Allen Ginsberg on Blake – (A Song of Liberty – 2)

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s A Song of Liberty continues – from here 

Student: How do you find it then in Europe, Newton perpetrates that anti-apocalypse where the angels come down from the sky …

AG: Um-hmm.

Student: … by blowing his trumpet. See, the angel can’t blow it, but Newton does.

AG: Um-hmm.

Student: How does that fit in with the fixed idea of a Newtonian universe?  It seems like Newton would be blowing it apart, rather than setting it up.

AG: Well, it’s a counter-revolution. What is the effect?  The stars come down , the angels come down from heaven?

Student: Yeah, what happens is Newton….

AG: Those would be Tory angels …

Student: … Yeah.

AG: … coming down in the form of a military counter-revolutionary repression, with a fixed idea of what the skies and the heavens are, rather than a relativistic one.

Student: Wouldn’t Newton maintain them in their space then, rather than cast them down?

AG:  He would want … I haven’t read that yet. (I mean I’ve read it but I haven’t read it recently, so I’m not up on the plot. I’ll have to get up to there then). But from what you’re describing it sounds that he would want the stars armed with spears to maintain the status quo.

Student: Yeah.

AG:  And if they had to come down to earth to maintain the status quo they’d come down with spears, as an army.

Student: They’re fallen.

AG: Nature would be an army enemy. An enemy army to man, just like in Hobbes.  Or the Newtonian nature would be an enemy nature.  Because mechanical.  Because they’re bounded, therefore limiting the imagination, putting the authority outside of man.

Student: Um-hmm.

AG:  But anyway, the starry king will appear a number of times as Urizen, the tyrant.


So, line 11 – “11. The fire, the fire, is falling!/ Look up! look up! O citizen of London. enlarge thy countenance; O Jew, leave counting gold! return to thy oil and wine.” – (Stop playing with usury.  That’s the same thing that Ezra Pound was saying two centuries later – stop playing with money, stop making money on money and return to a productive labor).

“….O African! black African! (go. winged thought widen his forehead.)” – (The phrasing there is really interesting.  It’s straight out of Walt Whitman:  “O African! black African! (go. winged thought widen his forehead.)” The rhetoric there is just like Whitman. The tone, the mind, the mentality, the chutzpah, the afflatus is the thing,  the elan, the particular kind of elan.  The interruption of the thought to say “go. winged thought widen his forehead” – Well, “go. winged…widen his forehead”  means that “winged thoughts” are…  not that the blacks are dumb with narrow foreheads, but the spirit, the spirit of the revolution, the “winged thoughts” of Thomas Paine, the winged thoughts of revolutionary power, the winged-ness of thought itself, breaking away from the Newtonian mechanic thought forms – that’s the “winged thought” he’s sending out).

Well, also  “Down rush’d, beating his wing in vain, the jealous King, his grey-brow’d counsellors, thunderous warriors, curl’d veterans, among helms” – The “jealous King” could still be Urizen (or George III, actually, in this case). – Is he mentioned here?  I believe Urizen’s mentioned here somewhere…  16? –  I think it was somewhere (Allen looks though the book)..well, Urizen will come in later – Urthona is mentioned here  – “16 – Falling, rushing, ruining! buried in the ruins, on Urthona’s dens” – (that was one of the first times Urthona was mentioned wasn’t it?)  – Urthona – Imagination –  the ” thunderous warriors… among helms, and shields, and chariots, horses, elephants, banners, castles, slings, and rocks”, all collapsing finally, the entire majesty of empire collapsing , the imperium collapsing the castles and thrones collapsing, falling into the dens, faling down into the dens of Imagination, from the great spaces cleared by Imagination.

“All night beneath the ruins; then, their sullen flames faded, emerge round the gloomy King.'”…”With thunder and fire, leading his starry hosts thro’ the waste wilderness

(Incidentally, Plate XX had the Leviathan.  You see the Leviathan on Plate XX, the serpent – the colored serpent. Everybody seen that one way or another? There are pretty colors. You can glance up a moment.)

Oh, by the way, I got a note; this has been remaindered – this Marriage of Heaven and Hell and is available in paperback for $7.50 now, [1976}  instead of $12.50 or $14.00.  So this is just the right moment …
Student: Where?
AG:  … in history to pick up this book.
Student: Where can you get it?
AG:  I think George (Banks), the Naropa librarian knows.  Ask George at the library but I think it may be in….
Student: It’s out in Boulder.
AG:  Ask George.  Maybe we have to arrange to send for them or something, but I think it may be, in addition, in a Boulder store, or maybe the Boulder Bookstore, or maybe the Colorado Bookstore.  Check it out.  In fact, can you check that out?
Student: Sure.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-nine minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-nine-and-three-quarters

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