AG: [tape begins in media res] … robes were filled with burning babes”… is a fiction. Blake made him up, as well as on line hundred-and-sixty-eight,” “Up rose awful in his majestic beams Bourbon’s strong Duke..” – (The Duke of Bourbon) -” his proud sword from his thigh/ Drawn, he threw on the earth! the Duke of Bretagne and the Earl of Borgogne/ Rose inflame’d, to and fro in the chamber, like thunder-clouds ready to burst.”
Well, actually, “the Earl of Borgogne” is the same thing as “the Duke of Burgundy”. “Borgogne” and “Burgundy” are the same, and they’re just fictions invented by Blake, sort of artificial Dukes. So also “the Duke of Bretange” – there’s no such thing. So Blake, (when) he didn’t know, just made up sort of goofy names.
Orleans rises – (on page ten, line one seventy-five) – “Then Orleans generous as mountains arose, and unfolded his robe, and put forth”) and advises.. challenges the Church, challenges Anita Bryant, challenges their rationalistic heaviness in a great speech which is one of Blake’s early psychological prophetic speeches. So we get, on line 186 in Orleans’s speech, talking to them (and) asking if they’d ever empathized or even seen the rebels – “Have you never seen Fayette’s forehead, or Mirabeau’s eyes, /or the shoulder of Target,/ Or Bailly the strong foot of France, or Clermont the terrible voice, and your robes/ Still retain their own Crimson?..” – ( These were all..Clermont, Bailly, Mirabeau, Fayette, Target, were the revolutionary leaders – actual historical personages) – “..Mine never yet faded, for fire delights in its form” – (The revolution delights in its own form, a Projective verse delights in his own form, Existential history delights in its own form. Imagination delights in its own form. As distinct from Urizenic solidification and law.)
“But go, merciless men!” – (All the Dukes that were advising war) – “enter into the infinite labyrinth of another’s brain/ Ere thou measure the circle that he shall run. Go, thou cold recluse, into the fires/ Of another’s high flaming rich bosom, and return unconsum’d, and write laws.” – (That’s why I thought of Anita Bryant) – “Go, thou cold recluse, into the fires/”Of another’s high flaming rich bosom, and return unconsum’d, and write laws.
“If thou canst not do this, doubt thy theories, learn to consider all men as thy equals,/ Thy brethren, and not as thy foot or thy hand, unless thou first fearest to hurt them.”
“The Monarch stood up, the strong Duke his sword to its golden scabbard return’d” – (It’s very pretty – “the strong Duke his sword to its golden scabbard.” He’s got a nice golden scabbard, being a man of peace) – “The nobles sat round like clouds on the mountains, when the storm is passing away.”
But ultimately the spirit of pacification is being rejected and so Aumont (Henry IV, his ghost) vanishes. A kind of interesting image of rejection, of psychological rejection and put down. How do you feel when the CIA tells you you’re not serious? How do you feel when the Pentagon tells you you’re not serious?
“A cold orb of disdain revolv’d round him, and covered his soul with snows eternal” – (That “cold orb of disdain”. All you’ve got to do is read Time magazine and you get that “cold orb of disdain””. And that “cold orb of disdain” is characteristic of authoritarian rhetoric and thinking process and you can always feel it when you get it on you, when they lay it on you. The “cold orb of disdain”. All you’ve got to do is stick your nose in, say, this week’s Time magazine’s view of cocaine and marijuana – the cover story. It’s just this “cold orb of disdain” about it all, with some kind of undercurrent of information as if all the writers actually sniffed cocaine but it wasn’t part of the rules of the game to talk about that, just to put down the cocaine, or the grass. Well, anyway..
“(Great) Henry’s soul shuddered, a whirlwind and fire tore furious from his angry bosom;/He indignant departed on horses of heav’n” – (Try that some time – “Departing on horses of heaven” when the police state has rejected you!) – So the Abbe comes on to give his complaint of the oppressed, or an accounting of the oppression. So, finally here’s one of the first political tracts written by Blake, one of the first outright clear accountings of economic evil and repression. This is the Abbe de Sieyes speech.
