Nineteenth-Century Poetry continues – (22)

from a manuscript in Shelley’s hand of his “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty (1816) (included in the Scrope Davies Notebook, belatedly discovered in 1976)

Allen Ginsberg continues his reading of Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty
(continuing from here )

“Spirit of Beauty, that dost consecrate/ With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon/ Of human thought or form – where art thou gone?/Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,/ This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?/  Ask why the sunlight not forever/Weaves rainbows o’er yon mountain river,/ Why aught… – (“aught” means “(why) anything”) – “Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,/Why fear and dream and death and birth/ Cast on the daylight of this earth/ Such gloom – why man has such a scope/ For love and hate, despondency and hope?

So, speaking of the self-pity shot there, he states the existence of the beauty but in a self-pitying way he asks, “Why did you go and where have you gone?”  But then he realizes, how can you ask such a question?  It happens.

“No voice from some sublimer world hath ever/ To sage of poet these responses given- /Therefore the names of God, (and) Ghost, and Heaven,/Remain the records of their vain endeavor..” – (“Vain endeavor” to name it or to define it) – “Frail spells..” – (like magic spells or (using) language trying to name or capture the sensation of those instants) – ‘Frail spells–whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,/From all we hear and all we see,/Doubt, chance and mutability.” –

So the names and the explanations we give – like spells – for intellectual beauty don’t stop beauty from being subject to doubt – at the height of some ecstatic moment of doubt – will it last? – or chance, that it happens by chance – you never know when you’ll get a moment of epiphany – or the changing-ness of the mutability of it –  “might not avail to sever” –  it’s a little confusing, actually, the syntax.  “Frail spells – whose uttered charm” – if you say them aloud, talk about it, they still won’t help you in keeping hold on all the beauty that we see and hear, on account of “doubt, chance, and mutability.”

“‘Thy light alone – like mist o’er mountains” –

Then he’s got more comparisons – “ mist o’er mountains driven,/ Or music by the night wind sent/Through strings of some still instrument,/Or moonlight on a midnight stream,/Gives grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.”

Is this real?  Does everybody have this experience of moments of such surpassing sensational delicacy and wildness or charm or beauty or panorama or vastness that it makes life with a silver living?

Student:  That image of a music reminds me of a time when I was walking in a storm in a … it was in a town in Pennsylvania, and there were some, I think they were wind chimes or something … but they were … they were sounding so that I couldn’t quite place where they were and I was looking … I was walking up and down the street trying to find the house or the place where they were, I think they were just seemed to be coming from different … spots.  It was kind of strange.

AG:  Well,that sound we have here now [see earlier distraction] is just exactly …
Student:  Um-hmm.
AG:  … right.
Student:  Coming through the walls.
AG:  Coming through walls, but at least, at first what I thought it was was some kind of a modern synthesizer instrument, or some kind of those chime things that you ran your baton along and created all sorts of harmonies that have no … it sounds like a 19th century Impressionistic chorale,  like (Maurice) Ravel, or something.
Student:  They were having fun with the music a while ago ,  screaming, tho’…
AG:  Yeah.  I don’t hear them screaming now.  (It must have been a record).
Student:  No.
AG:  But it’s perfect.


Student:  Allen, is the third line “Therefore the names of Daemon, Ghost, and Heaven”?
AG:  Well, I have “Therefore the names of God, and Ghost, and Heaven.”  You have “Daemon”?
Student:  “Daemon,” yes.
AG:  Yeah, the other Scott Foresman anthology had “Daemon” – D-A-E-M-O-N?  or D-A-I..?
StudentThis has .. D-E-M-O-N.
AG:  D-E-M-O-N?
Student:  Yeah, in this one.
AG:  Here it has “God.”
Student:  (Well here it) has “Daemon.”  I was just curious because….
AG:  Well, this one is Norton.  This is a Norton.  And the other Norton?
Student:  The other Norton?
AG:  “Daemon” is probably more Shelley-ean — “Daemon, Ghost, and Heaven.”  I wonder if this is just….
Student:  He doesn’t use the word “God” very often.
AG:  No, it looks like it was a total typo (sic).  That’s true.  Daemonic music from downstairs.


to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-two minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in

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