100th Volume Retrospective: from “Dakar Doldrums” by Allen Ginsberg

At Columbia University, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and other beat poets got to know each other. Many of them were published in the Review.

from “Dakar Doldrums”

by Allen Ginsberg


Twenty days have drifted in the wake
Of this slow aged ship that carries coal
From Texas to Dakar. I, for the sake
Of little but my causelessness of soul
Am carried out of my chill hemisphere
To unfamiliar summer on the earth.
I spend my days to meditate this fear,
Each day I give the sea is one of death.

And day by day I do forget much knowledge:
Conspirators in the kingdoms of my genius,
My thoughts, at night, compose their own strange message.
I am become an hundred creatures thus.
The shrewd Semitic sighing minister,
Grand Vizier to a state of introspection,
Hath fled my mind, surrendered to the sinister
Multitudes of senses of this vision.

And this, perhaps, I meant to signify
As I inscribed some stanzas unto death;
I know not, that thus I but dignify
The desperations of another breath.
I move from vision unto vision here,
Even as on the turning seas I ride
Among the changing seasons of the year:
‘And round my mind sweet prescience doth divide.’

This is the last night of the outward journeying;
The darkness falleth Westward unto thee,
And I must end my labors of this evening,
And all the last long night, and all this day:
It doth give peace thus to torment the soul,
Till it is sundered from its form and sense,
Till it surrendereth its knowledge whole,
And stars on the world out of a sleepless trance.

So on these stanzas doth a peace descend,
Now I have journeyed through these images
To come upon no image in the end.
So we are consummated in these passages:
Most near and dear, and far apart in fate.
As I mean no mere sweet philosophy,
So I, unto a world I must create,
Turn with no promise and no prophecy.

from Vol. 28 (1948)