[Bartolomeo Coriolano (1599-1676), The Triumph of Hymen, early 17th Cent. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.]
AG: ..I’m going to continue where we left off and go back once again to one other poem of Samuel Daniel from Hymen’s Triumph. Daniel was the one we had – “Are they shadowes that we see/ And can shadowes pleasures.. be”. That was an odd, Buddhist-like statement of the late 16th Century. What I’m doing is equating these with traditional Buddhist notions, for those of you who know some dharma, just to point out, partly, how sharp the 16th and 17th Century lyric, and, later, Metaphysical, poets were - and on.. how Western a lot of the basic thoughts on dukkha, or pain, or suffering of existence, how traditional they are in Western basic poetry. Yeah?
Student: Aren’t a lot of these concepts inherited from Christianity? Isn’t most of this poetry suffused with that.
AG: Yeah. Many are (though, actually, for Samuel Daniel, his imagery was pagan). The notion of the universe as illusion and therefore suffering, when you take it for real, is also, like, a Western, Gnostic, notion, and Western-gnostic and Eastern-mystic come from, probably, the same sources in Mesopotamia, beforehand, before both cultures flowered, way back when (areas and times that Gregory Corso was talking to you about in his first lecture, when he was tracing the Great Wheel of Time, back to Ur and Sumer. Gilgamesh, I think he placed at 6000 BC, wasn’t it?
Student: He didn’t say
Student: Three Thousand
AG: Three? And the flood? Gilgamesh dealt with the flood, mentioned the flood, and then flood was when? What was his date for the flood? He was doing it in 2,000-year cycles. I think that would be preceding the development of the Gnostic consciousness that went up until Plato and came down with the Aryans into India. Probably had the same home. “Love is a sicknesse full of woes, / All remedies refusing:/ A plant that with most cutting growes/ Most barren with best using./ Why so?/ More we enjoy it, more it dyes, / If not enjoy’d, it sighing cries/ Hey ho. Love is a torment of the minde/ A tempest everlasting;/ And Jove hath made it of a kinde/ Not well, nor full nor fasting/ Why so?/ More we enjoy it, more it dies,/ If not enjoy’d, it sighing cries/ Hey ho”.
So, love is a sickness – that’s very typical dharma talk, as well as Christian talk, as well as Gnostic talk, as well as old lovers’ talk, Hollywood talk. But as I got deeper into Buddhist studies, I got more and more impressed with how either the Buddhist studies were accurate to human experience, or how Campion or Daniel or Shakespeare were accurate to human experience, and how the ideas expressed are finally pretty similar. It’s a funny way of adding a depth to an understanding of 16th and 17th Century poetry, if you realize how close it is to the dharma you’re working with now, if you’re working with the dharma, or sharpening your understanding. If you’re not working with Eastern dharma, sharpening your understanding of Western (thought), cutting through, like a knife, painful disillusionment, that was expressed really early and in a very hip way by Daniel and Campion and Shakespeare.
I was looking over more of that Campion and there was a very funny line relating to his music, in a poem that I don’t know well, but, just looking it over, it was an illustration of breaking time, breaking up time, making gaps in time for the musician to sing – that is to say for the breath, for the musician to take a breath. I’ll try singing it, actually. I only read this (for) the first time this morning, but it seemed such a perfect illustration of what we’re talking about – how the music, timing the language to music, makes the poet think about the breath, for one thing, and about a much more subtle sense of time than if he’s writing, as we later developed, merely to the metronomic paradigm that once was music and is now just a mechanical count.
(Allen then sings, with harmonium accompaniment, the first four lines of (Thomas) Campion’s “Kinde are her answeres” – “Kinde are her answeres,/ But her performance keeps no day:/ Breaks time, as dancers/ From their own Musicke when they stray:”).
It was just that. That “Breaks time”, it’s miraculous. “Kinde are her answeres,/ But her performance keeps no day”, semi-colon. “Breaks time, as dancers”. comma. “..as dancers/ From their own Musicke when they stray:/ All her free favors and smooth words/ Wing my hopes in vaine./ O did ever voice so sweet but only fain?/ Can true love yield such delay/ Converting joy to pain?/ Lost is our freedome/ When we submit to women so/ Why doe wee neede them,/ When in their best they work our woe?/ There is no wisedome/ Can alter ends, by Fate prefixt./ O why is the good of man with evill mixt?/ Never were days yet cal’d two,/ But one night went betwixt.” I was interested just in that time thing – ““Kinde are her answeres,/ But her performance keeps no day:/ Breaks time, as dancers/ From their own Musicke when they stray..”
For that kind of timing, one great modern poet is Robert Creeley, if you know his work. He picks up a lot from Campion and that funny sense of time. A poem of his that has some of that funny halt (is “A Warning”) – “For love – I would/ split your head open and put/ a candle in/ behind the eyes./ Love is dead in us/ if we forget/ the virtues of an amulet/ and quick surprise.”. I don’t think he was writing for music but he was writing after Campion and had a certain dense of breath stop or breath timing that you can hear in the musician Campion.
Do many know the famous poem by Campion called “There is a Garden in her face”, about “cherry ripe”? Has anybody read that? How many? Raise it up, real high. Yeah. And who has not? Okay, so that’s he vast majority. (to student) - You never read that, Lily? - Okay. It’s a pleasure. “There is a Garden in her face..” This is Campion again, Campion, the musician. This is maybe his best-known poem, because of its taking-off from the London street cry: “Cherries, cherries, and pineapples, bananas. Cockles and mussels, alive alive-o”. (Allen then reads Thomas Campion’s “There is a Garden in her face” - “There is a Garden in he face/ Where Roses and white Lilies grow…” in its entirety)..So, I guess, cherry lips, or pearls. So the lips themselves have to ask for it. He’s waiting for his girl to ask him to make out (Campion, as a musician, could be a little more pure-hearted about love, when he wasn’t putting down women).