Friday, June 15, 2012

Pound / Thoreau

Ezra Pound, 1885-1972

Continuity and dodge. Hugh Kenner, out of The Pound Era (1971), talking about the origins of Ernest Fenollosa’s Emerson-trained “eye”* for undoing etymological knots (according to Emerson, it “finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture”):
. . . Emersonian organicism had known Chinese affinities before Fenollosa. In his Journal for 7 October 1863, Emerson copied passages from a copy of the same Confucius (Legge’s, then newly printed) that Pound carried with him on the jeep into Pisa; and the Mailla Histoire Générale de la Chine that underlies nine consecutive Cantos was in the Boston Athenaeum, its presence bruited among the Transcendentalists; and the Confucian anecdote that opens Canto 13, with its talk of swimming in a pond and playing mandolins, exists on loose pages in the Harvard College Library, in a translation made, as was Pound’s, from Pauthier’s French version, in the handwriting of Henry Thoreau.
And . . . and . . . and. “Points define a periphery.” Thoreau and Pound, some three-quarters of a century apart, translating a single Confucian piece (out of Book Eleven of The Analects) out of a single French translation, that found in M. G. Pauthier’s 1841 Confucius et Mencius: Les Quatre Livres de Philosophie Morale et Politique de la Chine. Richard Sieburth, out of the indispensable notes provided for Pound’s New Selected Poems and Translations (2010), regarding Canto XIII: “First published in the Transatlantic Review (Paris), January 1924. Pound considered this to be the ‘announcement of the backbone moral of the Cantos.’” Sieburth calls lines 5-30 “largely a paraphrase of The Analects 11, XXV, 1-8.” Pound (opening lines of Canto XIII):
Kung walked
              by the dynastic temple
and into the cedar grove,
              and then out by the lower river,
And with him Khieu, Tchi
              and Tian the low speaking
And “we are unknown,” said Kung,
“You will take up charioteering?
              Then you will become known,
“Or perhaps I should take up charioteering, or archery?
“Or the practice of public speaking?”
And Tseu-lou said, “I would put the defences in order,”
And Khieu said, “If I were lord of a province
“I would put it in better order than this is.”
And Tchi said, “I would prefer a small mountain temple,
“With order in the observances,
              with a suitable performance of the ritual,”
And Tian said, with his hand on the strings of his lute
The low sounds continuing
              after his hand left the strings,
And the sound went up like smoke, under the leaves,
And he looked after the sound:
              “The old swimming hole,
“And the boys flopping off the planks,
“Or sitting in the underbrush playing mandolins.”
              And Kung smiled upon all of them equally.
And Thseng-sie desired to know:
              “Which had answered correctly?”
And Kung said, “They have all answered correctly,
“That is to say, each in his nature.”
Thoreau’s rendering:**
But suppose his digestion is sound, still we might ask, would this man, if he were at the head of affairs, do any better than those whom he condemns? We confess that we should not like to try the experiment. We lately read an anecdote of Confucius and his disciples which is to our purpose.
      “Tseu-lou, Thseng-sie, Yan-yeou, Kong-si-hoa, were seated by the side of the Philosopher.
      The Philosopher said: make no account of my age more than if I were only a day older than you.
      Living apart and isolated, then you say: we are not known. If any one knew you, then what would you do?
      Tseu-lou replied with a brisk but respectful air: Suppose a kingdom of a thousand war-chariots, hard-pressed between other great kingdoms, add even, by numerous armies, and that withal it suffers want and famine; let Yeou (T’seu-lou) be appointed to its administration, in less than three years I could accomplish that the people of this kingdom should recover a manly courage, and know their condition. The Philosopher smiled at these words.
      And you, Khieou, what are your thoughts?
      The disciple replied respectfully: Suppose a province of sixty of seventy li in extent, or even of fifty or sixty li, and that Khieou were appointed to its administration, in less than three years I could accomplish that the people should have sufficient. As to the rites and to music, I would entrust the teaching of them to a superior man.
      And you, Tchi, what are your thoughts?
      The disciple replied respectfully: I will not say that I can do these things; I desire to study. When the ceremonies of the temple of ancestors are performed, and great public assemblies take place, clothed in my robe of azure and other vestments proper for such a place and such ceremonies, I could wish to take part in them in the quality of a humble functionary.
      And you, Tian, what are your thoughts?
