Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s America – A Prophecy continues from here
“For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise,/But dumb till that dread day when Orc assay’d his fierce embrace/ Dark virgin; said the hairy youth, thy father stern abhorr’d..”
Reed Bye: Isn’t this her father? Being referred to here?
AG: Pardon me?
Reed Bye: This isn’t her father being referred to here?
AG: Yes. Probably, yes – “thy father stern abhorr’d.” Well, see, it’s sort of odd, whether the dark virgin is Enitharmon. He’s working out, see, from Thel,who’s a virgin, who never did get born because she didn’t want to see the grave, to Oothoon, who did struggle to get born, and then finally be the born one, and then there’s a shadowy daughter, still quite a little unborn, and then there’ll be Enitharmon, finally. (She’ll) emerge out of it all, among all the women coming out.
Reed Bye: And who, who….
AG: But as yet he hasn’t worked it out whether it’s his wife or the daughter or the mother. And I’m not sure what this is, actually. But I think….
Reed Bye: Who are (might) the parents of Enitharmon be?
AG: Well, I’m not sure. I’ve got.. see.. He still hasn’t worked out his whole symbolism. He’s just working it out now. So I don’t know who “thy father stern abhorr’d” (is). However, I believe that refers to Los, who is also his father.
Reed Bye: Hmm.
AG: Because it’s his father, Los, poetic imagination, “Rivets my tenfold chains….” Or “thy father”, either way – it’s his father, too. So maybe they’re both children of imagination, in a sense. (Los, being poetic imagination).
“..Thy father/Rivets my tenfold chains while still on high my spirit soars..” – (So he’s still riveted and chained down. Those chains are chains of blood, of jealousy and fear, that will be described in the book (of), Urizen, later on, with a big picture of them, actually. A picture of the three – Enitharmon, Los, and the adolescent Orc in chains of blood.
However, his spirit soars as revolution, as spirit, as nature).
“Sometimes an eagle screaming in the sky..” – (The eagle was genius, remember) – “…sometimes a lion,/ Stalking upon the mountains..” – (The lion is kind of the guardian of the lambs that are being devoured by the wolves, that is to say, devoured by the cruelty of the kings or of nature.) – “Stalking upon the mountains, & sometimes a whale I lash/The raging fathomless abyss”, (sometimes) (“anon”) “a serpent folding/Around the pillars of Urthona, The Tree of Liberty.”- (The pillars of Urthona would be pillars of the imagination (or) the Tree of Liberty, or even maybe the Tree in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge).
“… and round thy dark limbs,/On the Canadian wilds I fold, feeble my spirit folds./For chain’d beneath I rend these caverns..”- (Remember caverns were the interior caverns of the skull, “the cavern’d man”. So he’s actually trying to break out of the heavy materialistic nature that’s been laid on him as a trip).
“… when thou bringest food/ I howl my joy! and my red eyes seek to behold thy face/In vain! these clouds roll to & fro, & hide thee from my sight”. – (Materialistic reason; the “clouds roll to & fro.”)
Then, what have we got.. that… (Allen, leafing through Erdman’s The Illuminated Blake) we’ve seen that plate – Then,
“Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy/The hairy shoulders rend the links, free are the wrists of fire..” – “Fire delights in its own form” – (“and your robes/Still retain their crimson? – Mine never yet faded, for fire delights in its form!”) – remember, in… what was that in?
Student: “The French Revolution”
AG: ..”The French Revolution” “Fire delights in its own form”, as a revolution, as liberty).
“Round the terrific loins he siez’d the panting struggling womb..” – (There’s the revolution beginning).
“It joy’d: she put aside her clouds & smiled her first-born smile;/ As when a black cloud shews its light’nings to the silent deep.” – (The black cloud, remember, would be the cloud of heavy moral law, opaqueness, you can’t see through it, mystery, Urizenic, the Urizenic mind).
“Soon as she saw the terrible boy then burst the virgin cry…” – (so finally, she not.. no longer dumb, nor blind, but she’s wakened up by what she has nourished, nature is wakened by what she has nourished, nature’s wakened by the wild spirit that’s grown up on her, which turns around to copulate with her. And so this is like in “The Mental Traveller”. Remember – “For there the babe is born a boy that was begotten....” She is “taken by”a Woman Old“, who “Catches his shrieks in cups of gold”. Remember that? – There is that thing where “he binds her down for his delight”- “he binds her down for his delight”? – Remember when we were reading “The Mental Traveller”? that interchange? So the same imagery is emerging here. So, actually, you can see it as nature and revolution in “The Mental Traveller”, maybe – or unborn nature wakened by revolution. But it’s revolution of the spirit, actually revolution and liberation of spirit. Not so much political (but there’s the political extrapolation that’s taking place here).
Then, Erdman notes on that… that hairy “terrific loins”:
“Orc, born in 1762, is only potentially free. He is fed but in silence. His spirit soars but his body is chained to the rock. Yet, at puberty, one connotation of the fourteen suns, he has the strength to break his chains, embrace the womb of nature and engender a new and free-limbed Orc in 1776, theory and practice becoming both articulate and alive in the marriage of contraries.”
