Browning's Sordello

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And had little else for a century as absolute primary that they'd draw swords for in, I think it's in The Moonstone, or The Woman in White, it's in The Woman in White where an old character, in the middle of the mystery with things going wrong, and he says, he simply takes Pilgrim's Progress and says, God forbid that I should jest, and gets the answer and then he's asked, well, what are you doing, he says, I'm drawing the swords, there's nothing that isn't in this book, Pilgrim's Progress. But then you must be aware for how, because it's not just within the English tradition and it would go back here to the vision, the entire vision, tradition within English poetry, but how remarkably like Dante for a man like Bunyan, who we do not presume


had an Italian class or an Italian master as Robert Browning had, is this, as I walk through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was it, Dan, and I laid me down, it's just the turn in the middle of, my life would be the other thing we would find, this is right. Let me read the opening, and I think that I'll not need to read this entire, but give you the appetite and you can turn to it, okay, the author's apology for his book, when at the first I took my pen in hand thus far to write, I did not understand that I at all should make a little book in such a mode, nay, I had undertook to make another, which


when almost done before I was aware, I this begun. And thus it was, I writing of the way and race of saints, in this our gospel day, fell suddenly into an allegory about their journey and the way to glory in more than twenty things which I set down, this done, I twenty more had in my crown, and they again began to multiply like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly, nay, then thought I, if that you breed so fast, I'll put you by yourselves, lest you at least should prove ad infinitum and eat out the book that I already am about. Well, so I did, and yet I did not think to show to all the world my pen and ink in such a mode, I only thought to make I knew not what, nor did I undertake thereby to please my neighbor, no, not I, I did it mine own self to gratify.


Well, we will be in a, we have already in Bunyan a shift in a question that must be always before us, and that is the creation by the author, the person sitting down to write is encountering the author, so these are really talks from something, but if you sit down and write, any of us, in letters, I have one in which you sit down, you think I'm going to write, I love you, and you're not going to send it to anybody, I love so and so. At one point I gave an early journal to the University of California, and because I was giving to the University of California, seen to it, it had all my writing that was done during student years, but I forgot, of course, I write in journals, and I am not methodical


no matter what, so that in a 1936 journal you can have a 1956 entry, you can indeed in this case have a 1960 something entry, and like some feverish soap opera character, I had entered on page so and so, I am in love with so and so, just an entry, and as I looked and gulped and thought alright, if you've got to give, you really can't go rip out a page, no matter what you do, if you're going to go in for it all, there it is, okay. Anyway, you've got, the minute you stop writing on a piece of paper, letters are marvelous in the first, alright, let's say you're writing just that note, I love so and so, it is entered, the minute you've entered to be a writer, and you're already in your day book, which is not a journal in the diary sense at all, I don't keep a daily journal, as a matter


of fact, a damn few entries of this kind, it already was a note for a poem, it was already some kind of entry that had to do with the author, but I'm not the author, nor even when I write my poems, do I conceive of the one you meet there as the author, because we did have a poet in between, Blake, and I brought it forward to my consciousness and made it central to my own poetry, the authors are in eternity, underwriting which I said I was a derivative poet, these are steps in a poetic consciousness that it takes generations of poets to make, and they have to do with the very initial one, what happens when you enter this, when you have the paper, when you enter the field of the poem, when you enter, of writing first, not the poem, of writing, writing on that sheet of paper, writing to someone, I am in the correspondence now, but it also begins to appear in universities


and at times I'm quite disturbed, because in my twenties, if I were writing, I would write to a dispersion of people, this kept alive a range of me, all of whom were very vivid, and in that course of letters, a friendly schizophrenic would look altogether compared with me, I mean, the manner, writing a letter to Anais Neen, I would go all the way over to Anais Neen land, even try to outdo Anais Neen, ten times over, and on top of that I'd write a letter to Pauline Kael, who was one of the only, my only contemporaries who emerged at all from the years I was at, from my generation, and when I was at Cal, the only other one who was emerged at the level at which they get read is Pauline Kael, well to Pauline Kael in the middle of a period, a very bad boy I am, in a humorous mood, I refer to Anais


