Thursday, August 29, 2013
Spontaneous Poetics - 126 (William Blake)
[William Blake (1757 - 1827) - Jerusalem, Plate 27, "To The Jews..." via Yale Center For British Art, Paul Mellon Collection]
AG: I'd like to finish this quasi-political section with a song by (William) Blake from "Jerusalem". I'll sing it, because it has a certain natural music in it.
Student: What part is it?
AG: Perhaps repetitious. It's Plate 27 of "Jerusalem", his last work (or his last known work - apparently, some of his work was burned after his death) - [Allen begins reading/singing - "The fields from Islington to Marybone,/To Primrose Hill and Saint John's Wood/ Were builded over with pillars of gold/And there Jerusalems pillars stood/ Her Little-ones ran on the fields/The Lamb of God among them seen/And fair Jerusalem his Bride:/Among the little meadows green"..."She walks upon our meadows green/The Lamb of God walks by her side/And every English Child is seen,/Children of Jesus & his bride./ Forgiving trespasses and sins/Lest Babylon with cruel Og/With Moral & Self-righteous Law/Should Crucify in Satan's Synagogue!" - which is precisely what Wordsworth did - "With Moral & Self-righteous Law".."Crucify in Satan's Synagogue" - [Allen continues reading from "Jerusalem" - "What are those golden Builders doing/Near mournful ever-weeping Paddington/Standing above that mighty Ruin/Where Satan the first victory won"....] - Well, he's got comments on almost every aspect...
[tape ends here and then continues] -
"...that "The iron hand crush'd the tyrant's head/ And became a tyrant in its stead" - - but he's also got it the other way on Wordsworth, who was in favor of capital punishment - "(H)e who makes his law a curse,/By his own law shall surely die". For Wordsworth, death, in a sense, was, finally, death of the imagination, because he did (unlike Whitman, unlike Blake), somewhat get scared of the anarchy of his own mind, I guess you could say, and the anarchy of nature. But he was scared of the anarchy of his own mind, and wanted, finally, liberty and order. He wanted liberty only within order, and wanted a law and order that would include the punishment of death. That seems to have been a sort of neurotic extremism on his part (although, I know it's counted now to be a great virtue, it's counted by the CIA to be a great virtue).
Philip Whalen: Well, but the thing is they had a definite split. They had.. On one side they said, "You guys, it's alright to have liberty, but you musn't have license - and that's the only possible thing - either liberty or license (and "license" meant you went out with your machete and chopped off everybody's head on the street out of pure... This is what the expression of the self was, what they figured the self really did, and what-not.. But the idea, like I was saying the other day, the idea that you take people that are left alone, they don't usually do that. When the cops go out on strike, the crime rate drops. The idea of license is a bogey, it's a fake-a-rini that the government promotes in order to stay in power.
AG: Well, he's commenting on the license that the unconscious, or the mob, or the mass, or anarchy, took in the French Revolution, where everybody's head got chopped off, beginning with the King, until finally Robespierre and everybody else...
Philip Whalen: That wasn't anarchy. That was organized.
Philip Whalen: And Blake says, (in) about nineteen different places, there's no such thing as organized innocence. You've got to.. That was a set-up..It was done on purpose. It was people (that) got it going, and other people said, "okay, we're tired of it", and they stopped it. People say, "Oh my goodness! The Cultural Revolution in China was terrible! They went out and blew up the Museum(s) and what-not!", and, "What's going to happen?", you know, "It's horrible." - But it got stopped, also. It was started for a purpose, and it was stopped for a purpose. It took some doing. It took Chou En-Lai (and his minions) to get those kids back down to the farms. And (but) they didn't blow up everything - they didn't burn down every tourist!
AG: Well, I think I presented a confused picture here. Because, we're dealing with it on a lot of levels. First of all, there's a level of political activity that we've all gone through, one way or another, or are empathetic with. Then there's the level of subjective psychological revolution - Gay Liberation, Women's Liberation, anarchy liberation, sensory liberation, biochemical liberation, vegetarian liberation. Then there's the aspect of liberation from Capitalism to consider, (which everybody's preoccupied with), or liberation from police state Communism (which everybody is equally.. preoccupied with somewhere else). And then there's the liberation from the vegetable universe (which Blake was preoccupied with, actually - seeing Woman (sic) as having imposed the vegetable universe and having "number(ed) every nerve" of the (male) "Babe", so, seeing Tirzah (sic), or Woman, that wants reproduction and recreation of the vegetable material universe, as being the big enemy - In Blake, "Tirzah"). So you get a little of that too.
Philip Whalen: Whereas there is this brainless, mechanical, reproduction. That's the real fear - getting rid of that, and getting into conscious imaginary creation , which is what he's all in favor of.
AG: Anyway, we've got Whitman, Wordsworth and Blake, with their mental revolutions, revolved in our heads at this point, and I'm not sure that I've come to any conclusion. Because everybody's sort of solidified little notions of it, or all the poets solidified notions of it, in various forms, and we're still stuck with having to deal with all the symbols laid on us, and all the insistences of all the revolutions and counterrevolutions. So I'll leave it there, because it's twenty of one (twenty of the other)
[to the class re their assignment] - Bring in your blues next time
[class and tape end here]
[Audio for the above is available here starting at approximately twenty-one-and-three-quarter minutes, through to the end]