Pound received a Japanese scroll book with the “Eight Views of Xiao Xiang” from his parents some time before 1 March 1928. The book was produced in Japan, yet followed a tradition initiated by the Chinese nobleman Song Di in the 11th century who painted eight landscapes of the Xiao river and Dongting Lake in the Hunan province of China. The paintings were most likely inspired by the poetry of Du Fu (712-770), who had also spent time in the region. The book that Pound had as his family heirloom consisted in a series of triptychs with an ink painting framed by a poem in Chinese and one in Japanese. Pao Swen Tseng [曾寶蓀; pinyin: Zeng Baosun], a Chinese missionary and teacher from Hunan (1893 –1978), visited Pound in Rapallo before 17 May 1928 and translated the poems (Qian Chinese Friends 9-17). Pound copied out an English paraphrase on 30 July for his father but did not mail the letter (Palandri 53; Malm 277). Though Pound had this paraphrase of the source poems since 1928, he only drafted the canto in 1936: a letter to James Laughlin from 17 September shows that it was not yet finalized by that date. It would be finished before 30 October 1936, when Pound wrote to Olga that he had typed a clean version of the whole Fifth Decad.

The crib texts below follow David Moody’s edition: Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895-1929, pp.662-4.



Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.




Ferrero De Luca, Maria Costanza. Ezra Pound e il Canto dei Sette Laghi. Reggio Emilia: Diabasis, 2004.


Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895-1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.


Pound, Ezra. Letters To Ibbotson, 1935-1952. Eds. Vittoria I. Mondolfo and Margaret Hurley. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1979.


Pound/Laughlin. Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.


Pound/Zukofsky. Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky. Ed. Barry Ahearn. New York: New Directions, 1987.


Pound, Ezra. Posthumous Cantos. Ed. Massimo Bacigalupo. Manchester: Carcanet, 2015.


Qian, Zhaoming, ed. Ezra Pound’s Chinese Friends. Stories in Letters. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.


Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.


Taylor, Richard Dean. “Canto XLIX, Futurism, and the Fourth Dimension.” Neohelicon, XX.1 (1993): [333] - 352. 337-356. Free online.


Taylor, Richard. “Editing the Variorum Cantos: Process and Policy.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 31.1-3 (2002): 311-34. [References in square brackets by Taylor in text.]


Beinecke Library, Yale University New Haven. Olga Rudge Papers, YCAL 54 Box no/Folder no.



1908 – Laurence Binyon, Keeper of Oriental Prints and Drawings at the British Museum publishes Painting in the Far East (Wilhelm 7).

February 1909 – Through his publisher Elkin Matthews, Pound makes the acquaintance of Laurence Binyon and the two initiate a lifelong friendship. Pound visits the British Museum  to consult its collection of Chinese and Japanese art on 1 March, 4 May and 16 June (Arrowsmith 41 n.12, 42).

March 1909 – Pound attends a series of lectures by Laurence Binyon on Chinese and Japanese art at the Royal Albert Hall. He writes to his mother about the first lecture on 15 March and about the second to his father on 17 March (Arrowsmith 30, 41n.13; L/HP 164).Binyon lectures 1909 handbill

June 1910-April 1912 – Binyon organizes a major exhibition of Chinese and Japanese painting (237 works) in the Prints and Drawings Public Gallery at the British Museum and wrote a Guide to an Exhibition of Chinese and Japanese Paintings (Fourth to Nineteenth Century A.D.) in the Print and Drawing Gallery (1910) (Huang 48).

1911 – Laurence Binyon publishes The Flight of the Dragon: An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Art in China and Japan Based on Original Sources

1912 – Ernest Fenollosa’s book, Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art is published. It was finished by his widow with Laurence Binyon’s help.

1913 – after befriending Allen Upward, Pound reads Herbert A. Giles’s History of Chinese Literature (1901).

September-October 1913 – Pound meets Ernest Fenollosa’s widow in London. He receives Ernest Fenollosa’s papers from her by the end of the year.