Neen, when I'm writing to her I'm writing in the thick of possibilities of my having a glamour, to her having nothing but a glamour, that's the essential, she had nothing but a glamour, and I wanted the possibilities of a glamour, meanwhile I will turn right away from that letter and write to, as the University of California you will find me writing, the letters are now in deposit, to Pauline Kael referring to Anais Neen, which is I've done my own glamour, and it's something like the fury of somebody trying on a glamour and finding themselves it doesn't fit, I mean, now coming all way round, this is what we're going to find in the problem of Robert Browning, the poem after Shelley, and it is Shelley that he has to banish at the beginning of Sardello, he banishes Shelley not because Shelley would


not have been a dependable guide, but because Shelley shames him in his own writing, because he's not, because he's already found he can't enter the sublime and Shelley calls for the sublime from him, and Shelley seems certainly, my entire sense of Shelley is how remarkably Shelley enters directly the sublime voice in poetry, it may have something to do with Shelley's income, which removed him from the literary world, literary battles and reputations that Browning never was removed from, we're back to the story I told you, Pauline and Paracelsus and Sardello were published at his father's expense, and Browning, I don't have a picture


of Browning pressed for funds, but this is not what one's pressed for in London, or New York, is it easier in San Francisco, we think, we are not the first to be haunted by status, Browning writing about the very first dinner he goes to where he finds himself in the company with words where he can hardly even see the man or hear what it is he's saying or something, and then we're right, a legend comes afterwards that Mr. Wordsworth leaned across the table and said, I like your poem very much young man, we doubt it, although Emerson's portrait of Wordsworth is quite capable of some inanity like that, but let's say that Browning, the legend went that Browning had an imprimatur, we have another encounter in which a young Keats met a Coleridge on the street, and Mr. Coleridge did not deign to notice that the


young Keats possibly wrote any poems which had been published, and Keats did not appreciate it at all, and never wanted to think about that gentleman again, will give you some sense of what London was like. We're now in a London in the 1830s and 40s, and after the poem Pauline, Robert Browning was seriously read, invited out in literary salons where there was the august, and he was absolutely dazzled to be in a company or read by such people, and yet he also knew he was in trouble, I mean he could not not know he was in trouble, because he had an absolute entree that everybody could recognize to the music of a poetry, and at the same time as Elizabeth Barrett Browning who loved him and had a great deal


of sympathy wondered later, why is it that Robert can never write it clearly to himself or anyone else, I mean why is it that the moment it starts pouring forth, it becomes one of the most dense and obscure of all, just something that's there, not the ineffable at all, because Browning comes on in no sense, it's not like Shelley where there's nothing rarefied at the point in which it comes forth most forcefully, it plunges us into a series of obscurities of reference, of what, and as I mentioned in my opening lecture, what I'm struck by, and so I propose, beginning with Sordello, the dream-like quality for Robert Browning writing and for his readers, it was not a period, the thought of the dream this was, proposition of the dream in Bunyan, an allegory, as a matter of fact, a Freudian


dream, when recorded for Freudian case history, dreams become Freudian allegories, when recorded by Bunyan, a dream is an allegory of the Calvinist journey, and it's a perfectly clear way of reading a dream, reading out the depth in which something very disturbing is sitting there. Remember that something disturbing is sitting throughout Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, one of the most dazzlingly clear and simple pieces of writing, haunted all the way through by tremendous danger, vanity is only but one of them, a road that barely makes its way and at every point is threatened by its digressions, by everything it goes through, just one bit off of this road, buddy, and you've lost it completely. It is the road perilous through


the territory, the only one in which a Pilgrim's Progress can be written, so its clarity and its sureness, as a matter of fact, what Bunyan feels most intensely is, you cannot swerve from the road, you can't swerve from the sentence, you can't swerve from the way you go, because the reality of the territory you're going through is a matter of something more than life and death if you were to go off this clear road. Now, by the time you come to Browning, his resolve is something that had not been taken importantly before, and that was really at every point to be caught up, but he had no other way, that's quite clear. From everybody close to him it's quite clear, and from him it's quite clear. He had no other way but to get into the matter of a tangle, a thicket, and no time is Robert Browning's definition


of how one is to go through, because finally there you have the beginning of the modern, the beginning, for instance, and we'll go back to the Freudian picture, which it always seems bold enough to announce that the modern may have started with Freud, that's 1899 to be exact, and it boldly says that, not the Freudianism in which you run around and get on a couch and get cleared, as they use finally in Scientology, the opposite, the one that in which you get into the trouble of what you are. So, at the Freudian point, it becomes finally, it's very close indeed, by the way, everything in Freud, everything in Freud, and certainly by the time you come to the civilization in its discontents, it rhymes throughout with Bunyan's picture, only now we say not to keep on that path to come to


