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“My genius is no more than a girl”: Exploring the Erotic in Pound’s Homage to Sextus Propertius

  • Steven G. Yao

Abstract

In the introduction, I briefly discussed the treatment of Pound’s Homage to Sextus Propertius as exemplary of the way criticism of Modernist translation has proceeded in large measure along distinctly under-theorized and even ahistorical lines. To expand upon this somewhat more fully: ever since its initial, partial publication in the March 1919 edition of Harriet Monroe’s Poetry, the Homage has elicited a sustained debate over its putative qualities as either an overly “free” distortion or a creatively “faithful” reproduction in English of Sextus Propertius’s original Latin odes. Appearing almost immediately, in the very next issue of Poetry in fact, the first of these denunciations came from the University of Chicago classicist William Gardner Hale, who set the tone for an entire strain of criticism of Pound’s efforts as a translator of Propertius by indicting all of the obvious liberties that the Modernist poet took with the original Latin text in producing his Homage simply as grammatical mistakes. Summarily declaring that “Mr. Pound is incredibly ignorant of Latin,” Hale referred to “about threescore errors” in just the four published sections alone out of the twelve comprising the entire poem. He went on to enumerate several specific “howlers” that he found particularly egregious, and these have become virtually obligatory points of discussion for all subsequent commentators on Pound’s achievement in the Homage. I myself will attempt to address the larger significance of some of these notorious “errors” later in this chapter.

Keywords

Literary Production Literal Meaning Young Lady Literary Mode Translation Methodology 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    For full citation, see Donald Gallup, Ezra Pound: A Bibliography (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1983), p. 255.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    T. S. Eliot, “Introduction: 1928” to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1948), pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Donald Davie, Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    This is the title of Thomas’s chapter on Propertius in Ron Thomas, The Latin Masks of Ezra Pound (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1983), pp. 39–59.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    George Steiner, ed., Poem into Poem: World Poetry in Modem Verse Translation (Baltimore: Penguin, 1970)Google Scholar
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  7. 12.
    But a brief sample would include such important works as Charles Ferall, Modernist Writing and Reactionary Politics (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001)Google Scholar
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    Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 7.Google Scholar
  20. 15.
    For a complete discussion of this fascinating period in Pound’s career, see Ron Bush, The Genesis of Ezra Pound’s Cantos (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), especially pp. 53–142.Google Scholar
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    Marianne Dekoven, “Gender and Modernism,” in Michael Levenson, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 17.
    Ezra Pound, Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907–1941, ed. D. D. Paige (London: Faber and Faber, 1950), pp. 90–91.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    Other negative reviews include, in addition to the ones already mentioned, Robert Nichols, The Observer, Jan. 11, 1920, p. 6Google Scholar
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  26. 25.
    See K. K. Ruthven, A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Personae (1926) (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), p. 86.Google Scholar
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    See Thomas, Ron. The Latin Masks of Ezra Pound (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1977), pp. 44–45.Google Scholar
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  30. 28.
    See G. P. Goold, trans., Elegies of Propertius, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 253.Google Scholar
  31. 34.
    See Brian Arkins, “Pound’s Propertius: What Kind of Homage?” Paideuma: A Journai Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 17:1 1988: 37.Google Scholar
  32. 45.
    For a recent rendering of this work into English, see The Argonautika by Apollonios Rhodios, trans., Peter Green (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  33. 46.
    For additional commentary on this line, see Hesiod, Theogony. M. L. West, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1966), p. 114.Google Scholar

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© Steven G. Yao 2002

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  • Steven G. Yao

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