me).
Pound's ear was tuned to the motz et sons of troubadour poetry where, as musicologist John Stevens has noted, "melody and poem existed in a state of the closest symbiosis, obeying the same laws and striving in their different media for the same sound-ideal - armonia." In his essays, Pound wrote of rhythm as "the hardest quality of a man's style to counterfeit." He challenged young poets to train their ear with translation work to learn how the choice of words and the movement of the words combined.