Tiresias 

 

 

"An Interpolation taken from The Third Canto of a Long Poem"
                                                                                                      (Future, April 1918)

 

 

 

 

I've strained my ear for -ensa, -ombra, and -ensa,

And cracked my wit on delicate canzoni,

Here's but rough meaning:

"And then went down to the ship, set keel to breakers,

Forth on the godly sea,

We set up mast and sail on the swart ship,

Sheep bore we aboard her, and our bodies also,

Heavy with weeping; and winds from sternward

Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,

Circe's this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.

Then sat we amidships - wind jamming the tiller -

Thus with stretched sail

we went over sea till day's end.

Sun to his slumber, shadows o'er all the ocean,

Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,

To the Kimmerian lands and peopled cities

Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever

With glitter of sun-rays,

Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven,

Swartest night stretched over wretched men there,

The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place

Aforesaid by Circe.

Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,

And drawing sword from my hip

I dug the ell-square pitkin,

Poured we libations unto each the dead,

First mead and then sweet

wine, water mixed with white flour,

Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's heads,

As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best

For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods.

Sheep, to Tiresias only; black and a bell sheep.

Dark blood flowed in the fosse,

Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead,

Of brides of youths, and of much-bearing old;

Virgins tender, souls stained with recent tears,

Many men mauled with bronze lance-heads,

Battle spoil, bearing yet dreary arms,

These many crowded about me,

With shouting, pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts.

Slaughtered the herds, sheep slain of bronze,

Poured ointment, cried to the gods,

To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine,

Unsheathed the narrow sword,

I sat to keep off the impetuous, impotent dead

Till I should hear Tiresias.

But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,

Unburied, cast on the wide earth,

Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,

Unwept, unwrapped in sepulchre, since toils urged other.

Pitiful spirit, and I cried in hurried speech:

"Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?

Cam'st thou a-foot, outstripping seamen?"

And he in heavy speech:

"Ill fate and abundant wine! I slept in Circe's ingle,

Going down the long ladder unguarded, I fell against the buttress,

Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.

But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,

Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-board, and inscribed:

'Aman of no fortune and with a name to come.'

And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows."

Came then another ghost, whom I beat off, Anticlea,

And then Tiresias, Theban,

Holding his golden wand, knew me and spoke first:

"Man of ill hour, why come a second time,

Leaving the sunlight, facing the sunless dead, and this joyless region?

Stand from the fosse, move back, leave me my bloody bever,

And I will speak you true speeches."

And I stepped back,

Sheathing the yellow sword. Dark blood he drank then,

And spoke: "Lustrous Odysseus

Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,

Lose all companions." Foretold me the ways and the signs.

Came then Anticlea, to whom I answered:

"Fate drives me on through these deeps. I sought Tiresias,"

Told her the news of Troy. And thrice her shadow

Faded in my embrace."

Lie quiet Divus. Then had he news of many faded women,

Tyro, Alcmena, Chloris,

Heard out their tales by that dark fosse, and sailed

By sirens and thence outward and away,

And unto Circe. Buried Elpenor's corpse.

Lie quiet Divus, plucked from a Paris stall

With a certain Cretan's "Hymni Deorum";

The thin clear Tuscan stuff

Gives away before the florid mellow phrase,

Take we the goddess, Venerandam

Auream coronam habentem, pulchram ....

Cypri munimenta sortita est, maritime,

Light on the foam, breathed on by Zephyrs

And air-tending Hours, mirthful, orichalci, with golden

Girdles and breast bands, thou with dark eyelids,

Bearing the golden bough of Argicida.

The above Passages from the Odyssey, done into an approximation of the metre of the Anglo-Saxon "Sea-farer."

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Pound, Ezra. "Passages from the Opening Address in a Long Poem." InEzra Pound's Poetry and Prose: Contributions to Periodicals. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. Vol. 2. New York: Garland, 1991. 246-47.

Pound, Ezra. Appendix A. The Future Cantos. In The Genesis of Ezra Pound's Cantos, by Ron Bush. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992. 306-309.