Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28 - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's Birthday

[Allen Ginsberg & Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Mackey Auditorium, Boulder Colorado, May 1972. photo: Bob Morehouse ]

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's Birthday today - had he lived he would have been 74.

For our last year's birthday celebration posting see here. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 44 (George Herbert)

[George Herbert (1593-1633)]

AG: On George Herbert, there are a few poems which..  I mean, there is a great deal to read. Has anybody read any of Herbert? How many have read Herbert? And how many don't know any of his poems. Raise your hands. So I'll just get a couple in. He was a priest, and "God" 's  in and out of his poetry, plus a funny kind of personal eccentricity and crankiness, which makes him interesting now because he's a strange goof. [Allen begins by reading George Herbert's "The Collar" - "I struck the board and cried, "No more,/ I will abroad!?/ What? shall I ever sigh and pine?..."..."But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild/ At every word./Methought I heard one calling Child!/ And I replied, My Lord!"] - Big, strange shift. I think there's an element of S & M, of masochism, in Herbert, which comes through, which I don't think has been commented on completely by critics. Here's one called "Discipline" [Allen reads, in its entirety, George Herbert's poem, "Discipline" -    "Throw away thy rod,/ Throw away thy wrath,/ O my God,/ Take the gentle path.."..,"Throw away thy rod,/ Though man frailties hath,/ Thou art God/ Throw away thy wrath."] - That's like good pleading.  Now...

Student: Can you wait a second, Allen?  [end of the tape...tape then resumes]

AG: So this is in the 1630s - round about - One poem on death and one on love, of his. Really funny conceptions and funny images. (First), on death [Allen reads, in its entirety, George Herbert's poem, "Death" -  "Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,/ Nothing but bones,/ The sad effect of sadder groans:/ Thy mouth was open but thou could not sing"..."But since our Savior's death did put some blood/ Into thy face,/ Thou art grown fair and full of grace,/Much in request, much sought for as good".

And on love - this is again that odd element of spiritual S & M, but (an) almost universal display of it. Here, the love of Christ or God, but it's mixed with total erotic, straightforward, imagery (or straightforward erotic imagery) [Allen reads, in its entirety, George Herbert's poem, "Love" "Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back/ Guilty of dust and sin/ But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack/ From my first entrance in,/ Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning/ If I lacked anything.."..""You must sit down", says Love, "and taste my meat"/ So I did sit and eat."] - That's pretty good. You can have that with a God, or you can have that with a human being. You can have that particular relationship with a human. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 43 (Robert Herrick)

[Robert Herrick (1591-1674)]

AG: How many have read any (Robert) Herrick?  Raise your hand? And how many have not read no Herrick? How many haven't read Herrick? Come on, raise your hands. Okay, so I'd be encouraged to read it. So this is "The Argument of His Book", or the proposition (that) he has. There is a book you can buy (I think Everyman has a complete Herrick, Everyman's Library), the argument, or proposition, or subject-matter of his book. [Allen begins to read] - "I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,/ Of April, May, of June and July flowers./ I sing of Maypoles, hock carts, wassails, wakes/ Of bridegrooms, brides and of their bridal cakes"..."I write of hell; I sing (and ever shall)/ Of heaven, and hope to have it after all"

Student: That's called "The Argument?"

AG: "The Argument of His Book, or description of the contents. It's the opening of a large book he wrote.

There's a kind of pretty ditty-like quality to a thing called "The Scare-Fire" (which is a sudden conflagration) [Allen reads "The Scare-Fire"] - "Water, water I desire/ Here's a house of flesh on fire,/ Ope' the fountains and the springs,/And come all to bucketings./What you cannot quench, pull down,/ Spoil a house to save a town;/ Better is that one should fall/ Than by one to hazard all." - "Water, water I desire/ Here's a house of flesh on fire".

There's a very famous "Delight in Disorder". I think he finally got to be a cleric. I think he got to be a priest of some sort, I'm not sure.Does anybody know?

Student: Read "Delight in Disorder"

AG: Huh?

Student: Read "Delight in Disorder"

AG: I was going to, but was he a priest. Did he get to be a priest?

Student: Aren't you thinking of (George) Herbert?

