Allen Ginsberg’s comments on John Donne’s “The Ecstasy” continues.
AG: So…. “That abler soul which hence doth flow/Defects of loneliness controls” – (controls the defect of being lonely – it’s just an inversion in the syntax there that makes it a little confusing – that love, that the abler soul controls loneliness’s defects ) –
“We then, who are this new soul, know” – (in other words,, they get smart,, they wise up, they wise up in this condition, of laying slowly, allowing their souls to come forth to each other, and become one soul, become unified, become one soul, and, I suppose, experience some kind of eternality, because it says the elements of which it’s composed seem never to change – “no change can invade” – Okay – does that so far make sense? – I suppose that everybody has that experience of having such a balance in love that you realize that you’re at a place which has been here all along and many people have experienced (I imagine that’s what he means there when he says that they become souls “whom no change can invade” Is that a common experience?
Student: Is that what he means by “now”?
AG Yeah – love’s “now” I guess, in this case… Well, okay..
Now, we get to the body. Now, having accomplished the… the ethereal cum! – the ethereal orgasm has now been performed, and accomplished, Now we get… Then.. then he really gets interesting – Okay….
Student: (continues reading) – “Of what we are compos’d and made,/For th’ atomies of which we grow/Are souls, whom no change can invade/.But oh alas, so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?/They’are ours, though they’are not we; we are/The intelligences, they the spheres./We owe them thanks, because they thus/Did us, to us, at first convey,/Yielded their senses’ force to us,/Nor are dross to us, but allay./On man heaven’s influence works not so,/But that it first imprints the air;/So soul into the soul may flow,/Though it to body first repair…”
AG: “repair” meaning here “come to”, rather than repair..like a plumber repairing the furniture, or something..”Repair” means “to arrive at” – “Let us repair back to our homes”, “let us repair back to our bodies” – Okay
.Student: (continues) – As our blood labors to beget/Spirits, as like souls as it can,/Because such fingers need to knit/That subtle knot which makes us man,/So must pure lovers’ souls descend/T’ affections, and to faculties,/Which sense may reach and apprehend,/Else a great prince in prison lies./To’our bodies turn we then, that so/Weak men on love reveal’d may look;/Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,/But yet the body is his book./And if some lover, such as we,/Have heard this dialogue of one,/Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change, when we’are to bodies gone.”
AG: That’s pretty nice – because he arrives back at the body. And this was considered, like, an enormous intellectual triumph
Student: And ends up at the soul
AG: Well, body and soul is one, are one – but seem “small change” when we’re fucking, small change, small difference between the state of union of soul and the state of union of body. And it’s just one..one body and one soul between the two lovers.
In the course of intellectual history of the centuries, the last centuries, this poem, among intellectuals, was so celebrated, was celebrated because it proved the union of body and soul on the part of the most rigorous mathematician of poetry and aesthetic thought, John Donne. It was like the great apologia for the body. It was the proof that though..I guess, it was the proof that body was okay, actually, you know – it was the same thing as Esalen or something – It was like the sort of metaphysical statement that preceded the possibility of Esalen, for Western Industrial culture at a time when there was an alienation between body and – or is, was – an alienation between body and soul. The reason this poem was so important was that (T.S.) Eliot and others, who were the sort of the acme of intellectual dignity and respectability and authority pointed to this poem as proof, as, you know, man’s highest poetic intelligent modern modern modern proof, modern mind proof that, after all, you had to come down to the body again, like in (W.B.) Yeats – “A woman can be proud and stiff/ When on love intent/But Love has pitched his mansion in/ The place of excrement” – that finally the residence of the soul is the body and there is no… you can’t escape the body. So this is.. this was Donne as a priest, actually (or a man who became a priest) finally finding union of body with soul as final reference
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approxinately seventy-five minutes in]