Study Guide

Howl Section I, Lines 76-78

By Allen Ginsberg

Section I, Lines 76-78

Line 76

the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,

  • They try to find the rhythm or "beat" of the "madman bum and angel," who might be one and the same. But this beat is "unknown."
  • They write down things they hope will be relevant "after death."

Line 77

and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio

  • After death, they came back to life ("rose reincarnate") like Jesus Christ. They now resembled jazz musicians. Their saxophones told a story of people who suffered for love.
  • The phrase "eli, eli lamma lamma sabacthani" roughly translates to Christ's sad words on the Cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
  • According to the speaker, jazz captures the emotion of people who feel abandoned by God.

Line 78

with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.

  • Their poetry is compared to a part of themselves that they cut from their bodies. Writing is self-sacrifice, like the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
  • Their poems can be "eaten" even a thousand years later, similar to the way Christians believe Christ's body is eaten in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
  • For the speaker, poets and musicians are the redeemers and saviors of the world.