Ginsberg on Blake continues – 84

Tharmas – “Raging Against Tharmas His God” – William Blake – from A Small Book of Designs (1796) – recast of image from The First Book of Urizen (1794)

Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s The Four Zoas (Night the Fourth) continues from here 

AG: Then, when Tharmas leaves and Los is there all alone in this chaos, Urizen becomes visible to him, line twelve, page fifty-two, Erdman (page) three twenty eight

“Terrified Los beheld the ruins of Urizen beneath/  A horrible Chaos to his eyes..”

What was Urizen?  – “A formless unmeasurable Death..”

Actually we’d had that before in that very weird line a while back.  There was a line about unreasonable, chaotic, contraditory – “… Primeval Chaos and fortuitous concourse of incoherent/  Discordant principles of Love & Hate…” – (“Night the Second”, page 311, line 14, page 27)
So what he beholds there, I assume, is formless unmeasurable death, defined earlier as “… Primeval Chaos and fortuitous concourse of incoherent/ Discordant principles of Love & Hate” – (which is derangement of reason, obviously) – “Whirling up broken rocks on high into the dismal air”

Okay.  So Los starts to work now trying to give a form to this chaos – (“Then Los with terrible hands siezd on the Ruined Furnaces/Of Urizen. Enormous work: he builded them anew/ Labour of Ages in the Darkness & the war of Tharmas” – (“Labour of Ages in the Darkness & the war of Tharmas.”) – “And Los formd Anvils of Iron petrific. for his blows/Petrify with incessant beating many a rock. many a planet…” – (That’s funny.  He gets the planets together that way.  “(M)any a rock.  Period.  And then, an afterthought, almost –   “many a planet.”  In the text.

So that’s Los’s work, to start to get to build this universe.  So it’s actually repeating the earlier architectural fantasy, but here he’s showing how Los is actually doing it, getting Urizen together – (“… tending diligent/The contemplative terror – The last line of the page.  That’s kind of nice –   “… tending diligent/The contemplative terror.”  Urizen is the “contemplative terror” there).

Okay, page fifty-three of Blake, page three-two-nine – “The days & years. in chains of iron round the limbs of  Urizen/ Linkd hour to hour & day to night & night to day & year to  year/ In periods of pulsative furor. mills he formd..” – (It’s like starting the Industrial Revolution).

… & works/  Of many wheels resistless in the power of dark Urthona..” – (Time, clock time and poetic meter is being created here by Los, Urthona, according to Alicia Ostriker).

Now, Enitharmon, who was spiritual beauty, is beginning to suffer in the creation of this meat-clock-time-space universe (from line five to ten).  So: “”The lovely female howld & Urizen begins groaning” (line ten – groaning) – “(groand)/ Deadly between the hammers beating grateful to the Ears/Of Los” – (Because actually he’s mad.  He’s angry, so he’s creating a form out of his anger) – ” … absorbed in dire revenge (he – Los) – ” … drank with joy the cries/ Of Enitharmon & the groans of Urizen fuel for his wrath/And for his pity secret feeding on thoughts of cruelty..”

So, pity – ” The Spectre wept at his dire labours” – (line fifteen) – “…. when from Ladles huge/ He pourd the molten iron round the limbs of Enitharmon..” – (That’s a repeat of that same image of molten iron.  It was Luvah‘s molten iron that was being poured into the furrows by Urizen before, and here Urthona is ladling molten iron around the limbs of spiritual beauty)

“But when he pourd it round the bones of Urizen he laughd/ Hollow upon the hollow wind” – (That’s nice –  “laughd/Hollow upon the hollow wind” –  because he’s building this weird empty form, strange, freak monster form, for what was originally withdrawn into itself as pure reason. Total abstraction.  He’s now bonifying (sic)).

So by line twenty-two – “”The Prophet of Eternity” – (Los) – ” …beat on his iron links & links of brass/Enslavd humanity put on he became what he beheld…” – (So finally the imagination gets involved in its own creation in this very great line of Blake, “Enslavd humanity put on he became what he beheld” – And that really is (how) you cannot behold him till he be revealed in his system.  You really can’t behold evil until you become evil, in the sense that unless you empathize and actually be willing to enter into the state of another, you really can’t understand it.  In other words, if you separate yourself out from the state of another, you really can’t fully understand the junkie’s woe, let us say).

Student:  Isn’t it also..  (it) reminds you of … what it must have cost Blake to write this..
In a sense he became what he beheld and broke down with this.
AG:  Yes.  He became Urizen by making a system out of it all.
Student:  He went through … he must have gone through a tremendous..psychic turmoil just writing this work..
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  With this process, by the process of putting a Los …
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  … shaping this universe, this vision of the universe..

AG:  “Raging against Tharmas his God” – (Raging against the body)  – … (&) uttering/ Ambiguous words blasphemous…”  – (This is Blake here now) – “Raging against Tharmas his God & uttering/ Ambiguous words” – (Certainly these words (and) these lines are ambiguous) – “..blasphemous” – (they’re blasphemous)  – “… filld with envy firm resolvd/On hate Eternal in his vast disdain he labourd beating/The Links of fate link after link an endless chain of sorrows/   The Eternal Mind bounded began to roll eddies of wrath ceaseless/Round & round & the sulphureous foam surgeing thick/ Settled a Lake bright & shining clear. White as the snow/  Forgetfulness dumbness necessity in chains of the mind lockd up…” – (That’s a great line).  And there he’s going back to Urizen, Plate 10, the creation of the self, and here he begins a fantastic passage on the birth of ego.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-nine minutes in and concluding at approximately eighty-three-and-a-half minutes in.


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