Ezra Pound, Canto XVLThe Cantos of Ezra Pound

With Usura1

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 luz2
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 quickly3
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 thick4
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling5.
Stonecutter 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 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

They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

S. 226

Con Usura [Traduzione di Mary de Rachewiltz.]

Con usura nessuno ha una solida casa
di pietra squadrata e liscia
per istoriarne la facciata,
con usura
non v'è chiesa con affreschi di paradiso
harpes et luz
e l'Annunciazione dell'Angelo
con le aureole sbalzate,
con usura
nessuno vede dei Gonzaga eredi e concubine
non si dipinge per tenersi arte
in casa, ma per vendere e vendere
presto e con profitto,peccato contro natura,
il tuo pane sarà straccio vieto
arido come carta,
senza segala nè farina di grano duro,
usura appesantisce il tratto,
falsa i confini, con usura
nessuno trova residenza amena.
Si priva lo scalpellino della pietra,
il tessitore del telaio

la lana non giunge al mercato
e le pecore non rendono
peggio della peste è l'usura,spunta
l'ago in mano alle fanciulle
e confonde chi fila. Pietro Lombardo
non si fé con usura
Duccio non si fé con usura
né Pier della Francesca o Zuan Bellini
né fu la "Calunnia" dipinta con usura.
L'Angelico non si fé con usura, né Ambrogio de Praedis,
Nessuna chiesa di pietra viva firmata: Adamo me fecit.
Con usura non sorsero
Saint Trophime e Saint Hilaire,
Usura arrugginisce il cesello
arrugginisce arte e artigiano
tarla la tela nel telaio, non lascia tempo
per apprendere l'arte d'intessere l'oro nell'ordito;
l'azzurro s'incancrena con usura; non si ricama
in cremisi, smeraldo non trova il suo Memling
Usura soffoca il figlio nel ventre
arresta il giovane drudo,
cede il letto a vecchi decrepiti,
si frappone tra i giovani sposi

Ad Eleusi han condotto puttane
Carogne crapulano
ospiti d'usura

S. 226

mit usura [Übersetzung von Rainer Maria Gerhardt.

mit usura hat niemand ein haus aus gutem stein
jeder block glatt geschnitten und wohl passend
damit zeichnung sein antlitz bedecke
mit usura
hat niemand ein gemalt paradies auf seiner kirchwand
harpes et luthes
oder wie jungfrau botschaft erhält
mit heiligenschein herstrahlt vom einschnitt
mit usura
sehet niemand Gonzage seine erben und konkubinen
kein bild ist für dauer gemacht noch zur teilnahm
doch ist es gemacht zum verkauf und zwar schnell
mit usura, sünd gegen natur
ist dîn brot immer mehr aus alten brocken
ist dîn brot dünn wie papier
nicht mit gebirgskorn, nicht kräftigem mehl
mit usura wird der vers dichter
mit usura ist abgrenzung undeutlich
und niemand kann platz finden für seine wohnung
steinhauer ist halten vom stein
weber ist halten vom webstuhl

wolle kommt nicht zum markt
schaf bringet nicht vorteil mit usura
usura ist ein seuche, usura
stumpfft die nadel in der maid hand
und hemmet des spinners schlauheit. Pietro Lombardo
kam nicht durch usura
Duccio kam nicht durch usura
noch Pier della Francesca; Zuan' Bellin' nicht durch usura
noch war "La Calunnia" gemalt;
kam nicht durch usura Angelico; kam nicht Ambrogio Prädis;
kam keine kirche aus behauenem stein, gezeichnet: Adamo me fecit.
nicht durch usura St. Trophime
nicht durch usura Saint Hilaire;
usura rost die hand und den handwerker
sie vrizzet den faden im webstuhl
keine lernet gold in ihr muster zu weben;
azur hât ein geschwür durch usura; karmin ist ungeschickt
emerald vindet nicht Memling
usura fellt das kind im mutterleib
sie hält des jungen mannes werbung
sie hât ohnmacht zu bett gebracht, liget
zwischen der jungen braut und ihrem bräutigam

sie haben huren gebracht für Eleusis
leichname sind niedergesessen zum festmahl
auf geheiss von usura.

