How the banks try to f*ck us – and how we deal with them

EP youngIt’s Sunday morning and I am reading a poem written around 1936 by Ezra Pound.

It is about Usury , in this context the bad practice of the Medici Bank which Pound claimed screwed up the great artistic achievements of medieval Europe

It is Canto 45 which you can hear Pound incant. Click this link and follow the words!

With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face,
with usura
hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luz
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,
with usura
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.
Stonecutter is kept from his tone
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 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 Calunnia’ painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
Came no church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura St. Trophime
Not by usura Saint 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
                               CONTRA NATURAM
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

Pound later defined Usury as a charge on credit regardless of potential or actual production and the creation of wealth out of nothing (ex nhilo) by a bank to the benefit of its shareholders. The poem declares this practice  both contrary to the laws of nature and inimical to the production of anything good.

The great insight is that it is not the banks or the bankers that is the root cause of the problem.

The root cause is the idea , the idea that something can be created out of nothing.

And this is where the tectonic plates of society and business grind against each other like ill-set teeth. For Pound, social virtues were always expressed in “art”. Art became a metaphor for social good.

But, later in life, when facing death in a prison camp in Pisa, he wrote another poem, Canto 81. Between the two poems was only 9 years but for 5 of those years the world had been at war. Pound found himself in the camp for his repugnant support of both Mussolini and Hitler whose propaganda machines he made himself a part of.

This photo was taken at the time


In a cell open to the elements he wrote several poems that put faith not in ideas but in humanity and specifically in man’s capacity to lift himself above the filth.

The noblest expression of Pound’s humanity, his vulnerability and his greatness comes in this passage. Again there is a  beautiful reading of the words by Pound you can listen and watch here

What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
Elysium, though it were in the halls of Hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage.


This blog is not meant to be a cheap shot at banks or bankers, but an offering of an alternative way to deal with the issues of modern capitalism (what Pound could call the canker of Usura).

Canto 81 ends with a great heave of hope that can inspire us all to see beyond the shameless profiteering of our financial system to something that we can make of lasting value.

The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.

Pull down thy vanity, it is not man

Made courage, or made order, or made grace,

Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.

Learn of the green world what can be thy place

In scaled invention or true artistry.

Pull down thy vanity,

Paquin pull down!

The green casque has outdone your elegance.

“Master thyself, then others shall thee beare”

Pull down thy vanity

Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail,

A swollen magpie in a fitful sun,

Half black half white

Nor knowst’ou wing from tail

Pull down thy vanity

How mean thy hates

Fostered in falsity,

Pull down thy vanity,

Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity,

Pull down thy vanity,

I say pull down.

But to have done instead of not doing

this is not vanity

To have, with decency, knocked

That a Blunt should open

To have gathered from the air a live tradition

or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame

This is not vanity.

Here error is all in the not done,

all in the diffidence that faltered.


English: Cosimo de' Medici

English: Cosimo de’ Medici (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in economics, ezra pound, Fiduciary Management, Financial Education, Fred Goodwin, governance, happiness, pensions, poetry, Popcorn Pensions and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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