The Ur-Cantos, published in 1917 in Poetry as 'Three Cantos', were Pound's first attempt at his 'poem of some length', eventually to be The Cantos. Many of the images, places, poems, and stories that he evokes there reappear in the final work, and most of the major themes are already in place: from the beginning he weaves together a multiplicity of voices, languages, cultures and periods. The Ur-Cantos dramatize his search for a form, and what he had earlier identified as his imagistic technique of 'super-position' makes possible his move towards a long, highly concentrated poem, with the piling up of echoing elements. In the face of the destructive force of the Great War, the Ur-Cantos assert the vital centrality of art: Pound had not yet formed the economic analysis of war that underlies The Cantos themselves, and here his moral touchstones are a Paterian faith in intense artistic experience and a Ruskinian belief in the importance of arts and artists to society, values never entirely lost. More overtly personal and tentative than the later work, the Ur-Cantos point the way to a new beginning, and in their final lines, with the 'ply over ply' of Divus's Odysseus, they find it.
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