Canto 21 opens with an account of the Medici dynasty in late Mediaeval Florence. Pound contrasts the frugality of Cosimo de Medici with the extravagance of his grandson, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Cosimo, in particular, is praised for his financial good sense as well as his patronage of learning and the arts, demonstrating a political ideal. The Canto details the activities (and more interestingly the accounts) of the Medici family before shifting to the early years of the American republic. Although the Cantos leaps in both time and place, the subject remains the same: the necessity of balancing frugality and ornament. This is most noticeable in the documentation of Thomas Jefferson’s request for French gardeners who are also able to play musical instruments. The historical passages fade into a lyrical evocation of the Eleusinian mysteries, building into a sensual presentation derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In effect, the canto is a descant on the beauty of measurement and balance. The frugality of Pound’s selected historical leaders is brought together with the devotees of Persephone, dancing in the moonlight (a ‘source of renewals’), who in turn celebrate the passage and return of the seasons.
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