Ginsberg on Blake continues – 76

William Blake – Frontispiece to the Book of Ahania (1795), showing Urizen destroying his Emanation Ahania

Allen Ginsberg’s 1978 Naropa class on William Blake’s The Four Zoas continues from here

AG:  Three-twenty-two.  It’s more or less where we left off. Urizen attacked intellectual pleasure and beauty and cast her to earth, and accused her of becoming like Vala, casting her out, denouncing her, saying that – “Thou little diminitive portion that darst be a counterpart/Thy passivity thy laws of obedience & insincerity/ Are my abhorrence.”

What have you become?  he says. – “A sluggish current of dim waters, on whose verdant margin/A cavern shaggd with horrid shades. dark cool & deadly, where/ I laid my head in the hot noon after the broken clods/Had wearied me…” – (Because he had been plowing.) – “… there I laid my plow & there my horses fed”

What does this remind you of?  – I think he’s talking about cunt, actually.

“A cavern shaggd with horrid shades. dark cool & deadly, where/ I laid my head in the hot noon after the broken clods/Had wearied me. there I laid my plow & there my horses fed/ And thou hast risen with thy moist locks into a watry image/ Reflecting all my indolence my weakness & my death/ To weight me down beneath the grave into non Entity..”

Well, in other words, I think he’s rejecting…  though Bloom and others say that the “cavern shaggd with horrid shades” is a phrase of Milton (from “Comus”, actually).

Student:  “Comus”, too, is a pretty sexy book.

AG:  Yeah.   – “So loud in thunders.” – (that’s on line twenty-three) – ” So loud in thunders spoke the King folded in dark despair/And threw Ahania from his bosom obdurate..” – (So he’s separating himself from his Emanation totally now, and getting rid of his Emanation, getting rid of his feminine portion, so to speak, or getting rid of his beauteous portion).

“…She fell like lightning/Then fled the sons of Urizen from his thunderous throne                 petrific/They fled to East & West & left the North & South of Heaven..” – (So they left the place of imagination and reason- East and West – and went to the body and emotion.  Urizen’s sons, or the agents of reasoning, or the agents of sweet Science, went from imaginative and rational spheres to material and passional spheres).

“A crash ran thro the immense The bounds of Destiny were  broken..” – (That’s that mundane shell we were talking about) – “The bounds of Destiny crashd direful & the swelling Sea/ Burst from its bonds in whirlpools fierce roaring with Human voice/ Triumphing even to the Stars at bright Ahanias fall/ Down from the dismal North” – (Imagination’s realm). – ” …the Prince” – (Reason) – “… in thunders & thick clouds”.

Well, so that’s actually – literally – here the Fall of the mind completely into some kind of chaotic state.  Actually from the next few lines:

“Into the Caverns of the Grave & places of Human Seed..” – (So it’s the fall into totally mortal body, to body and womb – “Human Seed” – “Caverns of the Grave” -into human birth) – “Where the impressions of Despair & Hope enroot forever..” – (Into ego, actually.  Speculative ego.  Body and emotions take over) – … Despair & Hope enroot forever/ A world of Darkness. Ahania fell far into Non Entity..” – (Certainly it’s not beyond hope and fear, but it’s into a mortal egoic trip of hope and fear).

Student:  Are Urizen and Ahania falling at the same time, now? Is Urizen going down, too?

AG:  I think Urizen goes down, yeah.  Yes.

Student:  Yeah, he goes.

AG:  Yeah.    Then, on line ten – “Thro the Confusion like a crack across from immense to  immense” – (I like that)- “Loud strong a universal groan of death louder/Than all the wracking elements deafend & rended worse/ Than Urizen & all his hosts in curst despair down rushing…” – Then something happens

“But from the Dolorous Groan one like a shadow of smoke appeard..” – ( The body.  Tharmas awakens) – “And human bones..” – ( Death, the body and its death) – And human bones rattling together in the smoke & stamping/The nether Abyss & gnashing in fierce despair. panting in sobs..”- (at the prospect of death) – “Thick short incessant bursting sobbing. deep despairing  stamping struggling/Struggling to utter the voice of Man struggling to take the features of Man. Struggling/ To take the limbs of Man at length emerging from the Smoke..” – (emerging into form) – … emerging from the Smoke/Of Urizen dashed in pieces from his precipitant fall/ Tharmas reard up his hands & stood on the affrighted Ocean”- (In other words, remember Tharmas was in a watery sea, chaotic.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-nine minutes in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.