D. Sources of Influence and Transmission

15. Noguchi, Yone. Works 1903~21.

    Centrally important in fashioning an influence from Japan in early 20th-century English verse. Yone Noguchi in London, probably 1914, photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn. Image: .  
    Top row right: frontispiece of The Pilgrimage, the poems of which in 1911 Ezra Pound found ‘ rather beautiful’.  

The names that most readily come to mind in considering the writers most responsible for an incorporation of Japanese subjects in modern English-language poetry are those of two early travellers to Japan and two major poets: Hearn for the general shaping of a Western discourse that became manifest in the japonaiserie of dozens of minor and several prominent poets, Fenollosa both for the general significance of his studies of Japanese art and the specific importance of his nô manuscripts, and Pound and Yeats, for their remarkable work that grew from these. Yet if we rely on the evidence of the poets under study themselves we must add Noguchi to the list of writers centrally important in fashioning an influence. His popularisations of Japanese literary forms, visual arts, and culture were widely read and admired. Of the ‘poets central to the study’ as defined here, only Empson, Ficke, and Pound do not acknowledge Hearn, but only Aiken and Empson have no direct connection with Noguchi. Eunice Tietjens, poet and translator from the Chinese, writing of Noguchi in Poetry in 1919, both illustrates and summarises the point: Noguchi’s writing was for the West ‘a first breath from the living Orient’ and ‘directly . . . forecast the modern movement’. Tietjens believes that Noguchi has ‘grown to be the most important link between the poetry of America and the poetry of Japan’. Even though his own poems are ‘subtle, delicate lyrics, full of that strange blend of old Japan and the [contemporary] West’, his ‘chief service to English and American poetry’ is ‘interpreting to us the spirit of his own land’ in works such as Japanese Poetry (see 15e6 below) that offer ‘a door into the Japanese mind . . . through which a Western reader can take his first step towards understanding, and therefore loving, the sharply condensed, almost aching beauty of classical Japanese poetry’. Both Atsumi (A50) and Hakutani (BK195) demonstrate that Noguchi’s influence in British and American poetry was greater than is commonly allowed. Seaver (A17), Schwartz (A18), Lewin (A46), and Rexroth (A48, A49b) discuss the influence in favourable terms; Weaver (A9), Fujita (A15), Miner (A25), and Meredith (A26) acknowledge the influence but lament it. See also Hakutani, ‘Yone Noguchi’s Poetry: From Whitman to Zen’ (Comparative Literature Studies 22 [1985]: 67-79), and A24, BH27, BK113, BL249, CA3, and CC2.

a. Noguchi and Pound. The earliest connection between Pound and Noguchi dates to 1911 when Noguchi sent Pound two volumes of his poetry, one of which was The Pilgrimage (15e4 below). Pound wrote to Dorothy Shakespear that he found the work ‘rather beautiful’ (BK77a), and a correspondence between the poets ensued, though little of it remains (see A50, BK82a, BK82a1). Pound eventually grew sceptical of Noguchi’s talent (see BK82e1 and 88a), but there can be no doubt that between 1911 and 1913 Noguchi was a primary source for Pound’s knowledge both of Japan and Japanese poetics. Iwahara (BK190) argues that it was Noguchi who first stirred Pound’s interest in Japan; Chiba (BK175) suggests plausibly that Noguchi’s mutual friendship with Pound and Mary Fenollosa played a role in Fenollosa’s decision to entrust Pound with her late husband’s manuscripts; and Hakutani (BK195) traces compelling links between Noguchi’s work and Imagist poetics in general and Pound’s in particular (see also 15e5 and 15e6 below). What no critic has noted is that Noguchi must also be seen as a source for Pound’s work with the nô. Several studies—and Pound’s own words—demonstrate that in the winter of 1913 as he began working with Fenollosa’s nô manuscripts Pound felt uneasy about his lack of knowledge of the nô, and turned for help to any source of information he could find. He made inquiries with Stopes (see D23) and learned what he could from Kume (Ap, see BK59h, 82b4, 82c2, 89a, and 174) and Itô (Ap, see especially BL93-94), and it is inconceivable that he did not turn also to Noguchi. Noguchi had for years been acquainted with Mary Fenollosa, Binyon, and Yeats (each of whom along with Thomas Hardy and Arthur Symons [Ap] were after 1906 members of Noguchi’s Ayame kai, an international poet’s club that had produced two English anthologies), and by the time Noguchi visited Pound and Yeats that winter of 1913 at Stone Cottage he had published a prose translation of HAGOROMO (e2, 1906; see also BK13d) and translations from the kyôgen (see e, 1907), and would have been preparing his series of lectures on Japanese poetics for Magdalen College, Oxford and his chapter on the nô that appeared in March 1914 in The Spirit of Japanese Poetry (see e6). See also Noguchi’s ‘Comment on Aoi no Ue by Ezra Pound’ (BK91) and related material listed at BK13d, 82b13, 160, and 184b.

