Allen Ginsberg’s 1979 William Blake Naropa class continues from here
AG: Where are we? Where did we leave off? It was on line… page nine. So we’ve got to go back to what goes before it.
[Allen reads from Blake’s The Four Zoas]
‘They sulk upon her breast her hair became like snow on mountains/Weaker & weaker, weeping woeful, wearier and wearier/Faded & her bright Eyes decayed melted with pity & love/ And then they wandered far away she sought for them in vain.”
AG: [goes to the blackboard, begins inscribing] – “And then/ they wandered/ far away” – well, “far away” – “far away”. “And then they wandered far away.”
Student: I (think) “way” is accented. “Far away.”
Student (2): “Far” might be (given an) accent, too. “Far away.”
AG: If you reduce it to “And then/ they wandered/ far away,” – “And then they wandered far away.” You can pronounce it with an accent. Whether or not you want to stick what you pronounce with an accent, it depends. But how do you say “she” there? “And then they wandered far away, she sought….”
Peter Orlovsky: “(S)he sought for them in …
AG: “Sought” (is accented, then).
Peter Orlovsky: “… vain.”
AG: So, it’s “sought”.
Student: (He had an) accent.
AG: “She sought”?
Student: Yeah, accents (on both)
AG: It may be. How do you say it? “And then they wanderd far away she sought for them….”
Student: You could say that, too. “She sought for them, in vain.” No, you wouldn’t want to do that.
AG: I would say, “She sought for them.” She SOUGHT for them, in VAIN.
AG: Actually. And you could possibly have an accent here, if you insisted on it being perfectly iambic, when you were at a blackboard in a school two hundred years later trying to figure out what the meter was. But in terms of the way it’s pronounced – “… they wandered far away … she sought for them in vain” – I wouldn’t necessarily, if I were saying how do you (scan this line or) if I were marking this up in order to indicate to a student how to pronounce it, I wouldn’t put an accent on “them”. If I were marking it up to indicate its roots in iambic, then I would put an accent on “them” – so it depends what your purpose is in making the paradigm, or making the marks.
So this is primarily iambic, and this is the septenary ballad line. “In weeping blindness stumbling she follow’d them o’er rocks & mountains.” – How would that be? “In weeping BLINDness STUMbling she follow’d them o’er rocks & mountains.” – (that was my intuitive reading of it). [Allen goes again to the blackboard] – “In weep-ing/ blindness/ stumbling she follow’d them/ o’er rocks & mountains.”
Student: Then you have a caesura for “blindness”, almost.
AG: Yeah. Except, I could see….
Student: “Stumbling, she follow’d them.”
AG: I could see four different places where you could have a caesura. “In weeping blindness, stumbling she follow’d them o’er rocks & mountains.” That’s real interesting…..”In weeping blindness stumbling, she follow’d them o’er rocks & mountains.” “In weeping blindness stumbling she follow’d them, o’er rocks & mountains.” It depends how you want to do it.
Student: Or maybe, “..o’er rocks & mountains/ Rehumanizing from the Spectre..”
AG: Well, you could, yeah. He’s got a capital over “Rehumanizing”? Yeah, so that means if he’s got a capital …
Student: No, it doesn’t mean anything, because the nouns are capitalized for appearance sake.
AG: Yeah, okay, but the thing I found, in getting accustomed to working with Blake’s capitals, which are arbitrary, totally arbitrary, is the sense that the tendency is when you’ve got to start something like the beginning of a thought, you might capitalize, or when you got to make a power out of the abstraction, you might capitalize …
Student: That’s the case there.
AG: …but if you’re going to make a power out of the abstraction,. . Well, what’s the next line? Do you have it? No, it begins, “Ingrate they wandered away”, so it’s probably not connected there, is that?
Student: No, yes. But he went “Rehumanizing from the Spectre in pangs of maternal love/Ingrate they wandered….”
AG: So it’s “Ingrate, they….”
Student: They are ingrate.
AG: Yeah. So, in other words, you could have sort of a comma after “love” – there’s some halt there… Okay, so therefore I would guess, it’s the beginning of another thought, “o’er rocks & mountains” and then a new thought begins there so that it’s capitalized – “… she followed them o’er rocks & mountains/Rehumanizing” – if you were reading it. See, the question here is would you read – “… she followed them o’er rocks & mountains/Rehumanizing”(them), or would you read it – “In weeping blindness stumbling she followed them o’er rocks & mountains Rehumanizing for the Spectre in pangs of maternal love.”
Peter Orlovsky: Yeah, that’s the way you’d read it.
AG: It’d make more sense that way. You could read it several ways, depending on how you want to do it.
Peter Orlovsky: Right.
AG: It’s a score. It’s like a musical score that you can improvise from, a little bit. That’s what’s interesting about this particular text, and about his mind at that point, because it’s just zapping on and it’s leaving, to some extent, the divisions and the sense to be discovered by himself later, when he comes to (or when/if he comes to) write it out for publication. So it’s like a pure inspiration there. If you write long lines, you tend to do that a lot, to drop a lot of punctuation – just get the whole zap of thought in.
Peter Orlovsky: Right.
AG: “In weeping blindness stumbling she followed them” Okay [Allen returns to the blackboard] “In weeping blindness stumbling she followed them” – “followed them’ – Well, you could say, “In weeping blindness stumbling she followed them o’er rocks…” “…o’er rocks & mountains.” In other words, the thing I’m trying to say here is, before you put accent marks on someone as weird as Blake, first you have to sound it aloud and figure out what is the actual speech quality, since these accents indicate speech qualities. You know “accent”? – that means sounds – loud. There’s no need for them if you’re just reading it, in a way. It’s to the point where the written text is projected into vocalization. (so) that you can make some more emotional sense of it, get tones and get divisions for the syntax. So, to do that you really might as well speak it aloud, and then you can figure out how would you say it if you had to say it. If you had to say it, how would you mark it? So I would proceed marking from the spoken quality, rather than from some automatic regulation, or a set of rules in advance. Then you can go back and look at it and say, now what kind of verse is that? But I would proceed from the physical evidence backward, rather than from the presupposition that there’s a fixed (meter).
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately one-hundred-and-three-quarter mines in and concluding at approximately one-hundred-and-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in