The Poem

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 713

“Wales Visitation” is written in free verse and divided into nine stanzas. As is usual with Allen Ginsberg’s writing, the poem uses the convention of cataloging, begun in American poetry with Walt Whitman, the American poet who has most influenced him. Originating with a visit to Wales that Ginsberg took in July, 1967, the poem records his response to this visit and describes some of the beautiful scenery in Wales that he, as had so many earlier poets, admired. The poem was also inspired by an LSD experience, during which Ginsberg was trying to move beyond his earlier tendency to reflect haunting visions within his consciousness; instead, he wanted to record with concrete detail the outside, the particular, world. As a result, the poem is a series of concrete descriptions of the Welsh landscape.

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Highly personal in tone, the poem falls in the tradition of meditations initiated in the English Romantic period and particularly seen in William Wordsworth’s “Lines: Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” to which Ginsberg refers in his poem. The first-person point of view and the references to self in “Wales Visitation” suggest that the poet’s concern is with a subjective response to the outside world.

As the poem begins, the speaker, Ginsberg himself, sets a tone of awe at the beauty of the Welsh landscape and refers to trees as “mountain-brow” covered with “white fog,” to clouds rising “as on a wave,” and to “mist above teeming ferns” on the edge of a “green crag.” He immediately lets the reader know that the poem is about his response to and interaction with the glory and beauty of the natural world.

That the poem is also about the creative process of the poet-self becomes clear in the second stanza, in which he focuses on the subject matter of poetry: a vale in Albion (the Latin name for England), people in general, the “physical sciences,” language, thistles, and green daisies. Referring to the poet as “Bardic, O Self, Visitacione,” Ginsberg focuses on the poetic visionary’s response to the external and the eternal in nature and in self.

The next stanza sets up a contrast between the scenic beauty of the Welsh landscape and the urban setting of London, a city full of such images of modern progress as towers and television. The poet opts for the beauty of nature and its eternal qualities as opposed to the transient symbols of material progress. He refers to William Blake, of whom he is a disciple, and to Wordsworth, both British poets of the Romantic period who observed and reflected on the natural beauty surrounding them. When Ginsberg, the present poet, sees and hears the same visions, he becomes one with all other poets: “Bard Nameless as the Vast, babble to Vastness!”

The fourth and fifth stanzas further reflect on Ginsberg’s surroundings, with the poet cataloging the movement of the wind, the valley, the hills, the leaves, and the grasses. The movement is “Nebulous upward” to Heaven, and the poet wonders at the vastness and immensity of the natural world, suggesting Heaven is apparent even in a “grassblade.” All the natural world, the universe, is “One Being.”

Stanzas 7 and 8 celebrate the perfection and the vitality of the external world, even going so far as to suggest that every living thing, be it valley, mountain, or human, breathes and is in constant motion. Ginsberg makes references to daisies, vegetables, sheep, horses, canals, pheasants, green buds, and hawthorn—all of which he describes as part of “One being so balanced, so vast, that its softest breath” is responsible for the movement of all living things. Although inhabited by a variety of forms, the natural world has a “Buddha-eye.”

The final two stanzas bring the meditation to a close, as the “high” point of the drug experience begins to lose momentum. Stanza 8 describes the poet’s response as a great “Oh!” bringing together all the elements of nature through the senses. Here, Ginsberg suggests that there is no secret to the universe, that the spirit behind it all is visible in the particulars he sees. Proclaiming the constant movement of the spirit once again, the poet reiterates his belief that in the particulars, he has seen “myriad” forms of “the great One.”

Forms and Devices

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 517

Ginsberg’s free verse employs cataloging so as to saturate the reader’s mind with emotion and images. The most frequently used poetic devices in the poem are imagery, simile, metaphor, and personification. The poem consists of a series of images of the natural world to which the poet is responding and by which he is being inspired.

Almost all the poem’s concrete imagery evokes positive responses from the reader, as it did, one can assume, for the poet himself. The well-known Welsh fog and mist are symbolic of the spirit within the natural world, and all the poem’s images of the natural world are described as being in motion, suggesting their vitality and spirit. Ginsberg is noted for a style in which few pauses occur between ideas and images. Imagery as a poetic device is seen when the poet describes the mist as “gigantic” and “eddy-lifting,” the ferns as “teeming” and exquisite, and the “satanic” and symmetrical thistle as “sister” to “green-daisies’ pink tiny/ bloomlets.” In the last image, Ginsberg is trying to exorcise the demons of his inner consciousness and move beyond the poetry of merely inner vision he had written earlier.

More particular types of poetic devices in the poem are simile and personification. The speaker compares the rising of the clouds “as on a wave” (a simile), and another striking simile is the second stanza’s description of the “pink tiny/ bloomlets angelic as lightbulbs.” These and other similar images appeal to the senses, suggesting a speaker who is inspired by the glory and beauty of nature and enabling the reader to visualize the Welsh landscape.

Other images in the poem are similar. The remainder of the poem continues the descriptive listing of natural beauty set forth in the first stanza, and near the end of the second stanza the poet introduces the idea that the natural world is connected to the world of the spirit. The natural elements the poet sees are the same visions seen by all other poets and visionaries, even the “folk.” Ginsberg is suggesting that everyone is capable of the same delight in and visionary appreciation of nature.

By far, the most frequently used poetic device in the poem is personification. The poet, in trying to show that all elements of nature are one with humanity and the divine spirit, characterizes the natural world as both humanlike and symbolic of the divine spirit running through all life-forms. The orchards are of “mind language manifest human,” suggesting that the elements of nature communicate through a language of their own and that thus there is no difference between human and nature. The thistle is “sister” to “grass-daisies.” The trees have “arms,” the valleys “breathe,” the vegetables “tremble,” and the meadows are “haired” with ferns. Even the ground is “vagina-moist,” the mountainside’s grass is “wet hair,” and the vale is “bearded.” Ginsberg’s use of personification recalls Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” in which Whitman, like Ginsberg, is trying to show that all the natural world and the human world are one and animated with the same spirit.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 198

“Allen Ginsberg.” In The Beats: A Literary Reference, edited by Matt Theado. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2004.

Hyde, Lewis, ed. On the Poetry of Allen Ginsberg. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984.

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Miles, Barry. The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Paris: 1958-1963. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Miles, Barry. Ginsberg: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Molesworth, Charles. “Republican Objects and Utopian Moments: The Poetry of Robert Lowell and Allen Ginsberg.” In The Fierce Embrace. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1979.

Morgan, Bill, ed. The Works of Allen Ginsberg, 1941-1994: A Descriptive Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995,

Morgan, Bill, and Bob Rosenthal, eds. Best Minds: A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg. New York: Lospecchio, 1986.

Mottram, Eric. Allen Ginsberg in the Sixties. London: Unicorn Press, 1972.

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Raskin, Jonah. American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and the Making of the Beat Generation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Schumacher, Michael. Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

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