1915 – Pound publishes a volume of poems based on the Fenollosa notes called Cathay.

1915 – Pound reviews Binyon’s Flight of the Dragon for Blast vol. 2: 86.

1916 – Pound publishes a set of Noh plays called ‘Noh’, Or Accomplishment A Study Of The Classical Stage Of Japan.

1920 – Pound publishes Ernest Fenollosa’s essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry” in Instigations.

1924 – Canto XIII, based on three of the Four Classics [The Analects, The Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean]. The canto is published in the transatlantic review.

“Pound had learned about the eight views much earlier [than 1928]. In the ‘British Museum Era’ he lunched with Binyon, attended his slide lectures, went to his exhibition of Chinese and Japanese paintings, and reviewed his Flight of the Dragon. The series was Binyon’s favourite subject. If the slide images Binyon threw on the screen did not impress Pound, those in the exhibition–Yunqiao Zhuren’s scenes and Sesson’s set–surely did. The catalogue to the exhibition described the eight views as ‘a traditional series of landscape subjects originally associated with the scenery of Lake Tung-Ting [Dongting] in China’ (Binyon Guide 37). A note to that effect should be enough to rouse Pound’s interest, and in The Flight of the Dragon he was to take more information. The topic is covered in chapter 10” (Qian Modernist Response 126). 



To Isabel Pound, 1 March 1928

Qian 15; L/HP 651; Taylor 337-8; Palandri 52

Dear Mother:

[ . . . ]

D[orothy] is up a mountain with a returned missionary. Yes Chinese book arrived, verry interestin’, returned missionary promises us a descendant of Confucius in a month or so, who will prob. be able to decipher it.


10 April 1928 – Pound publishes his translation Ta Hio. The Great Learning,

Newly Rendered into the American Language by Ezra Pound.

Seattle: University of Washington Book Store.

The Series “University of Washington Chapbooks” is edited by Glenn Hughes.


To Glenn Hughes, 17 May 1928

Qian 10; Taylor 338; Palandri 52

Conferred with descendant of Kung and Thseng-Tsu just before leaving Rapallo and have sent my salutations to the Ten Remnants.


To Homer Pound, 30 May 1928

Qian 15; L/HP 658; Taylor 338

Dear Dad:

[ . . . ]

Translation of chinese poems in picture book is at Rapallo.

They are poems on a set of scenes in Miss Thseng’s part of the country. Sort of habit of people to make pictures & poems on that set of scenes.


To Homer Pound, 30 July 1928

Qian 15-17; L/HP 662-664

Dear Dad:

[ . . . ]


Chinese book reads as follows, rough trans.

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.






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.


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.




Autumn tide,



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.


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.




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.




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.




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.


To Homer Pound, 1 August 1928

L/HP 664; Taylor 338; Palandri 52-3

Dear dad

I copied out the Chinese poem two days ago but don’t know whether I can trust you to return copy, you have horrible habit of taking copies etc.

IF I fix up a printable version later I DON’T want rough draft left lying about.

When enlightened on this pt. will consider remitting the draft. copy.


To Homer Pound, 1 September 1928

Qian 17; L/HP 667; Taylor 338-9; Palandri 53

Dear Dad:

Given infinite time I MIGHT be able to read a Chinese poem: thass to say I know how the ideograph works, and can find ’em in the dictionary or vocabulary,

BUT I shd. scarcely attempt it unless there were some urgent reason. Also some of the script in that book was fairly fancy.

For Cathay I had a crib made by Mori and Ariga, not translation or anything shaped into sentences, but word for sign, and explanation with each character.

For your book Miss Thseng, descendant of Kung read out the stuff to me.

Am perfectly able to look up an ideograph and see what shade it can be given, etc.

BUT it za matr of time. wd be no point in it.

No I am not a sinologue. Dont spread the idea that I read it azeasy as a yourapean langwidg.



To Laurence Binyon, 6 March 1934

SL 255

My dear Laurence Binyon


All your work on Oriental art is bound to profit you when you get to the lighting of the Paradiso. Not one hour of it but can go into the rendering. One’s preparation for a real job is possibly never what one does when one thinks one is preparing.

