Study Guide

Howl Section I, Lines 41-45

By Allen Ginsberg

Section I, Lines 41-45

Line 41

who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,

  • Here the poem begins to move toward a discussion of heterosexuality. They have sex with everything and anything, including beer, cigarettes, and "a sweetheart."
  • The speaker seems to be using the word "copulate" very loosely.
  • They are "ecstatic" as they have sex, and they also can't ever get enough ("insatiate"). It must have been a pretty aggressive coupling, because they fall off the bed and keep doing it until they faint by the wall after what seems to have been an intense orgasm.

Line 42

who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,

  • "Snatch" is a vulgar term for the female genitalia.
  • They stayed up all night in the countryside having sex ("a million girls" might be a slight exaggeration), and they still had enough left in the tank to want to have sex with the sunrise and run around naked.

Line 43

who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,

  • They visited prostitutes after stealing cars in Colorado.
  • If you've read On the Road, you know that Denver was a central location for the Beats as they crisscrossed the country.
  • "N.C." stands for Neal Cassady, who was thought to be the inspiration behind Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road. Cassady was known for having an incredible sexual appetite. This line celebrates his amorous escapades in all kinds of locations.
  • The speaker says Cassady was an "Adonis," or an exceptionally beautiful male. Ginsberg was in love with him for a time, and they even had a one-sided sexual relationship, but Cassady was straight, so things weren't meant to be (source). The speaker calls him "the secret hero of these poems."

Line 44

who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,

  • From the high-spirited discussion of sex, the poem now moves to some of their low points, like waking up hung-over and unemployed after a long bender on alcohol. "Tokay" is a variety of wine.
  • Even their dreams are hard, as if made of "iron."

Line 45

who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steamheat and opium,

  • Once again back in New York, they did so much walking that their shoes filled up with blood.
  • Their destination? A mysterious building with warm air and opium (a drug made of poppies).