William Blake (Marriage of Heaven and Hell – intro – 2)

AG: You see the illustration at all? Anybody got the pictures? A couple of male and female or two feminine angels way down. It’s worth reading, if you ever get a chance, Erdman‘s descriptions of the pictures, because generally the eye takes these pictures as generalizations, but Erdman looks at all the details of the pictures and actually describes them and their symbolical significance, and things that you wouldn’t notice yourself, maybe, unless you sat and looked at them very clearly, on some grass or something, for an hour, (and at) each picture, he actually gets and notices.  Like the fact that the trees themselves are truncated and bare – they’re dead trees – there are no leaves on those trees.  Up on the earth world.  The flames rise up into trees.  The flames and the trees are of similar form.    There seem to be three levels –  There’s a lower cloud-world,  there’s a middle abyss, beneath, according to Erdman, (or) “below the apparent surface is an abyss or another sky”, (which is a good description – “an abyss or another sky”, right under the (world..). – It’s an odd phrasing for that middle area.) – “..teeming with naked children and couples who dance, embrace, soar, in the warmth of flames that leap toward the “and”” – (“and” – “Heaven and Hell”). “A reclining angel, we assume, turns to embrace a devil, each looking the other squarely in the eye, though to call them “angel” and “devil”, or to enquire into their sexes, neither manifestly male, might be an error” – “To enquire into their sexes”.. Well, it depends.  Some of them are painted (and) there is a little penis painted on the right hand figure, but the ass on the left hand figure looks definitely feminine, so it’s a funny combo.  And on the right hand, too, you can’t tell.  On the surface, on the ground, on the right there’s a reclining form and then there’s someone kneeling by her.  You don’t have a picture book?  Nobody?

Peter Orlovsky:  A lot of people, a lot of students don’t have picture books.

AG:  Aw, come on, get the materials!

Peter Orlovsky:  Give your book to someone, Allen.

AG: Yeah, well, I’ve got to see it.

Student: Anybody want to look at this?

AG:  I gotta see it.

Peter Orlovsky:  Go over and sit near someone who…

AG:  I don’t know if it’s worth doing this because if you haven’t got pictures there’s no picture.  He’s got it illustrated, if you want to find out what he’s doing.  It’s really useful to have that.  I’ll take that up later, then.

But, anyway, on the surface, there is a guy playing a lyre, or some kind of a bowl-like instrument, surface right, up on the ground, on the right, by a tree who’s got some leaves. That tree has some leaves, green, painted in. The little tiny tree. Whereas the other big trees have no leaves and are just… And the center tree is truncated too.  And one scholar noted that in alchemical tradition, (and in) Paracelsus particularly, “truncated trees may signify death as an instrument of transformation preparing the way for new life energy”.  Just a little thought from Paracelsus.

Peter Orlovsky: It looks a little sort of like (a) sliding pond, as you go..

AG: Yeah, well, it’s sort of like a netherworld where they’re all being drifted up by the flames.  They’re all riding the flames upward.

Student: Some of this little figures look like, on the title page, look like mandrake root ..or ginseng...It could be something like nightshade bulbs, or something.

AG: Yeah.  I think, as I said, he’s got.. he had a lot of alchemical and hermetic books and he may have had herbal books, too, and he may have been familiar with herbs. I think he was a vegetarian.

Student: He has a line which says, “All wholesome food is caught without a net or trap.”

AG: Right.  In “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, I think that is. So he may have known as much about herbs, or more, than we might know, in as much as it  would have been a living tradition in that kind of pastoral England of those days. Now you’ve got a recover 19th century and 18th century technology and herbal gossip, you know, the old grandmother’s gossip.  So he may have had much more cognisance of that than we have, (except those who have made special studies). But it might have been just in the air, particularly for someone like him, a hermetic vegetarian mystic, in those days, where London was bordered by fields, where the fields of cows by Willan’s farm outside of. in the middle of.. London, and the Green Man, with a pond where the boys swam naked, right where would now be Hampstead – The Green Man Cafe.  If you look at the rhymed poem in the middle of Jerusalem, there’s a description of his contemporary London.  I think there’s a map of contemporary London in Erdman’s (book), somewhere in Erdman (I’ve seen one somewhere, in the back of Erdman, maybe?)  There is a map of London of his day in the.. on one of these pages which would give you some..  London was filled with… The London of his day [Allen points out on the map] is the grey area.  I don’t know how many of you have been to London but you can take the subway to Hampstead now.  But all of Hampstead at that time was a farm, and Highgate and Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill was a Druid center. It was a hill, actually.  It still is a hill and park, but surrounded by a zoo.

Peter Orlovsky:  Did he go to the center much?

AG: Well, he lived in the center. Or near the center.

Peter Orlovsky:  The Druid center?

AG: Yeah.  Well, no, no, no.  It’s two different things.  Please.  I’m talking about the center of London was the grey area.  St. John’s Hill was a hill, way out on the outskirts of town, miles away. So it was like two hundred years ago. What is that, two hundred-and-seventen (years ago) ? Eighteen hundred, Nineteen-hundred.. Two hundred and eighty years ago, London was a small town, like Boulder. About that size, probably, and probably not much bigger, (and) smaller in population, for all we know.  I forgot. And you could walk, just as you can now,  you could walk up to.. what’s the name of that park?  to go up on the mountain?

Students: Chautauqua?

AG:  No, just right at..   Chautauqua Park .  You just walk in Chautauqua Park and you’re in the wilderness, practically.  So, the same for him.  It’s kind of interesting.  So, naturally, his sense of farming and herbs and local vegetation and old ladies remedies would all be pretty local and provincial.

We’ll get on with “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in time. It’s taking a little time to get into it, actually. Well, so what?

Peter Orlovsky:  What’s the difference between local and provincial?

AG: Well, it’s local in that the neighboring farmer’s wife knew something about it, but there is something he’s got to say about London in 1805.

(Allen begins singing,  accompanying himself with harmonium) – “The fields from Islington to Marybone,/To Primrose Hill and Saint Johns Wood/ Were builded over with pillars of gold,/ And there Jerusalems pillars stood./  Her Little-ones ran on the fields/ The Lamb of God among them seen/ And fair Jerusalem his Bride:/ Among the little meadows green./  Pancrass & Kentish-town repose/ Among her golden pillars high:/ Among her golden arches which/ Shine upon the starry sky./  The Jew-harp-house & the Green Man;/The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight:/ The fields of Cows by Willans farm:/ Shine in Jerusalems pleasant sight/.  She walks upon our meadows green:/ The Lamb of God walks by her side:/ And every English Child is seen,/ Children of Jesus & his bride.”

That’s the opening of a song on page one hundred and seventy, within Jerusalem . Within the second book of Jerusalem.  It’s this big, long song about identifying different parts of London with different aspects of his mystical ideal Jerusalem.  But it’s a description of “The Jew-harp-house” – which is I guess a pub – and “the Green Man”, another pub.  “The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight:/The fields of Cows by Willans farm..”   That’s pretty funny. Totally particular for his time.

Well, we’ll get into “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell next (class)

class and tape end here

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-eight minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape] 

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