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CONFERENCES 2017

grawemeyer rsz orrery pavilion 1
Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture after 1900

Ezra Pound International Conference 
U of Pennsylvania


 

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THE LOUISVILLE CONFERENCE ON LITERATURE AND CULTURE AFTER 1900

FEBRUARY 2017

 

Society Panel: The Cantos of Ezra Pound: Epic, Philosophy, Spirituality

The papers reunited in this panel propose to focus on Ezra Pound’s monumental poem The Cantos showing how in several instances the poet departs from the established ways of understanding the genre, philosophy, and spirituality of his poetic enterprise. The first paper sets the theoretical parameters by discussing how Pound’s poem deviates from the traditional varieties of the epic by proposing an anti-imperialist narrative. The second paper focuses on Pound’s use of the key philosophical term dao (way) in the Pisan Cantos as a “layered gesture,” suggesting alternatives from the Confucian credo he had adopted as his own life wisdom. The third paper concludes by reviewing key images of spirituality in the poem, showing the syncretism of Pound’s religious experience and its reliance on Asian sources.

 

Presumed Dimensions and Their Contribution to the Spiritual Character of Ezra Pound’s Asian Sources, Early Theories, and Later Cantos

Robert E. Kibler, Minot State University, North Dakota

There are a variety of images in Ezra Pound’s body of work that presume an unseen spiritual space or dimension of the sort to which Pound always inclined, and of which he found ready example in Ernest Fenollosa’s notebooks, particularly those concerning Chinese landscape painting and the Japanese Noh Theatre. These images suggest a spiritual dimension because they conform to both Pound and his Asian source’s understanding of how such a dimension behaves. In this presentation I will outline how they contextualize a spiritual act, where they appear in Fenollosa and Pound’s bodies of work, and the means by which they offer us a fresh approach to interpreting the Cantos.

 

“As the fish-tails said to Odysseus”: Ezra Pound and the Counter-Imperial Epic

Claudio Sansone, University of Chicago

Scholarship on the epic tends to implicitly assume that the epic canon is justified on aesthetic grounds. Challenging this problematic assumption permits a reading of the epic tradition that does not quietly condone the imperialist (if not outright imperial) agendas that have stood behind the redactions of Gilgamesh, the consolidated texts of Homer, and the assumption into the epic canon of Virgil, Dante, Camões and Milton. Acknowledging that the works enshrined in such a canon owe their popularity primarily to extra-literary ideological pressures, this paper poses the question of how Pound’s epic project might be read in relation to certain Fascist public aesthetics that might have retrospectively co-opted his work into their ideological programme. Although we must accept the moralizing force of his work, Pound’s views on the epic tradition (and on traditionality more broadly) do not in fact align with definitions of the epic useful to ideological appropriation. By looking at the formal scaffolding of Canto I, I will show how the Cantos cannot easily be co-opted into right-wing ideological systems, and that carefully making use of its notorious elitist ‘obscurity,’ Pound’s text opens up the possibility of defining the genre much more democratically. To examine this seeming contradiction in an author that we are correct to presume would have wanted to be enshrined in the canon or ‘culture’ that includes Homer and Dante, I will review the argument from the perspective of Pound’s violent critique of Odysseus, the canonical epic hero par excellence, and show that he proposes a radically different system of heroism later in the Cantos that helps us define, retrospectively and for the future, a sub-genre of counter-imperial epic writing.

 

Dao as the Process and the Way: Ezra Pound's Translation of in the Pisan Cantos.

Annelise Wasmoen, Washington University at St. Louis

As Ronald Bush has shown, Ezra Pound's Pisan Cantos originally opened not with the screed Pound later composed on the execution of Mussolini, but rather with the lines "The suave eyes, quiet, not scornful, / rain is also of the process. / What you depart from is not the way." The projects with which Pound occupied himself during his internment at the Disciplinary Training Center near Pisa in 1945—retranslations of Neo-Confucian classics interleaved with drafts of Cantos 74 to 84—all feature this interchange between two alternative translations of the Chinese term dao as either "the process" or "the way." I argue that this double translation of dao within the Pisan Cantos signals a vacillation between Confucian and Daoist perspectives, as Pound interpreted them, on the questions of engagement versus evasion, political investment versus self-preservation, and contemptuous denouncement versus contemplative withdrawal. Pound's study of foundational Confucian texts began in the early 1900s, followed by his exploration in the 1910s and 1920s of the Daoist and Buddhist writings contained in the Fenollosa papers. Later he would promote Confucian thought as a remedy to the political and economic diseases he diagnosed in the Western world ("Kung as medicine?"), coming to associate his "Confucian" credo with totalitarianism. Critical readings of the Pisan Cantos tend to absorb Pound's insistence on his "Confucianism" in a way that obscures the syncretic return of Pound's earlier fascination with the Daoist "way" in a counter-theme of ambivalence, negation, and disavowal.  The return to Daoist frames of mind emerges in a triple self-denial across as many languages:  ΟΥΤΙΣ, , no man. In Cantos 74 and 83, this strain of self-abnegation functions as a counterpoint to the dominant Confucian theme. While Pound's Confucian engagements provide a central context for the Pisan Cantos, my detailed examination of the translations Pound actually used, as well as those he produced, sheds light on the poet's layered gestures toward both schools of Chinese thought to suggest an alternate way not taken, but from which he also does not ultimately depart. 

 


 

 

Presumed Dimensions and Their Contribution

to the Spiritual Character of Ezra Pound’s Asian Sources,

Early Theories, and Later Cantos

______________________________

 Robert E. Kibler, Minot State University

 

 

There is a variety of images in Ezra Pound’s Cantos that presume a spiritual dimension within areas of the long poem to which Pound always inclined, and of which he found ready examples in Ernest Fenollosa’s notebooks, particularly those concerning Chinese landscape painting and the Japanese Noh Theatre. These images presume or suggest a spiritual dimension because they conform to both Pound and his Asian source’s understanding of how such a dimension behaves. Much like Hugh Kenner’s subject rhymes, these spiritualized images also accrue value through recurrence in the poem.

But how does a spiritually charged image act in a poem? According to Pound, it is animate, interactive, tangible, and clearly connected to a third, unseen dimension. Such images possess the “easy power of motion,” (Cavalcanti, xxi) he suggests in 1912, are ‘fluent’ and exist both in and out of form. They act as “moving energies…magnetisms that take form, that are seen, or that border the visible,” he writes in 1915 (SP, 376).  It is my assertion that their varied reappearances imply an unseen reality that is understood in some fashion as part of the images themselves, participating in the presentation of meaning.

