Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
# 54, The Bard
Disintegration precedes integration; destruction precedes reconstruction. The new world which Blake wished to see made manifest, would be built from the remnants of the world which it replaced. In America Blake introduced Orc as revolution, or the violent removal of the established constraints whose power controlled the lives of men. Avoiding direct accusations against the King and the British Government, Blake used the term Guardian for the political forces who opposed Orc. Urizen was introduced as the controlling force who made it possible for the oppression of the many by the few to be sustained.
America, Plate 14, (E 56) "Then had America been lost, o'erwhelm'd by the Atlantic, And Earth had lost another portion of the infinite, But all rush together in the night in wrath and raging fire The red fires rag'd! the plagues recoil'd! then rolld they back with fury Plate 15 On Albions Angels; then the Pestilence began in streaks of red Across the limbs of Albions Guardian, the spotted plague smote Bristols And the Leprosy Londons Spirit, sickening all their bands: The millions sent up a howl of anguish and threw off their hammerd mail, And cast their swords & spears to earth, & stood a naked multitude. Albions Guardian writhed in torment on the eastern sky Pale quivring toward the brain his glimmering eyes, teeth chattering Howling & shuddering his legs quivering; convuls'd each muscle & sinew Sick'ning lay Londons Guardian, and the ancient miter'd York Their heads on snowy hills, their ensigns sick'ning in the sky The plagues creep on the burning winds driven by flames of Orc, And by the fierce Americans rushing together in the night Driven o'er the Guardians of Ireland and Scotland and Wales They spotted with plagues forsook the frontiers & their banners seard With fires of hell, deform their ancient heavens with shame & woe. Hid in his eaves the Bard of Albion felt the enormous plagues. And a cowl of flesh grew o'er his head & scales on his back & ribs; And rough with black scales all his Angels fright their ancient heavens The doors of marriage are open, and the Priests in rustling scales Rush into reptile coverts, hiding from the fires of Orc, That play around the golden roofs in wreaths of fierce desire, Leaving the females naked and glowing with the lusts of youth For the female spirits of the dead pining in bonds of religion; Run from their fetters reddening, & in long drawn arches sitting: They feel the nerves of youth renew, and desires of ancient times, Over their pale limbs as a vine when the tender grape appears PLATE 16 Over the hills, the vales, the cities, rage the red flames fierce; The Heavens melted from north to south; and Urizen who sat Above all heavens in thunders wrap'd, emerg'd his leprous head From out his holy shrine, his tears in deluge piteous Falling into the deep sublime! flag'd with grey-brow'd snows And thunderous visages, his jealous wings wav'd over the deep; Weeping in dismal howling woe he dark descended howling Around the smitten bands, clothed in tears & trembling shudd'ring cold. His stored snows he poured forth, and his icy magazines He open'd on the deep, and on the Atlantic sea white shiv'ring. Leprous his limbs, all over white, and hoary was his visage. Weeping in dismal howlings before the stern Americans Hiding the Demon red with clouds & cold mists from the earth; Till Angels & weak men twelve years should govern o'er the strong: And then their end should come, when France reciev'd the Demons light. Stiff shudderings shook the heav'nly thrones! France Spain & Italy, In terror view'd the bands of Albion, and the ancient Guardians Fainting upon the elements, smitten with their own plagues They slow advance to shut the five gates of their law-built heaven Filled with blasting fancies and with mildews of despair With fierce disease and lust, unable to stem the fires of Orc; But the five gates were consum'd, & their bolts and hinges melted And the fierce flames burnt round the heavens, & round the abodes of men FINIS"