The Martinelli Cantos [XC-XCV] take up love as their subject, celebrating both manifested nature and metaphors of light as projections of a newly-perceived joy and spirituality. Sheri Martinelli, it must be said, had been a New Age advocate long before that term had been invented. As idealized by the poet, she embodies both love and redemption, mediating between the poet and a spiritual universe which now becomes his paradiso. Richard St Victor (an early Church father whom Dante had admired) is invoked at the outset: “The soul is not love itself, but love flows from it. It does not delight in itself, but rather in the love which flows from it.” A further reference, although not a literal quotation, occurs in lines 75-76 of Canto XC:

                        “Birds for the mind” said Richardus,

            “Beasts for the body, for know how”

The idea is that direct observation and contemplation of nature elevates the mind beyond its normal limitations: watch birds in order to understand spiritual exertions of the mind, animals for external or bodily manifestations.


The arcane rituals that Pound and Martinelli enacted on the lawns of St. Elizabeths gave rise to the invocation of obscure philosophers such as Ocellus (2nd or 3rd century B.C.), Erigena (b. 810), and John Heydon (b. 1629), who shared a perceived pattern of relationships between material and supernatural worlds. The Federal Asylum had been established on the grounds of an earlier arboretum which E.P. and S.M. came to think of as their sacred grove. On a small flat stone which served them as altar they burned incense (olibanum) to various gods and later experienced the vision of a classical altar, of which Pound made a sketch (11 May 1954) that was meant to be reproduced between lines 83 and 84 of Canto XC. Unfortunately his publishers disappointed him, but that was hardly the first time.

The introduction of Leucothoe, daughter of Orchamus [XCVIII:39 & CII:55], whose love affair with the Sun (usually Apollo, but some sources say Helios) was glossed over by her transformation into either an incense bush [XCVIII:39 & CII:55] or a Heliotrope, makes great sense in this context, as do references to Leucothea (originally Ino, Cadmon’s daughter and sister to Semele, who was transformed into a sea goddess and given to succoring imperiled mariners). In Pound’s version she brandishes a bikini, rather than a veil, when rescuing Odysseus [XCI:168-169, 191; XCVIII:7; & CV:80, 132]. H.D. has already noted the photograph of Sheri in a bikini.

            “A spirit in cloth of gold”

                        so Merlin’s moder said                                   [XCI:151-152]

La Martinelli, who preferred her identification with Undine to all others, resurfaces in Drafts & Fragments as a gold (not cold) mermaid (CXI:37), and there are also a number of abscure references to her in Thrones. For example: the python associated with the sybil at Delphi.

            of the blue sky and a wild cat,


            the small breasts snow-soft over tripod                        [CIV:67-69]

In fact, the last three gatherings of cantos abound in specific allusions to her, but very few of them have yet been acknowledged. With Canto CVI, however, and those which follow, it becomes rather more difficult to make hard and fast identifications. But then, the effort is not altogether necessary. Idealization itself, the outpouring of universal love, and the welling up of poetic inspiration, is both purpose and point.

Pound’s renewed spirituality at this time gave rise to fits of conventional religiosity and he translated Martinelli’s rather traditional Roman Catholic prayers to the Virgin Mary into Italian. A more remarkable and original effort is seen in “Prayer for a Dead Brother,” written on the occasion of Buddy’s (Walter Brennan’s) sudden death in rather uncertain circumstances. Earlier, Pound had had recourse to the syntax of “Psalms” in Canto XLV (‘With Usura’), “Ecclesiastes” in LXXXI (‘Pull down thy vanity’), and even the Roman Catholic Mass in LXXIX (‘Kyrie eleison’), but Rock-Drill makes a special point of liturgical responses as in the recurrence of ‘m’elevasti’ (you lifted me up) with reference to Sybilla (Sheri Martinelli) in Canto XC (40-52) and the invocations, ‘oro’ (pray [for us]) and ‘have compassion’ [XCIII:158-165]. A similar note is sounded in “Prayer for a Dead Brother”, which again refers to Castalia, the crystal fountain of divine inspiration so often linked to idealized figures representing La Martinelli [cp. XCIV: 149-151]:

            May his soul walk

            under the larches of Paradise

                        May his soul walk in the wood there

            and Adah Lee come to look after him.


            Queen of Heaven receive him.

            Mother of the Seven Griefs receive him

            Mother of the seven wounds receive him

                        May he have peace in heart.


            By a stream like Castalia, limpid,

            that runs level with the green edge of its banks

            Mother of Heaven receive him,

            Queen of Heaven receive him,

                        Mother of the Seven Griefs give him Peace.


            Out of the turmoil, Mother of Griefs receive him,

            Queen of Heaven receive him.

                        May the sound of the leaves give him peace,

            May the hush of the forest receive him,

                        Queen of Griefs, give him peace.                   [23 September 1954]

The last two cantos of the Martinelli sequence combine themes of spiritual love and its manifestation in nature with the celebration of public heroes and social order [XCIV-XCV]. The first of them ends in an apotheosis of both light and love; not physical love, but rather a more universal and spiritual concept which illuminates the human condition, or at least so Pound then supposed. Canto XCV ends with a specific reference to Sheri Martinelli who rescues the poet/Odysseus when all control over his immediate world had been lost:

            That the wave crashed, whirling the raft, then

            Tearing the oar from his hand,

                                                                        broke mast and yard-arm

            And he was drawn down under wave,

                                                The wind tossing,

            Notus, Boreas,

                                                as it were thistle-down.