      The disciple did nothing but draw some rare sounds from his guitar; but these sounds prolonging themselves, he laid it aside, and rising, replied respectfully: My opinion differs entirely from those of my three fellow disciples—The Philosopher said: What prevents you from expressing it? Here each one can speak his thought.—The disciple said: spring being no more, my robe of spring laid aside, but covered with the bonnet of manhood, accompanied by five or six men, and six or seven young people, I should love to go and bathe in the waters of the Y—, and go and take the fresh air in those woody places where they offer sacrifices to heaven to obtain rain, to modulate some airs, and then return to my abode.
      The Philosopher applauding these words by a sign of satisfaction, said: I am of Tian’s mind.
      The three disciples departed, but Thseng-sie remained yet some time. Thseng-sie said: What ought one to think of the words of these three disciples? The Philosopher said: Each one of them has expressed his opinion; that is all.”
      The narrator proceeds to tell why the Philosopher smiled; but that is obvious enough.
      For the most part, when we listen to the conversation of the Reformers, we too [are] of Tian’s mind.
Providing, surely, a measure of Pound’s “eye” for the apt and telling “gist,” the ability to shrug off extraneous verbiage.*** In Pound’s Confucius (1951), containing, too, Ta Hsio: The Great Digest and Chung Yung: The Unwobbling Pivot, he worked up another version of the lines (the translation of The Analects first appeared in a 1950 number of the Hudson Review):
      1.   Tze-Lu, Tsang Hsi, Zan Yu, and Kung-hsi Hwa were sitting with him.
      2.   He said: I am a day older than you, but pay no attention to that.
      3. You sit round saying: We are unknown, if somebody should recognize you, what would you do [L. like to do]?
      4.   Tze-Lu replied straight off the bat: “Thousand chariots’ state. Shut in between large states, and armies of invasion, grain and provision famine, I could give the people courage if I had three years’ run, and teach ’em the rules, put ’em on the square.” The big man smiled (or grinned).
      5.   “Ch’iu, how about you?”
      Replied: “Give me the job of a sixty, seventy or fifty li square district. I could give ’em abundant crops in three years. It would need a superior man to teach ’em the rites and music.” [“Abundant crops”—probably more literal: there would be enough (for the) people.]
      6.   “What about you, Ch’ih?”
      Replied: I don’t say I could do that sort of thing, should like to study, serve in the ancestral temple, at audience of the princes, ceremonial chapter style [L. & M. dark square-made robe, black linen cap] to be lesser assistant.
      7.   “Chieh (clever-boy), what about you?” Struck his se (25-string lute) with curious jingling, laid down the lute and got up, answering: Differ from the three of ’em in what they grasp at.
      Confucius said: What harm, let each say what he wants (directio voluntatis).
      (Chieh) said: Toward the end of spring, in nice spring clothes, with five or six fellows who have been capped, and six or seven kids, go bathe in I river (Shantung) with the wind over the rain dance [probably, wind for the rain dance, could be: wind suitable for the rain dance] to chant (through the service) and go home.
      The big man heaved a sigh of assent: I am with Chieh.
                        [L. calls this young man Tien.]
      8.   The three went out, Tsang Hsi delaying, and said: What about these three men’s words? Confucius said: Each one expressed his preference, that’s all.
(“L.” and “M.” refer to readings in “the annotated bilingual text in James Legge’s The Chinese Classics (1862-1871)” and [Pound’s own note] “R. H. Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary.) Pound, rather touchingly: “After finishing it I turned back to Pauthier’s French, and have included a number of his phrases as footnotes (marked P), sometimes as alternative interpretation, sometimes for their own sake even when I do not think he is nearer the original meaning.” And (considering the “backbone moral” remark):
The Analects are neither a continuous narrative, nor a collection of fancy ideas. It is an error to seek aphorisms and bright saying in sentences that should be considered rather as definitions of words, and a number of them should be taken rather as lexicography, as examples of how Kung had used a given expression in defining a man or a condition.
Hence, no doubt, Pound’s interjected “(directio voluntatis).” Twenty five years anon, no more the lazy lyric romp (recall: “the sound went up like smoke, under the leaves, / And he looked after the sound”), Pound’s Confucian disciples here earnest men with “projects” (not unlike the mass of literary hustlers today): “chant . . . and go home.”
* Of Kenner’s own “eye” (Guy Davenport prefacing Roy R. Behrens’s 1981 Art and Camouflage: Concealment and Deception in Nature, Art and War): “In one of Hugh Kenner’s books there is a sonnet hidden in a page of prose. As far as I know, no reader has found it, so skilfully has it been disguised. Hugh Kenner is our acutest explicator of modern literature. His immense effort has been to teach us to see what’s before our eyes but invisible to our attention.”