AG: Well, Herbert was a priest, but I think Herrick may have also.. Well.. [Allen proceeds to read Herrick's "Delight in Disorder"] - "A sweet disorder in the dress/ Kindles in clothes a wantoness./A lawn about the shoulders thrown/ Into a fine distraction;/ An erring lace, which here and there/ Enthralls the crimson stomacher".."A careless shoestring, in whose tie/ I see a wild civility;/ Do more bewitch me than when art/ is too precise in every part." - It's for flower-children's dresses!

"To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" - I guess this is about the best-known poem in English [Allen reads Herrick's "To the Virgins.." in its entirety] - "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,/ Old time is still a-flying;/ And this same flower that smiles today/ Tomorrow will be dying."..."Then be no coy, but use your time/ And, while ye may, go marry;/ For, having lost but once your prime,/ You may forever tarry/" - Everybody has heard that poem before, haven't (you)? Is there anyone who never remembered hearing that? That was a song too. [to one Student] - You never heard? Terrific. How did it sound? How old are you?
- How old are you?

Student: Twenty

AG: Just the time for the rosebuds!

Student: Allen?

AG: Well, it's advice then to "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,/ Old time is still a-flying"

Student: Allen?

AG: Yeah

Student: Do you know anything about (the symbolism of botany - (the) flowers) and herbs in (Herrick)?

AG: I don't know much about it but there are whole books on it (particularly relating to (Andrew) Marvell's "The Garden" - the poem by Andrew Marvell called "The Garden" in which he made an image of herbs and flowers as a sundial and, apparantly, there were very complex gardens (in those days) with astrophysical suggestions connected to them, but I don't know anything about it.

Student: I've seen in a lot of...

AG:  He might know. [Allen points to student]. Tom (sic) might know..

Student: I was just thinking, Ben Jonson wrote "Drink to me only with thine eyes.." - the class might know that.

AG: Well, we're already on to Robert Herrick..I don't want to go back to Jonson.

Student: Is he later than Jonson?

AG: Well, yes, actually. "To The Virgins.." is 1648. Yeah.
So there are local herbs, just as today, that had symbolic significance. I mentioned in Marvell's "Garden", there is - the palm, the oak, the bays (the palm for military victory, the oak for civic power and the bays for poetic power - laurel. Rue, with maidenheads, virginity..

Student: No

AG:...what? For losing virginity?

Student: Yeah, like take (the imagery of) rue..or.."when I was in my prime/I had some bonnie thyme", something like that, and now it's all gone.

AG: "When I was in my prime/I had some bonnie thyme - T-H-Y-M-E ?

Student: Well, yeah.

AG: "I had some bonnie thyme"?

[Another] Student: "When I was in my prime/ I cherished my thyme..

[Another] Student: "..stole your bunch of thyme" (sic)

AG: Sow your what?

Student: "Stole my bunch of thyme"

AG: "like a false young man, who stole my bunch of thyme (stole my sprig of thyme)". Actually, there are whole books on that subject, none of which, I've read!

Student: Does anybody know a publisher? a name?

[Another] Student: Maud Bodkin has a book called "The Archetypal Images in Poetry" [actually, "Archetypal Patterns in Poetry" (1934)]

AG: Maud Bodkin - B-O-D-K-I-N. Maud Bodkin - The Archetypal Images in Poetry, which would touch on that?

Student: I don't know. Some of it maybe. I don't know if she gets into...

AG: In her book there would be a footnote, recommending a complete book on it.

Student: There must be a bibliography in it.

AG: "To Daffodils". Still Herrick. [Allen reads Herrick's "To Daffodils" in its entirety] - "Fair daffodils, we weep to see/ You haste away so soon/ As yet the early-rising sun/ Has not attained its noon/ Stay, stay/ Until the hasting day.."..."We have as short a spring;/ As quick a growth to meet decay/As you or anything/ We die,/ As your hours do, and dry/ Away/ Like to the summer's rain;/ Or as the pearls of morning dew/ Ne'er to be found again" - That's real sweet -  "To Daffodils" -  "As you or anything/ We die,/ As your hours do, and dry/ Away".

Herrick wrote a tiny little prayer to Ben Jonson, because Ben Jonson wrote such perfect verse and had so good an ear - [Allen reads] - "When I a verse shall make/ Know I have prayed thee/ For old religion's sake,/ Saint Ben, to aid me./  Make the way smooth for me/ When I, thy Herrick/ Honouring thee, on my knee,/ Offer my lyric.  Candles I'll give to thee/ And a new altar/ And thou, Saint Ben, shalt be/ Writ in my psalter." - Cute (actually, he's written much).    

