Ginsberg Reads Milton – 2

[William Blake – Satan Watching The Endearments of Adam and Eve (1808)]

Continuing from yesterday, 1980 audio recording of Allen Ginsberg reading from Book Nine of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

AG: What I like is the sound of it. I’m imitating the sound of this in “Plutonian Ode”, that whole trick of name-dropping – Pluto and Demeter and..

where we are.. what line are we on? -“maugre” – meager – despite of – what is maugre? – “despite of” – yeah (Allen continues the reading here the poem)

“By night he fled, and at midnight returned/From compassing the earth” – (this is Satan, I guess, he’s talking about) – ” cautious of day,/Since Uriel, regent of the sun, descried/ His entrance, and foreworned the Cherubim/ That kept their watch; thence full of anguish driven,/The space of seven continued nights he rode/With darkness; thrice the equinoctial line/He circled; four times crossed the car of night/From pole to pole, traversing each colure;/On the eighth returned; and, on the coast averse/From entrance or Cherubic watch, by stealth/Found unsuspected way” – (he’s trying to get in to Eden) – “There was a place,

“Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change”  (“Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change” –  what?-  ah – “Now, not though sin..” – what does that mean,”Now not, though sin, not time, first..”? – what does that mean? – oh, “there was a place, now not”, that no longer exists – there was a place. ah, I see) – “There was a place../Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,/Into a gulf shot under ground, till part/
Rose up a fountain by the tree of life:/In with the river sunk, and with it rose/
Satan, involved in rising mist; then sought/Where to lie hid; sea he had searched, and land,/
From Eden over Pontus and the pool/Mæotis, up beyond the river Ob;/Downward as far antarctic; and in length,/West from Orontes to the ocean barred/At Darien ; thence to the land where flows/Ganges and Indus: Thus the orb he roamed/With narrow search; and with inspection deep/Considered every creature, which of all/Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found/The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field./Him after long debate, irresolute/Of thoughts revolved, his final sentence chose/Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom/ To enter, and his dark suggestions hide/From sharpest sight for in the wilie Snake,/
Whatever sleights none would suspicious mark,/As from his wit and native suttletie
Proceeding, which in other Beasts observ’d/ Doubt might beget of Diabolic pow’r/Active within beyond the sense of brute./Thus he resolv’d, but first from inward griefe
His bursting passion into plaints thus pour’d

Now Satan’s going to get a big speech – “O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d/More justly, Seat worthier of Gods, as built/With second thoughts, reforming what was old!” – (You see, because, in the earlier part, he’d been up in Heaven, and he’d just..he’d fallen out of Heaven, and entered and been  down in Hell, and he’d organized all the workers down in Hell, and now he’s going back to visit Earth, and, all of a sudden, he gets to Earth, and he’s got this pain in his heart, that it’s actually quite beautiful, that he’s going to fuck it up forever, you know, maybe it’s even better than Heaven was – and sort of  yearning,  “Gee, there’s Adam and Eve, this is the Serpent”, yearning for Adam an Eve, looking around, thinking, “O, Earth!” – Pretty good! – “how like to Heav’n” – “Seat, worthy of God, as if built with  second thoughts, reforming what was old/For what God after better worse would build?’ – (In other words, after God built Heaven, what kind of God would build something worse than Heaven, after he built Heaven? He must’ve built something better than ever and that’s Earth ) – “For what God after better worse would build?” – (It’s very Latinate too – “For what God after Heaven worse would build” – and “build” comes at the end of the sentence) – “For what God after better” – (stress – the stress on the sixth syllable in that one) –  “For what God after better worse would build?” – (it’s built like a brick shit-house! – it’s amazing! – you know,  it’s right there, every time you want to know the principle, it’s right there for you) –

