Pound remained intrigued by the machine seeing in its

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Pound remained intrigued by the Machine, seeing in its operation a metaphor of integration which managed to produce an individual product. “Machine Art,” his essay of 1927–30, would develop the seemingly contradic- tory idea that individuality may be the product of the machine which dominates modern society. Earlier, he often used machine imagery to define the artist.
Works 49 Writing in “Affirmations,” for example, he distinguished between subjective and artistic man through mechanical references: Where the voltage is so high that it fuses the machinery, one has merely the “emotional man” not the artist. The best artist is the man whose machinery can stand the highest voltage. The better the machinery, the more precise, the stronger, the more exact will be the record of the voltage and of the various currents which have passed through it. ( EPEW 295) The artist is not passive. He records but also creates. One of the most sustained examples of Pound’s focus on poetic precision is Cathay (1915) where he poeticized a number of Fenollosa’s line-by-line trans- lations of works by the Chinese poet Li Po. They are remarkable for their poise and concreteness. Pound worked with the notebooks of Fenollosa and other manuscripts, the notebooks containing Chinese characters for the original poems, followed by Japanese pronunciations and rough translations. Pound chose Japanese names for the Chinese poets as he worked through the material. The original edition of Cathay had eleven poems, including Pound’s translation of the Anglo-Saxon “The Seafarer,” to show the similarity of T’ang Dynasty and Anglo-Saxon views of exile. When the volume appeared as a section of Lustra , Pound added five more poems and dropped “The Seafarer” which appeared elsewhere in the collection. In all the translations, detail is supreme. In “The River Song,” for example, the detail of a boat as it drifts is overshadowed by the narrator’s concentrated, creative eye: King So’s terraced palace is now but barren hill, But I draw pen on this barge Causing the five peaks to tremble, And I have joy in these words like the joy of blue islands. ( EPEW 61) Further detail outlines the boredom and lack of stimulation for the Emperor’s poet as he awaits: an order-to-write! I looked at the dragon pond, with its willow-coloured water Just reflecting the sky’s tinge And heard the five-score nightingales aimlessly singing ( EPEW 61–2) Notice that Pound numbers the nightingales.
50 The Cambridge Introduction to Ezra Pound “Song of the Bowmen of Shu” emphasizes the condition of the warriors who in a break from battle gather fern shoots. But they have “sorrowful minds” and . . . sorrow is strong, we are hungry and thirsty. Our defence is not yet made sure, no one can let his friend return.

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