Introduction
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xxiii  introduction Mark Jarman Since 1948, when it was founded, the Hudson Review has published nearly five hundred poems in translation from more than thirty languages. Two of the magazine’s founders, Frederick Morgan and William Arrowsmith, have themselves made significant contributions as translators from ancient and modern languages. Poetry in translation has been such an important feature of the Hudson Review in part because of the influence, direct and indirect, of the great modernist poet Ezra Pound. In the journal’s early days, Pound offered the Hudson Review a steady stream of editorial advice from his residence in St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. The magazine published major translations by Pound from Sophocles and from Confucius. Pound’s approach to translation was to turn the poets he translated into new creations and to break new ground for poetry in English. His translations recalled the languages and cultures of their origins, but as they were understood by Pound. His transformative practice of “making it new” is one of the two major traditions of translation found in the Hudson Review and in this anthology. The other, no less valuable but more self-effacing, seeks an appropriate form that preserves as much of the original as possible, including its literal meaning, while still making a good poem in English. The master of this tradition, Richard Wilbur, also published important translations in the Hudson Review, and many of the translations in the anthology reflect his approach. These two traditions derive from one that begins in the Renaissance and combines both Pound’s emphasis on transformation and Wilbur’s attention xxiv Introduction to the original form. When English poet Thomas Wyatt translated Italian poet Francesco Petrarch in the sixteenth century, he introduced the Italian sonnet to English literature while making poems we think of as purely Wyatt’s. In subsequent centuries, we can see how John Dryden turned Virgil into a writer of iambic-pentameter couplets and how Alexander Pope did the same with Homer, in both cases making the translated sound very much like the translator. Samuel Johnson transformed Juvenal into yet another maker of witty iambic-pentameter rhyming pairs. Because translation from classical languages was an elemental part of English education throughout the Renaissance , it is possible to imagine William Shakespeare in his grammar school in Stratford doing early miracles with Ovid and Catullus. We know for sure that Ben Jonson did so in London, because he disparaged Shakespeare’s grasp of classical languages and boasted of his own. Part of a poet’s training in craft was by turning a hand to translation. The more gifted the poet, the more valuable the translation and the more likely that the translation would be a new addition to the poetic art. In Pound’s version of this tradition, translation is meant to transform one literature into another. A good poem translated should become another good poem—one belonging as much to the translator as to the original author. A good poet is probably the best catalyst for this metamorphosis. Pound innovated in translation in ways that exacting scholars of the languages he translated have found troubling, not to say exasperating. One of Pound’s most ambitious experiments with translation is included in this anthology. It is his translation of Sophocles’s, or, as he has it, Sophokles’s, drama Women of Trachis . When the translation was first offered to the Hudson Review, the strongest editorial response to this extended work of Poundian chutzpah was from William Arrowsmith, who protested to Frederick Morgan, “I’m afraid this kind of thing challenges every good wish I have for the classics.” Arrowsmith also speculated that Pound was either mad or ignorant. But eminent translator and poet Robert Fitzgerald (represented here by translations from Sophocles ’s Oedipus Rex, Catullus, and Horace) responded more tolerantly, though not without a certain ironic humor by saying that it was “pure Pound, but Pound deep in the Greek and out the other side.” It is possible that the same could be said for any of Pound’s translations, deep in the Provençal, Chinese, Introduction xxv  French, Italian, Latin, Greek, yet always pure Pound. If you consider the stages of Pound’s career, through his fascination with romance languages, ancient Greek and Latin, and ultimately with Chinese, his translations charted the development of his poetry. In a sense, the Pound tradition of translation is a way of making new the Western tradition of translation. Dryden and Pope turned the Greek hexameters...