5 Pages

lmagism in practice

The second line quoted above comes from what might be called the perfect imagist poem, since it applies the imagist technique outlined above in a single, brief and striking way. It is also famous because Pound commented in some detail on its origin. The entire poem is as follows:

(CSP, p. 109) 138

(CSP, p. 108) The final line of this poem has the structural features noted above: it is punctuationally detached, the colon 'presenting' the line as it were, and consists of a single noun phrase that is not part of a larger sentence. In addition, Pound isolates the line spatially, an interesting development which he was to exploit in a variety of ways in later poetry, especially 17ze Cantos. Applying the mode of analysis developed above to this line, we can suggest that the denotation of this image is one of a fallen leaf that has been stuck

to a doorstep by soaking rain. Connotatively, a wet leaf is a sorry sight, bedraggled, at the end of its useful life, no more than litter: the word 'clings' almost personifies the leaf as something which is hanging on hopelessly. In line with previous discussion we would expect this image to encapsulate some psychological state or experience relating to the rest of the poem. A brief paraphrase reveals that this is the case. Liu Ch'e, a Chinese emperor of the second century BC, states that the rustling of his wife's dress and the sound of her footsteps are no longer heard; there is a general air of neglect around the place; in fact the wife he cherished is dead. Once again, it is clear that Pound's image in the final line cannot be a metaphor for the dead wife, as a superficial reading might imply. The image is an attempt to find an equation for 'the thing inward and subjective', which in this case is the emperor's grief and sense of hopelessness at his wife's loss. 1be power of this use of the image is strikingly demonstrated by contrasting Pound's line with the final line of Giles's translation from which Pound was probably working. After five lines which roughly coincide •vith Pound's in presenting the consequences of the death of the emperor's \Vife and the fact that she is gone, Giles's final line reads: 'And I am left, in hopeless anguish tossed' (Brooker, 1979, p. 98). This statement describes in direct and clear terms how the emperor is feeling, but it lacks any emotional charge because it makes no attempt to find an equation for that feeling whereby readers can imagine their way into or empathize with the feeling itsel[ Pound 'translates' the feeling by providing a concrete image of the emotional devastation felt by the emperor, carrying it across to the reader. Following his very first definition of the image at the beginning of 'A Few Don'ts' in 1913, Pound goes on to say that