more Blake (Infant Joy)

Allen Ginsberg’s lectures on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence continue here 

Today – Allen’s class from January 22nd, 1979. The tape begins in the middle of consideration of  Blake’s “Infant Joy”

I have no name/ I am but two days old.—/ What shall I call thee? / I happy am/ Joy is my name,—/ Sweet joy befall thee!/    Pretty joy!/ Sweet joy but two days old,/ Sweet joy I call thee;/ Thou dost smile./ I sing the while/ Sweet joy befall thee.”

AG [in media res]:  …or perhaps humorous remark, or personal remark, but subjective.  You have the totally objective empty space, then the objective conceptualization and then the completely subjective remark.  So – “I have no name/I am but two days old. -”  And then the earth remark – “What shall I call thee?”  And the (response) -“Well, I happy am so you can call me Joy.” And then the after-comment – “Sweet joy befall thee!”  So that first stanza does fall into tri-partite, tri-une, three divisions, that might be just the flash of the thought, a visionary experience, “What’ll I call you?”  “Good luck.”  The flash of experience, “What’ll I call you?” “Joy.”  “Good luck.”  So that might follow that form of thought.

That’s based on an analysis of thought-forms by direct observation during the process of meditation, in seeing thoughts rise unborn out of the abyss of mind, appear, be recognized consciously by the beholder, and then as they appear and are recognized, (then are) noted, commented on, welcomed (and) regretted as they disappear.  So, heaven and earth (and) man (tri-partite), or, in other Buddhist terms, dharmakaya – the world of law; nirmanakaya – the world of needs and forms; samboghakaya – the mind of bliss or body of bliss or world of bliss that unites heaven and earth – or emptiness and form.  So it’s emptiness, form, and then the human beholder that sees that form and emptiness are identical.

I was just making a little metaphysical parallel.  I hadn’t thought of that in relation to this poem, but that first stanza does give the suggestion. That scheme of three parts is modelled on observation of mind, though, in meditation.  You do get that if you sit.  You do get some sense that that makes sense.

And it also works for haiku form –  first line, second line and third line.  We made a movie all about this idea last (year). There was an Italian filmmaking crew and actually several scenes were occupied with the exposition of this idea.  (Chogyam) Trungpa telling the class and me telling Gregory Corso and then examples given in haiku.  One of which was from Golden (Colorado)’s Courthouse on the Rocky Flats trial, when we first got busted, waiting in the Courtroom – “Waiting for the judge silent breathing,/Prisoners, witnesses, police,/The stenographer yawns in her palms.”. So, “Waiting for the judge breathing silent,” that’s the whole space, then locating where we are, exactly what’s happening, “Prisoners, witnesses, police”, and then “oh, the stenographer’s yawning into her palms” –  ennui, boredom and anxiety, so to speak.  So the third thing, the third line would be my comment on having seen the scene at large, located the specifics of the situation and then commenting on them.  Does that make sense?

Students: Yeah.

Here’s Allen’s 1969 recording of “Infant Joy”


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