“Love Letter” (to Neal Cassady)

[Neal Cassady (1926-1968) – Photograph by Allen Ginsberg]

AG: Then, Donne – I tried an imitation of  (John) Donne. That was really early. This is like the vers de college, the verse of college days. That was an imitation of… where is our Donne (here(?… There’s a line of Donne’s that I liked was… well, this was more or less an imitation of “For God’s sake hold thy tongue and let me love”. You know that (poem) (on page two three-three) – Remember? Anybody remember? Take a look at that, you’ll see.

Let’s see, I’ll see if I can find the exact line I imitated.. Well, it’ll be good enough, you’ve got the idea.. of Donne.. I’ve more or less forgot,, – “The Canonization (on page two three three) and I was also interested in ”Love’s Alchemy” (on page two three eight) – But, you know the tone of Donne – and  “The Funeral”– and the form. So the form was similar. This is the form of the poem, one of those complicated stanzas with four-give-six  (four accents, five accents six accents – ” To make my play with thee resolve in merriment” – yeah – “Let not the sad perplexity”  [“Love Letter’]  – “Let not the sad perplexity/Of absent love unhumor thee/Sighs, tears, and oaths and laughter I have spent/ To make my play with thee resolve in merriment./ The wisest critics past agree/ The truest love is comedy. Will thou not weary of the tragic argument?”

( I think Neal Cassady had gone, had cut out, yes, we’d gone to (William) Burroughs farm, and I had cut out (to go) on a ship to Dakkar to get a lot of money, so we could go to New York in the Fall and live together, and I can get a house (so I was trying to buy security, buy him, by getting a whole bunch of money together). And he drove north from the marijuana farm in Texas with Burroughs to New York and waited for me (for) about a week. But then he ran out of money, and Burroughs ran out of money and they weren’t talking. And (Herbert) Huncke was trying to sleep with him. And then he got a call from Carolyn, his future wife, that she had an apartment in San Franciscoand so, “why don’t you come there and get married?”, and so he zapped out there. And then I got home and found he was gone and was heartbroken. And then he says “We’re not going to be lovers anymore ”  (and then I got mad or something, I don’t know what..)   So this was “Love Letter” – “Let Not…” – So,  it was, like, an imitation of Donne – trying to put all this – schmutz.. schmaltz – all this hippie schmaltz into the formalistic straitjacket of a poem by.. in the style of.. John Donne. And that was the reason I finally had to break out  and do something like “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness“, you know, some long line tha actuallyt said what I wanted to say (because this was very much in the closet))

“Let not the sad perplexity/Of absent love unhumor  thee/Sighs, tears, and oaths and laughter I have spent/ To make my play with thee resolve in merriment./ The wisest critics past agree/ The truest love is comedy. Will thou not weary of the tragic /argument?”/  Would’st thou make love perverse, and then/Preposterous and crabbed. my pen”/ Tempt Eros not (he is more wise than I )/To suck the apple of thy sad absurdity/Love, who is a friend to men,/You’d make a devil of again:/Then shu;d I be once more exiled, alas, to thee./  Make peace with me, and in my kind” –   (‘(I)n my kind” – I just meant with fairies) – “Make peace wih me, and in my kind,/With Eros, angel of the mind/Who loves me, loving thee, and in our bliss/Is loved by all of us and finds his happiness/ Such simple pleasures are designed/To entertain our days, I find,/And so shalt thee, when next we make a night of this”
“This spring we’ll be not merely mad,/But absent lovers, therefore sad/So we’ll be no ore happy than we ought -/That simple love of Eros may be strangely taught./And wit will seldom make me glad/That spring hath not what winter had,/Therefore thse nights are darkened shadows of my thought/  Grieve in a garden, then, and in a summer’s twilight,/Think of thy love, for. spring is lost to me./Or as you will, and if the moon be white,/Let all thy soul to music married be,/To magic, nightingales, and immortality./And, if it pleases thee, why, think on Death:/For Death is strange upon a summer night/The thought of it may make thee catch thy breath,/And meditation hath itself a great beauty;/Wherefore if thou must weep, now I must mourn with thee.”

[Audio for  the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-three-and-a-half minutes in]

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