Peter Orlovsky: Who is the Abbe of Sieyes?
AG: Representing the voice of the people:
“… the voice of the people bowed /Before the ancient seat of the kingdom and mountains to be renewed/. “Hear, O Heavens of France, the voice of the people, arising from valley and hill,/ O’erclouded with power. Hear the voice of vallies, the voice of meek cities,/ Mourning oppressed a village and field, till the village and field in waste./ For the husbandman weeps at blights of the fife..” – (the war fife, the military fife) – “..and blasting of trumpets consume/ The souls of mild France; the pale mother nourishes her child to the deadly slaughter/ /When the heavens were seal’d with a stone, and the terrible sun clos’d in an orb, and the moon/ Rent from nations, and each star appointed for watchers of night,..” – (This a reversal of that other imagery of the orb and scepter and the sun and moon. Remember? – The law and scepter – So Sieyes is reversing it. The Duke of Burgundy was praising that situation of the projection of worldy authoritarian images on nature (and) natural forces, and here the Abbe de Sieyes is reversing that Black Magic and pointing out the heavens were sealed with a stone – the stone of religion; the terrible sun closed in an orb. “The stone of religion” (is) Erdman‘s interpretation.) “”(T)he terrible sun clos’d in an orb, and the moon/”Rent from nations, and each star appointed for watchers of night,/ “The millions of spirits immortal were bound in the ruins of sulphur heaven – (“sulphur heaven”, that’s perfect)
Student: The ruins of sulphur heaven
AG: The ruins of sulphur heaven – which is God, Church, Heaven. “sulphur heaven” – [continues reading] -“To wander enslav’d, black, deprest in dark ignorance, kept in awe with the whip,/ To worship terrors, bred from the blood of revenge and breath of desire,/In beastial forms; or more terrible men, till the dawn of our peaceful morning,/ Till dawn, till morning, till the breaking of clouds, and swelling of winds, and the universal voice (..of William Blake – “(A)nd the universal voice” – that’s very interesting that phrase, “the universal voice.” So this is Blake’s attempt to get to the universal voice of the people, in a way. I hadn’t noticed that before, but it’s a good phrasing – “the universal voice.” It’d be a nice title for a book on Blake or an essay on Blake’s sound, actually, or his intention as a voice).
“Till man raise his darken’d limbs out of the caves of night..” – So, he’s now projecting a political problem even in the senses – “the caves of night.” Because (of the senses Blake writes) “five windows light the cavern of man.” So the caves, whenever you get it in Blake, generally refers to the five senses, or some accounting of “close your eyes and get in the cave.” “Close your eyes and you’ll be in the cave.” But he’s saying the revolution is also an expansion of the senses, as he will say in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that man”s perceptions are expanding and this will come about through a refinement of sensual enjoyments, ultimately.
“Till man raise his darken’d limbs out of the caves of night..” ( Page 292, line 218)- “his eyes and his heart/ Expand: where is space! where O Sun is thy dwelling! where thy tent, O faint slumb’rous Moon?” – (According to Erdman, that line, “where.. his eyes and heart expand.. where is space!” – is an anti-Newtonian slogan: “Where is space!” Where is space, O Newton. And he’s putting this in potentially anti-rationalistic terms, the entire notion of how we apprehend our existence, not in number, not by numbers, not by measure, but by the actual experience of it – unmeasured experience. Each experience is completely different. And so, “Where is space! Where O Sun is thy dwelling?, where thy tent, O faint slumb’rous Moon.” So then there’ll be a psychedelic expansion, accompanying the revolution, which’ll abolish Newtonian rigidity in thought).
