|Yale Center for British Art |
Plate 69, Copy E
"he realized that something profoundly new and disquieting was coming into the world, something with unlimited possibilities for good and for evil, which it would tax all his powers to interpret".
Blake accepted the challenge to interpret the conundrum around him.
If Blake was motivated to address the issues of his own time and the profound changes in the world around him, he did not view these upheavals in isolation. An understanding of the intellectual, social and political crises of his day could not be reached without considering past history and evolving culture. To Blake the development of the Enlightenment and the religion of Deism has its roots in ancient Druid practices of sacrifice.
Perhaps this passage can be seen in the light of a transition of Vala from her Eternal visage of beauty, love and bliss to be a goddess who rules by selfishness, cruelty and sacrifice of others. Urizen is the architect of the bleak and vengeful world which fails to elevate the Divine Humanity to its rightful place in the psyche of man.
It is reason (Urizen) who with the natural world (Vala) establishes an order which values only outer experience at the price of inner development. To Blake a world without imagination is a world of 'eternal despair'.
Jerusalem, Plate 65, (E 216)
"Now: now the battle rages round thy tender limbs O Vala
Now smile among thy bitter tears: now put on all thy beauty
Is not the wound of the sword sweet! & the broken bone delightful?
Wilt thou now smile among the scythes when the wounded groan in the field[?]
We were carried away in thousands from London; & in tens
Of thousands from Westminster & Marybone in ships closd up:
Chaind hand & foot, compelld to fight under the iron whips
Of our captains; fearing our officers more than the enemy.
Lift up thy blue eyes Vala & put on thy sapphire shoes:
O melancholy Magdalen behold the morning over Malden break;
Gird on thy flaming zone, descend into the sepulcher of Canterbury.
Scatter the blood from thy golden brow, the tears from thy silver locks:
Shake off the waters from thy wings! & the dust from thy white garments
Remember all thy feigned terrors on the secret couch of Lambeths Vale
When the sun rose in glowing morn, with arms of mighty hosts
Marching to battle who was wont to rise with Urizens harps
Girt as a sower with his seed to scatter life abroad over Albion:
Arise O Vala! bring the bow of Urizen: bring the swift arrows of light.
How rag'd the golden horses of Urizen, compelld to the chariot of love!
Compelld to leave the plow to the ox, to snuff up the winds of desolation
To trample the corn fields in boastful neighings: this is no gentle harp
This is no warbling brook, nor shadow of a mirtle tree:
But blood and wounds and dismal cries, and shadows of the oak:
And hearts laid open to the light, by the broad grizly sword:
And bowels hid in hammerd steel rip'd quivering on the ground.
Call forth thy smiles of soft deceit: call forth thy cloudy tears:
We hear thy sighs in trumpets shrill when morn shall blood renew.
So sang the Spectre Sons of Albion round Luvahs Stone of Trial:
Mocking and deriding at the writhings of their Victim on Salisbury:
Drinking his Emanation in intoxicating bliss rejoicing in Giant dance;
For a Spectre has no Emanation but what he imbibes from decieving
A Victim! Then he becomes her Priest & she his Tabernacle.
And his Oak Grove, till the Victim rend the, woven Veil.
In the end of his sleep when Jesus calls him from his grave
Howling the Victims on the Druid Altars yield their souls
To the stern Warriors: lovely sport the Daughters round their Victims;
Drinking their lives in sweet intoxication. hence arose from Bath
Soft deluding odours, in spiral volutions intricately winding
Over Albions mountains, a feminine indefinite cruel delusion.
Astonishd: terrified & in pain & torment. Sudden they behold
Their own Parent the Emanation of their murderd Enemy
Become their Emanation and their Temple and Tabernacle
They knew not. this Vala was their beloved Mother Vala Albions Wife.
Terrified at the sight of the Victim: at his distorted sinews!
The tremblings of Vala vibrate thro' the limbs of Albions Sons:
While they rejoice over Luvah in mockery & bitter scorn:
Sudden they become like what they behold in howlings & deadly pain.
Spasms smite their features, sinews & limbs: pale they look on one another.
They turn, contorted: their iron necks bend unwilling towards
Luvah: their lips tremble: their muscular fibres are crampd & smitten
They become like what they behold! Yet immense in strength & power,
In awful pomp & gold, in all the precious unhewn stones of Eden
They build a stupendous Building on the Plain of Salisbury; with chains
Of rocks round London Stone: of Reasonings: of unhewn Demonstrations
In labyrinthine arches. (Mighty Urizen the Architect.) thro which
The Heavens might revolve & Eternity be bound in their chain.
Labour unparallelld! a wondrous rocky World of cruel destiny
Rocks piled on rocks reaching the stars: stretching from pole to pole.
The Building is Natural Religion & its Altars Natural Morality
A building of eternal death: whose proportions are eternal despair"