S. 226

Bei Usura [Übersetzung von Eva Hesse.]

Bei Usura hat keiner ein Haus von gutem Werkstein
die Quadern wohlbehauen, fugenrecht,
dass die Stirnfläche sich zum Muster gliedert,
bei Usura
hat keiner ein Paradies auf seiner Kirchwand gemalt
harpes et luthes
oder die Kunde, die zur Jungfrau kommt
und Strahlenkranz, der vorkragt von der Kerbe
bei Usura
kommt keinem Mann zu Augen Gonzaga, Kind, Kegel, Konkubinen,
es ist kein Bild gedacht, zu dauern noch damit zu leben
sondern nur seinen Schnitt zu machen, rasch seinen Schnitt zu machen
bei Usura, der Sünde wider die Natur,
bleibt dir dein Brot fad allweg wie Hadern
bleibt dir dein Brot trocken Papier,
kein Weizen vom Bergacker, kein kernig Mehl,
bei Usura wird breit der Pinselstrich
bei Usura verlaufen sich die Ränder
und keiner hat Baugrund für seine Hausung.
Steinmetz gelangt nicht zum Stein
Weber nicht zu seinem Zeugbaum

kommt Wolle nicht zu Markt
Schaf wirft nichts ab bei Usura
Usura ist die Räude, Usura
macht stumpf die Nadel in der Näherin Hand
legt still der Näherin Rocken. Pietro Lombardo
nicht aus Usuras Kraft
Duccio nicht kraft Usura
noch Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin' nicht kraft Usura
noch ward kraft ihrer "La Calunnia" gemalt.
Nicht Kraft Usura Saint Trophime
Nicht Kraft Usura Saint Hilaire,
Usura setzt an den Meißel Rost
Und legt den Handwerkern das Handwerk
Nagt an des Webstuhl Werft
Kein Mensch weiß Gold zu wirken in ihr Muster;
Azur krebskrank an Usura, cramoisi wird nicht bestickt
Smaragd hat keinen Memling
Usura metzt das Kind im Mutterleib
Und wehr des jungen Mannes Werben
Hat Schlagfluss in das Bett gebracht und liegt
zwischen der jungen Braut und ihrem Mann

Man brachte Huren nach Eleusis
Und setzte Leichen zum Gelag
auf Geheiß von Usura.

S. 226



lat. usura (usum, uti); ūtor, usus sum, uti (mache von etwas Gebrauch, wende an, genieße); usura, -ae (Gebrauch, Nutzen aus geliehenem Geld, )

usura: (1) Anticamente, il normale interesse pagato per un prestito; ora, interesse eccessivo o esorbitante, illecito: prestare a u.; anche, l'attività di chi presta a tali condizioni e il reato che compie (2) Logoramento, deterioramento dovuti all'uso prolungato o al continuo funzionamento

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cf. François Villon. Le Testament, v. 896.

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Cf. Ezra Pound, How to read? in: Ezra Pound. Literary Essays, p. 17 et sq.: Later it struck me that the best history of painting in London was the National Gallery, and that the best history of literature, more particularly of poetry, would be a twelve-volume anthology in which each poem was chosen not merely because it was a nice poem or a poem Aunt Hepsy liked, but because it contained an invention, a definite contribution to the art of verbal expression. With this in mind, I approached a respected agent. He was courteous, he was even openly amazed at the list of three hundred items which I offered as an indication of outline. No autochthonous Briton had ever, to his professed belief, displayed such familiarity with so vast a range, but he was too indolent to recast my introductory letter into a form suited to commerce. He, as they say, “repaired” to an equally august and long-established publishing house (which had already served his and my interest). In two days came a hasty summons: would I see him in person. I found him awed, as if one had killed a cat in the sacristy. Did I know what I had said in my letter? I did. Yes, but about Palgrave? I did. I had said: “It is time we had something to replace that doddard Palgrave.” “But don’t you know,” came the awstruck tones, “that the whole fortune of X and Co. is founded on Palgrave’s Golden Treasury?” From that day onward no book of mine received a British imprimatur until the appearance of Eliot’s castrated edition of my poems. I perceived that there were thousands of pounds sterling invested in electro-plate, and the least change in the public taste, let alone swift, catastrophic changes, would depreciate the value of those electros (of Hemans, let us say, or of Collins, Cowper, and of Churchill, who wrote the satiric verses, and of later less blatant cases, touched with a slighter flavour of mustiness). I sought the banks of the Seine. Against ignorance one might struggle, and even against organic stupidity, but against a so vast vested interest the lone odds were too heavy."