P.S. I wonder if you are using (in lectures) a statement I remember your making in talk, but not so far as I recall, in print. “Slowness is beauty,” which struck me as very odd in 1908 (when I certainly did not believe it) and has stayed with me ever since–shall we say as proof that you violated British habit; and thought of it.



In preparation for his planned republication of E. Fenollosa’s article “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,” Pound revisited Fenollosa’s manuscripts, particularly the notes from the course of lectures on the history of Chinese poetry that Prof. Mori delivered from May to September 1901. Among Fenollosa’s notes of the course, Pound found two ancient poems that he introduced into canto 49: the “Auspicious Clouds” and the “Clod Beating” songs (Qian, 2002; Kenner 45-6).



March 1936 – E. Fenollosa’s essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry”
is published by Stanley Nott in London  in his “Ideogrammic Series.”

May 1936 – The British edition of Pound’s translation of the Ta Hio
is published by Stanley Nott in London


To Katue Kitasono, 24 May 1936

SL 281-2; Kodama 27-8

Dear Mr. Katue


You must not run away with the idea that I really know enough to read Japanese or that I can do more than spell our ideograms very slowly with a dictionary. [282]

I had all Fenollosa’s notes and the results of what he had learned from Umewaka Minoro, Dr. Mori, Dr. Ariga. But since Tami Koumé was killed in that earthquake I have had no one to explain the obscure passages or fill up the enormous gaps of my ignorance. Had Tami lived I might have come to Tokio. It is one thing to live on the sea-coast and another to have travelling expenses. 


To James Laughlin, 17 September 1936

L/JL 65; Var 316; Malm 279



my mind is on concrete things. Have shipped the three Sienese Cantos, and have a fourth pretty well set. but a few hunks of Orient and Adonis cult already drafted must intervene. 


To Olga Rudge, 30 October 1936. Anno XIV, Rapallo

YCAL 54, 17/447

Ziao Amure

He has typed out some sort of a draft fer the rest of 42/51. That is he has typed new all except the four he did in Venez [cantos 42-44, 50] and the one printed in Nude Emocracy [46].

only he haint got the forza to read it thru YET; but if/when he gits it; he may send on a carbong. an thazatt. 

He izza sumin that with 42/44 and 46 and 50; the rest fit in and FLOW. only he don’t KNOW it yet.


waal he thinks hiz attempt at elucidatin the 42/51 iz about all than can be xxpected of him fer the momeng.


printed in Nude Emocracy – Pound published canto 46 in the American Social Credit journal New Democracy on March 1936.

Pound did send Olga all the carbons of the Fifth Decad, apart from canto 50, which he said she had already. They are preserved at the Beinecke Library in the same folder as the letter.



From Dorothy Pound to Joseph Ibbotson, 6 March 1937

L/JDI 73-4; Taylor 348

I am sorry you missed our Nuovo Quartetto Ungarese – as they are the most extraordinary performance. General [Henry King?] MacGeorge came out from the concert talking quite wildly of the 4th dimensional something or other –. He had caught the precision, & the very strange unfamiliar quality that it produced in the air. The Bartok V Quartet took me to Gengis Khan and the Golden Horde! And a whole series of fantastic Paolo Uchello’s moving – very rapidly too.


2 March 1937 – Pound writes to his Japanese friend Katue Kitasono to ask for a cheap edition of the Shi Jing [Book of Odes]. He receives a four-volume edition on 21 October 1937 (S. Kodama, ed. Ezra Pound and Japan 39; 45).

June 1937 – canto 49 is published in the Fifth Decad of Cantos at Faber. 

June 1937 – Confucius. Digest of the Analects. Abridged and translated by Ezra Pound. Milan: All’ Insegna del Pesce d’Oro.

1937 – “Immediate Need of Confucius” [Aryan Path, August 1937; Impact. Regnery 1960]. SP 75-80.

