Alessandro Allori Odysseus questions the seer Tiresias




Annotations in the List of Works Cited:

Author’s last name, first name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher [if different from website name], Date of Publication in Day Month Year format, URL. [MLA 8 format].

Example: Preda, Roxana. “Companion to Canto IV.” The Cantos Project, 5 August 2016.

In–text references


OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound

(Contributor name, OCCEP IV:

Example: (Bressan, OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13). 

References to The Cantos

As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line number(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.7–17.

For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.

© Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto I, 30 March 2016.




 C  Carroll F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1980.
LE  Ezra Pound. Literary Essays.  New York: New Directions, 1968.
LSJ  The Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon Online.




Peter Liebregts (PL)

Kenneth Haines (KH)


  1. And – Pound added “and” to his translation of the part of Odyssey XI with which he begins his canto. Some of his reasons were detailed by Hugh Kenner:
    “What comes before “And”? In mankind’s past, before even Homer, a foretime; a foretime even before the dark rite of confronting shades which Pound thought older than the rest of the Odyssey, reclaimed by Homer as he reclaims Homer now. In the Odyssey, the ten books that precede. In Ezra Pound’s life, the time at Wyncote and Pennsylvania and Hamilton and Wabash, before he took ship for what was not meant as exile. And in the history of the poem, much precedent groping and brooding, out of which mostly unspecifiable darkness the poem as we know it emerges. In that darkness, aided by clues, we can locate a few of the standpoints Pound once occupied, as he pondered a chord that should comprise four of history’s beginnings: the earliest English (“Seafarer” rhythms and diction), the earliest Greek (the Nekuia), the beginnings of the 20th century Vortex, and the origins of the Vortex we call the Renaissance, when once before it had seemed pertinent to reaffirm Homer’s perpetual freshness” (The Pound Era 349).

  2. swart – OE. sweart, "dark." Pound modifies here the “swarthy” he had in Three Cantos III.

  3. Circe – Witch goddess living on the island of Aeaea. Homer tells us that Circe was a wonderful musician and Odysseus’s scouting group of sailors under Eurylochus’s command were attracted to her song and sought her house.  She received them well at first, giving them honey sweetened wine, but then, by a move of her magic wand, she turned them into pigs and shut them in a pigsty. Eurylochus, who had prudently stayed away, went back to the ship to give the news. Odysseus decided to save his men and go to see the witch himself. He could resist her magic with the help of a herb called molü that the god Hermes had given him on the way. Seeing that she had no power over him, Circe took Odysseus as a lover, restored his sailors back to human form and advised him to look for Tiresiass advice before returning home to Ithaca. She gave him detailed instructions on how to reach the underworld, fitted a ship, and gave him a black ram and ewe for sacrifice. Circe: Canto X.

  4. trim-coifed goddess – Divus’ “benecomata dea” – the goddess with beautiful hair. Attribute of Circe.

  5. Kimmerian lands - H. Kimmerioi (Κιμμεριοι), population of West Asia settled in the northeastern part of the Black Sea. 
    Cimmerian Migrations 
  6. Perimedes – Sailor in Odysseuss crew.

  7. Eurylochus – Odysseuss second in command.

  8. pitkin – little pit. Odysseus is following Circes instructions to the letter. She had told him that the pit should be a forearm square.

  9. Ithaca – Circe told Odysseus to promise the dead that when he arrives home in Ithaca, he would sacrifice his best heifer to them.

  10. Tiresias – Tiresias was a prophet from the city of Thebes. At the time Odysseus seeks him out, Tiresias is dead, yet he can still think as if he were alive, a privilege he had received from Persephone. This is evident from the fact that Tiresias does not need the blood to recognize Odysseus and talk to him (Warner 329). Odysseus had been advised by Circe to seek out Tiresias and to hear out his prophecy before going back to Ithaca. She also tells him about Tiresias’s powers and instructs him in questions of appropriate ritual (Odyssey X: 546-550). Pound will revisit the scene of Circe’s advice at the beginning of Canto XLVII: 
              Who even dead had his mind entire!
                          This sound came in the dark
                          First must thou go the road
                                                                             to hell
              And to the bower of Ceres daughter Proserpine,
              Through overhanging dark, to see Tiresias,
              Eyeless that was, a shade, that is in hell
              So full of knowledge that the beefy men know less than he,
              Ere thou come to thy roads end. (XLVII/ 1-9)

  11. Erebus – Gr. Ἐρέβους, a place of nether darkness forming a passage from earth to Hades (LSJ).

  12. dreory – OE. “Blood-dripping.” Pound modified the word from the initial “dreary” he had in Three Cantos III.

