|Poet Allen Ginsberg reads his poem "Howl" |
outside the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, 1994
Allan Ginsberg was an American Poet and one of the leaders of the Beat Generation of the 1950’s. He was opposed to militarism, sexual oppression and materialism. In the poem Howl he appreciates his “hipsters” and takes a stand against capitalism and conformity, which he saw were forces of destruction for this country.
The Poem is comprised of three parts. The Part found in the book Voices of Freedom is just the second part. Part two of Howl is based on the the characterization of Moloch as industrialism. While Ginsberg wrote Howl, he was getting inspiration from using a drug called Peyote. The drug induced hallucinations. These hallucinations made him identify with Moloch. Moloch was an idol in the Bible to whom the Canaanites sacrificed their children.
A Short Analysis
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? (The voice in the poem is blaming a creature that is mythical: A Sphinx, which has the head of a human and the body of a lion. The industrial reference is that its made of Cement and Aluminum.)
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments! (Moloch is a representation of the government, which Ginsberg was anti-social authority. Moloch is responsible for everything evil, war and sadness.)
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! (Moloch is a human made entity, but is truly inhumane. It shows no emotion, no sympathy or mercy.)
They Broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us! (They were looking in the wrong place for the divine. They thought it could be found in "stuff" (or material objects), when in fact it exists in people.)
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river! (Ginsberg was a believed that American capitalism and modern-life had destroyed the ability for people to have visions of hope or reality. Omens, hallucinations, miracles, ecstasies were not part of Moloch. They are good things. But they have been destroyed by Moloch. They have "gone down the American river," which means they were treated like trash, or anything that has no importance.)