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En Lin Wei <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 May 2000 03:44:56 PDT
text/plain (179 lines)
Joe Brennan wrote:

>Pound's principal interest in China was historical;
>there is, as I recall, very little in Pound's writing on >contemporary
>China.  I'm not speaking to the odd >political remark, although in truth I
>don't recall many of >them, either.

I think this is a fair statement.  As far as the Cantos is concerned there
was only one reference to modern China about the possibility of nuclear
conflict with US involvment over the island of Quemoy

“and they call it political”  he wrote in the Cantos

But Pound was extremely interested in modern China, during the second world
war.  If you read the Radio Rome Speeches (Doob edition) all the way
through, you will find many references to contemporary Chinese political
figures.   During World War Two, Pound made his political views on modern
China quite clear.  He was consistent backer of Wang Ching-wei, a
collaborater with the Japanese.    He has about the same historical status
vis-a-vis the Chinese as Quisling has to the Norwegians, or Petain has to
the French.

>My point is that there is no
>clear connection between Pound and current Chinese issues, and indeed,
your cryptic "one would have to work them out", you >offer no examples,
beyond this, such "working out" >would, at best, be merely speculative . . .

Is there any analysis of the relationship between literature and politics
which is not “speculative”?  In fact, is there any theorizing at all, which
is worth doing, which is not speculative?

>[Such analysis] would no doubt be intensely colored by >your obvious bias
>against Pound, and
by your acknowledged conflation of Pound with >Confucius, a serious flaw
that (from my point of view) >invalidates the bulk of your arguments.

On what basis do you assert that I am biased against Pound?  Simply because
I criticize the fascist, imperialist, racist, and anti-democratic aspects of
the Pound’s writings?   This does not necessarily indicate a bias; it could
indicate the actual existence of these tendencies in a considerable portion
of Pound’s written work and in his public utterances.

I have yet to see you put forward evidence to indicate that Pound’s work is
not flawed or marred by the fascistic elements.

Now if we accept the premise that my approach is “biased”, then we would
have to ask whether your approach is also, in some sense “biased”.  For
instance, is it possible that your approach to Pound is [for some reason]
biased in his favor, to such an extent that you are inclined to ignore or
discount the imperialistic, fascistic, racist, and anti-democratic aspects?
I don’t expect an answer to this question.  And I am NOT suggesting that
such is the case.  Such a line of reasoning, on my part,  would not be
fruitful.  We do not want to create a situation in which I say, “Everything
you say is wrong, because your are biased” and you say, “everything I say is
wrong because I am biased.”  That leads nowhere.

>Rudd Fleming, a confidante and collaborator of Pound >while he was
>incarcerated at St. Elizabeth's hospital [said]:

>'one has an obligation to make others as good as one >can make them; only
>then does one have the ability to >see them clearly, and the right to
>discuss them at all."

You offer this as advice to me.  And it is fair and good advice.  However,
it implies a paradox.  On the one hand, you want me to “make Pound as good
as I can make him.”  Only then will I have the right to discuss him.  But by
the same token, anyone who wants to talk to me should “make me and my ideas
as good as they can make them; only then will they have the right to discuss

Would it make any difference to say that I made Pound as “good as I could
make him” for quite some time?

There is another difficulty: Is this admonition about “making someone good”
the same or similar to Christ’s ‘judge not, lest you be judged’  ?  I do not
presume to judge Pound as a person, as a human being, as a moral being----I
am not trying to say anything about his personal life.  I am interested in
evaluating, elucidating, uncovering, and exploring the CULTURAL significance
of his word and his works.  As far as Pound the person is concerned, we
should “make him  good” to the greatest degree possible.  As concerns his
soul, I leave that to God, and have no opinion whatsover.  But we are left
with his words.  Those words deserve attention.

Would you say the same thing of Mussolini that you say of Pound, that we
should ‘make him as good’ as we can?  And should we say the same things
about Hitler, and Genghis Khan, and Atila the Hun, etc.  Perhaps we should
and we could.  We can certainly choose to.

Nevertheless, my choice, at this time, is to point out certain features of
Pound’s interest in China, which, in my view, are suspect.

The parallel I might draw between Pound’s attitude toward China and the
attitude of America’s political elite is this:  the common feature could
conceivably be summed up in one phrase---the need to exploit China.  The
current poltical elite wants to exploit China economically, while Pound
wanted to exploit China artistically.

As I say, I am not committed to this yet.  It would have to be worked out.
Many Chinese historians have pointed to the fact that many Westerners (esp.,
missionaries) have wanted to foster, praise, and strengthen Confucianism as
doctrine.  Missionaries like Legge, for instance, spoke quite openly of the
need to keep the Chinese as Confucian as possible, because in this way they
could be converted to Christianity.  If the Chinese emphasized the Taoist
aspects, and the Buddhist aspects of their culture, in their relations with
the West, they would be less easy to convert, and less easy to colonize, and
to control politically.

Of course, I am not saying Pound thought this way.  Pound is interesting, in
the history of world literature as one of the few Western figures (perhaps
the only one) who ‘converted’ to Confucianism and tried to spread the
doctrine in the West.  Many people on this list may be unaware of the extent
to which Pound was serious about spreading the Confucian doctrine.  Most
critics writing about Pound have ignored the issue.  But the evidence is

David Moody <[log in to unmask]> wrote

>En Lin Wei is given to making statements of unlimited reference, i.e.
>no specific reference, and so impossible to engage with.  But near the end
>of a posting on 29 May he wrote: 'I believe rule should be by law and by
>elected officials (and not by ONE MAN, "i jen" as Pound believes'.  This
>can check out.
>It connects with a series of five citations in "Section: Rock-Drill" of a
>"Shou King" axiom that 'the glory and tranquillity of the state may arise
>from the excellence of one man'.  (Cp. canto 13.)   [See 85/547, 86/563,
>89/600, 94/639, 95/644 - o.s. refs. as in Terrell's "Companion".]  In
>itself, even more in the contexts in "Rock-Drill", the phase does not mean
>what En Lin Wei takes it to mean.

I am happy to talk about specifics (and to generalize, as are all members of
this list).  In the above case cited, I would ask how do you interpret the
phrase, "the glory and tranquillity of the state may arise from the
excellence of one man"?   I would argue that the "glory and tranquillity of
the state" (if there is such a thing) may arise only from a constitutional
system, a Republic, or a democracy, with checks, and balances, and the rule
of law.  It can never arise from ONE MAN, however excellent, since every
state is composed of its members, and all citizens should have a hand in the
running of it.  Each state which "arises" is also the the result of the
efforts of countless individuals; the "one man doctrine" was used in ancient
China to bolster the imperial system.  Those who read the Shou King all the
way through you will see that this is the case.   The fact that a serious
20th century intellectual would find political food for thought in it,
especially someone who lived in a democracy, must give one pause.

The doctrine of "ONE MAN" (i jen) is identical in its essence to the
doctrine of fascism, and the cult of the "Great Leader."  Pound repeats the
phrase over and over in the Cantos, and puts the ideograms next to dictators
and emperors.  Nowhere, in his massive work (correct me if I am wrong) does
he express sympathy with  the view of Livy, that the historian should
document the rule of a nation by elected officials who are subject to the

So I conclude with the same question, which demands a detailed and serious
answer:  What does it say about American culture that its greatest 20th
century epic poet celebrates dictators, emperors, a Duce, and a Fuhrer--the
rule of ONE MAN--and never gives a single nod to the ideals of democracy?

Any takers?



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