This essay surveys Canto 8, situating itself in the midst of the altercation Pound stages between Clio, the muse of history, and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. I argue that the Greek goddesses’ wrangle at the outset of the first of the four Malatesta Cantos illustrates a key shift in Pound’s original design for The Cantos—from a long poem to a modern epic. While Clio calls Calliope a “slut” for caring little for the truth, Calliope dubs Clio a “bitch” for nagging about historical exactitude. Pound, however, seeks a dynamic compromise. Like Hesiod, the ancient poet-historian, he mediates between history and art by incorporating historical documents into his own epic poem. Pound forges a creative tension between epic and history, cherry-picking bits and fragments of the Malatesta archive. This method entails a kind of modernist bricolage. The Tempio Malatestiano, a pastiche of mythologies and architectural styles that make up the church Sigismondo Malatesta built in Rimini, prefigures Pound’s project. With his enterprising spirit or virtù, the Italian Renaissance condottiere typifies paideuma, Pound’s cultural and pedagogical program centered on the individual will and intelligence in action. The essay proposes that by shuffling the Malatesta narratives he gleaned from historical and critical sources Pound looks to create a mosaic of “luminous details.” Defying historical chronology, he compresses, accelerates, and even misplaces Malatesta’s exploits. Pound performs a textual experiment that radically revises the boundaries of discursive categories. His endgame is to revive and energize tradition. Canto 8 rips history at the seams and rejoins it as patchwork, creating a third space somewhere between Clio and Calliope.
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