Early Ginsberg – 2 – “Do We Understand Each Other?”

“Over the road in an automobile/Rode I and my gentle love’

AG: So then there was..an imitation of Herbert’s “Collar” – from George Herbert – Herbert – “Collar”  is.. (page) two ninety-four –and  three hundred –  “Love bade me welcome… ”  Now, in “The Collar”, you get… (two ninety-four, two ninety-five) –  Remember at the end, he says “But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild/ At every word,/ Methought I heard one calling, Child! /And I replied My Lord.” ? You remember that poem? Everybody? Most of you remember that?  Because that was, you remember, a poignant moment, that,  after all his ranting – “I struck the board, and cried, “No more..No more” –

Then also the tone of the love poem on page three hundred  [“Love’}- “And know you not says Love, who bore the blame?/ My dear, then I will serve./You must sit down says Love , and taste my meat:/So I did sit and eat” – Remember that?  how sweet that was?,  you know, like, relationships?

So I had a dream that I was driving around in a car with (Neal) Cassady, and he was treating me with the same gentility as the God or the Love in the Herbert poems and  so I wrote one in the.. in the form of a Herbert poem (so I lined all the lines up at the margin, but basically it’s the same form). It’s da da-da da da da-da da da da-da-da, da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da-da-da-da, four-three, four-three, three-four, four.. something ( you know, mixed, long and short lines). And his rhyme scheme was ABCABCDBDCB – what is that? one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven ( an eleven-line stanza). And the subject-mattter came from an erotic dream, a spiritual erotic dream. So it’s got a kind of erotic dream quality but it’s also modern because it’s also about little buildings on the road. So it’s On the Road, actually, in a dream – On the road in 1948, with Cassady. And the title (Jack) Kerouac thought was really great because it was so crude, and simple-minded – “Do We Understand Each Other?” – question mark (sic)

“My love has come to ride me home/To our room and bed./I had walked the wide sea path,/For my love would roam/In absence long and glad/All through our land of wrath/We wandered wondrously,/I, still mild, true and sad,/But merry, mad and free/ My Love was. Look! yet come love hath./Is this not great gentility?

I only remembered the ocean’s roll/And islands that I passed/And, in a vision of death and dread/A city where my soul/Visited its vast/Passage of the dead/My love’s eternity/I never entered, when, at last,/”I blush with love for thee”/My love, renewed in anger said./Is this not geat gentility?

Over the road in an automobile/ Rode I and my gentle love./The traffic on our way was wild;/ My love was at the wheel,/And in and out we drove./ His. own eyes were mild/How my love merrily/ Dared the other cars to rove:/ “But if they stop for me,/Why, then, I stop for them, my child”/Is this not great gentility?”

That was a line in the dream – “But if they stop for me,/Why, then, I stop…” – for the cars on the highway, you know, some human relation with all these giant horrific machines  –  “But if they stop for me,/Why, then, I stop for them, my child.”

Student: Is this during “The Green Automobile” ( period – that poem)….

AG: No, this is five years before.

Student; Oh yeah?

AG: his is five years before.  “Green Automobile” was 1953, and this is…1948…

Student: (Did you think of it later on and then recognize it?)

AG: Oh, there was a car scene. Everyone was running around in cars. I mean, this was the time that Kerouac and Cassady were doing On The Road.  The situation was that Cassady had gone..   As I explained,  I’d come back from a trip to Africa. ( “I only remembered the oceans roll/ And islands that I passed” – it was Cape Verde and Cuba, and in the Mediterranean and Cuban islands)  And, I think, yeah, I’d gone west and he’d abandoned me in New York, and this was like a wish-fulfillment dream that we got back together.  And this is the terms of it –  “But if they stop for me,/Why, then, I stop for them, my child.” – That was in terms of the heart – that I could conceive of the possibility of actually making it, (which was very remote, I must have been dreaming of him actually making it out that way), but, you know, that desperate (I’m kind of amazed that anybody could be that desperate, though maybe everybody is, who knows?)

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

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