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 42 (Ben Jonson)

[Ben Jonson (1572-1637) - portrait by Abraham Bleyenberch (c.1617), oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London]

AG: I want to move on to Ben Jonson, who's not so read as a poet among lowbrows like ourselves. On a little elegy on his first son, who died. A few little poems of Jonson. What I'm following now are, like, those rests or caesuras or the time. I'm reading poets for their good time, or for the lyric poets that I am reading, (all) have a very sweet sense of rest in-between words, or little gaps in-between words which are in the page-text a by-product, when spoken, of music. The breath necessary for singing that can be done as breath for drama or breath for speaking. [Allen begins reading Ben Jonson's "On My First Son" - "Farewell, thou child of my right-hand..".."Seven years thou wert lent to me.." - The kid's birthday, seventh birthday - "O could I lose all father now! for why/ Will man lament the state he should envy,/ To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage.. ".. "Rest in soft peace, and asked, say, "Here doth lie/ Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry"/ For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such/As what he loves may never like too much."] - That's real sweet for a father -  "Here doth lie/ Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry". There's a(nother) great line in there too - " To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage".

Student: What's the last couplet?

AG: "For whose.." "Here doth lie/ Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry" - his son, his best making. "For whose sake" (the kid's sake), "all his (Jonson's) vows be such/As what he loves may never like too much" (as what he loves, he may never get too attached to).

Student: Yes

AG: (And) also there's a little pun in there - "may never like too much" - there's a "likeness" of the son, I imagine, built into that.

Student: A likeness?

AG: Well, like-to-like, father-to-son. There's just some little sub-echo of the word "like" - being a mirror of Jonson's son being a mirror of him."Likeness", I guess. Maybe. I don't know. That's what I flashed on when I was reading it the first time - "As what he loves may never like too much".

There's other Jonson I like. He's good on little epitaphs for children - "Epitaph on Saloman Pavy, a Child of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel". This was a company of boy actors and little Salomon Pavy had acted in his plays at the age of ten. [Allen reads, in its entirety, Jonson's poem - "Weep with me all you that read/ this little storie"... "And have sought (to give new birth)/ In bathes to steep him/ But, (he) being so much too good for earth,/Heaven vows to keep him"] - "(B)athes to steepe him"? - (There's a) note here - "Aeson, the father of Jason, was made young again by a magic bath prepared by Jason's wife, Medea".

Another little tiny, "Epitaph on Elizabeth L.H. - [Allen reads, in entirety, the poem - "Wouldst thou hear what man can say/ In a little? Reader, stay./ Undernea,/th this stone doth lie/ As much beauty as could die/Which in life did harbour give/ To more virtue than doth live. If at all she had a fault,/ Leave it buried in this vault./ One name was Elizabeth,/ Th'other let it sleep with death;/ Fitter where it died to tell,/ Than that it liv'd at all. Farewell."

He has some songs from his plays, Jonson (being, primarily a playwright). I don't know the tune, but, just spoken, the timing of the songs is so exquisite that it's worth vocalizing. "Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount" - it's a song (as footnoted) from "Cynthia's Revels", a play, sung by Echo for Narcissus. Narcissus fell in love with his own simulacra in the water. The "daffodil" in line 11 ("Since nature's pride is now a withered daffodil") is a species of narcissus. [Allen begins reading, and pauses after that line] - It's just real pretty - [he continues, re-reading the poem - "Droop herbs and flowers;/ Fall grief in showers;/Our beauties are not like ours. O, I could still,/ Like melting snow upon some craggy hill, Drop, drop, drop, drop,/ Since nature's pride is now a withered daffodil" - That takes a great ear - just the pleasure of that - solid - silence - solid - silence - solid - silence..

Student: Who's that by?

AG: That's Ben Jonson. The last few poems..

Student: Still Ben Jonson?

AG: Still Ben Jonson. His most famous piece of music, or song, to Cynthia, or Diana, goddess of the moon and of the hunt - "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair" - Queen and Huntress comma chaste and fair. [Allen recites all three stanzas of this poem - reads the poem in its entirety] "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair..".."Thou that mak'st a day of night,/Goddess, excellently bright." - It's like a good cello piece that " - "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair..".. dah-duh-duh-dah  dah-duh-duh-duh. You can hear cellos in it.

