Ezra Pound’s Early Cantos and his Translation of Takasago

Houwen, Andrew
April 2014
Review of English Studies;Apr2014, Vol. 65 Issue 269, p321
Academic Journal
In 1917, Ezra Pound wrote to Harriet Monroe that the ‘theme’ of The Cantos was ‘roughly the theme of Takasago’, a Japanese Noh play. Hugh Kenner in The Pound Era referred to this letter but did not elaborate on it, commenting that Pound ‘never got round to’ the translation of Takasago. It has more recently been discovered, however, that Pound did translate Takasago. In light of this discovery, I wish to contend that the play is an important structuring device for The Cantos from the latter’s beginnings in 1915 into the 1920s, and, furthermore, that the foregrounding of benevolent imperial rule in Pound’s Takasago translation anticipates his turn in the 1920s from the apparently apolitical poetics of the ‘Unity of Image’ to a more explicitly political ‘symbolism of the center’. I will do so by referring to original Japanese versions of the play; by examining Pound’s drafts for the early cantos, and by analysing the peritexts of these cantos in editions published by small presses in the 1920s.


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