Plate 14, Copy D
"Them to a Dungeons depth I sent, fast bound, Where stow'd with snakes and adders now they lodge,
The rats brush oer their faces with their tails, And croaking Paddocks [frogs or toads] crawl upon thier limbs.
With the help of David Erdman's Blake: Prophet Against Empire, the imagery of Plate 14 becomes clearer. Much of this information is found in Chapter 9, Seeking the Trump of Doom, particularly pages 212-218.
On Plate 14 Blake has used historical data to provide the framework for his commentary on the human condition. A proclamation was issued by England's George III in cooperation with his prime minister William Pitt in 1792 against 'divers wicked and seditious writings.' Pitt was able to force the Chancellor Thurlow from his position because of his mild criticism of this proclamation.
Blake both concealed and revealed his reaction to the Proclamation on Plate 14 of Europe. Erdman tells us that when Blake wrote the following lines he was referring to the dismissal of Chancellor Thurlow by Pitt from his position which included Keeper of the Seal and Guardian of the King's Conscience.
"Above the rest the howl was heard from Westminster louder & louder: The Guardian of the secret codes forsook his ancient mansion,"Blake also is referring to Thurlow when he mentions 'furr'd robes & false locks' which were removed before 'he fled Groveling along Great George Street thro' the Park gate.'
Erdman tells us that, "Historians agree with Blake that this Proclamation began England's 'black era of reaction and coercion'" (Page 216). The Proclamation was issued a second time in 1794 linking it to a formal calling out of the militia . Blake's allusion to these circumstances is contained in these words:
"The youth of England hid in gloom curse the paind heavens; compell'd Into the deadly night to see the form of Albions Angel Their parents brought them forth & aged ignorance preaches canting, On a vast rock, perciev'd by those senses that are clos'd from thought:"Blake considered that the combination of suppression of speech, and the dedication of troops and weaponry to an undeclared war, represented the intention of the government to restrict liberty and confine England in an unpleasant dungeon not of her choosing.
The restrictions and deprivations which the people endured were reflected back upon the government which decreed them. The king was caught between the false rationality of Urizen's fearfulness and the demand for change from fiery Orc. His refuge was retreat into the despair of his own periodic mental illness.
Europe, Plate 12, (E 64) "And the clouds & fires pale rolld round in the night of Enitharmon Round Albions cliffs & Londons walls; still Enitharmon slept! Rolling volumes of grey mist involve Churches, Palaces, Towers: For Urizen unclaspd his Book: feeding his soul with pity The youth of England hid in gloom curse the paind heavens; compell'd Into the deadly night to see the form of Albions Angel Their parents brought them forth & aged ignorance preaches canting, On a vast rock, perciev'd by those senses that are clos'd from thought: Bleak, dark, abrupt, it stands & overshadows London city They saw his boney feet on the rock, the flesh consum'd in flames: They saw the Serpent temple lifted above, shadowing the Island white: They heard the voice of Albions Angel howling in flames of Orc, Seeking the trump of the last doom Above the rest the howl was heard from Westminster louder & louder: The Guardian of the secret codes forsook his ancient mansion, Driven out by the flames of Orc; his furr'd robes & false locks Adhered and grew one with his flesh, and nerves & veins shot thro' them With dismal torment sick hanging upon the wind: he fled Groveling along Great George Street thro' the Park gate; all the soldiers Fled from his sight; he drag'd his torments to the wilderness. Thus was the howl thro Europe! For Orc rejoic'd to hear the howling shadows But Palamabron shot his lightnings trenching down his wide back And Rintrah hung with all his legions in the nether deep Enitharmon laugh'd in her sleep to see (O womans triumph) Every house a den, every man bound; the shadows are filld With spectres, and the windows wove over with curses of iron: Over the doors Thou shalt not; & over the chimneys Fear is written: With bands of iron round their necks fasten'd into the walls The citizens: in leaden gyves the inhabitants of suburbs Walk heavy: soft and bent are the bones of villagers Between the clouds of Urizen the flames of Orc roll heavy Around the limbs of Albions Guardian, his flesh consuming. Howlings & hissings, shrieks & groans, & voices of despair Arise around him in the cloudy Heavens of Albion, Furious"Blake returnd to the incident of Thurlow's dismissal in Milton:
Milton, Plate 8, (E 102) "Michael contended against Satan in the rolling thunder Thulloh the friend of Satan also reprovd him; faint their reproof. But Rintrah who is of the reprobate: of those form'd to destruction In indignation. for Satans soft dissimulation of friendship! Flam'd above all the plowed furrows, angry red and furious, Till Michael sat down in the furrow weary dissolv'd in tears Satan who drave the team beside him, stood angry & red He smote Thulloh & slew him, & he stood terrible over Michael Urging him to arise: he wept! Enitharmon saw his tears But Los hid Thulloh from her sight, lest she should die of grief She wept: she trembled! she kissed Satan; she wept over Michael She form'd a Space for Satan & Michael & for the poor infected[.] Trembling she wept over the Space, & clos'd it with a tender Moon Los secret buried Thulloh, weeping disconsolate over the moony Space But Palamabron called down a Great Solemn Assembly, That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelled to Defend a Lie, that he may be snared & caught & taken"