“False flames spiritual but infernal” (more Fulke Greville)


Fulke Greville (1554-1628)

Student: Nor with false flames spiritual but infernal/Dry up Thy Mercy’s ever springing fountains.”

AG: Yeah, I like that line too. The reason I like that line , that is.. What’s your kick on that?

Student: I don’t know, It seems like thought, just the idea of, like, spiritual hypocrisy again

AG: Well, the idea there is.. Alright, yes – The Christ’s “false flames spiritual but infernal”, (or  the acid-heads’ “false flames spiritual but infernal”, if you want to give it a present application). But, what I like about that line, particularly, is “nor with..” – just.. if you do it sing-song, “Nor-with false-flames spir-itual-but-infernal, but.. just it hear it tho’ – “nor with false flames, spiritual but infernal”, or, something like that – There’s a funny kind of syncopation – “spiritual but infernal” – that with the “spiritual”, there’s some kind of a weird thing that you (get). See, I think they used to pronounce it – “spirit-u-all”, or something like that. I keep hearing “spirit-u-all”, “spirit-u-all but infernal” – I keep hearing that long… just a sound there that’s really interesting, but when you pronounce it you have to say, “ nor with false flames, spiritual but infernal”, (like he [the reader] did,) but then there’s also a tendency to want to say “spir-it-ual” – “nor with false flames, spir-it-ual but infernal” (that’s it, “nor with false flames, spir-it-ual but infernal”. The iambic drag, the iambic conditioning with “spir-it-ual but infern…”, whatever. Da da-da da-da. (what is iambic?, but.. whatever it is), the accentual conditioning might make you pronounce the “spir-it” as a stress (or that’s what I hear as an undertone). But you can’t because it’s “spiritual but infernal” not “spir-it”, so you get a syncopated line where you hear it in about two different… well, I hear it in about three different ways, that line – “spiritu-all”, “spir-it-ual”, “spiritual” – right in the middle of the line – “Nor with false flames spiritual but infernal”. You get some.. what do you call it? – in music, I guess you would call it.. you’d pluck a tone and then you’d hear all the other tones, you’d pluck a tone and you’d hear…

Student: Harmonics?

AG: Harmonics. So, like, the rhythmic. I don’t know what you do in rhythmic harmonics but it’s sort of like rhythmic harmonics, that you hear various variants of the spoken rhythm. Okay, what you’re presented with is the sing-song rhythm, which would be ““Nor with false flames spir-it-ual but infernal”.

Student: One pushes this way, one pushes that way

AG: Yeah, and then the spoken rhythms with “Nor with false flame..” – Nor with false flame/Spiritual but infernal”

Student: Three.. Three syllables. It’s like a parallel to it. And that makes the both of them emphasized in a way. “Spiritual, but infernal”

AG: Yeah

Student: But they both describe the flame?

AG: Yeah. “False”, “flame” and “spirit” are all stressed, as if you were talking, – “Nor with false flames spiritual but infernal”. So, “false”, “flame”, “spirit”, are all stressed right in the middle of that line.

Student; (Do you think (what he’s doing here is onamatopoeia, a little sound trip, with all the depths and plains and stuff?)

AG: Well, onomatopoeia is when the sound is identical with the.. – like “oh” or “ah” – no, it isn’t onamatopoeia

Student; (You think he was going for…)

AG: No,  it’s not quite onomatopoeia, it is musically…

Student: (Or actually  (I remember) the line “the soft wind blew through the sweet potato farm.” It was supposed to be, like, the sound of the wind..)

AG: And yes , and then there’s “the murmuring of innumerable bees” and “immemorial elms”, and things like that. [ Editorial note “The moan of doves in immemorial elms, /And murmuring of innumerable bees” – from “In Memoriam” by Tennyson]. Now those are the onomatopoeic lines – “the murmuring of innumerable bees”

Student: Well, I was wondering, like…

AG: Onomatopoeia is, like. when the sound is like the bees, or the sound is like the wind , or the sound is like the shriek [Allen shrieks] but it isn’t the.. regular music.. (it’s) for musical effect. There are other words, like assonance, when you get a couple.. like “sensual, insatiable vast womb” is assonance, I believe, where you have vowel rhymes within the line of a kind, or ”a fair field full of folk” also has assonance in it, that is, it’s a lyric but the “..air..ield ..ull..”, the vowels running along are called assonance.

And there’s consonantal things.. I’ve forgot.. when the .. sibilance and assonance, probably. Sibilance.. Wait a minute, let’s look it up, look up “sibilance” (in the back of (your book) there’s a little glossary…it’s somewhere.. probably is not in here.   Onomatopoeia, in other words, is another word. You’re on the right track with.. Onomatopoeia’s not the right word for that, but you’re on the right track… A-S-S-… what’s assonance? – [reads definition] – “assonance, similarity of sounds, particularly distinguished from rhyme, the similarity of light vowels followed by unlike consonants cat/map, holy/story” – “I’m going to, you know, get my cat and draw a map, tell you a holy story.” – “I’ll tell you a holy story” – “Hear my holy story”, is assonance – Hear my holy story”

What you [to the Student] were pointing out was..what now? – “the false flames”, the consonants or what?. In other words, what was the particular quality you were pointing out in that line?

Student: (Oh, (that) he’s making, like, a sound trip (with) the “false flames.. infernal”, that he was trying to conjure up, attempting to conjure up flame, you know the picture of flames and…

AG: But that would be by the picture, not by the sound actually – “false flames.. infernal”, that could be a heavenly sound, you know – “fall/ fires/ supernal” – full/ fire/ supernal – or “fast fire supernal” –  “fast fires supernal” “fast floors supernal”, “fast floor supernal” –“super-nal” – See, it isn’t the sound that gives you the picture of Hell, it’s word association, I think.. The sound gives you the dignity.

Student : (And with all that), it’s like a fire in the background,..talking of..fire just the background noise is (giving the effect of) here’s some fire with a furnace on it)

AG: Yeah, okay, but I don’t know if onamatopoeia would be… Maybe (that’s).. or something., but I don’t know if… I don’t know.. There’s a word for it.

Where are we? What page are we on?

Student:   (Page) one-seventy-two?

AG; So, that’s an interesting shot that one. Also, the end has this apostrophe thing , where there’s an apostrophe there – Da-da! – to God! – do it! you know, to God, so, “Rather, Sweet Jesus, fill up time and come – ha! – that’s something that I’ve imitated a lot of times and a lot of poets imitate that – “Rather, Sweet Jesus, fill up time and come” – when you get the final prayer directly to the God, talking directly to God, saying “Come down and kill ‘em all!”. “Come down and destroy it all”, you know, “Come down and take it..or..take me away”, It’s .. I believe.. you get, I think out of.. right out of this particular little shot, you get it in(to) (John) Milton a little bit (but you also get it in Hart Crane), this kind of vowelic demand for heaven to come down and crash through time – the apocalyptic, the poetic apocalyptic note, addressed directly to the divinity, to come down in lightning and thunder. I did a similar thing in a poem called “Magic Psalm” {in Kaddish & Other Poems], and Hart Crane has a similar piece of rhetoric in the poem “Atlantis(which will probably be in here [Allen turns to the anthology]

[Audio for the above can be heard here, begining at approximately three-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately twelve minutes in]

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