Ezra Pound And The Art Of Translation English Literature Essay
" There is no end to the number of qualities which some people can associate with a given word or kind of word, and most of these vary with the individual."
According to modern perspectives, the third category, that of imitation, may legitimately include the relations between Pound and Propertius or even those between Joyce and Homer. And indeed, central to the manner and controversial liberties of the modern form of translation, is the achievement of Ezra Pound. The whole of Pound's writing may be seen as an act of translation, as the appropriation to an idiom radically his own of a fantastic range of languages, cultural legacies, historical echoes and stylistic models. "To consider Pound's original work and his translation separately, " Eliot wrote, "would be a mistake, a mistake which implies a greater mistake about the nature of translation". 15 Pound is to be considered,
the master jackdaw in the museum and scrap-heap of civilization, the courier between far places of the mind, the contriver of a chaotic patchwork of values which, on decisive occasion, and by some great gift or irascible love, fuse into a strange coherence. As A. Alvarez has said, Pound manages to write English verse as if Shakespeare had not written before him, a scandal and liberation made possible by his raids on Provençal and French, or Latin and Chinese [...] on Whitman and Heine. 16
Pound's wrestling with the nature of translation has altered the definition and ideals of verse translation in the 20th century as surely as his poetry has renewed and subverted modern English and American poetics. The "making new" of translation had already occured in Personae (1909) and Provença (1910); after "The River Merchant's Wife" (1915) the art of translation entered its modern phase epitomized in Cathay (1915), Noh, or Accomplishment (1916), Homage to Sextus Propertius (1917-1934), Women of Trachis (1956), and The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius (1954). To Pound the frontier between translation and original composition was fruitfully blurred and what he revolutionized was the idiom of translation, the notion of what a translation is and how, through cumulative self-correction, it can come ever nearer to the demands of the original. Pound's translations of Rihaku, Laforgue, Sophocles are re-enactments of the original poetic deed in the cadence, tonality and idiomatic stress of the modern. Kirkegaard's dictum "It is not worthwhile remembering that past which cannot become a present" is constantly voiced in Pound's translations, exemplary cases of the poet’s potential to exact from the original the utmost of felt relevance". If one can really penetrate the life of another age, one is penetrating the life of one's own [Pound] is much more modern, in my opinion, when he deals with Italy and Provençe, than when he deals with modern life. 17
According to Eliot, for Pound the past becomes thus a means for achieving a fresh point of view in the present. The modern sense of the past involves, on the one hand a sympathy for the past, a willingness to understand it in its own terms as different from the present and, on the other hand, it involves a critical awareness of and responsibility for his own modernity. In Pound's mimesis, Sextus Propertius and Guido Cavalcanti "become a present" so immediate to the ways the reader experiences language and objectifies emotion that the Latin or Provençal poem is inseparable from the grammar of modernity. Pound's experiments with translation added enormously to the authority of his tone and style. As mentioned before, from the start translation afforded him the chance to sink himself into the poetry of the past and of the other languages and societies. Responsive to tone and nuance, he could recover the sensibilities of others and find a voice for himself through them. His translations have the same basic virtue as his other poetry: intuitive grasp of the shape and emotional essence of his subject. Even if the reader does not know his originals or is not equipped to read them, Pound convinces him or her that he has recaptured this shape and essence, has glimpsed "the form in the air" and approximated it through the "sculpture of rhyme." An obvious instance is his famous rendering of the Anglo-Saxon "Seafarer". Here Pound cultivates a heavy, lurching, even clumsy, pounding of sound. He makes certain repetitions of consonants and phrasing that the original does not have, to stress the function of the alliteration as a major structural aspect of the old English poem's rhythm. The effect is "barbaric" and elemental, and its rhythmicity has often been compared to that of the galley rowers; at the same time it underscores the rigours of seafaring life. While Pound actually stays very close to a literal translation of the text, he makes it a modern poem with archaic overtones. A sailor today would not quite feel the same way as "the seafarer" does, though he would grasp the feeling readily enough.
Even more ambitious is his work with Chinese texts, notably with the Fenollosa manuscripts. Asked to put into poetic form the scholar's prose translations of Chinese poems in Japanese ideogram, Pound-– working with Fenollosa's notes and educating himself in the process–-accepted the challenge. Despite his initial ignorance of his materials and his mistakes, writes Hugh Gordon Porteus, Pound was able to grasp "the great virtue of the Chinese language" – namely, "the way in which its written characters contrive to suggest by their graphic gestures the very essence of what is to be conveyed". 18 The ideogram itself, a stylized picture or "graphic gesture" that has become the concrete manifestation of a sound and a concept, seemed to Pound the symbol par excellence of true communication, the kind that has not lost itself in abstraction. Because of it the poems of Cathay are by their very nature "imagistic".
In Cathay and elsewhere "adaptation" may be more appropriate than "translation". The latter term often conceals a literary unraveling of a text that destroys what it should reveal. If the original poet were alive today, writing in English and with modern experience behind him, how would he write this poem? This is the problem Pound sets himself in his translations-adaptations.
