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“Mysterium”/”Usura” - Ezra Pound on good and evil

Saturday, 4 Jan 2014

Ezra Pound on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn First posted on Saturday, 16 February 2013 at 22:02

Ezra Pound by Gaudier-Brzeska

The more I read Pound, the more I realise that his art was directed at the struggle to find the heart of things - everything - mythical, cultural, historical, religious, economic and more. For he had discovered the central antithesis that drives all before it, that between good and evil.

Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos, in his The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound, captures the essence of Pound’s life project nicely.

Throughout The Cantos,Pound is concerned with delineating these too opposing forces. “Usura,” and all that Pound associates with it, is represented in the imaginative world of The Cantos as the evil, fatal force which stands in diametrical opposition to the energeia or creative, vital force derived from the contemplation of the “unity of the mystery.” In Pound’s cosmos the mythic opposition between the corn goddess, Demeter, and Pluto, the god of the Underworld, is replaced by the poet’s own antithesis of the ‘mysterium” and the abstract, demonic “Usura.” Of course, Pounds imagination is firmly rooted in the mythic cosmos. The terms of the “mysterium”/”Usura” antithesis are always being transformed and replaced, so that the single antithesis has a polymorphous, proliferating pattern. The protean character of the antithesis allows Pound to include in his epic examples from many different realms: mythical, cultural, historical, religious, and economic. A paradigmatic rendition of the antithesis is found in Canto 51 where the opposition is between the forma “That hath the light of the DOER” and the “sour song” arising from the belly of the usurious Geryon.
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