Early Ginsberg – 1 – “A Lover’s Garden”

Neal Cassady, New York City, ca 1946, “in his first suit, bought in Chinatown” photobooth shot, courtesy Allen Ginsberg Collection

AG: (Where’s (Andrew) Marvell’s “..Garden”?  We”ll take a look at it here [and also at Allen’s “A Lover’s Garden”] …Is this alright what I’m doing?..  I don’t that often teach my own poetry.. (but) this is the first time (that) I’ve got into this. “How vainly men themselves amaze/To win the palm, or oak, or bays” ? What is that? – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight – so I had an eight-line stanza –  “amaze/bays”,  “see/tree”, “shade/upbraid”, “close/repose”  Mine are  “all/soul”, “grace/days”, “kiss/mistress”, “undone/alone” – same thing, “How…”  (and I also put Andrew Marvell’s name in the first line

Student: What’s it called?

AG: “A Lover’s Garden”  (page forty-six of The Gates of Wrath).  So this was all.. actually, a nice..  it isn’t as long as his (Marvell’s)  “Garden”, just the form. This  was sort of a triumphal ode on having had a really totally ..totally ecstatic, long-range love-affair with (Neal) Cassady, and feeling it was all locked-in forever, and feeling that that there was no.. that there was nothing to fear, that (it) was unobstructed fucking from here on in, till the coffin!  So I was boasting about it in a subtle way, (but still in the closet). And it was originally… the other person was a “she” rather than a “him”. but then, when I published it here, I decided that I might as well put it straight.

“How vainly lovers marvel, all..” – (I put Marvell’s name on top!)  -“How vainly lovers marvel, all /To make a body, mind, and soul/Who, winning one white night of grace,/Will weep and rage a year of days,/Or muse forever on a kiss,/If won by a more sad mistress -/ Are all these lovers then, undone/By him and me, who love alone?”

“O, have the virtues of the mind/Been all for this one love designed?/As seconds on the clock do move,/Each marks another thought of love;/Thought follows thought, and we devise/Each minute to antithesize, /Till, as the hour chimes its tune/Dialectic, we commune” – ( I think we were high on grass all the time, and  so we just tuning a sort of  telepathic getting-together)”

“The argument our minds create/We do, abed, substantiate;/Nor we disdain, in our delight,/To flatter the old Stagirite…” – (you know, Aristotle, who’s theory of drama was that it..  one time,,, .. covers one time, one place, and one….  Anyway, it’s his theory of tragedy –  that it covers in the space of one day, I think… one time, one place, and one… time, place and….    Does anybody know that?  Aristotle’s theory of time, place and circumstance was it? – A single time, place, and circumstance.

“The argument our minds create/We do, abed, substantiate;/Nor we disdain, in our delight,/To flatter the old Stagirite/For in one speedy moment,we/Endure the whole Eternity,/And in our darkened shapes have found/The greater world that we surround.”

“In this community, the soul/Doth make its act impersonal,/As locked in a mechanic bliss,/It shudders into nothingness -/ Three characters of each may die/To dramatize that Unity./Timed, placed, and acting thus, the while,/We sit and sing, and sing and smile.”  – (and that was Marvell, the “Bermudas”, remember that? –  “And all the way to guide their chime./With falling oars they kept the time”  – “Timed, placed, and acting thus, the while,/We sit and sing, and sing and smile.”

“What life is this? What pleasure mine!/Such as no image can insignificant;/Nor sweet music, understood/Soft at night, in solitude/At a window, will enwreathe/Such stillness on my brow: I breathe,/And walk on earth, and act my will,/And cry Peace! Peace! and all is still.”

“Though here it seems, I must remin,/My thoughtless world, whereon men strain/Through lives of motion without sense,/Farewell! in this benevolence -/That all men may, as I, arrange/A love as simple, sweet, and strange/As few men know; nor can I tell,/But only imitate farewell,” – (In other words, I can’t tell in a poem and imitate saying goodbye when I’m going  be around forever, actually! – So it was, like, pretty boastful – “To flatter the old Stagirite”  means simply, that.. I was trying to say that what I was doing was flattery, that it was a love we were having, and my attitude towards it and the poems that I was writing was classic, like Aristotle’s.

[Audio for  the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-eight-and-a-half-and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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