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“from Greece into Egypt”: Translation and the Engendering of H. D.’s Poetry

  • Steven G. Yao

Abstract

In the “Translator’s Postscript” to his 1922 rendering of Rémy de Gourmont’s treatise on sex, the Physique de l’Amour, Ezra Pound offers one of his most infamous speculations about the evolution of human creativity:

It is more than likely that the brain is, in origin and development, only a sort of great clot of genital fluid. … This hypothesis. . . would explain the enormous content of the brain as maker or presenter of images. … I offer an idea rather than an argument, yet if we consider that the power of the spermatozoide is precisely that of exteriorizing a form, and if we consider the lack of any known substance in nature capable of growing into brain, we are left with only one surprise, or rather one conclusion, namely, in the face of the smallness of the average brain’s activity, we must conclude that the spermatozoic substance must have greatly atrophied in its change from the lactic to coagulated and hereditarily coagulated conditions… There are traces of [this idea] in the symbolism of phallic religions, man really the phallus or spermatozoide charging, head-on, the female chaos. Integrations of the male in the male organ. Even oneself has felt it, driving any new idea into the great passive vulva of London, a sensation analogous to the male feeling in copulation.

Keywords

Literary Production Literary Tradition Bryn Mawr Greek Text Literary Mode 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    “Translator’s Postscript,” from Rémy de Gourmont, The Natural Philosophy of Love, trans. Ezra Pound. 1922. (New York: Collier, 1961), pp. 149–150.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a comprehensive survey of the superstition regarding the brain/sperm connection, see Weston La Barre, Muelos: A Stone Age Superstition About Sexuality (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
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    Ann Douglass, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Anchor-Doubleday, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Amy Lowell, The Complete Works of Amy Lowell, ed. Louis Untermeyer (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1955), p. 459.Google Scholar
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    T. E. Hulme, “A Lecture on Modern Poetry,” in Further Speculations, ed. Samuel Hynes (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955), p. 69.Google Scholar
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  16. 14.
    For a discussion of H. D.’s novels, see Susan Stanford Friedman, Penelope’s Web: Gender, Modernity, H. D.’s Fiction (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
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  21. 15.
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  22. 16.
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  23. 17.
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  24. 18.
    Vincent Quinn, Hilda Doolittle (H. D.) (New York: Twayne, 1967), p. 95.Google Scholar
  25. 19.
    For Martz’s essay, see Louis L. Martz, Introduction, H. D.: The Collected Poems, 1912–1944 (New York: New Directions, 1983), esp. pp. xvi–xxiv.Google Scholar
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  29. 20.
    Eileen Gregory, H. D., and Hellenism: Classic Lines (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  30. 23.
    As cited in Glenn Hughes, Imagism and the Imagists (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1931), p. 110.Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    For a detailed reconstruction of H. D.’s contribution to the founding of Imagism, see Cyrena Pondrom, “H. D. and the Origins of Imagism” originally appearing in Sagetrieb 4 (Spring 1985): 73–100Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    Gregory also notes that H. D. used J. W. Mackail’s Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology, J. W. Mackail, ed. and trans. (New York: Longmans, 1911). Gregory p. 56.Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    For more information on this collaborative episode, see Caroline Zilboorg, “Joint Venture: Richard Aldington, H. D. and the Poets’ Translation Series” Philological Quarterly 70 (Winter 1991): 67–98.Google Scholar
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    See also Robert Babcock, “Verses, Translation, and Reflections from ‘The Anthology’: H. D., Ezra Pound and the Greek Anthology.” Sagetrieb 14 (Spring-Fall 1995): 201–16.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    For a view representative of the standard masculinist critical evaluations of H. D. and her reputation as a strictly Imagist poet, see Brendan Jackson, “‘The Fulsome-ness of her Prolixity’: Reflections on H. D., ‘Imagiste.’” The South Atlantic Quarterly 83:1 (Winter, 1984): 91–102.Google Scholar
  36. 40.
    Rachel Blau Duplessis, “Romantic Thralldom in H. D.”, originally published in Contemporary Literature XX, Vol. 2 (Spring, 1979): 178–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 48.
    T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1920), p. 74.Google Scholar
  38. 52.
    The scholarship on this issue is too massive to recapitulate in detail here, but for an introductory anthology of the works of Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigary, Monique Wittig, and Julia Kristeva, see New French Feminisms: An Anthology, eds. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivon (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  39. 53.
    For a relatively recent consideration of the relationship between gender and lyric in Modernism, see Rachel Blau Duplessis, “‘The Corpses of Poesy’: Some Modern Poets and Some Gender Ideologies of Lyric,” in Lynn Keller and Cristanne Miller, eds., Feminist Measures: Soundings in Poetry and Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  40. 54.
    For example, in the Loeb Classical Library edition, A. T. Murray begins the epic with mention of the bard: “Tell me, Muse, of the man of many devices, driven far astray after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy.” The Odyssey, trans. A. T. Murray, Loeb Classical Library (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 13.Google Scholar
  41. Similarly Richmond Lattimore gives the opening as “Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven/far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.” Richmond Lattimore, trans., The Odyssey of Homer (New York: Harper and Row, 1965, 1967), p. 27.Google Scholar

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© Steven G. Yao 2002

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  • Steven G. Yao

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