Pound refers to such participatory images (Osiris, SP 25) in his 1913 article “Troubadors, Their Sorts and Conditions,” where he analyzes 12th century troubadour poetry generally, and that of Arnaut Daniel in particular. “No student of the period can doubt,” he writes, that the “involved forms and veiled meanings of the trobar clus [rhyme scheme] grew out of the living conditions” of Provence. (LE 94) Similarly, in Arnaut Daniel’s poem, “Sweet Cracks and Cries,” grown out of those same “living conditions,” as did the trobar clus, Pound translates Daniel’s poem of auzels, or birds, chirming in “their Latin” each to each, as do “you and I,” he writes, in our own Latin, “towards those girls on whom our thoughts attract.” (Make it New 76)

The natural relationship suggested by Daniel between cultures, lovers, birds, and words in this poem implies an unseen unity binding each to each, and this unity constitutes what must be understood as one element in a tripartite interaction occurring on location in 12th century Provence. That which remains unseen can be said to bind visible form to form, so that images and words, like lovers and birds, become the metaphors of a reality that must exist both in and out of form simultaneously--an idea that Pound was to have confirmed time and again by Fenollosa’s notebooks, in his possession from 1913 onwards (Qian 51).

Much has been made of Fenollosa’s theory of the Chinese written character in relation to the interaction between the seen and presumed unseen dimensions of reality. These characters, or ideograms, show a rooting of language in a “primitive strata of metaphor,” Fenollosa notes (CWC 22), and are thus able to “pass over from the seen to the unseen,” with ease. Pound’s ideogrammic method has its own roots in Fenollosa’s understanding of how the ideogram functions, and virtually all his poetic theories, from his moving image, whirling vortex, conflicting ideograms, his phano, melo and logo poeias, all trace at least partly to Fenollosa’s theory of the Chinese written character. At the same time, other Chinese material in Fenollosa’s notebooks, as well as that related to the Japanese Noh Theatre, model a somewhat less recognized but equally important understanding of how images imply the unseen dimension.

19th Century Japanese scholars translated the aesthetic theories of the 11th century Chinese landscape painter, Hsia Kuei, or Kakki, as he was known by Fenollosa–and Pound’s blue crayon marks are all over this part of Fenollosa’s notebooks. Discussing his approach to landscape painting, Kakki asserts that by observation and reference, “the artist will come to have before him the infinitely various mountains he has seen, stored away and amassed inside his bosom,” to be brought forth on demand, “without the eye…. spontaneously.” (Fenollosa “Landscape Poetry” 169). According to Kakki, then, the artist creates definite forms through a process that delivers a mountain or a waterfall which nowhere has its exact model in nature.

Presumably, through an act of cognition, Kakki scans remembered images in order to produce compounded ideal ones. In a sense, the idealized images are the tangible production of an unseen reality in process, brought to form, the result of the artist using what is observed in order to produce what is only subsequently imaginable. Yet each idealized image produced must at the same time serve as the sum of referential bits linked in the mind in such a way that the end-product exists fraught with unseen but tangible meaning, meaning embodied as an image that is itself clearly summoned by the artist into reality. It is many mountain bits stretched and distorted through time and space, each with reference to one another, kin to many but clone to none.

We see images the result of a like effort to Kakki’s in the Japanese Noh plays, which Pound translates from the Fenollosa notebooks in 1916–only within the Noh, given the content of the plays, these linked images carry a specifically spiritual value. As Pound notes in his preface to the translations, spiritual energy in the Noh plays is functionally embodied in what he terms a “unity of image.” Thus “the red maple leaves and snow flurry in Nishikigi,” the pines and lone owl cry in Takasago, and the “blue-grey waves and wave patterns in Suma Genji” accrue meaning unto themselves as images, and while this accrued meaning informs the environment in which any given leaf or pine occurs, meaning is built and largely held among those united images themselves (Noh 27). They move through or emerge in various locations within the plays, and perhaps share meaning within them, but their home, or place, so to speak, is elsewhere, amongst their own kind. The blue-grey waves, for example, occurring in the last stanza of the Suma Genji, linked to the Shite, or spirit of place in the play, are described by the Chorus as follows: 

     It was as he came down

     From the halls of Tao Thahu Zen,

     He, the soul of the place.

     He, who seemed but a woodman,

     He flashed with the honour of colours,

     He the true gleaning.

     Blue-grey is the garb they wear here,

     Blue grey he fluttered in Suma;

     His sleeves were like the grey sea-waves

     They moved with curious rustling,

     Like the bell of a country town,

     ‘neath nightfall.”  (Noh 236)

The Suma Genji chorus envisions the blue-grey garb of the people, the fluttering soul of the place, the blue-grey waves, and the bells in a far away town. Collectively, the seeming incongruence between these images set in different parts of time and space suggests a moving set of forms that nevertheless remain linked to one another through the blue-grey. Yet bells clanging in the gray of what must be the twilight of a town elsewhere have no obvious conceptual link to the blue-grey color of the garments worn by those who live at Suma. At the same time, there is everything between them, and the passage enacts an understanding of conceptual unity located in multiplicity, rippling through material form in just the same way as idealized mountains seem to be produced in the landscape paintings of Kakki.

            Pound clearly understands images as moving and accruing meaning in the same way as described by Kakki and as in evidence in the Noh. In 1912, he writes, “I imply the circle and its mode of birth. I am led from the consideration of particular circles formed by my ink-well and my table-rim, to the contemplation of the circle absolute, its law; the circle free in all space, unbounded, loosed from the accidents of time and place…. [such signs] are a door into eternity and into the boundless ether” (SP 362). And earlier in 1910, he writes, “in painting, the color is always finite. It may match the color of the infinite spheres, but it is in a way confined within the frame and its appearance is modified by the colors about it. The line is unbounded, [however], it marks the passage of a force, it continues beyond the frame” (Cavalcanti, xxi). Significantly, for either the circle absolute to be imagined, or the unbounded line to continue beyond the frame, Pound necessarily assumes a movement from observable forms to unobservable ones, forms seen and unseen linked to one another through a cognitive interaction with the observed forms that presumes a third unseen dimension of unity existing between them, much like the blue-grey at Suma both comes from and tends again towards the unbounded reality beyond the finite.