One of Pound's major adaptations is his Homage to Sextus Propertius (1917). His treatment of the subtle and difficult Roman poet of the first century B.C. is based on passages from the original elegies. He rearranges them freely, playing on sound and association from his own standpoint as well as from that of the original text. His aim was to make an original modern poem out of the light that Propertius' sensibility and his own seemed to cast on one another. The Homage, he wrote, "presents certain emotions as vital to me in 1917, faced with the infinite and ineffable imbecility of the British Empire as they were to Propertius some centuries earlier, when faced with the infinite and ineffable imbecility of the Roman Empire". 19 He thus identifies himself with the speaker in the poem, who is not only Propertius but inclusive of the spirit of the young man of the Augustan Age, "hating rhetoric and undeceived by imperial hogwash" and uses Propertius to also restate certain artistic principles in a larger context than before. It is clear not only from the Homage itself but from his other writings of the time that Pound viewed the classics as rekindlers of energy rather than as inert, soporific emblems of education. "You read Catullus", he observed,
to prevent yourself from being poisoned by the lies of the pundits; you read Propertius to purge yourself of the greasy sediments of lecture courses. The classics, "ancient and modern," are precisely the acids to gnaw through the thongs and bull-hides with which we are tied by our schoolmasters. They are almost the only antiseptics against the contagious imbecility of mankind. 20
With a vehemence which carried him beyond the metaphoric pole, as already discussed in chapter two, Pound came to regard all writing as a translation or transcription of encased, hidden meanings. Already his early, comparatively open poetry, represents an attempt to renew English through a return to ancient sources of hidden force. For him, the name, if closely pressed, would reveal a corresponding, previously perhaps unperceived, substantive presence. Thus the more opaque the word, the deeper, the more energized its charge of potential revelation. It can be therefore justifiably considered that Pound's "adaptation work" is a borderline case, placed halfway between translation, in the ‘definition’ sense and Dryden's ‘imitatio’ acceptance of the term ; in Pound's case,
the translator (if he now has not lost that name) assumes the liberty not only to vary from the words and sense, but to forsake them both as he sees occasion; and taking only some general hints from the original, to run division on the ground-work, as he pleases. A practice [...] that is the greatest wrong which can be done to the memory and reputation of the dead. 21
Inevitably, much of the modern concept of translation was made possible by Pound's enlargement of the term; he abandoned the specific genius of his nation and managed to successfully produce a newly transformed version of the original into his current idiom and frame of reference, which was surely to become one of his primary modes and ideals of his own interpretation art. This practice has been admirably retained in the grammar of modernity, in the extraordinary wealth and energy of verse translation, representation and imitation of all times and it includes,
[...] the writing of a poem in which a poem in another language (or in an earlier form of one's language) is the vitalizing, shaping presence; a poem which can be read and responded to independently but which is not ontologically complete, a previous poem being its occasion, begetter, and in the literal sense, raison d'ętre. 22
Being a constantly rewarding activity, seldom indicative of the pulse of culture, often supportive of a certain atmosphere and always of huge importance in the survival of his own way of thinking, translation also meant to Pound a revival of the author as re-generator of meaning , a resuscitated voice in the space of writing and of ‘ making new’.
3.3. A Critical Study of the Romanian Translations of Ezra Pound's Poetry
" It doesn't , in our contemporary world, so much matter where you begin the examination of a subject, so long as you keep on until you get round again to your starting-point.As it were, you start on a sphere, or a cube; you must keep on until you have seen it from all sides."
( Ezra Pound - A B C of Reading )
The significance of this comparative approach to verse translation tends to get lost unless the noble purpose these translations serve is taken into consideration. Whenever we consider the translations offered to us, we are inevitably to engage in an act of discrimination, ultimately leading to some conclusions. I believe that the critique is aesthetic, but the conclusion subjective; the process is sometimes only an act of instinctive discernment.
The relationship between the versions is however, not one of mere superiority. There is the translator's omniscient presence whose perceptions sharpen the reader's attention, a speaker whose voice dramatizes and makes possible the comparison. This is what makes a Pound poem sound excessively triangular and what makes difficult qualitative hierarchical distinctions. For all their polish, Pound's poems are unfinished; the parts are highly finished, but they require the reader to compose and complete them, the poem is static and may be blank until it is understood when it becomes dynamic and delivers its charge. There is always a tension in the translator's point of control between the parts initially palpable and ultimately meaningful which is distinctive and which makes a good translation differ from others. For, according to Steiner, "to trans/-late [is]: to carry over from what has been silent to what is vocal, from the distant to the near. But also to carry back". 23
Therefore, in the light of the critical considerations which Pound's verse in Romanian translation gives birth to, the emphasis will and must be on the primary question of how the poems work for the responsive reader through the agency of a few translators and less perhaps on the extent to which the original is finally retained in the proposed versions.
