Then, in America, the most interesting person around (at) the same time (as Pushkin, in the nineteenth-century), born 1809 and died early, 1849, is Edgar Allan Poe. Are most of you familiar with Poe? How many here are familiar with Poe? How many here are not? [Students raise a show of hands] – Yeah. How many have read “The Bells” by Poe? And how many have not? Poe’s “..Bells” Well, that’d be kind of interesting to do.
“The Bells” was the earliest poem that I knew, and that determined my rhythmic system, probably, because my father would go around the house reciting it, because he taught it in high school. So the way he recited it was very rapid and purely emphasizing the rhythm. Has anybody heard this read aloud? Yeah, I’ve read it here a few times. [Allen gives a reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells” – “Hear the sledges with the bells/Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells!/ How they tinkle tinkle tinkle/In the icy air of night!/While the stars that over sprinkle/All the heavens seem to twinkle/With a crystalline delight/Keeping time time time,/In a sort of Runic rhyme/To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells/From the bells, bells, bells, bells/Bells, bells, bells/ From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells”.. .] – That’s a real piece of sound. That’s really amazing. There’s not very many people who get that. That’s powerful, a rhythmic cadence. Has anybody ever tried writing with that kind of jingle jangle jingle at all? It’s really interesting to try.
The thing that I notice is that it’s actually really rare among poets to get a construction of sound that’s as definitely rhythmical as that. That is to say, you’ve got the rhythm, but you’ve also got the vocables of the sounds of the vowels that make it possible for the rhythm not to be merely sing-song but actually be clangorous and effective in the mouth and in the ear. Because he’s got all that bom-hom-bom-hong-bomb-gong-bong-gong. It isn’t just twit-twit-twit-twit, or twittwittwittwittwitt – wittwittwit, it’s bah-bah-bough-bah-bah-bough-bah-bah-bah. (Percy Bysshe) Shelley has it – that mighty, passionate, rhythmic, force. Poe has it. I think that’s the highest thing that poetry has, actually. Pure sound. Pure musical sound. Of course, a lot of people don’t like it, because they say it’s just stupid, that is, it’s just pure sound and there’s no intellect, or there’s no serious conception that goes along with it (except the physical excitement in itself, (or) the ecstasy of that kind of pronouncement, is another form of intelligence. It certainly makes you more open to sympathies, the sympathies of nature, say, more open to sex, probably, makes you more open to music, to the beat of your own heart, the possibility of your own excitement. It makes you open to the possibility of your own ecstasy, and that certainly would lead to intelligence (even) if it isn’t intelligence itself).
Has anybody much experience of this poem. Ever get high on it?
AG: Somebody. Has anybody ever featured this particular poem in their childhood? Or has everybody? – I don’t know. It was a standard thing when I was a kid. We had it in grammar school, even – the text
(Jack) Kerouac‘s favorite rhythm in Poe is “Annabel Lee” – and that was one poem that Kerouac knew by heart. And I think it was the rhythm in it that he imitated, that turned him on, a very specific rhythm (as well as the dreamy symbolism) – [Allen reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” in its entirety] – “It was many and many a year ago/In a kingdom by the sea…”…”And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side/Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride,/In the sepulchre by the sea/ In her tomb by the sounding sea.” – Well, that’s a very pure continuity, (or) continuum – “And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side/Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride – in her dah-duh-duh-dah-duh-dah What is that? – “(all) the night-tide” – that’s anapest – anapestic rhythm. – You all know anapestic rhythm?
(Phil Ochs‘ recorded version of “The Bells” may be heard here, Joan Baez‘s recorded version of “Annabel Lee” may be heard here – “The Bells” read by Basil Rathbone, here, and “Annabel Lee” by Marianne Faithfull, here)
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately thirteen-and-a-half minutes in, and concluding at approximately twenty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in]