Thomas Carew – (“Ask Me No More”)

Thomas Carew (1595-1640)

AG: And (Thomas) Carew has one of the prettiest cadences of repeated.. it’s like a.. it’s a very beautiful cadence, for the first line of page three-oh-one – A song – It’s (the cadence) –  da da-da da  da  da-da da – da  da-da da  da  da-da da – Da da-da da da – da-da da. It’s just really nice, that. “Ask me no more where Jove bestows,/When June is past, the fading rose;/For in your beauty’s orient deep/These flowers, as in their causes, sleep/ .Ask me no more whither do stray/The golden atoms of the day;/For in pure love heaven did prepare/ Those powders to enrich your hair/ Ask me no more whither doth haste/The nightingale, when May is past;/For in your sweet dividing throat/She winters, and keeps warm her note./ Ask me no more where those stars ’light,/That downwards fall in dead of night;/For in your eyes they sit, and there/Fixed become, as in their sphere./ Ask me no more if east or west/The phoenix builds her spicy nest;/For unto you at last she flies,/And in your fragrant bosom dies.”

Da da-da da da da-da da – That’s really pretty. That’s one of the classic cadences that almost every English poet who’s a little bit experienced has in the back of his mind is that – Da da-da da da da-da da da da-da da da da-da da. Da da-da da da – da-da da – It’s basically iambic. Okay, what’s the trick? – It’s basically iambic – “When June/ is past/ the fad-/ing rose” – “The gold/en atoms /of the/ day”. But, the first line begins with a heavy stress – Da da – It’s, ”Ask me/no/more” – Da da-da da. So, it’s stress on stress on stress on stress, stress… [Allen  moves to the blackboard] – “Ask me no more” … “When June is past”..  So it’s a simple matter, just reverse that . Instead of … “When June is past” – “Ask me/ no/ more” da- da-da da” – Then it goes on to the regular ” When “June” is past” – “Ask me no more”

It’s just such a pretty thing and it’s such a simple trick

Student: “Ask me no more…

AG: And how does that go?- “Ask me no more…”  {Allen continues, sounding it out, and writing it out on the blackboard] – Is that right?

Student(s): Jove.. “where Jove bestows”

AG: Oh well, later on.

Student: Second line.

AG: “Ask me no more where Jove bestows?”  – where?

Student :  “where Jove bestows”

AG; “Ask me no more where Jove bestows?” So you can see it’s regular. All we’ve done is reverse that – dig?,  reversed the first iambic foot in the  line and made it into a trochaic foot. He does it in every stanza.

Now, the interesting thing is that in the third line , “For in your beauty’s orient deep” – “Ask me no more where Jove bestows” – it’s a four- foot line, right? –  “Ask me/ no more /where Jove/ bestows”   “When June/ is, past/ the fad/ing rose” – that’s a four-beat line. The third line tends to balance the “Ask me no more” because the stress comes on “For”..”in pure love , heavens did prepare” – or “For in your beauty’s orient deep”. The stress comes on the “For” (and it usually wouldn’t come on the For. “For’ isn’t enough to take (on) big stress) – “Ask me/ no more /where Jove/ bestows”  “When June/ is, past/ the fad/ing rose/“For in your beauty’s orient deep..” – (That means he’s got a  “For” – there’s a little stress there) – “For,/ in your beaut-y ’s or-/ient deep” – that makes the four stresses and the word “F-O-R” takes the stress so that kind of balances, a kind of symmetry that balances out the first trochee. Are you following me?  And that’s why every stanza has the possibility of that odd, beautiful..  well, a rise at the beginning of a line –Tanta-da-da  Da da-da-da.  So, in one stanza, the fourth, the last line, “Fixed become, as in their sphere.” In the fourth line of the fourth stanza, you also get again, just before, sort of like the climax of the poem, or the coming to the end of the poem, or before the coda of the poem, you have “Ask me”  and “Fixed become”, where three of those four lines begin with a stressed accent. Are you following what I’m saying?  The first stanza – “”Ask me no more where those stars ’light,/That downwards fall in dead of night;/For in your eyes they sit, and there/Fix-ed become, as in their sphere.”

And the odd thing is that.. That stanza then has three irregular lines, right? – (we’re on page three-oh-one). – That stanza has three irregular lines. Is that clear? – or – Is there anbody who doesn’t understand what I’m talking about? – Okay – You got to the stanza I’m talking about? you see where it is?

Peter Orlovsky: “Ask me no more where those stars ’light,”

AG: Yes – “That downwards fall in dead of night” – that’s a regular line. And then – “For in your eyes they sit, and there /Fix-ed become, as in their sphere.”. So each one of those, three out of those four lines, starts with a stressed accent or a trochaic meter.Right? Has everybody followed that? Now that (was) running counter to the regular meter of the whole poem. Is that right? – running a little bit opposite the regular meter of the whole poem. Got that? ..However, the real trick of that is, the second line (“That downwards fall in dead of night”) is probably the most regular line in the whole poem, to anchor it down -“That downwards fall in dead of night” is the most sing-song regular iambic line in the poem, the most four-square iambic line, the most compellingly da-da da-da da-da da-da (“That downwards fall in dead of night”)

Peter Orlovsky:  What about “The nightingale, when May is past”

AG: It’s not as strong. “The nightingale..” It’s close. Because the nightingale, the night-ing-gale is three syllables that go so fast. It’s not quite as regular as “downwards/ fall /in dead of /night” – It’s close, but it’s not as good.

Peter Orlovsky:  “For in your sweet dividing throat”?  No?

AG: Well, I don’t know if you.. Well, “For in your sweet dividing throat’, the stress is at the beginning and “For”. So what I’m trying to point out is – “That downwards fall in dead of night” is the most sing-song or nursery-rhyme-like line in the poem maybe. There are other lines that are close, but they’ve got commas in them, or they’ve got some kind of weird shifting in them that doesn’t quite.. that halts them, or makes them lighter. But this is just the heavy (“That downwards fall in dead of night”), and that’s.. not that it.. that anchors that stanza so that the other lines can go in the opposite direction. That’s why that stanza’s tricky and that’s why the whole poem is so interesting, (given that cadence to begin with). Now, it’s not that he planned it or anything like that. It’s not that he said, “Now, I’m going to have three going backwards and one going forward”, and then counted them out, and then found the words to fit. It was not that at all. So, those were the words that arrived, but he had a good enough nervous-system and a good enough ear (meaning a good enough nervous-system)  that that’s the way he thought, you know, he thought that delicately rhythmically.

And the way to get to think that delicately rhythmically is to read all these things – aloud – and you’ll really get it. It’ll get in your skin.

(I’m sorry, it’s  line thirty-seven)  – So we’ll go on (and)… [tape ends abruptly]

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-six-and-a quarter minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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