Ezra Pound was the most influential translator of poetry in the twentieth century. He translated, sometimes with assistance, from Greek, Latin, Provençal, Italian, French, German, Old English, Chinese, and Japanese. The Translations of Ezra Pound (1953) contains most of his poetic translations; there are also two separate books of Chinese translations, The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius (or The Confucian Odes, 1954) and Confucius (1969), which gathers together in one volume Pound’s translations of two of the Four Books associated with Confucius, the Zhong yong (wr. c. 500 b.c.e.; The Doctrine of the Mean, 1861, titled The Unwobbling Pivot by Pound), and the Da xue (fifth-first century b.c.e.; The Great Learning, 1861, titled The Great Digest by Pound), as well as Confucius’s Lunyu (late sixth-early fifth century b.c.e.; The Analects, 1861).
Pound wrote a great deal of criticism. His music criticism has been collected in Ezra Pound and Music: The Complete Criticism (1977); the best of his art criticism is found in Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1916) and his miscellaneous pieces have been brought together in Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts (1980). More important than either of these was his literary criticism, which, though more the notes of a working poet than a systematic body of doctrine, influenced many of the important poets of the century. Literary Essays (1954) and ABC of Reading (1934) contain the best of Pound’s formal criticism, though the informal criticism found in The Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907-1941 (1950) is at least as interesting.
Pound’s translations and criticism have aroused controversy, but nothing in comparison with that aroused by his writings on social, political, and economic questions. These include ABC of Economics (1933), Jefferson and/or Mussolini (1935), Guide to Kulchur (1938), and Impact: Essays on Ignorance and the Decline of American Civilization (1960). Pound’s Selected Prose, 1909-1965 (1973) includes a generous sampling of his writing in this area.
It testifies to the diversity of Pound’s interests that even this account far from exhausts Pound’s work in other forms. He composed an opera, The Testament of François Villon (1926); one of his first books, The Spirit of Romance (1910), was an extended discussion of medieval literature; he translated Confucius into Italian as well as English; and his contributions to periodicals number in the thousands.