If a poem remains a poem simply because it is basically untranslatable, as Frost stated, Mircea Ivănescu, on the other hand, claims that poems are likely to resist translation, because, in the process, they come across convoluted language barriers.
Shelley’s ecstatic verse or Keats’ "melifluous" poetry seem to be impossible to transpose in a language, all the more so as this is so different from English as Romanian is. (Remarkable attempts have been made to translate Keats’ Odes: Petru Solomon for the former and the author of these considerations recalls Nichita Stănescu’s intention – who even provided a version from Edgar Poe –to translate the Odes). On the other hand, Shakespeare seems to be irremediably lost in translation, especially if a rigorous preservation of the original meter is intended. […] The momentary beauty of any versions, does not, however, render the ample and profound nuances of the original. 24
To Nina Cassian these language barriers, we infer, are optimistically surmountable, because the resourcefulness of the quest is copiously compensated by the act of enquiry which finally attaches a note of affirmation to this pursuit of knowledge; she considers that the cultural values belong to the entire mankind and that this "disadvantage of literature is that it requires a transposition of language. The purpose and the role of translation are thus retained both in the selection it operates and in the excellency of its performance". 25 However, to Ştefan Augustin Doinaş the problem of translatability into Romanian goes far deeper beyond the traditional criteria according to which a translation is good or bad inasmuch as it stays loyal or autonomous to the translated text. 26 He distinguishes translations that make literary language vibrate with the singular tonality of each translated poet, others that are little more than dictatorial approximations of the original and a last category include the translations resulting from the spiritual identification of the translator with the original text, which Doinaş sees best illustrated by Blaga's version of Goethe's Faust, the version of the "Romanian cultural horizon", as he sees it; Doinaş believes in the poet’s loyalty to the original, 27 and to its connotative poetic discourse, however, his practice of translation demonstrates that it is possible to cross the barriers of national speech and to equally offer new insights on poetry translation, by making communicative what is basically, or fatally?, incommunicative. As translation implies moving beyond the bounds of a given reading experience, after having consumed it, the actual challenge to this practice could not have come but from within, therefore the poet – translators that this section will discuss are credited with such illuminating reconstructive efforts in an attempt to be productive and to highlight the richly revealing potentialities of language. In view of these considerations, rewarding and noteworthy are the common denominators that Caraion's translations of Pound’s poetry into Romanian point to, rewarding for it had the merit of introducing Pound to the Romanian reading public and noteworthy for, despite its inconsistencies and flaws, this poetry is the epitome of a poet's concern to penetrate and identify the genius of the original. Between the 1910 volume, Personae, and the publication of Propertius in 1919, the largest groups of poems are, in order of appearance, the Provençal, Chinese, and classical imitations. Pound developed his early style and extended his range and his sense of self by copying the old masters. Overlapping with these translations and imitations from 12th century Provençe, 8th century China, and 1st century Rome, and developing out of the latter, is a large set of poems on modern life: epigrams and imagisms, parodies and sketches. There are also manifestos, such as "A Pact" and "Salutation"; a group of phantasmagoric poems, "The Seafarer" and "Near Perigord". The remainder is an assortment of small translations and pastiches, especially in earlier volumes. As they are read through, volume by volume, in the order of writing, a hardening of Pound's sense of society and of the artist's role in society is noticeable, especially in the modernization of his language in Lustra. When the early Pound is approached, one notices a set of variations upon the theme of the poet, singer, seer, or sage-–the friend of nature, of beauty, of wisdom, of refinement–-engaged in the study of beauty or society, or more frequently, of both. The emotions are those of exile – aesthetic, ironic, elegiac, or indignant. One speaks of emotions and attitudes, rather than of thought, ideas or "message" in discussing Pound's verse before Mauberley, where he first denounces usury and liars in public places.
Emotion, indeed, is the origin and the end of Pound's poetry, despite his concern for "direct treatment of the thing", objectivity technique, and despite his "surgery of rhetoric and gush". What he has to say is "the world is thus and thus", but what he ultimately communicates is always emotion and attitudes charged with emotion. This point is worth stressing, because it comes as an unpleasant surprise to find in Caraion's book Cantos and Other Poems (Cantos si alte poeme), right from the very first chronologically selected poems, colloquial phrases, awkward transpositions and, at times, disturbing language varieties such as:
"S-a zis pentru noi cu micile oftaturi,"
the equivalent of
"No more for us the little sighing"
"Ci fost-am un slăbănog de sfetnic grav
Eram vînos nu glumă
sau barem aşa se spunea."
"For I was a gaunt, grave councillor
I was quite strong – at least they said so."
In the poem "La fraisne" the tone is that of medieval ballads but, in the proposed versions, it appears to amount to little more than a conversation over a glass of wine:
"Cândva, pe când mi-eram printre tineri…
Şi se zicea că-s flăcău printre flăcăi,"
for the lines of high simplicity in,
"Once, when I was among the young men
And they sais I was quite strong, among the young men,"
"Imi place un taraf de vânturi care suflă
Aici printre frasini"-
"I like one little band of winds that blows
In the ash trees here"
In "Fanam librosque cano" we come across "măruntele mame" for "little mothers" and in "Serious business":
Nici biştari nici voinţa de a înşfăca buruiana
Lui Mamona (?!?)
