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This article is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

The Cantos of Ezra Pound William Cookson

This is not a work of fiction
                      nor yet of one man:
(Canto XCIX)

The publication of the new enlarged Faber edition of The Cantos, the greatest single poetic achievement of the twentieth century, should be a cause for celebration, but unfortunately the text is far from satisfactory. In 1975 Faber dropped their own collected edition and started taking the sheets of the inferior New Directions text; the latter did not incorporate revisions (mostly to 'A Draft of XXX Cantos') that Pound had made for Faber. Those revisions were improvements and it is to be regretted that Fabers' decision to continue using American sheets means that they have been forgotten. An obvious example occurs at the beginning of the poem: Canto I, line five, 'Heavy with weeping, so winds from sternward' (old Faber text) is more direct and effective than the current 'and winds...' ('and' already occurs three times in the first four lines). Also, many simple errors are repeated: Canto XXVII, page 129, 'oth fugol ouitbaer' meaninglessly misquotes the Old English poem, The Wanderer, whereas the original Faber text was correct: 'Sumne fugol othbaer' (one a bird bore off). I give these two instances to illustrate the lack of care Pound's publishers have shown in preparing this book. For those readers who are interested in going into detail, I provide an appendix listing a selection of variants between the two editions. I have not attempted to make it comprehensive.

Apart from textual errors, ...


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