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Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ezra Pound: The gods have never left us / Rock's World (from Canto CXIII)


Yulong Xueshan on the left, rising above Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan, China: photo by ZiCheng Xu, 28 December 2006

And over Li Chiang, the snow range is turquoise
Rock's world that he saved us for memory
...............a thin trace in high air


But for the sun and serenitas
............................(19th May '59)

H. D. once said "serenitas"
...............................(Atthis, etc.) Dieudonné's pre-history.

No dog, no horse, and no goat,
The long flank, the firm breast
.......................and to know beauty and death and despair
and to think that what has been shall be,
.........................flowing, ever unstill.

Then a partridge-shaped cloud over dust storm.
The hells move in cycles,
.......................No man can see his own end.
The Gods have not returned. "They have never left us."
........................They have not returned.
Cloud's processional and the air moves with their living.
Pride, jealousy and possessiveness
..................3 pains of hell
and a clear wind over garofani
..................over Portofino 3 lights in triangulation
Or apples from Hesperides fall in their lap
..................from phantom trees.


In mountain air the grass frozen emerald
...............and with the mind set on that light
.........................saffron, emerald,

Ezra Pound: from Canto CXIII, May 1959

And over Li Chiang, the snow range is turquoise: Lijiang Snow Mountain summit, Yunnan, China:
photo by Corymgrenier, 22 October 2009

House where Joseph Rock lived in old Lijiang, Yunnan, China
: photographer unknown, 29 July 1998, from Joseph Rock's Images, Harvard University (via Pratyeka)

Rock's World that he saved us for memory / a thin trace in high air: Joseph F. Rock with some of his Naxi assistants: photographer unknown, 14 November 1928, from Joseph Rock's Images, Harvard University (via Pratyeka)

Cloud's processional and the air moves with their living: The backbone of the Min Shan Range, Gansu, China
: photo by Joseph F. Rock, 18 October 1926, from Joseph Rock's Images, Harvard University (via Pratyeka)

Cloud's processional and the air moves with their living: The Snow Peaks of the Liang-chow Nan Shan, Gansu, China: photo by Joseph F. Rock, 11 November 1925, from Joseph Rock's Images, Harvard University (via Pratyeka)

Cloud's processional and the air moves with their living: The Ta-pan Shan Range, Gansu, China: photo by Joseph F. Rock, 9 October 1925, from Joseph Rock's Images, Harvard University (via Pratyeka)

digital file from b&w film copy neg.

Naxi priest during naga cult ceremonies, Yunnan, China: photo by Joseph F. Rock, c. 1925, from Joseph F. Rock Collection/Naxi Collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress

The hells move in cycles: Panels from Part I of the Ha zhi p'i, a 39½-foot long by approximately 1-foot wide Naxi funeral scroll, made of homespun hemp cloth in gouache painting. Collected by Joseph Rock, this scroll is divided into 103 sections. These sections depict the stages and realms through which the soul of the deceased has to travel and traverse. They pass through the nine black spurs in hell guarded by the demons, on to the human domain, and eventually to the realm of gods, their journey usually ending when they reach the domain of the supreme deities of the Naxi pantheon. The scroll is attached to the head of the coffin. The first part of the scroll begins with the demon realms closest to the head of the coffin; the end of the scroll depicts the realms of the gods that must extend in a horizontal position in a northeasterly direction. The scroll serves as a bridge for the soul to reach the realm of the gods. The officiating dongbas perform an exorcism to propitiate and banish demons and evil spirits in the funeral ceremonies.

A close examination of this scroll reveals the cosmological concept of the sacred places of heaven and hell in an indigenous Naxi religion, with elements of Tibetan Bon-Shamanism, Indian Tantrism, and Lamaism. (Naxi Collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress)

The Gods have not returned. "They have never left us."
: bottom panels, depicting the realm of the gods, from Part III of Naxi Funerary Scroll, the Ha zhi p'i (Naxi Collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress)

Panel from Naxi pictographic manuscript containing myths detailing Sacrifices to the Highest Deity (lovers' suicide ritual)
: [Yunnan Sheng]:[1500?-1934]; transliteration and translation by Joseph F. Rock (Naxi Collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress)

Joseph Rock was born in Vienna and emigrated to the United States in 1905, becoming an American citizen in 1913. A self-taught botanist, among his other occupations Rock was also a correspondent for National Geographic Magazine.

Rock’s proclivity for exploration resulted in his spending the bulk of his time away from the United States. His travels always had a strong academic bent. During one trip, Rock collected tens of thousands of native plant and bird specimens for a variety of U.S. government and academic institutions including the Department of Agriculture, the Smithsonian Institution, and Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.

Rock’s main academic focus, however, was the study of the Naxi people, their language, and their culture. He spent twenty-four years among the Naxi in Yunnan Province in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and collected thousands of Naxi manuscripts. Rock worked diligently to become fluent in the unique Naxi pictographic language. The Library purchased its Naxi manuscript collection from Rock between 1923 and 1948.

