I’m just back from Venice where opposite the Rialto, where fractional banking began, occupiers are occupying. They kept us awake last night with their songs of protest and to be fair, they might have been making more sense than I could give them credit for , not being a fluent speaker of the lingo.
My problem with the occupations in banking districts around the world is the absence of any world-view that can offer a credible alternative to “unfettered capitalism”.
Ezra Pound devoted his life’s work to the construction of an alternative order to the world of fractional banking. The construction is the Cantos, a series of long poems that set out to articulate EP’s world view . It is not an easy read, it requires a way of responding to words that we are not taught in school and Pound’s demands on his readers have rendered him unreadable to all but a few.
The Cantos is not a populist manifesto.
However, it has sections of great lyrical beauty, others of extreme intellectual rigour.
For me it is a lyrical statement of intent by a man marginalised from society by the power of his intellect. But it is also a work of fascism that is tarnished throughout by a hatred of usury that becomes interchangeable with a hatred of the Jew.
The American Far-Right (especially the tea-party) align themselves to its condemnation of bankers and especially Jewish bankers as the architects of America’s current economic woes.
In Venice this week I spoke with protestors at the Occupy Venice protest . They quoted Pound at me but claimed that he was a left wing free-thinker who would have been sitting with them in their soggy tents railing against the Fed and the American investment banks.
Pound’s world view really revolved around a period in European history that preceded the renaissance in which art , music and poetry flourished in a society which was essentially static. Usury, which allowed merchants to buy themselves into the nobility was for Pound the reason that world was lost. When the Medici took usury from the margins of medieval Europe and embraced it, the world order of medievalism was doomed.
Pound’s great lament for feudal statius and great tirade against usury is found in Canto LXV
With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that delight might cover their face,
hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luthes
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,
seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly
with usura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour
with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling
Stone cutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom
wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no gain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the the maid’s hand
and stoppeth the spinner’s cunning. Pietro Lombardo
came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin’ not by usura
nor was “La Callunia” painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
No church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura St. Trophime
Not by usura St. Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling
Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man’s courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura
You can hear him read this poem via this link from youtube
That for me is the lamentation that brings together the American Far Right, the European left and the great bulk of us who yearn for a world underpinned by a value system based on more than money.
The Cantos is an attempt to recreate an alternative world that informs on and improves our own through its being good in itself. As Pound put it at the end of an early poem “Homage to Sextus Propertius“.
Flame burns, rain sinks into the cracks
And they all go to rack ruin beneath the thud of the years.
Stands genius a deathless adornment,
a name not to be worn out with the years.