[Abraham Bloemaert - Shepherd and Shepherdess (1627) oil on canvas - in the collection of Niedersächsisches Landesmuseumover (Germany)]
AG: Does everybody here from high school remember (Christopher) Marlowe and (Walter) Raleigh's little complimentary poems, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"? Has everybody read those? - A few. Well, let's get on to those. [Editorial note - Earlier recordings of Allen reading those two poems can be found here] Do you want to read... Let's start with the Marlowe. Rachel [sic], do you want to read that? - That's on page.. Marlowe is (on) two-eleven….page two-eleven of (the) Norton (anthology)..way ahead, jumping ahead.. Want to try that?
Student (Rachel): "Come live with me and be my love/ And we will all the pleasures prove./That Valleys..."
AG: Now, wait a minute, wait. After all this stuff about vocalization..
Student (Rachel) : I just can't read.
AG: Ah! - Well, you've got to. If you've going to write poems, you've got to be able to read it. So just read it. See, the whole problem is how not to read with a dying fall or monotone. I mean, if you were going to say to some cock [sic], you know, "Come live with me and be my love", like, how would you say it? How would you say it, talking to someone that you were trying to make (it) with, make out with.? You've got to… It's not quite a question of drama, but you have to put some empathy into the tones.. because, if we don't pick up on the tones, even mockingly, or something, because otherwise it makes it sound like, "Come-live-with-me-and-be-my-love" , it's like back to (the) grammar school again, grammar school, 1920 - Okay…Well, come on! - Make-believe I'm eighteen-years-old! Address in your mind someone you feel you like. Imagine someone that you really like..
Student (Rachel): "Come live with me and be my love/And we will all the pleasures prove/That Valleys, groves, hills and fields,/Woods or steepy mountain yields/And we will sit upon the Rocks,/Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,/By shallow Rivers to whose falls…."
AG: One other suggestion is, when there's a run-on line - "By shallow Rivers to whose falls/Melodious birds sing Madrigals" - the rhythm is really more interesting if it's read as a.. in other words, just keep it on (and if there's a comma, maybe break). So you take a.. so if you follow punctuation to the breath, it makes a lot of sense.
AG: So but you could also do there - "And if these pleasures/ may thee move/Come live with me/ and be my love…" Because, those are the rests, like in the music, see? - I don't know if this text is like unto the original manuscipt, but generally punctuations can be used as rests to..to figure out how, one - to help you in reading, so you know where to take a breath (because if they've got it there, it means somebody has done it before, generally, and it's not too long a breath, so that you could actually pronounce it), and the other is - if you get a long breath in a poem like this and they cut a line in the middle, sometimes you have a long breath and then you have to take a fast short one but..but then you get a chance to stop in the middle of the next line and take another one. So that, actutally, it's really helpful when reading to pay attention to that. So, ending:
Student (Rachel): "The Shepherd's Swains shall dance and sing/For thy delight each May morning/If these delights thy mind may move/Come live with me and be my love"
AG: Come live with me, and be my love" - I always…
Student: (What kind of music goes with this?)
AG: Well, it's probably a madrigal, I bet..
Student: (Yeah, that's what I think…)
AG: And that line is so great - "And we will sit upon the Rocks,/Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,/By shallow Rivers to whose falls/Melodious birds sing Madrigals" - That's really sweet.. sound there…Probably, it would be great to hear this as a madrigal.
Student: There might be a music to it.
AG: Oh, probably
Student: I've seen… It might not be this particular poem. I can check.
AG: Do you know how to check this out?
AG: Oh please do, yeah. Because this was (and "The Reply") obviously, were big, big numbers, big top-ten-of-their-day, famous, you know, traded back and forth between Marlowe and Raleigh, so it must have been a big...
So the Raleigh is on page… "The Nymph's Reply" - (page) one-thirty-three. Who would like to do that one? ...Okay - Great - Okay, Nymph!
[At approximately eleven-and-a-quarter minutes in (a second Student begins a recitation of Walter Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"]
Student: "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" - "If all of the world and love were young,/And truth in every Shepherd's tongue,/These pretty pleasures might me move,/To live with thee and be thy love./ Time drives the flocks from……
AG: Wait a minute - "Time"
Student: Okay -
AG: No, dig that. That's really interesting. Dig that that the drag or the drag of.. - this is important, if you'll bear with me, Excuse me, but this is really a big important moment, because we have the built-in da-da da-da da-da da-da. Dig how then the imposition of that distorts the speech of a very simple statement, where you have "Time drags." But her (the Student's) impulse (and anybody's impulse) would be "Time drags" [Editorial note - "Time drives"], to swallow the "Time" and put the weight on the "drag' ["drive" - sic]. But, that's why I wanted to play that (Basil) Bunting (vocalization) because his "Time/drags/the.." (or "Time/drives/the… (flocks from field to fold)") - "Time/drives" (and if you say "Time/drives", just in that you've got great music - "Time/drives" - It's "i"/"i" - "Time/drives. When you say, "Time drives", you don't… you don't enjoy it. So for the enjoyment of the sound that's latent in vocalizing it, you've really got to apply vernacular.. (that's why I keep saying apply vernacular rhythm), even in strict meter, and you'll find the right way of saying it that will make it syncopate like the most beautiful thing possible. Because that's what the poets were doing - they knew. They weren't writing da-da da-da. They were writing with a full tone.