In 1937, discussing the Japanese hokku poetry he had been studying since 1908, (Hakutani 52), Pound offers an example of the same kind of interaction between seen and unseen dimensions in his discussion of the “swift contraposition of [bilateral] objects,” characteristic of the style. He writes:

     The foot-steps of the cat upon

     The snow:

     Plum blossoms. (SP 453)

Yet what seems the contraposition of two images in the haiku actually implies a third. The cat’s steps and the plum blossoms, Pound writes, “are so placed as to contain wide space and a stretch from the fruit to the shadow in the footprints. The third element is there, its dimension from the fruit to the shadow in the foot prints” (SP 453). Pound notes the same thing 22 years later, in Canto 93: the third element – “always there” (93/624).

           What is important to note about these examples from Pound and from Asia are the unseen ties presumably binding images each to each, the vitality implied through movement, and our ability to recognize that there must be a link between these recurring images and the unseen dimension for which they must partly speak. Moreover, the relationship between the seen and the unseen tends, if anything, to give more spiritual weight to what is seen over that unseen. We note the tangible circle before imagining the absolute one, for example; so too the paw print and plum blossom before inferring a certain tangible dimension between them. According to Yamazaki Masakazu, it is the same in the Noh, where the spiritual is drawn toward humanity for humanity, thus putting emphasis on the seen over the unseen (Masakazu xxxviii). In keeping with Masakazu’s idea, Pound could write in 1940 that the “religious man communes every time his teeth sink” into a crust of bread” (SP 70). He implicitly recognized that all things have value, and all are linked. But such a man communes in the same way that Kakki creates--through the blue-grey–so to speak–moving from the tangible toward that which is only subsequently imaginable and mysteriously linked.  Presumably, the unseen relation between the consumption of the bread, and let’s say, the man’s ability to walk down the lane, confirms and illustrates the role of the unseen dimension in a way that can almost be measured, just as the shadow between the paw print and the plum blossom can almost be seen. It is there, between the points of reference, the act of sinking teeth into bread and the subsequent walking down the lane. Images to images, actions to actions, bound together, each to each.

 Further, Kakki’s ideal mountains carry with them the accumulated freight of past mountains partly recognized and perpetuated. Pound’s unbounded circles and lines have their point of reference in like images seen and then unseen. The clanging bell in a distant town has meaning in relation to blue-grey waves, fluttering sleeves, and the garb of the people in Suma. The shadow shared by the cat’s paw and the plum blossom exists as the linking third dimension between them.  Meaning is shared and accumulated within the specific ongoing reality of tangible images compounded through seen and unseen means, spread out in linear fashion through time and space. As such, meaning remains primarily bound to the linked images themselves more than it is shared or expended in the cause of some other way of meaning or even within their value to a particular literary locale. They keep some portion of autonomy.

We do see such images operating in The Cantos. In Canto II, for example, one of the metamorphosis cantos, the story of Acoetes serves as the central morphing event. Yet in the nooks and crannies of the canto, other images appear to transform but retain an essential character. Picasso’s eyes appear in the eye sockets of a swimming seal, sporting about the “spray white circles of cliff wash.”  Swimming artist seal transforms into a swimming Neptune, swimming Neptune becomes a moving ship; sailors on the ship become swimming fish, and swimming fish transform into a swimming Daphne, a young girl who, for protection from a god, becomes a waterside reed—a thing invested in water like a swimmer, but not of the water itself. The elemental value of successive movement is thus highlighted through these images, movement as a tangible reality at work in art as in life. It is this movement from one image to successive kin image that suggests an intrinsic value beyond that given to any particular poetic environment in which the images are situated. Swimming Neptune, for example, has no obvious conceptual relationship to swimming seal, but as swimming things, they share an affinity that does not morph, suggesting something durable and continuous between images--and even if we do not quite know what it is, we recognize that like the shadow between cat paw and blossom, it is there. In the instance of all of these swimmers in Canto II, for example, myth, art, craft, and movement become compounded through what may be termed a centrifugal action drawing together multi-lateral images by the magnetism of some unseen dimension holding them in common.   

Likewise, in the Pisan Cantos of 1948, birds begin to come into prominence. There have been many of them already scattered throughout the previous cantos, all of which must have some meaningful point of inception in Pound’s early understanding of chirming auzels in Daniel’s poem, and are further informed by Janequin’s Song in Canto 75—“not of one bird but of many.” There are cacklers and yellow resting birds and escaping birds, “chested martin[s],” one of whom Pound begs to take a message to “La Cara” in canto 76 (76/459). And in cantos 78 and 79, we see birds arranging and rearranging themselves on wires:  “… 8 birds on a wire,” Pound writes, “or rather on 3 wires.” “4 birds on 3 wires, one bird on one….5 of em now on 2; on 3; 7 on 4” (79/485). There are bearded owls, larks, mocking birds as the cantos continue beyond Pisa, birds like singing swans and phoenix birds, crests of birds, and birds happy in their nature, all linked to one another, and through their kinship of recurrence, speaking with us. “Watch birds to understand how spiritual things move,” Pound writes in 1957 (SP 71) and repeats in Canto 90, following the 11th century Scotsman Richard of St. Victor, who asserted that contemplation of the visible carries the soul beyond itself to rapture (Catholic Encyclopedia). 

Perhaps what Richard of St. Victor notes about birds is key to understanding all such images in Pound’s long poem, for we watch them to understand how spiritual things move, communicate, from beyond their respective poetic environments, but also from beyond us. They are partly from the dimension of the UNSEEN OTHER—or whatever one wishes to call it–liminally both observable and mysterious, speaking to us from that part of our reality extending beyond our ability to fully understand it, thus compelling in us a kind of intellectual engagement with the Unseen Other that itself enriches and spiritualizes us as people. At the same time, recognizing that meaning accrues through mysteriously linked images inculcates in us a certain familiarity with the other, for we begin to see it as a phenomenon in evidence over long spans of the poem, and as operating according to durable patterns that through long scrutiny, we may be able to decipher.

It is conceivable that the many ideograms inhabiting the pages of the later cantos function as decipherable spiritualized images, speaking to us from what we know about them from past usage, while arranged as so many birds on wires, carrying intimations of meaning more than meets the eye into their respective cantos. Antoine Compagnon agrees that these later ideograms exist in their own right, as “self signifying ‘graphic marks,’” that do not especially reinforce the texts around them (Gefin, xx). Or water, everywhere, but rarely of signal importance, yet definable as a sort of divine essence tangibly understood just as much through the accrual of waters past as through any one poetic context, ideogrammic collision, whirling vortex, or set of representational images chained in series, as Marjorie Perloff suggests, to a flat modernist plane.

