William Blake continues – 10

Images from William Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1795)

Allen’s 1979 Naropa class on William Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion continues from here and concludes here.

He is utilizing David Erdman’s book, the Illuminated Blake 

AG:  What’s the picture?  Okay, the picture, on page one-thirty-six, is Oothoon liberated, flying on the wings of imagination over the Daughters of Albion who look up with amazed delight.  The opposite (of) remember, Urizen/Bromion on the title page with the bat-wings floating over her. She is now liberated in her imagination and is flying through the air.  So if you compare this with the title page … see?  That is, (on page one-two-seven and page one-three-six), compare the two images, on one you have … here … you have Bromion with his bat-wings, and on the other, on the last page, she’s liberated and flying in the same position, (with the) same wings.

Erdman’s commentary on that’s nice.  (This is page one-thirty-five).  “Wrapped now in flames like Urizen-Bromion in the title page yet bearing a contrary prophetic message, she soars with her arms for wings, is not self-clutching.  The flames are not consuming her – … but flowering out of the shape of her breasts  (as in Plate III).  Her hair blows outward from her head at center.  The Daughters, attentive, are at the water’s edge, but their rock is the highest visible land.”

And, let me see, yeah, there’s a little note in the first copy that Blake ever made.  There’s a note (about it)  by Erdman (beginning on page 135 of the Illuminated Blake. (Blake) made seventeen copies of this, and in some of them he shuffled the pictures around in different order, like a tarot deck.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be in this order.  And in some “this picture of the stormcloud bearing and … ironically defining the ‘soft soul of America,'” –  liberation – “on a verso page, is immediately followed, on the facing recto page, by the usual frontispiece of the seaside cavern from which Bromion looks Westward open-mouthed.  The effect is a confrontation of Oothoon and Bromion that accounts for the intense looks on their respective faces.”

So if you compare this with this [see images above], and make it clearer – he’s looking out this way – Bromion is looking out, his hair on end, staring, and she’s flying toward him, and that’s what he’s looking at, which is making him (nervous), which is freaking him out and putting his hair on end.  So that was Blake’s first take. That was his first arrangement or his first intelligence on the subject. Pretty good.  So it’s like a cyclical thing, it makes the whole book cyclical.  A whole cycle of revolution wakening the terror.

If we understand this, says Erdman, this discovery “will tighten our grasp on the work.”  You may “find the effect of a cycle renewed and experienced that began in innocence” — a cycle, renewed in experience, that began in innocence – “when we compare Oothoon’s expression and the situation here with the spirit of ‘exulting swift delight’ in which she originally ‘wing’d’ over the waves.”

So, the final lines then –  “Does the sun walk in glorious raiment on the secret floor/ Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop/ On his tone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings/Expansion to the eye of pity?…” -(So this is her speech as she’s winging, singing along.  She’s singing, “Doesn’t anybody see?”) –  “…does his eye behold the beam that brings/Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself/Beside the ox to thy hard furrow? Does not that mild beam blot/The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night./ The sea-fowl takes the wintry blast for a cov’ring to her limbs:/And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold./And trees. & birds. & beasts. & men. behold their eternal joy./  Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!/ Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!/ Thus every morning wails Oothoon. but Theotormon sits/Upon the morgin’d ocean conversing with shadows dire./The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs.” –

That’s still going on.  Going on till this very year and day.

So there is actually the heart of present perplexity, too. Actually, it’s all going on in Blake’s own mind, obviously, inside his skull, (as you can see from the title page).  This whole thing is going on within his skull, or my skull, or your skull. The various (emotions) – aggression, (Bromion) –  passion,  (Oothoon) – ignorance, (Theotormon).  If you want to put it into the traditional three poisons of passion, aggression, and ignorance, (all out of phase, in this case). This is the “Visions of the Daughters..” – a situation that’s not in synch, that is out of phase, where passion is brutal, where reason is in a state of brutal passion.  (Pardon me.  Where reason is in a state of brutal aggression  – the rapist slave-holder, master of all, enslaving passion (which is Oothoon) ).  So she becomes hysterical and is promising orgies to the universe. And Theotorment has got a cloud over his mind, he’s jacking off, he just wants to be ignorant,  he doesn’t want to get out into the scene, he doesn’t want to intervene.  And this also is this problem with myself, or yourself, and the prospect of violent revolution.  To know it.  So it’s, like, in a sense, the triple personage there exists in all of us as our own (reality), with one or another of these aspects being our own…

Student:  Symbol.

AG:  … symbol, or nature,  or persona.  Like, I can see one or two Bromion’s around, and I’ll buy it –  I’ll be Theotormon and I wouldn’t mind being Oothoon there.  But everybody has those three within their skull.  And then the whole political universe has those three going on right now.

In fact, you could have seen Bromion as, in fact he looks a little bit like, Ayatollah Khomeini. A little bit.  Or whatever. [Editorial note – Allen is giving this class in 1979, contemporaneous with the Iranian Revolution]  Or I guess Bromion as the SAVAK of the ShahAnd you could see … what is that guy?,  (Shapour) Bakhtiar, hiding his head. The arresting of the Iranian Revolution is Theotormon.  You know, torment. He wants it all to be legal under the constitution.  He wants the change of government to be legal under the constitution.  And then there’s the spirit of liberty bound down to Ayatollah Khomeini, that’s what she’s going to get instead of a happy, happy love.

Student:  Oh, yeah.

AG:  So you can see that in a sense as the psychological arrangement of radical reality right now, as well as our own personal psyche.

So we have a couple minutes left.  So, let’s see, next time we’ll take up America  maybe the Songs of Innocence and Experience, and if we get to page four hundred-and-fifty-eight  for the next couple of minutes before the bell rings.

The Rossetti manuscript is very interesting.  It begins on page four hundred-and-fifty-eight  Those are poems from 1787-1818.  So young stuff that he wrote.

“I fear’d the fury of the wind” – “(I feared that experience that Oothoon was willing to go into the Gates of Wrath (for)) – “I fear’d the fury of the wind/ Would blight all blossoms fair & true/And my sun it shind & shin’d/ And my wind it never blew..”

Peter Orlovsky:  Where are you reading from now?

AG:  I said, page 458.  The beginning of the “Songs and Ballads” from the Rossetti notebook. Page 458; middle of the page. Got it?  Everybody got it?  This is of the basic text of Erdman.

I feared insight, passion, anger, frankness.  The fury of the winds.

“I fear’d the fury of my wind/ Would blight all blossoms fair & true/ And my sun it shin’d & shin’d” –  (Hypocrisy) – “And my wind it never blew – (“Freshness, fresh breeze) – “But a blossom fair or true/ Was not found on any tree/ For all blossoms grew & grew/ Fruitless, false, tho’ fair to see” – (“Fruitless, false tho’ fair to see.” – So it’s just another expression of the same psychological insight into repression of emotion and repression even of wrath. Repression even of irritability and anger and insight, leading to a false, plastic blossom, that’s “(F)ruitless, false tho fair to see.”) –

And then he even attributes it to the little babe on the next page.  It’s a little cradle song, which we’ll get to.

tape and class ends here

[Audio for the above can be heard here , beginning at approximately eighty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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