Ginsberg Reads Milton

Allen Ginsberg on John Milton and Basic Poetics continues

Student: Has he (Milton) (argued) to drop rhymes?

AG: No, but we’re talking… he’s talking about Paradise Lost,  His earlier works he had rhymes (and some not-rhymes). He’s a great rhymer, he knows how to rhyme.

Student:  (A fifty-percent thing, you know  – he doesn’t, and then he follows it with rhymes)

AG: Me too, yeah, my first book (The Gates of Wrath)  is all rhymes, and I go back to it occasionally. But he’s saying for heroic verse. For heroic verse, heroic rhetorical verse, that rhyme is a “jingling” and what he says is..vex… –  “rhyme is a vexation, hindrance and a constraint to express many things otherwise and for the most part worse than else they would have expressed them”,  because they’ve got to turn aside from their thought to find a rhyme.  So he’s saying don’ t turn aside from your thought.

So, what we have to begin with is, though, instead of doing them slowly, I just want to get right into some sense of the text of Paradise Lost. So I’ll read the first, twenty five, twenty six lines aloud.

[Allen begins] –  “Of man’s…” – Has anybody read Paradise Lost before? okay? How many have read the first book of Paradise Lost before, There’s 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 out of 20 people, or 9, Over half have not. I take it. How many have not read the first book of Paradise Lost? – 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 – Well, it’s equal, Maybe.. So this is great. First lines of Paradise Lost, – a real famous..trumpet. – “Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit”

[Allen reads opening lines of Milton’s Paradise Lost]

Of Man’s 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.

Audio for the above  (including Ginsberg’s reading of Milton) – can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-four-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-seven minutes in

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