Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2006
In Pound's oeuvre, it is often difficult to distinguish between what is translation or adaptation and what is original composition. For Pound there seems to be no fundamental distinction between the two. More than a mere preparation to stimulate his own creative faculties, translation served as an “adjunct to the Muses' diadem” (HSM) and assumed an importance seldom found in other modern poets. Pound's translations stimulated and strengthened his poetic innovations, which in turn guided and promoted his translations. Pound's poetics is essentially a poetics of translation and he has largely redefined the nature and ideal of poetic translation for the twentieth century. This essay will try to present a roughly chronological outline of Pound's major translations and to highlight some of the most salient features of his involvement with translation in relation to his fundamental concerns as a modern poet.
Pound embarked upon the career of poetry with the determination, as he recalled in 1913, that he would try to know what was counted as poetry anywhere by finding out what part of poetry "could not be lost by translation" and also whatever was unique to each language. He claimed that he began this comparative examination of European literature as early as 1901 (LE, 77), and in 1915 he again defined his Goethean conception of world literature as involving a criticism of excellence "based on world-poetry" (LE, 225).