William Blake class – 8 (Urizen continues)

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s Book of Urizen continues

AG: Chapter IV [of the Book of Urizen] – Urizen is still asleep, however. All this time, while¬†being created by Los, while being given form by Los, Urizen is still asleep. We all know why Los wants to give Urizen a form? Does everybody got that? The reason Los, Imagination, has to give madness a definite form (or Urizonic madness, rational madness, a definite form), is that otherwise it will go infinitely in every direction and it will never be limited. Unless he gives it a definite form, he can’t deal with it. It’s a corollary, as I said before, as (in) Blake’s line, (to paraphrase), “If you want to know Satan’s secret – find out his system”. If you’re dealing with madness or irrationality, find out what the systematics of it (are), and you’ll find the whole. You’ll find out how to deal with it. You’ll find out the hole in the bottom, or you’ll find where it comes from, or what its original root is.

Student: It seems to me that Los is establishing form..Urizen (is) establish(ing)…

AG: Well, it’s seen several ways. Actually, in Chapter III, I believe, he’s establishing his own form, and in Chapter IV, I think, simultaneously, Los is establishing a form for it – he’s making his form. See, Los, the Imagination with a hammer. is making it material. The Imagination is imagining something, which can then be acted out on. Reason, self-created, is also making a universe, but a self-created..well, it just wouldn’t have enough stuff to work with it, unless it had some imagination, it’d be too abstract. You only wind up with a mathematical formula for the universe if it were just Reason. So you need Imagination creating a material universe, actually saying it’s creating a material universe. The Imagination is imagining a material universe. (The imagination) is dreaming. In other words, you need the dream of a material universe plus the architectural blueprint.

There is some confusion as to whether Los is building according to Reason’s blueprint, or not. I think, generally, it’s according to Reason’s own blueprint. They’re identical. Los and Urizen. After a while, when you look at the pictures, you recognize they’re opposite sides of the same moment of creation – or they’re opposite aspects of loss – the loss of Eternity, because of the rising of Urizen, and therefore Los has to take care of Urizen. (It) has to go along with him all along, accompany him, control him, finally, work with him. So, “Ages on ages rolled over” on Urizen, (and you can see it if you check the pictures (on page) 191 (and) 192, for these “ages on ages” rolling over him, and forming (the) “nets and the gins”. Well, Los is “..smitten with astonishment,/ Frightened at the hurtling bones” ((on) page 190 in the book of Illuminations, Plate 8b, corresponding to Chapter IV, page 73 [of Erdman]) – “Los smitten with astonishment,/ Frightened at the hurtling bones” – there’s the bones.

“And Los formed nets and gins/ And threw the nets round about (him)”. Well, there’s these rocks on the corresponding page, page 191 – “Ages on ages rolled over him/ In stony sleep ages rolled over him.” That would be page 191 of the illustrations, and 192, I think, in the Illuminations [The Illuminated Blake], for those who have it. Am I going too fast for those who have the pictures? Okay. You might share the pictures, if somebody’s got (them). Just look at the pictures. Look at the pictures, don’t (just) sit there. For those who don’t have the books, look over somebody’s shoulder – page 190-191-192 okay?

“..around him in whirlwinds/ Of darkness. The eternal prophet..” – Los – “howled,? Beating still on his rivets of iron/ Pouring solder of iron, dividing/ The horrible night into watches./ And Urizen (so his eternal name)/ His prolific delight obscured more and more/ In dark secrecy, hiding in surging/ Sulphureous fluid his fantasies” – “Sulphureous” – that’s pretty good! – “The eternal prophet heaved the dark bellows” – Los, who works with a bellows – “And turned restless the tongs, and the hammer/ Incessant beat, forging chains new and new,/ Numbering with links hours, days and years.” – Creating Time. But there’s a line in Jerusalem that says. “But you cannot behold him till he be revealed in his system”. In other words, Urizen is a great error, but you can’t behold the error, you can’t actually analyze and examine the error, and see where the error doesn’t hang the universe together, unless you behold him, unless he be revealed in his system. So the reason the Imagination has to empathize with Urizen and create a form for him is so he can actually see what the architectonics, what the blueprint, what the structure, of ignorant Reason is, so he can put it out in the open air, revealed in his system, and then actually examine it with common sense – “..forging chains new and new,/ Numbering with links hours, days and years.” – There are some interpretations of this line that say it means that Los is here creating the poetic meters. And the meter of this poem we might check out just now, since they’ve just been created. (It) is anapestic tri-meter, anyway. Trimeter – three beats. Anapest – dah-dah-dum, dah-dah-dum, dah-dah-dum – “The eternal mind, bounded, began..” – “The eternal mind bounded, began to roll” – “The eternal mind bounded, began to roll’. And here, if Blake is talking about the meters – the eternal mind bounded into meters..began to roll – you’ve got a pretty funny pun going on. And I think that’s what’s intended here, for a little, very subtle, piece of self-consciousness by Blake. “The eternal mind bounded, began to roll/ Eddies of wrath ceaseless round and round” – Duh-duh-dah, duh-duh-dah, duh-dah-dah, duh-dee-dee – “And the sulphureous foam surging thick” – Duh-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-dah. Dah-duh-duh-dah – “Settled, a lake, bright and shining clear,/ White as the snow on the mountains cold.” – Well, it’s a variable anapest. Then the next line locks it in – “Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity” – Duh-dah-duh-duh, dah-dah, dah-dah-duh – “Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity” – Above that we have “a lake bright and shining clear” (which, Damon suggests, in this process of birth, is the amniotic fluid, by the way, the amnion – who knows?) – “White as the snow on the mountains cold” – “Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity”, I think that’s one of the great lines of the poem. You can use it as a sort of epigram anywhere – as the state of Urizen, as the state of sophomoric rationalism. So the critic, whoever that was, who wrote that review of Renaldo and Clara in the Denver Post – “Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity!” (by “necessity” here, it means locked up in some repetitive, mechanical, “reasonable” set of trite reasons. Urizen, locked up in a set of mechanical, trite, stereotype stereotypes – “Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity,/ In chains of the mind locked up,/ Like fetters of ice shrinking together/Disorganized, rent from Eternity./ Los beat on his fetters of iron,/ And heated his furnaces and poured/ Iron solder and solder of brass.” – This is the Self’s creation, finally – “Restless turned the Immortal, enchained,/ Heaving dolorous, anguished, unbearable,/ Till a roof. shaggy wild enclosed/ In an orb his fountain of thought” – Well, the skull, with hair – “In a horrible dreamful slumber,/Like the linked infernal chain – Probably you can find that on page 193 [of The Illuminated Blake] – Urizen and Los together, linked in this “dreamful slumber”