            Then Leucothea had pity


Although Pound’s representation of his relationship with Sheri Martinelli is very moving,  the verses he wrote for Charlie Parker, and at her behest, are rather light-hearted, more in the vein of T.S. Eliot’s “King Bolo and his Big Black Kween” (see Letters, Vol. 1), but nonetheless serious in intention. Pound seems to have had a rather high opinion of them, and the first two lines of “the voice of experience” later found their way into Canto XCVII (357-362). Sometime in February or March 1955 E.P. sent both lyrics to S.M., who was then in New York:

chance of song hit/ BUT godDAMN it he has got to get the muZik on paper. as to chance of hit/ Ingrid [Davies, a London admirer and correspondent] keeps askin for the rest of it/ apparently the four lines sent her arrouse interest. I mean yu dont have to be senile or a flat chested highbrow to note the general lilt and/or tendency of the verse. wot more can we dew fer a y[oung]. m[an].



There was a girl in our town
                         whose name was Honey Swat,
Possessed of all the virtues
                         which sometimes she forgot.


There were also eager masculines
                         who used to stand and wait
To see if she’d forgot ’em
                         as she passed the garden gate.


She was tall an’ she was kindly
                         beneath the willow tree
An’ the next time she forgits ’em
                         I hope she’ll think of me.


There was a girl in our town
                         an’ her name was Honey Swat,
Her hair was long and glossy
                         and she wore it in a knot.


The wind would blow her skirts about
                         in a most provoking way,
Tho’ she would pull ’em down again
                         they wouldn’t always stay.


Her form was made to write about
                         if writing is your trade
But there are other functions
                         for which mankind is made.

(possibly OMIT this strophe, might diminish hill billy sales)

            There was a girl in our town
                                    whose name was Honey Swat
            Possessed of all the virtues
                                    which sometimes she forgot.


            Hers was a generous nature
                                    Opposed to parcimony,
            That front name was provocative,
                                    and Gawd knows bees like honey.


            She was tall and she was kindly
                                    beneath the willow tree
            And next time she forgets ’em
                        I hope she’ll think of me.
                        I Hope she’ll THINK OV MEEEEEEE:

“the voice of experience,”

            Mid dope-dolls an’ duchesses tho orfter I roam
            some gals is better, some wusser than some.

            There was Tony the barman who liked her blue eyes
            and Charlie the waiter, found her just the right size
            The cop thought her charming as did uncle gus
            so she came back to arsk me what her character was

mid dope dolls an duchesses etc.

Some gals are uncertain an some gals are true
                       If you ask what they’re true to?
                                   Waaal, that’s up to you.

                                   Mid dope dolls etc.

Some gals are a nuissance, and some know when to go
There’s tastes for the many, and tastes of the few
A queen of the Congo once accepted my love
And I have fond memories of a coconut grove
I’ve learned and I’ve yearned and whatever may come
                       Some gals is better, some wusser than some

I was lonely in Shanghai and sad in Pekin
I’m a great hand for pleasure, and have no use for sin
With shades and complexions it ain’t where the’re from
                       some gals is better, some wusser than some.

Now murder and arson are NOT in my line
Tho why they ain’t funny may be hard to define

a joke and a hold up are nearly the same
and there are some mug-shots which no one should frame

just live and let live, take things as they come
                       some gals is better, some wusser than some

I’m no hand at forging and sticking up banks
if that’s wot they fancy, let me stay in the ranks
I’ve met several con men with polished address
a lady once told me it leads to success

somewhat conditioned by the how and the when
I’ve known of cases where it just led to the pen.

                       Live, I say, let live, take things as they come
                                   some gals is better, some wusser than some.

On the other hand the two unpublished fragments of Pound’s work in progress which have been preserved among Martinelli’s papers, are wholly serious. He neither ascribed titles nor dates them, but their relevance is striking and emphasizes his understanding of her essential insight and perception. She later recorded that they had been written in 1954 or 1955 and captioned the more important of them (the second fragment), “Nice Quiet Heaven,” because of a line contained in it. She believed that that phrase was echoed in “a nice quiet paradise” which later appears in Cantos CXI (33) and CXVI (49).

“Last trace of justice
                                   de Bosschere,
“cannot reveal”.
                                   Bitter child, Jean
in retrospect gnawed by perception.

                                                            * * * * *

swirling of azure; of carmine
                        under serenitas
                                               Ixion ever unstill.
Not Olympus, Dodona.
                                   From Malis, May 29th,
                                               saw flames upon Oeta
God’s pyre.
0.24: tranquility Dec. 27
a nice quiet heaven
                                 where everyone loves everyone else, that,
yes, the wildest dream yet.
                                  those who have seen it pass whirling.
Like comets
                                  to hell’s deep
                                            then emergent,
                                  Sheri has seen it.