Thus, although Pound indeed distrusted the masses, "foreigners," and so forth, The Cantos themselves (with their references to Confucius, the agrarian populism of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democracy, and even the "enlightened despotism" of Leopold II) reflect the underlying conservative sentiment behind his more well-known social and economic views (including his antisemitism.) The Cantos are not complex, they are complicated; they are not arrayed by logic or driven by pursuing emotion, they are connected because they follow one another, are set side by side, and because an anecdote, an allusion or a sentence begun in one Canto may be continued in another and may never be completed at all; and as for a theme to be realized, they seem to have only, like Mauberley, the general sense of continuity — not unity — which may arise in the mind when read seriatim.
Further, when Allen Ginsberg visited him in Rapallo in October 1967, Pound described his previous work to Ginsberg as: "A mess ...
stupidity and ignorance all the way through." And later (as they dined in the Pensione Alle Salute da Cici restaurant in Venice) he even admitted to Ginsberg, Peter Russell, and Michael Reck that: "...
In this version, the poem began as an address by the poet to Robert Browning.
Pound came to believe that this narrative voice compromised the intent of his poetic vision, and these first three ur-cantos were soon abandoned and a new starting point sought.
As in Pound's prose writing, the themes of economics, governance and culture are integral to the work's content.
The most striking feature of the text, to a casual browser, is the inclusion of Chinese characters as well as quotations in European languages other than English.The Cantos was initially published in the form of separate sections, each containing several cantos that were numbered sequentially using Roman numerals (except cantos 85–109, first published with Arabic numerals).The original publication dates for the groups of cantos are as given below.The controversy has intensified since 1940 when Pound's very public stance on the war in Europe and his support for Benito Mussolini's fascism became widely known.Much critical discussion of the poem has focused on the relationship between, on the one hand, the economic thesis on usura, Pound's antisemitism, his adulation of Confucian ideals of government and his attitude towards fascism, and, on the other, passages of lyrical poetry and the historical scene-setting that he performed with his 'ideographic' technique. Elliot has drawn a parallel between Pound and Adolf Eichmann based on their antisemitism, while at the other Marjorie Perloff places Pound's antisemitism in a wider context by examining the political views of many of his contemporaries, arguing that "We have to try to understand why" antisemitism was widespread in the early twentieth century, "and not say let's get rid of Ezra Pound, who also happens to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th C." However, all of this is complicated by the fact that The Cantos themselves contain very little evidence of Pound's otherwise blatant antisemitism: in fact, in a close study of the poem, Wendy Stallard Flory concluded that it contained only seven passages of antisemitic sentiment in the 803 pages she read.The moon is frequently associated in the poem with creativity, while the sun is more often found in relation to the sphere of political and social activity, although there is frequent overlap between the two.