Andrew Marvell – The Garden – 3

Michelangelo – The Creation of Adam – detail of  fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, painted c.1508-1512

Allen Ginsberg on Andrew Marvell’s “The Garden” continues

Student:  I don’t understand.  (In the last part [of Marvell’s poem, “The Garden”], I think I don’t follow the argument)

AG: Okay… which are we speaking of? –  the next-to-last, or the last stanza?

Student: (In the last two stanzas…)

Such was that happy garden-state,/ While man there walk’d without a mate;/ After a place so pure and sweet,/ What other help could yet be meet!/ But ’twas beyond a mortal’s share/ To wander solitary there: /Two paradises ’twere in one /To live in paradise alone.
How well the skillful gard’ner drew/ Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new,/ Where from above the milder sun/ Does through a fragrant zodiac run;/ And as it works, th’ industrious bee/ Computes its time as well as we./ How could such sweet and wholesome hours/ Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs!

AG: Last two stanzas? – Well, okay, he’s saying “The Garden of Eden, “that happy garden state”, was like that, (as I have just described, “a green thought in a green shade”) when Man was there, when Adam was there, before Eve was created from his rib, and (a) help-meet, a help meet was created for Adam – “What other help could yet be meet!” – “help-meet”, wife. So, “After a place so pure and sweet”  that it’s solitary” – the alone, “the flight of the alone to the alone”,  the total solitude, the mystical solitude really, of the alone –  Plotinus, actually Plotinus – “the flight of the alone to the alone” – the condition of  eternity is that it is alone, the condition of consciousness of eternity is that it is one hand clapping. Eternity is the sound of one hand clapping, “the flight of the alone to the alone”. There is no shadow, there is no second, there is only one

Student: (There is something)

AG: Well, whatever it is, is alone – which is ourselves, anyway, I mean, we wake up in the morning and who else is there but the alone? – in the alone.? So, he’s saying, however, accepting the alone, (“working with the alone”, as they say around here, quote unquote) , working with the alone, entering the alone, becoming the alone.

That was the Garden of Eden, but then.. then another. then, the sexes were created ( a thing that (William) Blake also complains of later on), and wives were created, and we were split apart, (as..Socrates [editorial note – Plato] complained when he said that the original human beings were already just one beast, one creature, with four legs, and then the Gods got jealous, because they could run so fast, and do so much, and split them in half, and from then on, everybody was running around the world looking for their other half.) So.. yes, so..

Student: And he couldn’t put them back

AG: So, ”After a place so alone and sweet”, what other marriage could be meet” – (“meet” means “fitting”, “appropriate” – “meet” means “fitting and appropriate”) – “But ’twas beyond Adam’s share to be all alone there” – ( It would be like double paradise if you could be all alone)  – is the next line.

Then,  “How well”,  God,  “the skilful gard’ner” – the Creator,  how well the Creator, the skilful Creator, made this clock, or dial (sun-dial), of herbs and flowers, “from above the milder sun” – “does through a” “ smelling, sweet-smelling –  zodiac (of flowers, I suppose) run”….Yes?

Student:  (Why suddenly a dial ?)

AG: O “dial” –  sun dials –  oh six… [Allen consults notes]  -“A plantation of flowers forming a dial face. perhaps surrounding an actual sun dial” – The dial is the universe! The dial is the entire world of time! – “How well the skillful gard’ner drew/ Of flow’rs….” – drew this clock world of time in the form of herbs and flowers,  how well the Creator made a universe of herbs and flowers to exist in the world of time, and to grow old and die, and tell the time that “(Where from) above the milder sun/ Does through a fragrant zodiac run” – Well – “And as it works, th’ industrious bee/ Computes its time as well as we’ – (The native and unspeaking… unspeakable, uncalculating bee is just as exacting as in its timings as we are – ‘”th’ industrious bee/ Computes its time as well as we (do) ” So we don’t need the intellectual city, or the rational mill, or the Satanic mill of the Industrial Revolution, to have the Garden of Eden, except with flowers and herbs.

“How could such sweet and wholesome hours”  – (How could you have an eternity in the Garden of Eden except with flowers and herbs? – You couldn’t have clocks and mills, you couldn’t have taxi-cab exhaust and acid rain. If you want an eternity that’s durable, like the climax.. the virgin and climax forest that lasts forever because it is a steady-state equilibrium, or steady-state growth, steady-state economy, you’d have to have the Garden of Eden where, you.. there is no… where, changeless, because all the elements finally, are differentiated the most..  in our….  If you read Gary Snyder on the subjectthat the climax steady-state forest had the most variety of any forest and it registers a steady-state”.  Climax forest has the most variety, yet a steady-state, (unlike our civilization, which cuts out varieties of species and has an unsteady state that is likely to collapse any time.. (next Tuesday, according to the Bahai faith!)

Student: Tomorrow.

AG: Tomorrow, collapse tomorrow.    There’s a little comment that he makes on that himself of… in the next poem by Andrew Marvell on page three seven six, you can read about his friend Cromwell who came to have a Revolution in England. There’s two…there’s eight lines that refer back to this Garden – Marvell page three seven six line thirty.. Cromwell.. “Who, from his private gardens where/ He liv’d reserved and austere/ As if his highest plot/ To plant the bergamot/ Could by  industrious valor climb/ To ruin the great work of time/ And cast the kingdom old/ Into another mode”  – (He’s talking about..  “to ruin the great work of time” is to ruin the kingdoms, the kings, to wreck the kings.) Okay, we’ll go on with a little more Marvell, and then Henry Vaughan, next time, (who’s another visionary). So (we’ll) do Marvell and Vaughan and just talk next time, Then I’ll be gone, going on a meditation retreat the next (week).

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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