b. Noguchi and Yeats. The only traceable letter from Yeats to Noguchi, a warm acknowledgement of the gift of Hiroshige (15e8) and discussion of Japanese art that demonstrates friendship of some time standing, is from 1921 (see BL52d), but the acquaintance began in 1903 (see Noguchi’s letter to Leonie Gilmore, p. 106 in Atsumi [15e9]), and by 1906 Yeats’s work was appearing in Tokyo in the anthologies of Noguchi’s Ayame kai. As with Pound, Noguchi must be seen as an early source for Yeats’s knowledge of the nô and the kyôgen, given both the long acquaintance and Noguchi’s visit to Stone Cottage in the winter of 1913 (see 15a). Noguchi visited Yeats again in New York in 1919, where they discussed the possibility of Yeats accepting a teaching appointment in Japan, an idea that Yeats took seriously (see BL48i-j and 56) and that Noguchi worked enthusiastically to realise (see BL124a1). Noguchi’s Japanese Hokkus (15e7) is dedicated to Yeats, and O’Shea (BL228) lists seven books by Noguchi in Yeats’s library: Hiroshige, Japanese Hokkus, The Pilgrimage (15e4) Seen and Unseen (San Francisco: Burgess & Garnett, 1897), The Spirit of Japanese Art, Through the Torii, and The Ukiyoe Primitives (see 15e below). See also Noguchi’s ‘A Japanese Poet on W. B. Yeats’ (BL61), ‘Yeats and the Nô’ (BL65), and related material listed at BL31, 48o, 124, 124a1, 184, and 224.

c. Noguchi and other ‘poets central to the study’. Aldington apparently never met Noguchi, but did correspond with him in 1921 (see BB18), thanking him for the gift of a book, probably Hiroshige (15e8). Binyon’s three traceable letters to Noguchi (see BC32) are from early 1903 and express first an interest in the ‘little book’ Noguchi had sent (see 15e1) and then a developing friendship (see also BC43); Binyon was a member of Noguchi’s Ayame kai, and cites Hiroshige in his 1923 Japanese Colour Prints (BC17). Blunden, often a champion of English-language poetry by Japanese writers, twice cites Noguchi as a praiseworthy example (BD89, BD127), and among Blunden’s many occasional poems is one praising a Noguchi painting (BD160p). Bynner was not above satirising Noguchi (see BE4) but read his translations of Japanese poetry (see BE8), and in his only letter to Noguchi in the published record, written in 1921, reveals an affectionate friendship of some years standing (BE16) not only between Bynner himself and Noguchi, but also between Noguchi and Ficke. Fletcher frankly acknowledges debts to Noguchi in letters to Noguchi himself (BH18), to Miner (BH22c), and in a lengthy essay tracing the effects of the ‘orient’ on twentieth-century poetry in English (BH15). Lowell pointedly mentions neither Noguchi nor Waley in her 1920 inquiry to Fletcher about translations of Japanese poetry (BI19)—she would have by that year equated both men with the despised Pound—but The Spirit of Japanese Poetry (15e6) was in her library (see BI35). And finally, unlikely as it seems, Noguchi was the young Plomer’s neighbour in 1927 in a quiet Tokyo suburb, and many years later, during the war, Plomer recalls (in BJ10c) the ‘lean and sardonic-looking’ figure and his poems and monographs on Japanese artists (see 15e and 15e8).