the city of heaven, but to occupy the whole territory so that all that territory comes to the city of heaven. It changes the city of heaven. To Bunyan, you've got to keep, in Tolkien's progress, you've got to keep on the road, but this does not redeem the entire territory. That, as a matter of fact, shows how early field propositions come forward as differing from road, the road to Oz proposition. In the road to Oz, you take a digression. In the field proposition, which is also very ancient indeed, each soul is engaged in the redemption of the totalitarian, or the creation of the totality, by the way. And its path then, it takes only one path. A single-pather, by the way, and often Marxists are single-pathers, they're very convinced about there's a right road, wrong road, and so forth. And the one thing that's true in Marx is, of course, only one thing happens. So, okay, you've got


your thesis antithesis, but no matter what happens, it has to be the thesis antithesis. And meanwhile, if you looked around, the whole field's there. To the imagination, what happens is incidental to the whole field of what's going on. Sitting in a large convention of poets that the American teachers of English thought up, I think they didn't think up twice because after getting a dose of 22 poets, and we were on first-class hotels on open expense accounts. Oh, man, we made those high school teachers pay for what went on. But I was standing next to Gary Snyder, and an ancient and absolutely feeble-minded Richard Eberhardt was giving an account of a poem of his which was simple-hearted enough, and the redundancy of his telling is what was in it. Unbelievable. Besides which, it was


a very honky poem about going to Africa, and being somewhat conscious that he was black, and you was somehow, oh, God, you've got to be mad. It just can't be. And next to me, I discover I've got Gary Snyder muttering a Marxist line about, I mean, Eberhardt, you know, his factory that the money comes from and everything. It was just suddenly read out. And I turned to Gary and I said, it was only, it was a humor, but it was, I said, but Gary, the only point about Marx is only one thing, and that is that there's a coexistence going on here, and a very peculiar one, given Marx's terms. And of course, over there, somehow that Eberhardt was coexisting. Well, let me read you the close, because it brings us up to where I want to pick up. This is the close, again, of the poem. And all of you examine that author's apology to the Pilgrim of Progress. Because it's astounding, again, the level


of, cannot, Bunyan cannot be thought of in any way as being a primitive. Not when he has this perspective on that. Here's our Puritan, as he's usually portrayed. Writer, somehow, not of the imagination. Any of you who read this book first when you were a child and experienced it entirely as a work of the imagination, as also I experienced Gulliver Swift, so its satire was nothing compared with its world of imagination. And certainly one of the first things that brought me out to read something tough was when, going through my parents' library, I discovered there was a version of Gulliver which was much bigger than the one that was in my childhood Gulliver. And I manfully weighed it out, and then I thought, I mean,


I don't know what I thought all the stuff was that was going on in Gulliver or throughout, I mean, but I not only thought that was ravishing, but I proceeded to the tail of the top as a children's piece of literature in perfect confidence. But this book was from childhood and again, a book of the primary imagination. The fact that there is a world that tells us more about the world than the flat one does, than the one of mine is the only path or the only thing that happens is what happens. This book is ripped in such a dialect as may the minds of listless men affect. It seems a novelty and yet contains nothing but sound and honest gospel strains. By the time he makes that announcement, we're already aware


that honest gospel strains must be very strange indeed by the time that nothing but comes in. In passages, by the time I come to passages, I have propositions, or in the Dante, I have propositions of heaven and propositions of God and so forth. The imagination cannot let them go, they're immense realities. All that happens, Browning was facing what the Victorians in the 1830s did face. They're coming to the age of reason. They had found that the view proposed by the age of reason to leave them in a tension that would be, let's say, between opening your friendly copy of Dryden and turning to Shelley. Well, actually it isn't Dryden


on their mind, it's the world of Locke and Newton, the one that Blake right away wants to label. This is the one poetry's tension is going to be with. That's the way I read. He's anti-Newton in the sense of recognizing his opposite. So Newton is essential to the Blakean proposition. To Shelley, it already has dissolved. And to Browning and to Tennyson, long before we've arrived at a non-Newtonian physics, they're at a place where the dazzling effect of Newton's universe has ceased to be the universe. So they're left with no physics. They've left emerging in a ground of experience that Newton won't answer and they haven't yet got the haunting qualities. For instance, the imagination in our 20th century of a


