Ginsberg on Blake 1979 (Metrics – 6)

from William Blake’s Vala or The Four Zoas (1797)

“And then they wander’d far away she sought for them in vain/In weeping blindness stumbling she follow’d them o’er rocks & mountains” (William Blake)

Allen continues his 1978 lecture on meter and scansion in William Blake’s Vala or The Four Zoas. (continuing from here

AG: Now, what about a long line?  What have we got for a Blake long line?  What long line should we look at?
Student (1):  How about the first couple of lines on page nine.. [“And then they wander’d far away she sought for them in vain/In weeping blindness stumbling she follow’d them o’er rocks & mountains”]
Student(2):  I’m hearing a (long note there)
AG:  No.  That might be..
Student (2):  that might be very..very march-ey.
AG:  Yes.
Student (2):  And the others are much more variable.
AG:  Well, actually, let’s find something that’s really….
Student :  Allen, try the first two lines on page nine of Four Zoas
AG:  Okay, that could be.  Let’s see.  Has anybody else (got) any suggestions of what they like?  There’s one.  Okay, that will do, except it’s….
Student:  I like that one part –  “For Enion brooded, groaning loud, the rough seas vegetate.”
AG:  Well, I’ll tell you what I want.
Peter Orlovsky:“I asked a thief to steal me a peach.”
AG:  No, no, that’s not the long line.  That’s a totally different poem.  We’ll do a couple.  [Allen turns to Longfellow quotation written on the blackboard] – Do we need this anymore?

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!” was what I was brought up on.  It was quoted by Winston Churchill in his famous Fulton, Missouri speech declaring the Cold War:  “Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!.”

Student:  I think in relation to…  if you counted by twos in relation to “Ship” it could be unstressed even though it is an exclamatory “O”.
AG:  Well it is unstressed.  I guess you’re missing the point.
Student:  Oh I thought you said that it wasn’t … that it is….
AG:  It is unstressed.  oh SHIP of STATE.”  “Thou TOO sail ON oh SHIP of STATE.”  “Thou too sail on oh Ship of State.”  It is unstressed according to …
Student:  According to….
AG:  … mediocre American poetics of the 19th century, which got so fucked-up that they were putting no accent on an exclamatory syllable.  (That) is the point that I’m trying to make.  That the meter had gotten so degenerated, so imposed on the actual language, that “O”” (in) “THOU TOO SAIL on, O SHIP of STATE! ” (was taught to be unaccented.)  They no longer said “Oh!” anymore.  “The sound was forced, the notes were few.”  They said “o SHIP of STATE.”  In other words, the actual measure of the meter that was practiced in the academy (corrupted) the language. That was the whole point.  Naturally, if you measured by that it didn’t have an accent.  If you say….
Student:  “o SHIP,” “OH SHIP,” “OH, ship of STATE!.”  “OH SHIP of STATE!”
AG:  You see, kids used to get up on….
Student:  “o SHIP of STATE!.”
AG:  Kids used to get up on the stage in high school and pronounce that as (the) valedictorian at their high school graduations.  Say, “thou TOO sail ON oh SHIP of STATE.”

Student:  Well, “ship” is a sharper sound than “o”.  It’s a sharper sound.
AG:  Sir.  “OH!”  is “OH!”.  You can’t deny your senses.  You can’t deny senses.  You’re Urizenic about this.
Student:  (Well,) not everyone does their “oh”s that way.  They go low “oh.”
AG:  Well, in this case, it would seem to be an exclamation mark.
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  It would seem to be an exclamation.  It’s the measure of the complete Urizenic degeneracy….
Student:  (But, then) the form’s not that accurate, so….
AG:  No, that’s the whole point, the form is not accurate.
Student:  Yeah, the method of scansion….
AG:  That’s the point!  That’s the point!  Now you got it.
Student:  I knew we’d get down to the (nitty-gritty).

AG:  That’s the whole point.  That’s the point.  That’s the point.  That particular way of scansion is not at all accurate, if it doesn’t take into account pitch, doesn’t take into account length of vowel, and doesn’t take into account (or) factor some accents are neither short or heavy (in a) long line.

So, we’ll do what was … I’m intimidated by arguing with you so I’ll do your lines.

“And then they wander’d far away she sought for them in vain”

Student:  Actually, what I say …
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  … would be on your side.
AG:  Um-hmm.  Right.  I’m in trouble here… And he’s a professor, too.!  I’ll never win, but I can’t… he knows more than I do! – [Allen continues, writing on the blackboard as he speaks] – “And then they wander’d far away….” –  What’s the rest?
Student:  “… she sought for them in vain.”
AG:  “… she sought for them in vain.”
Student:  “… she sought for them in vain.”
AG:  It’s a long line –  I don’t want you to stop.  What were you saying?
Student:  It’s all iambs, I think.
Student (2):  Really? – No.  No.  I mean, you could scan it that way, but that’s not how you read it.
AG:  You can scan anything any way you want.  That’s the whole point of Urizen.  Urizen invented a system that don’t fit.
And then what comes after that? – “In weeping blindness, stumbling….”
Student:  This long line by the way …
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  … is … Blake was influenced by the resurgence of interest in Old English poetic forms, and the fakery of a poet who….

tape ends (breaks) here – to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in


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