Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


There is enormous impact to this plate if it can be experienced in its entirety. On the previous plate the Shadowy Female stated:
"I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames."

and then she:

"rolld her shady clouds
Into the secret place" 
British Museum
Plate 5, Copy D

We can see the large winged figure as the immortal Shadowy Female as she is being transitioned to functioning on earth. Here she becomes involved in the sexual union which will bring forth a child:

"Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house: 
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:"

Enitharmon's crystal house is her womb, and Los's pearly clouds are his semen.

The comet is appropriately presented as the moment when the the male and female lose their distinctions for the mutuality of impregnation.  An entity from beyond the planetary sphere makes its sudden appearance with fiery portent. Blake makes it possible to look at this fiery being as either Orc, Christ or Urizen.

The first lines of Blake's text echo early lines of Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.

Milton, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav'n-born-childe,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;

But Blake soon transitions from the morning of birth to the night when the 'thunders of the deep' are released by the abdication of the rule of Urthona (spirit) to Urizen (reason). What will follow is Blake's explanation of the failure of Christianity to follow the revolutionary path initiated by the entry of Christ into history. Europe is a Prophecy because Blake attempts to show his audience the way Christianity deviated form the message of Christ, and how the conditions we experience are the consequences.

Europe, Plate 3, (E 61)
                    "A PROPHECY

     The deep of winter came;                                    
     What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:
War ceas'd, & all the troops like shadows fled to their abodes.

Then Enitharmon saw her sons & daughters rise around.            
Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house:
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:
Thus speaking while his num'rous sons shook their bright fiery wings

Again the night is come 
That strong Urthona takes his rest,                              
And Urizen unloos'd from chains                                  
Glows like a meteor in the distant north
Stretch forth your hands and strike the elemental strings!
Awake the thunders of the deep."

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 59, (E 340) 
"Where is Sweet Vala gloomy prophet where the lovely form
That drew the body of Man from heaven into this dark Abyss� fields
Shew thy soul Vala shew thy bow & quiver of secret fires

Draw thy bow Vala from the depths of hell thy black bow draw 
And twang the bow string to our howlings let thine arrows black
Sing in the Sky as once they sang upon the hills of Light
When dark Urthona wept in torment of the secret pain

He wept & he divided & he laid his gloomy head
Down on the Rock of Eternity on darkness of the deep             
Torn by black storms & ceaseless torrents of consuming fire
Within his breast his fiery sons chaind down & filld with cursings

And breathing terrible blood & vengeance gnashing his teeth with pain
Let loose the Enormous Spirit in the darkness of the deep
And his dark wife that once fair crystal form divinely clear     
Within his ribs producing serpents whose souls are flames of fire

But now the times return upon thee Enitharmons womb
Now holds thee soon to issue forth. Sound Clarions of war
Call Vala from her close recess in all her dark deceit
Then rage on rage shall fierce redound out of her crystal quiver 

So sung the Demons round red Orc & round faint Enitharmon 
Sweat & blood stood on the limbs of Los in globes. his fiery Eyelids
Faded. he rouzd he siezd the wonder in his hands & went
Shuddring & weeping thro the Gloom & down into the deeps

Enitharmon nursd her fiery child in the dark deeps              
Sitting in darkness. over her Los mournd in anguish fierce
Coverd with gloom. the fiery boy grew fed by the milk
Of Enitharmon. Los around her builded pillars of iron"
These are the inscriptions which were chosen from Edward Bysshe's The Art of English Poetry. All are directed toward understanding events alluded to in the text and images as parallel to the cataclysmic entry of a comet as sign of change to come.

A Comet

Right margin:
Like some malignant
Planet that lowrs
upon the world.

These three quotes appear at the bottom of the plate:
He, like a Comet, burnd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge
In th' Arctick Skye; and from his horrid hair
Shakes Pestilence and war. ___

As the Red Comet from Saturnius sent
To fright the nations with a dire portent
With sweeping Glories glides along in air
And shakes the sparkles from his blazing hair.

Comets imparting change to times and states
Brandish your golden tresses in the Skies.

The Blake Archive gives further information on the source of the quotes:
"This pen and ink inscription appears in the margin to the right of the image. The lines are condensed from Nicholas Rowe, The Fair Penitent (1703), Act 3, Scene 1, lines 6-8. These lines are printed in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry, under the heading "Planet."
"This pen and ink inscription appears below the image. The first four lines are quoted from John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), Book 2, lines 708-10. The next four lines are quoted from Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad (1715-20), Book 4, lines 1-3, 104, 107, 108. The final two lines are adapted from William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part I (1598), Act I, Scene 1, lines 2-3. All three passages are printed in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry, under the heading 'Comet.'"  


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