AG: Well, okay, so what is it all finally? Let’s see, Urizen
is wandering through space, exploring his dens, striding over the cities, creating a cold shadow – “Like a spider’s web, moist, cold, and dim,/Drawing out from his sorrowing soul” – walking over the cities in sorrow – “..a web dark and cold throughout all/The tormented element stretched..”, “(And the web is female in embryo./ None could break the web – no wings of fire,/ So twisted the cords, and so knotted/The meshes, twisted like to the human brain/ And all called it The Net of Religion
.” – (compare this with) “Soon spreads the dismal shade/ of Mystery over his head/ And the Caterpillar and Fly/ Feed on the Mystery” (from “The Human Abstract”
) – “Caterpillar and Fly”, creatures that feed on corpses – “Feed on the Mystery/ And it bears the fruit of Deceit/ Ruddy and smooth to eat/And the Raven..” – who eats corpses – “..his nest has made/In its thickest shade/ The Gods of the earth and sea/ Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree/ But their search was all in vain..” – Couldn’t find it in the external universe, or couldn’t find it in actuality, because it only grows in the human brain – “There grows one in the Human Brain”. And then, a relative poem, a poem relative to that, “A Poison Tree”
(parallel to the poem by Pushkin
) – “I was angry with my friend/ I told my wrath, my wrath did end,/ I was angry with my foe,/ I told it not, my wrath did grow./ And I watered it in fears” – that he’d find our how mad I was with him – “Night and morning with my tears/ And I sunned it with smiles/ And with soft deceitful wiles/ And it grew both day and night/ Till it bore an apple bright/ And my foe beheld it shine/And he knew that it was mine./ And into my garden stole/ When the night had veil’d the pole/ In the morning glad I see/ My foe outstretched beneath the tree.” – So these are little mini-dramas of Urizen, of applications of the Urizonic temperament.
Student: I never know what attitude to take about that one.
AG: That one? that poem?
AG: (Well), I think it’s a description of the growth.. the questioner, who sits so sly, the description of the secrecy.. One of the problems of Urizen is secrecy. He has to be secret because it’s all his own conception, it’s all for himself. So, secrecy, hypocrisy. But I think it’s a very straightforward analysis, psychological analysis, of how you get even, if you’re into getting even, how a diplomat would get even – that’s that Nixon-
ian line, “don’t get mad, get even”. Yeah..I think it’s an accurate description. I’ve gone through this a million times – spreading snares and baits for people to swallow, like a hook.
What (exactly) did you mean.. not what did you mean..but, in what sense didn’t you know how to take this?
Student: Well, now I understand. I had read it as..(combatative)..
AG: Well, it is addressed to (someone specific), to knock someone off, but it’s also..an analysis of how we’re knocking people off all the time – or analysis of how Blake recognized in himself that element of knocking people off by flattering them.. And it may be that he was going into a relationship with a friend, William Hayley,
who was his patron, and told him to… He’d
probably just recently met Hayley, and Hayley gave him a pension, sort of, and said, “Why don’t you come out and get out of London? You’ve been living here all your life. Go out in the country. I’ll support you. I’m a poet, you’re a poet. I need somebody to illustrate my works, you’re a great illustrator. You come live out there, I’ll give you money, and we’ll set you up in a whole household in Felpham near the ocean. You’ll do my illustrations and you won’t have to depend anymore on the commerce that you’ve got in London. It’ll be an ideal existence, and I’ll be living a mile from you and we’re going to form a commune or community”. So he did do that. But in the biographies there’s some element here in that situation that Hayley was interested in Catherine Blake
, but was also interested in William Blake in a funny way, and was always calling him over in the middle of the day or night, when Blake was busy on Jerusalem
saying, “I just have this new poem that I wrote, William, and I want you to illustrate it for me. It’s the “Death of a Mouse”, or I’ve got “Ode to Thunder””. And Blake would look at it and say, “Well, there’s a good line here, or there, and there’s another good line there, but, you want me to illustrate it?”. “Yeah, we’ll have some money at the end of the week. And so I’ll give you your pay at the end of the week”. And then, at the end of the week, the money would come in. So hayley got into this antipathetic symbiosis with Blake and entered into his symbolism, entered into the symbolism of The Four Zoas
in this kind of relationship. (Because) Blake was dependent on him and loved him, but at the same time hated him, and at the same time Hayley had some kind of repressed claim on Blake’s eternal balls in some way, and was feeding him and supporting him. And finally, Blake couldn’t stand it anymore, and he left this paradise and went back to London, had a break with Hayley.. And there’s a bunch of little poems about Hayley in the satires, little tiny satire poems that you’ll..