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Cf. Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur p. 27. "I suggest that finer and future critics of art will be able to tell from the quality of a painting the degree of tolerance or intolerance of usury extant in the age and milieu that produced it."

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1. Cf. Gino Zaccaria, L'inizio e il nulla. Colloquio di un logico, di un aiutante e di un pittore, p. 9. Tutti conoscono il senso delle due parole. Ognuno le usa continuamente nel discorso quotidiano. L'inizio è l'avvio, la partenza, l'abbrivio, il primo periodo, l'origine, il principio. Il nulla, invece, è il niente, lo zero, l'inezia, il vuoto, il baratro, l'abisso, il non essere. Ma l'uso usura. Lascia credere che la lingua sia un utensile nelle mani dell'uomo. In verità, è l'uomo, piuttosto, che è nelle mani della lingua - mani che, però, nun usano e non afferrano, ma lasciano e liberano, ossia forgiano l'essere e lo custodiscono. L'uomo, nel suo stanziarsi, si affida alla lingua. È il suo fidato abitante. Egli resta tale anche quando la diffida e la rinega, quando tenta di soggiogarla con la potenza dell'espediente tecnico o di superarla con la violenza della trovata sofistica. L'uso non può dunque guidarci nell'intesa delle parole e delle dizioni. Queste ultime non sono solo i mutevoli segni (i vocaboli e i termini) del mutabile nesso fra la mente e la realtà, ma innanzitutto gli insegnamenti e i doni del sapere più alto e più misconosciuto - e perciò sempre avveniente. La lingua non è mai linguaggio. Mentre l'uso usura la parola, ammutendola nella scempiia voce, la lingua parla. Parlando, tace. Tacendo, indice il mondo. [...]

2. Cf. Mary de Rachewiltz, Prefazione, in: Ezra Pound, ABC dell'economia e altri scritti, p. 9. Gli mancavano le parole, i termini, e volle risalire quasi alle origini del linguaggio economico per trovarle. Fra gli economisti contemporanei non ce n'era di 'donativi': quelli orto¬dossi non intendevano dilungarsi con un poeta inquisitivo. [...] Voleva trattare di eco-nomia come trattava di poesia, in termini assoluti. [...] Ma ripeto, mancava una terminologia ordinata e razionale. Mancava forse soprattutto l'onesta mentale in chi avrebbe potuto fun¬gere da guida. [...] Pound non stava inventando, bensì inseguendo un 'lume', il suo istinto, per scoprire l'errore del ragionamento ortodosso.

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1. Cf. Ezra Pound, Selected Prose. 1009 - 1965, p. 282. You cannot make good economics out of bad ethics. 2. The original meaning of the Greek word ethos ↗  is “habitual residence”, “abode”, “dimension of sojourn” or “sojourn itself” – which is to say in other words: “man’s dwelling” or “site for man’s dwelling”. Consequently ethics is in the first place not knowledge about a system of moral rules derived from underlying moral values and supposed to orient human action in a given operative context, but, understood in the strictest sense of the word, that knowledge that forms an understanding of man’s dwelling on earth and is therefore capable of sustaining the building of the whole of sense-relations for this dwelling. On behest of usura ignorance holds sway and no economic knowledge originating from a more fundamental understanding of man’s dwelling will occur insofar as it is subjugated ab initio – and therefore the element that bestows and allots the whole of sense-relations of human existence is not sufficiently sustained, or to be more precise: is ignored in such a way that no man can find site for his dwelling. In this sense, and not just in a moral sense, usura is essentially unethical.

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Cf. Ezra Pound, Ezra Pound Speaking. Radio Speeches of World War IIp. 40. My generation was brought up ham ignorant of economics. History was taught with OMISSIONS of the most vital facts. Every page our generation read was over shadowed by usury.