In contradistinction to the ideogrammic method then, such images as the swimmers, the birds, and the ideograms move within the Cantos, accruing meaning unto themselves progressively, each image loaded in a way that in part, leastways, reloads into others only subsequently understood through the unseen third dimension active in the poem. Birds, for example, offer varied gradations of a mostly positive essential nature, just as water collectively serves as a sort of ambient locus for action. As such, our compounded understanding of birds or water functions differently from Hugh Kenner’s subject rhymes, for example, because his subject rhymes vary in figure but not in shared traits, whereas these swimmers, birds and ideograms compound varied traits to associated figures (Kenner 92-3). The former help us recognize similarity in difference. The latter rather suggests the difference mysteriously embedded in similarity.

All of which suggests that the unknown comes to us as bits surfacing as images accruing value somewhat unto themselves, making a place, so to speak, with their own kind, however stretched out in the spiritualized time and space of Pound’s poem they may be, and however much they may offer in value to us through the doing so. Further, the random surfacing of such images in the poem, as well as their autonomous character, perhaps suggests that such images are really the antithesis of the keynote Odyssean wanderers of the Cantos. They are rather the homebodies, connecting all of reality into their own moment, while what appears to us as movement is just another surfacing of the kind implying that all along, in all ways, reality has been recognizably whole, speaking to us from a home world that we too inhabit, even if our understanding of it must be partly inferred by our spanning the gaps between linked images produced, shifted, or transformed, as best we can. 

 

_____________

WORKS CITED

 

Fenollosa, Ernest, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. San Francisco: City Lights Press, 1968. (CWC)

Fenollosa, Ernest. “Lecture VI: Landscape Poetry and Painting in Medieval China.” Beinecke Rare Books Room, Ezra Pound Papers, YCAL 43 Series V. Box 92/Folders 3402-93.

Gefin, Laszlo. “So-Shu and Picasso: Semiotic/Semantic Aspects of the Poundian Ideogram.” Papers on Language and Literature 28.2 (1992): 185-205. 201-202.

Hakutani, Yoshinobu. “Ezra Pound, Yone Noguchi, and Imagism.” Modern Philology. 90.1 (August 1992): 46-69.

Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. London: Faber, 1972.

Masakazu, Yamazaki and J. Rimer. On the Art of the No Drama. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984.

Perloff, Marjorie. The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage. Evanston: Northwestern UP., 1981.

Pound, Ezra and Ernest Fenollosa. The Classic Noh Theatre of Japan. New York: New Directions, 1959.

Pound, Ezra. Literary Essays. New York: New directions, 1968. (LE)

Pound, Ezra. Make It New: Essays by Ezra Pound. London: Faber and Faber, 1934.

Pound, Ezra. Selected Prose 1909-1965. New York: New Directions 1973. (SP)

Pound, Ezra. The Cantos of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1986.

Pound, Ezra. The Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti. Westport: Hyperion Press, 1983.

Pound, Ezra. The Spirit of Romance. New York: New Directions, 2005.

Qian, Zhaoming. Orientalism and Modernism. Durham: Duke UP., 1995.

Sharpe, Alfred. “Richard of St. Victor.The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol 13. New York: Robert Appleton Co., 1912. Web. Accessed 12 December 2008.

Terrell, Carroll F. A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.

Tryphonopolous, Demetres. “Ezra Pound’s Occult Education.” Journal of Modern Literature. XVII: 1 (Summer 1990). 

 

 


 

CONFERENCE
___________

 

 EZRA POUND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania, June 2017

 

 

 

EPIC poster

 

 

FOREWORD

by Mary de Rachewiltz

 

To keep it short, en deux mots: Beautiful poster of the Four Poets.

Marianne M. and WCW I visited in Brooklyn Rutherford, ALIVE. HD's tomb in Bethlehem thanks to Emily Wallace, idem "the Cat Head,” i.e. Homer Pound's mother in Philadelphia North Cemetary (her daughter married a Foot); Isabel's mother, Mary Weston in Hopkington cemetery. TCP's monumental grave in Chippewa  Falls.

Also the Rudge Grandfather and various tombs in Youngstown, Ohio. I visited them all. Ancestors from both sides not only buried but born in USA. The two O'Connell girls: Olga's mother sung in Brooklyn and N.Y. before leaving with her 3 children permanently for Europe; her aunt, Mrs. Harold Baynes O'Connell, naturalist and photographer died in Wyncote.

Homer and Isabel are buried in Italy. "Familial relics": books (Weston and Loomis) and paintings: the William Page portrait of Mary Parker and the Wadsworth "Coat of arms," the Hanna How embroidery and some silver spoons, "Americana" in the "grandfather trunk” that must have traveled across the Continent, treasured in Brunnenburg. Deep roots in America, a single, final "sprig" in Italy, with son and daughter and 4 grandsons.

It's a sense of decency plus age that prevents me from accepting the invitation to Philadelphia and in my head the hammering of EP's words: "Not necessary to move. Begin where you are. Pass on the tradition. Honesty of mind." And during the last ten years, his random notes: " The displaced/ must seek/ root space/ & the lucky grow/ where they are” (transcribed by O.R.)

I am deeply grateful to the friends who would have offered hospitality and transport to me and my family, and who have visited and participated in the 2015 EPIC.  I hope they'll understand and forgive.  The "inventor "of The Pound Era wrote The Elsewhere Community for the 2000 Millennium.

The parchment of Ezra Weston Pound - Magistri in Artibus is displayed in our "Pound Room" and I intended to bring it as an offering to the University of Pennsylvania Library, hoping that after a century, the time had come to bestow the honorary PHD denied in 1920 to Ezra Pound, Poet and Seer.

"There is no end of things in the heart"

The family joins me in sending greetings and all good wishes, MdeR.

 

Walter Baumann. Photo gallery of the conference.

 


 

 

Odds & Ends of A Companion to

Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur
______________

Anderson Araujo, University of British Columbia

 

 

Structurally modelled after Carroll Terrell’s indispensable Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound, my forthcoming Companion to Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur addresses the interpretive challenges that the poet’s most far-reaching prose tract presents to the average reader. Providing page-by-page glosses on key terms and passages in Guide, the Companion also situates Pound’s allusions and references in relation to other texts in his oeuvre, especially The Cantos. The Companion thus opens up new avenues for comparative criticism and interpretation. My talk will present a small sample of the findings showcased in the book, including a few passages excised by T. S. Eliot, who edited the book as Faber director. The unexpurgated Faber edition of 1938, selectively recovered in the Companion, allows us to experience Guide as Pound intended it—a no-holds-barred polemic. I will also briefly touch on the rationale behind the project’s transition from its original conception as an annotated edition to its present form as a standalone monograph. This talk would not be complete without looking at some salient issues, including the critically tricky task of selecting (and skipping) passages for commentary while avoiding overwhelming the reader with too much supplementary information. Finally, I will also draw attention to the potential benefits and implications of the Companion to the study and editing of Pound.

