Ginsberg on Blake continues – 68

William Blake – ms from Vala or The Four Zoas (1796-1807) – from the British Library

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

AG: What happens next?  Okay.  Urizen’s Emanation is explaining to him how, because of his weak will, a shadow rose  – that’s this God that everybody worshipping, and everybody’s scared of: “If thou withhold thy breath, behold I am oblivion” –  “I perish like a fallen leaf” -which people notice is a little bit like, (or) prefigures, (Percy Bysshe) Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” –  there’s a line in that (in) which Shelley gives himself over to the power of the external wind.

“He ceasd: the shadowy voice was silent, but the cloud hoverd  over their heads..” – (Thought forms hovered (over) their heads –   that is, the Slumberous Man ceased, which is to say, Albion sleeping, ceased his scared prayer)

” … but the cloud hoverd over their heads/In golden wreathes, the sorrow of Man & the balmy drops fell down..” – (I guess tears? ) – “And Lo that Son of Man, that shadowy Spirit of the Fallen One. Luvah..”- (Emotions again) – .”.. descended from the cloud; In terror Albion rose/Indignant rose the Awful Man & turnd his back on Vala” – (So what does that mean?  =-that Luvah descends from that cloud –  emotions descend from that cloud.  Fury, let us say, (or) war, or rage, or anger, descends from that Jehovahic absolute image that Albion had just worshipped (and) scares Albion).

Now, “Indignant rose the Awful Man.” –   Who would that be, “the Awful Man”?  Is that….

Student:  Albion.

Student (2):  Albion.

AG:  Albion?  Albion in an awful state?

Student:  First he’s scared, then he’s indignant.

AG:  Yeah.  Well, terrified and then indignant and (then he) becomes awful (and) turns his back on Luvah’s wife, the world itself, (or) the appearance of the world)

And now Luvah tries to take over Albion, and Albion rejects him. – “Why roll thy clouds in sick’ning mists. I can no longer hide/The dismal vision of mine Eyes, O love & life & light!/Prophetic…’ – (Oh, this is now Ahania talking to Urizen, who’s balking at listening to this horrible story) – “Why roll thy clouds in sick’ning mists. I can no longer hide/The dismal vision of mine Eyes, O love & life & light!/Prophetic dreads urge me to speak, futurity is before me/Like a dark lamp.  Eternal death haunts all my expectation/Rent from Eternal Brotherhood we die & are no more/ I heard the Voice of Albion starting from his sleep/Whence is this voice crying Enion that soundeth in my ears/ O cruel pity! O dark deceit! can Love seek for dominion..” – (So this is Luvah’s attempt to take power – love seeking for dominion) – “And Luvah strove to gain dominion over the mighty Albion/They strove together above the Body where Vala was inclos’d..” – (I suppose that’s the wo.rld – the appearance of the world)  – ” (And) the (dark) Body of Albion left prostrate upon the  crystal pavement/Coverd with boils from head to foot. the terrible smitings  of Luvah..” – (So all that emotion made sick Albion break out with boils).

Student:  He chose affliction.

AG:  Yeah, he chose affliction, and also seen here  directly as totally psychosomatic, a struggle against … well, unfulfilled … some kind of totally emotional outbreak.

Student:  Allen?
AG:  Yes.
Student:  I don’t have it straight here.  “Luvah strove to gain dominion over the mighty Albion.”
AG:  Right.
Student:  “They strove together above the Body (where Vala was inclos’d).”  Whose body is that?

AG:  Well, let’s see now.  Where was … we had that … “Vala shall become a Worm in Enitharmon’s Womb” might be one possibility of interpreting that.  That line on the previous page – line eight -“Vala shall become a Worm in Enitharmon’s Womb.”  So it might be that.  I was wondering about that, too.  Or, I was just interpreting it as the body where Vala was enclosed – I was interpreting it very loosely as the body of the world.  But that doesn’t make sense either.

Student:  The image of the human body really imposing the world and the idea that the world is outside being a delusion is something that Blake picked up on in Vala and there’s an illustration in the Book of Urizen that shows that, isn’t that right?

to be continued

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


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