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

Friday, September 4, 2015


                                                       Library of Congress Detail
                                                  Young's Night Thoughts Page 12
Engraving for book

The 133 pages of the Four Zoas manuscript have the dimensions of about 16 1/2 X 12 1/2 inches which was the size of the book Night Thoughts, published in 1795-6, which Blake was illustrating at the same time he worked on the Four Zoas. During 1795-7 Blake painted 537 watercolors for the publisher Richard Edwards to illustrate a new edition of Night Thoughts

When only one volume containing 43 engraved illustrations had been published, the project was terminated because of changed economic conditions. The 537 watercolors reside in the British Museum where they are available for viewing and downloading. The energy which might have gone into making engravings for more volumes of Night Thoughts was applied to honing the text of the Four Zoas: Blake's tale of the historical and spiritual evolution of man.

Blake found it convenient to reuse engraved proofs as paper on which he composed the Four Zoas. David Erdman tells us that 47 pages of the Four Zoas manuscript bear the engraved illustrations from Night Thoughts. Further inspection shows that it was more than a matter of convenience; there developed symbiosis between Blake illustrating Night Thoughts and composing passages in his poem. Throughout Blake's work we can see the interaction of images and ideas as they influence and are influenced by other works. As he wrote the Four Zoas he found that an image which he had already created related to the myth which was evolving in his poetry. By drawing into his epic the images from Night Thoughts, and applying imagery from the Four Zoas to his illustrations, Blake enhanced both works of art.
British Library
Four Zoas Manuscript
Page 77
Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 77, (E 352)

                   Night the Seventh    

Then Urizen arose The Spectre fled & Tharmas fled
The darkning Spectre of Urthona hid beneath a rock
Tharmas threw his impetuous flight thro the deeps of immensity
Revolving round in whirlpools fierce all round the cavernd worlds

But Urizen silent descended to the Caves of Orc & saw 
A Cavernd Universe of flaming fire the horses of Urizen
Here bound to fiery mangers furious dash their golden hoofs
Striking fierce sparkles from their brazen fetters. fierce his lions 
Howl in the burning dens his tygers roam ill the redounding smoke
In forests of affliction. the adamantine scales of justice       
Consuming in the raging lamps of mercy pourd in rivers
The holy oil rages thro all the cavernd rocks   fierce flames
Dance on the rivers & the rocks howling & drunk with fury
The plow of ages & the golden harrow wade thro fields
Of goary blood the immortal seed is nourishd for the slaughter   
The bulls of Luvah breathing fire bellow on burning pastures
Round howling Orc whose awful limbs cast forth red smoke & fire
That Urizen approachd not near but took his seat on a rock
And rangd his books around him brooding Envious over Orc

Howling & rending his dark caves the awful Demon lay             
Pulse after pulse beat on his fetters pulse after pulse his spirit
Darted & darted higher & higher to the shrine of Enitharmon
As when the thunder folds himself in thickest clouds
The watry nations couch & hide in the profoundest deeps
Then bursting from his troubled head with terrible visages & flaming hair
His swift wingd daughters sweep across the vast black ocean

Los felt the Envy in his limbs like to a blighted tree"

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