He's got a funny sound, like [ he reads from Ben Jonson's "Simplex Munditis" -   "Still to be neat, still to be dressed,/As you were going to a feast.." - So, it's all those divisions. Probably for singing. Duh-duh-duh-dah, dah-duh-duh-dah. "As you were going to a feast" - "Still to be neat, still to be dressed,/As you were going to a feast.." - "Give me a look, give me a face/ That makes simplicity a grace" - It's (a) perfect ear. Much of it composed of  listening to the vowels, and most of it composed listening to the rests, the divisions in between the middle of the line, or the caesuras. So you've just got to listen.
Like..for..these are all songs. John Fletcher, (a) song published 1639, which has, if you're interested in that, (that line) "Still to be neat, still to be dressed", or (Jonson's) "Drop, drop, drop, drop", or  (Thomas Nashe's) "Queens have died, young and fair", or (Shakespeare's), "Take, oh, take those lips away" - Dah..  dah.. dah-duh-duh-duh-duh"Take, oh, take those lips away/ That so sweetly were forsworn" - he's got it. He had that first solid take, then, "Oh", then, take those lips away/ That so sweetly were forsworn". It's a run-on line. And not only that he has "and those eyes". So it goes [Allen reads the poem] - "Take, oh take those lips away/ That so sweetly were forsworn/ And those eyes like break of day,/ Lights that do mislead the morn/ But my kisses bring again,/ Seals of love, though sealed in vain./  Hide, oh, hide those hills of snow,/ Which thy frozen bosom bears,/ On whose tops the pinks that grow/Are of those that April wears;/ But first set my poor heart free,/ Bound in those icy chains by thee." - It's just good sound there. I'll read one more time that first verse, just to get that long, long little sequence -  Take, oh take those lips away/ That so sweetly were forsworn" - all one breath - "take those lips away/ That so sweetly were forsworn/ And those eyes", after the bah-bah-bah, buh-buh-buh-bah.

Student: Allen, where exactly is that?

AG: That's John Fletcher. England, 16-something. Well, that's a very famous one.  "Take, oh, take those lips away" as a song (is) in any anthology of English poetry. These are all standard items if you open up the Oxford Book of English Verse, or any anthology of traditional English poetry, you'll find these. "Queen and huntress, chaste and fair", "Take, oh, take those lips away, or Robert Herrick, various poems.     

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yugen & Jed Birmingham's Call To Beat Scholarship

Yugen 1

Jed Birmingham's bibliographic work over at the Burroughs-centric, cannot-recommend-it-too-highly, Reality Studio is truly amazing. This past December, he published a sensitive screed against all-too-complacent academic Beat scholarshipWe're going to call it essential reading. "When will the Beat Generation generate the criticism it deserves?", he writes. "Verdict - Enough of this shit. I get it. Beat studies is not accepted in the academy. But enough of a Beat Criticism that has to present a grey flannel suit of accepted academic jargons and buzzwords. This is CV padding and the donning of the university tie required for interviews with tenure boards and trustees. It is time to let one's hair down. When will we get a Beat Criticism of "wild form" and "spontaneous prose" instead of clumsy parroting of Deleuze and Guattari?" - He goes on - "When will we get archive research from primary sources instead of worn-out cliches pulled from secondary sources, reprints and anthologies?"
 - We should pause to remind him that there's the exemplary CUNY Poetics Initiative (new titles imminent on Ed Dorn, David Henderson, Selected  Correspondence of Pauline Kael and Robert Duncan..),but, point taken.

"Enough of the Beat Criticism nightmare. Enough talk of fairy tales. It is time to get real, it is time to wake up...there is no reason that, more than half a century after its birth, Beat Criticism has to step and fetch it before the academic powers-that-be. Enough of  justifying and testifying to (it's) validity and importance.."  
The whole piece may be read in its entirety here. 

Birmingham doesn't just rant. He puts-his-money-where-his-mouth-is, uploading important primary documentation.
Yugen - the complete run of all 8 issues of this seminal magazine is now available as a pdf download - here -  (Allen's in every issue, except for 2,6 and 8, but that information is so incidental - it's so not about Allen, and so much about, rather, a vibrant samizdat independent communal energy). 
Here's "4 Poems" from the initial issue (1958), beginning with a short untitled piece:

We rode on a lonely bus
       for half a night
shoulders touching, warmth
       between our thighs,
bodies moved together
       dreaming invisibly.