Unul din ăia de care fug femeile
Că-i pute haina a tutun…"
"Cause he hath
No coin, no will to snatch the aftermath
Such a one as women draw away from
For the tobacco ashes scattered on his coat…"
It seems to me that Caraion while translating, was under the double constraint of both the exigency of the pioneering effort and the impossibility of evacuating authorial intention and correctness, as expressed in these less productive adjustments to the Romanian utterance. In a 1976 article, Ivănescu diagnoses Caraion's manner of translation and offers solutions, more appropriate in these critical instances, to the deadlock created by an excessive use of informal variants.
Certainly, what is important is not the identification of particular translation instances, which in fact are not translation errors ( the Romanian versions are generally close to the text), but rather the emphasis upon a few solutions to the text that seem to us to be distortions of the tone, sometimes leading to the mystification of both the poem and the poet’s voice. 28
Indeed, so distinct is the poetic tone of Ezra Pound in the poetry of this period, that neither Mircea Ivănescu nor any common-sensical reader can believe the poet was likely to have expressed himself as in:
"Tii, pui de căţea, Papiols hai! Haidem în horă!"
the proposed rendering for
"You whoreson dog, Papiols,come! Let’s to music!"
("Sestina Altaforte" )
"Şi-acum ai să ieşi din a lumii vîltoare
Din talmeş-balmeşul clevetirilor,"
"Now you will come out of a confusion of people,
Out of a turmoil of speech about you".
"Te-odihneşte, frăţîne, că iată! mijit-au zorii!"
"Rest brother, for lo! the dawn is without!"
( in "Ochii")
"Iată-mă-s, Vidal, smintilă între smintiţi,"
"Behold me, Vidal, that was fool of fools!"
(in "Piere Vidal la cărunteţe.") (?!?)
In point of Pound's poetic advance, there seems to be little distinction, as one is reading through Caraion's volume, between the poems prior to Mauberley and Homage to Sextus Propertius and those written after, including the Cantos, as indeed there should be; in addition to this, the proposed versions continue to abound in informal talk and poetic inversions where least expected, and, I tend to believe, that he does not do that for the apprehension of any specifically "primitive" effect but rather so as to jar the reader into attending to what is being said. In the same article, Mircea Ivănescu intimates similar concerns and, with the exigency of a skilled critic goes on to quote from "Villanelle, ora psihologică" (?!?) uninspired translation instances, such as :
"Prieteni? Sînt mai puţin prieteni oamenii
dacă tocmai a dat careva din ei în cale?"
supposedly the equivalent of
"Friends? Are people less friends
because one has just, at last, found them?"
and points out that in the case of Mauberley, the translator’s selection of poems, in general a very good one, seems to have been totally uninspired, simply because it was the poems from the first Mauberley cycle that should have been translated instead of the 1920 addition, which, for all its polish, remains inferior as poetry. He also points out that too rigorous a transposition of these poems will result in a dry, divagatory text, proposed in the key of a bookish philosophical discursiveness, far from "the miracle of the inner music and rime of the original". 29
The translation of the Cantos 30 continues to be, in the same key, inflated with archaic, often slangish overtones, which easily detected and forgiven (?), run too often to ambiguity instead of accuracy, to irritatingly familiar improvisations instead of sobriety, all this at the expense of poetic harmonies of sound and sense. The readers seem to be irritated into reconsidering the translated text, which, I believe, betrays the vision of too theoretically – minded a young scholar, prone to ascertain the imperatives of his critical awareness.
"Inima lui Cabestan e-n blid"
"It is Cabestan’s heart in the dish"
(In Canto IV)
"Şi Akers a cîştigat barosan..."
"And Akers made a large profit…"
(in Canto XXXVIII )
"Şi-n acel an Metevsky s-a uşchit în America del Sud..."
"And that year Metevsky went over to America del Sud..."
(in Canto XXXVIII )
"Şi Sigismundo strînse cîţiva solticari
Ce, cum, care, de ce, anafura şi grijania ???"
"And Sigismundo got up a few arches, […]
Why, what, which, thunder, damnation???"
(in Canto IX )
"Statele Unite au trecut printr-o epocă dată naibii de semeaţă
Ler, lerui ler
O, lăsaţi pe un bătrân să se odihnească".
"The States have passed thru a dam'd supercilious era
Oh, let an old man rest."
