The Translations of Ezra Pound

The Translations of Ezra Pound

The Translations of Ezra Pound

The Translations of Ezra Pound


Pope translated the Iliad into heroic couplets, Chapman into fourteeners. Numerous foreign poems have been shoved into an idiom invented by Milton, which goes flat the moment the atmosphere is cleared of sulphur. Ezra Pound never translates 'into' something already existing in English. The Chinese or Greek or Provençal poem being by hypothesis something new, if it justifies the translator's or the reader's time—

Dagas sind gewitene,
ealle onmedlan eor pan rices;
nearon nu cyningas ne caseras
ne goldgiefan, swylce iu waeron . . .

—something correspondingly new must be made to happen in English verse:

Days little durable
And all arrogance of earthen riches,
There come now no kings nor Caesars
Nor goldgiving lords like those gone.
Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this excellence, delights undurable!

The Seafarer

Other translators of Anglo-Saxon verse have been content to take the English language as they found it, or to teutonize from word to word without quite knowing what was happening; only Pound has had both the boldness and resource to make a new form, similar in effect to that of the original, which permanently extends the bounds of English verse. Other poets after him have used these schemes of assonance and alliteration; it was Pound who built them their speech.

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