“For what God after better worse would build?/Terrestrial Heav’n, danc’t round by other Heav’ns/That shine, yet bear thir bright officious Lamps,/Light above Light, for thee alone, as seems,/ In thee concentring all thir precious beams/Of sacred influence: As God in Heav’n/ Is Center, yet extends to all, so thou/Centring receav’st from all those Orbs; in thee,Not in themselves, all thir known vertue appeers./ Productive in Herb, Plant, and nobler birth/Of Creatures animate with gradual life/Of Growth, Sense, Reason, all summ’d up in Man./With what delight could I have walkt thee round/,If I could joy in aught, sweet interchange/Of Hill, and Vallie, Rivers, Woods and Plaines,/Now Land, now Sea, and Shores with Forrest crownd,/Rocks, Dens, and Caves; but I in none of these/Find place or refuge; and the more I see/Pleasures about me, so much more I feel/Torment within me, as from the hateful siege/Of contraries; all good to me becomes/Bane, and in Heav’n much worse would be my state./But neither here seek I, no nor in Heav’n/To dwell, unless by maistring Heav’ns Supreame/Nor hope to be my self less miserable/By what I seek, but others to make such/As I, though thereby worse to me redound:/For onely in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts; and him destroyd” – [God – “him destroyd’] – “Or won to what may work his utter loss,/For whom all this was made” – [oh, that’s Adam, and Adam destroyed – “Or won to what may work his utter loss,/For whom all this was made/, all this will soon/Follow, as to him linkt in weal or woe,/In wo then: that destruction wide may range:/To mee shall be the glorie sole among/ The infernal Powers, in one day to have marr’d/What he Almightie styl’d, six Nights and Days/Continu’d making, and who knows how long/Before had bin contriving, though perhaps/Not longer then since I in one Night freed/ From servitude inglorious well-nigh half/ Th’ Angelic Name, and thinner left the throng/Of his adorers” – [the Angels] – ” hee to be aveng’d,/And to repaire his numbers thus impair’d/,Whether such virtue spent of old now faild/ More Angels to Create, if they at least /Are his Created, or to spite us more/,Determin’d to advance into our room/A Creature form’d of Earth, and him endow,/Exalted from so base original,/ With Heav’nly spoils, our spoils: What he decreed/He effected; Man he made, and for him built/Magnificent this World, and Earth his seat,/Him Lord pronounc’d, and, O indignitie!/Subjected to his service Angel wings,/And flaming Ministers to watch and tend/Thir earthy Charge: Of these the vigilance I dread – [he’s afraid an Angel will find him skulking around there] –  ” Of these (Angels) the vigilance I dread/and to elude, thus wrapt in mist/Of midnight vapor glide obscure, and prie/In every Bush and Brake, where hap may finde/The Serpent sleeping, in whose mazie foulds/To hide me, and the dark intent I bring/.O foul descent! that I who erst contended/With Gods to sit the highest, am now constraind/Into a Beast, and mixt with bestial slime,

 “This essence to incarnate and imbrute/That to the hight of Deitie aspir’d;/But what will not Ambition and Revenge/Descend to? who aspires must down as low/As high he soard, obnoxious first or last/To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,/Bitter ere long back on it self recoiles;/Let it; I reck not, so it light well aim’d,/Since higher I fall short, on him who next/Provokes my envie, this new Favorite/Of Heav’n, this Man of Clay, Son of despite,/Whom us the more to spite his Maker rais’d/ From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.”   

” So saying through each Thicket Dank and Drie/ Like a black mist low creeping, he held on (“Like a black mist low creeping” – actually, it’s great – Milton is really interesting, if you fill it with a little spirit, because the imagery is tremendous and  dramatic and poetic, like, “So saying, through each Thicket Like a black mist low creeping…” -“Like a black mist low creeping” – that’s straight out of heavy-metal comics – in fact, the whole thing is straight out of heavy metal comics! – It is, it’s the same cosmic conflict, cosmic ambition – tremendous amount of humor, but also a lot of color, lot of drama, a lot of archetypal ranting (as Satan was doing)).   Also the book.. So, actually, it is possible to read through the entire Paradise Lost of Milton, when you put some oomph into it, to read it aloud, and it’s an amazingly amusing thing, (it’s better than a television show), it’s really good. – I’ve done it. I’ve gone through about seven books of it aloud with a young friend, once, about four years ago,  and it’s a great… and Gregory Corso did that in Cambridge in 1953. with his girlfriend Hope Savage. They sat in, like, an elegant little parlor in Cambridge by fire and put on lamplight and every evening they read one book of Paradise Lost. just an hour, through the whole book, they read it for one hour (I don’t know, I guess instead of looking at television for one hour), even one hour, passing this marvelous language through their mouths and their imaginations. So, it, actually, for this kind of stuff, probably for Spenser’s Faerie Queene  for this, certainly a lot of Shakespeare, sure, (and) a lot of Blake, you can do it aloud, and it’s a great.. real entertainment, real entertainment. If you get some people that can, you know, who wanted to keep playful, and, you know, not just read it, you know, confused constantly.  See, you have to be constantly alert, where your verb is going to come up, what this passage means, and improvise a little on it, or go back( if you read it dully, without meaning,  you’ve got to go back and get back the meaning), you know.. Read it with meaning and you’ve got it going. So.. 