(in Canto LXXXIII )
It is not my intention to show that Caraion is an uninspired poet-translator; his versions are not so much translation errors in themselves, as I hope to have already suggested, rather they show, at a few points ,indications of a bad choice of poetic register. For all its clumsiness, but showing ample proof of his sustained interest in the bliss of poetic expression, his volume remains among the first attempts to give the Romanian reader glimpses of a poet whose poetic enterprise remains essentially explorative, if not authoritative for modern poetry. It seems then likely that, due to Pound's highly generous poetic offer on the one hand, and why not, perhaps to Caraion's too relevant "reading impurities", other outstanding verse-translators such as Mircea Ivănescu, a remarkable poet himself, Virgil Teodorescu, Petronela Negoşanu, Sorin Mărculescu, Ioan Dragomir, and Vasile Nicolescu soon followed; of all Mircea Ivănescu's translations from Pound, collected in an anthology of American verse, are unanimously considered to be the most inspired in the Romanian literary circuit.
As much as authentic writing keeps alive in our souls the awareness of the text conventions devised by an author situated on the margin of this text ( the awareness of Homer’s presence all throughout the unwritten half of the Ilyad, as author of the heroes and gods, as Radu Petrescu would put it ) so has a successful translation limited responsibilities and the loyalty to the target language is in a dialectical tension with the loyalty to the source language.The translator’s ability to remain faithful while unfaithful represents the self consciousness of good translation. Among its great masters is Mircea Ivănescu, by far the boldest interpreter of Anglo-American modernity in Romanian culture. 31
Unlike Caraion's, Ivănescu's translations approach a smaller, yet most emblematic range of poems (nine poems and six cantos); knowing that the emotional basis of Pound's poetic impulse is clearly evident in Personae (1908, 1909, 1910), Ivănescu chose "The House of Splendour" illustrative of the poet’s style, lucid in diction, melody and image. Starting from these ingredients he explores in his version a set of variations which engage some of his own deeper concerns and which allow the reader to sense Pound's idealistic and/or mystic feelings as poet and lover:
"Şi sînt acolo cămări multe, şi toate de aur,
Pereţii adînc împodobiţi, în emailuri,
Şi migălos lucraţi; iară prin piatra limpede,
Închipuind lungi unduiri, vine-o lumină bogat aurită." 32
by comparison, Caraion's version is stripped of any such suggestiveness and proposes a dry, intransitive text, under a very severe scrutiny and semantic judgement .
"Sînt multe-ncăperi şi toate de aur
Cu pereţii lucraţi adînc în email,
În metal forjat, şi prin roşiatica piatră
Anume cizelată, năvăleşte lumina aurie." 33
In 1928 Eliot wrote that, "there is a definite advance in Ripostes of 1912 beyond Personae of 1910", and Ivănescu confirms it again in the way he translated "Portrait d'une Femme". He knows that the true advance in Ripostes (1912) is in style and language and also in the great concentration of meaning and economy of rhythm. Hence, he senses it was Pound's intention to describe to the reader a lady who is more a collection of curiosities than a person, a lady who is the object of ambiguous feelings on the part of the iconoclasts who drink her tea, all this clothed in suggestive fragments of imagery:
"Minţi mari te-au cercetat – cînd le lipsea altcineva.
Întotdeauna ai fost a doua. E asta o tragedie?
Nu. Ai preferat asta obişnuitului:
Un bărbat bont, plicticos, casnic,
O minte de rînd – cîte un gînd mai puţin cu fiecare an care trece." 34
Caraion's version seems to mar the "salon" atmosphere and to miss the ironic detachment with which Pound portrays a woman, whose identity is defined by her trophies, in favour of a too mocking, dismissive presentation:
Te-au cercetat minţi luminate – în lipsa altcuiva –
"Mereu ai fost cea de-a doua. Tragic?
Da' de unde! Ai preferat-o lucrurilor obişnuite:
Unui bărbat tont, bont, însă nespus de statornic,
Cu-o minte de rînd, c-un gînd mai puţin în fiece an." 35
From Pound's most attractive single volume of poetry, Cathay (1915), which he produced from Fenollosa's glosses, Ivănescu chose the delicacy of "The River-Merchant's Wife", which he admirably transposes into Romanian, retaining to a large extent the value of emotion, the directness of language and the strong clear imagery of the original:
"Cînd ai plecat, îţi trăgeai încet paşii,
Acum, lîngă poartă a crescut muşchiul, straturi de muşchi,
Prea groase ca să le mai putem smulge.
Frunzele cad devreme în toamna aceasta, în vînt.
Fluturii împerecheaţi sînt galbeni în lumina de august
Peste iarbă în grădină, înspre apus;
Îmi fac rău. Îmbătrînesc." 36
The simple, intimate and direct apprehension of the world of nature becomes the discreet, yet powerful repository of human and spiritual feeling which stays only skin deep in Caraion's overtly "surprising", by all means, familiar selection of words:
"Ţi-ai tîrşîit picioarele cînd ai plecat.
Lîngă poartă, acum, a crescut muşchiul,
de felurite soiuri,
Prea-nţelenit ca să-l mai pot stîrpi!
Toamna aceasta frunzele pică de timpuriu,
bătute de vînt.
