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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 3 Dec 1998 13:43:58 -0500
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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Tim Romano <[log in to unmask]>
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The syntax in Pound's translation, in strophe 5, the section that begins
with the words 'Look drawn from like...' and ends with 'on to the spike of
the targe' is very twisty, and Pound admits to having trouble understanding
the original. But as I read the translation, the pronoun 'her' refers, I
think, not to Love but back to the noun 'beauty'. Love, it is said, is
engendered by a look ('Love is created...from form seen doth he start').
This 'beauty so near' is a beauty who is being looked upon.
But I would not call this beauty as you do a 'pain inflicting she'; mortally
dangerous yes, because of the nature of Love, for if the man should mis-step
he will suffer from his own imperfection. Earlier in the poem this theme had
been introduced:
    Often his power meeteth with death in the end
    Be he withstayed
                                or from his true course
    E'en though he meet not with hate
                                                    or villeiny
    Save that perfection fails, be it but a little...
Your phrase 'pain inflicting she' implies 'hate or villeiny' which need not
be present for the lover to fail and 'meet with death in the end.' All that
is required for this fate to occur is that perfection fail, even just 'a
This theme is taken up again in strophe  5:
    So hath man craft from fear
                                            is such his desire
    To follow a noble spirit,
                                edge, that is, and point to the dart,
    Though from her face indiscernible;
    He, caught, falleth
                        plumb onto the spike of the targe.
The martial metaphor here, namely a man impaling himself on the spike of a
shield, is connected to an earlier statement in the poem;  Love takes up
residence in the memory like a 'mist of light / Upon a dusk that is come
from Mars'.  So emboldened by desire, the lover rushes headlong onto the
spike of the shield. (Pound draws attention to this impulsiveness in his
note on the Italian 'da Marte'.)  The would-be lover is therefore admonished
to follow the light of Love that emanates from him, rather than to look upon
love's form directly:
   Who well proceedeth, form not seeth,
                                    following his own emanation.
By Love's true light, the dangers of false (i.e. concupiscent) love are
avoided and the goal of true love (which Pound renders here as 'compassion')
is attained. Pound suggests in his essay that it might not be too
far-fetched to regard the Epicurean doctrine of the attraction of like to
like as informing this strophe; it certainly sheds light on his reworking of
this difficult passage into English.
Tim Romano
Ben Basan wrote:
> I've just started to read the Calvacanti Poems and have had some
> difficulty with the number of 'people' in the text.  I was wondering if
> some of this problem was caused by the gender of some of the words
> (i.e.love is simultaniously a pleasure giving 'he' and a pain inflicting
> 'she').