more Blake

Allen is filmed here, in 1995, in his home in New York on East 12th Street, in front of his Buddhist shrines and thangkas, singing, and elucidating the genius of William Blake.

He begins with the last two stanzas of the “Introduction to the Songs of Innocence” – “Piper, sit thee down and write /In a book that all may read/ So he vanish’d from my sight/And I pluck’d a hollow reed/And I made a rural pen,/ And I stain’d the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs/ Every child may joy to hear.”

“Blake himself used instruments of the day, probably the church organ, or the pump organ, or harmonium, and what I have here in my lap is a miniature pump organ, it has a bellows and keys, it has two-and-a-half octaves, so it’s probably not that different from the instrument Blake may have used.”

[Allen proceeds to sing, accompanying himself on the “miniature pump organ”, William Blake’s “ TheTyger”] – “Tyger, tyger, burning bright,/In the forests of the night;/What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry..” (ba-da-dum)…”  “First of all, the rhythm, as trochaic, is exquisite representation of heart-beat (boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom– “When/the heart/began/to beat – What dread hand and/What dread feet”) – [Allen accompanies himself, clapping] – so that the consonance of the heartbeat and the trochaic rhythm are the same. And then you realize what the poem means is that they both (both the tiger and the lamb) rose out of the human imaginative heart, that we created these polar opposites out of our own hearts, bodies, imagination. And then the whole thing is a kind of a unified crystal.”

[Allen next quotes from “Auguries of Innocence”] – “The Beggars’ Rags fluttering in Air/ (doth).. /Does to Rags the Heavens tear” . “One could.. (It) sticks in your mind and you wonder what it means really, until you finally puzzle out in the twentieth-century that any nation that would allow many beggars in rags to be lying in doorsteps, looking at heaven through their ragged sleeves, would be the kind of desensitized society that would punch a hole in the ozone layer and “tear the heavens to rags” – literally.”

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