Saturday, November 5, 2011

Classic Poetry - "The Beautiful Toilet" By Mei Sheng

The Beautiful Toilet

By Mei Sheng (Circe 14 BC)

Translated by Ezra Pound, for publication in Cathay (1915)

Blue, blue is the grass about the river

And the willows have overfilled the close garden.

And within, the mistress, in the midmost of her youth,

White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door.

Slender, she puts forth a slender hand;

And she was a courtezan in the old days,

And she has married a sot,

Who now goes drunkenly out

And leaves her too much alone.

Ezra Pound won unprecedented praise for the poetry he translated for publication in Cathay, even though the work was criticized for the westernization of Chinese names and for subtle linguistic inaccuracies.

Ford Madox Ford said, "The poems in Cathay are things of a supreme beauty. What poetry should be, that they are. And if a new breath of imagery and handling can do anything for our poetry, that new breath these poems bring . . .”

T. S. Eliot dubbed Pound the "inventor of Chinese poetry for our time" because no other credible translations of ancient Chinese poetry had previously been available until Cathay was published.

I find the poetry amazing because it verifies that people, no matter when or where they live, experience and learn via surprisingly similar struggles and challenges. What do you think?


  1. Thanks for sharing such an interesting poem, Kim. The title definitely captured my attention, and I just HAD to read!!

  2. I am particular these days to Eastern forms of poetry. This is the first I've read of Pound, translation or not!

  3. Kim, thanks for featuring this poem. Have heard of Ezra Pound, but hadnt read his work. This is a gem of a poem! Telling an old story so well.

  4. How interesting and what a beautiful poem. I did not know Pound had translated Chinese poetry.

  5. I just adore this poem, and am fascinated by the unusual way of using repetition.


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