William Blake (Metrics – 12)



transcription from Allen Ginsberg’s 1979 Naropa Blake class (on Blake’s Vala or The Four Zoas) continues from here

Student:  I think (I’ll say something) because I don’t get to talk.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  Please let me talk ( (and) then you can make fun of what I’m asking!)
AG:  Yeah.

Student:  I don’t think Blake wrote very much at all in a ten-syllable line, and for this he used the song forms…
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  …and then (there’s) this line (these lines), which are called “septenaries”, or ‘fourteeners’ – (and it’s used as an epic line in things like (which I think Blake must have known), (Arthur) Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses)
AG: Yes
Student: …so you have a line of fourteen syllables, which in English sounds like something that’s really familiar to us, and that’s the ballad stanza, or common meter… and….
AG:  Well, the Golding is something of a ballad meter also.
Student:  Pardon me?
AG:  The Golding, to the ear…
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  …is also somewhat of a ballad meter.
Student:  Yeah.  Except that (in) Blake you have a caesura here and there …
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  …and if it collapses into ballad meter,  then it’s just a ballad, it’s not an epic line. And I think that both Golding and Blake…

AG:  And Ossian..  The Ossianic prose was also being the background and inspiration for Blake.
Student:  It was translated from the non-existent verse originally…  (That) is how Ossian got to be the way it was.
AG:  So that was the text he was hearing –  the Ossian, Milton.. –  Ossian, Milton, ballads, Golding..

Student:  This was the time that the so-called “Ballad Revival” and the English and Scottish  popular ballads were being collected, and loved.  So things like “The Wife of Usher’s Well” and.. some of the great, spooky, supernaturalist (songs)….
AG: … Helen Adam here gave a lecture on those yesterday. Over here.  Helen Adam.
Student:  And I think that’s the line that….
AG:  That he’s drawing on for this?
Student (to Allen):  Now that I’m talking, I want to say my speech..
AG:  You think that’s the line he’s drawing on for this?

Student:  I’ve been reading … I’ve been reading the Four Zoas all morning …
AG:  Yeah.
Student: ..and I was at the laundromat with my kids. And for fun they wanted some soft drinks, and then they didn’t drink them and then they spilled them on the table just as I was folding the laundry. And I said, “You had to have those goddamn drinks, and now you made a mess! ”  And when I said that, I felt pleased with myself – because I said the line of..
the poet!   And the line was….
AG:  Duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah.
Student:  …like, “And then they wandered far away she sought for them in vain.” , which is really….
AG:  “And then they wandered far away she sought for them in vain.” –  Yes, there is that echo in there.  You got it.

Student:  And then what he does to make it happen, he says, “In weeping blindness stumbling she followed them o’er rocks & mountains.”
AG:  Yeah.  Right.
Student:  Now, you can put the caesura after the four. If you try to make that four and three, what you do is….
AG:  Where would you put it?  What are you saying?
Student:  Well, “In weeping blindness stumbling she followed/ them o’er rocks & mountains.”  You only have seven stress.. What the line does is imitate what she’s doing …
I mean, the line… the rhythm of the line makes it..stumble.
AG:  Right.
Student:  And even I can hear “o’er rocks & mountains,” I sort of see that  (as)..
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  …climbing (over rocks and mountains)

AG:  So where would you put the caesura in the second line?
Student:  I wouldn’t put one.
Student (2):  Why not after “stumbling”?
Student:  Well, after “stumbling”(it wouldn’t..)
Student (2):  (“stumbling, she..”)
Student:  … and then it would be….
AG:  Well, really, it’s a very delicate matter.  Okay, go ahead. Finish it.

Student: (Just to..)
AG:  I see four different possibilities of caesura there.
Student:  Sure.
Peter Orlovsky What’s a caesura?
AG:  A cut, where you have a slight hesitant, slight gap, like in the beginning –  “And then they wandered far away /she sought for them in vain.” – Where, if you were breaking it up into a ballad verse form, you might break the line, actually.

Student:  So I find that, I mean, when I was looking at….

to be continued….

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in  

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