physics, in most cases, again, raced ahead so that we have challenged throughout in reading key physicists of an imagination of a universe that is, at least I do, for instance, beyond my vision so as it can flow through and occupy it in different ways. There was the opposite one. But let's get back. Bunyan is at the point in which the gospel strains are going to be immortalized. It's the one place where we carry forth what this fundamentalism is in its full power. Well, certain sermons, granted, that haunt the literary world, but here is the great masterpiece. All right, we'll take another take. I recite this over and over again, but at the point of great masterpieces, I believe that they happen and they are creative because a content which before was in the active world enters the


imagination when it is given up completely in that line that I refer to in the Gary Snyder handbook of only one thing happens and you're on the road. At the point of Dante's Divine Comedy, when you turn to study the history of the Middle Ages, through the preceding century, and Dante knew it intimately because the troubadour tradition from which he comes is the one that suffered it directly, all hope of Christendom had fallen, gone. It would never take place, something no one imagined, never ever imagined before. But such terrible schisms appeared in the 12th century, such heresies, but the main thing was, of course, that the church would go to war against Christians, that the church, which was the center of the hope, and that in Christianity, for instance, it would be raised, in Christianity itself,


would be raised the picture in which the city of Rome was the Antichrist. So oppositions appeared, but the hope that there would be a Christian Europe was gone. But remember, hopes are not hopes merely. These were great themes and they couldn't be gone and they enter the imagination where they are immortal. So the Divine Comedy becomes surpassing within the scope of the Divine Comedy, when we turn to Dante writing in De Monarchia, we learn that he can define very clearly that there can be no one civilization, that the law of order must proceed from a civilization of civilizations, and he posits it deliberately in the De Monarchia that this means the pagan plus the Christian, so you can't choose between


the two, the two must coexist, they're simultaneous, if one exists, the other exists throughout, but it's also clear when you study the Divine Comedy, that major elements in the Divine Comedy, the identity of Beatrice as the angel, angelic power of the mind, exists only in Muslim theology, not in Christian theology, I'm not talking now about tradition, I'm talking about possibilities that exist within the theology. There are possibilities essential to the human spirit that exist only in the Jewish theology. Essential in the Jewish theology is that the individual soul dies, I mean dies, and dies, I mean nothing is based at all on the individuality is absolute in other words, there is no immortality of the soul. Equally essential is the immortality of soul as is portrayed in Christianity, unless you're


bothered with contradictions and then you can take your choice, but poetry doesn't let them go, they coexist, now I'm not talking about religion here, but I mean as they come into poetry, poetry won't let these things go. Alright, and Dante, when he talked about a civilization of civilizations, he doesn't name the others, but one of them was the civilization of Islam, because Dante is now, as scholars have substantiated at crucial points, he draws upon Islamic learning, and we're in a period just before the Christendom and post Dante will declare great crusades against, and pre-Dante right, I mean just after the period of the crusades against Islam, but more than that it is in Dante's time and in Dante's Italy that everyone becomes aware of the great empire of the Khans, in which another marvelous misunderstanding between essential truths


comes, when the Pope sends Franciscan envoys to the court of the Khan and writes that he, the Pope, is the vicar of God and he addresses the Khan and would like to open a correspondence back and forth, and also would like recognition of their feudal relations. However, when the Franciscans come to translate the word God, there is no such word at all in the language of Mongols, the word is Heaven, as you find it in I Ching, for instance, and the only difficulty in understanding is what the Khan receives, because the Khan is Heaven,


is a letter from the Pope saying that he is a vicar of the Khan, I am a vicar of Heaven, and Heaven simply wrote a letter back, which sits in the Vatican, to the delight of contemporary medievalists, in which the Khan recognizes the gifts, which his vassal, his vicar in Rome, has sent him beautiful gifts, and he was charmed by the Franciscans, who seemed to be perfectly acquainted, and he is delighted to know that he has a vicar. As a matter of fact, he is a little lost in the wonder of his metaphysical powers to realize that he has a vicar, even beyond his imagination. A lovely moment in poetry, which poets don't have to recite again. Well, in the same way, in Shakespeare, is the great moment when kings enter the imagination. Kings will be a little more real when the British actually cut the king's head off, for a moment, just for a fragment, but the dream of kings in Shakespeare comes to its


full. After that, kings, when they appear, inherit from Shakespeare, they enter the mystery of imagination. Perhaps because they enter so fully in Shakespeare, I have no feeling that kings so enter French literature, because it may be that they enter so fully the English imagination that actually the royal house can continue to act out, as an act of living imagination, the presence of this idea of king. And in my poetry, for instance, one of the problems presented, I know George often is continuously worried about the appearance of emperors and kings in the poetry. But one has only to read through Shakespeare to find not only the dream of kings, but the reality of kings.


