Ginsberg-Blake continuing – 5

Allen Ginsberg ‘s class on William Blake’s  “America – A Prophecy” -continues from here

“Fiery the Angels rose, & as they rose deep thunder roll’d/Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc/And Bostons Angels cried aloud as they flew thro’ the dark  night..”

AG: According to Erdman, (the) “Boston Angels” (refers to) Boston (as) the leading city opposing the King, the leading revolutionary city.  So the Angel is Samuel Adams.  “And Bostons Angels cried aloud as they flew thro’ the dark night” –  and if you look on the illustration, (Plate) 13 …

Student:  Yeah.

AG:  … you’ll see that figure — an eagle with a swan’s neck and beak — would be Paul Revere

Student:  Right.

AG:  … doing his ride, (and), according to some commentators, Tom Paine.  What does he say here?  – “Tom Paine whose ‘pen’ is mentioned … a pen-swan, or  (Paul) Revere riding to spread the alarm,” (according to Erdman).

The commentary by Erdman is interesting:  “In the speech by Boston’s Angel (Samuel Adams in Congress, calling for ‘Independence, 1774) :” … the swan and serpent, already bridled and monted, hasten from Albion’s fires, the British bombardment of coastal towns, to safer homes.” –  (The young kids riding on the serpent look like they’re heading out of town after an Apocalypse.  Headed out of town after an Apocalypse).

Energies, the little birds, “a message reinforced by hopeful signs in the ‘dark night’, the Pleiades at the left (seven stars and an eighth).”  That’s very specific.  There are Pleiades down there under the cloud balloon, at the left.  You got them?

Student:  Yeah.

AG:  So actually the illustrations are very precise, very exact. New moon and star, near the serpent’s mouth.  The “serpent smiles.”  I’ve always noticed that, that that serpent seems to be smiling, pointing upward.  (He) is mounted and “attentive to us and his riders”  – because the eye is looking straight out at us, and also looking back at the riders, making sure that they’re safe.

It’s a very amazing serpent, actually.  The friendliest serpent in Blake, I think.  It is a classic reference.  There is the archaic dolphin and putti – a little boy on a dolphin, or a little girl on a dolphin, a little baby angel on a dolphin, which you can see in Pompeii, in Herculaneum, in the Roman designs, here associated with safety or sportiveness or freedom from danger, according to Erdman.

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be found here, beginning at approximately thirteen-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding approximately sixteen-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

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