Allen Ginsberg continues his review of Willam Blake’s “Songs of Innocence”
AG: Then, (next), the “Cradle Song”:
“Sweet dreams form a shade,/O’er my lovely infants head./Sweet dreams of pleasant streams,/By happy silent moony beams” -Would you turn the page please – “Sweet sleep with soft down,/ Weave thy brows an infant crown./Sweet sleep Angel mild,/Hover o’er my happy child./ Sweet smiles in the night,/Hover over my delight./Sweet smiles Mothers smiles/All the livelong night beguiles./ Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,/Chase not slumber from thy eyes./Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,/All the dovelike moans beguiles./ Sleep sleep happy child./All creation slept and smil’d.” – ((Let me) try that “Sweet moans,” again. Oh, I got it, okay. From “Sweet moans” – “Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,/All the dovelike moans beguiles./Sleep sleep happy child./All creation slept and smil’d./ Sleep sleep, happy sleep,/While o’er thee thy mother weep./ Sweet babe in thy face,/ Holy image I can trace./Sweet babe once like thee,/Thy maker lay and wept for me/ Wept for me for thee for all,/When he was an infant small./Thou his image ever see,/Heavenly face that smiles on thee./ Smiles on thee on me on all,/Who became an infant small,/Infant smiles are his own smiles./Heaven & earth to peace beguiles./Heaven & earth to peace beguiles./Heaven & earth to peace beguiles./Heaven & earth to peace beguiles./Heaven & earth to peace beguiles.”
Peter Orlovsky: What does “beguiles” mean?
AG: It intrigues. The infant’s smile intrigues heaven and earth to peace. Intrigues or seduces them, or beguiles them, or makes them inattentive to their war and so they get involved in peace.
“The Divine Image” – The form of that earlier one was a traditional cradle song, a little moaning, mooning. The moans are nice there. The sighs and the moans there are very pretty. “The Divine Image” – Do you know this one?
“To Mercy Pity Peace and Love,/All pray in their distress:/And to these virtues of delight/Return their thankfulness./ For Mercy Pity Peace and Love,/Is God our father dear:/And Mercy Pity Peace and Love,/Is Man his child and care./ For Mercy has a human heart/Pity, a human face:/ And Love, the human form divine,/And Peace, the human dress./ Then every man of every clime,/ That prays in his distress,/Prays to the human form divine/Love Mercy Pity Peace./ And all must love the human form,/In heathen, turk or jew./Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell/There God is dwelling too.”
“Holy Thursday”: It’s got a very interesting syncopation within it, which you get or discern if you attempt to speak it or sing it and find out what the rhythm is so that it can actually fit metrically and at the same time fit as speech.
Student: Is there music written out for this or did you determine the metrical scheme involved?
AG: Well, I determined the metrical scheme by trying to pronounce it aloud so it would make sense and then figuring out what the meters are… and determined the melodies by figuring what the vocals tones were; whether it went up or down. In other words, whether each syllable by syllable would go up or down in the scale …. at a time when I only knew one scale — that is, one chord. And you may have noticed that most of these are mono-chordal, but occasionally going over to a second chord. I actually began learning music on these and then discovered a second chord in “The Chimney Sweeper”.
So in order to sing them, you’ve got to figure out what they mean. In other words, if you want to sing them sensibly, you’ve got to figure out what they mean. In order to make them fall properly.
AG: (singing, with Peter Orlovsky): “Twas on a Holy Thursday..” – Is that too high?
Peter Orlovsky: Go on, no.
AG (& PO): “Twas on a Holy Thursday their innocent faces clean/The children walking two & two in red & blue & green/Grey headed beadles walkd before with wands as white as snow/Till into the high dome of Pauls they like Thames waters flow/O what a multitude they seemd these flowers of London town/Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own/The hum of multitudes was there but multitudes of lambs/Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands/ Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song/Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among/Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor/Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.”
I like that “duh-dah-dah-dah, duh-datta-dat-dat-dah, duh-duh-duh-dah-dah.” “Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor” — because that actually does fit into speech rhythm: “Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor.” Or, “Beneath them sit the aged men, WISE guardians of the poor.” “Beneath them sit the aged men wise guardians of the poor.” The syncopation of actual speech is the syncopation of jazz, amazingly enough. – or (in) this case reveals that the syncopation of jazz that we’re used to reveals to us the ordinary syncopation of speech. It’s amazing when they come together.
And finally, to finish this particular presentation: “Night”– since it is night and it’s going to be nine o’clock.
(singing, with Peter Orlovsky🙂 “The sun descending in the west” — no, no. “The sun descending in the west.” No, I don’t think that’s right. Let me get it straight. Right, I got it.
“The sun descending in the west/The evening star does shine./The birds are silent in their nest,/And I must seek for mine,/ The moon like a flower,/In heavens high bower;/With silent delight,/Sits and smiles on the night./ Farewell green fields and happy groves,/Where flocks have took delight;/Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves/ The feet of angels bright;/Unseen they pour blessing,/And joy without ceasing,/On each bud and blossom,/And each sleeping bosom./ They look in every thoughtless nest,/ Where birds are covered warm;/They visit caves of every beast,/To keep them all from harm;/If they see any weeping,/That should have been sleeping/They pour sleep on their head/And sit down by their bed. When wolves and tygers howl for prey/They pitying stand and weep;/ Seeking to drive their thirst away,/And keep them from the sheep./But if they rush dreadful;/The angels most heedful,/Receive each mild spirit,/New worlds to inherit./And there the lions ruddy eyes,/Shall flow with tears of gold:/And pitying the tender cries,/And walking round the fold:/Saying: wrath by his meekness/And by his health, sickness,/Is driven away,/From our immortal day. And now beside thee bleating lamb,/I can lie down and sleep;/Or think on him who bore thy name,/Grase after thee and weep./For wash’d in lifes river/My bright mane for ever,/Shall shine like the gold,/ As I guard o’er the fold./For wash’d in lifes river/My bright mane for ever,/Shall shine like the gold,/ As I guard o’er the fold.”
And we’ll continue next meeting. (Class and tape end here)