Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Come Swiftly to Your Love: Love Poems of Ancient Egypt" Translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock

This very thin book of poetry shows us that even 3,000 years ago, men and women were going through the exact same issues when it came to love.

Ezra Pound gets the opening verses, a piece called "Conversations in Courtship." I don't know how much liberty was taken with the placement of this conversation, but it is comical that after a few obsessive statements about a man's love for a woman, the woman barely gets to respond before we have to hear from her disapproving mother- "the mere thought of him is revolting". The couple watch each other from far off, afraid to expose their infatuation to the public. This is a nice set of lyrics that captures perfectly the internal turmoil love can bring. Some of the situations are odd- the girl being possibly passed around by the boy's friends, and the praying to multiple gods and goddesses, but Pound's voice comes through.

"Love Lyrics" opens with a little more sensuality, also showing the extremes a man and a woman would go through to be with their soulmate. "More Love Lyrics" is more of the same, comparing being in love to being drunk without wine. "Pleasant Songs of the Sweetheart Who Meets You in the Fields" is a sad story of a young woman so in love, her field work suffers. She finally becomes the mistress of her man's house, first among his women, before he meets someone else. "Pleasant Songs" offers some nice fragments, while "Garden Songs" follows the courtship from the point of view of an actual garden, it seems. The problem is in the conjugation of some of the verbs, common with most of these poems. The ironically titled "Sweet Phrases" shows the downside of love. Drunkenness, infidelity, and seduction are touched upon in this angry set. "Haste" is simply two lovers trying to meet as soon as possible.

Only the opening conversation is credited to Pound, so I must assume the other verses were done by Stock. The accompanying artwork, by Tom di Grazia, is very good, and the introduction explains that while many of the poems are only found in fragments, they are presented here as complete.

"Come Swiftly to Your Love: Love Poems of Ancient Egypt" is a nice, short set that can easily be read in a few minutes. It shows the reader that anything they may be going through with their respective partner are issues that have been around for millennia. Ezra Pound and Noel Stock capture that very nicely. Recommended to poetry lovers, and lovers in general. (* * * *) out of five stars.