With help from the Naxi shamanistic priests, or dongbas, Rock translated many of the manuscripts that he collected. His work was invaluable and includes a 1,094-page Naxi dictionary and two Naxi histories.

-- Library of Congress Asian Division, Naxi Collection catalogue


Ed Baker said...

Hey man thanks for this really

a rather Huge Event - EP IS (for me) as/CANTOS CX-CXVll (and his Pisan Cantos 7et ceteras of his
changed my life
the entire CXlll that

is in DRAFTS
I also appreciate CANTO CXll

... I no need for footnotes necessary (ever) when reading/hearing Pound ...

Hilton said...

The Gods never left - the circulation of Pound Naxi Rock Eye Ear. I never even knew the Gods had been around. Thanks, Hilton



Wow, very beautiful (EP's words and these pictures), and Joseph Rock! My grandfather was in China from 1913 to the early 50s (my mother grew up there), wrote an article for National Geographic on hairnet "industry" in China way back when. . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
plane of ridge, quails calling in field
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

not by which word is spoken,
being that however is

spelt out on the flat, this
must have been, light

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
shadowed green pine of tip of sandspit

TC said...

The Na-Khi or Naxi people descend from a nomadic Tibetan tribe that settled some centuries back in the Li-Chiang area. That was formerly a sort of Wild West or Mountain Outland Zone occupied by criminals on the run and exiles from more orderly districts of China. The geographical location explains the confluence of spiritual sources, including Chinese Taoism, Burmese Nat religion and Tibetan Buddhism. Rock described the religious practices of the Na-Khi or Naxi as a sort of marriage of animistic nature worship with the pre-Buddhist Bönist religion of Tibet. The forerunners of the Na-Khi seem to have been chased out of Tibet when the Mahayana Buddhists took over there. The fugitive status, described by Rock, may have caused EP to identify them with the Albigensians (see Cantos 101 and 110) as victims of religious oppression.

And of course, given his prior interest in Ernest Fenollosa's studies of the ideogram, Pound certainly found Rock's work with the ancient pictographic language of these people very interesting.

Rock related that the speech of the Naxi sounded at first impossibly indistinct to his Western ear: "it is only after long practice that one learns to distinguish their difficult sound complexes."

See the opening of Canto CIV:

Na Khi talk made out of wind noise,
And North Khi, not to be heard amid sounds of the forest
but to fit in with them unperceived by the game...

Which in turn calls to mind: "Let the wind speak / that is paradise".

Barry Taylor said...

Tom -

I've never braved the Cantos, so thanks for opening these high approaches. The Naxi, Li-Chiang, Rock, those mountains, all new and wonderful to me. Another real gift that I'll take my time to savour.




Thanks for further notes on "Rock's world that he saved us for memory/ a thin trace in high air". . .


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, quails calling back and forth
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

so line which gives between
two points, now which

is in motion, circumference
of light, in question

grey white clouds to the left of point,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

I think when time is short, as it seems to be these days, it's probably best to begin our long voyages in the thin air of the high heavens, where things are often so fiercely aerated as to take our breath away (those funerary scroll images made for many hours of increasingly horrified meditation), leaving, in place of oxygen, hopefully at least, forgetfulness.

What other mercy can or could there be.

Heavens and hells, in all ages and places and belief systems, always seem to come out so weirdly mixed, in any case.

so line which gives between
two points, now which

is in motion, circumference
of light, in question


"I think when time is short" (as indeed it seems to be) we do what we can -- what else can we do? while we are still here, being living. . . .

Ed Baker said...

"we do what we can"

even if/when we have the 'proper' legal authenticatedl documents/instructions in place

The State & their "doctors-lawyers" do what they want to do..
plug (you) into machines and non-stop drugs to

"prolong 'life' " ... and their income ! ...

I mean at 94 and with VERY advanced Alzheimer's
why in the hell did they INSIST that for her last 5 days she was required to have Hospice which they charged Madiicare $8,500 and not a single Hospice person
showed up (or did anything .. the folks who had been taking care of her for her last 6 years (the last 3 @ $5,000 + per month)

took care that she "peacefully" (as they said ... as is always said) 'passed' in her sleep..

anyway ... it ain't easy...especially when a guilt trip is
(inevitably) laid on the "survivors") ... to get the last $$$$ out of the process...

( I could tell you stories .... so, don't get me stared...

(sorry to hear about your mother .. was the one who made all of the decisions re: my mother for the last 7-8 years of her life and for the last 4 years of her life she didn't even know who I was !

we got some stupid-fucking system in this country .....

TC said...

The American Book of the Dead version of the 39 1/2 foot funerary scroll is a printout of the hospital bill.

(A careful scrutiny of the Rock translation of the Naxi pictograph reveals some hints as to Another Way...)