- Mr. Pound and His Poetry. To the Editor of The Athenaeum
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[ 149 Mr. Pound and His Poetry To the Editor of The Athenaeum The Athenaeum, 4671 (7 Nov 1919) 1163 Sir, – Mr. Pound’s letter of last week appears to me quite superfluous.1 It is perfectly obvious that he must have been indebted to someone, unless he is a Chinese scholar, which nobody supposes; I am perfectly willing to believe that his creditor is the late Mr. Fenollosa; but the gist of my criticism is that Mr. Pound is less indebted to previous translators – Giles and Legge – than subsequent translators are indebted to Mr. Pound.2 As for his suspicion that I did not enjoy his Propertius, I did not think the question of public interest: his non plebecula gaudet.3 I am, Sir, yours, etc., T. S. E. Notes 1. Commenting on TSE’s review (141) of Quia Pauper Amavi in a letter to the editor of the Athenaeum on 31 Oct 1919, Pound asserted the significance of his debt to Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908), whom TSE had not mentioned, reaffirming Fenollosa’s “profound insight into the Chinese written character as a poetic medium. This debt is so great that I would not have it lightly forgotten” (1132). He came into possession of Fenollosa’s research archive in Dec 1913 when Mary Fenollosa, in London after her husband’s death, asked Pound to edit and publish his work. 2. Sinologists Herbert Allen Giles, Cambridge Professor of Chinese and author of A History of Chinese Literature (1901), and James Legge (1815-97), Oxford chair of Chinese and translator of the seven-volume Chinese Classics (1861-72). TSE later wrote in the introduction to Pound’s Selected Poems (1928): “we think we are closer to the Chinese than when we read, for instance, Legge. I doubt this” (15). 3. Trans: The rabble do not delight in these things. TSE quotes from Ben Jonson’s modifi cation of a line from Horace’s Epistles (II.i.186), which originally read “his nam plebecula gaudet” [the rabble delight in these things]. Jonson appended the line as an epigraph to Catiline his Conspiracy, which TSE taught in his 1918 Extension course and which he addresses in the essays on Jonson he was finishing (150). TSE responds in kind to the untranslated and truncated Latin quotation from the Elegies of Propertius (III.i.19) with which Pound began his letter – “Mollia, Pegasides, date vestro serta” (Pound himself had loosely translated the line in Poetry, Mar 1919: “I ask a wreath which will not crush my head”). ...