Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “..Tyger”. continues from here
AG: Let’s see what (Harold) Bloom says. Has anybody looked that up?
AG: Page 25. His commentary on page 25 of his notes…
Student: (Well, it’s Erdman in the text)….
AG: Yeah, probably. No, he doesn’t have a commentary?
Peter Orlovsky: How about that other book?
Student: (David Erdman’s) Prophet (Against Empire)
AG: Prophet..? Yeah, I’ll look that up. Are there any other books around, beside the Bloom?
You know what’s also interesting are … here’s something to look up now. The variants, which are in the back of this book (sic), which’ll give you his variant writings among the textual notes for page 24.- “The Tyger” – “There are two ms. drafts in” a notebook. Well, you’ll have to examine that yourself.
Student: Yeah, it’s long.
AG: “Could heart descend or wings aspire” was one line he once had. It’s on page 717.
Student: Instead of “On what wings dare he aspire“?
AG: “Could heart descend or wings aspire.” And “Could fetch it from the furnace deep/And in the horrid ribs dare steep”, “In the well of sanguine woe”, “In what clay & in what mould/Were thy eyes of fury roll’d.” – You got some extra lines for “The Tyger”. All these were deleted, and “dread grasp arm”, and all that – “Did he laugh his work to see?” “Did he smile his work to see?” – “Did he laugh?” “Dare he smile,” “Dare he laugh,” “Did he laugh his work to see?” “What the shoulder, ankle?” “What the ankle, what the knee?” “Dare he who made the lamb make thee?” – instead of “Did he” – “Dare he who made the lamb…”
So. actually, if you look at these you get some more indication of what Blake’s intention was. “When the stars threw down their spears/And water’d heaven with their tears.” Let’s see what else. That’s about all he’s got there.
And I think in (Geoffrey) Keynes’ book there’s another reading, completely different.
Peter Orlovsky: Here.
AG: Got the Erdman? Yeah. Is there the Erdman book?
Student: The Prophet
AG: Prophet Against Empire. Did we get everything we could out of the Illuminated (Blake by) Erdman? Did we get everything we could? Could you check that out? I forgot where we’ve looked that up. “Tyger” – he’s probably going to give you….
Student: It’s (on page) 84.
AG: Yeah. Did we look that over and get his reading?
AG: It’s nice to go from book to book, you get everybody. What everybody says. That’s what I’ve been doing to prepare these; I’ve been checking out all the different books, getting their interpretations of their symbolism, and then figuring my own. It makes it interesting.
Okay, (pages) 194-197 (of Erdman) – there’s a whole thing on “The Tyger” – let’s see what he’s got to say. Yeah, he’s got “I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath,/I called the stars around my feet in the night of councils.” – Let’s see – (Allen quotes Erdman from Prophet Against Empire) – “The language of this soliloquy is doubly revealing. On the level of practice, it is clear that ‘”the stars threw down their spears” means “the armies of counterrevolution were defeated.” – (In other words, when Robespierre started chopping everybody’s head off. Remember, Lafayette tried to lead the Austrians back in to re-establish the king (and) the monarchy in Paris) – “‘the stars threw down their spears” means ” the armies of counterrevolution were defeated” – “On the level of theory, it is clear that Reason, when it refuses to assist but attempts to hinder Energy, is overthrown. Denied the peaceful accommodation of the Steeds of Light, the just man seizes the Tigers of Wrath. Vetoed by a stubborn monarch, the French people became, as the London Times of January 7, 1792, put it, “loose from all restraints, and, in many instances more ferocious than wolves and tigers.” As Blake put it in (his poem) , “‘Fayette” (“Let The Brothels of Paris Be Opened.”) the French grew “bloodthirsty” and would “not submit to the gibbet & halter.” [“But the bloodthirsty people across the water/Will not submit to the gibbet & halter.” -lines deleted from the original ms.] If we take the tiger and horse as symbols of untamed Energy” versus “domesticated Reason, then it is obvious which of these is more vital in the days of revolution. In (the Proverbs of) Hell” – (in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) – “it is proverbial that “the tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”, and the devil Isaiah assures Blake” – (also in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) – “that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God”. Yet when revolt tears up one social contract, it must establish a new “free”one..”….So “‘Empire is no more! and now the lion & wolf shall cease.'” This cry at the end of “A Song of Liberty“ and at the climax of the Declaration of Independence as rendered in America is virtually a declaration that the age of reason is the true Jerusalem.”
Now, let’s see. – “On this closing page of “A Song of Liberty” the text is illuminated with dashing and prancing horses.” (That’s at the end of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, remember? the Song of Liberty“?) “One bears a rider, but with no reins or saddle. We see no more of lion, wolf, or tiger” (in the declaration of the Song of Liberty“)
to be continued