More Ben Jonson (“Queen and Huntress”)

[Artemis with a hind, better known as “Diana of Versailles”. Marble, Roman artwork, Imperial Era (1st-2nd centuries CE). Found in Italy]

AG: Okay, well, the next.. next poem,  (Ben Jonson’s) “Queen and Huntress” is total silver horns, really, a meter that’s… this is, I guess, just.. this is the same rhythm as (William) Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger, basically, this is the trochaic meter (that I was pointing out here – [Allen again points to the blackboard ] – “Tyger/Tyger”, or, “Queen And/Hunt-ress”)  – Well, “Queen, and huntress, /chaste and fair” – Got that? – bomb-a bomb-a bomb-a ba –  (It’s) called trochaic, and it’s like great music (because you can just see the conductor going “”Queen and huntress, /chaste and fair” – I mean, there’s a rest in there – “”Queen and huntress, /chaste and fair” – boom-boom ba-da, boom boom ba-da – So there’s a very majestical, stately, even measure that is exactly equivalent to the mental imagery projected of the goddess, of Diana, the goddess of the moon, and of the hunt. A song this is, sung by Hesperus, the morning star?  –   So that would be the morning star singing to the moon. Well, if the morning star’s going to sing to the moon, you’ve got to have something really stately for that one, it’s classic.

So -“Queen, and huntress, chaste and fair,/ Now the sun is laid to sleep,/ Seated in thy silver chair,/ State in wonted manner keep :/ Hesperus entreats thy light,/ Goddess excellently bright./  Earth, let not thy envious shade/ Dare itself to interpose..” – (now that’s a nice long line – Ba ba ba badda-da da ba ba ba badda-da – and with no breath in-between – the others all had commas. every other… the first line of the first stanza -“”Queen and huntress, chaste and fair”, I think,has always had that caesura – “””Queen and huntress”, comma, “chaste and fair” – da-da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da-da – every line straight through, then, to get the variation – “Earth” – boom – “let not thy envious shade/ Dare itself to interpose” – (that’s like a really nice long pretty cadenza or whatever you call it) – “Cynthia’s shining orb was made/ Heaven to clear” – (and that’s one-and-a-half lines for that one – even longer)  – “when day did close :/Bless us then with wishèd sight/, Goddess excellently bright.  – (So the last two lines are even, so dig the variance) – “Earth let not thy envious shade/ Dare itself to interpose/Cynthia’s shining orb was made/ Heaven to clear/when day did close :/Bless us then with wishèd sight/, Goddess excellently bright” –

Lay thy bow of pearl apart/And thy crystal shining quiver” – (that’s a very nice syncopation – “And thy crystal shining quiver” – just right for the “crystal quiver”, a little quivering syncopation in that) – “Give unto the flying hart/Space to breathe”- (hints to the reciter of this poem! -“Give unto the flying hart/Space to breathe/ how short soever” – (The pun here, the time pun on the subject-matter, that would be partly logopoeia and partly melopoeia – I mean here the logopoeia and the melopoeia intermix, are so perfectly matched – So “”Give unto the.. hart” – the hart is a rabbit, no, a deer, so it’s the hunt, she’s the huntress –  “Give unto the flying hart/Space to breathe” – (so that’s, actually, give unto mankind, to mankind a little space to breathe) – “how short soever” – (so you have this little short phrase there to manifest that short space to breathe) –  “how short soever/ Thou that mak’st a day of night,/ Goddess excellently bright.”

There must have been music to that. I would have loved to hear that music because it’s such stately..stately possibility – Hrrum – badda-dum  bom bom bom – “Queen and huntress” – [Allen begins singing] – “chaste and fair, /Now the sun is laid to sleep,/ Seated in thy silver chair/, State in wonted manner keep :/ Hesperus entreats thy light, /Goddess excellently bright –  (that funny little syncopation of that last)  – [ continues ]  – “Earth, let not thy envious shade/ Dare itself to interpose” – no, “..let not thy envious shade/ Dare itself to inter-pose/Cynthia’s shining orb was made/ Heaven to clear when day did close :/ Bless us then with wishèd sight,/ Goddess excellently bright” – “Bless us then with wishèd sight,/ Goddess excellently bright”/ –  “Lay thy bow of pearl apart/And thy crystal shining quiver ;/ Give unto the flying hart/Space to breathe, how short soever :/ Thou that mak’st a day of night,/ Goddess excellently bright”.  – “Thou that mak’st..” – “Thou that mak’st a day of night” – ba da ba badda ba ba  –  “Thou that mak’st a day of night,/ Goddess excellently bright” – (So , “mak’st a day of night/..excellently bright” fits, syncopated, fits together). So the delicacy of the rhythmic construction, which isn’t really a matter of him measuring it out rationally, you know, it isn’t that he figured it out like a..you know “one plus one, two syllables, and I’ll use the Greek.. I’ll use a variant of the trochaic that’ll have, you know, like, a heavy beat on the beginning and a heavy beat at the end”, it’s just that he’d developed his ear, so it’s flying by…flying by the seat of your pants, or rule of thumb, or close to the nose, or close to the skin,, or.. It’s strictly a matter of having such a pleasant ambition as a writer as to enjoy yourself with the most exquisite melody you can conceive. (because there’s no need for the melodies to be,.. just like love, you know,you can fuck like a rabbit, you know, punch it three or four times, or you can lead up to it very delicately with touches all over the skin and you can go on and on and on for hours, you know, building it up. The delicacy, the meekness, or the even-ness and meekness of the first touch and the exploration further of the possibility, consciously (consciously, meaning that you know you’re doing something pretty,not necessarily that you know exactly how you can do it, that you can measure it out with an inch-rule or with a metronome or by clock or anything, but everybody’s got that kind of delicacy within them, if they can hear it. I mean there’s nobody that can’t hear the delicacy here. right? – So the point of going through these poems like this, so slowly, going through the delicate meters, is to ingrain in our own nervous systems appreciation and habituation to that kind of delicacy so that you’ll never be able to write without some awareness of the balance, of the balances of accent and tone, pitch – da-da-da-da-da-da-da – “Goddess excellently bright” – pitched drop-drop-drop-drop-drop.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-one-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-and-a-quarter minutes in]

{This material first appeared on the Allen Ginsberg Project – here

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