So, in other words, I’m reading this (“A Poison Tree”) as Blake’s self-revelation of his own psychology. Not so much a how-you-go-about-killing-someone-by-his-own-hypocrisy, but his own analysis of his own nature (from which he drew it) – “In the morning glad I see” – see, I see – “In the morning glad I see/ My foe outstretched beneath the tree.” – This is “Songs of Experience“, remember…Well, “the road of excess”.. So, those all fit.
[William Hayley (1745-1820)]
Then, now.. “the inhabitants of those cities” – Chapter IX – “Then the inhabitants of those cities/ Felt their nerves change into marrow,/ And hardening bones began/ In swift diseases and torments,/ In throbbings and shootings and grindings/Through all the coasts…” – So it’s now the panorama of the whole world entangled. It’s created, and entangled in Urizen’s net of religion and materialist creation – “- till weakened/ The senses inward rushed, shrinking/ Beneath the dark net of infection” – And that correlates with Blake’s constant theme of, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite”, or (elsewhere) in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
, he talks about the world being shrunk to our perceptions, or that line we had before, about the two little eyeballs and their closed caves concentrating everything so that the great slime of material heaven appeared like translucent air. Remember that line the other day? – “Till the shrunken eyes clouded over..” – oh, here it is – “Till the shrunken eyes clouded over/ Discerned not the woven hypocrisy/But the streaky slime in their heavens/ Brought together by narrowing perceptions/ Appeared transparent air” – [At this point, a great din is heard from a nearby motorcycle starting up and Allen begins to improvise
] – “And the snarling groaning hissings of air through the machines of Urizen’s nostril appeared to the mortal eye like the groaning of a motorcycle taking off from its station”! – “for their eyes/ grew small like the eyes of a man/and in reptile forms shrinking together/ Of seven feet stature they remained.” – That’s really great there, I think, that “in reptile forms shrinking together”. So this human worm has finally emerged. Has anyone ever had a vision of people looking like reptiles, outside of LSD? (on LSD, everybody’s had that!). I think almost everybody’s had reptilian visions of organic creation, I think it’s a real perception (I’ve had it without it (without LSD), actually).. Well, (so), this is the polypus (sic) – but now he’s comparing the human form (which is not generally seen as polyp-ist) to this kind of reptile octopus – “and in reptile forms shrinking together” – these infinites are now only seven feet tall – “Six days they shrunk up from existence/ And on the seventh day they rested” – This is why (Harold) Bloom
says it’s a satire, really out-and-out satire. This is, of course, the Age of Reason. It’s the Church, and the “Net of Religion” is really a heavy, strong thing. And maybe the whole thing is (that) he’s just having fun with the whole conception of the idiocy of a Jehovaic central Urizonic power that everybody’s actually worshipping in those days – and God and King.
AG: Yes. Maybe caustic at times. My idea is that he’s actually analyzing the process, the psychological metaphysics of creation. of the subjective phenomenology of creation.. that is, first blink and (then) the coming out.. Occasionally, it has applications to material politics, (to) the political world (and), occasionally, (it) bursts into satire, or.. “caustic” is the right word – “And they blessed the seventh day, in sick hope:/ And forgot their eternal life” (page 207) – “And their thirty cities/ In form of a human heart/ No more could they rise at will/In the infinite void, but bound down/ To earth by their narrowing perceptions” – The “thirty cities” – the correspondence, or the comparison here, is that there are thirty cities in Egypt, is what’s suggested. This is the exile, in Egypt, into this organic world, this sick (world). The eternal life is over, shrunk into material form, so to speak. Egypt, the thirty cities of Egypt…
Blake is being of the Devil’s party here.. So he’s turning the Book of Genesis
upside down.. And “..bound down/To earth by their narrowing perceptions” – If you get to page 210, you see Urizen bound down with cords and chains. “His hands and feet are occupied with marking or copying his book, but with the web become a Net of Religion that none can break, twisted “like to the human brain”” – “They lived a period of years/ Then left a noisome body/ To the jaws of devouring darkness/ And their children wept and built/ Tombs in the desolate places/ And formed laws of prudence, and called them/ The eternal laws of God/ And the thirty cities remained/ Surrounded by salt floods, now called/ Africa (it’s name was then Egypt)./ The remaining sons of Urizen/ Beheld their brethren shrink together/Beneath the net of Urizen;/ Persuasion was in vain,/ For the ears of the inhabitants/Were withered, and deafened, and cold,/ And their eyes could not discern/ Their brethren of other cities./ So Fuzon called all together/ The remaining children of Urizen;/ And they left the pendulous earth:/ They called it Egypt, and left it./ And the salt ocean rolled englobed.” – “Pendulous earth” – Milton
has a phrase, “the pendulous globe”, by the way, [ “pendulous round earth
“, actually] (so), relating back to Milton.
