Ginsberg on Blake continues – 72

“The East was Void…” – excerpt from William Blake’s ms. for The Four Zoas – copy in the British Library

Allen Ginsberg’s class at Naropa, Summer 1979 – on William Blake’s The Four Zoas – continues from here

Student:  Yeah.  We wanted to get a view of Albion – Blake’s sort of vision of the human form divine and that’s what things were before this whole mess started falling apart.  And the scheme of the nine nights seem to be the fall of Albion – the giant – into fragmented parts and we sort of see the same stories, told over and over again, in all the different fragmented parts and their perspectives.

There’s one passage in “Night the Sixth” about eight lines, that sort of the bottom of the fall.  On 344 in Erdman.  Page 74, lines 9 -20 or so

“Thus Urizen in sorrows wanderd many a dreary way/Warring with monsters of the Deeps in his most hideous pilgrimage/ Till his bright hair scatterd in snows his skin barkd oer with wrinkles/Four Caverns rooting downwards their foundations thrusting forth” – (These would be the four caverns or Zoas that the form divided into) – “The metal rock & stone in ever painful throes of vegetation/The Cave of Orc stood to the South a furnace of dire flames/Quenchless uneasing. In the west the Cave of Urizen” – (And all these are different places then they would be in the eternal form.  They’ve all shifted places) – “”For Urizen fell as the Midday sun falls down into the West/North stood Urthona’s stedfast throne a World of Solid darkness” – (So imagination’s realm hasn’t moved but has just solidified and has darkened itself)

AG:  And Urizen, fallen down in the west, or fallen down into the body.
Student:  (and), yes, he’s no longer in the southern position or the zenith of his sign which he should be..
AG:  Orc stood to the south, which would be Urizen’s…
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  So revolution is in the place of Urizen.
Student:  And..  let’s see.. – “Shut up in stifling obstruction rooted in dumb despair/ The East was Void” – (which is Tharmas.  Emotion is void.)….”But Tharmas rolld his billows in ceaseless eddies/ Void pathless beat with Snows eternal & iron hail & rain/All thro the caverns of fire & air & Earth. Seeking/ For Enions limbs nought finding but the black sea weed & sickning slime/ Flying away from Urizen that he might not give him food”..  Etcetera. –  (And then, a few lines down at the end of that paragraph( – “But in Eternal times the Seat of Urizen is in the South/ Urthona in the North Luvah in East Tharmas in West..”

AG:  Yeah, he’s just saying it straight out, where it’s all supposed to be.
Student:  Supposed to be.  But…
AG:  Where everybody’s supposed to be in the proper order. So that’s just like a picture of the pits..and all the derangement of the pits, plus a little statement about how it’s supposed to be.

Student:  Yeah, and then in Book the Ninth, Urizen goes back to his place with his plow.
AG:  But interpreting that more literally, that would be that the body is without feeling?
(that) revolution has taken the place of reason – or fury of revolution and revolt has taken the place of order and reason?
Student:  And Blake is disillusioned…
AG:  What happened to Imagination?
Student:  Imagination….
AG:  Well, the solid darkness?
Student:  … (He) doesn’t move at all,  (he) just solidfies, kind of wraps himself in ice and clouds and becomes completely inactive.
AG:  And Luvah?  Where is Luvah?
Student:  Luvah….
AG:  What would Luvah be?  What happened to Luvah?
Student:  There’s a note in Erdman.  Bloom straightens it out with that.
AG:  Uh-huh.  Does it give any … which is Luvah?  Which direction?
Student:  Page eight-seven-five, down at the bottom, there’s a footnote.
AG:  Luvah’s in the East.  Okay, then what’s happening to East?
Student (2):  [reading] “The East was Void..”
Student:  The East was Void.  Emotion’s Void.

AG:  Uh-huh.  Yeah.  Okay, so that would be (a) relatively good account of what happens to a person when he was a nervous breakdown, actually.  I mean, it’s our own personality.  Or to a culture, where the imagination is solidified and black.  Total war.  People’s feelings are completely deadened into paranoia. You could say that’s the acme of the Nazi universe, or a Nazi universe, or some completely fascistic universe, or a militarily-controlled universe.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately nine minutes in and concluding at approximately fourteen-and-a-half minutes in

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