had made. For instance, ‘canes’, meaning ‘you will sing’, is rendered by Pound as ‘dogs’ (which the Latin word can also mean). Classicists accustomed to correcting ignorant schoolboy ‘howlers’ could not imagine that Pound’s mistranslations were anything else. The idea that he might have done them on purpose for his own effects did not occur to them. Wilfred Rowland Childe, a minor Georgian poet, sneered that the work was ‘so full of egregious blunders that a fourth-form boy would be whipped for the least of them’. Readers of avantgarde English poetry, on the other hand, reacted cautiously. Most of them were unfamiliar with Propertius and could not quite see what Pound was up to. But the work has steadily gained supporters, some of whom consider it one of his best.
Pound replaced rhyme and metre with his own brand of muscular free verse, not unlike that used in his main original work, The Cantos. Here are a few lines (based on Poem iii.1):
Annalists will continue to record Roman reputations, Celebrities from the Trans-Caucasus will belaud Roman celebrities And expound the distentions of Empire, But for something to read in normal circumstances? For a few pages brought down from the forked hill unsullied? I ask a wreath which will not crush my head. And there is no hurry about it; I shall have, doubtless, a boom after my funeral, Seeing that long standing increases all things regardless of quality.
Pound’s metrics reinforced his reading of Propertius as an ironist rather than the Catullus-style romantic poet of passion he had long been seen as – a view I share.
I have started from the belief that, despite the efforts of Pound and a number of subsequent translators, Propertius undeservedly remains a relative unknown among poetry readers today. In recent decades, he has attracted the attention