BI. Amy Lowell


10. Trans., with Florence Ayscough. Fir-Flower Tablets: Poems Translated from the Chinese. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921. Reprint, Westport, Conn.: Hyperion, 1973.

Ayscough was a childhood friend of Lowell who for several years lived in China, and with the help of a Chinese professor rendered these classical poems into rough English, which Lowell then worked into verse. The work is important to this study because of its underlying ‘pictographic’ theory of ideograms, in which each component part of a kanji is treated as a distinct image. Lowell would not have admitted the fact, but the source of the understanding is Fenollosa, and Pound’s popularisation of his work (see BK32). The method led to various tortured renderings of common words. ‘Field and garden’ became ‘the square enclosures of my field and my walled garden with its quiet paths’; an image that Waley (D26) renders ‘native pool’ became ‘the whirled water of meeting streams’. The work was panned by reviewers, including, and particularly, Bynner (see BE5 and 13). A selection is reprinted in 14. See also 16, 19, 27, and 34.





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