Allen Ginsberg’s class on Shakespeare’s Tempest continues
Student: How many syllables are there in the blank (verse) line?
AG: Well, in Shakespeare’s case, it’s a number, see, it could be basic ten, but it could be more, twelve (I’ve counted – “Will ever after droop. Here cease more… Well, Will-ev-er-aft-er-droop-Here-cease-more-quest-ions” – Eleven
AG: Like the hendecasyllables. Sometimes, but then it’s twelve, there ‘s eleven – “I-find my-ze-nith-doth-de-pend-upon…” – that’s ten –“I-find my-ze-nith-doth-de-pend-upon…” a-most-aus-pic-ious-star-who’s in-flu-ence.. – “A most auspicious star whose influence” – ten – “If now I court not but ad-mit, my for-tunes” – eleven “Will-ev-er-droop. Here cease more quest-ions..” – Will ever droop. Here cease more questions..” — nine! – Will-ev-er-droop. Here cease more quest-ions..” – nine
Student: “Will ever after droop..”
AG: Okay – “Thou art inclined to sleep, ’tis a good dulness” – eleven – “thou-art-in-clined-to- sleep,- ’tis- a-good-dul-ness” – eleven – “And-give-it-way-I know-thou-canst-not-choose” – ten – “Come away servant, come. I am ready now” – eleven
But I’ve counted up to twelve actually. And probably there’s more.. There’s.. [to Student] Do you know anything about that?
Student: No, all I know is that he got freer and freer. In the beginning, the first plays were quite tight and…
AG: Yes, and rhymed and everything.
Student: (And then be began getting into a way of speech, tho’, where each of the characters took on a different set of things (although across the board you can’t say that each character has got a way of speaking that speaks a certain line, but, generally speaking, it becomes freer. So certainly, I mean, eleven, twelve, nine..
AG: well, here’s a thirteen-er on page 36..
Student (2): Each character has a certain metric, or..?
Student : Yeah, some of them, some of them they begin to get a bit.. yeah, so Prospero will be..his would be a more authoritarian (speaking) and hers, Miranda’s would be duller and shorter, so that you get a.. so that you get a distinction between the two. So that even when they’re spoken, no matter what you try to do with them, you do get a distance between (them)
AG: Well in line 110 of Act 1, Scene 2 “Was duke-dom-large-e-nough.-Of-temp-o-ral-roy-al-ties”. Theres a thirteen-syllable line – “Was dukedom large enough. Of temporal royalties.” – that’s thirteen – and then “He thinks me now incapable, confederates” is twelve.. So it’s a pretty varied line from nine to twelve (or there probably is a nine, I don’t know. I don’t know what the shortest is – “A noble Neo-politan –“A noble Neo-politan ” – “A-no-ble Neo-pol-it-an, Gon-za-lo…”
So, I like that. “..’tis a good dulness” ( in line 185 – where she falls asleep) – “Here cease more questions,/ Thou art inclined to sleep; ’tis a good dulness, /And give it way..
It is “a good dulness” and “give it way” (“a good dulness” is like that “murderous innocence”, that is, it’s just the wit again of “ a good dullness” – and it’s the sort of thing that (William) Burroughs would carry away, seeing somebody sleeping – “Ah, he has a good dullness”, (a little boy asleep, or..) “This babe has encountered a good dullness”
Then we did the next “All hail, great master!”, where we had the fly, swim, dive into the fire, earth, air, and curled clouds. (“To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride/On the curl’d clouds“)
(Let’s) see, what else is nice?
The way he did the hour of the day – “Past the mid-season” is ..page 41 – (Prospero): “Ariel, thy charge is/ exactly perform’d but there’s more work./What is the time o’ the day? – Ariel:“Past the mid-season” – Prospero: “At least two glasses..” – So it’s two o’clock, two o’clock in the afternoon.
AG: Yeah – Past the mid-season of the day, that’s past the noon time
Then we got Prospero, Ariel, Ariel and Prospero following.