The paramount importance of Guide to Kulchur among Pound’s prose works is beyond doubt. Michael Coyle goes so far as to call it an “extension” of The Cantos (10), while William Chace sees as it a “prose complement” to the poem (74). The book mirrors The Cantos’ “encyclopedic range of allusion and reference” (Nadel 4). In its fifty-eight chapters and postscript, Guide encapsulates Pound’s chief concerns: his cultural, historiographic, philosophical, and epistemological theories; his aesthetics and poetics; and his economic and political thought. Guide constitutes an interdisciplinary and transhistorical cultural anthropology. Yet it displays some of the same intractable complexities that we find in Yeats’s A Vision, where Pound is said to have likened The Cantos to a Bach fugue: “No plot, no chronicle of events, no logic of discourse” (Yeats 4). As Catherine Paul aptly puts it, in Guide to Kulchur “Pound’s value judgments speak without archival evidence” (225-26).

The book was expressly written for those unable to afford a university education. As a leading text in Pound’s “Ezuversity” it was meant to be readily accessible, a portable alternative to the stodgy lecture halls of the academy. It ended up being anything but user-friendly. It is playfully subversive all the same. To begin with, the eccentric spelling and phonetic ambiguity of kulchur mount a sly yet forceful critique of mainstream culture, parodied by Pound’s disruptive, irreverent cognate. His revised sense of culture realigns and dismantles standard connotations of the term, leaving space to fill in what he calls the “fatal” gaps in history (GK, 31). Throughout the book, Pound seeks to recover “whole beams and ropes of real history [that have] been shelved, overclouded and buried” (30). Kulchur thus signifies a kind of archaeology of “real knowledge” (a recurring phrase in Guide), redressing what he considers to be a widespread crisis: the falsification and suppression of the past.

The Companion had to contend at the start not only with the mechanics of the project but also its justification. Guide to Kulchur hardly seems to warrant annotations, at least on the surface. Pound takes the reader by the hand into the wilds of his mind in 6 parts, 58 chapters, and roughly 75,000 words. But Pound is no Virgil—Guide conceals as much as it reveals. His staggering range of references and encyclopaedic scope may at times be virtually indecipherable to the lay reader. Each chapter can be seen as a cultural ideogram or, more precisely perhaps, a cryptogram to be decoded. To wit, a chapter titled “The Promised Land” surveys Chaucer, Dante, Henry VIII, Browning, Hardy, Gautier, and Swinburne, among others, while maligning Kipling to the point of libel, all crammed into 4 ½ pages. The book’s jazzy syncopation dazzles, but it is just as likely to leave the reader in a daze. As a guide proper, the book is a monumental failure. J. J. Wilhelm sees its failure in its trying “to do in prose what can better be done in poetry, which works far more with the imagination and with suggestion than with logical persuasion” (169). Be that as it may, Wilhelm misses the point.

Guide to Kulchur is a failure only insofar as Sigismondo Malatesta’s Tempio is a failure. As featured in Pound’s prefatory remarks, the Tempio ended up, like The Cantos, as an unfinished enterprise or, as Pound puts it in Guide, “a jumble and a junk shop.” In 1934, he would praise its “daring synthesis” in The Criterion (Pound, “Rev.” 496). For Pound, the Tempio typifies the kind of cultural bricolage that registers a crucial effort toward civilization building. Poundian kulchur, too, is constructed of materials retrieved ready-made from the midden heap of history. Malatesta’s “failure,” Pound reminds us, is “worth all the successes of his age” (GK 2). And just as the Tempio telegraphs for Pound a fundamental “all-roundness” in spite of itself, Guide likewise displays the fullness of his thought at its freest. The Companion provides commentary that helps the reader not to trip over the book’s “tattered formulations,” to borrow Michael O’Driscoll’s phrase (140), in order to share in Pound’s moments of discovery and revelation. Like Malatesta’s pastiche of architectural styles in the Tempio, Pound continued to append new material in subsequent editions up until as late as 1970, two years before his death. The date marks his last addendum to the New Directions photo-offset of the 1952 edition. The 1970 edition is the copy-text for the Companion, alongside the unexpurgated Faber edition of 1938 which Eliot emended for fears of libel suits even after copies of the book had already been bound. Donald Gallup leaves out the significant detail of Eliot’s role in the cancels. He also misses a few manuscript deletions or corrections by Eliot.

The Companion recovers these censored passages. More important, it provides commentary at key points to meet the needs of the specialist while keeping the critical apparatus unobtrusive so as also to appeal to university students and the general public. The book is organized as a page-by-page set of annotations, following the New Directions pagination. In this way, and unlike an annotated edition might, it complements, rather than competes with, the New Directions volume. This not only has kept costs considerably lower, it also has given me more freedom to produce much more comprehensive entries than would otherwise be viable in the marginalia of an annotated or critical edition. Finally, this format allows the Companion to be read side-by-side with Guide. The commentaries are cross-listed with the original text by means of corresponding page numbers and bolded keywords or phrases excerpted from the original text. The amount of detail and length of each gloss varies according to the complexity of the subject matter and the breadth of coverage already received in previous entries. Accordingly, whenever a reference, concept or figure is broached in Guide for the first time, it elicits more sustained attention in the Companion. The following annotation illustrates this approach. The title of the first chapter of Guide to Kulchur reads,

I.   DIGEST OF THE ANALECTS

          that is, of the Philosophic Conversations (GK 15)

The corresponding annotation in the Companion cites the page number and provides a lengthy explication. As the commentary demonstrates, the reader will gain a much fuller grasp of not only the meaning of Pound’s references, but also of their historical and contextual relevance in his thought and body of work.

The book also includes a four-part introduction, which covers, respectively:

1) the history of the book’s composition, publication, editing, reception, and the changes in later editions;

2) a critical analysis of Pound’s method, including an exploration of his iconoclastic kulchur;

3) Pound’s vision for the book;

4) an apologia for the Companion itself, making a case for why it is needed.

