BK. Ezra Pound

23. Kakitsuhata (Kakitsubata), ‘by Motokiyo [Zeami], From the Notes of Ernest Fenollosa, Finished by Ezra Pound’. Drama 6 (August 1916): 428-35.

  Reprinted in ‘Noh’ or Accomplishment and Translations.  

A work rightly associated by Pound with the beauty mixed with sadness in the memory of love lost. A travelling priest approaches a field of Irises, ‘Kakitsubata’ in Japanese, and meets a ‘simple girl of the locality’ who tells him of the poem Narihira (Ap) had written in the ancient days equating these flowers with his love for the courtesan who would become the Empress ‘Takamo’ (Fujiwara Takako, 842-910). After an on-stage costume change the girl is revealed to be a spirit, at once of the Irises, Narihira himself, and his beloved, ‘a light that does not lead on to darkness’ who ‘clad in a memory’ dances and sings of the ‘ancient splendours’ of the love that had passed so long before. In an introductory note Pound writes that he is ‘not greatly concerned with the accuracy’ of his version, but offers it because he has ‘either found or imagined a certain beauty in . . . Fenollosa’s pencil script’. Both Teele (112) and Tsukui (167) question details of the translation, but Tsukui finds ultimately that it ‘reproduces with masterly assurance the seriousness of the subject’. Critics have traced the spirit of Kakitsubata through The Cantos early and late: Longenbach (183) finds the ‘method for [presenting] historical vision’ in ‘Three Cantos’ (27) traceable to the nô in general, and cites in example this play and Nishikigi (8); Stoicheff (202, pp. 96ff.) traces lines from canto VII (see 34) to the work, and suggests that in Pound’s use of the tale in CX (72a) he establishes a metaphor for his own understanding of The Cantos and their necessary irresolution; Flory (186) echoes this in finding Kakitsubata ‘the presiding supernatural presence of Drafts & Fragments [72]’; and Miyake (201, xxxiv), in her equation of Pound’s work with the nô and his understanding of Dante, finds that in this version of the play the ‘mystical power of love is recalled most remarkably’, and that this reverberates throughout the Pound canon. See A Guide (201) for ‘Notes for Readers’, a glossary of Japanese names and terms, and a transcription of Fenollosa’s ‘pencil script’ from which Pound worked; see Taylor (BL180) for an argument that the work was ‘a model’ for Yeats’s Calvary (BL17a). Reprinted in 24 and 60. See also BK34, 72, 72d-e, and BL149.





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