And they're brought to their crisis and they coexist in every level. What I want to suggest here is that the dream that it seems a novelty, and yet contains nothing but sound and honest gospel strains, have indeed entered something new, because they've entered the imagination. They will be read by generations who are not fundamentalists. Do you have the impression when you turn on your radio and get a fundamentalist that they're shacked up with Pilgrim's Progress? As a matter of fact, they look like some very bad characters in Pilgrim's Progress, is what they look like. And then let's read this closing paragraph. Wouldst thou divert thyself from melancholy? Wouldst thou be pleasant, yet be far from folly? Wouldst thou read riddles and their explanations, or else be drowned in thy contemplation?


Dost thou love picking meat, or wouldst thou see a man in the clouds and hear him speak to thee? Wouldst thou be in a dream, and yet not sleep? Or wouldst thou in a moment laugh and weep? Wouldst thou lose thyself and catch no harm, and find thyself again without a charm? Wouldst read thyself, and read thou knowest not what, and yet know whether thou art blessed or not, by reading the same lines? O then come hither, and lay my book, thy head, and heart together. If I think of the problem, of problems in our contemporary range that can enter an individual


poetic consciousness. And Pound's idea, for instance, which we're starting from in a way that leads us back right away to Sardello that was attractive to him and tell us something about his original terms for turning to Sardello. Pound wanted that big poem, that great poem in size, in the picture here, for a place where the mind could exist in him, in all his range that he'd come to know, loving Dante, loving many, many sources. The dangers of inflation were present, but I have no sense in Pound that what got him


derailed from it was the dangers of inflation. Dangers of inflation, by the way, are very much present in Robert Browning's mind. Part of the thing that plunges him into obscurity is how much, I think, the other part of that dream, because Sardello's got a lot of qualities of nightmare, is how fearful it was in Shelley's Sublime, as he plunged in those poems, where actually Shelley seems to have the whole courage of the situation, and yet throughout, and Shelley, you're aware of the perilousness of that Sublime, it couldn't be re-inhabited. I'll take the banishment, I'll pick the banishment up right away, because it's the beginning of, it's nice that Robert Browning wrote these, he wrote these, by the way, because if any of you started reading your Sardello or gotten into Sardello, if you think, I remarked later


that at some point when Neumeier asked him what did something mean, and he said, when I wrote it, only God and I knew, and now only God knows, which is really, actually, I thought that was, it's a witticism, but it goes quite deep, it goes all the way through Robert Browning. As a matter of fact, no wonder I'm drawn to him, because he's one where he trusts that the sympathetic reader can have a courage he couldn't have and must have the courage of, something must overleap his own fear of this element, would I know what it means, can I get into where I don't know what it means. There are passages in Sardello, for instance, where he talks about what happens when words in the poem just start going on their own, and you can't keep track of them, and will you let it go on and say this thing, regardless. Maybe in the coming week, though, it doesn't look like I'll get to it, so I think what will happen, because it needs to get to the library and search out, as this book gives,


the early versions of the cantos, I can't at this point tell whether the early versions of Sardello exist. The 1840 edition exists of Sardello, and the one that, for instance, would be in a collected Robert Browning, this is the 1863 edition, but Browning wrote Sardello, started sketching it, and he had written a poem, Pauline, and then he started on the Sardello, on a conception of the Sardello. He wrote four versions, and in some of the earlier versions, there's more indication of the Shelley. In Pauline, through Pauline and Paracelsus, one is clear that Shelley, Browning there


almost seems willing to go along with Shelley. And so, in this version, when we come, well, it's just right away in book first, when the guide says, then appear Verona, stay, and then suddenly, thou spirit come not near now, and Browning wrote, erased whatever further indication of who it was that was there, because he writes, it is Browning who writes these summaries that appear at the top of the page, Shelley departing Verona appears. Verona, stay, thou spirit come not near now, not this time desert thy cloudy place to scare me, thus employed with that pure face. I need not fear this audience, I may free with them, but then this is no place for thee.