Among the findings showcased in the introduction is the fact that 230 sheet sets of the first Faber edition were destroyed in a bombing during the Second World War. I connect this event to the history of the erasures, revisions, and additions to the original text, all of which testify to Jerome McGann’s idea that

No book is one thing, it is many things, fashioned and refashioned repeatedly under different circumstances. Its meaning, as Wittgenstein would say, is in its use. And because all its uses are always invested in real circumstances, the many meanings of any book are socially and physically coded in and by the books themselves. They bear the evidence of the meanings they have helped to make. (“From Text to Work” 238-39)

The history of Guide to Kulchur itself illustrates the world history that Pound synthesizes.

The book also bears the scars of Eliot’s editorial knife, as shown in the Companion. Although no match for Pound’s radical editorial manoeuvers in the manuscript of The Waste Land, Eliot’s excisions still altered the published text considerably. In the chapter “Happy Days” the evidence of his intervention is a conspicuous blank space (GK 286). A paragraph on Hardy is split at the middle, marking the point where Eliot removed a scathing comment about Hardy’s “stinking old sisters.” He even cut out a token of praise to himself. The recovery of Eliot’s edits from the unexpurgated Guide reveals his fears of libel and brings Pound’s foes out into the open. In a three-pronged assault, for instance, Pound had originally berated the 17th-century French bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, along with journalists for The Times, as well as Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University. Ignoring the long-dead Bossuet, Eliot redacts the original “N. M. Butler” to “some University Presidents” and “The Times leader writers” to “numerous leader writers” (164-65). Pound’s later exposé of The Times, The Telegraph, and other mainstream print media controlled by powerful elites is softened to “any paper” (196). Eliot also shucks off “punks, pimps and cheap dudes,” epithets Pound marshals to caricature England’s ruling class (190). A few pages later, he emends Pound’s condemnation of the Church of England, letting “ally of mammon” stand but erasing a jab at a prominent figure in the British establishment: Cosmo Gordon Lang of Lambeth, Archbishop of Canterbury (195). In its place, Eliot has Pound ventriloquize his own dread of the “danger of libel.” Other onslaughts are simply deleted out of hand. Pound’s typescripts at the Beinecke reveal how he took pains to oversee every aspect of the book’s textual and visual production. The typescripts also contain a range of excerpts that even he thought too hot to handle and therefore redacted before submitting to Faber. A striking case in point is a Dantean diatribe against university presses: “Oxford (particularly vile) Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, U?P etc. all run by slughead baboons, all run by usurers hirelings ch hanno perduto il ben del intelletto.” Pound cribs the Italian from the beginning of Canto III of Dante’s Inferno, where Virgil tells the Florentine poet to expect to see those “who have lost the good of the intellect.” Guide to Kulchur’s cutting room floor is littered with off-colour fragments.

In Derridean terms, the intentional blank spaces left in the wake of Eliot’s editorial cuts are the spectral traces that signal his “haunting” of the text. More important, the spaces bear out the fact that the production of a text is virtually always collaborative. In recovering Eliot’s elisions, I subscribe to Donald Pizer’s argument for restoring censored versions of a text because it allows for a “radical deconstruction of a text” (16). Eliot’s purging of potentially libelous material shows his legal misgivings on Faber’s behalf, but it also uncovers his own biases and conservatism.

Given the timely relevance of Guide to Kulchur to the growing scholarly debate on the cultural politics of modernism, the proposed Companion will be of interest to scholars working in Twentieth-Century British and American literature, European Modernisms, Cultural History, Italian Studies, Textual Studies, and general readers interested in the history of ideas in interwar modernism. As I demonstrate in an essay forthcoming with the MLA Approaches to Teaching series, college instructors can enlist Guide to Kulchur as a productive tool to teach Pound’s poetry, especially The Cantos. I also argue that Guide itself can be taught as a nexus of all of Pound’s main concerns, including the range of avant-garde mavericks he covers in the book. My Companion thus aims to be quite useful for graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in modern literature courses. The widespread support and help for this project that I have received from fellow Pound scholars and specialists in other fields suggest that academic specialists could also make extensive use of the book. The staying power of the New Directions edition of Guide leads me to anticipate a fairly wide readership. My project looks to contribute to the growing volume in editorial and critical studies of Pound and modernism.

To lay claim to Pound’s own mission statement for Guide to Kulchur, the critical annotations in the Companion are primarily designed “to provide the average reader with a few tools for dealing with the heteroclite mass of undigested information” (GK 23). Pound has bitten off far more than most of us could ever chew. I do not pretend to have produced a foolproof companion piece, far from it. Guide to Kulchur itself is a book of voids and gaps, leaving much unsaid. Yet none other than Confucius endorsed this radical revision of historiography. In Canto 13, Pound invokes the philosopher, who recalls “A day when the historians left blanks in their writings, / I mean for things they didn’t know” (13/60). Like historian, like annotator. The Companion is no different. My intent is “to lure the reader,” as Pound puts it, mindful that “any hodge-podge of oddities that arouses hunger or thirst is pardonable to the critic” (GK 161). All one dares hope in the end is that the Companion’s shortcomings will stir further appetite for the original. However disjointed and, at times, unpalatable Pound’s digest of cultures and civilizations may appear, it remains an essential index of his omnivorous interests and of his quixotic belief in his own capacity to make the vortices of power and the vortices of kulchur coincide into an “era of brilliance” (266).

The illustrations that accompanied this talk may be accessed at my Prezi presentation.

 

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WORKS CITED

Chace, William. The Political Identities of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Redwoord City: Stanford UP, 1973.

Coyle, Michael. Ezra Pound, Popular Genres, and the Discourse of Culture. University Park: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1995.

Gallup, Donald. Bibliographic description of the unexpurgated copy of Guide to Kulchur, Faber 1938. Beinecke digital collections.

McGann, Jerome. “From Text to Work. Digital Tools and the Emergence of the Social Text.” The Book as Artefact. Text and Border. Eds. A.M. Hansen et al. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. 225-40.

Nadel, Ira, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.

O’Driscoll, Michael. “Guide to Kulchur.” The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia. Eds. Demetres Tryphonopoulos and Stephen Adams. Westport, CT.: Greenwood, 2005. 139-41.

Paul, Catherine. Fascist Directive. Ezra Pound and Italian Cultural Nationalism. Clemson: Clemson UP, 2016.

Pizer, Donald. The Editing of American Literature, 1890-1930: Essays and Reviews. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, 2012

Pound, Ezra. Guide to Kulchur. [1938]. New York: New Directions, 1952.

Pound, Ezra. Guide to Kulchur. London: Faber, 1938.

Pound, Ezra. The Cantos. New York: New Directions, 1998.

