BK. Ezra Pound

22. Awoi NO UYE (Aoi no Ue): A Play by Ujinobu. Quarterly Notebook 1 (June 1916): 9-16.

    Reprinted with slight emendation in ‘Noh’ or Accomplishment and Translations; bottom: Rokujô as a spirit of jealousy, tormenting Aoi no ue, represented by a folded robe. Photograph by Yoshikoshi Tatsuo.  

The grave illness of the title character, the wife of Prince Genji, according to the belief of eleventh-century Japan would have been caused by the jealousy of Aoi’s rival and Genji’s lover, the Princess Rokujô. On stage the spirit of Rokujô’s jealousy becomes manifest as a hannya, a demonic spirit, and after a fearful struggle of wills is finally exorcised by an attending priest. Pound’s version confuses the spirit of Rokujô for a psychological projection of Aoi’s own jealousy, an error compounded by a detailed introductory explanation of the ‘fact’. According to Yamaguchi (see D10d, Fenollosa, vol. 2, pp. 190-93) the mistake was Hirata’s (Ap) in the original translation, but more than any other lapse it has provoked reproaches about Pound’s work with the nô, even by critics ordinarily willing to forgive his transgressions. Waley notes that ‘there is nothing obscure or ambiguous in the situation’ and suggests that Fenollosa ‘misunderstood the play and read into it complications and confusions which do not exist’ (D26b, p. 180); Miner (A25) writes that ‘there is no excuse for [Pound’s] introduction . . . which muddles a fine translation’; and Tsukui (167) suggests simply that Pound ‘completely misunderstands the play’. In a sense, however, this Aoi serves as a metaphor for much of Pound’s work with the nô: it is erroneous as translation, but beautiful, psychologically complex, and recurs in unexpected ways in later work both by Pound himself and by Yeats. ‘Awoi’s hennia [hannya] plays hob in the tent flaps’ at the Disciplinary Training Center at Pisa in canto LXXVII (56c), and Aoi herself returns conflated with Ono no Komachi (see 17c-d) and the moon at the lyrical close of CX (72a); both Flory and Stoicheff find the exorcism of jealousy in Drafts & Fragments (72) traceable to the play (see 186 and 202), and Miyake argues that the ‘invention’ of Rokujô as a manifestation of Aoi is consistent with themes traceable throughout the Pound canon, particularly ‘the unity of Dantean mysteries of love and the Eleusinian Mysteries’ in The Cantos (see 192). Yeats’s understanding of the work was shaped by this version. His first reference to the nô in the published record is to ‘the exorcism of [the] ghost which is itself obsessed by an evil spirit’ here (see BL15a). Several critics, most notably Taylor (BL171), Miyake (187, 191, and 192), and Sekine (BL250), find Rokujô transformed into the jealousy of the Bricriu in The Only Jealousy of Emer (BL14b), and both Miner (BL129) and Taylor (BL176) find the source of Yeats’s use of a square of blue cloth to represent the well of At the Hawk’s Well (BL12) inspired by the folded kimono that represents the stricken Aoi here. See 76b, 76e, and 82d for later references to the work by Pound, A Guide (201) for Miyake’s helpful ‘Notes for Readers’, comprehensive glossary of Japanese names and terms, and “‘Awoi no Uye’ and The Cantos’, and see also BK17g, 49, 51, 72b-c, 91, 134, 182, BL149, and D26b. Reprinted in 24 and 60.





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