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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Wellman <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 13 Jul 1998 14:10:37 -0400
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Old English prosody seems to run in two directions, one working with
stress and alliteration; but one, esp. in the Biblical translations
having a perceptible feel for church latin patterns of sentence
structure -- an incantatory quality that depends on the relation of
clause to clause. It seems to me that in the last 20 lines of his
translation, E.P. is fighting against this current and cuts it off with
his last line which is really part of an elaborate series of "nor" and
"then" clauses all entertwined to what Bunting might have called a
Lindisfarne Gospel effect. Pound breaks this series at its mid point
with his last line and does not translate lines 98 b - 124 where the
church diction becomes heavier. His translation then reflects a
prejudice of his age which Ker shares, one that would disentangle the
artificial Latin influence from the "genuine" germanic impulse--
Although there are different hands in the Seafarer manuscript--it is
clearly Christian in its inception and motivation and seems to me to
echo church diction often -- as do large sections of Beowulf.
I think there may be effects of quantity in some passages: there is a
lovely passage about "the hand that unbinds the frozen streams" in
Beowulf--very much sounding like Ecclesiastes. I am not sure about
numerology though.
Anyone reading this far might be interested in my translation of The
Seafarer, which appears in Puckerbrush Review (1992) and Fields (Light &
Dust 1995). This working employs chance effects of a numerological order
that were unpredicted at first but sustained by composition.
Don Wellman