Contextualizing William Blake

 title-page illustration to William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790) –  “Lo to the vault/Of painted heaven”

Allen Ginsberg continues and concludes his first (Jan 8, 1979) Naropa class on William Blake (and his Poetic Sketches) here

AG: Well, you can already see at the age of fourteen what an ear (William) Blake had . So  he knows what he’s doing.  It isn’t as if “Mad Blake” was some kind of self-taught genius that wasn’t really very sophisticated in Augustan rhythms – (that is, “Augustan”, meaning that was the age in which he was growing up, which was … Read More

William Blake (“Mad Song” & “To The Muses”)

[William Blake – “Mad Song” – the page from the first publication, 1783, with the pencil mark attributed to the poet]

Allen Ginsberg’s 1979 Naropa class on William Blake continues

AG:  … This “Mad Song” is not too well-known, but I think it’s psychologically interesting, so I’d like to lay it out.

The wild winds weep,/And the night is a-cold;/Come hither, Sleep,/And my griefs infold:/ But lo! the morning peeps/Over the eastern steeps,/And the rustling birds of dawn/The earth do scorn.

Lo! to the vault/ Of paved haven,/ With sorrow fraught/ My notes are driven:/ They strike the ear of … Read More

More Blake Preliminaries

[William Blake – Illustration for  John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress –  Plate 20 The Christian Fights Apollyon ‘ “It’s my favorite in all of Blake” (Allen Ginsberg)]

AG: (I brought) that three-volume set (of William Blake) here, so it’s up in the library in Reference, if you want to look at it.  And, (I don’t think I told you), I brought my own home collection of Blake to Naropa, and I’ve put it in the library for your perusal, (so it’s maybe twenty or thirty books  – big things and little books,  lots and lots of pictures,  lots and lots … Read More

Blake continues – (Poetical Sketches)

AG: I have this chronology here, so I’d like to run over a few things in it.  The beginning of this (is on page) four hundred.  Little miscellaneous poems.  In the miscellaneous poems of the Poetical Sketches,  which are 1769 or so, there’s one “To Spring”, “To Summer”, “To Autumn”, To Winter”, and they’re all really very Shakesperean-sounding, and very vivid They were written when he was fourteen, maybe – really early – and in autumn there’s a funny one – “Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,/Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak/Hills fled … Read More

William Blake – (Class Preparations)

Continuing from yesterday. As before, in the initial tapes, we experience technical difficulties. Original transcriber, Randy Roark:

“Shortly into this lecture it sounds as if in reaching for a book Ginsberg knocks into the microphone, apparently dislodging it.  As a result, much of the subsequent lecture is lost”

Today’s episode covers the rudimentary matter of obtaining books for the course

AG:  [in media res] … according to that scheme [The Four Zoas]..

Oh, the other problem is books.  How are we doing with getting Blake books?  Has anybody not been able to find one?

Student: They’re out … Read More

William Blake (The Four Zoas)

William Blake – The Four Zoas – from an illustration in Milton – A Poem (1804-1810)

We begin this week serialization of another of Allen’s Naropa classes – his 1979 lectures on William Blake. Today, a few preliminaries.

The initial tapes have a number of technical difficulties. As original transcriber Randy Roark explains:

“The tape machine malfunctions throughout this recording. A mechanical hum, sounding like a short in the microphone or recorder itself, interferes with the recording, which alternately comes in clearly.  The tape is labelled “Intro to Blake — Vala” — but almost none of this remains.”

Notwithstanding….… Read More

Naropa 1980 – William Blake – (Conclusion)

We come today to transcription of the last moments of Allen’s 1980 Naropa summer “Basic Poetics” course. He concludes with (who else?) William Blake 

AG: Well what we’ve got in here – a couple of them here – [Allen, accompanied by harmonium, begins singing] – “Hear the voice of the Bard!/Who Present, Past and Future sees/Whose ears have heard,/ The Holy Word,/ That walk’d among the ancient trees./Calling the lapsed Soul/ And weeping in the evening dew:/That might controll,/The starry pole;/And fallen fallen light renew! /O Earth O Earth return!/Arise from out the dewy grass;/ Night is worn, /And the … Read More

William Blake – The Book of Thel – 4

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Book of Thel” continues

AG: “The eternal gates’ terrific porter lifted the northern bar” – (Who was “the eternal gates’ terrific porter”? – “the eternal gate” into death – the porter at “the eternal gate” who could open the bar, open the door? – the imagination! – “The eternal gates’ terrific porter is Urthona, the imagination. The imagination, Urthona, is symbolized by the north (that’s why it’s the northern gate, northern bar). It’s all outlined when you get into Blake’s outline and you can find, actually, a mandala here, actually, in this Blake Dictionary, Read More

William Blake – The Book of Thel – 3

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Book of Thel” continues

“O virgin, know’st thou not our steeds drink of the golden springs/ Where Luvah doth renew his horses?” Luvah” is.. and here is the first mention of the..one of the basic characters in Blake’s system – there are four main characters – “Luvah” – Heart, emotions, love-ah – Luvah – Urizen– Intellect (sometimes too sharp, Luvah sometimes too schluppy, but in balance, they’re correct, out of balance, grabbing everything, they throw everything out of balance). There’s also Urthona“, the Imagination and Tharmas“, the Body. – “O … Read More

William Blake – The Book of Thel – 2

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s “The Book of Thel” continues

AG: “O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?/ Why fade these children of the spring? born but to smile & fall./ Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud./ Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water – (this like Sic Vita” (by Henry King) – remember? – like “..bubbles which on water stood” – it’s the same thing, (and, for those of you who are Buddhists, it’s the same thing you find in Gampopa .. … Read More