BA. Conrad Aiken

5. ‘Sunt Rerum Lacrymae’. Review of One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, by Arthur Waley. Dial 67 (July 1919): 23-24.

  Aiken’s understanding that East Asian poetry is ‘not even remotely akin to free verse’ is ahead of its time. Reprinted in Scepticisms.  

Demonstrates both Aiken’s respect for the man who was to become the first great English translator of Japanese literature and his keen interest in the poetics of East Asia and lessons that might be derived from them. The understanding that East Asian poetry is ‘not . . . even remotely akin to free verse’ is ahead of its time, and in contrast to contemporary claims about Japanese and Chinese poetry by, among others, Flint (see A2 and A3). Aiken’s knowledge of Chinese prosody is genuine, and demonstrates a close study of an earlier Waley article, ‘Notes on Chinese Prosody’, which had appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1918. By contrast, in a book published a year later (9a) Aiken mistakes the name of a major Japanese artist, and apparently does not know in which century he lived. The knowledge of Japanese subjects improves over time, but the more central importance of Chinese poetry continues. Reprinted in 6.





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