** Located in a lengthy footnote to Hongbo Tan’s “Confucius at Walden Pond: Thoreau’s Unpublished Confucian Translations” (Studies in the American Renaissance, 1993). “The Houghton manuscript fragment is bMS Am 278.5, Folder 12a.” Tan mentions Kenner’s The Pound Era only to report, speaking of Pauthier’s 1840 Les Livres sacrés de l’Orient which, “provided the curious ‘a portable Asia,’ and became an ‘important channel’ through which ‘works exhumed by the philologists were to enter the larger sphere . . .’”: “Even Ezra Pound based his poetic rendering of the Confucian Cantos on this book.” Both a little dopey and seemingly wrong. Kenner writes (on the page Tan points at):
In Canto XIII, the Canto about Kung, enough proper names retain French conventions of transliteration to make the immediate source unmistakable: Les Quatre Livres de Philosophie Morale et Politique de la Chine, traduits du Chinois par M. G. Pauthier. My copy is dated “Paris, 1841.” Pound’s, of whatever printing, came to him at the time of Cathay, 1914, bringing him a Confucius one could imagine speaking French maxims. The 13th Canto presents such a Confucius.
It is not unlikely that the two books differ only in title: Richard Sieburth states—note to Canto XIII—that “the primary source here is Doctrine de Confucius: Les Quatre Livres de Philosophie Morale et Politique de la Chine (Paris, 1841), which contains the ‘Four Books’ of the classical Confucian canon, whose titles (in the French Romanization) run: Lun-Yu (or The Analects), Ta Hio (or The Great Digest), Tchoung-Young (translated by Pound as The Unwobbling Pivot), and Meng Tzeu (or Mencius).” Though, admittedly, Tan’s paper concerns itself largely with “an unpublished manuscript notebook by Henry David Thoreau containing, among other writings, Thoreau’s translation of ninety-six paragraphs of Confucius from M. J. [sic] Pauthier’s Confucius et Mencius,” the omitting, of any talk of Kenner’s then twenty-year-old report of the “loose pages . . . from Pauthier’s French version, in the handwriting of Henry Thoreau” is rather odd.

*** Of note: Pound’s remarks under “Procedure” prefacing the c. 1950 versions of The Analects, what he there calls “oddments which Kung’s circle found indispensable.” Pound notes how “for 2,500 years the most intelligent men of China have tried to add to them or to subtract.” And: “After a millennium they found that Mencius’ work could not be subtracted.” Pound:
Given the tradition that the Analects contain nothing superfluous, I was puzzled by the verses re length of the night-gown and the predilection for ginger. One must take them in the perspective of Voltaire’s: “I admire Confucius. He was the first man who did not receive a divine inspiration.” By which I mean that these trifling details were useful at a time, and in a world, that tended to myths and to the elevation of its teachers into divinities. Those passages of the Analects are, as I see it, there to insist that Confucius was a Chinaman, not born of a dragon, not in any way supernatural, but remarkably possessed of good sense.
Out of “trifling details”—“to make a paradiso / terrestre.”