Friday 18 January 2013

E Powys Mathers

The scholar and poet Edward Powys Mathers (1892–1939) was also one of the early pioneers of the cryptic crossword. Between 1926 and 1939 he composed nearly 700 crosswords for The Observer newspaper in the UK, under the pseudonym Torquemada. Many of these crosswords were incredibly difficult - and even now when cryptic puzzles are much more commonplace, his puzzles are still considered as difficult. One of Mathers' innovations was a crossword format that didn't have any black squares. 

The image below is a copper engraving of E. Powys Mathers by the artist Hester Sainsbury

Powys Mathers was also keen on translating poetry - one of the most famous of his translations is his free verse translation of the poem Caurapâñcâśikâ by Kavi Bilhana an 11th-century Kashmiri poet. 

The Mathers translation was published as The Black Marigolds in Oxford by Blackwell in 1919. This translation runs to about 50 stanzas (HERE).  John Steinbeck quoted extensively from The Black Marigolds in his book Cannery Row.  

The Welsh poet Vernon Watkins thought that The Black Marigolds was the most beautiful love poetry he knew of.