30 March 2009


And we're back in the early days of the USA, with debates about financial policy again, and the name of Martin Van Buren cropping up a lot. I read in Wikipedia that the country had financial difficulties at the time, and he did something I don't entirely understand with the currency.

It's not the stuff of gripping poetry, to be honest.

29 March 2009


In the studies I intend to do, one topic is Translation Studies: the theory and practice of translation through the ages. For me, the interest is partly in how much strangeness remains in the translation, even at the expense of difficulty. The simple example I quote is of a book translated from Spanish. One character said to another: my car is a hundred yards down the road. Obviously, in the original it would have been 100 metres. Why substitute yards for metres? The story is very clearly set in Spain - Madrid, as I recall - so you surely ought to expect some foreign references. Then, there was the example of Ian Gibson's biography of Lorca. None of the plays was ever referred to by its Spanish name and even street names were anglicised - so Calle Iglesia would be referred to as Church Street. This seems much worse. Surely no-one would be reading a biography of Lorca who couldn't handle a few foreign words and names?

All this by way of introduction to the first part of this canto, which is apparently a translation of a canzone by Cavalcanti. I say translation: there may need to be a new word for what this is:
A lady asks me
I speak in season
She seeks reason for an affect, wild often
That is so proud he hath Love for a name
Wherefore I speak to the present knowers
Having no hope that low-hearted
Can bring sight to such reason
Be there not natural demonstration
I have no will to try proof-bringing
Or say where it hath birth
What is its virtu and power
Its being and every moving
Or delight whereby 'tis called "to love"
Or if man can show it to sight.
I haven't been able to find the original online, so can't concern myself with the semantic accuracy of this 'translation'. I would hope the original was more transparent in its meaning. It took several readings of this passage, and the following two pages to realise that the Lady has asked the poet to explain and describe Love. This first stanza outlines the scope of the task.

Fine, but then thinking about a wider sense of translation: does this version capture the language of the original - I mean the melody and rhythm? Clearly, I can't say, but I doubt it. The use of the word "demonstration" stands out as distinctly modern, while the "haths" and "'tis's" talk about old English, which doesn't suggest Provencal. The word "virtu" is perhaps untranslated; it's one of the words that are often described as untranslateable, which begs another question.

The second stanza starts like this:
Where memory liveth,
it takes its state
Formed like a diafan from light on shade
Which shadow cometh of Mars and remaineth
Created, having a name sensate,
Custom of the soul,
will from the heart;
So, there's a similarity in the rhythm of the first two lines, but the rhymes are differently placed (season/reason/reason v state/sensate). One aspect of translation is capturing the form, particularly of verse. There's an attempt to do that, I think, but incomplete. (The typography of this blog doesn't entirely match that of the printed page, which also suggests some formal emulation of the original.)

Three more stanzas and an envoi in this style follow, and we get very close to biblical language. Love is personalised as he/him and:
He himself moveth not, drawing all to his stillness,
Neither turneth about to seek his delight
Nor yet to seek out proving
Be it so great or so small.
This is similar to the passage so often quoted in weddings from 1 Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
The envoi is:
Go, song, surely thou mayest
Whither it please thee
For so art thou ornate that thy reasons
Shall be praised from thy understanders,
With others hast thou no will to make company.
We can contrast the archaisms "art" and "hast" with the made-up obscurity of "understanders". Actually, "understanders" is perfectly understandable, but looks (like "virtu") like a flag that a word in the original has no direct english equivalent. Well durr, we knew that.

The Canto ends with a passage I don't understand, which appears to be about the reception of poets and thinkers by society.

Apart from that, I enjoyed this Canto. I think I read that it is sometimes seen as a heaven canto, comparing with the hell earlier. Maybe, and there could be a reference to the Dante conception of the love that moves the sun and the other stars.

In terms of translation theory, it's inconclusive. I don't think it works on any coherent model, but like so much of the Cantos it doesn't really matter that it's not the finished article.

28 March 2009

Canto XXXV

We start in 'Mitteleuropa' with a series of descriptions of people: Mr Corles, who walked away from his post in the army; Mr Fidascz, a violinist; "the Fraulein Doktor"; "bewhiskered sonvabitch Fran├žois Giuseppe of whom nothing good is recorded"; and others. Then a Mr Elias turns up, who tells of how gets "inspiration" from looking at a pretty girl.

And then this:
The tale of the perfect schnorrer: a peautiful chewisch poy
wit a vo-ice dot woult
meldt dh heart off a shtone
and wit a likeing for to make arht-voiks
and ven dh oldt lady wasn't dhere any more
and dey didn't know why tdhere ee woss in the
oldt antique schop and nobodty know how he got dhere
and it goes on like that for a while. Why? Um Gottes Willen, why? Just one example, how would "schop" sound any different from "shop"? Obviously it's anti-semitic but really crap at the same time. I've mentioned before that Ez can do invective really well, but this is pathetic.

The canto goes on, as far as I can tell, to describe how Venice achieved and maintained its position as "The Dominant" in charge of commerce and shopping, propped up, I think, by merchants of Venice - pioneering money-lending.

18 March 2009


More treading water here, for seven pages. Again, there's a recurrent use of ellipsis to separate out the various strands, and again, we're mainly dealing with the early days of the USA, though moving through Napoleonic times and beyond. The economic motif returns:
Banks breaking all over the country,
Some in a sneaking, some in an impertinent manner ...
prostrate every principle of economy.
And someone (Adams?) is talking about arboriculture. Should that be 'arborikulchur'?

