I Syng of A Mayden – Analysis – 2

Madonna and Child  (c.1435-37) – Domenico Veneziano,from the Berenson Collection, Florence

AG: I don’t know if it’s in, if it’s mentioned in this book [in the Norton anthology] – yes, on page 1308 – One really.. I was looking over this stuff, (and) there are explanations – one really interesting sentence on the “love that well which thou must leave ere long”, you know – See that? At the bottom of the page? – “love that well which thou must leave ere long” [Editorial note – the concluding line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet LXXIII]

He says (the scholar here says), at the beginning of that paragraph – “When a syllable is accented, it tends also to be raised in pitch – and to be lengthened”. In other words, when you say something with an accent, you tend to raise the pitch, say it higher, the tone gets higher, when you accent it (it tends to be, not always), which means if you’re a musician that means the melody goes up if you’re going to accent it.

And so, if the “but” [in”I Syng Of A Mayden] is accented (that is “Was never non but che”, “Was never non but che” – or “Was never non but che”) ..Yeah?

Student: I still contend that “never” and “non“and “but” are all equal , and “che“, being an accent, where the…
AG: Yeah
Student: .. tune turns up at the end,  as well as “Godes moder be“…
AG: Okay – Well, they’re all simultaneous. It’s like a mobile. They’re all simultaneously heard in the ear. That’s what the point is. The charm is the realization of how much possibility there is, how much signifying is going on in all different directions. I would say, yes, sure, “che” is obviously an accented syllable and probably would go up – [Allen attempts singing again – “Was never non but che”). Probably the line then, if you were musical, would go “Was never non..” – “moder and mayden was never non..” “was never non..”. “was never non but she..” (you could go anywhere with it – it’s any way you want it to be) [Allen sings the line again]  “was never non but, she..” – or something – [sings it again] – “moder and mayden was..never non but she, “never none but she” – Well, whatever..
Student: Would this have been a hymn?  in church?
AG: This was sung. So..Is there any way we can retrieve the music? Is there anybody who knows how to research that out? (I was thinking of that when I was talking with someone..Rizzo (sic), Mr Rizzo, is he here?. We were thinking of trying to find the music for it . Would you know how to get it? (how) to look that up?
Student: If there’s music and it’s in a manuscript, we can certainly get that in the Brown anthology, but I don’t know..
AG: You might look that up in a footnote and see if it’s mentioned at all – but I wouldn’t be surprised if.. it must’ve been. It’s so obviously a song
Student:But if it was, the music has just been lost.
AG: Yeah. Yeah, I would guess.. (I’m) pretty sure there was music arranged to it. “I syng of a mayden”! – it’s obviously a song! – “I sing of a maiden”, so somebody’s going to get up and sing about a maiden! (They weren’t so literary in those days to start from “I syng of a mayden” and not sing about it!).

That’s another thing. I think that just.. it just occurred to me –  that’s another great mystery unveiled! – If the poem begins like this, in this early time, “I syng of a mayden” (just as (William) Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience were really sung by Blake, although we read them in books of texts, but actually Blake sang them, so this, obviously, was a song that began “I syng..”) – and.. er, that’s the first time I’ve noticed it! – So, obviously, it was a song. Practically all of us missed that. How many here noticed that before as significant? [a small show of hands]. So that means that most of us were, like, so, you know, like, inured to poetry, or so used to the dead stereotypes that have descended down over the ages to a point where this kind of metrics and this kind of poetry has been stereotyped and homogenized to a point that we don’t even notice what it says! (don’t even notice what it says – that’s amazing! – even when it says outright, “I sing”). So we’re all..  The mysteries are coming out of this poem more and more , the more you  look at it.
That’s why I keep coming back to it. I syng of a mayden that is makeles”

“The Annunciation” byMarioto Albertinelli (1404-1515)

[Allen concludes the class with some brief remarks on student assignments]
Now then. (We’ll get off this) (but) We’ll come back to it. Yes?.
Meanwhile, remember, you have your assignment to write an imitation of it and I won’t collect it yet, because now you’ve.. whatever you do, whether you want to add the extra syllables in or not, what I thought would be a good idea on the side of the page where you do your poem, when you do this one, this style, this type, can you also make a metrical paradigm – paradigm? – show me what you did – or how your poem reads, how you want your poem to read in terms of ..the heavy and light accents. Does everybody know how to do that?
Student: Are these to be written for submission or reading?
AG: Both. If there’s any good ones we’ll read (them). Maybe we can read all of them..sooner or later? . Yeah, submission and reading. But.. writing means for reading, really, anyway.
Student:  Well I just wanted to know if I needed to give in a rough draft
AG: Oh I see, if I’m just going to read it, it can be a rough draft?! – to break my eyeballs open! – Okay, I see, you can read from rough drafts?
Student: Yes
AG: Oh no, hand them in, I want to look at them. I want to be able to look at them. Wouldn’t you? – I mean I’m sure everybody would want to look at them if you get something precise enough and interesting enough. Has everybody worked on that? Has anybody finished? I saw one or two that were already finished that were good.Yeah, let’s work on it. I’ll do it too. I’ve got mine started. I’m going to try to do it according.. with all the “e’s, with all the extra syllables (now that I’ve got it more straight). I’ve been working on little poems like that for a little while, (for) some time now, I used to write them when I was younger and lately, last year [1979], I’ve been fiddling around in a similar area.

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

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