COMPANION TO CANTO XLIX
Annotations in the List of Works Cited:
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher [if different from website name], Date of Publication in Day Month Year format, URL. [MLA 8 format].
Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project, 2016-.
Preda, Roxana. “Companion to Canto IV.” The Cantos Project, 5 August 2016. thecantosproject.ed.ac.uk/index.php/a-draft-of-xvi-cantos-overview/canto-iv/companion-to-canto-iv
OCCEP – The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound
([Contributor name], OCCEP IV: n.no).
Example: (Bressan OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss or translation was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).
References to The Cantos
As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: ll.7–17.
For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.
©Kent Su and Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto XLIX, 31 July 2020.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Economic Correspondence 1933-1940. Ed. Roxana Preda. Gainesville: U of Florida P., 2007.
Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Digital Dante.
Wade Giles romanization system.
For the seven lakes – “Seven Lakes” (Zh. 七澤) is an expression in Chinese poetic tradition to refer to the lakes of Hunan and Hubei regions, which in ancient times were part of the kingdom of Zhou.
The phrase can be followed back to Li Po and Du Fu (Qian “Why is Canto 49 called the ‘Seven Lakes Canto’?” 194-5).
Source study indicates that the line is a preamble that introduces a collection of ancient Chinese poems and is rounded off by the poet’s conclusion in the final two lines of the canto.
Rain; empty river – Lines 2-31 are based on a succession of eight Chinese poems and paintings in a book owned by Pound’s family. See Sources and Calendar for detail on The Eight Views of Xiao Xiang(J. Sho-Sho Hakkei). Geographically, Xiao-Xiang is a region in Hunan where the Xiang River, expanded by the waters of the Xiao, flows into the Dongting Lake north of the town of Changsha.
The book was produced in Japan as a series of triptychs consisting in a Chinese poem, a landscape painting and an original Japanese poem on the same theme (read right to left). The Chinese poems were freely translated by the Chinese missionary Pao Swen Tseng when she visited Pound in May 1928.
The first scene of the “Eight Views” is “Night Rain on the Xiao and Xiang” (瀟湘夜雨).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: Rain, empty river, / Place for soul to travel / (or room to travel) / Frozen cloud, fire, rain damp twilight. / One lantern inside boat cover (i.e. sort of shelter, not awning on small boat) / Throws reflection on bamboo branch, / causes tears. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
- bamboos speak as if weeping – In ancient China, Emperor Yao’s daughters, Ehuang and Nuying, wept for days in mourning for their late husband, Emperor Shun and their tears spotted the bamboos in the region. Never able to contain their grief, they killed themselves by jumping into the Xiang. The tales are documented in Qu Yuan’s anthology Chuci (Songs of the South) under the chapter, “The Nine Songs,” which contains sections on “To the Lord of River Xiang” and “The Lady of the Xiang” (Qu Yuan 95-118). Xiang river goddesses.
Autumn moon … reeds – The second scene of “Eight Views” is “Autumn Moon over Lake Dongting” (Zh. 洞庭秋月).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: AUTUMN MOON ON TON-Ting Lake / West side hills / screen off evening clouds / Ten thousand ripples send mist over cinnamon flowers. / Fisherman’s flute disregards nostalgia / Blows cold music over cottony bullrush. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
Behind hill … wind – The third scene of “Eight Views” is “Evening Bell from Mist Shrouded Temple” (Zh. 煙寺晚鐘).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: Monastery evening bell / Cloud shuts off the hill, hiding the temple / Bell audible only when wind moves toward one, / One can see nothing higher in the hills / not tell whether the summit, is near or far, / Sure only that one is in hollow of mountains. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
Sail passed here in April… river – The fourth scene of “Eight Views” is “Sailboats Returning from Distant Shore” (Zh. 遠浦歸帆)
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: AUTUMN TIDE, RETURNING SAILS / Touching <green> sky at horizon, mists in suggestion of autumn / Sheet of silver reflecting the all that one sees / Boats gradually fade, or are lost in turn of the hills, / Only evening sun, and its glory on the water remain. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
- Where wine flag … light – The fifth scene of “Eight Views” is “Mist over Mountain Town” (Zh. 山市晴嵐).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: Spring in hill valley / Small wine flag waves in the evening sun / Few clustered houses sending up smoke / A few country people enjoying their evening drink / In time of peace, every day is like spring. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
Comes then snow … cold – The sixth scene of “Eight Views” is “River and Sky in Evening Snow” (Zh. 江天暮雪).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: SNOW ON RIVER / Cloud light, world covered with milky jade / Small boat floats like a leaf / Tranquil water congeals it to stillness / In Sai Yin there dwell people of leisure. / The people of Sai Yin are unhurried. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
like a lanthorn – Massimo Bacigalupo has commented on the eccentricity of Pound’s word choice here: early drafts show he initially kept the “small boat floats like a leaf,” but changed to “lanthorn” for rhythmic reasons, so as to create a spondee at the end of the line, as he had in previous and following lines (Bacigalupo 1991 60). Compare with line endings like “cross light,” “San Yin,” “sand-bar,” “sky line,” “hill lakes” that are similarly spondaic. The spondaic strength of “lanthorn” is greater than that of the more modern word “lantern” and may have been the reason Pound opted for the archaic form.
