Ezra Pound: ‘My job was to bring a dead man to life’

Matthew Reynolds

in The Poetry of Translation

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199605712
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731617 | DOI:
Ezra Pound: ‘My job was to bring a dead man to life’

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Since at least the time of Dryden, a ‘dead’ translation has been a bad one. But during the nineteenth century, poets became interested in the expressive possibilities of a dead style: Browning is one example. Pound's recorded statements on translation generally assert the need to ‘present’ a ‘vivid personality’ or ‘bring a dead man to life’. But the idea that something from the past might become ‘present’ again is complex, and results in a poetry of translation which is as interested in deadness as in life. I trace this aspect of Pound's writing through his translations of Cavalcanti, Cathay and Homage to Sextus Propertius. The conflict owes something to wider modernist concerns; but it is fuelled by the activity of translation.

Keywords: dead; Dryden; Anne Dacier; Robert Browning; Ezra Pound; Cantos; Cavalcanti; Cathay; Homage to Sextus Propertius

Chapter.  13748 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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