William Blake (The Sick Rose – 4)

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Sick Rose” continues from here 

AG (to Student):  Did you look up (the word) “worm” before?
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  What happened?  What do they (does S Foster Damon in A Blake Dictionary) have?
Student:  “The lowest and weakest form of animal life.”
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  Let’s see if it has anything in here about that particular point.
AG:  It probably does.
Student:  Um.  Let’s see..

Student:  If the worm is body, why is it invisible?

AG:  Well, I don’t know.  It’s contradictory.  Except the way I was interpreting that is because you don’t notice it.  You don’t notice the nature of the body until you start dying.

Student:  Um-hmm.

AG:  You take it for granted.  But then again, why the “flies in the night in the howling storm”?  So then it could be the death implicit in the body that’s invisible and therefore “flies in the night in the howling storm”.  But it’s in the imagination there, that “flies in the night in the howling storm”. Death comes. Maybe it’s…

Student:  Maybe those are mind images.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  The “howling storm” and stuff…
AG:  Yeah.
Student: …could be like images of things of the mind.
AG:  Yeah.  But another thought I had was that the howling storm is the imagination.
Student:  Yeah.

AG:  “In the night”, “in the howling storm”, is human imagination. It may be death comes into the universe through the imagination. That it wouldn’t exist unless we imagined it.  So he’s really making a big, serious, really horrible notion.  But Blake all along is saying both life and death come from the imagination.  (So do (the) Buddhists, actually.)

Student:  Yeah.

AG:  So then the worm might be poetic imagination, even.  As undermining or undercutting or destroying the appearance of the rose.

Student:  It also has line in here, “Like all other living things, it is of the divine substance”
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  ..”God is in the lowest effects us while in the highest causes..
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  … for he has become a worm that he may nourish the weak..”
AG:  Um-hmm.  It says that in (the Book of Thel.  It says some more.  What does the worm say?  “The helpless worm arose and sat upon the lily’s leaf and the bright cloud sailed on to find his partner in the vale.”  Page five of (Book ofThel 

“Then Thel astonish’d view’d the Worm upon its dewy bed./. Art thou a Worm? image of weakness. art thou but a Worm?/ I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lillys leaf:/Ah weep not little voice, thou can’st not speak. but thou can’st weep;/ Is this a Worm? I see thee lay halpless & naked: weeping,/And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mothers         smiles./. The Clod of Clay heard the Worms voice, & raisd her pitying head;/ She bow’d over the weeping infant, and her life exhal’d/ In milky fondness, then on Thel she fix’d her humble eyes/O beauty of the vales of Har. we live not for ourselves…”

One thing about the worm is that it doesn’t talk.  It’s too dumb.  It’s dumb in the sense that it’s ignorant.  It’s hardly conscious.  It’s the lowest form of life.  Hardly conscious but at the same time the most elemental form, the basic one, and the worm also builds the palace in the gates of death, remember?

Peter Orlovsky:  Yeah.

AG:  There was that really great image before of …

Student:  Oh, yeah.

AG:  … let’s see if I can find that.

Peter Orlovsky:  The worm cries something, the worm says something.

AG:  I think it’s The Visions of the Daughters of (Albion) 

Peter Orlovsky:  Albion?

AG:  “Does not the worm erect a pillar (in the mouldering church yard?)”  “Does (not) the eagle scorn the earth & despise the treasures beneath?/But the mole knoweth what is there…” –  That’s on page forty-eight, line forty – “But the mole knoweth what is there, & the worm shall tell it thee./Does not the worm erect a pillar in the moldering churchyard/And a palace of eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave.”

So that would be the most satisfying in relation to this sick worm, sick rose.  “The dark secret love” is the fact that the worm erects a palace of eternity in the jaws on the hungry grave. So the “dark secret love” would be the palace of eternity, in a way.  Or his “dark secret love” is that he is gnawing away, making a palace of eternity.  “(E)rect a pillar in the moldering churchyard”.  “Erect a pillar”, by the way, would be the worm eats meat and, worm droppings, or worm shit, on the pillar, which (is) the most fruitful, ripe fertilizer.

Peter Orlovsky:  Uh-huh.  Yeah.

AG:  What are worm droppings, what do they do?  What are their function?  They enrich the soil?

Peter Orlovsky:  Yeah.  It’s concentrated, real good, concentrated humus.  The best.

AG:  Yeah.  So, literally, the worm erects a pillar in the moldering churchyard,  a pillar of worm shit, or worm droppings, which are the most ripe and fertile.  So it eats the corpse and creates fertile womb, fertile ground, again.  So that’s the “dark secret love” of the worm, which is eating the dying rose, eating up the rose, and recycling the rose into another little form of life, or another capacity for life.  So that would be the “dark secret love doth thy life destroy.”

What a conception! –  “And his dark secret love does thy life destroy”.  Now “that flies in the night”.  Well, “invisible” because he’s underground.  You don’t see him.  You’re dead anyway, you don’t see him.  Well, who knows?


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