I longed for a look of secrecy
      with open eyes
-- intimacies of New Jersey --
      holding hands
and kissing golden cheeks.


I walked for miles
        toward that bedroom
on the starlit highway
        in the lonesome night.

I  knock. The bridegroom
        opens the door.
"I've come on the first 
        night as due"

"Farewell, man,"
         his reply.
I go into the house,
         he to the wild.


I look like someone else 
I don't like in the mirror
-- a floating city heel,
middleclass con artist, 
I need a haircut and look
seedy -- in late twenties,
shadows under my mouth,
too informally dressed,
heavy eyebrowed, sadistic,
too mental and lonely.


The method must be purest meat
        and no symbolic dressing,
actual visions and actual prisons
        as seen then and now.

Prisons and visions presented
       with pure descriptions
corresponding exactly to those
       of Alcatraz and Rose.

A naked lunch is natural to us,
       we eat reality sandwiches.
But allegories are so much lettuce.
        Don't hide the madness.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 114

[Neal Cassady & Natalie Jackson, San Francisco, 1955. Photo c Allen Ginsberg Estate] 

Another notice (see the flood of notices last week) of Allen's photographic Beat Memories show - Tim Keane (on Hyperallergic) - ""I Noticed My Friends" - Allen Ginsberg's Photography" - "At best these pictures are a celebration within a rite of mourning", Keane astutely notes. "And if photography prolongs a lived moment that vanishes as soon as it arrives,  [and surely it does] Ginsberg sensed how better suited [perhaps?] photography than writing can be to that impulse.." [Tho' he was hardly a slouch, we might add, when it comes to preservation of the moment, elevation to eternity, via writing!]    

"I am with you in Rockland". As we've noted before, among our most popular postings over the years are our periodic postings on (here's another one)  Ginsberg tattoos

Elizabeth Pusack over at Tin House has been burrowing through the John Wilson Special Collections Room at the Portland, Oregon library, and came across this little gem, which she dutifully transcribed - an August 1965 postcard (from Allen) to "Bill" Burroughs - 
"Dear Bill, out in Fresno awhile, + visited Big Sur, then spent $2000 and bought a Volkswagen 1964 Camper-like a transistorized trailer - now I'm a householder! - and went up here then Crater Lake + 2 days backpacking on Mt Rainer + we'll go on foot 8 days into Olympics or Cascade Mountains - Seattle a lovely 1920's American City - great Goodwill shops + 2nd-Hand clothes + Tambourine markets - I'll weave with Peter [Orlovsky] across states to NY in a month or more. I'm up here with Gary Snyder before he goes to Japan again. How long you be around? I see the heat is closing in on me (?) love, Allen".

"I can feel the heat closing in" - Allen echoes the famous line from Naked Lunch. Bravo! deciphering the Ginsberg scrawl! 

Eliot Katz's and Tom Savage's recollections of Allen in Volume 2 are just two of a myriad of lively, informative entries in Clayton Patterson's recently-published three-volume, monumental "Jews - A People's History of the Lower East Side"Tuli Kupferberg, Abbie Hoffman, Ed Sanders, Philip Glass, and Robert Frank, are further names with which readers of the Ginsberg Project will be familiar. The delight is that there will be plenty of names and facts with which they're not familiar. For more about this particular project, see here 

Speaking of Eliot Katz, his introduction to the new Andy Clausen collection, recently noted in these pages, may be read here.

Ray Bremser's birthday today - what would have been his 79th. For more about Ray Bremser see here (our Ray Bremser birthday posting). 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 40 (Marlowe & Ralegh and Campion)

[ The tape begins in media res, Allen is reciting Christopher Marlowe's "A Passionate Shepherd To His Love"

AG: "...Fair lined skippers for the cold/ With buckles of the purest gold,/ A belt of straw and ivy buds,/ With coral clasps and amber studs;/ And if these pictures may thee move,/ Come live with me and be my love... " -     

And then Sir Walter Ralegh, about a year later registered a reply and answered (with) "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" [Allen recites this poem, in its entirety - "If all the world and love were young.."] 

It's, like, really cynical but much more realistic. It was nice that they had that much poetic telepathy with each other to lay it back and forth.

