By Jean-Michel Rabate
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For this reason I have had to understand the NATURE of error. (SP, p. 137) 'To school', 'error' and 'light' are three terms I wish to underline because they delimit stages in an initiation which underwent the most blatant denial history could afford, while keeping both their order and value. The usually bleak dramatic irony of history took the shape of a complete reversal or peripeteia and plunged Pound in the midst of apocalypse instead ofletting light pour, and yet this turned out to be his major chance: the twist of fate which took the opposite direction of his utopia was allowing him the opportunity of writing for all men; one shudders to envisage what Pound might have become had the Axis forces mastered all Europe and America remained neutral.
P. 24) And the other elements which compose this complicated ideogram (the visit to Henry James, to Vanderpyl, the memory of a friend who committed suicide43 ) all suggest the essential emptiness and tawdriness of modern times; the basic situation of Prufrock has been reversed, for instead of hearing the women in the room who 'come and go, talking of Michelangelo', the poet only hears 'old dry dead talk, gassed out' in the 'petrefaction of air', while the lure of the mermaids in their cave keeps all its positive value: And all that day Nicea moved before me And the cold grey air troubled her not For all her naked beauty, bit not the tropic skin, And the long slender feet lit on the curb's marge And her moving height went before me, We alone having being.
13 I shall just give two provisory remarks to hint that it might be too simplistic to opt for unilateral orality. On the one hand, the example of Propertius has shown that all elements of textuality as written contribute to the management of 'blunders' and mistranslations. On the other hand, the undecidability of the process remains: as soon as it is accepted that certain errors may be intentional, no error can be corrected (and indeed the history of the successive corrections of the text shows that any decision to correct could bring about the risk of further mistakes 14 ).
Language, Sexuality and Ideology in Ezra Pound’s Cantos by Jean-Michel Rabate