WHAT WAS EZRA POUND UP TO? What was Ezra Pound’s purpose in having Basil Bunting revise Shakespeare’s sonnet? Helen Vendler gives us Pound’s instructions to Bunting. He was supposed to correct inversions and remove all “superfluous” words. Vendler attributes this to “modern distaste for Elizabethan rhetoric” and “twentieth-century impatience with…apparent reduplication and elaboration”.

This wikipedia entry describes some of the goals of “Imagism”, Pound’s manifesto on how poetry should be written: “The aim was clarity: a fight against abstraction, romanticism, rhetoric, inversion of word order, and over-use of adjectives….To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation….Superfluous words, particularly adjectives, should be avoided….”

Interestingly, in simplifying Sonnet 30 and eliminating “superfluous words”, Pound’s disciple eliminates a major theme that Vendler’s commentary on sonnet 30 emphasizes. The speaker “begins by deliberately and habitually making [past] tears flow again.” (“And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste….”) The implications of the use of remembering past griefs is cut out in the revised “sonnet” (along with the sonnet form).

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