[Thomas Campion (1567-1620)]

I'm going to continue just a little bit more with song. I had spoken of song written for music. The great singer that (Ezra) Pound points attention to is (Thomas) Campion. When he's read aloud, the time in his poetry is very slow and clear, almost clearer than anybody else's time, just for where you have caesuras, and where you have rests, if you hear it aloud. I want to read a couple of poems and then we'll have one song sung aloud. The one (that) I like most is pretty well-known - "Rose-cheek'd Laura, come" (first line, "Rose-cheek'd Laura - comma - come - comma. So it isn't "Rose-cheek'd Laura come", as it normally would be read by a high-school teacher. It's [Allen sings on a descending scale, ending with "come"] - or [sings on an ascending scale] -  "Rose-cheek'd Laura, come" - well, anyway, there's a break, there's a halt. [Allen reads, in its entirety, the poem] - The first lines, I'll just read (you) the first lines of each of the four stanzas - " "Rose-cheek'd Laura, come" , "Lovely formes do flow", "These dull notes we sing", "But still mooves delight" - What he's counting there are the vowel-lengths, incidentally, because he's making song, and he was especially interested in making vowel-lengths. Pound was interested in Campion because Campion was one of the rare English song men that had developed an ear for classical measure, for vowel-length measure. 
"Follow thy fair sun" (is) also Thomas Campion, if you listen to it, those of you who know accentual measure, counting accents, if you listen to it and see how different it is when pronounced aloud from anything that would be counted by accent, you'll get some ear for the quantitative verse we've been talking about .We're on Thomas Campion, (for the new arrivals), the great pop singer of the beginning of the 17th century! - [Allen proceeds to read "Follow thy fair sun.." in its entirety] - In five short verses it actually builds up a strong rhythmic pulsation. "Follow thy fair sun, unhappy shadow", "Follow her whose light thy light depriveth", "Follow those pure beams who's beauty burneth", "Follow her while yet her glory shineth", "Follow still since so thy fates ordained". Those are the first lines so, if you hear them in sequence, you see how he builds it up.      

Spontaneous Poetics - 41 (Campion's Music)

AG: George [sic -a Naropa student], were you ever able to figure out the music? There's a book of (Thomas) Campion in the library, with his own music. And those of you who are interested in music and can read music might check out the book because Campion has an essay on poetics, an essay on rhythm and rhythm in relation to music, on how to write songs, 1600, the best ear possible. [Allen is presumably referring to Campion's Observations in the Art of English Poesie (1602)] 

George [holding guitar]: All you have to do..

AG: What do I got to do?

George: a "D"

AG: Do you want me to pump? You want me to pump? [Allen begins playing the harmonium]

George: Yeah, okay, a "D", a "D"...

AG: You change?

George: this line, put the "D", a not-too-high  "D" - that's alright.

AG: Oh really?

George: Yeah

AG: It never changes?

George: Yeah, you can (now play) Vobiscum Et Iope

[Allen begins singing, with harmonium accompaniment, the Campion poem - "When Thou Must Home.. - "When thou has told these honours done to thee/ Then tell, O tell, how thou didst murder me".]

AG: Terrific.

George: Yeah

AG: I didn't.. you mean it's only one (chord)?

George: No, you could have followed the cello part here, but, since you can't read music..

AG: But that's still on, that could be done on a "D" chord? - or an"A"? that's an "A"?

George: Yeah "D"

AG: No, it was a "D' minor.

George: And then here, see, where it starts to come down, when the melody starts to come down, you can put the bottom note on top..

AG: Uh-huh

George:  ...the sequel. At that time music, of course was so much more...

AG: Wow!  Fantastic!

George: Yeah

AG: Let me try that. You didn't hear the words probably

George: What's the title?

AG:  The title is "When Thou Must Home To Shades of Underground" - number 20 in his songs and poems. I'll read you the text so you can hear it, because it's a terrific text and real famous, and, as he says, it's adapted from a poem by (Sextus) Propertius (also translated by (Ezra) Pound later). Propertius, in Latin translation is - "There are so many thousand(s of) beauties among the dead. Let just one beauty stay above ground, if it may be. With you among the dead already is Iope, with you snowy (white) Tyro, with you is Europa and impious Pasiphae" - So it's Campion's adaptation. [Allen reads Campion's poem in its entirety ("When thou must home to shades of underground/ And there arriv'd a new admired guest,/ The beauteous spirits do engirt thee round,/ White Iope, blithe Helen, and the rest,/ To hear the stories of thy finish'd love/ From that smooth tongue whose music hell can move;/ Then wilt thou speak of banqueting delights,/ Of masques and revels which sweet youth did make,/ Of tourneys and great challenges of knights,/ And all these triumphs for thy beauty's sake:/ When thou has told these honours done to thee/ Then tell, O tell, how thou didst murder me" - "Murther me"! - [to George] Want to try singing it again?