It does seem that Ariel was a servant of Sycorax, which was a problem. Why was Ariel a servant of Sycorax to begin with? (‘Who with age and envy/ Was grown into a hoop”)
So, Ariel was a servant of envy, imagination was originally born as the servant of envy, (or, the first function of the imagination was to serve envy) – which I think is true, psychologically, that – that.. It was true in my case, certainly. I found that I developed my poetic imagination out of envy of people around me that I thought were really smart, and tried to imitate, and wanted to get their powers. And so I began observing how they did it, (or shutting up and listening to them, and picking out the technique of confusing people with putting cons on people and hype-ing people). I figured out the way Burroughs and (Jack) Kerouac did it and (Neal) Cassady did it, and I realized that they did it by recognizing that they didn’t know anything to begin with, rather than that they were smart to begin with, but recognizing they had absolutely no knowledge. It’s like in Socrates, in that.. So everything they said made some kind of clear sense, speaking from their ignorance as declarations of the perceptions of ignorance. While everybody else was being bombastically assertive of some smart theory, they were ignorant of theory but did actually see what was in front of their faces, like, you know, the crack in a pavement or something, or the patina of an old building side with paint rusted. So, because they had no theory, they were ignorant of theory, tho’ they did have direct perception of the things right in front of their noses, “close to the nose”, just like (William Carlos) Williams.
I think it was envy of their perceptiveness that got me listening, envy of their powers, their magical poetic powers. They got me listening and so set my imagination going. At least, that was my experience, I don’t know how other people..You know, in other psychological terms, you could say, “imitation”, or “modeling” (in that a child models himself after a role-model, or a mental role-model), but “envy” could be entered in there as the word, because it is somewhat a grasping after the power of the elder, wanting to share that power, just like Caliban was wanting to grab Prospero’s power. So I think it’s sort of psychologically interesting that imagination, which finally has to be dismissed, in the end, is born out of envy, or born out of that.. some kind of competitive personage, born as a handmaiden to some kind of heavy competitiveness that gives birth to Caliban anyway. And that, in the long run, envy as imagination has to be freed – or imagination has to be freed, in the long run, as being the extra magical power that is not needed to lead a life of one-hand clapping, so to speak, a life without reflection, without reflection of envy, without reflection of trying to do better, without reflection of improving its image, or without reflection of trying to combat some deal just to put on the mind ( f the mind is already back to its home-base, then there’s no need of imagination, maybe – because the universe is the imagination already, the universe is already sufficiently imaginative that there’s not much need to create other universes or get a magical universe to straighten out this one). What there might be needed is granny wit, i.e. direct perception, such as Shakespeare has, so that you’d see the “apt relation of dissimilars”, but you wouldn’t necessarily need a magical imagination to lay a trip of magic on people to confuse them and to straighten things out.
Student: (I was wondering), is there any way to present an image, like the image is already there, and you just have to…
AG: Well, in a way. That was (William Carlos) Williams’ way. At certain pure moments, you could say that was Shakespeare’s way. Well, by “certain pure moments”, I mean like the song I was talking about “When icicles hang by the wall”, “And milk comes frozen home in pail” “And Dick the shepherd blows his nail“, “And Marian’s nose looks red and raw”. It’s just absolute flat fact description and yet it’s the highest jewel in poesy, at the same time, for some reason or other. That’s always been my acme example of Shakespeare at his purest, and also his most naturalistic, and also at his most poetical Shakespearean mellow, all at once. And that is a very famous song. Or even..
Student (2): Where’s that from?Student (3) : I think it’s Love’s Labours Lost AG: I’ve forgotten. “Song”, from “Love’s Labours.. “ probably
Student (3): (I think) it’s at the very end, too.
Student (3): (In spring the sound of) the cuckoo.
AG: And there’s a description of the summer done the same way – objectively – finding the objective correlative for the seasons, like frozen nails, icicles on walls, frozen pail, frost-bit nails – but that gesture of “When Dick the shepherd blows his nail” – like that – [Allen mimics the gesture, blows] – I didn’t understand that for years and years and years. I thought it was some kind of horn that he blew or some silver.. or blow the nail he was nailing. Then, one day, it just, it suddenly occurred to me, ”Oh, blows his nail!” – like when you’re coming in from the bitter winter cold – and I thought, “Boy, that’s great poetry!, because it’s just…”blows his nail“: is so suggestive of a whole, not only action (and a physical action and a drama of that), but an entire season (and the big chill of the season, and the actual physical feel of it).
