Allen Ginsberg’s 1990 Basic Poetics class at Naropa, continuing from last week.
AG: On page three-two-four – “To Mr Henry Lawes on His Airs” – “Airs” – tomb – “Lawes and Jenkyns be thy guest…” – remember from Ezra Pound? Pisan Cantos? – “Lawes and Jenkyns guard thy rest/Dolmetsch ever be thy guest” – same Henry Lawes, the musician – “Harry..” (Henry Lawes) (hey! Harry!)
“Harry, whose tuneful and well-measured song/First taught our English music how to span/Words with just note and accents, not to scab/With Midas’ ears, committing short and long..” – (“misjoining” it says for “committing”) – “Thy worth and skill exempts thee from the throng,/With praise enough for Envy to.loook wan;/To after age thou shalt be writ the man/That with smooth air couldst humor best our tongue/ Thou honor’st Verse, and Verse must lend her wing/To honor thee, the priest of Phoebus’ choir,/That tun’st their happiest lines in hymn or story./Dante shall give Fame leave to set thee higher/Than his Casella, whom he wooed to sing,/Met in the milder shades of Purgatory.”
So this is (John) Milton‘s hommage to Henry Lawes (whom Ezra Pound later paid hommage to, because he understood the difference between long and short vowels, long and short syllables. Note (on) “Midas’ ears” there – “Midas was given asses ears” (Midas was the guy, everything he touched turned to gold, but he couldn’t understand any music. So he was given asses’ ears for having prefered Pan‘s music to Apollo‘s, confusing long and short, short and long).
So we’re back on the same thing of the long and short, or.. and it becomes the measure of the syllable – by long or short – a thing I’ve been exhuming from the heaped-up lines of history and resurrecting – as Ezra Pound tried to resurrect it earlier in the century – and (I’ve) tried to make us all in the class conscious of short and long syllables, as being one of the great means of measure in traditional English poetry (an art that is lost in our era. – it’s an art that’s been lost for our century, practically, except for the heroic ear of Ezra Pound).
Audio for the above begins here at approximately thirty seconds in and continues until approximately three-and-a-half minutes in