“The hairy shoulders rend the links, free are the wrists of fire;/ Round the terrific loins he siez’d the panting struggling womb;/ It joy’d: she put aside her clouds & smiled her first-born smile” – (This ritual copulation reunites man and earth and she recognizes the Christ-like seed planted for resurrection “to give me life.”)
Then, what does she say? That’s really interesting – “I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go;/Thou art the image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa..” – (That is to say, the crucified, rebel god of Africa, according to Erdman, the slave that’s been crucified, the naked human form divine and black who’s been crucified). And the picture shows a kind of resurrection (on Plate 2, page 140 m.of the Illuminated Blake ,if you’ve got that.)
“And thou art fall’n..” Thou art the image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa;/And thou art fall’n to give me life in regions of dark death.”
And now she goes through a whole political review of the world revolution:
“On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions/ Endur’d by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:/I see a serpent in Canada, (Fire) who courts me to his love (Energy)./ In Mexico an Eagle,(Air) and a Lion in Peru (Earth) – (He’s got earth, air, fire, and a whale, water, “in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.”)/ “I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.” – (He’s got different elements. The different countries represent different elements – fire for the serpent, air for the eagle, earth for the lion, water for the whale. They all have different symbolisms, too, as animals. But they’re also amazingly parallel to the national symbols, like the Mexican eagle. And the whale in the South Sea refers to rebellions that were taking place in the South Sea at the time. So that was a symbol of that area of earth, which was also in revolution.
“Oh what rending..” – Let’s see now. So this is the political view. “The image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa may be pre-iron Eden” – (Eden before iron, before the iron cups of war and agriculture.. or actually of the nails of the cross, the pre-iron). But this is Erdman‘s idea (about) the image of God. See, she knew him before, back in Eden – “I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go.” – (She’s been asleep, “the shadowy daughter”, “since Jehovah came down with his law and told everybody not to eat the apple of knowledge. So she’s been asleep all this time, but she does recollect the prior state of open nature (or) wakened nature. That’s why she says, “I know thee.” She’s recollecting, see?)
Then, remember in “The French Revolution” he says he’s breaking the mold of six thousand years, ever since the Garden of Eden and the rise of Jehovah, Urizen, the Great Dictator of Heaven.
“O what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & my frost/ Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightnings rent..” – (There he is emerging from the furrow, in the painting (or) picture (of) Plate 2: “Orc, free of chains, crouching in a furrow,” according to Erdman. A “heaven-scaling tendril of ten loops guides us to the text.” A “heaven-scaling tendril of ten loops guides us to the text.”
If you happen to be looking at the text, turn to page 5, on page 143. This is hope scaling to heaven. Notice the serpent, curling down, in a vortex – “Fear moves geometrically downward in a vortex that tapers to nothing, to no return. Hope grows vitally upward in endless communication that expands into words and poetry” in Plate 2. So they’re sort of opposite notions, visually – the tendrils of hope and the vortex of down-pointing fear.
“This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold.” – (Now why does she say that being screwed is eternal death? We just came through that moment. Generative life means eternal death because, it’s just, as in the Buddhist thing, the cause of death is life. Generative life, as it was seen by Thel, meant death when she pictured generation and the worm and the clod told her to look into the grave and she saw her own grave and fled backward to the Vales of Har. So here, however, just as Oothoon was willing to get, as a swan, red-stained by the mud, was willing, as a lamb, to be stained by the smoke of the village, to be stained by experience, so the shadowy daughter, now wakened by spiritual revolution,( nature wakened by man), is willing to experience life and death, both. And so, she says, “I know thee, I have found thee … this is eternal death … this is the torment long foretold.” Nature, so to speak, to die for man’s benefit, for one thing, but unless the seed die (there is no) renewal, actually. So it’s a very sort of demonic way of putting the notion of renewal. This is “eternal death”. This is “the torment long foretold”.
And the “eternal death” later picks up in the book, “Milton”. He picks up “eternal death”. Milton says, “I go forward to the earth, I go to Eternal Death!” That’s what Blake wants Milton to do. He doesn’t want Milton to be solidified in eternal life like an idol impervious to human suffering and joy and energy, a Urizenic solidification or statue. He wants… His idea of (a) human being is to include death and suffering and acceptance of death and suffering. He’s going back to the worm, as in the cyclical picture, going back down to the worm and then being reborn from worm up again, going up through the copulating roots of the tree, up to birth on the ground, swaddling bands, struggling, and then walking about copulating again, giving birth, dying. So Blake is simply accepting nature, with pain. Nature as eternal death, but not being scared of it. Willing, actually. But very furious. I mean, that’s a really furious terror – “To find the Western path/Right thro the Gates of Wrath/I urge my way” is his model for that, or his motto for that.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-three minutes in and continuing till approximately thirty-eight minutes in]