Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Basil Bunting Reads Campion - 2

                                       [Basil Bunting - Photographed by Jonathan Williams]

Basil Bunting can be heard again on tape, reading from Campion.

WHEN thou must home to shades of underground,
And there arrived, a new admirèd 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 hast told these honours done to thee,
Then tell, O tell, how thou didst murder me!

AG (Periodically stopping the tape in order to annotate): - "When thou must home to shades of underground…" Not that I want to drag you. But when he says "underground" - this...that "ground", the way he says it. He's got the "o" and the "u" in it - You can hear an "o" and a "u". It's not just a. I mean, there's some very special delicacy to his appreciation of , you know, the letters even! - or always to the sound as Campion might have projected it. He's just, really, like a great violinist doing a piece, you know, the shading of it.
"..thou must home the shades of underground…."…"From that smooth tongue whose music hell can move" - "music hell can move" -  everybody understood that?  - "whose music can move Hell" - everybody follows it? - Whose music can move hell" "From that smooth tongue whose music can move even hell

Student: Isn't it, like, the subjunctive - "what can be moved by hell"? - I mean, it doesn't.. that's not what it says, but...
AG: No, no, no.  You mean "can move hell" not.. 
Student: Active..
AG: "hell" cannot move. "hell" is not the subject. "hell" is the object there. "Music" - subject - Verb - "move" - Object - "hell".
Student: I don't understand. I doesn't read that way. You're saying it opposite to the way it reads. "hell" is the subject there, isn't it?
AG: Well that's what I'm trying to point out. In this case, it doesn't. In this case it doesn't. It isn't working there as subject. Just so you understand the line.
Student: Okay
AG: So, music can move hell
Student: Yeah, I understand, but…
AG: He just wants to rhyme "move". and "love", "move" with "love", so therefore you've got to have "move" at the end of the line (you can't have "hell" at the end of the line)
Student: Oh, I see, right, okay
AG: So he rounds it.. he inverts it..  It's an inversion there.

The other thing was, what I was digging (I want to go back again) - That "White Iope, blithe Helen, and the rest" is considered by many people one of the most picturesque lines in the English language, one of the most suggestive, one of the most sort of radiant lines, melancholy lines. The timing is interesting in it - "White Iope" - comma - "blithe Helen" - comma - and the rest". So the way Bunting pronounces it, I notice, is really slow and very stately for that music, for that rhythm. It's.. you know.. I heard it in my ear very often as 
bup-batta-bup bup-batta-bup, budda-ba - like "White Iope blithe Helen", but his is  "white Iope  Blithe Helen ,and the rest", or whatever. It's a slow thing.
So I'll start it at the top again.

Student: Good

AG: I just dig the delicacy of the way he's doing it. That's why I'm starting it over and over and over again

[At approximately ten-and-a-half minutes in, Allen plays the tape of Bunting reading Campion's poem again, in its entirety]

AG: He didn't take a breath after the"tell" (with a comma there) - 

Okay, next.   Anybody notice anything about it? got anythng to say?  
Is that a repulsive voice to a young American ear, or is that an interesting one?

Student: No that's good

AG: I mean, you know, it might be considered, like, an old-fogey sound, but, on the other hand, it's so delicate that there's a lot to be learned from it, just in terms of getting an idea what the possibilities of  all - like saying aaall  -  There's one word that he..  the way he said "admired guest" -   Pardon me?

Student; Who are the speakers in this poem?
AG: Oh, this person is one of… maybe the greatest living English poet. 
Student: No, excuse me - (in the line) "how thou didst murder me"
AG: Oh, this guy is talking to his girlfriend
Student: Oh.
AG: Saying, I guess, I don't really know very much beyond what it says. It says guy talking to his girlfriend and it says "When you die, and you get to meet all the other great beauties of the world that have gone to Hades, and everybody's admiring you ,and you're coming on, and camping in Hell, then, while you're boasting your beauty, you might as well mention that you put me down and rejected me and murdered my heart. Is there anything more about this that you know? - No, it's just a lover's complaint, you know, by being rejected, (from) being rejected by this really pretty girl. 
So but he says " White Iope, blithe Helen, and the rest" - the "rest" when he said "rest"…it sounded like..

Student: The "t' at the  end

AG: It was beautiful, yeah - "rest" - and it was such a sweet wistful "t" (that consonant was). 
But then if you listen to… 

So you get Bunting's "t", you get Bunting's consonants - almost-whistled consonants. Then, if you listen to (Bob) Dylan, having to work in relation to a crowd of forty thousand people and having them hear rests, you'll notice that Dylan also takes the final consonants and, you know, projects them, bites them, puts them out as object(s), you know, not rests but…not even Bunting's rests, but rests, so that it'll get through all the electronic loudspeakers and all the wires and cassette-machines, and be heard, the lowest rung of hell, would be that consonant clearly-pronounced.

But I think that awareness of consonants, see.. that awareness of consonants as sample awareness of vocalization, as a sample awareness of the sound-quality of the poetry, that awareness of consonants, is poetic genius itself. In other words, you realze the actual materials, you realize with your mouth the actual materials that you're making a poem out of, and are so conscious of them that when you come to pronounce them, they're there in the air, which means… So that cultivates a mindfulness in the actual writing so that you hear all of those sub-particles and particles of the sound that you're making, and they all form a music, they all form some.. some.. they relate to the time. In other words, it's a question of mindfulness reclaiming all the semi-unconscious aspects of the speech. So that, while composing, or writing, you're aware all the way down to the bottom of the vowels and the consonants and their sounds and their inter-relationships - and their humorous(ness).. and their witticisms, and their punctuation, within each other, so that it isn't just a single howl or yowling or spurt of breath that has no distinctions within it. It's back to a lot of really delicate distinctions within it that make it interesting music.

[Audio for the above (including Bunting's rendition of Campion) can be heard here, beginning at approximately seven minutes in and concluding at approximately fifteen-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

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