So that was.. But that was, I guess, the clearest example we've had of the built-in conditioning, rhythmic conditioning, that we've got from..from the classical poetic, traditional poetic, teaching that makes us pronounce almost everything in this forced way, rather than enjoying the slowness, slowing down and actually enjoying the possibility - Yes?
Student: You know, I'm not sure if that kind of thing is something that we've picked up from.. our rhythms or whatever, because I was reading something about the..talking about the French language.. it said the French, in speaking, emphasized every syllable more or less equally, whereas, I think, with spoken English, there's a tendency to always emphasize every other syllable.
AG: Every other..
Student So there's a (musical) line, even in speaking
AG: Somewhat, except that…
Student: It's not like it's always apparent, but it's there.
AG: Yeah, except there are differing theories on that. Like, you know, William Carlos Williams thought that the basic American speech-rhythm was anapestic, strangely enough. That's what he thought. "That's-what-he-thought. Strange-ly e-nough"
Student: (That's got music)
AG: Yeah, well, de-de-de-de dah de-de-dah de-de-dah - "strangely enough" - Yes - "strange enough", he thought, "so he thought" "strangely enough/he thought/the basic American rhythms (da da-da-da da-da-da da-da) - "the bas-ic Ameri-can rhyth-m". So think of that. That it has that possibility. He did say that, in some essay, and I was astounded, because that's an interesting...
Student: That's true. that's...
AG: He did say that, in an essay
Student; da da-da /da da-da/ da da-da - that's dactylic?
AG: What da-da-da.. would be dactylic - da da-da /da da-da/ da da-da This...
Student: (This is…)
AG: Okay, okay, basic, if you want….. "basic/American/rhythm" (or the "basic American rhythm"). It (all) depends on which way you're going, which way you're going down the street.
And so, then, the other thing is - Okay, but then the other thing is - da-da da da-da da da.
I mean, anything you say.. . So Williams says, listen to your own speech to determine little miniscule samples of rhythm, to hear miniscule samples of rhythm, and apply them then to writing on the page. Take the measure right out of your own raw ear, instead of being dependent on the conditioned rhythm .
[to Student] (This is not a rebuke to you, this is like .. I'm not interrupting you to criticize you. I'm…
Student: Oh no…don't worry!
AG: It's just a great instance with a..with that great… because here you have that great rhythm - "Time drives the flock from field to fold" - that graven voice that you get in (Ezra) Pound that you get in (Basil) Bunting (you've all heard Bunting). And that was the reason that Pound said in the beginning of the century - "To break the pentameter" (in this case, the tetrameter), "To break the pentameter" (meaning the iambic pentameter) - "To break the pentameter, that was the first heave. Of all those poets at the beginning of the (twentieth) century.. And that's why they began.. went back and began listening to (Thomas) Campion and to working with Greek prosody and working with quantity, so that they could actually say "Time/drives" (or (Ezra) Pound could finally write "With Usura/ the line/ grows /thick" instead of "With Usura the line grows thick" - With Usura the line grows thick - So, okay. Maybe start again?
Student; Yeah I'm going to start over
[At approximately seventeen minutes in, Student begins reading Sir Walter Raleigh]
Student: "If all of the world and love were young,/And truth in every Shepherd's tongue,/These pretty pleasures might me move,/To live with thee and be thy love./ Time drives the flocks from field to fold,/When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,/ And Philomel becometh dumb,/The rest complains of cares to come/ The flowers do fade, and wanton fields…"
AG: See, "The flowers do fade" - "The flowers do fade" - See they do fade. The flowers do fade
Student: ….It's a trap!
AG: Yes, it's a trap, a body trap
Student: Well I hate it
AG: And that's what's so interesting, because, people, when they think of old poetry, they say, "The flowers do spring, the clouds do fly" - It's that "the flowers do fade", (or can be interpreted that the flowers do fade). Now there may be some archaic syntax where they meant "do fade" just to be the verb, but, I think there's some element here where we can (even if it wasn't then, I'm sure, I think, it probably was) "the flowers do fade: - "and wanton fields,/To wayward winter reckoning yields" - [to Student] - Go on - Okay , So. start, "The flowers...