Fluturii perechi s-au şi ofilit în august
Peste iarba grădinii din soare-apune;
Mi-s rană. Îmbătrînesc." 37
There are certainly many other, perhaps more significant, samples of good, inspired translation in Ivănescu's anthology which stands out indeed as a serious achievement in the art of Romanian verse translation. Of cardinal value is also the poet's ability to render often obscure as well as unfamiliar passages (i.e., concentration of the Chinese and of the Greek languages, reference to mythology in The Cantos and elsewhere etc.), avoiding thus an otherwise excessively cryptic and laconic style of translation, by means of end notes and commentaries useful to the reader (as in Canto XXXIX, published in the magazine Argus, November, 1984, p. 7). Knowing that Pound's notorious allusiveness is probably the chief obstacle to his being more widely read, Ivănescu supplies all the missing information so that the reader, English speaker or not, can see and appreciate for himself the essence of this kind of poetry and can develop a capacity for aesthetic experience through first-hand academic reading-aid.
A poet-translator for the increasingly educated reader of Poundian poetry, Mircea Ivănescu, as Ştefan Stoenescu notices,
sometimes preferred to give back, unaltered and untouched, the syntagms of the original, picking up from the source language and transposing into the target language collocations and turns of a sentence , which , through their associative halo or precise regularity , that ‘ defamiliarization’ that arouses in the reader the feeling of textual ambivalence […], a text that coheres according to the rules of a natural language and which must therefore submit to the natural laws of this given language, moves in the direction imposed by the fiber orientation or by the granulation of the linguistic material.Yet, sometimes this text is whirling along, bringing up counter-currents and whirls, somehow resisting the environment in which it becomes actual.The movement of this whirl of waters, of this transparency, translucency or even opacity gives the translated text that consistence and vigour of the fiber that we meet in the directly and spontaneously elaborated texts – under no supervision or censure – in that given language. 38
Ivănescu has also translated a number of critical articles of Pound‘s; he thought that an attitude of passive respect before so large a Poetical Works would be uncongenial to the spirit of their author and of little service to his reader. Alongside Petre Solomon, who translated an article of Pound's on Brâncuşi, 39 Ada Savin (Petre Solomon's pen name?) who translated fragments from chapter IV of The ABC of Reading 40 and from Pavannes and Division, Andrei Brezianu who translated Pound's article from The Criterion on Brâncuşi and the preface to "Make It New", 41 Mircea Ivănescu translated fragments from Noh, or Accomplishment 42 and has written an impressive number of articles both on Pound and on translation in general (e.g., The Chronicle of Translations / Cronica traducerilor in The Twentieth Century / Secolul 20 from 1976 on).
Mention to and due appreciation must be made of Anatol E. Baconsky's translation activity, who was among the first poets to have entered Pound's name in an anthology of verse, entitled The Panorama of Contemporary Universal Poetry / Panorama poeziei universale contemporane, which came out in 1972, and to include an introduction to Pound's life and poetic career, followed by a small body of poems in translation ("Lauda Isoldei", "Aprilie", "Insula lacustră", "Mansardă", Cantos XLIV, LXXXI and "Tentonă"). If much of the quality of his translation rested at the time of its reception on the positive progression of both the translator's and the poet's spirit through what, he thought, was basic Pound, and on a wholly particularized emotional freedom and choice of words, today when we have come to have more than one version of the same poem, and better versions at that, such as Ivănescu's, Baconsky seems to lack in coherence, partly due to the poor selection of poems and, partly to what I would like to call a reading "disintegration" imposed on the reader. He translated a poem from the Personae collection ("Lauda Isoldei"), four from Lustra ("Tentonă", "Mansardă", "Aprilie", "Insula lacustră") and two Cantos, but the poems from the 1912 Ripostes volume, a definite advance in Pound's poetic record and from Cathay (1915), which deserves at least a corner of its own in such a general presentation as Baconsky's, are missing, to say nothing about the Cantos. The Fifth Decad contains in 45, 47 and 49 three of the most remarkable of the Cantos, together making the climax of the poem before the Pisan sequence and indicating a change of direction. No account of the Cantos would be complete without a pause at Canto 49, which indeed Baconsky is making, but before this major plus is reached, I believe at least two considerable stops would have enriched the reader's idea about the Cantos (especially from Cantos 1-17). It is this "curious" selection operated on a huge body of work that, I believe, fails to give the Romanian reader a fundamental account of so large a poetic output. Hence, this seemingly "disintegrative" burden of the reader who has a pressing sense that he may be missing the grand design. Though the patterns of value are at times admirably reasserted by Baconsky–the translator, enough for the poem to remain broadly intelligible, it is the quality, accessibility, and interest of the constituent items that vary sharply and shatter the reader's confidence in a plan. As for the translation as such, in "Tenzone" which is a challenge to a flyting, or, in the case of Bertran de Born, to actual fighting, Pound's less serious, mock-heroic poetic voice is missing, whereas in Canto 81, the simple comparison to Ivănescu's version is indicative of a too searched-for expression of emotion, let alone its unacknowledgeable lapidary tone. The Romanian translations of the following stanza testify to Ivănescu’s successful version:
Pull down thy vanity, it is not man
Made courage, or made order, or made grace,
Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
Learn of the green world what can be thy place
In scaled invention or true artistry,
Pull down thy vanity,
Paquin pull down !