  13. Pluto – The Latin name of Hades, the Greek god of the underworld.

  14. Proserpine – The Latin name of the Greek goddess Persephone, wife of Hades and queen of the underworld. She is the daughter of Demeter, (Lat. Ceres), the goddess of vegetation and agriculture. Proserpine remains only half the year in the world of the dead; the other half she spends with her mother on earth.

  15. Elpenor – sailor in Odysseus’ crew, who, after sleeping off his drunkenness on Circe’s roof, takes a fall and breaks his neck while Odysseus was preparing the expedition to the underworld. Odysseus returns to Circe’s island to bury him. See also Od. X: 610-619. Elpenor. Odyssey X.

  16. Avernus – Gr. άορνος (without birds). Lake situated in a volcanic crater near Cumae, in the region of Campania. As it emitted poisonous fumes, it was thought to be the entrance to the underworld. Pound mentions the name here as an echo to Aeneas’ trip to the world of the dead in Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid. Divus’ translation only states “anima autem in infernum descendit” [the soul went down into the underworld].   
    “There was a deep stony cave, huge and gaping wide,/ sheltered by a dark lake and shadowy woods,/ over which nothing could extend its wings in safe flight,/ since such a breath flowed from those black jaws,/ and was carried to the over-arching sky, that the Greeks/ called it by the name Aornos, that is Avernus, or the Bird-less” (Virgil Aeneid VI: 237-42).

  17. Anticlea – Odysseuss mother, who had died in his absence. Though he is pained to see her among the dead, Odysseus keeps her from the blood which he reserved for Tiresias. In Homer’s text, the hero makes much of his remorse at having pushed his own mother from the blood that makes her remember and speak. After the prophet utters his warning, Odysseus lets Anticlea drink, so that she can tell him about his family at home in Ithaca. Pound cuts the Homeric passage very abruptly here.

  18. Holding his golden wand – translation of Divus’ “aureum sceptrum tenens.” Pound’s choice to translate “sceptrum” as wand, not scepter, echoes with Aphrodite’s golden bough, invoked at the end of the canto.

  19. A second time – Pound’s translation of Divus’ “cur iterum” (L. “why again”). On the way from Three Cantos III to Canto I, Pound chose to reformulate and emphasize the phrase by placing it first in the line, a reworking which suggests that this is a significant phrase he cared about. As Odysseus is going to descend into the underworld when he dies, his seeking the shades at the mouth of hell while still alive is the second time he confronts the gates of death, a remark that the Sybil of Cumae makes to Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid as well.             
    When Andreas Divus wrote “cur iterum,” he was translating the Greek of the normal Homeric textus receptus, which has “tipte aute” (τίπτ᾽ αὖτ ) in the corresponding position (Od.XI.93). The issue comes down to Divus translating Homer’s “tipte aute” as “cur iterum” rather than the more common “cur autem.” We could speculate that Divus used “iterum” and “autem” synonymously. From late antiquity on, “iterum” could be used with contrastive force like “autem,” whereas in Virgil “iterum” means “again, a second time.” However, even if Divus chose “iterum” to emphasize the meaning of repetition, that is already latent in Homer’s “aute” (which means both “again” and “on the other hand”). KH         
    This line is a good example of one of the great difficulties in translating Greek, namely, finding a solution for the manner in which Greek particles, which often in themselves have no definitive meaning, add colour to the sentence by indicating how nuance or perspective inform the way the sentence is spoken or written. Although the particle “aute” can thus variously come to mean “again” as well as “on the other hand, however,” here, in combination with “tipte,” (why), it indicates that the “why” is asked in a rather peevish way. Thus “aute” more or less functions as a cue for an actor were he to perform the part of Teiresias: “Why on earth!”, “Why for God's sake!”, etc. Divus, however, rendered this “aute” literally as iterum, “again.” The great crux of this passage, and indeed of Canto I, is that Pound made Odysseus descend into the underworld “a second time,” although the Greek hero has never been here before. It is possible that Pound used this particular phrase to cast himself into the part of a second Odysseus, descending into the world of the dead (the past) to gain information on how to find his way in the world of the living and present it in the form of an epic poem. PL  See C I: n.17 for alternative view. Divus odyseea

  20. Divus – Andreas Divus (the Divine) - Renaissance scholar from Capodistria. His translation of the Odyssey into Latin (1538) is a
    serviceable crib that follows the Homeric text line by line and printed in an octavo edition that can be slipped into a pocket (Kenner 350). Pound uses Divus’ text as the basis of his own translation of Odyssey XI in this canto and emphasizes Divus’s mediation by consistently referring to the names of gods and locations by their Latin denomination, such as he finds them in Divus’s text. Divus' Latin text.     

    “the classic culture of the Renaissance was grafted on to medieval culture, a process which is excellently illustrated by Andreas Divus Iustinopolitanus’s translation of the Odyssey into Latin. It is true that each century after the Renaissance has tried in its own way to come nearer the classic, but, if we are to understand that part of our civilization which is the art of verse, we must begin at the root, and that root is medieval. (TTSC in LE 101-102).

