AG: I have this chronology here, so I’d like to run over a few things in it. The beginning of this (is on page) four hundred. Little miscellaneous poems. In the miscellaneous poems of the Poetical Sketches, which are 1769 or so, there’s one “To Spring”, “To Summer”, “To Autumn”, “To Winter”, and they’re all really very Shakesperean-sounding, and very vivid They were written when he was fourteen, maybe – really early – and in autumn there’s a funny one – “Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,/Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak/Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load” – I thought, “but left his golden load” was very funny, to end the poem – Autumn “left his golden load.”
What I’m doing is pointing out things that, if you’re a poet, you might dig as phrasing or as language or as some kind of odd thing that might give your brain a jolt as sweet phrasing, or…
And “To the Evening Star”. (Remember, he’s just a kid writing). Some very interesting lines – “Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest the/Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew/On ever flower that shuts its sweet eyes,in timely sleep” – I like that. actually, – “drawest the/Blue curtains of the sky” – that’s very clear. It’s like an old idea – the blue vale, the blue curtains -but for a kid he’s got a very clearly put – “drawest the/Blue curtains of the sky.” With a little scattered silver dew – that’s kind of pretty.
Then, on page four-oh-four, a Song. When set to music it’s a very pretty thing, and prophetic of his later work [and] of the psychological paradoxicality of his later work, and it was set to music by Ed Sanders for the first time in the mid-60’s with the Fugs. Do you know that? Have you heard of the musical group the Fugs? Anybody not?
AG: A ’60s group. Early-advanced political-social protest dope-sex-fucking in the streets rock and roll (group) organized by Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders, and one of the first things they did was put Blake to music. Then they were… They had some Sappho, they had some (Charles) Olson, they had put “Howl” to music. They put this (to music) Has anybody ever heard it? The Fugs version of “How Sweet I Roam’d From Field to Field”?
How sweet I roam’d from field to field,/And tasted all the summer’s pride,/Till I the prince of love beheld,/Who in the sunny beams did glide!/ Who in the sunny beams did glide!/ He shew’d me lilies for my hair,/And blushing roses for my brow;/He led me though his gardens fair,/Where all his golden pleasures grow./Where all his golden pleasures grow./ With sweet May dews my wings were wet,/And Phoebus fir’d my vocal rage;/He caught me in his silken net,/And shut me in his golden cage./And shut me in his golden cage./ He loves to sit and hear me sing,/Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;/Then stretches out my golden wing,/And mocks my loss of liberty./And mocks my loss of liberty./And mocks my loss of liberty.”
In other words, done as a country and western. Real purty.
“He caught me in his silken net,/And shut me in his golden cage” – that’s really great early Blake. At fourteen, that’s pretty good – or fifteen, whatever it was. There’s a line of William Butler Yeats that takes off from that – “I carry the sun in a golden cup/And the moon in a silver bag.” Ever hear that?
Yeats, incidentally, the 20th century writer, is one of the great inheritors of the visionary Blake tradition, and Yeats and W.E. Ellis put together one of the first editions of the complete poems of William Blake. So the Yeats/Ellis edition of Blake, which is a classic thing – with commentaries by them, commentaries by Yeats – young Yeats (if you know who he is, one of the great poets – the greatest of the 20th century Irish-British-English-language poets).
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-one minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-six-and-a-half minutes in]