Shelley – Nineteenth-Century Poetry continues – (24)

Allen Ginsberg’s Naropa class on Shelley’s “Hymn To Intellectual Beauty” continues from here    

“..never joy illumed my brow/Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst/free/This world from its dark slavery/That thou, O, awful Loveliness!/Would give whate’er these words cannot express…”

AG: (beginning in media res)   … here or near here, in one of Shelley’s poems – what particular slavery – except the slavery of phantomness, the slavery of transitoriness, mutability, and passing show and doubt, fear, chance, mutability..

Student:  Wasn’t he also, like a (practicing) Socialist?
AG:  Uh-huh. So that would be a political sense, too.
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  It’s probably a pun.

Peter Orlovsky:  Slavery to god?  Theism?
AG:  Yeah.
Peter Orlovsky:  Atheism.
AG:  Slavery to god.  Physical slavery – black slavery.  But ultimately I would guess slavery to doubt, chance, mutability, and inconstancy.

Prospero, Ferdinand and Miranda in The Tempest – Painted by Joseph Wright – Engraved by Robert Thew, 1800

Student: “With beating heart and streaming eyes,  is a.. reminds me of “The Tempest.”
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  Of “beating mind”
AG:  Yeah, that’s right.. Do you remember the lines?
Student:  I don’t remember. It’s..
AG:  “Bear with (me)/A turn or two I’ll walk to still my beating mind”. [Editorial note – The actual lines are “Bear with my weakness, my old brain is troubled./Be not disturb’d with my infirmity./If you be pleas’d, retire into my cell,/And there repose./ A turn or two I’ll walk/To still my beating mind“]

Prospero, in the fourth act, I think, of The Tempest, has summoned up a big airy pastoral classic Greek drama of the seasons with Ceres and Demeter.  And then Prospero, the wise man, remembers that there’s some unfinished business with Caliban I think, the animal element, one of the characters, and so the play-within-a-play of the masque-within-a-play  – “masque”,  meaning a little drama with fairy dancers and god and goddesses – disappears all of a sudden and you’re left there with Prospero and his daughter Miranda and her boyfriend Ferdinand, I think?  Ferdinand?  That’s his name.  Prince Ferdinand, I think.

Student:   Ferdinand.

AG:  ..who are in love, and they’re going to be married, and he’s done this for their entertainment to show nature’s increase – to show birth or sowing, and re-birth and harvest, as a prophecy of their own life when they were going to get married and have babies.  And all of a sudden he says “Be not afeard.”  What does he say?  [Editorial note – it is Caliban, of course, who utters “Be not afeard” – “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,/Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not./Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments/ Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,/That if I then had wak’d after long sleep,/ Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming,/The clouds methought would open, and show riches/Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d/I cried to dream again] – It’s probably in here.  It’s probably in the big Norton (anthology).  The speech.  Well, maybe it ain’t.  Anyway, he says .. it’s very similar to a Shelley-ean vision – “That these are actors/(As I foretold you) are merely” what?  Shadows or something? –
Student:  Shadows.
AG:  “And are melted into the air.” [Editorial note – Prospero’s speech – “These our actors/(As I foretold you) were all spirits, and/ Are melted into air, into thin air”]

Student:  I was just wondering if he was echoing …
AG:  Yeah, maybe.
Student:  … Shakespeare.
AG:  Beating..
Student:  Phantoms disappear.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  “Look, they’re just a shadow”.

AG:  I’m just trying to remember the lines in Shakespeare where that goes on.  People know that speech?.  Some?

Student:  Shakespeare’s speech?

AG:  It’s a speech by Prospero in Shakespeare that I was just trying to describe.  And Prospero says,  “This world, the cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces, yea, the very globe itself shall dissolve and leave not a rack behind.  We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little lives are rounded with a sleep..” [Editorial note – “And like the baseless fabric of this vision,/The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,/The solemn temples, the great globe itself/Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,/And like this insubstantial pageant faded/Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff/As dreams are made on; and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep..”].

Then he wakes up from this visionary moment and talks to his kids.  “Sirs, I am vexed, bear with my infirmity.  A turn or two I’ll walk/ to still my beating mind.” – (His mind is beating  – he’s had such a big vision of the disappearance of the universe, or the disappearance of the globe, or the whole of humanity, and the universe itself leaving “not a rack” – a cloud rack, a rack of a cloud, or a piece of a cloud,  behind)

So he (Shelley’s)’s got – “With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now/I call the phantoms of a thousand hours/ Each from his voiceless..”
(That’s real Romantic poetry there, though)
“I call the phantoms of a thousand hours/Each from his voiceless grave.”  – (Good sound, too) “… even now/I call the phantoms of a thousand hours/Each from his voiceless grave..” – (That’s Shakespearean, definitely – “Each from his voiceless grave.”)

“(T)hey have in visioned bowers/Of studious zeal or love’s delight.”  –  (That’s a funny combination, because he’s studying very zealously his books of alchemy or idealism or Plotinus or Plato, – “or love’s delight, actually, taking delight in the body.
“(L)ove’s delight” is kind of nice.  Despite all his atheism and his paleness and his tuberculosis and his irritability, his angers and the fact that they don’t like him, he still has recognized in his experience “love’s delight” – he’s experienced physical love as a delight.
It’s a nice way of referring to making love.  Love’s delight.  It’s an old-fashioned one.  It’s one that’s been used but it’s almost like a Renaissance phrase – “love’s delight.”

“Outwatched with me the envious night-“/ – (these hours have outwatched the envious night.  We’ve stayed up all night and studiously involved making love with delight) – “They know that never joy illumed my brow,” etc.

to be continued

Audio from the above can be heard here,  beginning at approximately forty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-two minutes in

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