Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Book of Thel” continues
AG: “The eternal gates’ terrific porter lifted the northern bar” – (Who was “the eternal gates’ terrific porter”? – “the eternal gate” into death – the porter at “the eternal gate” who could open the bar, open the door? – the imagination! – “The eternal gates’ terrific porter is Urthona, the imagination. The imagination, Urthona, is symbolized by the north (that’s why it’s the northern gate, northern bar). It’s all outlined when you get into Blake’s outline and you can find, actually, a mandala here, actually, in this Blake Dictionary, that’ll cover all the norths, souths, easts, wests, and anything else you want to know – Fine “a dollar a dollar a synagogue scholar.” It almost sounds like, you know… – what we’re doing on page five-fifty , five, five, five-five-oh, part four, two lines from the bottom of the page, you got it? – five-fifty – the end of Blake’s “Thel”
“The eternal gates’ terrific porter lifted the northern bar” – (that’ s the imagination, we were just saying – the eternal porter of the gate)
“Thel enter’d in & saw the secrets of the land unknown./ She saw the couches of the dead, & where the fibrous roots/ Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:/ A land of sorrows & of tears where never smile was seen./ She wanderd in the land of clouds thro’ valleys dark, listning/ Dolours & lamentations; waiting oft beside a dewy grave, /She stood in silence, listning to the voices of the ground, /Till to her own grave plot she came, & there she sat down,/ And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit”
And there’s a great biblical cadenza now – complaining – “Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?/Or the glistning Eye to the poison of a smile?/Why are Eyelids stord with arrows ready drawn,/Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?” – This is identical with the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, which says that existence is suffering, that the very birth, according to Buddhism, according to Blake, birth into vegetable form, where the perceptions of the eye, like arrows, perceptions of the eye, like arrows, pain the eye. The hearing of the ear is news of its own destruction.
Student: But Blake’s into something more than organic perception.
AG: This is an early work.. this is an early work, in which he’s just laying this down, this little thing here – and this is Thel’s view, which scares her, it’s not the final Blakean view. This is a drama in which Thel gets this message, that’s what she thinks (tho’ it’s probably what Blake thinks a little bit too, because it’s an early work).
Student: Well, partly that, but..
AG: You shouldn’t argue with…
Student: I’m not.
AG: It’s here!
Student: No, but you said, Allen, that Blake says this, and I’m telling you this…
AG: I didn’t say Blake says this! – This present… Blake’s presentation. Blake’s got thousands of pages. This little thing here, this little cadenza, is almost identical to, it’s an early thought, an archeypal thought, that is basically, identical to archetypal thought of (William) Shakespeare, and of Buddhism, and of Jack Kerouac, that, first is suffering. And his illustration of it, here is that the eyelid.. perceptions of the eyelid are the arrows which pain the eye. It’s just that it’s parallel, that’s all. It’s not final story. It’s not the final story. You’re supposed to..In the final story, you’re supposed to enter the grave and be willing to die. (You’re) supposed to do that. Supposed to do that. Just like the little clod of clay..
“Why are Eyelids stord with arrows ready drawn,/Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?/Or an Eye of gifts & graces, show’ring fruits and coined gold?/Why a Tongue impress’d with honey from every wind?/Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?” – (and this is where Blake gets like Einstein, that the measuring instrument creates the universe – the Ear, “a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in” – that the measuring instrument determines the shape of the universe. Well, Einstein’s theory of relativity is that the universe is seen by us because we’ve got eyeballs, and if we didn’t have eyeballs and there were no eyeballs, there’d be no light. And so (in) the universe, “God appears and God is light to men who dwell in realms of eyeballs ” “But does a blacker form display to those whose eyeballs have flown away”. [Editorial note – Allen is parodying here Blake’s lines in “Auguries of Innocence” – “God Appears & God is Light. To those poor Souls who dwell in Night/ But does a Human Form Display. To those who Dwell in Realms of day”]
“Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?”/Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror, trembling, and affright?/Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy?/Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?” – (This is, obviously, like, you know, dealing with sex and the pains and pleasures of sex and repression and what-not) – “The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek/Fled back unhinderd till she came into the vales of Har.” – (and if you want to know what “Har” is, see page two-seventy-four, and you’ll find all about Har”)
So that’s just that.. So that’s just that book. It’s easy, isn’t it?. Is this not easy to understand, this Blake Prophetic… So as you get into the entire system, the entire expansion, expansive system of Blake’s Prophetic Books, they continue to be easy to decipher, and there’s books to look up any terms that you can’t figure out, like the Blake Dictionary.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-two-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in]