  21. In officina Wecheli – “In the workshop of Wechelus,” Divus’s printer in Paris (I: n.22). 
    “In the year of grace 1906, ’08, or ’10 I picked from the Paris quais a Latin version of the Odyssey by Andreas Divus Justinopolitanus (Parisiis, In officina Christiani Wecheli, M, D, XXXVIII), the volume containing also the Batrachomyomachia, by Aldus Manutius, and the “Hymni Deorum” rendered by Georgius Dartona Cretensis. I lost a Latin Iliad for the economy of four francs, these coins being at that time scarcer with me than they ever should be with any man of my tastes and abilities” (Ezra Pound. “Translators of Greek.” Instigations 334-5). Source.

  22. by Sirens … unto Circe – Odysseus fulfiled Elpenor’s request for burial and thus returned to Circe’s island. He passed by the Sirens not on the way to Circe, but after departing from it. Circe warned Odysseus about them and instructed him again on what to do to survive the danger. Through their song, the sirens were making sailors lose control of their ships and wreck them on the coast of their island. Odysseus ordered his crew to put wax in their ears and tie him to the mast so that while listening to their song, he would not be tempted to go to them. While the sailors were rowing by, the sirens sang of Troy. Pound would introduce their song at the start of canto VI: “What you have done, Odysseus/ We know what you have done…”
    Pound remembered the fate of the sailors in Canto XX:
      “Give! What were they given?
      “Poison and ear-wax, 
       and a salt grave by the bull-field (XX/94)

  23. Venerandam … sortita est – ML “Revered/beautiful, with a golden crown/who was granted the strongholds of Cyprus.” Beginning of Georgius Dartona Cretensis’s Latin translation of the second Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (no. VI). Pound’s appeal to Aphrodite, starting with “Venerandam” can be considered his classic invocation to the muse. Hymn to Aphrodite

  24. In the Cretan’s phrase – Georgius Dartona, translator of the Homeric Hymns bound in the same volume with Divus's version of the Odyssey. Pound preferred the simple and austere style of Divus’s translation to the “florid mellow phrase” of Dartonas. (Liebregts Neoplatonism 130.) See comparison at the end of Three Cantos III, where Dartona is quoted more extensively.

  25. Aphrodite – Aphrodite is the goddess of love, sex and beauty. It is the first time in the canto that Pound uses the original Greek name of the goddess and does not have recourse to Dartona’s “Venerem.” If in Three Cantos III, Pound calls her “Venus” and quotes lines from her hymn in Latin, as memorable passages from a book, here he refashions the lines, reimagining the goddess on his own terms and calling her by her original name.

  26. oricalchi – ML “of copper.”

  27. the golden bough of Argicida – Formula of address for Hermes. “Argicida” is the Latin translation of the epithet Ἀργειφόντης (“Argeiphontes” - slayer of Argus) which is always applied to him, whereas the golden bough is Hermes’ caduceus, or wand. PL.

    Hermes has an appearance in the other Hymn to Aphrodite (no. V), printed in the Divus volume. In this Hymn, Aphrodite relates how Hermes, “Slayer of Argus with his golden wand,” took her away from the carefree circle of Artemis and carried her over long distances to Anchises. Pound invokes the meeting between Aphrodite and Anchises in Canto XXIII.

    One of Hermes’s attributes is to be a guide of souls in the underworld. In invoking Aphrodite and giving her the attributes and insignia of Hermes, Pound suggests that she will be his oracle and companion in his travels among the dead. He does this by replacing the well-established term “golden wand” referring to Hermes’ caduceus by “golden bough,” a term from another context which reminds the reader of Aphrodite. In Book VI of the Aeneid, Virgil recounts Aeneas’s visit to the underworld which recapitulates a few elements of Odysseus’s tale: the arrival by sea, the sudden death of a companion, the seeking of the Sybil for prophecy, the ritual, and finally, the visit to the underworld in search of his father, Anchises, who will in his turn show him the future glory of Rome and its domination over Greece. Aeneas is Aphrodite’s son: she gives him decisive help, as Circe had helped Odysseus. In order to open the gates of Elysium, Aeneas needs a golden bough growing on a tree in the forest near Avernus. Aphrodite’s doves alight on the tree so that Aeneas can take the bough as a gift for Proserpine. Only after he puts the bough in the door of her palace, can Aeneas go to the Elysian fields where he finds Anchises. After they have their conversation and Anchises delivers his prophecy, Aeneas, his father, and the Sybil go to the Ivory Gate where Aeneas can leave the underworld and return to his companions.

  28. So that – preparation is over, the poet has introduced his hero, connected to his tradition and invoked his muse. It is time to begin. 




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