John Dowland/Basil Bunting

[John Dowland (1563-1626)]

Allen Ginsberg’s January 1980 Basic Poetics class continues (in preparation for future notes on John Dowland) AG; Apparently, I have.. the “Fine Knacks For Ladies that you gave me the recording? – I have some (John) Dowland around and I had that so I’ll try and bring in a… I was going to try and get Charlie (Ross – sic) to bring in a phonograph today. Were there any others on that beside the “Fine Knacks For Ladies” ?

Student: There’s Dowland’s setting of “Weep No More Sad Fountains” on that other one.

AG: Ah, good ok.. We’ve got both of them then – “Dough-land” (that’s how (Basil) Bunting pronounces it)
Student: What’s that?
AG: You pronounced it (that way) also.
Student: Yeah, I definitely lose points for saying “Dow-land”
AG: What?
Student: I definitely lose points for saying “Dow-land”

AG: Who knew better?
Student: “Dough-land” (from the Anglo-Saxon)
AG; “Dough-land” (Dowland) is the composer.

[Basil Bunting (1900-1985)]

In fact, I think what I’ll do with the Bunting, I may.. I may bring in a tape and just play it, a few minutes of it, just some essential points, and also Bunting
pronouncing (Sir Thomas) Wyatt and (Thomas) Campion (which is a real treat, because this is (with) this marvelous English, or Northumbrian accent with rolling “r”‘s , and, you know, like, very finely pronounced consonants. It’s really a pleasure to listen to). Nobody (here) knows Bunting? – I don’t know. I’ve spoken of him here in previous classes, but.. He has Collected Poems, put out by Oxford University Press [Editorial note – now updated in the new Faber edition – see here]. He was one of the great.. with Marianne Moore, (Ezra) Pound, (William Carlos) Williams, (W.B.) Yeats, in the early part of the century. He was in obscurity for many years but.. the phrase that I’ve used here over and over – “Follow the tone-leading of the vowels” – was attributed to (Ezra) Pound (it comes from Pound’s introduction to Bunting’s Collected Poems (Dallas, Texas, 1950, a little paperback, the Square Dollar series of Pound. [Editorial note – Allen is factually inaccurate here – the 1950 edition of his Collected published by Dallam Flynn, an edition Allen owned and treasured, was actually published by The Cleaner’s Press, Galveston, Texas] Then, later on, he was picked up by Tom Pickard and the younger British poets and then brought back to life by Jonathan Williams, and Oxford, last year, two years ago, [1978] published his Collected Poems. And he’s really worth reading. And his specialty is condensation..

AG: Condensation. Like “minimum number of syllables, maximun amount of information”. (Ezra) Pound quotes him in The ABC of Reading that Basil Bunting told him that “Dichten Equals Condensare” – Poetry Writing is Condensing – and I would say, “Maximun amount of information, minimum number of syllables” – “Rut thuds the rim” is a line of Bunting’s. The cart going over the country road – “Rut thuds the rim”. You really get it all there – you get the physicality of the cart, the condition of the road, the era (or, at least, the anthropological era) – “rut thuds the rim” – a rut in the road, thudding against the rim of the wheel – “Rut thuds the rim” – “Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write” (talking about tombstones) – “Words?” (“Words”, question-mark) – “Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write”. Bunting is a great poet. You know, in this kind of tradition of absolute attention to the articulation of sounds and to measure and time of vowels. And you can hear it in his voice when he’s talking. So I think I’ll bring know, prepare some of that for next time. Okay..
We might play some.. for the rest of the class we might play some of the.. a couple more of these.. a couple more of these ballads [Dowland’s ballads] next time. So we’ll hear the rest of them.

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

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