.”So saying through each Thicket..”” – might as well read on… shall I continue on with the Milton reading? .. I’m sort of interested in the point where the serpent gets to talk with Eve   – that has to be interesting  – and then when Eve’s got to talk with Adam, and where Adam has go to make his decision. Those would be interesting moments of Miltonic rhetoric. Well, yes, we’ll get to Eve soon.

.”So saying through each Thicket Danck or Drie,/Like a black mist low creeping, he held on/His midnight search, where soonest he might finde/The Serpent: him fast sleeping soon he found/In Labyrinth of many a round self-rowld/His head the midst, well stor’d with suttle wiles:/Not yet in horrid Shade or dismal Den,/Nor nocent yet..” – [ harmful yet] – “bu on the grassie Herbe/Fearless unfeard he slept: in at his Mouth/The Devil enterd, and his brutal sense,/In heart or head, possessing soon inspir’d/With act intelligential… – (hmm, that’s a nice line . “and his.brutal sense”  (the serpent’s sense of brutality, “brutal sense”) “and his brutal sense/In heart or head, possessing soon inspir’d/With act intelligential; but his….” –  (imagine using that word in a modern poem! – “O (President Jimmy) Carter, thou intelligential atomics are foresworn”,  or something) – “but his sleep..”   “but his sleep/ Disturbd not, waiting close th’ approach of Morn/Now when as sacred Light began to dawne/in Eden on the humid Flours…” – (that’s so pretty – “when good light began to dawn in Eden on the humid flowers) – “that breathd/Thir morning incense, when all things that breath,/From th’ Earths great Altar send up silent praise/To the Creator, and his Nostrils fill/With grateful Smell, forth came the human pair/And joind thir vocal Worship to the Quire/Of creatures wanting voice –  (that is flowers that didn’t have voices, lacking voices, so began singing) – “that done, partake/The season, prime for sweetest Sents and Aires:/Then commune how that day they best may ply/Thir growing work: for much thir work outgrew/The hands dispatch of two Gardning so wide./And Eve first to her Husnamd this began:

Adam, well may we labour still to dress/This Garden, still to tend Plant, Herb and Flour,/Our pleasant task enjoyn’d, but till more hands/Aid us, the work under our labour grows,/Luxurious by restraint; what we by day/Lop overgrown, or prune, or prop, or bind,/One night or two with wanton growth derides/Tending to wilde. Thou therefore now advise/Or hear what to my minde first thoughts present,/Let us divide our labours, thou..” – [ therefore] – “where choice/Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind/The Woodbine round this Arbour, or direct/The clasping Ivie where to climb, while I/In yonder Spring of Roses intermixt/With Myrtle, find what to redress till Noon..” – [ what ills to redress in a little plot of roses mixed with myrtle – (and) a very Edenic labor! – you know, the worst thing you’ve got to worry about – what ills must you redress, or fix, what have you got to fix up, in a little field of roses and myrtle, that’s mixed),  “till Noon./For while so near each other thus all day/Our taske we choose, what wonder if so near/Looks intervene and smiles, or object new/Casual discourse draw on, which intermits/Our dayes work brought to little, though begun/Early, and th’ hour of Supper comes unearn’d