The green casque has outdone your elegance.
Master thyself, then others shall thee beare. 43
"Smulge din tine vanitatea, n-a fost om
Cel ce-a creat curajul, ordinea, graţia.
Smulge din tine vanitatea, smulge-o, îţi spun,
Învaţă de la lumea verde care ţi-e locul
În scara invenţiei şi a abilităţii de artizan,
Smulge din tine vanitatea, Paquin smulge-o!
Casca verde a învins eleganţa ta.
Stăpîneşte-te şi alţii te vor răbda." 44
(translated by Baconsky)
compared to :
"Năruie-ţi vanitatea, nu omul e cel
Care-a scornit curajul, sau a făcut ordinea, sau a creat harul,
Năruie-ţi vanitatea îţi spun năruie-o.
Înapoi de la lumea înverzirii care să fie locul tău.
În treptata creaţie sau în adevărata mesteşugire,
Năruie-ţi vanitatea, Paquin, năruie-o!
Casca verde ţi-a sfărîmat graţia trupului.
Stăpîneşte-te singur şi alţii au să îndure." 45
(translated by Ivănescu)
Vasile Nicolescu, in the 1979 anthology of American verse, a continuation of the previous efforts to show Romanian readers a vaster, yet truer picture of modern American poetry, published six Poundian poems in Romanian translation ("O fată", "Într-o staţie de metro", "Va dăinui", "Portretul", "Alba", and "Despărtire") and distinguishes himself as a skillful translator of shorter poems. His particular manner of translation resides mainly in the poetic tone with which he tests all the posibilities of ecstatic experience, rapt, floating, sublime, free of specific reference and in the same breath, respectful of his original. As Mircea Ivănescu notices in a 1983 article,
Vasile Nicolescu’s interpretations of foreign poetry are, as their very name implies, modulations in the Romanian poet’s own musicalness, of some fragments very close indeed in tonality to the one specific to the interpreter. On no account can we speak about a betrayal of the original or an estrangement of the letter ( for instance, the fragment from Rilke ) – however, there is a kind of loving music in the Romanian verse that somehow tames the rough edges of the original. 46
Indeed, there is a specific Romanian hymnal purity which is instinctively poured into the original verse and augments the acuteness of the poet's feeling, sending the reader out into a new aesthetic dimension; I believe that this is partially missing in Caraion's version due to an excessive preparatory labour of clarification and coordination.
"Vii, ochii celei moarte din moarte îmi grăiesc.
Pîlpîie-n ei iubirea cu foc de nestemate
Şi-un dor pe care nimeni să-l stingă nu mai poate.
Vii, ochii celei moarte, din moarte îmi grăiesc." 47
"Ochii acestei duse doamne graiuri au,
Căci fost-a aici dragoste nu pentru a fi alungată,
Şi dorinţa a fost nu pentru-a o spulbera săruturile.
Ochii-acestei duse doamne graiuri au." 48
("Tabloul," in Caraion's translation)
Mircea Ivănescu, in the 1983 article, considers Vasile Nicolescu "a poet of delicate sounds", and comments upon his translation work, tracing down the non-deforming, specifically new taming vision in which the poet circumscribes and perceives the original: in discussing how Pound was not to be translated in a few selected versions, it seems to me that Ivănescu was (un)deliberately clarifying his own mode of resisting the rigidity of structures by (re)-creating the distance between perception and translation in language.
This is even more obvious in the versions from Ezra Pound. [ …], in which the verse has a music that Pound’s gloomy voice had rejected (although this poem was written in a period when Pound composed in a nice diction, so to say). Vasile Nicolescu rejects, temperamentally, the roughness, what might be termed the eloquence of the ugly and brutal in poetry. And rightly speaking,it is his privilege indeed, for he proposes interpretations, and hence he can include them in a volume of original poetry. 49
Sorin Mărculescu and Ioan Dragomir, in 1967, sporadically contributed to the cultural transmission of Pound to the Romanian reader, 50 but Virgil Teodorescu and Petronela Negoşanu, whose translations two years later were published in The Twentieth Century/Secolul 20 51 deserve special mention; in 1983, in Iaşi, their joint work was collected in volume-form, under the title Cantos, and was prefaced by Vasile Nicolescu. In 1969, the two had already published a number of twelve poems (eight and four, respectively) in the literary journal The Twentieth Century/ Secolul 20 and their coverage went as far as Pound's imagistic approach to poetry, that is "Copacul" and "Francesca" from Personae, "NY", "O fată" from Ripostes, and "Mansardă", "Ortus", "Aprilie", "Temperamente", "Alabastru", "Pact", "Causa", and "Într-o staţie de metro" from Lustra.
