The "Confucian Odes" Made New: Ezra Pound's Translation Of The "Shi Jing"

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Thornton H. Parsons

Second Advisor

Walter Sutton


China, Kung, American literature, Comparative literature, Asian literature

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America


This dissertation in four parts evaluates Ezra Pound's translation of the Chinese Shi Jing (known as the "Confucian Odes") in relation to Pound's own literary principles and practice, especially the idea of charging poetry through phanopoeia, melopoeia, and logopoeia.

Part I provides a general introduction to the Shi Jing, taking account of traditional Chinese scholarship and recent Western interest. The Shi Jing poems crystallize not only the values of the classical Chinese poems but also the Confucian ideology--proper rites, righteousness, Cheng Ming--all matters of concern to Ezra Pound.

Part II discusses Pound's life-long interest in Chinese culture, culminating in the translation of the Shi Jing. Like The Cantos, The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius affirms Pound's moral aspiration to offer a Paideuma for an orderless modern society. Pound's translation captures the light-hearted and informal style of the odes better than the earlier versions by Legge and Waley.

Part III analyzes Pound's three ways of charging his translations through phanopoeia, melopoeia, and logopoeia, which enable him to successfully carry over into his translations the quintessential qualities of the Chinese odes: visual clarity, musical sonority, and rich suggestiveness. Pound's interest in Imagism has equipped him to translate the images of the odes. He is effective in finding melopoeic equivalents for the Chinese sonic devices. He is also able to discern both the explicit and implicit meanings of the odes because of his understanding of Chinese culture.

Part IV summarizes the principles Pound follows in dealing with the rich store of Chinese poems and establishes his place in the tradition. His translation is not just an act of rendering the text from Chinese into English but an apocalyptic experience. In the process of translation, Pound identifies himself with the original poets and recreates the values of the ancient Middle Kingdom. The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius voices both his love of the ideal Chinese culture and his hope that the Confucian odes might contribute to a new Paideuma for the modern world.


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