Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Gods Float in the Azure Air

Hugh Kenner (1923-2003), The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971; rpt. 1974), p. 143:
This passage from the third Canto ought to be a Latin Renaissance poem :
                                        Gods float in the azure air,
Bright gods and Tuscan, back before dew was shed.
Light; and the first light, before ever dew was fallen.
Panisks, and from the oak, dryas,
And from the apple, maelid,
Through all the wood, and the leaves are full of voices,
A-whisper, and the clouds bowe over the lake,
And there are gods upon them,
And in the water, the almond-white swimmers,
The silvery water glazes the upturned nipple,
                                   As Poggio has remarked.
The Panisks, little rural Pans, are from Cicero's De Natura Deorum, the dryas, oak-spirits, passim from the Greek heritage, the maelids from Ibycus, the gods upon the clouds from Poliziano; the lake is Garda, gazed on by Pound from his magical place, Sirmio; and Poggio Bracciolini, papal secretary, observed, A.D. 1451, bathers in a German pool. This is collage, another cubist strategy, and the absence of dew, twice stated, denotes the hazeless light that abolishes planes of distance. Myth, language, poetry, fact, lie disposed in a common reality, and Poggio's remark, cited as one cites in a work of scholarship, is literature and the validation of literature by a living eye, and the sharpening of that eye in turn by other literature: Roman erotic poetry, which taught the papal secretary to see. Its ultimate source is Catullus 54:18—nutricium [sic, read nutricum] tenus exstantes e gurgite cano. Poggio's phrase has not been located.
Cf. Eva Hesse in Carroll F. Terrell, A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound, Vol. I (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 9 (brackets in original):
Not Poggio's exact words but an image easily evoked by a scene he witnessed at the baths in Baden, Switzerland, in the spring of 1416 and recorded in the well-known letter to his friend Niccolò de'Niccoli. Pound's imitation of this letter appeared under the title "Aux étuves de Weisbaden, A.D. 1451" [sic] in the Little Review, July 1917 [rpt. in PD, 98-103], indicating perhaps that he had read the French translation of the original. The ML text runs [Opera Omnia, Basle, 1538], with the ligatures omitted: "Quotidie ter aut quater balnea intrant, maiorem in his diei partem agentes, partim cantando, partim potando, partim choreas exercendo. Psallunt & iam in aquis paululum subsidendo. In quo iocundissimum est videre puellas iam maturas viro, iam plenis nubilas annis, facie splendida ac liberali, in Dearum habitum ac formam psallentes, modicas vestes retrorsum trahunt desuper aquam fluitantes, ut alteram Venerem extimares." ["They (members of both sexes who are privileged by family connections or high favor) go to the pools three or four times daily, dividing their time among singing, drinking, dancing. Even in the water they play an instrument. There is nothing more delighful than to watch the young ladies, some just turning nubile and others in full bloom, with their beautiful faces, frank looks, shaped and draped like the goddess, playing an instrument while leaning back in the water with their shift, which they have pulled back slightly, floating behind them so that they look like a winged Venus."] Like all ML, the text contains various ambiguities. In particular, habitus can alternatively mean "status" or "bearing." Since Pound's figures, however, are not reclining in the water, he may have conflated Poggio's young ladies with the nude Nereids rising up out of the spindrift in Catullus LXIV, 18 [HK, Era, 143]: "viderunt ... mortales oculis nudato corpore Nymphas / nutricum tenus extantes e gurgite cano" [EH].
For extimares (thus in Poggio's Latin) perhaps read existimares.

Panisci (or the singular Paniscus) occurs not only in Cicero, De Natura Deorum (3.17.43, citing Carneades), but also in his De Divinatione (1.13.23 and 2.21.48, both also citing Carneades). Arthur Stanley Pease in his commentary on De Divinatione 1.13.23 cites other examples: Pliny, Natural History 35.144, Suetonius, Life of Tiberius 43, Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 4.61, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 8.2632 and 14.4098, to which add Apuleius, Metamorphoses 6.24. CIL 14.4098 is a 3rd century B.C. mirror from Praeneste, on which Paniscus is spelled Painsscos: see T.P. Wiseman, "The God of the Lupercal," Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995) 1-22 (at 5, with illustration).

The only examples of Πανίσκος in Liddell-Scott-Jones are Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17.43, and, in the Supplement, "Inscr. Délos 1416Ai51 (ii B.C.)," but Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 4.61 should also be cited. As a theophoric name Πανίσκος is common in Egypt. On Πανίσκος as the name of a god see Nancy E. Priest, "A List of Gods," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 27 (1977) 193-200 (at 196, 198).

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. panisk, gives examples as early as Ben Jonson, including one (an earlier version of Canto 3) from Pound's Lustra (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1917), p. 185: "Panisks / And oak-girls and the Maelids have all the wood."

As for maelid, see Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. μηλίς, -ίδος: "μηλέα, Ibyc.1; Dor. μᾱλίς Theoc. 8.79." They understand it therefore as simply a fruit tree, apple or quince. Oxford English Dictionary doesn't have an entry for maelid; Pound meant it as a type of nymph. He also uses the word in Canto 79:
Maelid and bassarid among lynxes,
        how many? There are more under the oak trees,
We are here waiting the sun-rise
      and the next sunrise
for three nights amid lynxes For three nights
      of the oak-wood
and the vines are thick in their branches
      no vine lacking flower,
no lynx lacking a flower rope
      no Maelid minus a wine jar
See also Pound's letter to John Quinn (July 4, 1917):
Maelids is correct. They (the nymphs of the apple-trees) are my one bit of personal property in greek mythology. The professed Hellenists have, I believe, let them alone. I scored with them on even the assiduous Aldington, who had translated the greek as "apple-trees".

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