If she “scowled” at first, now she would like to have their “dust” mingled. Compare/ contrast their difficulties. The first two stanzas, therefore, give her the right to complain because they say, in effect, “I have been a good wife and as such a wife I now feel the need to speak.”. The vows of the marriage ceremony, "till death us do part," are evoked in lines 12 and 13 and poignantly reinforced by the triple repetition in line 13 of "forever." The butterflies "hurt" her because they emphasize the pain of her realization that she is growing older, but alone, not with her husband. The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter. Themes. Each side felt themselves unfairly treated; each felt themselves a superior culture. Remember, she is a river-merchant’s wife in eighth-century China. In effect, she is reminding him of their relationship so that he will know that if she complains she does so only as a good eighth-century partner in marriage. The implied emotional drama of the poem, therefore, is one of love maturing before our eyes. Seagoing journeys revived interest in the East. This was true during the Tang dynasty, which assumed control in the seventh century. I played about the front gate, pulling flowers. Eventually resentment caused the formation of secret societies who, in 1899, launched several attacks against westerners in China. In Fenollosa's notes, as in his Chinese original, the line reads: when her hair was "first" cut across her forehead, and speaks of a cheerful memory of the beginning of youth. The Chinese also made several technological advances, and government was directed by a code of laws based on Confucian principles. Kenner, Hugh, The Poetry of Ezra Pound, Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1951. Various footnotes are added to this poem in various sources: This page was last edited on 14 January 2017, at 17:15. However. Poem Summary. Three ways. Lines 8–9 establish the child-wife’s shyness in this formal adult situation by offering a picture of her bent head and averted eyes, a shyness so extreme that she could not respond to her husband, no matter how many efforts he made. China was insulted by the insensitive behavior of English diplomats. You can only submit one rating per item, and your rating will be factored in to the item's popularity on our listings. And I will come out to meet you In these closing lines of the poem and the "letter" the river-merchant's wife reaches out from her lonely world of sorrow to her husband in a direct request: Please let me know when and by what route you are returning, so that I may come to meet you. “Eight Immortals of Drink…, Howl They are now too deep to clear away. Pound is not generally viewed as especially gifted in composing his own original poems, but the accusation of Chinese language scholars that he mistranslates the poems of this volume is brushed aside by such critics of poetry as Hugh Kenner, who is perfectly willing to read them as “Pound’s interpretative paraphrases that are informed by his own concerns and background.” It is Michael Alexander’s estimation that these poems have been “underrated” as mere translations, rather than appreciated for their highly disciplined free verse. Are you crazy? As Kenner notes about the little volume of translations, Cathay (1915), that Pound published and that contains “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” its “real achievement” lay in its ability to “rethink the nature of an English poem.” In this poem, Pound raised some fundamental questions: must poetry have meter and rhyme, or if not rhyme, meter? These details tell a decidedly old-fashioned culturally specific story of a lonely wife of a river merchant in a particular time and place. Indeed, if that is the case, if it is true that her knowledge, her wisdom can only make sense if we know what it is like to be a Chinese sixteen-year-old wife in the eighth century then this poem as a translation from the Chinese of Li Po has, thanks to Pound, given us another culture and another time: it has become a masterpiece of translation itself. Pound’s work has significance not only for its cross-cultural innovations, but for the “cross-chronological” breakthrough notion that the human response to the world links us all, so that an American in the twentieth century can share and learn from the human experience of an eighth century Chinese river-merchant’s wife. CRITICAL OVERVIEW This creates both a clear physical portrait, as well as indicating the passivity of childhood with its lack of involvement in things other than play. This opening stanza of 6 lines is organized around a central image of the river-merchant and his wife as a child, confirmed by the first component of the central image: the picture of a little girl with her hair cut in bangs. Ezra Pound’s “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter,” a dramatic monologue written in the form of a letter, is a poignant plea from a wife to her husband, a merchant whose journey has lasted far too long for the wife’s ease of mind. Encyclopedia.com. With the final four lines of the stanza, she suddenly indicates that their relationship has changed as “at fifteen [she] stopped scowling.” Her next words show how dramatically her love has grown. 68-73. The book discusses Pound’s perspectives on Chinese poetry, discussing its similarity to Imagism. Line 19 indicates that he was as averse to this separation as she was. The first two stanzas of this letter/poem establish her role as a good, submissive, Chinese wife of the eighth century. You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse; You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums. Her village is a suburb of Nanking and she is willing to walk to a beach several hundred miles upstream from there to meet her husband, so deeply does she yearn to close the distance between them. If the third stanza is an awakening to consciousness of the wife’s love for her husband then the fourth stanza communicates her sadness. Source: Exploring Poetry, Gale. Eliot grants that while Pound’s style in these translations might not reflect that of the Chinese originals, his poetic concern for image provides an effective means for “transporting the content” of the original picture-making Chinese ideograms. Pound wrote his translation in free verse, structured around the chronological life events of the river-merchant and his wife. At fifteen I stopped scowling, Imagism The Poem Ezra Pound’s adaptation of a poem by Li Bo, an eighth century Chinese poet, is a dramatic monologue spoken by a sixteen-year-old girl. Their “sorrowful noise” merely speaks aloud what she feels. Ronald Bush: On "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter". The poem feels as if it were in another language in part due to the rhythm, in part due to the tone, but, as I have been arguing, mostly because of the particular details and images. Rosenthal, M. L., and Sally M. Gall, “Ezra Pound I: The Early Sequences,” in their The Modern Poetic Sequence: “The Genius of Modern Poetry,” Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. Sources. I never laughed, being bashful. Much of nature, the wind, the seasons, the leaves, seems out of order reinforcing the wife’s foreboding. Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back. Ezra Pound noted that “The River-Merchant’s Wife” had a style and tone that would make it seem at home in, Van Wyck Brooks discusses the influence of Oriental art and philosophy on Western artists in. In a 1918 essay titled “Chinese Poetry,” Pound described the central qualities of the Chinese verse-form. More importantly, they were, says Kenner, the first English translations to “abandon rhyme and fixed stress count.” What this means is that Pound refuses to mimic a Chinese metrical pattern that would only make sense to Chinese speakers. The sounds that monkeys make are generally interpreted as chirping, happy sounds, but the weight of the wife’s sorrow is so great that she can only hear the monkeys’ noise as “sorrowful.”. The Han ruled using a tribute system. FRANK BIDART They are variously referred to as “translations,” “interpretations,” “paraphrases,” and “adaptations.”. She now “desired [her] dust to be mingled with [his] / Forever.” Their union is not only welcome, but for her the end of their relationship is unthinkable. Here it's important to note that Pound didn't write "The River Merchant's Wife" but rather translated it from the original Chinese, written by Li Po. Notice that the woman does not say, “I’ve know you a very long time husband, ever since we were kids.” Instead, every single line gives a new image, a new thing to understand.
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