Pound, Ezra. Rev of Stones of Rimini, by Adrian Stokes. Criterion XIII.52 (April 1954): 496.

Wilhelm, J. J. The Tragic Years 1925-1972. University Park: The Pennsylvania State UP, 1994.

Yeats, William B. “A Packet for Ezra Pound.” In The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats. Vol. XIV. Eds. Margaret Mills Harper and Catherine E. Paul. New York: Scribner, 2015.



 

 

MIDDLE KINGDOM REVISITED:

ON SOUNDS AND STRUCTURE OF VERS-LIBRE IN CATHAY
_____________________

Chengru He, University of Alabama

  

When Cathay was published in 1915, Ezra Pound presented the West with a long scroll of painting with exquisite images and sounds. There are mountains and waters, there are personas, there are stories on and off the scroll, there are also sounds that speak for all the images and personas. As the scroll spreads, individual poems tell stories as if they are in natural order. In the original Cathay, Pound selects 14 poems from some 150 in the notebooks of Fenollosa. The selection itself presents a unified set of images of separation, exile, nostalgia, and lament, and has been discussed extensively by scholars. Pound’s rewriting represents his first venture into understanding Chinese culture (Davie 39). But this is not a silent scroll. It has breath and sounds, decomposed and recomposed by Pound, a remixer magician. Pound’s use of poetic form does not only greatly contribute to the completeness of the scroll Cathay. As the first vers-libre translations not derived from other translations but from detailed notes on the Chinese text (Kenner, “The Invention of China” 198), it is also a gift to modernity and poetics in the context of the English poetry tradition. Here I will explore the sounds and structure of vers-libre in Cathay, take a close look at the “white space” Pound leaves in lines and between words, and explain how these sounds and structures help build a kingdom that the ears hear first and lead the way for the heart.

 

SOUNDS, NAMES, MYSTIFICATION

Names breathe. When Chinese people give names, they listen and appreciate how individual characters sound when combined like a musical chord. We can see the similar attention Pound gives to the translation of Chinese poets. In Fenollosa’s notes, both the original sounds in Chinese and the Japanese Kanji names are provided. Pound chooses Rihaku over Li po, To-Em-Mei over Tao Yuanming, Kutsugen over Qu Yuan, Rihoku in “Lament of the Frontier Guard” over Li Mu. Pound’s choices follow the ear and the expectation of exotic, beautiful sounds that a waltz of syllables can achieve.  

Similarly, Pound chooses “Cathay,” the Anglicized version of “Catai” and an alternative name for China in English, as the book title. The word “Cathay” originates from the word “Khitan.” It mostly appeared in works of poetry and literature. For example, it occurred in the work of Byron and Tennyson (OED). Pronouncing the word Cathay requires a delicate touch between the teeth and the tongue. By giving a name that detaches at the first glance from its meaning in terms of geography, readers are introduced to a gate of history and culture, distance and mystery.

Both the names of the poets and the collection title alienate their immediate connections from their meanings. They invite readers to read aloud at heart: Rihaku, To-Em-Mei, Kutsugen, Rihoku, Cathay, and ponder the sounds. The sounds of the names create desire for the readers before they dive into the scroll and divert their attention to more images and sounds.

 

BREAKING LINES AND NEW BREATHS

Pound’s translation shows his understanding, imagination, and creativity. It is no surprise that he does not directly translate the form of the original Chinese poems or strictly follow Fenollosa’s notes, as the original Chinese poems have strict, regular structures, and Pound does not know Chinese well. What he grasps is the soul of the poems. The “soul” involves not only the images in the original poems and Fenollosa’s notes, but also the new sounds and structures Pound creates based on the notes, breathing into the English language the air of modernity, with more flexibility, naturalness and possibility. Wim-lim Yip (1969) comments that “it seems clear that in [Pound’s] dealings with Cathay, even when he is given only the barest details, he is able to get into the central concerns of the original author by what we may perhaps call a kind of clairvoyance.”

It is not the discovery or re-discovery of the vers-libre principle that arouses the attention of Western readers and scholars; rather, what encourages more meditation and debates is the journey through a text that is rewritten from Chinese, through Japanese Kanji, and finally to English – all while astonishingly adapting the vers-libre principle that is not used in the original text. The Cathay poems extend the tendency toward the gnomic and fragmentary that can be found in late nineteenth-century poetry.

The lines in Cathay poems do not break like those readers are used to in the tradition of English poems. They still rhyme, albeit in a different, and freer way. Yet when we look back into the original Chinese texts, the line lengths are regular and strict, as are those of many Chinese poems. Usually there is no enjambment. Pound keeps this lack of enjambment, just as he keeps most of the original lines as single lines. He does, however, bring in fresh contributions, that is, adding pauses and breaths in the form of “white space” in the lines and by not strictly following the lines in terms of architecture. Donald Davie and Hugh Kenner both talk about the vers-libre in Cathay. For Davie, “what is most immediately striking about these poems is the frequency with which a line of verse comprises one full sentence” (41). He then uses South-folk in Cold Country as an example, pointing out that “the poem establishes a convention by which the gauge of a poetic line is not the number of syllables or of stressed syllables or of metrical feet, but the fulfilment of the simple grammatical unit, the sentence.”

“Song of the Bowmen of Shu” is a typical example of four-character lines:

采薇

采薇采薇,薇亦作止。曰歸曰歸,歲 亦莫止。靡室靡家,玁狁之故;不遑 啟 居,玁狁之故。

采薇采薇,薇亦柔止。曰歸曰歸,心亦憂止。憂心烈烈,載饑載渴。我戍未定,靡使歸聘。

采薇采薇,薇亦剛止。曰歸曰歸,歲 亦陽止。王事靡盬,不遑 啟 處。憂心孔疚,我行不來。

彼爾維何?維常之華。彼路斯何?君子之車。戎車既駕,四牡業業。豈敢定居,一月三捷。

駕彼四牡,四牡騤騤。君子所依,小人所腓。四牡翼翼,象弭魚服。豈不日戒?玁狁孔棘。

昔我往矣,楊柳依依。今我來思,雨雪霏霏。行道遲遲,載渴載饑。我心傷悲,莫知我哀!

Most poems in Shijing, or the Book of Songs, are written in four-character meter, providing rich and balanced rhythms and rhymes. The density of the rhythms diminishes in Pound’s recreated poem. Here we meet an imaginative narrator who speaks, almost like singing, an adagio like a bard. “We” sings not only for one, but for all who are “picking the first fern-shoots.” “We” sings through questions and answers, through ballad-like lines. “What flower has come into blossom? / Whose chariot? The General’s. / Horses, his horses even, are tired. They were strong.” As he does not know Chinese well, Pound’s choice of free verse seems like not much of a choice at all, but it does bring more freedom into the lines. Now a line can sing itself as the breaths flow more naturally.

