Canto 11, the last of four Malatesta Cantos, pits the valor of Sigismondo Malatesta’s resistance to a burgeoning economic and cultural modernity against the pathos of his inevitable defeat. While foregrounding historiographical concerns and probing the generic boundaries of the epic, the Canto’s considerable poetic intensity stamps it a significant elegiac moment in an essentially elegiac work. Pound constructs Canto 11 by means of literary techniques that include on the one hand classical narrative mediations such as the epic array and on the other a quintessentially modernist musical structure. Finally, though, epic is made to serve the purposes of elegy – a shift one can vividly see in Pound’s revisions, which regularly strip away excess historical specificity to maximize the underlying power of freestanding images. Out of the bric-a-brac of history Canto 11 distils a poignance of extraordinary power.
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