Another important suggestion brought in by Bacigalupo is the analogy to the floating lights Pound saw in Rapallo every July in the celebrations of Adonis.
The poet had included them in canto 47:
From the long boats they have set lights in the water
The sea’s claw gathers them outward […]
But in the pale night the small lamps flat outward
(XLVII ll.21-2, 25; Bacigalupo 1991 60)
At San Yin… leisure – This mysterious name derives from two untranslated characters of the Chinese source: in the 5th line of the poem, san yin (Zh. 山陰) mean “behind the mountain.” In the paraphrase, they were untranslated and Pound repurposed them as a location name. See Ferrero de Luca 62.
Sanehide Kodama brought in a speculative suggestion about why the shift in meaning may have come to pass. He referred to a classic Chinese anecdote that may well have been known to Miss Tseng:
“The last line alludes to an episode of O-Kishi [Chinese: Wang Huizhi]. One night when the snow stopped falling, he saw the moon, started to drink and composed a poem. Then he wanted to see his friend, Tai-Ando [Chinese: Dai-Andao]. He rowed his boat from San In, walked to the gate of his friend’s. But he returned home without seeing him. When asked why, he replied, ‘I come as I feel interested, and I leave as I lose interest. Why should I necessarily see Ando?’!” (Kodama 136n.6). The anecdote is included in A New Account of the Tales of the World (Zh. 世說新語) which consists of pithy observations on different people who lived ca. 150-420 AD; it was translated and edited by R. B. Mather. See Chinese version.
“San Yin” as well as “Ten-Shi” could be seen as added elements to the mythical counter-geography of the canto. Pound is careful to avoid real names or point to a specific region in the actual world. He used similar strategies in cantos 17, 21 and 39 where he conjured magical pastorals of the West.
Wild geese … window – The seventh scene of “Eight Views” is “Wild Geese Descending to Sandbar” (Zh.平沙雁落).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: Wild geese stopping on sand / Just outside window, light against clouds / Light clouds show in sky just beyond window ledge / A few lines of autumn geese on the marsh / Bullrushes have burst into snow-tops / at their tops / The birds stop to preen their feathers. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
A light moves on the north sky line… A light moves on the South sky line - The eighth and final scene of “Eight Views” is “Sunset over Fishing Village” (Zh. 漁村夕照).
Miss Tseng’s paraphrase: EVENING IN SMALL FISHING VILLAGE / Fisherman’s light blinks / Dawn begins, with light to the south and north / Noise of children hawking their fish and crawfish / Fisherman calls his boy, and takes up his wine bottle, / They drink, they lie on the sand / and point to marsh-grass, talking. See Calendar: 30 July 1928.
In seventeen hundred came Tsing to these hill lakes – “Tsing” may refer to the Qing (1644-1912), the last imperial dynasty in China. Pound possibly evokes the Qing emperor, Kangxi (ruled 1661-1722). Qian notes that Kangxi made six southern inspection tours to these “hill lakes” and the journey would not have been possible without the construction of canals by the “old king” in the later lines (Modernist Response 136; Byron 143; Kodama 140).
Alternatively, we might suggest that a historical specification might be as little welcome to Pound’s understanding of the poem as a geographical one. He invented a name - we are not meant to puzzle out if it existed or not; especially as it is introduced in relation to “an old king” who has an aura of legend and is not named. See also n.10.
S. Kodama remarked that the line bridges the first section of the poem based on the “Eight Views” with the second part, relying on two ancient Chinese poems Pound found in the Fenollosa manuscripts (140).
state by creating riches… debt? Pound’s outburst, though generic, is an expression of his Social Credit belief that the state should not get indebted to private banks for civil works projects. He had in mind the example of Kublai Khan’s state money, which the emperor used as inehaustible financial resource (see canto 18 and OCCEP XVIII: nn.1-7).
Pound’s protest resonates against the background of the New Deal reforms in the United States, started by F.D. Roosevelt when he became president in 1933. The extensive civil works programs (dams, roads, bridges, airports, schools, electrification) were financed by state debt to private banks and individuals, which reached unprecedented levels, rising to 33.7 billion dollars in 1936, the year the canto was written (Wikipedia). Pound was outraged about this because he thought that the New Deal program of civil works should have been financed either by Social credit reform (which campaigned for the nationalization of the Federal Reserve, thus giving the state power to create money) or by stamp scrip, the Gesellite solution of vanishing money (EPEC 105). Both measures would have financed the projects free of debt. Pound refers to Social Credit in canto 46 and to vanishing money in canto 48.
