Allen Ginsberg’s 1978 class on William Blake continues from here
AG: We’ve already gone through the opening of Europe, but I’d like to read that once more because it’s so pretty. Or is there anybody who’d like to read that? Anybody got a good prophetic voice? a lyrical, prophetic voice?. In fact, John W (sic), could you read that aloud?
Student (JW)): Me?
AG: Yes. Plate 3. It’s the opening page, plate 3, of Europe- A Prophecy
AG: Stand up. Stand up and read. Oratorically.
Student (JW): Oratory
Student (JW): “Five windows light the cavern’d Man; thro’ one he breathes the air..”.
AG: Thro’ one.
Student (JW): Huh?
AG: Thro’ one.
Student (JW): Through.
Student (JW): “Thro’ one, hears music of the spheres; thro’ one, the Eternal Vine/Flourishes, that he may receive the grapes; thro’ one can look..”
AG: Through one window. Through another window. It’s just the five windows he’s describing. Go on.
Student: “And see small portions of the Eternal World that ever groweth;/Thro’ one, himself pass out what time he please, but he will not;/ For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant”./. So sang a Fairy mocking. as he sat on a streak’d Tulip..”
AG: That was the speech that the fairy gave. – “So sang a Fairy…as he sat on a streak’d Tulip..” – But did everybody get the philosophy behind that? – We’ll continue in a second. It’s five windows (like the ‘cavern’d man”), it’s the five senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, touch. ‘(T)hro’ one he breathes the air” (the nose), “Thro’ one, he hears (the) music of the spheres” (the ear), “thro one the eternal vine/ Flourishes so he may receive the grapes” ( I guess that’s mouth), ‘thro one can look (eye)/ ‘And see small portions” – “see small portions of the eternal world that ever groweth;/’Thro’ one, himself pass out what time he please… – (that’s the sense of touch – and in this case identified with genitals). “Thro’ one pass out what time he please.” (Issue his spirit forth. Create new spirit).
“(B)ut he will not/For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant.” That’s a very interesting set-up. “So sang a Fairy mocking….” Mocking. So the fairy is a fairy of infinite intelligence (and) is mocking the human state. Go on.
Student (JW): “Thinking none saw him; when he ceas’d….”
AG: No, you can respect the punctuation marks. Take a breath every time you see a comma or anything you want. Just do it slow and take a breath every time you see a comma. Go on. “So sang a Fairy mocking as he sat on a streak’d Tulip.”
Student (JW): “Thinking none saw him; when he ceas’d I started from the trees!/ And caught him in my hat as boys knock down a butterfly/ How know you this said I small Sir?”..
AG: “How know you this said I small Sir?” – Go on. That’s such a funny line!. – “How know you this said I small Sir?” – Go on. Go on.
Student (JW): “Seeing himself in my possession thus he answered me:/ My master, I am yours. command me, for I must obey./Then hear me..”
AG: “Then tell me.” You have “Then hear me”?
Student (JW): “Then hear me.”
AG: “Then hear me.” My book says “Then tell me, what is the material world.”
Student: (JW) Oh, yeah. “Then tell me.”
AG: Yeah. Okay.
So Blake is now answering the fairy of inspiration and giving him the big questions. So here are Blake’s big questions – “Then tell me..”
Student (JW): “… what is the material world and is it dead?
AG: That’s a great line. “Then tell me, what is the material world and is it dead?” Go on.
Student (JW): ” He laughing answer’d: I will write a book on leaves of flowers,/If you will feed me on love-thoughts, & give me now and then/ A cup of sparkling poetic fancies; so when I am tipsie,/ I’ll sing you this soft lute;
AG: “I’ll sing to you to this soft lute….”
Student (JW): “… and shew you all alive/ The world, when every particle..”
Student (JW): Yeah.
Peter Orlovsky: Yeah, when.
AG: My book says “where”.
Peter Orlovksy: When.
AG: What do you have?
Student (JW): When.
Student (JW): Yeah.
AG: Oh, well, I’ve got the early edition of Erdman. He must have changed his mind. Okay. When. – “(A)nd shew you all alive/The world, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” – That’s interesting. Okay. Go on.
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-one-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-seven minutes in