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297  Liu Ch’e  [From Giles’s History] [落 葉 哀 蟬 曲] [fall leaf mourn cicada song] [1] [羅 袂 兮 無 聲] [thin silk sleeves (ah) no sound] The sound of rustling silk is stilled,1 [The rustling of the silk is discontinued,] [2] [玉 墀 兮 塵 生] [jade courtyard (ah) dust produce] With dust the marble courtyard filled; [Dust drifts over the court-yard,] [3] [虛 房 冷 而 寂 寞] [empty building cold and quiet lonely] No footfalls echo on the floor, [There is no sound of foot-fall, and the leaves] [4] [落 葉 依 于 重 扃] [fall leaf lean on double door, bolt] (tomb entrance)2 Fallen leaves in heaps block up the door. . . . [Scurry into heaps and lie still,] ⎫ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎬ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎭ 298 Cribs for Cathay & Other Poems [5] [望 彼 美 之 女 兮] [visit, look far off that beauty -ful woman (ah)] For she, my pride, my lovely one, is lost, [And she the rejoicer of the heart is beneath them:] [6] [安 得 感 余 心 之 未 甯] [how can get feel my heart ’s not at peace] And I am left, in hopeless anguish tossed.3 [A wet leaf that clings to the threshold.] Notes LIU CH’E (Lustra, 51; 落葉哀蟬曲 [Song of the Fallen Leaves and Lamenting Cicadas]; 明馮惟 訥, 古詩紀, 10:3b–41), by Liu Che 劉徹, the Han Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (156–87 bce). Old-style verse (gushi 古詩). According to Wang Jia’s 王嘉 fourth-century Shiyi ji 拾遺記 (Records of Recovered Bequests) the emperor composed this poem while mourning his favorite concubine, Li Furen 李夫人 (Lady Li). Pound’s translation (in bold) was written before he acquired Fenollosa’s notebooks and is based solely on Giles’s translation in rhyming iambic tetrameter and pentameter couplets (here reproduced in italics). Giles called his poem “Gone” in his Chinese Gems in English Verse, but he left it untitled in his History of Chinese Literature, where Pound read it (18; 100). Giles sacrifices the “lamenting cicadas” of the title, perhaps still sensitive to Ruskin’s critique of the “pathetic fallacy,” which was essential to classical Chinese poetry, just as it had been to European poetry before the excesses of the Romantics. It has even been suggested (improbably) that the poem is spoken in the “persona” of the cicadas, as if their long drone were the mourning of this song. Qian’s tendentious rendering of the title as “The Cicada’s Elegy for a Fallen Leaf” is even less defensible, but it serves his aim of arguing that Pound’s final line supposedly recovers the “original” meaning of the poem more literally than Giles’s does. Zhaoming Qian, Orientalism and Modernism: The Legacy of China in Pound and Williams (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995), 42. In any case, since the cicadas do not reappear in the poem (as the leaves do), sacrificing them by eliminating the title is no small loss. In the absence of glosses by Fenollosa and his teachers, I have invented them here to give some sense of what lies behind both versions. (Dear Reader, seize the DIY translation opportunity here.) Pound’s alteration of the last two lines of the poem is, of course, a deliberate refocusing of abstract emotion onto a single object in all of its imagistic concreteness, and it has come to represent either the scandal or the genius of Pound’s translation method, depending on one’s perspective. Decades ago, Hugh Kenner observed: “‘A wet leaf that clings to the threshold’ simply applies imagist canons, the mind’s creative leap fetching some token of the gone woman into the poem’s system. No wet leaf clings in the Chinese, and there is no indication that Pound supposed one did; he simply knew what his poem needed.” Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 197. Because of this poem, Pound came to think of Liu Ch’e as one of the ancient prototypes of the Imagist poet in the Chinese tradition, along with Qu Yuan. Seven months after the poem’s publication in Liu Ch’e 299 Glebe (February 1914), Pound published an article called “Vorticism,” in which he describes two kinds of poetry: lyric poetry (“where music, sheer melody, seems as if it were just bursting into speech”), and another kind of poetry (“where painting or sculpture seems as if it were ‘just coming over into speech’”), which had only recently been named, he coyly says (“Imagism,” wink, wink), even though its history stretched back to 6th -century bce Greece and 2nd -century bce China. As Pound put it: “Ibycus and Liu Ch’e presented the ‘Image.’ Dante is a great poet by reason of this faculty, and Milton is a wind-bag because of his...


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