The first extended exercise of Pound's voice, Lustra, allows perhaps for greater freedom in translation than elsewhere, possibly because of the conversational, talking voice of the poet who needed to establish his personality, and this accounts for the great number of poems translated from this volume. The two translators seem to excel here in that they allow the poet's voice enough room and scope and so, "the form, grammar, principle and direction" of Lustra emerges in an informally, indirectly, and in an unprincipled fashion, wholly different from Caraion's abusive informality. In "Causa" and "Într-o staţie de metro" the Romanian reader is offered remarkable equivalents of both lyric emotion and epigrammatic economy as well as an eloquent example of Pound's aesthetics:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals, on a wet, black bough. 52
Aceste chipuri în mulţime par
Petale luminoase pe-un ram scăldat de ploaie. 53
("Într-o staţie de metro")
In the next volume, simply entitled Cantos, that came out in 1983, Teodorescu and Negoşanu felt they had already acquired a surer grasp of Pound's poetry and translated thirteen Cantos, three of which from A Draft of 16 Cantos, published by Pound in 1925, and the rest from The Pisan Cantos, 1948. Their proposed translations vascillate between sameness and contiguity, providing contextually oriented paraphrases modulated to the specific Romanian utterance, paraphrases which concentrate less on finding the words than on bringing the emotion into focus. Though they seem to share an almost equal and vigorous crystallization and maturity of verse with Ivănescu's versions (I'm thinking of "Venerandam", end of Canto I), they seem to differ in that the latter's areas of run-on emphasis and rhythm are governed and disciplined by a remarkably stronger poetic drive:
In the Cretan’s phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, orichalchi, with golden
Girdles and breast bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicida. So that : 54
"În spusele cretanului, şi cu coroana de aur, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortite est, rîzătoare, oricalcuri, cu aurie
Cingătoare şi panglici pe sîni, tu, cu pleoape întunecate
Purtînd ramura de aur a argicidei. Şi astfel:" 55
(translated by M. Ivănescu)
"Din spusele cretanului, cu coroana de aur, Afrodita
Cypri munimenta sortita est, veselă, oricalcuri, cu cingătoare
Şi panglici de aur pe piept, tu, cu pleoape vinete
Purtînd ramura daurită a Argicidei. Iată cum...." 56
(translated by Teodorescu and Negoşanu)
The translation of Pound's cantos is followed at the end of the volume by an "Accolade to the Cantos "/ "Acoladă la Cantos", in which the authors explain that the Cantos, among other things, are an encyclopaedia of what the readers ought to know about Pound and that the introduction of new information is part of their designs on them. Further on, the authors give an inventory list of references which help explain obscure patterns of thought to the reader (translations from Provençal, Chinese, Greek names, references, etc.) and which is, I think, of little use because it is incomplete on the one hand, and ill-positioned on the other. This avoidance of formal and regular explicitness of presentation makes a too severe demand on the reader's powers of decoding Poundian poetry, a shortcoming successfully resolved by Ivănescu, three years later.
The selective exploration of the main volumes of Pound's poetry in Romanian translation, though not chronological, is optimistically indicative of the reconsideration process which began sometime around the poet's death and has since continued to register a growing interest in Pound's poetry that goes under the various names of modernism, experimentalism, imagism and vorticism.
Ezra Pound's poetic output is very large. Between 1907 and 1920 he published several small volumes. During the war he began on "that great forty-year epic" which he had proposed to himself before 1908 and which was to occupy him to the end. The earlier verse is marked by a change from "romance" to a concern with contemporary manners which culminates in the two sequencess, Homage to Sextus Propertius and Mauberley. The Cantos themselves divide into the first thirty (chiefly about the Renaissance); The Cantos of the Thirties (Italian, American, and Chinese history); The Pisan Cantos, partly autobiographical; and the three last volumes, Rock-Drill, Thrones, and Drafts and Fragments. There are also translations and imitations, most of which are stations on the main line of progress, for example Cathay and Propertius, and The Cantos themselves contain translations. It is often remarked that Pound's poems are translations and his translations are original poems. But most of the later translations appeared outside The Cantos, notably The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius and his version of Sophocles' Women of Trachis. Such was the sequence of Ezra Pound's poetic output, revolving from "romance" to politics and back again to a splintered realization of "romance."
A single look at the chart of his poetic output from the viewpoint of what his readers have got so far, in terms of translations, is enough to see that huge areas and important ones, have unfortunately remained uncovered, to say nothing of his critical works which, to my knowledge, and except for a few articles that have been mentioned, are completely unknown (in the form of translations) to the non-English speaking reader.
A single approach to such a body of work cannot be entirely satisfactory. But I believe that Pound's true achievement and reception will benefit from any attempt to translate it, define it, and discriminate within it; and any such attempt may help make Pound's work more accessible to Romania’s famished tradition in need of "true artistry", of a larger world of ideas and objective reference and of a more profound self-dedication in her poets.