William Blake’s Birthday – 2

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake continues from here

Full audio available here (continuing approximately fifteen minutes in)

AG:  So, next is “Tyger”. Anybody can play percussion?  Anybody? (to Steven) (you can play percussion on your mandolin?) – boom-boom boom-boom ba-boop – yeah – want the words?…It’s heartbeat – boom-boom boom-boom boom-boom boom-boom. –  (Allen sounds out the melody)

“Tyger Tyger, burning bright,/ In the forests of the night;/  What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?/  In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes?/ On what wings dare he aspire?/What the hand, dare seize the fire?/ And what shoulder, & what art,/ Could twist the sinews of thy heart?/And when thy heart began to beat/What dread hand? & what dread feet?/  What the hammer? what the chain,/In what furnace was thy brain?/What the anvil? what dread grasp./Dare its deadly terrors clasp?/  When the stars threw down their spears/  And water’d heaven with their tears:/ Did he smile his work to see?/ Did he who made the Lamb make thee?/ Tyger Tyger burning bright,/ In the forests of the night:/What immortal hand or eye,/ Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”
Now.. (only a few more minutes now, on “The Tyger”) – “The Tyger”, ‘ now we can use our excellent explanation sheets for “The Tyger”.  [Allen had distributed to the class, notes, “guidance sheets”]  First of all, has anybody.. without looking at them, has anybody got an idea what is this all about?, what’s ‘The Tyger” about, what’s the moral here, what’s the principle that he’s saying? The question is “Did he who made the tiger, who made the lamb make thee?”  Who is “he”?  Anybody any… yes?

Student: God

AG:  God – yes that’s the immediate thing, one…

Student: The God Blake believes in

AG:  Pardon me?.  The God Blake believes in, or some..  somebody out…  of Innocence and Experience that..   You can actually make use of Blake’s fixed symbolism to begin to interpret it. In the first place, you’ll notice that there is an anvil and a hammer and a chain (which are the appurtenances of a blacksmith, if you’ll notice, the forge.. lets see, what else have we got in here?  what other images are there in here? – “What the hammer? what the chain/ In what furnace was thy brain?”. So, looking on your guidance sheets here – “Four-Fold Correspondences and “Jerusalem” – who was the…where does the blacksmith turn up?
Student: Ruthann
AG: Urthona – Urthona or the Imagination, The iron is there. How would this then be interpreted? And then also, I don’t know if it’s on this?..ok … where do stars come? “when the stars threw down their spears”
Student: Ulro

AG: Yeah  Ulro or Urizen. The stars actually represent a symbol of Urizen. It represents the dimness of conceptual thought, actually. And “spears”? – are they in here anywhere? – spears also represent aggressive thought – you know, aggressive thinking. or the aggression of conceptual mind trying to fit (the) event of the universe into its frame, into its reasons, into its system. So “when the stars threw down their spears”, it means reason itself gave up and threw down its spear or laid down (laid it down as weapon) “and watered heaven with their tears”. So the tears of thought would be..  Well ” a tear is an intellectual thing” is in another poem – “A tear is an intellectual thing/ And a sigh is the Sword of an Angel king” – Reason itself weeps at the chaos it has created. “When the stars threw down their spears/ And water’d heaven with their tears” – that’s practically what’s happening at Rocky Flats now. The thinkers, the schemers, suddenly realize they’re all wrong and have screwed up completely and have surrendered. And, in fact the..what? – the head of the Department of Energy says that…  the new head, when he came in and asked for some statistics, all the bureaucrats around didn’t know what he was asking for, and didn’t know what the statistics were!  I don’t know, that was in the papers about a week ago – the complete collapse of reason, of hyper-rationality and the re-assertion of some common sense,  common senses, which would be Imagination, body, feeling, along with Reason.

So, if we interpret The Tyger this way, we find, tyger is the wrath of emotion, (revolution actually), and this is supposed to be corresponding to the French Revolution and to the horrors of the French Revolution too, the awe, Blake’s awe there. (“The forests of the night” – in Blake generally the symbol of forests very often symbolizes the darkness of a hyper-rationalistic system but also the landed estates of the French aristocracy). “Tyger tyger burning bright”, the fire of wrath or revolution burning bright in the forests of the aristocracy of the night, lack of clarity, lack of lucidity.  “What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” – The “immortal hand or eye” is the Imagination that creates the tyger, not God but the human imagination, coming out of own bodies, out of our own hearts. We create both tiger and lamb, or Urthona, or the power of the Imagination, creates the Lamb of God, or the delicacy and tenderness, as well as the wrath of the revolution and violence.  So, “What the hand, dare seize the fire?”, that’s..  “On what wings dare he aspire?” – that might be a shadow of the evil genius – “What the hand, dare seize the fire?”   Well the blacksmith’s hand “dare seize the fire”. Urthona is symbolized by blacksmiths because the blacksmith takes the imaginative dream and creates a material form to it. The blacksmith shapes matter. As you dream first and then the imagination grounds it and makes it real in this world in this time – (Allen is distracted – “Is there a clock?  – five minutes? – five minutes ok”)

– So what art can “twist the sinews of the heart”? – the blacksmith is the one that can do that. “And when thy heart began to beat/ What dread hand? & what dread feet?” – And it’s as if the tiger and the lamb came out of our own heartbeat, out of our own heart-imagination.  And so part of the interesting mystery of the poem is that it goes along with the classical pulse or heartbeat, that is trochaicda-da da-da da-da da-da, boom-boom,boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom. So the rhythm of the poem is the rhythm of the human heart-beat. So what Blake is doing is like making a little poem-homunculus that somehow enters into our nervous system and inspires a certain insight but you don’t quite know what until you rationally maybe figure it out. Bertrand Russell says that when he was a little kid, he was coming down the stairway in his ancestral mansion and he heard someone reciting it and he understood it and he fainted! – literally. So “what the hammer, what the chain in what furnace was thy brain? – well, it all fits to the blacksmith , or the anvil or the dead grasp, (“dare its deadly terrors clasp” ) – When reason threw down its spears of thought and “watered heaven with its tears”, “did he smile..” – did he smile, (the Imagination, or Los, smile), “..his work to see?/ Did he who made the Lamb make thee” – So that’s it. That’s somewhat the hermetic symbolism of Blake’s Kyger

So what can we finish with – might finish with that actually – maybe the very last poem in the book, the.. its the end of the voice of the Bard, it’s the last statement of the voice of the Bard. “Youth of delight come hither/ And see the opening morn.” So having opened up the… I don’t know where it is, it’s in here maybe…

ST:  We haven’t done “Infant Joy”
AG:  Oh yeah we have to do “Infant Joy”, let’s do “Infant Joy”, that’s right
(to Steven) wanna take the first verse?). We’ll do “Infant Joy” because Steven and I have played that before. Its a duet, two voices, the nurse and the infant again –
(to Steven) here you wanna know the words?
ST. I got it

I’d like to finish with the very last of the songs because that’s also again the voice of the bard . And that’s just straight dum da-da-dum, “Youth of delight come hither..”.(sings) “Youth of delight come hither”. (I think its A-minor again)

Nice’.  ok we didn’t get half way through the materials, so maybe later on in a week or two schedule another and we’ll go through the other material that’s been handed out.- thank you – thank you Steven

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