“Then the valleys of France shall cry to the soldier, ‘throw down thy sword and musket,/ And run and embrace the meek peasant”. – (So the soldiers and the peasants will get together) – “..Her Nobles shall hear and shall weep, and put off..” – (The Nobles) – “The red robe of terror, the crown of oppression, the shoes of contempt…” – (That’s a great notion. The Nobles shall put off “the shoes of contempt.” Contemptuous velvet shoes,, or shoes that are not meant for actual walk, or transport, or work, but velvet. Like Andy Warhol mylar shoes or something like that, punk rock shoes. The shoes of contempt. Just a very intelligent line it seems to me)
How do you get a line like that – “the shoes of contempt”? To be talking about so strange a notion to begin with of a psychedelic expansion of awareness so that rationalistic “cold orb of contempt” has escaped and the “shoes of contempt” are unbuckled, put off. It’s such a simple-minded idea – “the shoes of contempt”.
Student: The association I had was …
Student: … like the Nobles taxing the peasants …
Student: … like stepping on them.
AG: Yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s the whole thing. He steps on other people with these shoes.
Student: Just official shoes, just meant for walking on …
Student: … citizens, you know.
AG: I just wonder how (he came up with it). You see he said, “Her Nobles shall hear and shall weep, and put off..”, then he started a series of cadenzas. Like improvisation, or jazz improvisation: They’ll put off “(T)he red robe of terror, the crown of oppression,” …well, he’s got to go somewhere. The shoes of what? The shoes of contempt. How did he get to that contempt? It’s such a funny …
AG: … yeah, inventive. It’s an invention on the spot you can see, but it’s such a pretty invention. You know the “red robe of terror”, you know the “crown of oppression” but his “shoes of contempt”. That’s real originality. And Blake is full of these sort of warts. Rhetorical warts, so to speak. Or, like on a tree, a bole in a tree. That’s some odd (thing) – something that’s stopped in the line and something has happened to his brain and it’s suddenly taken a little leap. Like a tree bole. B-O-L-E. All of a sudden something is entered there, or a branch broke off, or.. It’s a strange conception.
And. ” then the priest (shall weep) in his thunderous cloud, “bending to earth embracing the valleys, and putting his hand to the plough,”- (which is obviously some comment on the Church lands. The idle lands owned by the Church, saying..) – ‘No more I curse thee; but now I will bless thee: No more in deadly black/ Devour thy labour; nor lift up a cloud in thy heavens, O laborious plough..”
Now, Urizen works the plow in the later symbolism. So this priest will later become Urizen, (or Your-Reason), who actually is supposed to work the plow. In one or another of the prophetic books Urizen tries to get Luvah‘s horse – (that is) Luvah – the emotions – to work the plow instead of intelligence. And so the earth goes crazed. Fiery emotions and grasping, perhaps. Working the plow fucks up the land, causes ecological disaster. The plow not governed by sweet scientific reason. The plow not governed, not directed by sweet science. That’s a phrase of Blake’s – “sweet science” – but where the spectre of reason has taken over and tried to dominate all others and is trying to use Luvah – the emotions – to do the farming, that is to say, grasping, passionate attachment aggression, aggressive farming – you’ll wind up with ecological disaster. So,
“… ‘No more I curse thee; but now I will bless thee: No more in deadly black/ Devour thy labour; nor lift up a cloud in thy heavens, O laborious plow/ That the wild raging millions, that wander in forests, and howl in law blasted wastes” – (That’s a good phrase again – “howl in law blasted wastes.” – That’s quite literal. The amazing thing is, you see, you have a line like that, in 1790, talking about the “law blasted wastes”. That really is perfect prophecy when you consider the black wastes blasted by law. If “law” here is interpreted as Urizenic science – Jehovaic Urizenic science – then it’s quite literal – “law blasted wastes.” Urizenic science would be petrochemical agribusiness, leading,, literally in that sense to “law blasted wastes.”)
Student: And it had happened….
AG: Dust bowls.
Student: And it was happening in his time….
AG: Pardon me?
Student: … in his …
AG: It was happening in his time, and it was happening in America around that time.
AG: It was beginning to happen.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-eight minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-five minutes in]