George: Yeah

AG: Now that everyone knows the words.

George: Yeah. The reason I used that kind of accent is because that's the way it was sung in those days. They sang with those.. to project your voice.. without having a nasal sound, without an electric microphone, that's the way opera singers sing, that way, You have to make the sounds sound like that or it'll sound obnoxious some people feel.

AG: Go on

[George & Allen begin with the song again. George begins and seven lines in, Allen joins in "for something approaching harmony]

AG: That's his music eh?

George: Yeah

AG: It's real pretty. Real music

George: It sounds like a folk song or classical song.

AG: A pop song. A pop song in the taverns, I guess, wouldn't it be? Do you know where it would be sung? Courts and taverns.

George: In courts not taverns

AG: Not taverns at all? He didn't go out drinking and sing it to Shakespeare?

George: I don't think so.

AG: He didn't sing it to Shakespeare?

Student: I've got a question. Were they all constructed on block chords at the time, just  all  block chords ?

AG: George knows it. Were they still using all block chords?

George:  No there was a cello part and a harpsichord part too. But really it doesn't change that much as..say.. Beethoven is changing every measure, he's changing his chords. And that time, that time that's Bach's time, where you could really have a bass part that just went continually. You had the instruments and voice and everything on top and..

Student: This is not Bach.

George: And it's not Beethoven.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 39 (Reading List 10) (Shakespeare and Webster)

[The Shepherd (1886) - Edward Frederick Brewtnall ( 1846-1902)]

AG: I wanted to get on to.. having run through all this (reading list) go back slower, just in case people don't know a couple of the Shakespeare songs. From "Love's Labour's Lost", there's one poem, a "Song", that combines song with absolute precise detail, which is, I think, a model for any kind of poetry, whether free verse or formed, formalistic.. - [Allen begins reading - "When Isciles hang by the wall, And Dicke the Shepheard blows his nail.."] - It's just "And Dicke the Shepheard blows his nail" [Allen imitates somebody blowing on their chilled fingers] - it's winter, he's blowing  on his nails. It took me years to realize it was that simple. (I didn't know) what that nail was he was  blowing. I thought it was a nail in the barn door or something.

Student: It's fingernails.

AG:  Yeah, it's fingernails. Did anybody ever have trouble with that line, besides me, or is that just my nightmare? [Allen surveys the room] - One person.

Student: I think that's what you said the last time..

AG: Yeah, well. it was... (So) you all know "Full fathom five".

Students: Read it anyway.

AG: Does anybody not know it? - [looks around] - One German visitor - From "The Tempest" [Allen reads in its entirety "Full Fathom Five" from "The Tempest"] - There's an odd, swift..

Student: Allen?

AG: Yeah.

Student; It just occurred to me when I heard you read that that that's.. except for the difference in line-length, that could be the same melody as the "Call for the robin-redbreast .." in  (his contemporary), (John) Webster. Do you know that one?

AG: (T.S.) Eliot quoted it ["Or with his nails he'll dig it up again" -  in the opening section of The Waste Land] - It's probably in here - "For with his claws, he'll dig him up again.." - Do you remember? [the quote, as Eliot himself notes, is from Webster's "The White Devil"

Student: There's a first line where...

AG: Well, I'll get Webster, I'll find it.. (here), page 272... (So) what are your favorite early songs (or poems)?

Student: The ones in The Tempest. (And) of course, the Orphelia..

AG: Yeah. We have it. Wanna read it? Why don't you read that?

Student: Sure. I like Webster's songs a lot, too.

[Another] Student: Could you read Orphelia's song? Do you know Orphelia's song?

