Ginsberg on Blake continues – 38

“Luvah was cast into the Furnaces of affliction & sealed..” ( from William Blake’s ms of The Four Zoas)

Allen Ginsberg’s class on William Blake’s The Four Zoas continues from here 

AG (reading from Blake):  “Their eyes their ears nostrils & tongues roll outward  they behold/What is within now seen without they are raw to the hungry wind/ They become Nations far remote in a little & dark Land/The Daughters of Albion girded around their garments of Needlework/ Stripping Jerusalems curtains from mild demons of the hills/Across Europe & Asis to China & Japan like lightenings/They go forth & return to Albion on his rocky couch…”

And then a list of the twelve Daughters of Albion –  Emotions of the intestines, Ulro emotions, or enemies of Jerusalem, according to Ostriker – “Gwendolen Ragan Sabrina…” – (that would fit with that Sabrina of Severn) – “…Gonorill Mehetable Cordella/Boadicea Conwenna Estrild Gwinefrid Ignoge Cambel/ Binding Jerusalems Children in the dungeons of Babylon/They play before the Armies before the hounds of Nimrod..” – (Nimrod the first hunter of men) – “While The Prince of Light on Salisbury plain among the druid stone” – (that’s the Prince of Light “Rattling the adamantine chains & hooks” at Stonehenge, which Blake saw as the Druid place of sacrifice, and also a place of rationalistic outlining and diagramming of the universe, of the stars and course of the sun, so it would be linking up Newtonian astronomy with Druidic astronomical exactitude and rationalism, and human sacrifice).

Student:  No, I think that gives the clue to what Reuben and Levi are doing here, because as sons of Jacob, with Jacob they were the ones who accompanied him to Egypt and began …
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  … and began the Egyptian (enslavement), or whatever you want to call it …
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  … bondage, which Moses led them out of.  And this says, like that’s what’s happening in the rest of the paragraph.

AG:  Um-hmm.     Now, Luvah, on line forty, goes through a refinement through hell – “Luvah was cast into the Furnaces of affliction & sealed” –  (“The furnaces of affliction”, according to Bloom, are intellectual systems, and that makes sense.  And the phrase originally comes from Isaiah.  Did we say that Reuben and Levi were from Jacob? I’ve forgotten.  Sons of Jacob?  Yeah, oh, I see.  Now I remember where I saw that.  Chapter forty-eight of Isaiah – “Hear ye this oh house of Jacob which art called by the name of Israel” is the beginning.  So this is an address, in Isaiah, to Reuben and Levi of the house of Jacob, that, because of the transgressions of Israel, or of the people -“Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver.  I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” – that suffering and affliction are going to be Jehovah’s way, or the Lord in the Bible, his way, of purifying Luvah, purifying the emotions).

And so that’s where Reuben and Levi would come in, because Blake, I guess at that point was modelling himself on mythology out of Isaiah, and that’s Chapter forty-eight in Isaiah.  I wondered where I saw those two.  So they fit there, near the “furnaces of affliction’.  As we had before, Luvah was cast into wedges, I think, in Book One.

“And Vala fed in cruel delight, the furnaces with fire” – (And Ostriker interprets “Vala fed in cruel delight” – that nature feeds these fires of affliction, Vala, or the appearance of phenomenal world and the beauty of the phenomenal world and its corruption. feeds the furnaces of affliction with fire.

Then there is the voice of Luvah from the furnace of affliction, from the furnace of Urizen, on page twenty-six, (page three-eleven). There’s a long, long beautiful outline in Luvah’s song.

Before that, she hears his howlings.  The natural universe hears the howlings of emotion – ‘ … & forgot he was her Luvah/ With whom she walkd in bliss, in times of innocence & youth..”

And so Luvah now sings.  In a way it’s the sufferings of emotion put into the body of the natural man, but it’s his outline of development of material nature, through various stages, beginning with – “If I indeed am Vala King & ye O sons of Men/The workmanship of Luvahs hands; in times of Everlasting/ When I calld forth the Earth-worm” – (mortality) – “…from the cold & dark obscure/I nurturd her I fed her with my rains & dew, she grew/A scaled Serpent…” – (interpreted, as (in the) beginning the worm is mortality), the “scaled Serpent” as a jealousy)

“…yet I fed her tho’ she hated me/ Day after day she fed upon the mountains in Luvahs sight/ I brought her thro’ the Winderness, a dry & thirsty land/ And I commanded springs to rise for her in the black desart/ (Till) she became a Dragon winged bright & poisonous..” – (which Bloom interprets as a full-grown tyranny of nature, from the mortal worm to the jealous serpent, wanting to drive out any other inspiration, to a totally all-encompassing dragon-consciousness –  “a Dragon winged bright & poisonous.”)

“I opend all the floodgates of the heavens to quench her thirst’ – (which is parallel to “Mighty was the drought of Voidness to draw existence in.”) – “And I commanded the Great deep to hide her in his hand/Till she became a little weeping Infant a span long” – (Now, who was that?  The little weeping infant.  That would be…)

Student:  Vala.

AG: ….Vala.

“I carried her in my bosom as a man carries a lamb..”

This also parallels some of the changes in “The Mental Traveller”, if any of you checked out “The Mental Traveller”. Some of the rhetoric and also some of the changes back and forth between the babe being born and taken by a lovely woman who then becomes an old woman, and then later she becomes a little babe.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-six-and-a-half minutes in and continuing till approximately forty-five minutes in

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