On 12 March 1936, Mussolini issued the Bank Act, which effectively nationalized the Bank of Italy: Pound was enthusiastic about the measure, as some of his letters attest (EPEC 184-6). The reference to canals in China as magnificent imperial project has analogues to Jefferson’s support of canal building in the United States (mentioned in canto 31) and to Mussolini’s extended programme of civil works financed by what in the course of time (1922-1935) effectively became state credit. Pound mentioned the bonifica (draining of the swamps in the Lazio) in canto 38 and set a mythical echo to it in canto 39.
Geryon – monster in Dante’s Inferno and the personification of fraud:
“Behold the beast who bears the pointed tail
who crosses mountains, shatters weapons, walls!
Behold the one whose stench fills all the world!
And he came on, that filthy effigy
of fraud, and landed with his head and torso
but did not draw his tail onto the bank.
The face he wore was that of a just man,
so gracious was his features’ outer semblance;
and all his trunk, the body of a serpent”
(Inf XVII: 1-3; 7-12).
- TenShi – According to R. Taylor, “TenShi is taken here for a place name, but is in fact a compoundingof two separate Japanese words which together mean Son of God” (344).
For A. Vantaggi, Ten-Shi is the Japanese equivalent of the Chinese T’ien-tzu (Son of Heaven), which is the designation of the emperor. The canal is continued to the seat of the Son of Heaven, thus to the capital (73).
Old king – Emperor Yang of Sui (569–618) continued the work of his father Weng Di in building a series of waterways known as the Grand Canal, to supply the capital, Luoyang, and northern border armies with food from the south (Xiong 86). The Grand Canal was completed 604-609, first linking Luoyang with Yangzhou and then further extending it to Beijing to the north and Hangzhou in the south.
Pound’s line relies on a comment made by Prof. Mori in Fenollosa’s notes:
“[H]e made a canal from Benrio [Kaifong of Kanan [Henan] to Yosingo [Yangzhou], and they say that he did this for his own pleasure” (quoted in Qian Modernist Response 136).
In the map below, Kaifeng is indicated by the name Bianzhou.
K E I … K A I – The Japanese transliteration of a classical Chinese poem in Romanized script, as Ernest Fenollosa had bequeathed it to Pound in his notes to Prof. Mori’s “Course on the History of Chinese Poetry” on 4 June 1901 (Kenner 45). The poem is also known as “Song of the Auspicious Clouds” (Zh. 卿雲; W/G Ch’ing-yun ko) (Palandri 51; Fang I: 77). The syllables are read the Western way, across, from left to right. The Chinese original is written as the following:
卿雲爛兮，(The auspicious clouds are vivid,)
糺縵縵兮 (Gathered together they circle around.)
日月光華，(The sun and moon have brightness and splendour,)
旦復旦兮 (Returning dawn after dawn.)
The Chinese original is included in Shangshu dazhuan (Zh. 尚書大傳; Book of Documents) that claims the song was actually sung by Emperor Shun (2294-2184 BC) when he announced that his successor would be not his own son but the man who had solved the problem of the country's flooding, Yu the Great (2123 – 2025 BC) (ctext.org). The lyrics celebrate someone who willingly passed government control to the person thought to be best qualified, a sentiment that inspired the Republic of China to use it as a national anthem from 1913-1915.
“Fenollosa added a note from Mori’s discourse: ‘The moral of the poem is that ministers working in harmony, as the sun & moon, will enable the state to preserve its glory forever. Sun and moon refer to officials. Clouds represent the world–society in general. Succession of sun & moon may refer to imperial succession at this juncture.’ He added ‘This seems weak to me’” (Kenner 46). Though this interpretation of the lines has been critiqued by Vantaggi (76-79) this was the only one available to Pound when writing the canto.
Achilles Fang noticed three errors (231). “MEN” in the first line should be WUN; KO in the 3rd line should be KŌ; KAI, the last ideogram in the 4th line should be KEI. Vantaggi also signalled a possible correction of KIU in the second line to KYŪ (75 n.14). All the errors, apart from the last syllable of the poem (KEI), are in Fenollosa’s text.
The passage has been displayed with the corrections in the 1st and 4th lines in Mary de Rachewiltz’ Italian translation of canto 49 in the Mondadori edition of the Cantos (1985).
Sun up … it? – Pound found this poem in Fenollosa’s notes of Prof. Mori’s Course of Chinese poetry history taken on 28 May 1901 (Kenner 45). The original title is called “Clod Beating Song” (Zh. 擊壤歌; W/G: Chi-yang ko) (Palandri 51) which praises the harmonious order during the reign of Emperor Yao (2356–2255 BC), Shun’s predecessor.
The Chinese rendition is as follows:
日出而作， (Sun rises means working,)
日入而息。 (Sunset means returning home.)
鑿井而飲， (Digging the well for drinking,)
耕田而食， (Ploughing the wheat for eating.)
帝力於我何有哉 (The authority is far away from me.)
- The fourth … beasts – This higher “dimension of stillness” is a place without chaos and disorder, suggested in the reference to the “wild beasts,” of our three-dimensional world. The final line also serves as a colophon and echoes the end of Canto 47 when Pound evokes the Orphic power over untamed animals and all other living things.