d. Noguchi and others. Noguchi was acquainted with most of the luminaries of literary London and New York in the first quarter of the century, in some cases because he cultivated friendships with the famous and well-connected, but in others because his work and personality engendered genuine interest and respect. His association in the 1890s with the American poet Joaquin Miller and his circle is of little relevance to this study, but in 1903 the success of Noguchi’s first book published in London, From the Eastern Sea (15e1), provided entry into the literary establishment. He published the work in January, sent copies to journals, poets, artists, and their patrons, and within the month favourable reviews had appeared around the city and Noguchi had letters of praise and appreciation from William Archer, Alfred Austin, Binyon, Austin Dobson, Richard Garrett, Thomas Hardy, Laurence Housman, Andrew Lang, George Meredith, Lewis Morris, Max Nordau, W. M. Rossetti, Leslie Stephens, Arthur Symons (Ap), the Duchess of Sutherland, the Duke of Argyll, and the Princess of Wales, among others (many of these are collected in 15e9). Favourable response to Noguchi’s work continued in Britain and America through the twenties, and no account of an influence from Japan in the English poetry of the day may responsibly ignore his contributions. In addition to the figures noted above (15a-c) Noguchi counted among his friends Koizumi Setsuko and Kazuo (Hearn’s wife and son, see the works noted at D9c), Mary Fenollosa (see 15a above and BK175), Bottomley (see CA3 and 15e9 below), Craig (see D17), Harriet Monroe, and Sherard Vines (Ap, see 15e9 below ), who was Noguchi’s colleague at Keio University in Tokyo. Noguchi published in the most influential British and American journals of his day, was from 1917 to 1936 included in all editions of Monroe’s anthology The New Poetry (see A6), and his portrait was among those on display in the ‘poets gallery’ at the Chicago offices of Poetry. In addition to his direct influence on poets noted above, Noguchi’s work has been shown to have been a direct source for Crapsey (see CA4), and was at least consulted by Waley in preparation for his translations from the nô (see D26b).

e. Works. Listed here are only those works of most direct relevance to this study. Noguchi, like Hearn, wrote much that had a cumulative and general effect on British and American understanding of Japanese subjects. Other than the works noted below the most important in this regard are The Story of Yone Noguchi Told by Himself (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), Through the Torii (Boston: Four Seas, 1914), The Spirit of Japanese Art (Wisdom of the East Series, London: Murray, 1915), ‘The Everlasting Sorrow: A Japanese Noh Play’ (Egoist 4 [1917]: 141-42), ‘The Japanese Noh Play’ (Egoist 5 [1918]: 99), Selected Poems (London: Mathews, 1921), and a series of studies from Mathews about Japanese artists, following on the success of Hiroshige (e8, Ap): Kôrin (1922, Ap), Utamaro (1923), Hokusai (1924, Ap), and Harunobu (1927, Ap). Several of these works are reprinted or excerpted in Hakutani (15e10 below), and that work includes as well full bibliographic details of Noguchi’s other monographs in English. See also A10, BK91, BL61, BL65, and D9c.

1. From the Eastern Sea. London: Unicorn, 1903. The work that established Noguchi’s reputation in London. He published the first edition of 180 copies himself, on his fifty-third day in the city, 12 January 1903, and posted 50 to literary journals and the London elite. The results must have startled even Noguchi (see 15d above). The enlarged Unicorn edition, ‘Dedicated to the Spirits of Fuji Mountain’, was hastily arranged and sold briskly. The free verse has no apparent connection to Japanese poetics, but a number of the poems address Japanese subjects, including O Cho San, Address to a Soyokaze, The Myoto, Homekotoba, O Hana San, Evening, O Haru, Tsune, and Lines from BashÔ (Ap). Excerpted in 15e10.

2. HAGOROMO. In The Summer Cloud. Tokyo: Shunyodo, 1906. A brief prose version of the nô play that was among the first Pound translated from Fenollosa’s notes. See BK13d. Reprinted in 15e10.

3. Ten Kiogen in English. Tokyo: Tôzaisha, 1907. Noguchi’s translation from the kyôgen includes the Japanese on facing pages and was an apparent source for Waley, though his bibliography in Nô Plays of Japan (26b) lists Noguchi’s work as Twelve Kyôgen, 1911, a title that does not appear in bibliographic databases or any other published reference.

4. The Pilgrimage. 2 vols. London: Mathews, 1908. The work that Pound found ‘rather beautiful’ in 1911 (see 15a above) and that Fletcher frankly acknowledged as an influence (see 15c) includes a six-page section of ‘Hokku’, a form Noguchi describes in a note as ‘a tiny star . . . carrying the whole sky on its back’. Beyond this section Noguchi’s free verse does not rely on Japanese forms, though many of the poems take their subjects from Japan, including By the Engakuji Temple: Moon Night, The Violet, By the Daibutsu at Kamakura, At the Yuigahama Shore by Kamakura, The Temple Bell, The Lady of Utamaro’s Art, In the Inland Sea, O Yoshi San, Kyoto, The Night Koto Player, ‘Shinnen Omedeto’, Let Us March Towards Manchuria, The Lotus Worshippers, The Eastern Sea, The Song of Songs, Which is the Mikado’s, To a Temple Garden, O Aki San, O Yen San, Out of a Kingdom’s Fire, The Japanese Night, The Heike Singer, In Japan Beyond, To O Suzu Chan the Puss, Japan in July, The Japanese Girl, and Hauta. Several of these and a selection of the ‘hokku’ are reprinted in 15e10.