In other poems, casualness, looseness and freedom in individual lines is more than a mere breath.  Pound refashions a one-piece garment into a suit. The even number of lines that follow strict rules are gone, with added space between words and between lines as well. “The Beautiful Toilet” is a typical Gushi, or Ancient Poetry, a normal formal style with uniform line lengths of five or seven syllables. In this case, ten lines of five syllables. Each line is a sentence.

青青河畔草,郁郁园中柳。

盈盈楼上女,皎皎当窗牖。

娥娥红粉妆,  纤纤 出素手。

昔为倡家女,今为荡子妇

荡子行不归,  空床难独守。

In Pound’s version, the poem is divided into two stanzas, with the first one singing a loose and blue song. The pause is much like the white space in Chinese painting. Traditional Chinese paintings usually leave certain spaces blank instead of covering the whole paper or scroll. The “white space” is a core concept in traditional Chinese aesthetics. It is part of the art as it is intentionally designed. Here the pause between the fifth and sixth lines guides the reader from a scene of natural elements to the persona, with no abrupt introduction, connecting the scenes while giving them a moment of silence.

“White space” is also used in many lines. The transit from 青青 to “blue, blue…” in terms of literal meaning has been extensively discussed. It is a canny choice that breathes into the word a level of meaning richer than color. But it’s more than that. Pound puts a comma between the two “blues.” By adding this small “white space” between the words, even reduplicated words, he directs the line to a pause, encouraging readers to focus on the word “blue” before inhaling again. This repetition continues in the first stanza: “And within, the mistress, in the midmost of her youth / White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door. / Slender, she puts forth a slender hand.”

By abandoning the strict meter of the original Chinese poems yet generally retaining the way that a line of verse comprises a full sentence, creatively adapting the poems into an English vers libre, and bringing in “white space” between words and lines, Pound skilfully composes a scroll singing songs of nature, lament and exile.

 

REPETITION: KEPT AND INVENTED

Throughout Cathay, we see and hear repetition. Pound reinterprets the repeated characters in the original text and Fenollosa’s notes, occasionally unifying synonyms by recreating a repeated word and often creating repetitive structures that do not exist in the original texts.

 

Invented Repetition of Individual Words and Parallel Structures. In “The River-Merchant’s Wife: a Letter,” the original line “常存抱柱信” is recreated into “forever and forever, and forever.” Here, only 常 is close to the meaning “forever.” 存 means “have” or “hold,” 抱 means “hold (with both arms) or embrace,” 柱 means “pillar,” 信 means “faith.” The lines are based on a legendary tale: a woman has a date with her love by the river. She waited for him for a long time, but he still did not show up. Eventually she died holding the pillars of the bridge. In Pound’s translation, the compact five-character line dissolves, yet the core remains. Pound captures the heart of the line and increases the density by repeating “forever” three times. This change is unlikely to be recognized by general English readers. What readers know, or hear, is the repetition of the three-syllable word, “forever, and forever, and forever,” like the ending of an endless waltz. Again, although the nuance among the original Chinese characters is gone, the ears hear the central concern.

In another example, towards the end of “Poem by the Bridge at Ten-Shin,” "入 门 上高堂。列鼎 错 珍羞。 香 风 引 赵 舞。清管随 齐 讴  七十紫 鸳鸯  双双 戏 庭幽。 行 乐 争昼夜。自言度千秋。” Pound adopts five parallel-structured lines when recreating the section, “To high halls and curious food, / To the perfumed air and girls dancing, / To clear flutes and clear singing; To the dance of the seventy couples;/ To the mad chase through the gardens. / Night and day are given over to pleasure / And they think it will last a thousand autumns.” What can we make of this? We need to listen. The new freedom in the lines receives a summon, like having soldiers put a badge on the same shoulders for recognition. Ears follow the sound to the same direction with pleasure, to the “great banquets” readers can imagine. Although the new structure repeats itself in a certain pattern, it does not deprive the relaxing pace that the rest of the poem offers; rather, it encourages imagination and resonance.

 

Kept and Uniform Words.

胡关饶风沙,萧索竟终古。木落秋草黄,登高望戎虏

荒城空大漠,边邑无遗堵。白骨横千霜,嵯峨蔽榛莽。

借问谁凌虐,骄毒威武。赫怒我圣皇,劳师事鼙鼓。

阳和变杀气,发卒骚中土。三十六万人,哀哀泪如雨。

且悲就行役,安得营农圃。不见征戍儿,岂知关山苦。

李牧今不在,边人饲豺虎。

In the original text of “Lament of the Frontier Guard” (李白《古風十四胡關》), 哀哀,悲,苦 are synonyms, all of which express sadness. They literally mean sadness, grief, and bitterness. In Fenollosa’s (92) note, 哀哀 is “melancholy melancholy,” 悲 is “regret,” 苦 is “hardship.” Pound chooses to banish the nuances of these characters. We meet five “sorrows” in a row: “And sorrow, sorrow like rain. Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning.” And again, towards the end “Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate.” The  “sorrow” is not diluted; rather, it becomes denser. Before a second glance, “sorrow” is already haunting the ear. It allows no escape or cover from the heavy tone of the poem. Keeping readers’ attention on the journey of “sorrow,” Pound has a more personal touch in this piece by unifying multiple shades of blue into a deep and straightforward one.

 

CONCLUSION

Pound creates a Cathay that is both alluring and unattainable to western readers by creatively and successfully adapting structures and sounds from traditional Chinese poetry. It is not hard to understand that while images and motifs in poetry could be translated or rewritten in the most literal way, transplanting forms mechanically could lead to incompleteness or confusion. Pound creatively trims off these elements: while he respects the lines as complete units of meaning rather than break them, he adopts a vers libre structure, brings in “white space” between words and lines, and makes a choice on Japanese Kanji names of poets and people who appear in the poems. All these present a singing scroll with its own rhythms and breaths that is new to both classic Chinese and English poetry tradition, yet resonates with both of them in elegant ways.

 

____________

WORKS CITED

Davie, Donald. Studies in Ezra Pound. Manchester: Carcanet, 1991.

Ezra Pound Papers. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Pound, Ezra. Cathay. London: Elkin Matthews, 1915. Adam Matthew Digital. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

Wim-lim Yip. Ezra Pound’s Cathay. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969.