Student: Okay, here we go - "The flowers do fade, and wanton fields/To wayward winter reckoning yields/A honey tongue, a heart of gall,/Is fancy's spring but sorrow's fall./ Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses…"
AG: You can pause with the commas.
Student: Okay. I'm in a hurry
AG: Yeah, there's no need to rush. The poem's lasted and is going to be here for eternity, you know… (well, not eternity, but quite a long time)
Student; "Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses/Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies/Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten./In folly ripe, in reason rotten."
AG: See, but there you can go through. See that's the point. He's contrasting the little breaks, the little cuts. And then "Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds". And then he's got (a whole) violin.. think of it as a violin solo - "Thy gowns.. thy beds of Roses" - da-da da da-da da da-da da da da - "and thy posies/Soon break/, soon wither/, soon forgotten/ In folly ripe,/ in reason rotten." - Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds". But you have this long bowing, see? - And the same with the breath. Go on.
Student: I can't stand it like that, either of them
AG: Well, "Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds". I'm exaggerating here, you know that.
Student: I'm just kind of… [Student resumes reading] "Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds/Thy Coral clasps and Amber studs/All these in me no means to move/To come to thee and be my love."
AG: "All these in me no means to move/To come to thee and be my love "- See, that was unbroken. After all that staccato, or what do you call that? little..
AG: Yeah, caesura. But what do you call it when you have a series of little.. da-da da-da da-da da-da, da-da da-da da-da da ?
Student 2: Spaces?
AG: Spaces? - Well, like 'Thy cap, thy kirtle, thy posies and thy gown" - chose? -what do you call that? when you have little short..
AG: Little short bowings, or, you know, figures?, little short phrasings? Anyway, a series of short phrasings that.. What's interesting here, that series of short phrasings, then to longer phrasings about "Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,/The coral clasps and amber studs" - And then - "All these in me no means to move/To come to thee and be my love." - You've got one big long crazy pretty pretty cadenza. Okay
Student: Okay. I'm going to start at 'Thy belt of straw…."
Student: And, if you think… stop me, I'm enjoying it. I'm learning more, seriously.
AG: Well, I am too
Student: "Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,/Thy Coral clasp and Amber studs/All these in me no means to move/To come to thee and be my love/ But could youth last, and love still breed/Had joys no date, nor age no need,/ Then these delights my mind might move/To live with thee, and be thy love."
AG: Traditionally to say - "Then these delights my mind might move - to emphasize the "might". To end , you can do this, if you can do this, then these delights my mind might move
Student: Then these delights..
AG: Yeah, "then", then, Well.. ..she's saying "if", or "had " - If joys had no date, and if age had no need, "Then, these delights my mind might move//To live with thee, and be thy love." - It's just making sense of it, you know, the common sense of the speech. As….
AG: When I was twelve, I ran into this poem, I thought he was a meanie. Raleigh was really mean, that was a mean answer, like a put-down to (Marlowe) terrible! - but it's true!. And then, later on, I began to realize that maybe Marlowe was some kind of sentimental slob! Because this is so cutting, this is so cutting to Marlowe's pastoral sentimentality, and this is so realistic, actually. Those guys must have had fun. I mean, imagine, like, laying down a great poem like that Marlowe lyric, and then Raleigh picking up on it and writing something equally great and topping him and cutting him, and there, I guess, actually, digging each other, and, you know, showing it to their friends, and knowing how good it was. You know, like Marlowe's "melodious birds sing madrigals" - there's nothing as pretty as that in Raleigh - you know, the ear is not.. the ear in Marlowe, or the schmaltz ear in Marlowe - "to whose falls/Melodious birds sing Madrigals", is greater (it's like Dylan Thomas or something), it's greater than the Raleigh poem - but then the Raleigh poem is smarter, and its music is really like the..shrillest funny, funny puckered music - "Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses/Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies//Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten./In folly ripe.." "In folly ripe" - "in reason rotten." Imagine what Marlowe must have felt when he got that.
Student; Is it known?. Did Raleigh write that, for instance, to Marlowe or, or…? ..
AG: Well, it's "The Nymph's Reply To The Shepherd" and it's written in reply to Marlowe's"The Passionate Shepherd…"
Student: No, no, what I meant is..friends and that..So he wrote that for Marlowe without saying anything, or did he write that for a public audience, as a…..?
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately five-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-four-and-three-quarter minutes in]