I’m not quite sure where this goes in terms of plot. I believe he drops the four elements, the four children of Urizon, in his mythology. Fuzon comes up again in (the Book of) Ahania,
the next book, as a sort of rebel, the Christ-like Promethean
rebel against Urizen. Urizen’s own product rebels against him. The energy born out of Urizen, the fire born out of Urizen, the changes (fire) born out of Urizen rebel against him in the Book of Ahania, who’s an emanation of Urizen.
Student: “Fuzon called all together/ The remaining children of Urizen”? Fuzon? (he’s the eldest son)?
AG: Uh-huh.. let’s see. I remember there was a little note on that and I didn’t cover it as I was going over the text, so let me look it up. [Allen consults Damon
] – “Fuzon – “first begotten, last born” of the Sons of Urizen” (Urizen
23:18)..” – It doesn’t really say why – “First begotten, last born” is just quoted. Is that an echo or paraphrase of some Biblical phrase? – “First begotten, last born”? Well…
Student: “In the beginning was the word..”?
AG: Okay.. Well, it’s fire anyway [from Damon – ” (Fuzon) represents fire in the quarternary of Elements”] – Fuzon never reappears after the (Book of) Ahania
. Fuzon never reappears in the later books. Blake doubtless realized that (Fuzon) Passion is not the child of Reason, therefore in (the book), The Four Zoas
, Urizen’s antagonist then becomes Luvah (instead of Fuzon). Furthermore, it is Jesus who is crucified on the Tree (and not fire or Passion). I don’t know. So what we’re having here in this book..is Blake’s first real deep probe into the ultimate nature of the psyche and the creation of consciousness, actually,his “Book of Genesis” for consciousness itself. (And) there are a a few earlier books which deal with some similar symbols, but Urizen, I guess, is the first deepest, classic probe, which begins setting the stage for the rest of his mythology. He tries to finish it off in the next two books, to try to tie these loops together, and these myths together – “(The Book of) Ahania“
and “The Book of Los“
We have one more class, Friday. What I’d suggest is that you check out Ahania and Los, see what he does with that. Maybe we’ll take five or ten minutes to go over them in the next class – the plot, to review their plot, and then what I’d like to do is abandon our structures and just go through Milton and Jerusalem and just read you various purple passages, heroic passages, from those books, to give you a taste of those books, some taste of the philosophy (but without going into a detailed analysis of the symbolism, as we have done here, except when we can do (that) fast), just to get you into those books, because the ones we’ve gone through these (past) two weeks, have not been very interesting really. They’re really hard, mental, tough, Urizonic, dry seed works. They’re terrific poetry occasionally (in fact, they’re great, they’re really great), but Blake then unfolds and becomes mighty and rhetorically beautiful and golden-tongued and syllabically interesting and vowels become roarers and there are great philosophic passages that develop (through Milton and through Jerusalem). In fact, I was thinking yesterday I’m almost sorry I took you through this torment of Urizen, because it was kind of dry in a way, and it’s hardly an introduction to get you on into Blake, except you’ve gone through the worst now. You’ve gone through the worst of Blake in the sense of the difficult, (the) thorny, the thorniest.
Student: I was just thinking, in that last passage, (Fuzon kind of gathers up) the children, and drives them from Egypt in a kind of prophetic flight…
Student: (And so) perhaps part of (some part of) a (wished-for) Paradise is regained..
AG: Oh yeah. It’s actually Blake’s first attempt to have a revolt against Urizen, and, in the next, Fuzon throws a ball of all his passions – sex, (he) throws sex back at Urizen and splits Urizen in two, and Urizen gives birth to pleasure, which he thinks is sin, and then he takes Fuzon – he reminds him of that – fire, that change, and he gets together some kind of lightning-bolt out of… I forget what it was he made his lightning-bolt out of. What?
