Ginsberg on Blake continues – 33 (Ossian – 2)

Fingal´s Battle with the Spirit of Loda (Fingal overvinder Soras gud, Loda) (1797) – Asmus Jacob Carstens (1754-1798) Statens Museum for Kunst, (The National Museum of Denmark)
Allen Ginsberg’s 1979 Naropa class on William Blake (and the influence of Ossian) continues from here

Student:  (When they were) coming back from an expedition, he stopped to visit a friend and saw that.. they had the roof on fire, which was a symbol of distress  (I guess that it was turf, or something, that you could set on fire without burning the place down, but) there was a symbol of distress, and he had attacked the besieging army and raised the siege.  But meanwhile he met with this old ghost or wraith called Loda who Northrop Frye identifies with Urizen and this passage that I’m about to read he thinks is one of the sources of Blake’s vision of the combat between Urizen and Los in, I guess,  America and Europe….

[Student begins reading]

“Night came down on the sea. Rotha’s bay received the ship.  A rock bends along the coast with all its echoing wood.  On the top is the circle of Loda, the mossy stone of power.  A narrow plain spreads beneath, covered with grass and aged trees which the midnight winds, in their wrath, had torn from the shaggy rock.  The blue course of a stream is there and the lonely blast of the ocean pursues the thistle”s beard. The flame of three elks arose -the feast is spread around – but the soul of the king is sad for Caric-thura’s battling chief..”

I’ll skip (a bit)..

“A blast came from the mountain, and bore, on its wings, the spirit of Loda.  He came to this place in his terrors, and he shook his dusty spear –  His eyes appear like flames in his dark face, and his voice is like distant thunder.  Fingal advanced with the spear of his strength and raised his voice up high.  Son of night, retire –  call thy winds and fly! Why does thou come to my presence, with thy shadowy arms? Do I fear thy gloomy form, dismal spirit of Loda, weak is thy shield of clouds – feeble is that meteor, thy sword. The blast rolls them together, and thou thyself dost vanish,  Fly from my presence, son of night!  Call thy winds and fly!  Dost thou force me from my place replied the hollow voice? The people bend before me.  I turn the battle in the field of the brave.  I look on a nation’s revenge.  My nostrils pour the blast of death..”

AG:  Wait a minute..”My nostrils pour the blast of death”?

Student:  Yeah.

AG:  That’s Blakean.

Student:  …The tempests are before my face… This sounds a lot like Blake.

AG:  Sure.

Student:  “..my dwelling is calm, above the clouds, the fields of my rest are pleasant.  Dwell in thy pleasant fields, said the King. Let Comhald’s son be forgot.  Do my steps ascend from my heels, into thy peaceful plains?  Do I meet with thee, with a spear, on thy cloud, spear-lipped, dismal Loda.

Why then does thou frown on me, or shake thy airy spear?  But thou frownest in vain.  I never fled from the mighty in war.  And shall the sons of the wind frighten the king of Morven?  No, he knows the weakness of their arms.”

And then there’s a sort of a Virgilian comment –  “He lifted high his shadowy spear, and  bent forward his dreadful height.. Fingal advancing drew his sword, the blade of dark brown Luno. The gleaming path of the steel winds through the gloomy ghost.  The form fell shapeless into air, like a column of smoke which the staff of the boy disturbs. as it rises from the half-extinguished furnace.  The spirit of Loda shrieked as, rolled into himself, he rose on the wind…

And that’s about … there’s some more about that.

AG:  Um-hmm.  Okay, we had….

Student:  (Enough) huh?

AG:  Had that taste of that.  Sounds somewhat Blakean, at least when they get into arguments.  Of course, that’s an old tradition anyway, “His voice sounded like thunder.”  But weird phrasing like “death coming out of his mouth”, or, what was that? “out of his nostrils”.

Student:  His nostrils, yeah.

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

One comment

  1. Really informative…makes the material accessible and conveys the arguments made with vim ! Bravo

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