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Cf. Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur, p. 281. „Usury is contra naturam. It is not merely in opposition to nature's increase, it is antithetic to discrimination by the sense. Discrimination by the sense is dangerous to avarice. It is dangerous because any perception or any high development of the perceptive faculties may lead to knowledge. The mony-changer only thrives on ignorance.“

In contrast nature can be seen in the light of production and productivity, where as a matter of fact nature means neither the mere sum of so called natural things, nor the correlative togetherness of such things. Nature is first and foremost the inexhaustible source of all the above-mentioned ways of taking care destined for men. That is why, with regard to the human being, “contra naturam” indicates the impossibility of taking care of the whole of sense-relations and thus indicates the continued prevention of each of the human ways of taking care from coming to its own end, i.e. from being accomplished. Accordingly “contra naturam” means at the same time: no true house construction, no true art of masonry, no true painting, no true sculpture, no true art of weaving, no true craftsmanship, no true trade, no true agriculture, no true art of love and so forth. Ursura occurs as the continued subjugation of the true nature of all of them, i.e. as the continued subjugation of their original possibility – i.e. the first and ultimate possibility of any kind of human production.

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Cf. Ralf Lüfter, Notizen zu Ezra Pounds Ökonomie, p. 436 et seq. Auf Geheiß von Usura: Ignoranz. Auf Geheiß von Usura: keine Menschen beim Gastmahl – allenthalben seelenlose Leichname, denen das festlich Dargereichte nichts sagt (»Corpses are set to banquet | at behest of usura«). Auf Geheiß von Usura: Unvermögen in den menschlichen Bezügen – zuerst im Handwerk (»Usura rusteth the chisel | It rusteth the craft and the craftsman | It gnaweth the thread in the loom | None learneth to wave gold in her pattern«), dann in der Kunst (»with usura the line grows thick | with usura is no clear demarcation« [...] »no picture is made to endure nor to live with | but it is made to sell and sell quickly«) und im Handel (»wool comes not to market | sheep bringeth no gain with usura«), zuletzt im Zeugen und Bewahren des Gemeinsamen (»Usura slayeth the child in the womb | It stayeth the young man's courting«). Auf Geheiß von Usura hat keiner ein wirtliches Haus (»With usura hath no man a house of good stone«) und findet keiner Ortschaft für sein Wohnen (»and no man can find site for his dwelling«). Indes bleibt auch die Vernichtung der menschlichen Bezüge auf den Grund ihrer Ermöglichung angewiesen (»with usura«; »contra naturam«): auf die Natur des Handwerks, auf die Natur der Kunst, auf die Natur des Handels, zuletzt auf die Natur des Zeugens und Bewahrens eines Gemeinsamen.

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Addendum by Ezra Pound: "N.B. Usury: A charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production; often without regard to the possibilities of production."

When usura takes the place of the element that bestows and allots the whole of sense-relations of human existence, on the one hand, we remain excluded from a sufficiently clear understanding of the true nature of economics and “we are brought up ham ignorant” (cf. Ezra Pound Speaking. Radio Speeches of World War II, Greenwood Press: London 1978, p. 40) of it, on the other hand, we remain at a loss for a form of knowledge that is able to understand, i.e. that is able to sustain the whole of the sense-relations of human existence insofar as it is ignorant of its originally bestowing and allotting element. The reading of Canto XLV suggests that usura is first and foremost the subjugation of this element – or in other words: subjugation is the form of originating which is characteristic of usura – therefore what arises is never a whole of sense-relations for human existence (namely, an oikos, the world) but sheer senselessness (namely, an un-world) that turns out to be the inhuman phiz of the modern economic crisis as we roughly outlined it here.

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Key Concept

Ethos, dimora, patria e casa

The original meaning of the Greek word “ethos” is “habitual residence”, “abode”, “dimension of sojourn” or “sojourn itself” – which is to say in other words: “man’s dwelling” or “site for man’s dwelling”. Consequently ethics is in the first place not knowledge about a system of moral rules derived from underlying moral values and supposed to orient human action in a given operative context, but, understood in the strictest sense of the word, that knowledge that forms an understanding of man’s dwelling on earth and is therefore capable of sustaining the building of the whole of sense-relations for this dwelling.

View all sources connected Ethos, dimora, patria e casa

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