Friday, 10 August 2012

With Usura

  Last year I suggested how ahead of his time Pound was to castigate the toxic effects of usury now that all Western economies are plunging into freefall because of the deregulated credit-plundering the international banking system has indulged in. Here's that stentorian voice itself to hammer home the point (scroll down to find the Usura Canto, XLV):



  1. The 'With usura' canto is a very compelling - even hypnotic - piece of rhetoric, Oliver, I'll give you that, but I'm not sure how far we can see Pound's politics as presaging current anti-capitalist thinking, to be honest, unless populist anti-finance thinking is generally fascist in character (some of it is, of course, the rise of neo-Nazism in Greece being a case in point) . It's all in his use of the word 'usury', which to my mind carries heavy anti-Semitic overtones: he could have lambasted 'credit', or 'interest', but he favoured usuary as his chosen term (Latinizing it when he saw fit, another means of creating racial and cultural hierarchies in Pound's work) because of its racist implications. It's impossible, in fact, to detach any facet of Pound's thought and writing from this poisonous ideology, even - especially - the seemingly 'progressive' components of his output. As with any brand of populism, whether from the left or the right - after a while all demogogues begin to look the same - it's precisely at the point they appear most reasonable that we should be most on our guard.

    Simon @ Gists and Piths

  2. Thanks for the comment and I take your point, Simon; I should have qualified my statements a bit more but didn't do so as I saw this as a quick follow-up to the post about Pound I did last November. What sparked that off was the St Paul's protesters specifically using the word 'Usury' in their left-wing, anti-capitalist invective, surely without any anti-Semitic connotations. I also wrote:"surely the gist of what Pound was saying about usury is broadly similar to what so many are saying now: that it's basically an inethical, exploitative system that creates false social relations ("with usura hath no man a house of good stone") and obstructs the flourishing of a healthy culture which values free thought, public spending and the arts.
    "Of course Pound was catastrophically wrong to infer from this some malign cabal of Jewish bankers deliberately undermining Western civilization and no doubt he fell into the Shelleyan fallacy of believing himself an "unacknowledged legislator" and overstating the validity of his own theories".
    Whether a reader thinks it's worth trying to detach Pound's poetry from "poisonous ideologies" depends on a) whether you believe poems ever have an unproblematic, linear relationship with their writer's intentions and ideas(eg Blake calling Milton "of the Devils party without knowing it";many of the most interesting literary texts are animated by this kind of cognitive dissonance)and b) how rewarding you find the poems. The Usura Canto is a long way off his greatest work but I think it provides a distinctive example (like The Cantos in general)of poetry trying to take on board historical and economic materials in ways which resonate with today's ongoing socio-financial crisis.