Browning writing in 1840, Shelley writing, what, in 1810? Hm? 21. It haunted me. What was it like in 1947, invited by Dorothy and Ezra Pound? I went back and had sessions with Pound. Pound, not only in his poetry had drawn upon Robert Browning, but Pound is, I think, the most depoetized person. I mean, a person who had, as a matter of fact, what had happened to take the place of, was he going to be an overwhelming person to meet because he was a poet, the one who wrote that poetry, is that he actually assumed the, through the eights we call the masks, old as, and not only, not only Bush writing about Ezra Pound's cantos and relating them to Robert


Browning, but scholarship in the last ten years writing about Robert Browning's rough voice about certain aspects, oh, like the narrator of Sardello itself, who is a lecturer with a pointer and with lantern slides to show you Verona and so forth, this business of going to another voice, disarming the poem, Pound, in writing to me, would sign a letter, Grandpa, and he would write old as, reminding me, I mean, now that I'm 60, yes, I am aware that if somebody's 20, logically, they're a grandchild. I'm very aware of it, so I could write Grandpa. It's part of Grandpa's removed to even be, you know, having these fireside chats.


God knows what I'll do at 80, I mean, mumble somewhere, but it's what the garrulousness begins of a very talkative person. But the important thing here is because Browning is not, he's a young man when he's writing Sardello, he's taking a remove from something that scared him. Go back again, Shelley. Thou spirit come not near, come not near now, not this time desert thy cloudy place to scare me. Now this time refers to the fact that when he wrote Pauline, Shelley was a specter throughout the work as he wrote. And when he wrote Paracelsus, Shelley invades. Browning lets him invade directly, both poems. And he exorcises from this poem the specter that scares him. Pound started the cantos with the evocation of Robert Browning in the first version of


the cantos. For those of you who were not here last time, I'll read you that opening, the very opening of the cantos as proposed. And ghosts right away. Thou spirit, but translated into ghosts. Hang it all, there can be but one Sardello. And Sardello is put in italics. Pound insisted on italics. I haven't looked at my cantos to see if the italics are kept, but since they're kept in the first, as Bush points out, they're kept through all early printings of it. Pound is talking about the book, about the poem Sardello, but it's also a book, it's a book-length poem. Now readers can be scholarly readers, can be so careless that I have read other scholarly


works on Pound that assume that there's only one, what Pound is saying here is there's only one historical Sardello. And as a matter of fact, it's Kenner who always wants to one-up and can't stand any other author than Pound to exist, so Pound must be improving Robert Browning. And so Kenner points out that Pound means he knows very well that Robert Browning's Sardello is not the real Sardello, and so when Pound really comes to write the cantos, he does away with all the Robert Browning stuff, and we arrive at the Sardello with the Dante, he born of Mantua, and has cleared away all the rubbish, meaning the atmospheric Robert Browning. But Pound would have known, I do not mean to demean Kenner's scholarship, his partisanship


at almost all points with Pound is very liable indeed to overlook or try to obscure, make just such an announcement as if Pound had improved on Robert Browning. But the line that sums up Sardello when the final Robert Browning version comes in is Dante's, and Dante himself had an imaginary Sardello when Sardello appears in the Brucatorio. So Sardello had entered poetry in Dante, no longer in his own case, his own case is obscure, so Dante could do more with Sardello than he could do with others, but also importantly, all right, okay, we'll have a little dash of, a little summary of the Sardello. What in the legend of Sardello in poetry that Dante knew very well, because he had in De


vulgari eloquentia summed up that Provençal poetry, and he was entirely familiar with it, not the character you meet now at all in Browning's Sardello, you never dream he was a Provençal poet, the one in here, he dies at 30, the Provençal poet died in his 80s, last time I referred to Richard III and his hump, how when you take a person over into your history, you see to it that they have been, they come into the imagination and immediately they have what they never had before, and it's what is right for them to have, I mean, if you make a fiend out of a character in history who never got to be a fiend, then it becomes, I mean, it's all in Shakespeare land, that Richard, and he's very clearly there. It's absolutely clear in Dante, I mean, in Browning, he does exactly that, because Browning knew very well, I mean, the only references he has to, when he learned about


