A Cento from The Pisan Cantos of Ezra Pound

April 12, 2011

This mug shot was taken by U.S. armed forces i...

Pound in Pisa

I am really enjoying John R. Keene’s run at the helm of the Poetry Foundation’s Twitter moniker @harriet_poetry. He regularly talks about forms of poetry and offers examples — famous and not so famous — and asks poets to submit their own versions.

Last Friday night, John was talking about centos, which the Academy of American Poets describes as “From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets.  Though poets often borrow lines from other writers and mix them in with their own, a true cento is composed entirely of lines from other sources.  Early examples can be found in the work of Homer and Virgil.”

I composed a cento using several lines from several sections of Ezra Pound’s “Pisan Cantos.”  Pound wrote this section of his long, incomplete poem, which totals 120 sections, while incarcerated in Italy during World War II.

Here is my cento,

A Cento dei Cantos di Ezra Pound[1]

What thou lovest well remains,

the rest is dross

a man on whom the sun has gone down

and the wind came as hamadryas[2] under the sun-beat.

What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee

nor is it for nothing that the chrysalids mate in the air

color di luce,

green splendor and as the sun through pale fingers.

What thou lovest well is thy true heritage—

I don’t know how humanity stands it

with a painted paradise at the end of it

without a painted paradise at the end of it

the dwarf morning-glory twines round the grass blade

whose world, or mine or theirs

or is it of none?

Nothing matters but the quality

of the affection—
in the end—that has carved the trace in the mind;
dove sta memoria?

Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.

The mountain and shut garden of pear trees in flower

here rested.

What thou lovest well remains—

–Scott Edward Anderson



[1] Composed of lines from “The Pisan Cantos” by Ezra Pound; specifically Cantos LXXIV, LXXVI, LXXXI.

[2] May refer to Hamadryas (mythology), the daughter of Oreios and mother of the Hamadryads in Greek mythology, or to Hamadryas argentea (also called Silvery Buttercup), a species of plant in the Ranunculaceae family.

One Response to “A Cento from The Pisan Cantos of Ezra Pound”


  1. […] A Cento from the Cantos of Ezra Pound (seapoetry.wordpress.com) […]


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