We’ve been running transcripts of Allen’s Summer 1979 lectures at Naropa on the poetry of William Blake (and, specifically, on The Four Zoas). These transcriptions continue.
Here begins transcription of the August 10 class. The tape begins with Allen informing the class that they’re being filmed
AG: … Nam June Paik, who was an old friend of modern musicians, John Cage and others, who’s been doing work with television and video, sometimes distorting the image to present it oddly, sometimes making artistic counter-images and scrambling it. I don’t know what he’s doing now but it’s an experiment he’s been doing, filming Karma Thinley in the class before and this class, too. So does anybody have an objection to being filmed? Because I’m just letting it open on myself.
Okay, there were two … what happened last time?
Student: About ten of us (started), just each of us read one page of the first book …
Student: And talked a little bit about it. Basically we just read it. There was a person there from England, I don’t know if he’s here today, but Blake sounded great with an English accent.
AG: Uh-huh. Who was that?
Student: (I don’t know) (some) British (guy)
AG: Oh yes, the English fellow – Did you get any clearer sense of it?
Student: I didn’t come away with much of a clearer sense of it but I’ve read it three times and now I’m just …
Student: … and I think I’ve got about as much as I’m going to get.
AG: Well, have you ever read it actually trying to cross-reference …
AG: … the notes with everything …
AG: … with all the available matter.
Student: Not all of it, but …
Student: … what the commentary and what the dictionary….
AG: Yeah. The one extra thing I’ve been using is the notes in (Alicia) Ostriker’s book, (that’s why I keep mentioning Ostriker), and the Erdman (biography of Blake), Prophet of Empire. That’s always useful.
But then I thought finally to cross-check against the Bible. Before we leave Book One I just wanted to get those old references and get them on.
The four Zoas, or four beings in the Bible – The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel in Chapter One has as follows – Chapter One … well, I’ll read you … it’s interesting both stylistically, because that’s what Blake is drawing from, as well as the specific symbolism.
Chapter One – “Now it came to pass in the 30th year in the 4th month in the 5th day of the month as I was among the captives by the River of Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. In the 5th day of the month, which was the 5th year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar, and the hand of the Lord was there upon him. And I looked and behold a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire enfolding itself and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures, and this was their appearance. They had the likeness of a man and every one had four faces and every one had four wings, and their feet were straight feet and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass and they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another. They turned not when they went. They went every one straight forward.
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man and the face of a lion on the right side, and they four had the face of an ox on the left side, and they four had the face of an eagle. Thus were the faces and their wings were stretched upward. Two wings of everyone were joined one to another and two covered their bodies. And then went every one straight forward, whither the spirit was to go, they went, and they turned not when they went.
Well, so you have the man, lion, ox, and eagle there. So that was the original reference. There are other references.
to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and concluding at approximately four-and-three-quarter minutes in