William Blake – (Introduction to Songs of Experience)

Back to Blake. Allen’s Naropa class on William Blake from 1979 continues from here  (following a detour on Greek meters from Allen –  (“I didn’t mean to get so hung up on this for such a long time, but it got interesting”)

AG: We were going to go on to sing Songs of Experience”  beginning on page eighteen..

So, the “Introduction”

– “Hear the voice of the Bard!/Who Present, Past, & Future sees/The Holy Word,/That walk’d among the ancient trees./Calling the lapsed Soul/And weeping in the evening dew;/That might controll,/The starry pole;/And fallen fallen light renew!/ O Earth O Earth return!/Arise from out the dewy grass;/Night is worn,/And the morn/Rises from the slumberous mass./Turn away no more:/Why wilt thou turn away/The starry floor/The watry shore/Is giv’n thee till the break of day.”

What’s really good about that, if you notice, “The starry floor/The watry shore/Is giv’n thee till the break of day,” is kind of weird.  It doesn’t fit quite right:  “The starry floor/The watry shore/Is giv’n thee till the break of day.”  But if you notice he’s contracted “given” to “giv’n” – one syllable – “Is giv’n thee till the break of day.”  So it makes a perfect iambic – duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah.  Notice?  That’s why he’s contracted the “given”.  I thought about it for years trying to (figure out) how to do that.  “The starry floor/The watry shore/Is giv’n thee till the break of day,” – it doesn’t fit.  Until I realized it’s “giv’n” – one syllable.  “Is giv’n thee till the break of day.”  So what I’m trying to point out is that Blake’s ear is really sharp, and his mindfulness and consciousness of the exact fit of the rhythms is amazing.  And, if you notice, it’s not “The starry floor/The watery shore”, It’s “The watry shore.”  “The starry floor/The watry shore.”  Water is two syllables, not three syllables.  Not “watery” but “watry” – and it’s spelled W-A-T-R-Y on purpose.  So that’s why it’s important to use this text, because otherwise some of the later text will make all the spelling equal to modern spelling and you’ll miss the (music)

to be continued

Here’s Steven Taylor’s recently-released version of the Ginsberg setting

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