5. ‘What is a Hokku Poem?’ Rhythm 11 (January 1913): 354-59. In his definition of the hokku Noguchi suggests that where English poetry relies on ‘suggestiveness’ the hokku turns to images that are ‘distinctly clear-cut’. Hakutani (BK195) argues convincingly that the work would have been a source for Pound’s understanding of the ‘hokku’ in his famous ‘Vorticism’ essay of 1914 (BK12). See also 15e6, and for notes about other articles Noguchi contributed to Rhythm (published in London by John Murray [see D18]), see Hakutani (15e10, vol. 2., p. 99), where this work is reprinted.

6. The Spirit of Japanese Poetry. Wisdom of the East Series. London: Murray, 1914. Like ‘What is a Hokku Poem’ (15e5) this work precedes Pound’s ‘Vorticism’ essay (BK12), by six months in this case, and must be seen as a probable source for it (see 15a above), though Hakutani’s suggestion (in BK195) that the work was a source for Pound’s knowledge of Moritake’s ‘Fallen blossom’ probably is not correct. Pound’s IN A STATION OF THE METRO (BK3), which he claimed was derived from an understanding brought about by the Moritake poem, first appeared in Poetry in April 1913, eleven months before Noguchi’s book. Includes ‘Japanese Poetry’, ‘The Japanese Hokku Poetry’, ‘Nô: The Japanese Play of Silence’, ‘The Earliest Japanese Poetry’, ‘The Poets of Present Japan’, and ‘Some Specimens’. Fletcher from the perspective of 1945 (in BH15) writes that of the ‘many attempts . . . to justify . . . Japanese poetry’ this work is ‘the best’. It was in the libraries of both Lowell (see BI35) and Yeats (see BL228). See also Henderson’s review in Poetry (A4). Selections are reprinted in 15e10.

7. Japanese Hokkus. Boston: Four Seas, 1920. Noguchi’s is the second of what by 2003 are thousands of monographs devoted to English-language haiku (see D12 and D12e for notes about the first). The work includes a lengthy descriptive preface that ascribes rather otherworldly attributes to the form and takes exception with the translations of Aston (see D13) and Chamberlain (D5a). Of eighty-four English ‘hokkus’ presented, most are original. These are a curious mix of images derived from classical Japanese verse and an expansive Whitmanesque ‘I’ that ultimately, in the deliberate intervening of an ego aware of itself, sets the poems quite apart in both tone and stance from the classical Japanese form. The occasional translation among the poems occasionally fails to distinguish between the ‘hokku’ and the tanka. The work is dedicated to Yeats. The preface and poems are reprinted in 15e10.

8. Hiroshige. London: Mathews, 1921. The first of several studies of Japanese artists that Noguchi published with Mathews (see 15e above) is noted by poets under study here more often than the others. See BB18, BC17, BE16, and BL52d.

9. Yone Noguchi: Collected English Letters. Edited by Ikuko Atsumi. Tokyo: Yone Noguchi Society, 1975. Collects letters in English written by and to Noguchi, including those from Aldington (BB18), Binyon (BC32), Bottomley (see CA3), Bynner (BE16), Craig (see D17), Fletcher (BH18), Harriet Monroe, Pound (see BK82a1), and Yeats (see BL52d). Atsumi’s introduction discusses Noguchi’s influence on Pound and the Imagists and Yeats (see A50). Details of the discovery of many of the letters and notes about Noguchi’s years in the United States may be found in Atsumi’s ‘The Newly Discovered Letters of Yone Noguchi During His Stay in America’ (KBS Bulletin on Japanese Culture, April 1971, pp. 1-10).

10. Selected English Writings of Yone Noguchi: An East-West Literary Assimilation. Edited by Yoshinobu Hakutani. London: Associated University Presses, vol. 1, Poetry, 1990; vol. 2, Prose, 1992. Collects most of Noguchi’s work pertinent to this study and includes careful bibliographic and critical notes. Reprints ‘What is a Hokku Poem’, Hagoromo, and generous excerpts from From the Eastern Sea, The Pilgrimage, The Spirit of Japanese Poetry, Japanese Hokkus, Hiroshige, and other Noguchi monographs related to Japanese subjects. Hakutani’s introduction to volume 1 offers a biographical overview, and the introduction to volume 2 incorporates BK195 and adds a study of Noguchi’s relation with Yeats.



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