William Blake (Metrics – 14)

 William Blake’s Naropa class on metrics in William Blake’s “The Four Zoas” continues from here

Tape resumes – (Allen continues his debate with a particularly insistent student)

Student:  He does have seven accents, though.
AG:  No, no.  When you start trying to find the stresses….
Student:  By the time we get through….
AG:  Let’s get to the actuality.
Student :  …please…
AG:  Let’s get to the actuality.
Student:  This is what I’ve been saying here for several times.
AG:  Okay.

Student:  I found that if I go back to the text and try to read it as fourteeners .. and it’s.. I find that it obscures the meaning for me.
AG: Right.
Student:  I find that …
AG: Sure, if you try and reduce it.
Student:  …you have to really work to try to read it…
AG:  Right.
Student:  …even the Four Zoas, in fourteeners.

AG:  Well, it isn’t fourteen syllables to the line!   It’s only sometimes fourteen syllables, to the line, anyway.
Student:  Well.
AG:  This verse is not always fourteen syllables to the line. It’s very variable, the number of syllables in these.  We could count them I guess.
Student:  Well, I have nothing about syllables, but seven stresses.  If I try to read with seven stresses….
AG:  Yeah.  Fourteen means fourteen syllables, sir!  Septenary means septenary.  It’s nomenclature.  Septenary could mean strict fourteen syllables, or just seven nodes or seven stresses – and at that point, seven pulsations, so…  But that point is very far from anything as regular as fourteen-syllable ballad meter.
Student:  Oh, but the name is fourteeners – but it never was (so to him or anybody else) (it never was) assumed (as) fourteen syllables.
AG:  Uh-hmm.  So, then, where are we now?

Student:  Well, I guess what I was saying, if you want to say it ….
AG:  To be honest, what are you saying, actually?  Maybe I’m misunderstanding.  I thought you were saying that he shifted from iambic blank verse as a major background to the ballad line of septenary or fourteen as the major thing behind him.  Is that what you’re meaning?
Student:  I said to my kids that the Four Zoas is in some kind of septenary (form).
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  But….
AG:  Yes, it’s classically considered a septenary, by (Harold)  Bloom at any rate.
Student:  When I try to read it that way, it so far it obscures the meaning.
AG:  Yes.
Student:  However, maybe if I were better at reading, it would be like hearing Charlie Parker play, instead of duh-duh-dah duh-duh-dah duh-duh-dah.  He plays it:  duh-datta-dah-dah-dah.

AG:  I think if you think in those terms as when you think on the other that you’re missing the inventive point, that he tried to unfetter the verse.  When you unfetter a blank verse, when you unfetter the iambic and open it up, the biggest influences are the swiftness of thought, (as thought arrives in your head as you’re writing), the cadences of actual speech that you speak most of the time during the day, and a kind of quixotic humor in stumbling and making puns of sounds on terrific numbers and prosaic numbers.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately ninety-and-a-half minutes in and continuing until approximately ninety-six-and-a-half minutes in

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