William Blake – (The Chimney Sweeper and The Nurse’s Song).

tape begins with Allen reciting William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper”

“A little black thing among the snow,/Crying “weep, weep!”, in notes of woe!/ “Where are thy father & mother? say?”/”They are both gone up to the church to pray./ Because I was happy upon the heath,/And smil’d among the winters snow,/ They clothed me in the clothes of death,/And taught me to sing the notes of woe.   And because I am happy, & dance & sing,/They think they have done me no injury,/And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King/Who make up a heaven of our misery.””

AG: Well, just a straight-forward attack on the Church.  But the chimney sweeper at that time was a big social issue and there was a big argument (over) laws in Parliament on labor conditions for children.  There was a Children’s Labor Act  [Chimney Sweepers Act 1788].  I think I mentioned that.  And the actual thing, I think I mentioned that, was you can’t put a kid down a burning chimney anymore.

Then the “Nurses’ Song” which is, I think, the most interesting, because the Nurse seems to me to be the experience (of death).  These are songs of experience, so this is the experience of death,  taking care of the kiddies and telling them to come in.  Death is coming, or night is coming, or experience is coming.  Admit the youth and innocence isn’t going to last forever, or they’re going to waken up to death sooner or later. And, as far as she’s concerned, she wishes she were young again – “The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,/My face turns green and pale.” –  So she’s apparently had a wild youth.  By hindsight, realizes how much damage she did and how many horrors took place, how many aborted children she had, how many horrible love affairs.  How many people committed suicide over here.  How much junk she shot.  How many wars she started, how many mothers and fathers she killed.”

“When the voices of children, are heard on the green/And whisperings are in the dale,/The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,/My face turns green and pale./. Then come home my children, the sun is gone down/And the dews of night arise/Your spring & your day, are wasted in play/And your winter and night in disguise.”

So what does that mean? –  “(Y)our winter and night in disguise”? –  The older I get, the more I think it is that the erotic children, the erotic child, still exists inside the old nurse, but she can’t show it, because of various dignities and social conventions, and so she’s realizing that “youth is too precious to be wasted on the young” (that old George Bernard Shaw thing) and she has to disguise her sex (and) her actual delight, her sexual energy. And so winter and night are wasted in disguise, and spring and day are wasted in play, rather than in serious exploration of possibilities.  And her face turns green and pale because she realizes everything she missed, or her abuse of her faculties at the time.  That she didn’t take advantage of her youth when she had it.  (or, I don’t know, shot speed, instead, did too much coke..

to be continued

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