Continuing with Allen’s reading from, and annotation of, William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”
AG: “The Catterpiller on the Leaf/ Repeats to thee thy Mother’s grief “ – That’s a mysterious one. How do we make that one? – “The Catterpiller on the Leaf/ Repeats to thee thy Mother’s grief “
Student: (Maybe the caterpillar being born…)
AG: Being born. Yes. Being born of earth, really. In the Book of Thel, actually, if you read the Book of Thel, that actually completely explains that couplet, because it’s a conversation between Thel, who’s a little scared to be born, a virgin from the Bardo Thodol, [Tibetan Book of the Dead], who’s not sure she wants to be born, and so she enquires of the lightning, of a Cloud (which represents male sperm), and she enquires of a Clod of Clay and a little Worm on the Clod of Clay and the Clod of Clay (and the Clod of Clay is the Mother, the little Worm is the “little Babe born”), and they invite her to look into the grave and see how they operate. (And) she’s scared to get born lest she have to go into the Clod of Clay and become a Clod of Clay – So, “The Catterpiller on the Leaf/ Repeats to thee thy Mother’s grief “
“The Gnat that sings his Summer’s Song /Poison gets from Slanders tongue”
“The poison of the Snake & Newt/ Is the sweat of Envys foot”
“The poison of the Honey Bee/Is the Artist’s Jealousy”
Gregory Corso: ‘ Scuse me, Al, what was that one before the honey-bee?
AG: (A little) chameleon-like thing.