Allen Ginsberg 1979 Naropa class on William Blake’s “The Four Zoas” – continued from here
Student (1): When they refer to the “Silent Hope & Feminine Repose”, (‘they went on in Silent Hope & Feminine Repose”), who are they talking about?
Student (2): I was just going to say they’re realizing … there’s that shamefulness – they’re realizing their attractiveness to each other’s genitals, or whatever, and all of a sudden they just wanted themselves, and you have something hot and you don’t want anybody to get to it.
Student (3): Yeah, but who else is there, to begin with?
Student (4): I think (it’s) the problem of Genesis, you know, who else is there? There is apparently (nobody there and) they have to have people around.
AG: Well, there’s one other way of looking at it. He is time and she is space. Or that’s what Blake says, (right here on line twenty-seven and twenty-eight), “He could controll the times & seasons, & the days & years/She could controll the spaces, regions, desart, flood & forest”
So we’re talking about time and space getting attracted and copulating with each other, possibly. Time and space having an incestuous relationship, producing some human monster again. Some human illusion.
Student (3): Can time and space be incestuous, or are they part of the same phenomena or the same concept?
AG: Well, they are Spectral …
Student (3): (Can there be) one without one….
AG: … Spectral children of the children of the original Edenic body, Tharmas, who himself, separating from his own erotic energy, had to copulate with himself, in a sense, in another form, in the form of Enion. It isn’t totally unclear but it’s not totally clear. In this case, they’re separate, they’re not one. Time and space are not one in this situation.
Student (3): Allen, it’s interesting….
AG: But the competing males and females that are driven away may come up later on. I don’t know if it’ll work out that way, but by the time you get to page eighteen and nineteen, page twenty-one, you’ll have “the Council of God” and the meeting of the Eternals. Are there any ladies in the Council of Eternals?
Student (3): Well, they’re beyond sexual organization …
Student (3): … in eternity so it doesn’t mention.
AG: Yeah. Yeah?
Student (4): Oh, just to answer Jim’s question (sic) a little bit, in somewhere in Blake’s notes on marginalia to Lavater he says something like no great artist was ever jealous of another great artist, and that’s the idea Blake had that (when you get to notice and be) watching who’s getting published in the little magazines and who’s getting all the gallery showings, and you take your eye off the infinite …
Student (4): … and so that’s what … I thought of this when I was reading it that this was the first time that the imagination experiences jealousy and he starts watching his neighbors instead of thinking about Eternal Forms. And he says that in prose in those notes, so it kind of backs it up (there)..
Student (2): It’s also interesting.. that he was.. like.. (the) simultaneity of jealousy, almost like creates …
Student (2): … other males and females. And that’s the psychological phenomenon that I think you’re talking about. So then they imagined (themselves)
Student (2): … without other males (and other females) to get away, because the minute you become in that frame of mind they’re talking about, away from the infinite, and concentrated on these individual realities around you, you sort of create others out of oneness (with) this person, differentiate, (you know), so they’re created just by the fact of jealousy.
AG: There is an interesting note that is right on this point or approaches this point by (Harold) Bloom, (on) page eight-six-seven (of The Poetry and Prose of William Blake), Enion has given birth to mortal forms. “Though they will function (for a time) as the” – time and space limitations – “temporal and space limitations that circumscribe the fallen consciousness” – that Los and Enitharmon will function as, by becoming time and space they become limitation, he’s saying – “that circumscribe the fallen consciousness.” But the function there, the reason they’re going to do that or the usefulness of that, is that in the long run “they will transform time into a medium of prophecy and space into the” creation of prophecy, and, in a sense, serve toward the regeneration of Eden. “But they begin as servants of the Spectre.” They begin as “wills towards death.” So, he says, “This remarkable passage” in book nine, from line nine to eighteen:
“Then Eno a daughter of Beulah took a Moment of Time/And drew it out to Seven thousand years with much care & affliction/And many tears & in Every year made windows into Eden/ She also took an atom of space.” – (So he’s dealing with time and space here with this magical passage, this magic Shakespearean passage of opening up an atom of space) – “..& opend its center/Into Infinitude & ornamented it with wondrous art” – (So Blake all along has been talking about elemental time and space).
Bloom’s prophecy on that prophecy is this passage “shows their creation as providential; the imaginative act in Beulah” – in the unconscious – “balances the negative creation of the Ulro.” The purely material world. The world of degenerate and vegetable intestines.
Well, that doesn’t completely clarify everything here, but it gives you some directions, something to hang onto and let go of in reading on what the plot is, which is the main (thing).
An interesting thing is if you do read through this carefully, and then check out various notes if you have the dictionary, if you have Bloom’s notes, (and you look up Alicia Ostriker’s notes, which are also very useful). These are the most shorthand ways, short of reading vast scholarly books outlining the entire system. If you want to do moment-to-moment check-outs of the plots, you can follow along with the notes, and make some kind of at least thematic sequence or plot structure out of it.
to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in