Ginsberg on Blake continues – 101

Los and Orc – watercolor by William Blake c.1792-3 – from the Collection of the Tate Gallery, London

Allen Ginsberg’s 1989 Naropa class on William Blake’s The Four Zoas continues from here

AG: Then comes the story of Los binding down Orc on a rock, like Prometheus.  And the same story is told in the Book of Urizen. Basically, let’s see what happens..  Orc plotted his death – line (seven):

“… Los beheld the ruddy boy/ Embracing his bright mother & beheld malignant fires/In his young eyes discerning plain that Orc plotted his death/Grief rose upon his ruddy brows. a tightening girdle grew/Around his bosom like a bloody cord..” – (Jealousy) – “…. in secret sobs”.. – (Actually a good image “tightening girdle” round his bosom).

Student:  It’s in that picture, too.  You can see …
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  (that tightening on his) chest.
AG:  Um-hmm.  I’ll get that out.   I mean, who wouldn’t be jealous of that cute little ass?

“.. in secret sobs/ He burst it, but next morn another girdle succeeds/Around his bosom. Every day he viewd the fiery youth/With silent fear & his immortal cheeks grew deadly pale/Till many a morn & many a night passd over in dire woe/Forming a girdle in the day & bursting it at night/The girdle was formd by day by night was burst in twain/Falling down on the rock an iron chain link by link lockd..” – (Well, iron because that would be Los, forge, hammer, anvil)

“Enitharmon beheld the bloody chain of nights & days” – (The whole universe, actually –  “the bloody chain of nights & days.”) – “Depending” – (hanging) – .”..from the bosom of Los & how with griding pain/He went each morning to his labours with the spectre dark/Calld it the chain of Jealousy. Now Los began to speak/His woes aloud to Enitharmon. since he could not hide/His uncouth plague..”

It’s anxiety – that ‘tightening girdle” is anxiety and hatred and resentment.  Roger Easson interprets this whole situation actually from the interior of the body after the creation of the body as the point where the brain begins to function.

Orc, also, is the shadow of hell or hell shadow.  There’s a beautiful line in Ezra Pound  – “the shadowy flowers of Orcus/ Remember Thee.”   So Orcus” is Greek (Latin) for what?  Hades?

Student:  Hades.

AG:  Limbo.  Hades.  Orc.  Odd.  Or “cor” – corcordium, heart of heart.  Orc – cor – heart.  That was Damon‘s.  Also “Orca” means whale.

Student:  I think it means “behemoth” – it’s, like, large.
AG:  Orca?
Student:  Large animal.  There was no hell concept in Greece
AG:  In what?
Student:  Greece didn’t a hell.  That’s Scandinavian hell.  H-E-L-L.
AG:  Okay, then Hades.  I think Orcus is (a) Greek name, a Greek word.
Student:  Hades is underworld, it wasn’t necessary damnation.
AG:  Yeah, I was saying hell-shadow.

Student:  Why do you think Los would be opposed to Orc?  It seems like….
AG:  No.
Student:  Poetic Imagination and Spirit of Revolution seem like they could work together or they have a lot in common so it seems….
AG:  Well, Poetic Imagination gave birth to the spirit of revolution.
Student:  Uh-huh.
AG:  So they have lots in common.  Orc is Los’s son (a form of Luvah, however – emotional).  However, because it is unbound – the reason he tries to bind it down is because he can destroy everything.  It’s just the fury – the outrage and fury – (like in the French Revolution, when the revolution took place and then the revolutionaries began cutting off each other’s head, until finally Robespierre got it, until finally the revolution took the form of Napoleon and tyranny again).
Student:  Yeah.
AG:  So that without … so it’s like … see, Urizen is missing. Reason is missing. Some sweet Science.,  the sweet Science of Revolution is missing in this triangle.  In fact this outrage or rage or this difficult situation where Los binds down emotion – or imagination has to bind down emotion who wants to destroy everything – that wakens reason.  And so the rest of this chapter is about the wakening of Urizen.  Because Urizen has to come back and take part in this reconstruction.  So actually at this pit – nadir, bottom part, where Urizen is totally bound up and opaque – the screaming of the torment of the revolutionary fury wakens up reason to come back and start functioning again.

Also, as it says here,

“… Los beheld the ruddy boy/Embracing his bright mother & beheld malignant fires/In his young eyes..” – Los “discerned plain” – ( that’s in line eight) – “that Orc plotted his death” – (That Orc was plotting his death, too.  In other words, it would be like Karl Marx, if he were alive, would have been sent to Siberia, or was.  All the early Russian revolutionaries were killed.  The best of the revolutionaries were sent off to Siberia and killed under Stalin Between 1935 and 1953, 20,000,000 Russians were sent to Siberia and 15,000,000 never came back.  In the guise of getting the revolution together.  But actually, according to poets I talked to in Moscow, they said that those were the best revolutionaries.  Those were the original real revolutionaries and it was sort of the party hacks (who remained).

Student:  Fifteen million?

AG:  Fifteen million never came back, yes.  Yes.  That’s what they say in Moscow when they get drunk and they tell you the secrets of what goes on.  So, 20,000,000 sent to Siberia and 15,000,000 never came back.  And the people who did it are still hanging onto their chairs.  That’s a drunken conversation overheard in a Writers Union building in Moscow (in 1965).

“..beheld malignant fires/ In his young eyes discerning plain that Orc plotted his death..” – (Stalin plotted his death – whatever –  who knows?  Hitler?-  whoever it was – The revolution can be either way – it can be great or it can be (a) monstrosity).  In “The Grey Monk” remember, at the end, he says:

“The hand of Vengeance found the Bed/ To which the Purple Tyrant fled/ The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head/And became a Tyrant in his stead.”

In other words, Los is in other words fiery rebellion (and) revolution, but also just pure energy released when things get to the limit.
Student:  Orc.
AG:  Orc.  I’m sorry.  Orc is just pure energy in a way.  As it’s painted there – Marvelous pure energy descending through fires, born.  Yeah.  The burning babe.  None dare touch that form. That’s another line –  “None dare touch that form.”  Frowning form.
Student:  The thing is that Los was “discerning plain” is really an interpretation based on … I mean if you’re taking this on the human scale … the human emotional scale, based on his jealousy.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  I mean, he says …
AG:  Jealousy.
Student:  … plainly the son is going to kill me .. because he’s jealous, in part, so it isn’t, like, pure information we’re getting here.. We’re getting a little bit of bias …
AG:  Yes.
Student:  … talking because of his situation –  He’s being outcast.

to be continued

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

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