Sardello was, yes, he wrote poems in French, in Provençal, in Languedoc, and he was known for two kinds, for two things that happened in his poetry. He was thought to be by Dante, and Dante may have invented him as the first of, in the tradition of Provence, of the Provence, where the love was purified, was proposed to, as a purism, proposed, in other words, love was entering the imagination, and the troubadours are the ones who at the end of the, in the century just, I mean, the end of the 13th century, after the Albigensian crusade, the troubadours had gone far beyond the Albigensians to propose that all of sexual love would enter the imagination. That means it leaves the body of, I mean, Wright would faint, dead away, Wilhelm Wright


would be lost in the loony bin, or wherever they put him. Poets were walking around and thriving on advanced state of deprivation. They were living on the edge of the knife called hunger, and they said this was exquisite, this is the only, I mean, it's when you ain't getting it that's there. I mean, they found the magical formula that when you got it, it wasn't there at all, and when you didn't get it, it was in the imagination, and the imagination was everywhere, so there was no way of getting, I mean, every little cell was there. When you went, oh, I must take a footnote from my ancient aunt for moments when, when, the ancient theosophist, and at the time I remember I had, I had let her write Function of the Orgasm because I really wanted to blow her mind in quotes like you can want to do to your ancient aunt when you're, when you're about a smart-ass 22, and she's 60 or whatever she was at that point.


And, and, and I was, she annotated all the way through the Reich, because actually Reich is spookily like theosophists think anyway, and driving me to Sacramento in 1942, so I'm 23, as we're driving along, she says, you know, Bobby, that dull look that comes in your eyes after having sex for three days? I said, wow, hail to thee, Reich spirit, and uncle Bruce Duke. She said, that's because it takes three days for the sex entities in the eyes to get down where they want to be where all the things going on. She says, when you're, you're very lively in the eyes because sex entities really want to be there where it's going on, you know, and they're dazzling out there in front, but she says, if you, if it's after three days, they get down there, they've left, everything's left, all the parts of the body, you get this big, wow, except that you also catch


on them, all the rest of the body must be completely dull. I mean, more and more so, only because the genital, she says, want to take sex over, she says, everybody, when you're really turned on, it isn't happening. It was very un-Freudian message, but it was, it was, it was very much where the, the ecstatic poets in their, had finally, in their, we will come to this again in larger loop round in the fourth, by the fourth lecture. We will be back in a description of the, of the announcements of the Court of Love, astounding manifestos, like Breton's manifestos, which were issued by the poets in the period just before Dante, at a point when the Albigensian crusade is completely over, and the poets exceed the Albigensians in the idea of a purification, of turning into fire, not burning up, but


a turning into fire of both love and sexuality, realizing that there was a secret hidden in the agony of expectation that body and soul were in when something was not requited, that had to do with, and we're back at a, my loops are not that careless, but they're a little like a dream. I don't see the use of them at the time when I start, but back exactly at that thing that hovered around, the universalist interpretation in Christianity, that you do not arrive at heaven until everything does, and the difference between, remember Freud in 1899 is very worried about whether everything's genitally centered, that actually it seems to, there's a great impropriety because he realizes that there's a polymorphous perverse body.


He hasn't yet gotten to the place that we're at, are at the contemporary biology where they see that indeed there's sexual identity in every cell of the body, I mean every little brain cell, every cell of your skin which is fluffing off, all of them have the same, for a long time they were going, they had to get it, they felt that if they did not have a spermatozoa or an ova, they couldn't tell anything about the sexuality of what they were looking at, and then they found out, lo and behold, it's everywhere, it's in every single cell of the body, exactly the same information, exactly the same thing going. Alright, the poets had then come to, along the line of some possibility, to the edge in which the unrequited was going to be living on longing. At one point in which I went on a diet to lose 30 pounds, I realized that what we do


in our civilization, eating, is very much like what we do with sexuality. We cease to exhaust our appetite. We want to requite our longing, in other words, if there's a little, if there's a fire in the room, 80 of us were there with buckets of water, and we put it out. And how to put life out almost, finally, is a picture. Now we're reversing this whole thing to living on the edge. I wrote during the parade when I was dieting, I ceased to be dieting, I said I'd return to hunger to realize I've been eating not because, I'd been destroying taste, bypassing everything, because I wanted to destroy the hunger. And our civilization, blooded with commodities, is often to destroy the poignancy of the object,


the poignancy of the beauty of a thing. The plenitude's there all the time, by the way, the poignancy of the plenitude is that life as it haunts, it haunts of pounds, it's lovely, browning throughout. Sardello has several statements about the plenitude of the, he says at one point you want gems, they're everywhere, as his period wanted gems, as, for instance, his contemporary Tennyson was giving people gems, I mean, Tennyson was the greatest one, talk about, coming even in the 30s, rumors still went, if you wrote a line of poetry, you polished it, and then after that you polished it, and if you could cut it right, you'd really have something. And in the end of that trip would come, Charles Olsen said, don't load the veins, you know, when you find the gold mine, don't run in and load up the veins with more gold ore in there. Browning is very, very aware of that, his poetry is filled with these things, but now they're


