Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell continues
AG: Where are we? Plate XVIII. Let’s see what it looks (like)… It’s mostly… XVIII and XIX, what comes now, are mostly just straight text without too much illustration, except a few tiny figures in between.
So we’ve got an abyss.
Is anybody interested in analyzing what this is all about, this “Memorable Fancy”? I can give you some hints as we go along. I don’t want to dwell on it too long.
“….we beheld … (an) abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city; beneath us at an immense distance was the sun, black but shining..” – (“the sun black” – a black sun – would be the fires of revolution or wrath, actually, according to Foster Damon. ” – “(R)ound it were fiery tracks on which revolv’d vast spiders, crawling after their prey; which flew or rather swum in the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals sprung from corruption. & the air was full of them, & seemd composed of them, these are Devils. and are called Powers of the air, I now asked my companion which was my eternal lot? he said, between the black & white spiders.” – (that is to say, between good and evil, presumably. In other words, the rationalistic Tory angel is going to perpetuate good and evil in this way and put Blake in between them. You could also see them somewhat as the producers and devourers, because what will happen later on is that you’ll get a picture of the total predatory slave-holding capitalistic devouring with the monkeys, with the monkeys and their prey at the end of this “Memorable Fancy”.
“But now, from between the black & white spiders a cloud and fire burst and rolled thro the deep…” – (Well, cloud and fire, remember, we had as symbols, originally – (they) were the fog of the old religion and the old monarchy and the fire which delights in its own form – the revolution – which would be the personal subjective revolution, or the European revolution, (or) the American Revolution) – “…cloud and fire burst and rolled thro the deep blackning all beneath, so that the nether deep grew black as a sea & rolled with a terrible noise – beneath us was nothing now to be seen but a black tempest, till looking east between the clouds & the waves, we saw a cataract of blood mixed with fire … – (And that would be the birth of Orc, actually. And looking toward east would be looking toward Paris and the French Revolution. So actually it all makes symbolic sense if you either figure it out, or know the history, or read up on all the dictionaries on what he’s doing).
But that would probably be what he means by looking to the east – “…between the clouds & the waves, we saw a cataract of blood mixed with fire.” And later on, when we get to Orc – revolution – in the Book of Urizen (or in any of the other books where Orc is described), we’ll see that globe of blood or “cataract of blood”, or Orc as a bloody flaming birth, which is to say, revolution – a bloody, flaming birth. So here we’re getting Blake’s view of how he views the revolution, emotionally how he reacts to it – was he scared of it or was he.. (does) he conjure it up, actually? And (at) this point he’s conjuring it up as his lot, or as his.. sort of his prayer) – .
“… and not many stones throw from us appeard and sunk again the scaly fold of a monstrous serpent” – Well, that’s a kind of interesting thing. Dig the way the serpent or Leviathan is described:
“…at last to the east, distant about three degrees appear’d a fiery crest above the waves. slowly it reared like a ridge of golden rocks till we discoverd two globes of crimson fire, from which the sea fled away in clouds of smoke, and now we saw, it was the head of Leviathan, his forehead was divided into streaks of green & purple like those on a tygers forehead: soon we saw his mouth & red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward us with all the fury of a spiritual existence.” – (Well, this would be, through the Tory angel’s eyes, the appearance of the French Revolution – this monstrous, reptilian energy coming up out of the sea of time and space. Just as in our own time this would be the reaction – this would be the Cold War Communist phobia, that.. that repitilian panic that has caused us in our own time to spend, what? five hundred billion dollars on monstrous bombs and arms to escape this repitilian historical monster that rises to eat us up!). So this is Blake’s parallel vision of the revolutionary fury of his own time, and the scare it threw into the middle-class and Tories of England of his own day. Such a scare that it was impossible for him to publish a direct vision of (the) French Revolution, praising it, in his own time. For political reasons he had to actually disguise it in symbolic terms, like this. As well as, for poetic reasons, to make it apply to more than the contemporary French Revolution but to his own internal revolution and breakthroughs and to any revolution in the time-cycles of the world. That’s (David) Erdman‘s view.
The Tory view of the Revolution is the fear of hell on earth. And this is the great reptile of hell, which, viewed in present… like, everybody’s familiar with that repitilian fear, aren’t they? The great (fear). Like (William S.) Burroughs says in his book – “I got the fear!” – the fear of something like a mighty authoritarian terrible dominant serpent, rising within us, or in the external world, to grab us and enslave us.
Student: How would that correspond to Urizen’s turning into a jeweled serpent in the Book of Urizen? I think it’s the Book of Urizen.
AG: Yeah, well, it’s the same serpent.
Student: In other words, the same fear….
AG: Well, see, this is the projection of the Tory angel. This vision is the projection of the Tory angel – this is what his vision of the revolution (would be). Blake has a totally different vision of it.
Student: Blake’s Orc
AG: Or has another vision. From the Blakean point of view, this reptile is not the revolution, but is the serpent of materialism, or Urizen – it’s Hobbes… (Thomas) Hobbes’s Leviathan. Now, I don’t know if any of you … Actually this monster, from Blake’s point of view, is the State.
AG: Yeah, well, the State and its repressions. From the Tory point of view, the monster is the fury and the blood of revolution; that’s from the Tory angel. From Blake’s point of view, from the visionary point of view, this is the State – all this anxiety is coming from the State. Or from fixated materialism and Urizenic mind.
to be continued
Audio for the above can be heard here. beginning at approximately nine-and-a-half minutes in and continuing to sixteen-and-a-half minutes in