Ginsberg on Blake (Visions of the Daughters of Albion – 1)

AG: Well, all this leads on to the Visions of the Daughters of Albion, actually.  So I’d like to get started with that.  I said to read the shorter poems, and maybe we’ll do that right after.

Has everybody read the Visions of the Daughters of Albion? Has anybody not?  Okay, well, get on to read it.

“The eye sees more than the Heart knows.”

You might check it out in the Illuminated Blake, which would be…

Students: One twenty five.

AG: Page 125.  Dig, “The eye sees more than the Heart knows.” – Just to begin with the opening picture and relate it to the text: “The eye sees more than the Heart knows.”  Has everybody got that? (to Anne Waldman)   Do you by any chance have that, Anne?  –  the picture?

Anne Waldman: I’m looking at it.

AG: Yeah.  If you’ll notice, you’re looking from the inside of the skull.  Dig?

Student: Wow!

AG: Yeah.  You got it.  You’re looking from the inside of the skull.  You’re looking out.  “The eye sees more than the Heart knows.”  So to begin with it’s a skull you’re dealing with. “We are strongly compelled to see, in many copies, a human face in the sky, with a straggling cluster of leaves that hang from the roof of caves as the locks of (its) hair.  In some” there is a dark grey eyeball standing in the purple clouds.

“In one-eyed versions the sky face seems in left profile. Yet from the viewers’ perspective, the cave edge and brow of foliage seem the skull socket and brow of our own eyes, seen through as a single opening.”  How do you like that?  Pretty good.  That’s Erdmans view. That seems to be common.

Now, if you really want to know what this poem is about, you have to read Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Women and “Vindication of the Rights of Men” – 1792, “Vindication of the Rights of Women”.  Nowadays in Women’s Lib you have all the argument about rape, and the psychology of rape – Do you know about that?  You’ve heard about that?  Anybody not heard of that?  As part of (the issue).  Come on.  Rape.  You know the modern court trials and Joanne Chesimard, killer-rapist, and all that?  This is about a rape. Oothoon is raped and this is about the relationship between the rapee and the rapist and the boyfriend or husband, the good guy husband of the girl who was raped and what’s his reaction?  How does he relate to her? Is he going to reject her now that he’s lost her cherry, or what? This is the same psychological problem we’re dealing with now, in courts and press, on one level.

The background is also, remember, the debate on the slave trade in England – rape, slavery, same thing – physical slavery. (in other words you’re making someone your sex slave when you rape them).  So there’s a debate on the slave trade.  (It) somewhat continues from The Book of Thel.  Remember in Thel  there was a little girl who didn’t quite want to be born and didn’t want to taste sex?  wanted to stay a virgin to existence?  Well, here, it’s a switch, it’s accomplished.  The birth is accomplished, the fuck is accomplished. In fact it’s accomplished in the form of rape. The worst has happened to Thel. Thel turns into Oothoon and Oothoon is raped.  That’s the theme. And so here’s how..  this is how Blake will go into that –  It’s Foster Damon who noticed that link, from (The Book of) Thel to the Visions of The Daughters of Albion.  There are seventeen copies known of this  that Blake made.

What do we mean by “The eye sees more than the Heart knows”? It’s like Thel’s virgin heart doesn’t know very much, not (a) very experienced heart.  But what’s going to happen, the vision of the daughter of Albion, the eye is now going to see in this more than the heart would have conceived possible – of evil, and  of experience, and of transcendence of that evil and experience. And in that sense, this vision or the eye, will hear (and) see more than the innocent little old heart before.  That’s what he means by “The eye sees more than the Heart knows.”  Or experience is going to reveal, before our eyes, what little Thel could only dream of and, scared, run away from.

Audio for the above can be found here ,beginning at approximately fifty-six-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-two-and-a-half minutes in

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