AG: A poison stone. Let’s see, what was that poison stone? The serpent. A serpent of desire. He took the poison. Urizen takes all his desire and turns it into poison – a snake – symbolized by a snake – and makes a moral law to repress his desire, which is a poison stone – and throws it on Fuzon, and then takes Fuzon’s body and puts it on top the Tree of Mystery, in a crucifix position. So Fuzon is, say, the energy born, the fiery energy born of Reason’s creation, but that energy reminds Urizen of the original – of sex (which is outside of reason and non-reason), and so there’s this battle. But actually, it’s a kind of weird symbolic battle growing out of Blake’s symbols, so finally he abandons this particular set of symbols. He doesn’t abandon Urizen, he just abandons these children of Urizen, and has, in the later books, Urizen fight Luvah
(heart emotions). In other words, as Damon suggests, it’s inappropriate for them to be having a battle, sort of like Cronos and Uranus
, the battle of the father-son castration of Time (remember, Chronos
(Time) is castrated by [Allen, understandably, confuses Cronos and Chronos here
]… I think it’s Time eats his children, but (and) then one of them castrates him.. I’ve forgotten the myth..but anyway..).. I think Blake was seeing this as too closed-in to have everything cominf out of Urizen. So that, in the later books, in the next, later books, the opposites were then Tharmas-Urizen, Los, Urthona and Luvah. So he brings Luvah in to do battle. So that was the Book of Ahania. You can get that yourself. Wanderings in the wilderness. The birth of moral systems.
And then in the Book of Los
, what happens? – Oh, the Book of Los, according to Damon, retells the story of Urizen’s creation from Los’ point of view. So it’s a short form of it.
(Eno will come in there. She’s the aged Mother of Eternity. She’s the eternal view. She’s the one who’s viewing all this. Prophetic power.) So it would be the creation of the body (including lungs and everything), retelling of the whole creation thing, from the point of view of Los. And it ends, “Till his Brain in a rock and his Heart/In a fleshy slough formed four rivers” – the senses – smell-sight-taste-touch – “Obscuring the immense Orb of fire/ Flowing down into night: till a Form/ Was completed, a Human Illusion/ In darkness and deep clouds involved” (there ends the Book of Los) – Let’s see if there’s anything important in here. Well, give me about five minutes, and we’ll be done with “Los” and then we can go on to “Milton” next time..
Los is seen from Eno, aged mother (an anagram of Eon (Aeon)), an eternal view. The description of Urizen’s desire is interesting(on page 90) – “Coldness, darkness, obstruction, a Solid/without fluctuation, hard as adamant /Black as marble of Egypt, impenetrable/Bound in the fierce raging immortal./And the separated fires froze in/A vast solid without fluctuation,/Bound in his expanding clear senses” – So that’s the same conception of evil as opacity, as constriction, as a shrinking of senses, solidification, opacity, can’t-see-through-it. This is quite interesting – “Solid/ without fluctuation” – it’s almost very philosophical, scientific – a conception of evil, or Urizen, or Rudra, or an ego, or self-hood, as a “Solid/ without fluctuation” (well, there’s some fluctuation in it, but, it’s mostly composed of supposed solids without fluctuation, until you look at it very carefully, and you realize (that) they’re all fluctuating waves, and there is no solidity, there’s just the appearance of solidity). The reason Los has to create Urizen into a form is because Truth has bounds (Error has no bounds) – “Truth has bounds. Error none; falling falling/ Years on years, and ages on ages/ Still he fell through the void, still a void/ Found for falling day and night without end” – So that’s an interesting re-application of that principle of why poetic Imagination had to make a form for unreasonable Error, for Reason’s monstrous creation – because Truth has bounds. So if you take falsehood and give it a form, you can see it, bounded, and so you get some sense of the truth of it (whereas, if it’s left formless, if you don’t find Satan’s system, if you don’t discern, analyze Satan’s system, then you’re just dealing with big, vague, you-don’t-know-what)
– Okay [Allen continues] – “Incessant the falling Mind laboured/ Organizing itself” – Well, maybe we’ll get a little into this next time, but it’s 7 (o’clock) now, so let’s quit.
So we’re done now with the creation of the Urizonic universe. You might read Ahania, or, at this point, just go on and read anywhere you want in Milton and Jerusalem – for fun!
(Class and tape ends here – Randy Roark notes: “The complete tape, labelled 4/17/78, the final class of this workshop, which is indexed “Discussion of Illustrations in Urizen and Milton (and) Readings from Milton” is (unfortunately) indecipherable” – so this Blake 1978 teaching and transcription (segmented into 12 sections) is concluded here)