Allen Ginsberg on the Opening of Paradise Lost

William Blake – The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (1808)

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloas brook that flow’d
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad’st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men.

AG: It’s like a big, big statement. And you can figure, work it all out, if you want, about who he’s talking about – the Garden of Eden –  “Mans First Disobedience”,  ” the Fruit Of that Forbidden Tree’ – the Tree of Knowledge – “With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us” –  (Christ come back, or, if you don’t like all this Christian stuff, or.. want to go to the Old Testament, going back to Oreb” or (Mount) “Sinai“, “didst inspire” Moses, thy “Shepherd”.. ….(who was the Shepherd on Mount Sinai?, it’s Moses,,,. “first taught” the Jews, (“the chosen Seed”) – “In the beginning. how the Heav’ns and Earth/ Rose out of Chaos”, (in the first books of the Bible), or, if you don’t like that shot and to hear of “Sion (hill) delight thee more – and Siloa’s brook” – (who was Siloa’s brook, do you remember?) – “that flow’d/Fast by the Oracle of God” – (I guess that’s a… “the Oracle of God” must be Delphi, the Delphic Oracle, so he’s appealing that if you don’t like the Greek mythology, there’s a Christian mythology, that he’ll ask for inspiration from and, as for the Muses, or the Muse, yeah,  to come and get him – or the Spirit (“which is the same in Genesis (that) “moved on the face of the waters of creation” – there’s some little footnotes here  – oh  – “Milton makes Urania the inspirer of Moses on Mount Horeb and its borough Sinai, and of the later Hebrew  prophets..” –  0h well, anyway, you can look that up in a book if that’s know what it means – But what is interesting is he’s setting forward is verse arguments, his art form and that’s, like, the opening – and, on that you can begin examining his verse. and how his verse  actually works. So, first first of all, because he did have Greek and Latin there is that  “tone-leading of the vowels” and “melodic coherence”,  like – “with mighty wings outspread/Dove-like satst brooding on the vast/ Abyss” – “Dove-like satst brooding on the vast/ Abyss” – (that’s really a great mouthful of vowels, if you ever try and pronounce it)

However, there is also some element,  when he’s talking in English, there’s also some element of stress, that has to be taken in to account (stress – accent). So.. And. I never did understand he arranged his English-style count. So Tom Schwartz here, who is a poet friend, who’s been in and out of Naropa, who’s teaching at CU (Colorado State University) and is learned on these matters and checked it out for us.. So Tom can.. So we’ve got those first  lines up there (on the blackboard). Can you see them all? – dimly? – We’re going to pick up from there and then..whatever you know about it, Tom – and…why don’t you sit over here….

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-seven minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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