“To whom mild answer Adam thus return’d/Sole Eve., Associate sole, to me beyond/Compare above all living Creatures deare,/Well hast thou motion’d well thy thoughts imployd/How we might best fulfill the work which here/God hath assign’d us, nor of me shalt pass/Unprais’d: for nothing lovelier can be found/In Woman, then to studie houshold good,/And good workes in her Husband to promote..” – [male chauvinist comment there, since he’s saying that the best thing a woman can do is to do good works to promote good things in her husband]  – “Yet..” – (And so, actually, Blake will pick up on Milton here, and denounce Milton for being a male chauvinist sexist judging mental monster. So Blake’s later task was to rescue Milton fom Hell, as… because he thought Milton was the most inspired English poet, so he thought he’d better get his spirit out of that, this heavy thing, into..  So we’ve got this book published here in town [in Boulder] , Milton by William Blake – a Prophetic Book ). – Yet not so strictly hath our Lord impos’d/Labour, as to debarr us when we need/Refreshment, whether food, or talk between,/Food of the mind, or this sweet intercourse/Of looks and smiles, for smiles from Reason flow,/To brute deni’d, and are of Love the food,/Love not the lowest end of human life./For not to irksom toile, but to delight/He made us, and delight to Reason joyn’d./These paths & Bowers doubt not but our joynt hands/Will keep from Wilderness with ease as wide/As we need walk, till younger hands ere long/Assist us: But if much converse perhaps/Thee satiate to short absence I could yield./For solitude somtimes is best societie/And short retirement urges sweet returne/But other doubt possesses me, least harm/Befall thee sever’d from me; for thou knowst/What hath bin warn’d us, what malicious Foe/Envying our happiness, and of his own/Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame/By sly assault; and somwhere nigh at hand/Watches, no doubt, with greedy hope to find/His wish and best advantage, us asunder,/Hopeless to circumvent us joynd, where each/To other speedie aide might lend at need;/Whether his first design be to withdraw/Our fealtie from God, or to disturb/Conjugal Love, then which perhaps no bliss/Enjoy’d by us excites his envie more;/Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side/That gave thee being..” – (because Adam’s, from his rib) – “not the faithful side/That gave thee being/, still shades thee and protects/The Wife, where danger or dishonour lurks/Safest and seemliest by her Husband staies/ Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.” –  (Well, that’s a male proposition. So she’s got her answer. Well, actually, Milton’s somewhat rehearsing the psychological controversy) – “To whom the Virgin Majestie of Eve/As one who loves, and some unkindness meets,/With sweet austeer composure thus reply’d…”  – and so forth.  So they end this where..  Let’s get on to where she meets the serpent, that might be…  oh, it’s nine-thirty,  so we’ll leave it at that.  What I would suggest is, why don’t you read on, and read the whole book of Milton?, which is how many pages more? – or read it aloud, if you’ve got somebody to read it to. It’s a big story. The end is pretty great. The arguments between Adam and Eve at the end are very good. The conversation between Satan and Eve is really interesting.

Here is Satan telling her how to find The Tree of Knowledge – (“To whom the wilie Adder, blithe and glad/Empress, the way is readie, and not long/Beyond a row of Myrtles, on a Flat,/Fast by a Fountain, one small Thicket past/Of blowing Myrrh and Balme; if thou accept/My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon”)

– So – It’s actually pretty amusing.  If you’ve never read Milton, at least now that you’re into one book, why don’t you read through the book? If you’ve got the almighty ambition then read through the whole thing. When I was at Columbia College we were assigned to read it in a week, and we did, and it was good, a good deal. And the plot is given with the argument before each chapter so it’s not hard to understand, it’s easy to understand.

Next we’ll continue with maybe a little more Milton and then Edmund Waller (whom I skipped over), some of Milton’s Sonnets, L’Allegro and “Il Penseroso”, at least , but, particularly, Waller’s Song (“Go lovely Rose”, (page) three-oh-five)  and then Ezra Pound (page one thousand-six),  (an) imitation of that song)

[Audio for the above can be heard here. The reading begins approximately sixty-four-and-a-half minutes in and continues until the end of the tape] 

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