wood s lot celebrates the 45th anniversary of Ezra Pound’s release from confinement (“A US Federal Court decides since Ezra Pound is incurably, permanently insane, he can no longer be held for treason & can be set free”) by posting one of my favorite Pound poems, “The Return” (“See, they return; ah, see the tentative/ Movements, and the slow feet…”); it’s at the top of today’s entry, just below the photo. Go, read it, and wonder at the perfect match of sound and sense, rhythm and riddle. Myself, I am going to post another of my favorites, “The Spring,” which is seasonally appropriate and does not seem to exist on the internet yet:
Ηρι μεν αι τε Κυδωνιαι—Ibycus
Cydonian spring with her attendant train,
Maelids and water-girls,
Stepping beneath a boisterous wind from Thrace,
Throughout this sylvan place
Spreads the bright tips,
And every vine-stock is
Clad in new brilliancies.
And wild desire
Falls like black lightning.
O bewildered heart,
Though every branch have back what last year lost,
She, who moved here amid the cyclamen,
Moves only now a clinging tenuous ghost.
The epigraph (êri men hai te kydôniai ‘in the spring the Cydonian’) is from a famous poem by the Greek poet Ibycus (6th c. BC), and Pound’s poem begins as a loose translation but soon veers off into its own region of anguished longing, “though every branch have back what last year lost” a perfect line in a tradition going back through Landor to the Greek Anthology.
A couple of details. “Maelid” is not a word, but Pound liked it enough to use it again in Canto III (“Panisks, and from the oak, dryas,/ And from the apple, maelid”); he obviously derived it from Ibycus’s unusual word for ‘apple-tree,’ mêlis (for normal Greek mêlea), which is used in the second line of this poem (“Cydonian apples” was the Greek term for quinces, and the word “quince,” originally the plural of earlier “qu(o)yn,” is derived, via Middle French and Latin, from Greek kydônios ‘Cydonian’). And Cydonian means ‘from Cydonia,’ Cydonia being the ancient name for a town on the northwest coast of Crete that is now called Khaniá, where I spent several idly delighted days fifteen years ago. So let us welcome spring with Pound and his Cydonian maelids.