1937 – “Mang- Tze (The Ethics of Mencius).” [The Criterion, July 1938; Impact. Regnery 1960]. SP 81-97.

18 November 1937 – Pound acquires J. A-M Moyrac De Mailla’s Histoire Générale de la Chine (12 vols. Paris: 1777-83) from a bookseller in Trieste (Nolde Blossoms 27). The volumes arrive by mid December.


From Louis Zukofsy to Ezra Pound, 7 December 1937

P/Z 193

Dear E:

The “POINT of the Fufth” Decad, Usura etc nacherally one can’t escape your intention, but Ef I thought XLV were as inevitable as XXX on which in your blood it is founded– 

What interests me about XLIX is not the ivory fishpond, but the fact that you have used words and sounds, cadence & beat (& pause) like strokes of the chinese characters, that it is a development of technique 20 years after Cathay, the outgrowth but not at all like Cathay (whatever its beauties)—and I told you since prob. no more than 3 people in Europe will verify you, & no one here but yr. erst son, since I’ve already tried on all the smart people & they just have to be told.


1938 – Guide to Kulchur. London: Peter Owen, 1978.

1939 – Reprint of Ta Hio. The Great Learning. Norfolk Conn.: New Directions.

1940 – Cantos LII-LXI. [The Chinese History Cantos, written 1938-39]. London: Faber and Faber, 1940; New Directions, 1940.



To Mary de Rachewiltz, 5 April 1949

De Rachewiltz, 1536; Qian 9; FDL 9; PC 145

and my gt aunt’s third husband / received in ms/ from a friend/ the 49th canto– / you do not HSIN JI dip twice in one stream/ sd Ocellus.



From Achilles Fang to James Laughlin, 31 May 1950

Gordon, 203-4; J/JL 205; Taylor 345

P.S. I am sending you photostatic copy of Auspicious Clouds song. Here’s why:

From Robert Payne’s article in World Review (1949) I gather that Mr. Pound is given to declaiming Chinese Odes. I wonder if he would like to sing the national anthem of China under the First Republic, if only to break the intolerable monotony of St. Elizabeth’s. The text of the anthem is the Auspicious Clouds song (k’ing yu ko) of the emperor Shun: 

k’ing (auspicious)     yun (clouds)        lan (bright)               hi (expletive)

kiu (gathered)           man (in mass)     man (in mass)          hi

jih (sun)                     yueh (moon)        kuang (luminous)    hua (brilliant)

tan (dawn)                fu (again)              tan (dawn)                 hi

(in James Legge’s free version: Splendid are the clouds and bright/ All aglow with various light! grand the sun and moon move on;/ Daily dawn succeeds to dawn.)

This song is as much Mr. Pound’s as anybody else’s, for he has incorporated it into Canto 49. The outlandish quatrain there is Japanese transcription (from Fenollosa Mss.?) of this song. (Unfortunately misprinted: MEN should read WUN or UN and KAI should have been printed KEI.) I doubt if any Chinese scholar will recognize the quatrain, for he is usually unfamiliar with Japanese pronunciation of Chinese characters; for that matter, few Japanese scholars will recognize it either, for the song is quite alien to them.

If you think Mr. Pound’s present state of mind can stand ‘shock of recognition’, would you please forward the enclosed song with or without the attached sheet.


Sanehide Kodama’s translation of the song runs like this: “The auspicious clouds, bright and colourful/ Twist and spread/ The sun and the moon shed their rays/ Morning after morning” quoted in Gordon 243.

Pound’s own version: “Gate, gate of gleaming / knotting, dispersing / flower of sun, flower of moon / day’s dawn after day’s dawn new fire/ [1958, quoted in L/JL 206]. The word “gate” derives from the error in line 1, as Fenollosa translated the syllable “men” (gate) instead of “(w)un” (cloud). (Vantaggi 75).


From James Laughlin, 31 June 1950

L/JL 206



The enclosed music is a gift to you from Mr. Fang. I dare say you will recognize it. It is that song in Canto 49. 


A Draft of XXX Cantos

ship4 for c1