“A vast spine writhed in torment/ Upon the winds, shooting pained/ Ribs, like a bending cavern./ And bones of solidness froze/ Over all his nerves of joy./ And a first age passed over,/ And a state of dismal woe” – Okay. Now, from here on, we’ve got seven ages, like the seven days of Genesis, the seven days of creation. (Harold) Bloom, in his notes, says that Blake is parodying, or satirizing the Biblical Genesis (he’s definitely doing something with the seven days). Actually, it’s first the spine, then the heart and circulatory system in the second age, and the third age is the nervous system (Reason’s senses and eyes), the fourth age is the Imagination – and ears, the fifth age is the nostrils, the sixth age is the stomach and body and tongue and digestive system, and the seventh age is the limbs. I’ll go over it again. Page 74 of the Erdman text, Plate 1, Verse VI – the first days of creation (illustrated, perhaps, with page 193 of the Illuminated book. First, the ribs – “A vast spine writhed in torment/ Upon the winds, shooting pained/ Ribs, like a bending cavern./ And bones of solidness froze/ Over all his nerves of joy./ And a first age passed over,/ And a state of dismal woe”. Now Plate II, Verse VII – what’s described as the heart and circulatory system – “From the caverns of his jointed spine,/ Down sunk with fright a red/ Round globe hot-burning deep,/ Deep down ino the abyss – / Panting, conglobing, trembling,/ Shooting out ten thousand branches/ Around his solid bones/ And a second age passed over,/ And a state of dismal woe” – So that’s the second stage. Third, (on page 75, Verse VIII), the nervous system. If the (last stage was the) heart and circulatory system, who would that be? – that would have been Tharmas, the Body? – Next, another version of the creation of Urizen, or symbols of Urizen (because, remember, Urizen is the eyes) – “In harrowing fear rolling round,/ His nervous brain shot branches/ Round the branches of his heart/ On high into two little orbs;/ And fixed in two little caves/ Hiding carefully from the wind,/ His eyes beheld the deep,/ And a third age passed over/ And a state of dismal woe” – That’s a very curious description of the eyeballs – the limitations of the eyeballs – from an Einstein-ian point of view, that all they are are two little orbs, fixed in two little caves, hiding carefully from the wind. And they’re supposed to be the viewers of the entire universe of creation? these little tiny plops inside of their cave, hidden?. In other words, Blake is constantly saying, well, all we see of Eternity is a little portion that we can see through these little chinks in the cavern, or chinks in the wall. That human creation is really a reduction and solidification and limitation of the vastness of expanse that might be viewed, that’s beyond the eyeball, or that exists beyond the compass of the eye. But the eye exists in two little compasses, just like the front of the skull looking out that way, and so the eye, the consciousness, Urizonic consciousness, thinks that’s the real (world), what it can see, but the eyes are just these two little tiny orbs in these two tiny caves. And it’s so barely said there, that you recognize that it’s the kind of thought you have in childhood, that’s really real, and then you dismiss (it), as being,¬†“well, that’s not practical, but this must be real, since everybody else sees it” (not realizing (that) it’s this universal agreement to be stupid, or to be limited) – “Round the branches of his heart” – and also connect(ed) with all these ganglia – that’s all it is, it’s really a monstrous creation. And the language of it is monstrous, and Blake has painted it with all the monstrousness that you will find in any Hinayana samsaric description of the corruption of the body and the limitations of the body. If you open up the door, you’ll see it’s nothing but a lot of veins, and electric wires – the door in the breast – “His nervous brain shot branches/ Round the branches of his heart/ On high into two little orbs;/ And fixed in two little caves/ Hiding carefully from the wind” – There’s a great line later on about that, by the way, (on) page 81, if you’ll check it (out), in Chapter IX, the end of the page, page 81 – “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; 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 fantastic. He says: “..the shrunken eyes, clouded over,/ Discerned not the woven hypocrisy;/ But the streaky slime in their heavens”. In other words, everything we see as air, he’s saying, is a lot of streaky slime from heaven. However, brought together by narrowing perceptions, it appears to be transparent…. [(one side of the) tape ends here]

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