going to be in nuggets, they're not going to be polished, they're going to be where they are, embedded in the poetry. The craft of the poem, by the way, he follows the craft of the poem, but it's not the craft of polishing. And Tennyson, the difficulty of reading Tennyson, we may come to Tennyson yet, the 19th century looks to be more and more like it, it's a very strange territory, the difficulty for the 20th century reading Tennyson is our difficulty with the polished surface, with the polished stone. And admittedly, that's also in the picture, that's also part of it. Well let's read the opening then, Hang it all, there can be but one Sordello, that's the book, one realized poem, but say I want to, say I take your whole bag of tricks, let in your quirks and tweaks and say the things in art form, that's Browning, Browning is the one who says, in the course of Sordello, he will come across it, I keep wondering how


will I come across it, Mark passages in here get more bewildering than just an open page of the text would be. He does refer, however, to the tricks a poet has, things are tricked out for Browning already, you can't start writing, we're back at that page that I barely said, the minute you start writing on it, you find yourself with an author coming in, the one who just wrote, how are you feel now, that there's an author to that line you just wrote, and I hadn't been injured, that step over that Bunyan takes and that Browning confronts, and that is you got a reader, yourself mainly, you need no one else, because as you read the line you just wrote, you are as far from that line as any reader will ever be. As a matter of fact, if you think you know what you wrote, because you are the guarantee of it, you're further than any reader would be, because the reader is imagining what it means, and you're presuming what it means. You've already made a great error, you've just written a line which says nothing but


what the line writes, and you're presuming, because this is the great flaw of the person who says, but I love the girl, I understand why this woman, I really did feel that, and you say, well, honey, really, it's not going to do nothing with that line written on the page. I mean, that's now sitting on the page, and you haven't ventured to read it. Probably the greatest disease in our time is people don't read themselves. They do it even worse when they read it to us in public. I mean, they still haven't read it. I mean, it has not got across, because the reader has not. The art of reading, it would be the new art of a poem. Well, Pound is right there, you're sordello, again in italics, and that the modern world needs such a ragbag to stuff all its thought in. Say that I dump my cat shiny and silvery as fresh sardines flapping and slipping on the marginal cobbles. I stand before the booth, the speech, but the truth is inside this discourse.


This booth is full of the marrow of wisdom. Give up the intaglio method, tower by tower, red, brown, then he starts evoking his scene as it goes, and he comes back to the font. Well, tower by tower, red, brown, the rounded bases, and the plan follows the builder's whim. Bow care, slim gray, leaps from the stubby base about the font forte, Mohammed's windows, for the Alcazar has such a garden. Split by a tame small stream, the moat is ten yards wide, the inner courtyard half a swim with mire. Trunk hose, dear or not, the rough men swarm out in robes that are half Roman, half like the nave of hearts, and I discern your story. Bear Cardinal was half forerunner of Dante, Arnaud's that trick of the unfinished address,


and half your dates are out. You mix your eras for that great font Sordello sat beside. Now we've got the person Sordello, tis an immortal passage, but the font is some two centuries outside the picture. Does it matter? Not in the least. Ghosts move about me, patched with histories. You had your business to set out so much thought, so much emotion, to paint more real than any dead Sordello. The half or third of your intensest life, and call that third Sordello, meaning the whole work, book. Now this reading by a poet has at least come to two of the terms that Jane Carlyle writes in the letter that she writes. I don't know. I've read the work, and I don't know whether it's a man or a city or a book, and we're left with them. Since that's so oracular, its quality, it is not, for instance, snippy like Tennyson's


who was talking about a rival. And the closeness here is that Jane Carlyle had to attend another writer of that early Victorian period who, to quite a number I notice of people writing on Browning, seems to be a counterpart of Robert Browning, and that is Thomas Carlyle, with his propositions of the hero and of the heroic in poetry. We have the counterpart of Carlyle's propositions of the heroic in poetry and Emerson's propositions of the transcendental in poetry and the transcendental in the poet. And at a stage in which the identity of the poet seems to be born anew in the imagination, the minute the heroic is proposed, it becomes, it really seems to be eternal.


Carlyle, whole propositions about heroes in poetry, the poet is hero, the Napoleon is hero, I mean the great man in history is hero, the series of heroes in that remarkable prose at the level of poetry is oracular of the disappearance of the heroic from the active world and its appearance in the imagination in which it would become a specter. I love Marxism.