Student; Yeah. Not by heart. Oh. [looks through his books] - This is a song, let's see, from "The Duchess of Malfi". This is a song by a contemporary of Shakespeare's named John Webster, and it's interesting because he belongs to that first generation, (like) Shakespeare does, that came into blank verse as a kind of improvement in the art of the theatre. When blank verse was introduced into the theatre, it was like the introduction of Cinemascope into film today. Before that, the plays had been written in these very awkward couplet-rhyming line-lengths that were very difficult to memorize and didn't sound anything like natural speech. So when blank verse was bought in, it was, like, a great improvement in the theatre and allowed this whole impetus, this whole blossoming of Elizabethan theatre to take place. (Christopher) Marlowe is the one who mastered the mighty line, or blank verse, and then Shakespeare's was the next generation to pick up on that. And in that generation with Shakespeare were some other absolutely incredible poets, like John Webster. The difference between a man like Webster and Shakespeare was not only in the metric, it was in the subject-matter, and the scope of their mind. Webster is just as perfect as Shakespeare. It's just that the scope of his intentions in theatre is narrower. The songs, then, are usually rhymed and go back like a jewel. In a sense, they're not only songs, but they're almost like a reflection of the early (earlier) rhyming verse. They're almost like you're hearing something in the past and you're hearing a little jewel, set in a perfect ornament. And Webster specialized very much in the macabre, and especially in the violent, and in the macabre aspect in the violent. And his songs reflect that, and they're very beautiful but they reflect the rest of what's happening in his plays. Shakespeare's songs are almost set like little perfect glittering diamonds in the fields of his plays, and Webster's are more of a part of the play, in a way. [Student reads John Webster's "Call for the robin-redbreast  and the wren" - "Call for the robin-redbreast and the wren,/ Since o'er shady groves they hover..."] - You hear the temper of Webster in these, whereas Shakespeare's sometimes almost like Agathon, where they're talking about Agathon's Songs, or as you hear about Euripedes. Sometimes the song is not essential to the context, I mean, it's not essential in the context of the play.

AG: They could be put in or pulled out.

Student: Oh yeah, you could take Shakespeare's songs out. This has a life of its own as a poem, but it has to do intensely with the mood of the play. I'll read it again so you can hear it [Student re-reads "Call For The Robin Redbreast And The Wren" in its entirety] - "Call for the robin redbreast and the wren,/ Since o'er shady groves they hover,/And with leaves and flowers do cover/ The friendless bodies of unburied men./ Call unto his funeral dole/ The ant, the field mouse and the mole,/ To rear him hillocks that shall keep him warm,/ And when gay tombs are robbed, sustain no harm/ But keep the wolf far thence, that's foe to men/ For with his nails he'll dig them up again" - Dracula movies next!

AG: We have ten minutes

Student: Why don't you read some more Shakespeare. That was really good.

AG: Well there are several things... Dana (Naone) (sic) brought in something that we've been talking about, a song that was recorded by Pentangle?

Dana Naone: No, this is Ray Fisher

AG: And what is the song?

Dana Naone: A traditional Scottish ballad called "Mill O'Tifty's Annie", and it's sort of rare, in that it's not very common, but it's very classical in that it's got the Scottish sort of drama in it.

AG: It's right on there and it's easy to get at. Okay, it's just that we had mentioned, during the previous classes, that some of the ancient ballads were picked up by modern pop groups, and I thought...

Dana Naone: This is relatively..

AG: ..since there's only ten minutes left, I wanted to get that in, and then I'll go back to Shakespeare.

Student: Sure

AG:  And Nashe, I want to do  (Thomas) Nashe.. (but, since) she (Dana) went to all the trouble to bring it in..

Dana Naone: It's in the English, but (with) a Scottish dialect, so it might be difficult to understand some of the words. "Mither" (for example) is "Mother", ""fither" is "father", "brither" is "brother", "new" is "now", "say" is "so", "tay" is "two".. So you can  pick it up just by following it. [Dana then performs, in its entirety, a version of the ballad "Mill O'Tifty's Annie"].

AG: I couldn't...       [tape ends here - then resumes]

Student: What's the name of the album (this comes from)

Dana Naone: Ray Fisher - "The Bonnie Birdy" - and the song is called "Mill O'Tifty's Annie"

AG: Okay. It's time to quit. I have one last song I want to sing. From Thomas Nashe. I've used this poem in my class before, but I'd just like to end this particular (class) on it because I think it's the most perfect song sung in English. I don't know what the tune is, so I'll just have to make it up as I go along [Allen sings, along with harmonium accompaniment, "Song (In Time of Pestilence") - "Brightnesse falls from the ayre....] - Okay. 8.30. Time for the Visiting Poet's Class. We'll zap right into it.  [class, and tape, ends here].