AG (reading from Blake): “The doors of marriage are open..” – (The revolution has begun. The doors of marriage are open. Sex-Lib has begun) – “… and the Priests in rustling scales/Rush into reptile coverts, hiding from the fires of Orc,/That play around the golden roofs in wreaths of fierce desire,/Leaving the females naked and glowing with the lusts of youth”
So we have that there, actually, in Plate 15. According to (Foster) Damon, the picture on the bottom of the page is females cowering in nature, somewhat of lust, but it’s also the beginning of the wakening of the female. The beginning of the opening of the door of marriage, the wakening of the female.
“For the female spirits of the dead pining in bonds of religion;/ Run from their fetters reddening, & in long drawn arches sitting:/They feel the nerves of youth renew, and desires of ancient times,/Over their pale limbs as a vine when the tender grape appears.”
And that’s perfectly illustrated by this, if you’ll notice, on Plate 15, you dig, “females naked and glowing with the lusts of youth.” But there’s “desires of ancient times” depicted on the bottom. This is page 153 of the illustrations.
A single woman on the extreme right (is) crouching, holding her arms over her head. Three ladies (are) cowering together. Then a grape vine, then one (woman) beginning to rise upward into a woman-tree in the middle of the page, (like Daphne, half-nature, half-woman). In other words, from (the_underground, underground desire rising, taking shape, growing until you have, towards the top of the page, a woman born above the ground, sitting, pining in the bonds of religion.
(This is), according to Foster Damon – and Erdman is very funny on this plate. He says: “Here, at this point the poem gets so excited that it makes almost as much use of pictures as of words.” – And this is one of the most excited pieces of writing-picturing, because almost every sentence, every line, has some little funny cartoon figure on it, illustrating the words (and) illustrating the conceptions. And we can’t go through all of them, but one I’ll point out that is excellent, in line three. Let’s see. Yes. Line two:
“Across the limbs of Albions Guardian, the spotted plague smote Bristols/And the Leprosy Londons Spirit, sickening all their bands..” – (And next to “Bristols” is a liberated horse, according to Damon. A “liberated horse, flying in the wind, bearing news that Albion guardian is collapsing.” And under that phrase a man and a boy greet each other on the bracket built of the “D” of London’s. You’ll notice, there’s all sorts of little tiny celebratory charming figures- birds, relating to liberated language and spirit.
Now there’s something really interesting about this, because this is the moment of the growth of the revolution, like the birth of the revolution from the feminine womb. And you’ll notice that if you start from the lower left it moves around, all the way up and around to the right, from underground, to birth, to flowering in the tree, right? Moving from (the) right (on_the bottom of the page), left, and then upward. From underground, through roots, to a flowering.
AG: You got it? Remember, we had exactly the same thing in the opening page, on page 139 of the Erdman illustrations. From (the) womb to Orc‘s birth (on page 139, Plate 1k of America) Dig the same parallel, from underground up through the roots? In other words, hidden feeling, basically. Fear of death, hidden feeling, repression, and up through the rooted half-human roots, to (the) actual birth of Orc chained to the ground and his mother and father seeing his suffering. Okay? So it’s just an interesting parallel.
So Erdman suggests that you read it as a cartoon, progressing from the bottom right to the upper left. “The thawing combination of flames, ripening grapes, and females naked and glowing”. And then, when we get up to Daphne, (it’s) a “Daphne dendrifying beside an enrooting child, finally on the earth’s surface a small, clothed female still “pining in bonds of religion.” Right? So we’re approaching the conclusion now.
Student: That bird above her head looks like it’s ready to take off and that’s what it’s saying, the Holy Spirit.
AG: Well, yes, it’s an eagle. (It) looks up. The eagle of genius looking up into the sky, ready to take off. It’s a tradition.. Blake’s traditional eagle, which is genius or inspiration, which is at the very top of the leafy growth of the leafage that’s come up from underground.
So that makes it a little more clear. Literally, the female spirits of the dead, “pining in bonds of religion”. That’s at the bottom of the page, (where they) “(r)un from their fetters, reddening and in long drawn arches sitting/ They feel the nerves of youth renew” – (and “the nerves of youth” are all these roots, literally. It’s like the renewing of the nerves). – “And “desires of ancient times/ Over their pale limbs as a vine when the tender grape appears.” (So you’ve got the vine and the tender grapes at the bottom left).
“Over the hills, the vales, the cities, rage the red flames fierce;/The Heavens melted from north to south; and Urizen…” – (who’s named here again. Your-reason) – “..who sat/Above all heavens in thunders wrap’d, emerg’d his leprous head/ From out his holy shrine, his leprous head/From out his holy shrine, his tears in deluge piteous/Falling into the deep sublime! flag’d with grey brow’d snows/and thunderous visages, the jealous wings wav’d over the deep..”
Audio or the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-seven and a half minutes in