Ginsberg on Blake continues -23

William Blake – ms of ” Vala or The Four Zoas” – “end of The First Night”

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake continues from here

AG: Now the plot comes to a point where the narrator intervenes and says – “Now Man was come to the Palm tree & to the Oak of Weeping/Which stand upon the Edge of Beulah & he sunk down/ On the Rock of Ages.” – What does that mean?  Between “the Palm tree & the Oak of Weeping” is annotated variously.  The palm tree is the palm tree of martyrdom, the oak of weeping (is) the oak of error.  I think we’d had that oak of weeping before.  Standing on the edge of the unconscious – Beulah Albion is the man here – the Eternal man. He sank down from the supporting arms of the eternal saviour who disposed the pale limbs of his eternal individuality upon the Rock of Ages.

And that would be, according to Bloom, the furthest reach of the Fall.  The limit of contraction into total solidification. Into the Rock of Ages.  Total opaqueness and solidification, solidity, (a) Urizenic material lump.  Basically, the end of the first night.  This is, in a way, the end of this first night of the Four Zoas.  At least at one time Blake wrote that down at the end of this page.  Bloom says the furthest limit of contradiction and error, or the limit of contradiction and error.  This is as far as you can go in contradiction.

Then – “Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God” – (So that’s the divine family getting together) – “As one Man for contracting their Exalted Senses/They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one/As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man/They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them/Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life/Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime..”

Well, actually here Blake is giving the key to his resolution of it all, though he’ll have to explain who all those “One Man” are, later on.  And Snowdon is associated with Gilead, the peaceful place.  The Bardic mountain in Wales, also, where Welsh bards came.  So it would be some aspect of Urthona or imagination, relating to Snowdon.  Various political commentators say that Snowdon is the place where, in 1797, a lot of English radicals hid out, getting away from repression in central London, during the long continuous wars against France.  When Urizen was fighting Luvah on a political level, a lot of the bards or political radicals went to Wales and hid out near Snowdon.

“Luvah & Urizen contend in war around the holy tent…” –

That was that line about France and England contending war around the Holy Tent.  Line thirteen.

“(the Ambassadors) (Messengers) from Beulah come in tears & darkning clouds/Saying Shiloh is in ruins our brother is sick” –

“Shiloh” is also associated by some commentators with France.  So it’s saying, Shiloh is sick –  “Saying Shiloh is in ruins our brother is sick.” –  The wreckage of the French Revolution.

Apparently,  (from) what I’ve been digging is that various commentators pick up on one theme and then actually work it up. So for the first time in.. through  going through all these (books) with various footnotes, the political element, (as it is) explored by Erdman in his researches (and also as it) penetrates through Bloom’s mind and Alicia Ostriker‘s mind, (and) comes up to the surface with Luvah and Urizen as France and England.

[to Student] Do you know, is there, from the very beginning, a political interpretation of the whole….
Student:  Of the Four Zoas, do you mean?
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  According to?….
AG:  Well, this is the first time.. I’ve noticed commentators beginning to bring in the contemporary political on it.
Student:  No, I don’t think so.  I don’t think you could say that that’s true.
AG: Yeah.
Student:  …only to the extent … well, (Blake’s writings are).. philosophical.  He sort of parodies the philosophical… each of the characters are like the absolute truth that various philosophers …
AG:  Uh-huh.
Student:  … ( that he) latched onto… Like, everything is ..imagination..  between those two, (imagination and philosophy) in philosophical language …
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  … is imitated.  And then, the sort of the way the world gets created – he falls into the political (and) philosophical….
AG:  Once the world is created.
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  … then the political comes forth.
Student:  Then the allegory becomes on the political level as well.
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  If you want to call it that.

AG:  Well, Urizen, at the end of the bottom of the page – “(But) Urizen awoke & Luvah woke & thus conferrd” – And I think Ostriker was pointing that out as the English-French negotiations over the war between 1796 and 1797.  But at that point it becomes like looking into a crystal ball. Unless you know the history well and the text well and the contemporary history well and  it probably does interlock.

Student:  I think the main point, though, is that Blake sees … he sees in the contemporary acts of his time, just as we do.  Or poets today do..
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  You know, prophetic realities that’ll last for all time.
AG:  Yeah.

Student:  It isn’t really the case that you have to know the history, but you have to know that he’s talking about some things so that the reader will say, “God, this is happening all around me”…
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  … here.

AG:  Well, my favorite image for that, at least the Urizenic image, has been just following Blake’s theme out from the Satanic Mill, as I said to Rocky Flats, to the creation of new elements – the Urizenic creation of new elements, and the warring that takes place with those elements.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-five-and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately  seventy-two minutes in

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