Allen Ginsberg, on Ezra Pound in The Cantos….
AG: Now, look what Ezra Pound did with this. [sic- continuing with metrics] Could.. this is.. just like the other one that you went over with Stanley (Lombardo) last term – “drop drop drop drop” (Ben Jonson’s “slow, slow fresh Fount“) – it’s one of the great classic ear pieces. So, in The Pisan Cantos, referring to the progress of English poetry, (a page that I read last term, when we sort of… prefatory to going into song and quantitative meters) – On page five-nineteen, in Cantos LXXXI of The Pisan Cantos
Student: Which number?
AG: Canto eighty-one – Pisan Cantos – page five-nineteen – He’s been talking about.. talking politics, and then mixes it with a bit of Greek ( (talking) about his own situation, being lost in the ruin of Europe, and he’s in jail – and.. I think there some… Althea? – what is it? Althea?….
Student: Althea.. he’s going to prison..
AG: Going to prison, yeah. We haven’t gotten to that yet – but what’s that? – (a poem by Sir John) Suckling? (Richard) Lovelace? something like that ..'[editorial note – “To Althea, from Prison”, it is by Lovelace] – (he) imagines it – at the grate of the prison. [“At my grates, no Athea”] – And then suddenly he goes into an archaic tune, with rhyme, talking about Henry Lawes and (John) Jenkyns and Arnold Dolmetsch, (the twentieth-century reviver of harpsichord), and Lawes, (who set.. I believe.. who set (Ben) Jonson to music perhaps? – and others). Jenkyns, (another madrigal composer). Edmund Waller, (who we’ll come to soon), John Dowland, (who we’ve met already and heard). And then, there’s after all that beautiful music, for a couple of centuries in English poetry, hardly anything happens.
So I’ll read that little thing..
“Beveridge wouldn’t talk and he wouldn’t write for the papers/ but George got him by campin’ im hs hotel/and assailin’ him at lunch breakfast an’ dinner/three articles/and my ole man went on hoein’ corn/while George was a-tellin’ him,/come across a vacant lot/where you’d occasionally see a wild rabbit,/or mebbe only a loose one/AOI..” – AOI? in Greek, what’s that? – does anybody know Greek? AOI? – “a leaf in the current/at my grates no Althea/ – libretto – Yet/Ere the season died a-cold/ Borne upon a zephyr’s shoulder/I rose through the aureate sky/Lawes and Jenkyns guard thy rest/Dolmetsch ever be thy guest,/Has he tempered the viol’s wood/To enforce both the grave and the acute?/Has he curved us the bowl of the lute?/Lawes and Jenkyns guard thy rest/Dolmetsch ever be thy guest/Hast thou fashioned so airy a mood/To draw up leaf from the root?/Hast thou found a cloud so light/As seemed neither mist nor shade?/ Then resolve me, tell me aright/
If Waller sang or Dowland played/ Your eyen two wol sleye me sodenly/I may the beauté of hem nat susteyne/ And for 180 years almost nothing.” – (A twenty-year-old commentary on English poetics! – but that “Has he tempered the viol’s wood/To enforce both the grave and the acute?/Has he curved us the bowl of the lute?” – “Hast ’ou fashioned so airy a mood/To draw up leaf from the root? (I think you’d pronounce it “rout”?) – “”Hast thou fashioned so airy a mood/To draw up leaf from the root/Hast thou found a cloud so light/As seemed neither mist nor shade?”)
So this was (Ezra) Pound’s take-off on this “Or have tasted the bag of the bee?” – “Hast thou fashioned/so airy/a mood – To draw up.. – to draw -up – to draw up leaf from the root” (pitted with the same anapest) – “Hast thou found a cloud so light (anapest mixed with iamb) – “As seemed/neither mist /nor shade”? (da-da, da-da da da-da) – basically tending towards anapestics but hearing that exquisite Ben Jonson melody in the back of his head. So…do you know this? do people even know this Pound at all, I wonder.. Anybody ever read The Pisan Cantos here at all? – well?.. [Allen is confronted by silence] – nothing? – Well, I’m going to read a little bit more because…
to be continued..
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-six minutes in]
[See an earlier examination of these materials – here]