Whereas symmetry and ‘otherness’ establish structures within published collections, variations of Absolute Rhythm account for form within individual poems. Unlike the developing (and ever-changing) sense of structure as volumes were prepared for publication (addressed chronologically in Mindscape), the effect of metrical variation on form within disparate poems calls for a thematic approach. Various modes of discourse are identifiable, and they are often mixed within any given text:
             Narratives – Accumulations – Framing – Reversals
A third-person (objective) point of view is as fundamental to the main section of Cantos I and XIII, as to the whole of the ‘China’ and ‘Adams’ Cantos. The three, subversive vignettes of capitalist enterprise in Canto XII also have a more or less common rhythmic structure although they differ widely in terms of register and tone. Baldy Bacon is an engaging, Yankee rogue, the story of José Maria dos Santos formal and objective, and the Honest Sailor amusingly naïve. The structural symmetry is striking and the reversals even more so.

Canto XVI, however, operates differently. The vision of a howling runner on a spiral path in Pound’s conception of Purgatory resolves into an accumulation of war stories which range widely in time, and tone. The first is a child’s view (1870), the next an old man’s recollection (1820s) – then come those of the poet’s immediate friends in The Great War, followed by various visions of the Russian Revolution. It is collage poesie à la Corbiére, gentle satire as in La Forgue – universals caught in the quotidian. Symmetry reigns, however, and the rhythmic formations remain consistent however much register and point of view change.

In the ‘Adams’ and ‘China’ collections, strategies alter and sense units are minimalized. The narratives, however, outline abstractions rather than stories: the ideas and achievements of John Adams, which so largely influenced the formulation of the American Constitution, and the cycles of good and bad government in the history of China and Japan. A rapid turnover of elliptical quotation is certainly disconcerting and leaves little time to consider just how the pieces fit together. The consistent rhythm pattern is meant to accomplish that.

Canto LXXIX, on the other hand, returns to the longer and more complete sense units of XVI but not in linear order. Its structure is based on ‘Unity of Image’ and the epicenter can be located in the passage which begins: “Prepare to go on a journey” (146). Taken as a whole this poem is possibly the most moving and poignant of that collection. Its image clusters celebrate the sustaining nature of architecture, dance, music, literature, human resilience, myth, memory, and nature – when facing adversity. Knowing that the journey means a flight to Washington and trial for treason, “Old Ez folded his blankets” (165). Like Hölderlin in ‘Half of Life’, Pound finds a point where all things are present at once, a locus of meaning on which all other understandings converge. Individual sense units are of different intensities and often contrast in tone as in the juxtaposition of a Caccini opera at Salzburg and the “bumm drum” of the army band at the DTC. For the most part the relationship of individual images to the lnchpin are obvious, and only a few examples need be invoked. Lydia Yavòrska’s story of an early experience in Russia which involved a Cossak executioner, for example, is underscored twenty-one lines later by a repeated reference quite out of context – “because he likes to,” the Cossak (174). Earlier the threatening anecdote had drifted into a fond recollection of Henry James who had attended the same suberban, garden party.

The resilience of African American prisoners is summed up in the line. “I do like a lot of shades in my landscape”. Their irrepressible high spirits and kindness as well as dialect and even their ‘evocative’ sur-names make them representative Americans, leading to reflections on the Flag and Constitution. The guards, as well, get a good press. “Paak you djeep oveh there” [LXIX: 82].

The oblique invocation of Dionysos through his familiar (the Lynx), is not at all far-fetched. For Pound the mythical world was equally present and sustaining. Wine induces an ecstatic state, and the poet is not only praying for the protection of the vineyard at Brunnenburg, but also, metonymically, for those which he had celebrated intellectually: the arts, love, nature, and a just society. The intense lyricism of those passages mark this canto as different from those adjacent and identify it as the very heart of the Pisan sequence.

Another kind of internal structure is evident in Canto II – framing. The poem opens with elliptical references to Browning, Sordello, and So Shu (Shiba Shojo), subverters of poetic tradition, as well as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Helen of Troy, begetters of public strife followed by intercourse between spiritual and temporal worlds – the rape of Tyro by Posèidon. That progression of icons leads to water imagery and the narration of metamorphosis at sea. The earlier relationships among disparate elements is very much like that of Canto XLVIII (as outlined in ‘Mindscape’). More importantly, that supposed rag-bag is replicated at the end of the poem and then reverts to terrestriality with olive groves, the followers of Faunus (Pan), and fertile frogs singing in the half light.

On an altogether different level there are early cantos which switch back in terms of rhythmic structure. Canto I, for example, turns from a dominating, (taut) narrative of men at arms to a lyrical (slack) celebration of amor. Canto XXXVI reverses the scheme; a long, lyrical meditation on the nature of Love ends in a taut vision of Sordello as a man of affairs. Canto XLIX comes into its own as the lyrical invocation of an ideal and harmonious, oriental community (seen from afar) and then projects the realities of every-day life and cosmic polity.

The Cantos ought not be read for meaning alone. The music matters, if for nothing more than its infinite and ever evolving subtlety. Perhaps Pound's Great Work might best be read not only as epic, but also opera.