Student: Then you get into,the subject’s range, and then just taking it over to the owl (already), and just the sound of it…
AG: Yeah – “Then nightly sings the staring owl..”
Student: “Then..sings the staring owl..”AG: ” ..sounds his note tu-whit tu-whoo” Tu-whit tu-whoo – Then, it was a pun there, I always thought Student: YeahAG: To whit – to make love – (A Winter now) is to wit to woo at night, make love or woo.Student: I think (Ezra) Pound would say something like nail is symbolic for an allegory, something that is …..
AG: No, no. (Ezra) Pound wouldn’t say that. Pound would say the opposite – that the accurate direct treatment of the object..
Student: But it also has…..but it’s ok, because it also goes beyond it too. It is the actual happening. But it also has lots of other meanings behind. The symbolism is ok..AG: No, I don’t think it’s symbolism there. See, there’s a phrase of (Chogyam) Trungpa that fits here – “Things are symbols of themselves”. In other words, it’s the, it’s the symbol of itself, what is it, the act of blowing on a nail is just so pithy and vivid an instance of winter that it conjures up the whole winter, without being symbolic of the winter, it is the winter, actually, it is the act of winter. So that, sure, symbolism, you could say it’s symbolic of winter, but it’s not really symbolic so much as a piece of winter brought right on the page so accurately and vividly that you’ve got the winter, in a way that nobody ever thought of it. You know, right to the bite in the bone, to the nail, you know (because everybody remembers that frozen nail).
So in Shakespeare things are symbols of themselves, in this way, (when he’s good – or the Imagist – not always, but when he’s good), this is the Imagist version of Shakespeare, or the Objectivists’ Shakespeare. There’s lots of different Shakespeares – there’s a Yeatsian abstract Shakespeare, but I dig Shakespeare as a good reference point for William Carlos Williams’ practice of “The Red Wheelbarrow” – “Dick the Shepherd blows his nail” or “..red wheel/barrow glazed with rain/water”, Both have vivid pictures in mind at the same time. They are themselves completely and, in a sense, there’s no external reference or symbolic reference to something else but what it is there.
Student: (Kind of like the Buddhist vision)
AG So the Buddhist terms are “thus” and the “suchness” (of) the object.
Anyway on ….Act 1 Scene 2 – “Thou liest, malignant thing!” – (calling Ariel “malignant thing”, calling Ariel “malignant“) – “Hast thou forgot the foul witch Sycorax, who with age and envy was grown into a hoop“. So it was age and envy that was the mother of the universe, so to speak, the mother of the material world of Caliban. (There’s something where he’s supposed to have fucked Sycorax and been the father of Caliban, himself? does anybody know?
AG: Yes. I once heard that version that the secret of the play (was) that he was horny when he first got off the isle, screwed Sycorax. So that’s the reason that he here acknowledges the thing as his own, but… Have you ever heard that version?
AG: Well, I don’t know
AG: Well, yeah, actually, but I don’t know. I think there’s a different, different parentage given
– Let’s see…on page 44 – “Shake it off. Come on/ We’ll visit Caliban my slave, who never/ Yields us kind answers” – I like that, that’s a nice way of laying it out on Caliban –
However, Prospero, from another point of view, Marxist or something, in the next speech – “But, as ‘tis,/ We cannot miss him, he does make our fire,/Fetch in our wood and serves in offices/That profit us./ What, ho! slave! Caliban!/ Thou earth, thou! speak” – It’s hard to tell whether this is, like, a social commentary, or a commentary on the very nature of being in a material body, that is gratitude to the material body that is the fire and the earth –” Thou earth“, that’s the earth, that’s our own bodies. I guess Caliban is the material body, or some aspect of the material body, that’s unredeemably draggy or heavy, or nowhere). I guess, from one point of view, (it) could be the entire material establishment of the earth, like in (William) Blake – Pardon me?
Student: The appetite too, the appetite itself…
AG: Well, envy – the biggest envier in the whole play is Caliban. who’s always at the bottom end of everybody, you know, and wanting everybody’s power…
to be continued
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventeen-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-three-and-a-half minutes in]