EPC Digital Library

Ezra Pound

Cantico del Sole
(From Instigations, 1920)

[from Pound: Poems  Translations, ed. Richard Sieburth, Library of America, 2003]

The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
                      Troubles my sleep,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
                      Troubles my sleep.
Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant,
Now lettest thou thy servant
                      Depart in peace.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation...
                       Oh well!
                       It troubles my sleep.


In Personae (New Directions, 1971, p. 183), Donald Gallup, in a note appended to the poem, writes that “this poem formed the conclusion of Pound’s essay ‘The Classics ‘Escape,”’ printed originally in the Little Review for March 1918 and collected in Instigations (1920). Gallup notes that in the essay "Pound had … quoted a recent decision by ‘a learned judge’ that works deemed classics, which USUALLY APPEAL TO A COMPARATIVELY LIMITED NUMBER OF READERS (Pound’s caps), are exempt from obscenity laws. Earlier, in The Spirit of Romance, Pound had published, under the title "Cantico del Sole," his version of St. Francis of Assisi's 13th century Italian, which begins: "Most high Lord, / Yours are the praises, / The glory and the humors ..." "Nunc dimitis" is from the Canticle of Simeon in Luke 2:29–32: Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: Nunc dimittis [King James Bible: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word / For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, / Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; / A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.]

Listen the PoemTalk discussion of this poem.

PennSound recordings of the poem:

1939: Cantico del sole (0:58)

1958: Cantico del Sole  (0:49)