Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Becoming a Writer: Ezra Pound and Confucius

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KEYWORD: Becoming a writer

EZRA POUND (1885 – 1972) was an American expatriate poet and critic of vast intellectual creation. He was also a controversial man with unsavory political leanings and views. Despite his personality, his work as a poet and translator remains as a legacy to world literature.
He revived interest in the Confucian classics and introduced the west to classical Japanese poetry. In the following excerpt he introduces his translation of the opening Confucian text in the Ta-hsio.  

Confucius' Text
1.
The great learning [adult study, grinding the corn in the head's mortar to fit it for use] takes root in clarifying the way wherein the intelligence increases through the process of looking straight into one's own heart and acting on the results; it is rooted in watching with affection the way people grow; it is rooted in coming to rest, being at ease in perfect equity.
2.
Know the point of rest and then have an orderly mode of pro-cedure; having this orderly procedure one can "grasp the azure," that is, take hold of a clear concept; holding a clear concept one can be at peace
[internally], being thus calm one can keep one's head in moments of danger; he who can keep his head in the presence of a tiger is qualified to come to his deed in due hour.
3.
Things have roots and branches; affairs have scopes and begin­nings. To know what precedes and what follows, is nearly as good as having a head and feet.
Mencius' epistemology starts from this verse.
The men of old wanting to clarify and diffuse throughout the empire that light which comes from looking straight into the heart and then acting, first set up good government in their own states; wanting good government in their states, they first established order in their own families; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves; desiring self-discipline, they rectified their own hearts; and wanting to rectify their hearts, they sought precise verbal definitions of their inarticulate thoughts [the tones given off by the heart]; wishing to attain precise verbal definitions, they set to extend their knowledge to the utmost. This completion of knowledge is rooted in sorting things into organic categories.
5.
When things had been classified in organic categories, knowl­edge moved toward fulfillment; given the extreme knowable points, the inarticulate thoughts were defined with precision [the sun's lance coming to rest on the precise spot verbally]. Hav­ing attained this precise verbal definition [aliter, this sincerity], they then stabilized their hearts, they disciplined themselves; having attained self-discipline, they set their own houses in order; having order in their own homes, they brought good government to their own states; and when their states were well governed, the empire was brought into equilibrium.
6.
From the Emperor, Son of Heaven, down to the common man, singly and all together, this self-discipline is the root.
7.
If the root be in confusion, nothing will be well governed. The solid cannot be swept away as trivial, nor can trash be established as solid. It just doesn't happen.
"Take not cliff for morass and treacherous bramble."
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