In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

304  Ts’ai Chi’h  The petals fall in the fountain, the orange-coloured rose-leaves, Their ochre clings to the stone. Notes TS’AI CHI’H (Lustra, 52) Pound’s invention. Achilles Fang may well have said essentially all that can be said about the title of this poem: “The identity of ‘Ts’ai Chi’h’ which consists of three lines [Fang quotes them here] is not readily apparent. The name resembles Ts’ao Chih [Cao Zhi] 曹植 [192–232] (History, 124, where Giles does not give anything resembling Pound’s verse).” Achilles Fang, “Fenollosa and Pound,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 20, nos. 1–2 (June 1957): 213–238, at 236. A few scholars such as Ming Xie have cautiously respected the second half of Fang’s statement, but most have matterof -factly assumed that “Ts’ai Chi’h” is Cao Zhi, and that Pound’s poem is based on a Chinese original translated earlier by Giles, like “Liu Ch’e.” Pound published the poem in Des Imagistes in February 1914, almost a year before he laid eyes on Fenollosa’s cribs, which contain only one poem by Cao Zhi (the same one mentioned by Fang). Moreover, as far as I can determine, there were only three Cao Zhi poems that had been translated into any European language at the time, all in Alfred Forke’s Blüthen chinesischer Dichtung (1899), and none of them has the slightest resemblance to Pound’s verse either. Finally—as immaterial as it may be since Pound could not read any Chinese at all in 1914—I have searched through all of Cao Zhi’s extant poetry (as Fu Hao 傅浩 has also done) and found no roses, no falling petals, no stone fountains, and neither orange nor ochre leaves of any kind (Fang, 218–224). Pound’s poem is simply not a translation or even a loose adaption of any verse by the celebrated poet of the Three Kingdoms period, but quite literally an invention of Chinese poetry for his time. As for the title, it is of course possible that Pound invented the name from scratch; and yet if that were the case, it would be disappointing that he did not even bother to get the romanization right, since the spelling Chi’h makes no sense in the Wade-Giles system in use at the time, or in any other system in use at any other time. (The only correct possibilities are Chih [pinyin: zhi] and Ch’ih [pinyin: chi].) Indeed, to come full circle, the simplest explanation is that Pound was actually thinking of Ts’ao Ch’ih [Cao Zhi] from the description in Giles and ventriloquized his own imagist composition under that Chinese persona, but he forgot how to spell the name or invented a slight variant of that name unaware that the orthography wasn’t quite right. Allen Upward had done something similar to great effect, at least in Pound’s estimation, and Pound may have been following his lead. (More on Upward follows.) Coincidentally, when Fenollosa wrote the name Ts’ai Ch’ih in his own notes, the dot on the second i drifted between the i and the h so that it resembles Pound’s misspelling. Of course, Pound’s poem had already been published by the time he could have seen that manuscript, but perhaps something similar happened to him? If it is true that Pound invented a bit of poetic chinoiserie of his own (which is obvious), then tried passed it off on a Chinese persona (which is probable), then the question naturally arises: What could Pound have known about that 3rd -century poet and imperial heir that might have prompted him to Ts’ai Chi’h 305 use such a name? Giles’s History, which was Pound’s introduction to Chinese literature, includes the following passage about the poet’s embattled genius: Ts’ao Ts’ao’s eldest son became the first Emperor of one of these, the Wei Kingdom, and TS’AO CHIH, the poet, occupied an awkward position at court, an object of suspicion and dislike. At ten years of age he already excelled in composition, so much so that his father thought he must be a plagiarist; but he settled the question by producing off-hand poems on any given theme. “If all the talent of the world,” said a contemporary poet, “were represented by ten, Ts’ao Chih would have eight, I should have one, and the rest of mankind...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.