William Blake – from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – 8

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”  continues from here

AG: So now the “Proverbs of Hell” which are like koansZen koans being little slogans that’s supposed to break your mind open.  Because they’re contradictory verbally in nature, but on the other hand if you get the secret of them or see through the words, or see through the conceptual paradoxes, they make complete sense.   Koan.  Does everybody know “koan”?  “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  You know that.  Has everybody heard that? “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  Has anybody not heard that, I should say.  Anybody not heard that?  Really?  Amazing. Interpenetration of east and west.  Okay, so everybody has heard. So what is the sound of one hand clapping?  So it’s like Blake is on that level.  And so we can take him in that relation.   The sound of one hand clapping incidentally is simply a shadowless act.  An act without a thought, or an experience that has no shadow, no quality of doubting self-reflection.  Or question. Simply a direct act such as orgasm, death, breaking your leg, sudden shock like the death of Rockefeller or (President John F) Kennedy or your father.  In other words, it’s that moment when you’re totally alone in the universe and everything is raw and there is no shadow or echo or mirror or after-thought.  It’s just there, complete raw space.  So that would be the sound of one hand clapping, naturally.  There’s not two.  Not a thinker and then a watcher, or not a feeler and a watcher, (the) schizophrenic split.  Not energy and reason, but energy and reason united in one moment.  Or energy and reason identical.   Or, anyway, okay.

So.  “Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead”.   Anybody make any sense of that?

Peter Orlovsky:  I do.

AG:  What?

Peter Orlovsky:  Well, (in) the “Organic Gardening” magazine now they’re saying collect all your bones, grind them back to the soil as fertilizers.

AG:  Okay.  Well, there’s nothing much you can do if you’re plowing and you plow up some bones, you just drive right on. But, in any case, to drive your cart and plow over earth means over the bones of dead trees, dead leaves, dead worms, dead people, dead fruit, dead everything, because the earth itself is nothing but the detritus or dead matter decomposed of formerly living cell matter.  Organic cell matter – tree leaves. Let’s see.  Why don’t we just go around one by one.   Yes?

Student:  It might have had something to do with (attachment)

AG:  Yes.  Sure.  In other words, don’t cling to your dead mommy but go out in the world and start your jewelry business.  Yeah, I mean, don’t cling to dead emotions.  Get married again or, you know, if first you don’t succeed, try try again.  If your love dies….

Student: “No use crying over spilled milk”.

AG:  Yes.  No use crying over spilled milk.  Same.  Any others? “Don’t think twice ma, it’s alright, I’m only bleeding”. [Editorial note – Allen, of course, conflates two Bob Dylan song titles here]    Well, many of them go like that, like, “The cut worm forgives the plow.”  “The cut worm forgives the plow.”  That’s from the other side.  “The cut worm forgives the plow.”  In Ostriker there’s a beautiful variant on that.  Do you know that one:  “The cut worm forgives (the plow)?  It’s in here, I think, later on, but he tried to make a little poem out of it later on. I wonder if I can find that?  It’s in the 1789-1793 poems.. little fragments..  “The cut worm forgives the plow and dies in peace and so do thou.” –  “The cut worm forgives the plow and dies in peace and so do thou.”  Which is one version of another little song which applies to this, from Blake, about forgiving the instrument of death.   (The Fly“)   “Little Fly/ Thy summers play,/ My thoughtless hand/ Has brush’d away./    Am not I/ A fly like thee?/ Or art not thou/ A man like me?   For I dance/ And drink & sing/; Till some blind hand/ Shall brush my wing./   If thought is life/ And strength & breath/….” –   “If thought is life/And strength & breath”  – if thought is breath –  “And the want Of thought is death;/   Then am I/ A happy fly,/ If I live,/ Or if I die.” –    If the want of breath or thought is death, then who cares?  What difference?   “Then am I/ A happy fly,/ If I live,/ Or if I die.”       And he tried to interpolate into that little poem, “The Fly”, that little line about “the cut worm forgives the plow”.  In the same rhythm:  “The cut worm/ forgives the plow/, and dies in peace/ and so do thou.” – So you “drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead”.   (to class)  Well, anybody who has any specific ideas about any one of these, we’re open to interpretation here.

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