Ginsberg-Blake continuing – 12 (CIA and “The Bard of Albion”)

William Whitehead (1715-1785) – Portrait by Benjamin Wilson

Saul Bellow (1915-2005)

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

AG: So we go on to where are we now.  Yeah, here’s an interesting shot.  On page 56 of the Erdman text, Plate 15, the plagues are “Driven o’er the Guardians of Ireland and Scotland and Wales/They spotted with plagues forsook the frontiers & their banners seard/With fires of hell, deform their ancient heavens with shame  & woe” – (This is what’s happening to the soul of England)

“Hid in his caves the Bard of Albion felt the enormous  plagues./And a cowl of flesh grew o’er his head & scales on his back & ribs;/ And rough with black scales all his Angels fright their ancient heavens” – (That’s kind of interesting.  Who is this “Bard of Albion” figure? Well, it may be Blake’s own self-portrait, to some extent, saying that he got scared himself and “a cowl of flesh grew o’er his head & scales on his back & ribs.”)

But, one note – I think Alicia Ostriker‘s note points out that that is the Poet Laureate of England in those days who was defending the war against America.  The Poet Laureate from 1757 to 1785 was William Whitehead A fellow named William Whitehead writing big jingoistic odes, urging the king and the British policy on to conquer America.

So Blake’s really pissed off.  Blake’s real anger at the sell-outs of his day – the militaristic, or jingoistic, or nationalistic, writers.  And the equivalent of that – this scaly bard, I would say, the Bard of Albion – would be the last (sic – recent) Nobel Prize winner, Saul Bellow. (He’d)  be the contemporary equivalent of this Bard of Albion with “a cowl of flesh” growing “o’er his head & scales on his back & ribs.”  Bellow belongs to a thing called Committee on Present Danger, with Norman Podhoretz and what’s left of the old CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom and international network of literary magazines, Preuves in France, Der Monad  in Germany, and Encounter in English. (These magazines) were funded by the CIA for the purpose of assembling Cold War intellectuals under one roof and presenting a united pro-War, anti-Soviet intellectual front.  The Italian magazine edited by Ignazio Siloni was … do you remember? Ignazio Siloni’s?

Ignazio Siloni (1900-1978)

Student:  Um-hmm.

AG:  He edited a magazine in Italy, the equivalent to Encounter and Preuves {Editorial note – Tempo Presente’]

Well, the reason I’m making this “point” is the next page we’ll get back to that.

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


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