William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence – 1

William Blake (1757-1827)

AG: So, we were on the… I had read,  “In order to trample on the Great Void/ The iron cow must sweat”, and also, “Meeting, the two old friends laugh aloud/ In the grove the fallen leaves are many” – or “The path of the bird..” –  “In the vast inane/ there is no back or front,/ the path of the bird annihilates East and West”

So (William) Blake has a series, like those two-line poems that we were doing, that verge on Vajrayana, that is to say, turning things inside out, taking accident and mishap and learning from it, alchemizing poison to nectar, or learning from experience, like, same thing, learning from experience, open to experience and learning from it (rather than resisting and solidifying and saying, “that’s bad-bad-bad”, and “that’s good-good-good”, experience) . So any broken leg is an opening to sunyata, i.e. there’s no place to stand on
Does anybody know “Auguries of Innocence”? How many here have read that? William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”? – and how many have not? – just raise your (hand).. good..great – so it’s a good field, imagine!

Gregory Corso  (sitting in attendance in class):  Equable!

AG: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/And Eternity in an hour” – That’s like that little two-line thing we had “When a cow eats in Kaishu, a horse’s belly bloats in Boston” [“When a cow in Kaishu eats mulberry leaves,/ the belly of a horse in Ekishu is distended”]

Gregory Corso: Can I read) the next one?

AG: Pardon me?

Gregory Corso: See if I can read the next one…

GC: “The Lamb misus’d breeds Public Strife./And yet forgives the Butcher’s knife”.

AG: It’s not the next one, it’s about eight down, but it’s right there.

GC: I’m so embarrassed!

AG: “A Dove-house fill’d with Doves & Pigeons/Shudders Hell thr’ all its regions”

“A dog starved at his Masters Gate/Predicts the ruin of the State”

Student: That’s also a Chinese proverb?
AG: It is? – Literally?.. how?…what? do you know the..
Student: Literally.  I have no idea (about…)
AG: I’m wondering is that (just) archetypal thought, or is that Blake’s esoteric Gnostic osmosis?
Student: Yes

AG; “A horse misus’d upon. the Road/Calls to Heaven for Human blood”

“Each outcry of the hunted hare/A fibre from the Brain does tear” – (the hare, the rabbit) – “Each outcry of the hunted hare/A fibre from the Brain does tear” – Now what does that mean? Anybody got any idea? – “Each outcry of the hunted hare/ A fibre from the Brain does tear” – Can anybody explain the literal meaning of that?

Gregory Corso: I can, Al, a little bit
AG: Yeah
GC: Want your students to do it first?
AG: No…anybody. Well, let’s let them try first.
GC: (You’ll) let them try first.

Student: You said (that that statement has the power)
AG: Yeah, but how does a fibre get torn from the brain by the outcry of the hunted hare?
(is what I’m asking).
Student: (But asking is intelligence). The brain, the mind, is what distinguishes humans from other animals..
AG: But how does the outcry, literally…
Student: The brain is repeating the outcry..
AG: Right.
Student: (…having to deliver it, through it), maybe a slither of it, a part of (it), the people’s brain, will die with the death of a hare.
AG: Yes, it might put a strain on one single cell or fibre of the brain, actually because…”The hare’s “outcry”? – What is a hare’s “outcry” like? – Is (CC)here? [Allen’s student, Chuck Carroll]
Student: (mimicking) : (Eeek!)
AG: Does anybody know?
Student (2): A human sound.
Gregory Corso: A human sound, they say.
AG: Well, that would actually..
Student: A cry of speech, a cry of outrage.
AG: Yes., and, coming unexpected, it might actually give you that shudder-shock, which was, like a little electrical short-circuit in your brain, It’s absolutely literal (particularly, if coming unexpected). The odd thing is that all of these are absolutely literal. In one way or another, there’s a literality to these that’s really uncanny. It looks like they’re opposites. It looks like they’re impossibilities. It looks like they are poles apart. The amazing thing is that (William) Blake’s intelligence has filled it in, or has found, has seen, the relations – or guessed the relations, or intuited the relations – without thinking even. So that the relations are there perceived instantly. That’s why, for some people, if you read some of these (like “The cut worm forgives the plow” [from Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”]), it’ll stick in your brain for years until you understand it. Like a Zen koan, actually – “The cut worm forgives the plow” We’ll get to that

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginnning at approximately eight-and-a-quarter minutes in and continuing until approximately thirteen-and-a-half minutes in]

Leave a Reply

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