Ben Jonson (“Slow Slow Fresh Fount..”)

AG:  So what do we want now? – (Ben Jonson’s) “Slow slow fresh fount” ,  Some of you here, What did you make of that? – Page two six-six – a couple of really pretty pieces of cadence (here) now.. I’ve never examined this song very carefully, except  a couple of times it’s really struck me as being real..  just totally lovely music..

“Slow slow, fresh fount, keep time with my salt tears;/Yet slower yet, O faintly, gentle springs!/List to the heavy part the music bears” – So it’s all about music, actually – the” division” here (“Woe weeps out her division”) is a musical term – Harmony, is that division? Does anybody know enough about Elizabethan music to know what the term “division” means there? You got any idea..? –

Student: Ah, yeah, counterpoint.

AG: Counterpoint. Yeah, okay, I think it says “part in a song”. The footnote (here) says “part in a song” but the counterpoint part. –  so point and counterpoint – Counterpoint is what? – two people singing simultaneously? or one against another?

Student: Basically, it’s one against another..

AG: Harmony..

Student: …which (Thomas) Campion developed, taking the voices and breaking them into bass, tenor, treble and alto

AG; Yes

Student (2): Syncopation?

Student: The way he conceived it, yes – not so much syncopation, no. The early stage was counter-melody, more harmony –  syncopated harmonies, yeah.

AG: So it would be actually then – “Slow..slow..slow… slow.. fresh fount”..

Student: Two voices, though..

AG: Yeah

Student: In a round.

AG: Yeah, It’d be funny if you did do that, like one voice singing “Slow slow”, another voice singing “fresh fount..”, and then all four voices “keep time with my salt tears” [Allen sings, acapella]- “Yet slower yet, O faintly, gentle springs!/List to the heavy part the music bears,/Woe weeps out her division when she sings./Droop herbs and flowers;/Fall grief in showers;/Our beauties are not ours/O I could still,/Like melting snow upon some craggy hill/Drop, drop, drop, drop,/ Since nature’s pride is now a withered daffodil..”

– or something like that, I imagine  – But I like that  “drop, drop drop..” – You can just imagine what a musician could make of that! – you know like, “drop drop drop! (go up on the scale?) or, probably “drop drop ..Drop-drop…” – You could do anything, you know. You could have big drops, little drops, enormous jumps, but probably (just) even – “Drop, drop, drop drop” ( go the whole scale with that – Bom-bom-bom-bom) – I like that “Droop herbs and flowers;/Fall grief in showers”. It’s really interesting that you have to have an extra emphasis on “droop” and “fall”, you can’t say “droop-herbs-and-showers, fall-grief-in-showers”, with… because it is basically da da da-da-da, da da da-da-da – (And) what meters are those? – boom-boom da da-da – “Fall grief in showers” –  Actually, I know the name of that meter, it’s a special Greek meter – I looked it up last week -it’s  “fall-grief-showers”.. let me….[Allen returns to the blackboard] – It’s a special meter, used very gently here but very often used for the most flamboyant of oratory. At the end of Greek plays at the moment of tragedy and recognition of tragedy, there is a special meter that comes in…usually it’s [Allen chalks on blackboard ] – bom.. bom bom da-bom – this is called the.. I have a note on it, I spoke to a Greek scholar about …in Durham, North Carolina,,,, because I was interested in a line by Hart Crane (I’ll put these lines on here) – “Droop herbs and flowers;/Fall grief in showers” – [Allen chalks on blackboard ][to Student]  Any comma?

Student: (Semi-colon)

AG: Well, we don’t know about that, that’s the Norton Anthology‘s  (punctuation).

to be continued  

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty minutes in]

[This section first appeared on the Allen Ginsberg Project – here ]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *