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Pound's Translations of Arnaut Daniel: A Variorum Edition with Commentary from Unpublished Letters.

Pound was mesmerized by the beauty of Arnaut Daniel's sound-movement, and devoted a good deal of energy to trying to bring it over into English. His sound-movement - phoneme-pattern and pacing - is rarely as delicate as Arnaut's, since he was hampered by the attempt to follow Arnaut's content; while his content (concatenation of image, colouring of diction) tends towards the brightly superficial, because he was constricted by the attempt to follow Arnaut's sound-movement. This does not mean that his experiment was a failure, for it showed exactly where the limits of translation lay in this direction; and his partial success showed the way for at least one masterpiece of modern poetry, Marianne Moore's |Bird-Witted'.

The present volume does not offer a description of Pound's lines of development as a translator of Arnaut, or of the nature of his successes; nor does it print the perceptive observations, published and so far unpublished, that Pound made from time to time about his labours. This is solely a textual edition of his versions, with the limitation that some of the best of these appear only as lists of variants.

A Provencal text, corresponding as closely, as possible to what Pound used, is given, so that Provencalists may compare it with Pound's results. Yet even Provengalists should have been offered footnotes in the case of readings like |non es eroia' and | gauzim': correct transcriptions, respectively, of the text Pound printed and of one his manuscripts at Yale, but none the less meaningless. Meanwhile, since no independent translations are given here, the non-Provengalist who wants to see what Pound has done with Arnaut's meaning will find it hard to get an idea of the general character of his work, and must depend on the editor to pick out the more notable divagations. We are told (p. 119) that Pound's |treason' is far from Arnaut's |trahug', but not that |surrender' in the same line is equally remote from what Arnaut intended by |renda'. Concerning the points picked out, there are unfortunate comments. On the same page we read |forked bough for "brancutz," "branches," is influenced by the word "entresims ...' . But |brancutz' does not mean |branches', and Pound's rendering of |bruoills brancutz', given his general aims, is in need of no such explanation. On the next page we are told that |flame for "par" ("equal") is typical 1890's imagery'. That note should have read, simply, |flame is typical 1890's imagery'. As it stands it seems to say that Pound missed the sense of |equal'; but he merely left it to the next line. Meanwhile the reader not familiar with the possibilities of Arnaut's Provencal will gain no light from the note (p. 119 again) saying that |loves for "ama" should be "amasses"', in view of the fact that the text given on p. 16 is |amas'; or perhaps from the note (p. 121) |welcome for "vencutz" should be "vanquished" because of the "g" in "vengutz"'. These, however, are problems not of editorial accuracy, but in the editor's use of English.

There is no proper diplomatic description of the sources for what is edited here; nor does the editor use the time-honoured device of sigla (even provisional ones) for the manuscript materials. The reader must therefore work out for himself the relation, if any, between the |Ms. scribble sheet' referred to on p. 91 and the |scratch sheet' listed for that song under |Repertory' [of materials] by individual poem' (p. 129); where the |unpublished fair copy' listed on p. 105 appears among the latter; and what, for instance, the editor means when she lists the sources for certain variants on p. 91 as |Ms. scribble sheet, ms. and typed copies with ms. corrections ..', and proceeds to mark a series of those variants merely as |ms.'.

Similar imprecisions at various points may slow the reader in deciding what exactly is being edited here; in arriving, for instance, at the conclusion that |[Chapter] 3. Copies intended for the New Age and Swift Edition, 1911' (sic contents page, but not p. 39) is sometimes the published New Age versions themselves and sometimes drafts. Yet here are further puzzles: for example, in the significant divergence between the head-citations for variants to |Chansson doil mot' on p. 91 and the text of that song in chapter iii, when both appear to be marked as the published New Age version. Some of the divagation in the head-citations is clearly, not misprint but has origins in other material. It is quite possible that I have failed to grasp the editor's signposting here. But the chapter iii text of this song contains two major misprints, and the list of unpublished variants on p. 91 at least one more; such a rate is typical of the book as a whole. It is hard at this point to know whether the reading |doth bring', among the head-citations on p. 91, is a further misprint, an accidental conflation with one of the manuscripts, or a sign that the whole series of head-citations here is from a Yale manuscript that I have not vet noticed. Clarity is a fundamental virtue in literary editing, and it seems to be lacking here.
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Author:Makin, Peter
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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