Christopher Smart – 6 – (Conclusion)

“For flowers can see, and Pope’s carnations knew him” Christopher Smart)

AG: Oh then.. this is the greatest…here’s the most amazing line. It’s worthy of  (William) Blake, or above Blake even, I think. (I think it’s above Blake, one line that beats Blake. I’ll read you the two before it, the one  -“For the first entrance into heaven is by compliment..”  Now, “For flowers can see, and the Pope’s carnations knew him”  -“For flowers can see, and the Pope’s carnations knew him” –  (there’s  a funny  line there –  “the Pope’s carnations knew him?” – “Flowers can see”.  -“For Flowers can see, comma, and the Pope’s carnations knew him”

Oh, I’m sorry- For years I’ve had this wrong . For years I had this (misread). I mean, it’s a great line, but I improved it (that’s what made it better than Blake! – The actual line is worse than Blake, I mean, it’s not quite as good as Blake)  – “-“For Flowers can see, comma, and  Pope’s carnations knew him” – Alexander Pope! – For years I was thinking it was “the Popes carnations that knew him”

The footnote says “Pope has a passage on the carnation in “The Dunciad”, but it does not imply that the flowers knew him”!  – That’s the footnote, Well, I prefer, “The Pope’s  carnations”…..

I think that’s a great line, though – “For flowers can see, and Pope’s carnations knew him” – That’s amazing! – Well, we did it between us.

Lets see, it just goes on and on and it’s amazing. about eighty pages of sheer genius.  Well, you… Yeah then we have…then we have the piece that’s  in the anthology here, coming up, about his kitty-kat.

Maybe I’ll read you a couple of lines of  “For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry“. –  “For Bull..”  – (he’s got something about a bunch of…  “Bull”) .. –

“For Bull in the first place is the work of the Almighty God”.

“For he is a creature of infinite magnitude in the height”.

Who else wants to read? –  Who else would like to read this “Jeoffry” part on page five seventeen – [to Student]  In fact, you have a good English accent, don’t you?  Yeah, why don’t you read that – when the time comes. when it starts?  You got the passage?  You know that poem? “For I will consider My Cat Jeoffry” by….

Student: It has been set to music by Benjamin Britten. 

AG: Yeah, it’d be nice to hear it in an English accent,,  Did you go to Cambridge,  by some stray chance?

Student:  No, Oxford

AG: Oxford not Cambridge

Student: Close!

AG: Close enough.  So we’ll hear Smart,.. We’ll hear Smart read properly.. But I want to read first the fifteen lines which introduce this…I’m sorry I don’t remember your name…  Andrew?

Student:  Grant

AG: Grunt?

Student: Grant

AG: Grant! Grunt – (maybe how it sounds in) Oxfordian English –  Andrew Grant – Andrew Grunt! – Andrew Grant 

[At approximately sixty-nine-and-three-quarter ninutes in, Allen begins reading]

For Bull in the first place is the word of Almighty God

For he is a creature of infinite magnitude in the height.

For there is the model of every beast of the field in the height.

For they are blessed intelligences and all angels of the living God.

For there are many words under Bull.

For Bull the Month is under it.

For Sea is under Bull.

For Brook is under Bull. God be gracious to Lord Bolingbroke.

For Rock is under Bull.

For Bullfinch is under Bull. God be gracious to the Duke of Cleveland.

For God, which always keeps his work in view has paited a Bullfinch in the heart of a stone. God be gracious to Gosling and Canterbury.

For the Bluecap is under Bull.

For the Humming Bird is under Bull.

For Beetle is under Bull.

For Toad is under bull.

For Frog is under Bull, which he has a delight to look at

For the Pheasant-eyed Pink is under Bull. Blessed Jesus Rank El

For Bugloss is under Bull.

For Bugle is under Bull.

For Oxeye is under Bull.

For Fire is under Bull.

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

Student (Andrew Grant): (to continue) with the whole thing?)

AG: Yeah, the whole thing

[Beginning at approximately seventy and three-quarter minutes in,  and concluding at approximately seventy-six minutes in, Student (Andrew Grant) reads at length, a section  from Christopher Smart’s “Rejoice In The Lamb] – (“For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry./For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him…..”….”    for he can swim for life,  for he can creep”)

AG: It was nice to hear it in that tongue, with that tongue, Yeah, with that kind of tongue-ing. Well, there’s some quality of Smart which is extraordinarily different from anybody elseof his time (particularly if you think of him talking of., well, actually it does fit – “For flowers can.. “speak?  Flowers can?

Student: See

AG: “…See/And Pope’s carnations knew him”,  is actually a complete criticism of the entire.. of all eighteenth-century literature! – “For flowers can see and Pope’s carnations knew him” – That’s a really good critique of the sort of wit and rationalism of that time for its superficiality or lack of regard for the entire divine mind of  nature, actually

But this is smarter. Smart is smarter than anyone else around him, his language is smarter than (Alexander) Pope or (John) Dryden – theirs is very stiff compated to the liquidity and intelligence and humor  (as well as classical scholarship involved, as well as a pure vernacular improvisation and contemporary quotidian reference  – like  God bless the Postmaster and Mucius Scaevola..” – how do you pronounce that?  –  Mucius Scaevola   – the guy who put his hand in the fire..the Roman hero…that was..I think it was..that.. that’s the line – “God bless…”..

Student: (Who was he?)

AG: I don’t know – some guy that put his hand in the fire to prove his patriotism. It’s just a humorous line – “For the Postmaster..Colonel Shevlock and Mucius Scaevola”, all at once – or  “Colonel Draper”.I don’t know anybody else of that time who has that contemporary sensibility, or… and, ear, also. a more contemporary ear, that is, one that’s more like the twentieth-century, more like (Guillaume) Apollinaire – and a long line (when you get into the long line, you get into the strange humors of (Walt) Whitman – like “seas…”,  Like Whitman’s line, “seas of bright juice suffuse heaven” is a line such as Smart might have written –  “seas of bright juice suffuse heaven”. It’s a line that (Jack) Kerouac pointed out in Whitman as being a line so mad in conception –  “seas of bright juice? suffuse heaven?” – it’s almost incomprehensible, incredible taht somebody thought it up. So there are a lot of lines in Smart that are incredible. just that anyone would have had the wit, intelligence, and humor.. It’s the mellow-ness, actually, (though it’s supposed to be mad, it’s the mellow-ness of mind, to be able to conceive ideas like that, and find funny words for them)

Well, it’s late, I’m sorry, and we’re  probably.. how come we’re so late? – oh, we started late, right

tape concludes with a snippet of overheard conversation – AG: What did Charlie say about the reading? –Student: It’s on – AG: Where?- Student: Here – AG: He’s going to be here? – Student: No he’s not. I’ll organize it – AG: Okay. Is he gone already? – Student: He either just went outside or just went downstairs to smoke a cigarette – AG: Okay, I’ll talk to him for a second – Student: Okay, he’s usually the…  [tape cuts off here]

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at appproximately sixty-one minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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