Note on the English Translations

Part of the intent of this selection of Noh plays is to show the evolution of English translations over a period of 70 years, from the beginnings of the Modern movement to postwar translations. The earliest translation is that by Stopes of Kagekiyo, which was read by Pound and Yeats during their famous sojourn at the Stone Cottage during the First World War. Pound used (and misused) Fenollosa's notes and translations in his own edition of Noh plays, while Yeats transmuted his understanding of Noh into his plays, such as At the Hawk's Well.

Waley rescued Noh, and for the first time gave it a fitting English embodiment.

It was after the Pacific War that the younger scholars of Noh, collected in Keene's anthology, introduced modes of translation more congenial to our ears today. One of the Keene translators, Tyler, went on to experiment with more literal translations in his Cornell editions, and then to further developments in his Penguin translations (the latter not represented here).

It is illuminating to look at the parallel texts of a play like Hagoromo, where one can compare the translations of Pound, Waley, and Tyler with the Japanese text.

To the Noh Plays contents

Last revised December 14, 1997