BK. Ezra Pound


145. Bush, Ronald. The Genesis of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1976.

Bush’s work remains the definitive treatment of the development of the early Cantos, particularly the transformation of ‘Three Cantos’ (27, 1917) into A Draft of XVI Cantos (35, 1925), and finds Pound’s work with the nô central. In beginning The Cantos Pound planned a poem of ‘ritual awakening to ancient truths’, and employed ‘repetitive strategies of . . . ritual drama’ for which he had found antecedent in Fenollosa’s remarks about the cycles of the nô (recorded in 17f). His ‘fusion’ of Dante with the nô cycle ‘was connected in his mind with the early comparisons between the Commedia and European mystery cycles, and remained constant throughout the Cantos (p. 19). Particularly in a section entitled ‘Yeats and the Noh’ (pp. 102-111), but elsewhere through the text (see index), Bush argues forcefully for the thesis that in the nô cycle Pound found a ‘medium for incorporating diverse secular and spiritual material’, and an ‘example of how values could organize an extended but loosely structured literary work’ in a ‘sequence . . . not locked into a Dantesque linear progression’, but based rather on ‘the ebb and flow of perception of spiritual reality’ (p. 110). Careful and persuasive as Bush is, one bibliographic confusion requires correction: his assertion (p. 104) that between September 1914 and April 1916 Pound ‘five times suggested a connection between the Noh plays and his projected long poem’ has been repeated by several critics, but is based on a misreading of Slatin (108), whom Bush cites in a note to the comment. Pound’s only published references to this ‘connection’ during these years did not link the nô directly to his own long poem, but to the possibility of a long vorticist poem in general, and unless one takes into account reprinted material he discusses the connection in print only in footnotes to ‘Vorticism’ (12) and ‘The Classical Stage of Japan’ (17f), and in the recently-discovered 1915 essay ‘“Image” and the Japanese Classical Stage’ (87). Pound’s only direct link in the published record between the nô and The Cantos is in a 1917 letter to Harriet Monroe (70c) accompanying the submission of ‘Three Cantos’ to Poetry.



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