Again, it's a salad of voices and opinions. To use a new metaphor, the result of twisting a radio dial across a limited period of history. Mostly it looks like extracts from diaries, letters and contemporary reportage, but towards the end a more incantatory seection:
These are the sins of Georgia
These are the lies
These are the infamies
These are the broken contracts ...
which, again, is something Ez (like TS Eliot) does very well (I'm sure it's harder than it looks to get the rhythm rhyght).

And right at the end a chinese character, which of course I can't put here.

One of these days, I'm going to have to tackle Ez's economic thinking, if that's not too strong a word. His opposition to usury seems, from what I've seen so far, naive. But in the current economic climate (if that's the word) there's a possibility that his views will gain some respect. The banks are pretty universally cast as the villains, and obv they're the home of usury. I think it's a poor comparison. The problem with the banks these days is that they've lost huge amounts of money (where it's gone is harder to tell), not that they've ripped off the poor farmers and artists. They've practised usury really badly by lending on shifting sands, or something, so it's their failure to do usury properly that's caused the problem. I still think Ez looks like a man in the grip of an obsession.

You may notice I've added a new gadget, or toy, to the sidebar on the left. Evri, it's called, and it seems to work, if that's the word, by identifying words or phrases in a post and identifying links from them. The results are erratic, but sometimes intriguing. For example, this post, when I preview it, is showing a link for T S Eliot. That's good, but if I click on it, it links T S Eliot to Penelope Wilton, the underrated British actress. In fact, it's an entirely fitting gadget for an Ezra Pound page.

15 March 2009


Lucky I don't have any (regular) readers, else they'd be demanding I rename this A Canto A Week, and they'd be moaning about the failure of the twittering link on the left. Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with that. When I go to edit it, it previews ok, but on the page just shows nothing.

And so to this new canto, which appears to be entirely an assembly of 'found' materials, covering Jefferson and Adams, obviously, but going forward into 19th century economics, with a particular look at the effects of factory legislation. Also there are a few references to the growth of railways, which has happened often enough for it to be a clear theme.

I don't really know what the meta-story here is, but I like this:
But two things I did learn from him (Plato): that Franklin's idea of exempting husbandmen and mariners etc. from the depredations of war was borrowed from him
and (secondly) that sneezing is a cure for the hickups.

On reflection, after editing, I've decided to remove the twittering link. Most entries were just people quoting Ez, like this:
If a man isn't willing to take some risks for his opinions, either his opinions are no good or he's no good.

The sort of thing we can do without. True or not - but what kind of truth test could you apply? - it's pointless. If you want it, just go to search.twitter.com or better still twitterfall.com.

08 March 2009


A short one - just less than three pages - and Ez has given some help. In theory, I can see it would be possible to untangle the various strands that are going on her, because the breaks are separated by ellipsis marks. I think. Even so it's not always clear.

The first two lines give the first strand:
The revolution," said Mr Adams,
"Took place in the minds of the people."

That ties in with the preceding canto.

Then there's something about a ship called the Amphitrite, something about some french-language diplomacy, something about crops, echoes of the letter from Jefferson in XXI, comments on "civilising the indians", and many more. I guess what's going on here is a bubbling of ideas in the founding of USA. It's contrasted with the following passage:
Louis Sixteenth was a fool
The King of Spain was a fool, the King of Naples a fool
they despatched two couriers weekly to tell each other, over a thousand miles
what they had killed ... the King of Sardinia
was, like all the Bourbons, a fool, the
Portuguese Queen a Braganza and therefore by nature an idiot,
The successor to Frederic of Prussia, a mere hog
in body and mind, Gustavus and Joseph of Austria
were as you know really crazy, and George 3d was in
a straight waistcoat.

Obv I like that for its anti-monarchical drift, and I think it demonstrates that as well as a gift for lyric poetry, Ez could do invective like few others.

And the phrase twice repeated: "The cannibals of Europe are eating one another again".

What might be going on then is that the founding of USA is seen as an improvement over the monarchies of Europe, a suggestion that monarchy leads to war (because kings are mad and use war for personal ends), but that Europe currently is the same state of internecine chaos that the American founding idea was opposed to.

So, I think in this case I've managed to interpret the relations of one textual unit to another, forming a meta-text. I'm half-convinced and think I am making progress as I work through these cantos.

I've now, as you can see, put on the page a gadget that scans twitter for tweets mentioning Ezra+Pound. I replied to one who posed the question "Is EP overrated?" with an invitation to drop by. I'm still waiting. But he tweeted later, saying he'd worked out that Ez was a top imagist, but then his work got corrupted by jealousy. I'd like to hear more about that idea. I think it's more likely that his work got corrupted by his obsessions. Having had too much contact with obsessed people, I recognise the signs.

01 March 2009

Canto XXXI

This starts the sequence of "Eleven New Cantos", presumably written/published after the first 30 of 1930. According to Wikipedia, they were published in 1934. The annotations in wp are quite sparse for this section, so I can read them without compromising my overall mo.

There is apparently a focus on the founding fathers of the USA, well, duh, even I could work that out. I've heard of Thomas Jefferson, me. This canto is very much about him, so i've skimmed through the wikipedia entry on him, which seems to be wp at its best - detailed, well-sourced, balanced. This is a lot more like Paterson, where the extracts build up an impressionistic picture of the intellectual and political concerns of the time. Erm, not much more to say, for now. It seems like a preparation for a more focussed treatment in the remaining ten.