by Ezra Pound
Stanza 3 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
"A second time? why? man of ill star,
"Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
"Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
- Odysseus doesn't have time to give Elpenor an answer, though, because suddenly, someone named Anticlea comes at him. It turns out that Anticlea is Odysseus' dead mother, so you'd think he'd rather talk to her than Elpenor. But not so. He actually makes her go away ("beat her off") and finally runs into the man/woman he's looking for: Tiresias the blind prophet. Finally.
- Tiresias recognizes Odysseus and greets him with the question "A second time?" Odysseus, you see, has already gone down into the underworld once, and this is the second time Tiresias has seen him there.
- Tiresias is curious about why Odysseus is back in the underworld. He also calls Odysseus "man of ill star," since trouble seems to follow Odysseus wherever he goes. But after a moment, he seems to realize why Odysseus is there; so he tells Odysseus to step back from the blood-ditch ("fosse") and to leave Tiresias with his beverage ("bever"). This is probably the drink of wine Odysseus has brought as an offering in exchange for Tiresias' help.
- The phrase "for soothsay" basically means "in truth." Tiresias is what you'd call a soothsayer back in the old days, which is another way of saying "prophet" or "guy who tells (or predicts) truth." Just like Odysseus, we imagine you can't wait to hear what the dude has to say…
And I stepped back,
And he strong with the blood, said then: "Odysseus
"Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
"Lose all companions." And then Anticlea came.
Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outward and away
And unto Circe.
- So, now that it's time for a prophesy, Odysseus steps back to give Tiresias some room. (We guess that soothsayers need to spread out to do their thing.) All of the blood from the sheep Odysseus has sacrificed has made Tiresias strong. So the old man starts pronouncing what's going to happen.
- He says that Odysseus will have to return or go back the way he came over the sea ("Neptune" is the angry Roman god of the sea). And, during this trip, (gulp) he'll lose all of his friends—not just one or two. We're talking all of them.
- Before Odysseus can say anything back, his mom Anticlea shows up again. Come on, Mom. Trying to get some soothsaying done here.
- The line "Lie quiet Divus" isn't from Homer's Odyssey at all, but is actually the voice of Pound himself jumping into the poem and giving credit to a medieval translator named Andreas Divus. Divus published a Latin translation of Homer's Odyssey in 1538, a date you can find in the next line of Canto I.
- After that little interruption, line 70 takes us right back into Odysseus' story, and it just describes how Odysseus accepts the fate Tiresias has told him and sails back to Circe's island, passing the "Sirens" as he goes. The Sirens were a bunch of mythical creatures who hung out on some ocean rocks and sang so beautifully that sailors would steer their ships uncontrollably toward their music. Unfortunately, they were also steering straight into the rocks and sinking. Pretty clever, eh? (The Sirens we mean, not those duped sailors.)
In the Cretan's phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, orichalchi, with golden
Girdles and breast bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicida. So that:
- Pound decides to end Canto I by directly showing his respect for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The word "Venerandam" is the Latin root for "veneration," or the English word for deep respect. This is the "Cretan's" phrase because Pound here is borrowing from a Latin translation by an old writer named Georgius Dartona Cretensis, who was better known as "The Cretan."
- "Cypria munimenta sortita est" is Latin for the phrase, "The citadels of Cyprus were her appointed realm." This is probably a direct quote from an Ancient Greek love hymn, which Pound is bringing up here to suggest that a journey as long and brutal as Odysseus' can only be made out of love. Love is therefore the strongest and greatest human emotion. All together now: Awwww.
- The words "mirthful" and "orichalchi" also come from the love hymn, and mention how people brought gifts of copper and gold to Aphrodite to please her. The poem closes by talking directly to a "you" or "thou" who has dark eyelids. We're not clear on who this person is (it might be you, in fact). But whoever it is, this person is expected to bring a gift to Aphrodite as well, specifically a "golden bough."
- But why would we want to make an offering to the goddess of love? Well, according to "Canto I," we should make this offering so that… so that…
- Argh. Well, the poem just ends right there, leaving it to us to decide why we would want to make such an offering.