Ben Jonson – (“Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes”)

AG: To (Ben)  Jonson. What I wanted to get onto was page two-sixty, “The Triumph of Charis“.. oh no, before that, we did that, those two little epitaphs, on page two fifty-six, two fifty-seven – and, on the way out, (Ted) Berrigan reminded me of a poem he likes particularly, “On Gut”  – “Gut eats all day and lechers all the night..” – page two fifty-six – patting his belly and preaching on gut – “Gut eats all day and lechers all the night;/So all his meat he tasteth over twice;/Andm striving so to double his delight,/He makes himself a thoroughfare of vice./Thus in his belly can he change a sin;/Lust it comes out, that gluttony went in.” – That’s pretty down! (well, you know, it’s witty, it’s masculine).

But, so, next),  (page) two fifty-nine, the famous.. (relating to what (Ezra) Pound was saying about write a song to a melody that you know).. [Allen begins singing} -“Drink to me only with thine eyes  and I will pledge with mine” – Do you know that song? – Has anybody not heard that song? Never heard that? – [Some students raise hands} – Amazing! – Well, in the old days, it was considered grandma’s chicken-soup – that song, “Drink to me only with thine…” –  How many know it? –  Let’s sing it. [Students and Allen sing together in unison and in its entirety, Jonson’s “Drink to me only with thine eyes’] – I didn’t have the tune right, I don’t think      Did anybody know it better than me?

Student:  (It’s an old)  church tune, I think.

Student:  Yeah, it’s an old Baptist….

AG: Do you know some of the words that go with that in the Baptist..

Student; They have that same tune to all of them  

AG: Do you remember any?…

Student: (No..)

AG: You don’t remember any words that go with any of it? – [Allen  sings, improvises] – “Oh dear Lord God, I’m on my knees, incline thy heart to me/ Send me a dove, or bring me to heaven and I will pray to thee/But if you send me down to Hell, I’ll never give you my arm/But if you bring me up to your knees, I will wave thine ashen palm”  –  It would be something like that, I don’t know.-

Student; Yes. It seems to me I’ve heard a tune that’s sort of always there,  the same, that was always  around.

AG: Yes,  Was this someone…  Do you know if  this music was contemporary with Jonson, Stanley?  (sicStanley Lombardo)  

Stanley Lombardo:  No, it sounds more…

AG: Pardon me?

Stanley Lombardo :   Somewhat earlier ?

AG: …it sounds more..later. Actually, it doesn’t really fit the words, you have to stretch to fit the words around – [Allen begins singing again] – “Drink to me only wi-ith thine..” – “wi-ith” (you have to make “with” into two syllables) – “Drink to me oh-only with thine..” (you might (do) that) – “drink to me/only/with thine/eyes/and I/will pledge/with mine” (you’d have to syncopate it to get it syllable by syllable

Student; The way that it’s sung, or the way that we sang it was sort of like… there’s a Band song called “Daniel and the Sacred Harp” and at the beginning of that, there’s sort of a pump organ sound, you know..

AG: Yeah, well, I want to get on to “The Triumph of Charis”.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fourteen minutes in and concluding approximately nineteen minutes in]  

[ This material first appeared on The Allen Ginsberg Project – here]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *