Countering the Beast and the Whore: Revolution as Revelation
In February 1979, the great American poet and writer Allen Ginsberg gave a series of remarkable lectures on the prophetic books of William Blake, providing teachings and commentary on their meaning. They were delivered to the students at the Naropa Institute (Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado.
This is an edited version of his lectures on Blake’s prophetic work America a Prophecy, which explores themes of empire, liberation, terror, the role of prophetic anger, and the centrality of imagination in the struggle to envision and to realise a better world.
Introduction: The Beast and the Whore
AG: In May 1793, the British government had passed a law “against diverse, wicked, and seditious writings.” And Blake in June 1793 says in his little journal, “I say I shan’t live five years, and if I live one it’ll be a wonder” (June 1793). Five years later, in his annotations on Richard Watson’s An Apology for the Bible (1797), he was to write: “To defend the Bible in this year, 1798, would cost a man his life. The beast and the whore rule without control.”
So actually, he was going through a lot of political and personal crisis when he did it. And so, this is his way of putting it out in symbols, both the revolutionary fervour that he felt, (and his perceptions), as well as the worries he felt about his own position – that is to say, fear of counter-revolutionary terror in England, fear of persecution, as well as wonder if his revolutionary impulse had been pure enough, or if a revolutionary impulse was realistic, or a faith.
In other words, all the conflicts that he would have with revolution, counter-revolution, and terror within the revolution, are all symbolized in this book, beginning in the Preludium, which is written after the book was done. It’s sort of a continuation of Rousseau‘s statement from The Social Contract, which was published in 1762 (fourteen years before the American Revolution). Rousseau’s Social Contract said “Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains.” So this is the book of man breaking out. Just as in the last book (Visions of the Daughters of Albion), where Theotormon didn’t break out but Oothoon did, now the spirit of revolution is born and the masculine effort to break free and liberate nature is going to be outlined in here.
The background of some of this, according to Erdman, is the Ossianic poems of James Macpherson – those were the large, bombastic, Ginsberg-ian rhetorical poetries of a century before, that much influenced Blake toward the heroic style, as well as Rousseau’s ideas – as well as a poem by Thomas Gray called The Descent of Odin, which has some parallel features, but is more kitsch. It’s less philosophically penetrant, but Blake adapted some of Thomas Gray’s Descent of Odin, some of the names. I think “Oothoon” comes from that, also.
Actually, there is some interesting background on that, just detail. Orc’s red eyes come from Ossian, the heroes in Ossian. The Norse Eddas supplied material that Gray turned into English poetry and then Blake picked up on the Edda material. That was the Norwegian epic material that Gray had chewed over for English.
And in The Descent of Odin there is an unnamed prophet made awakened by Gray’s Odin in “realms of night” … “mother of a giant brood”, a “fierce embrace” in Western caves (“in the caverns of the West”), a “wondrous boy”…”Lok has burst his tenfold chain” comes from Gray’s Descent of Odin. And Mark Schorer, incidentally, has a lot of that in his book William Blake – The Politics of Vision.
A Prophecy of America: The Preludium
So this is the beginning of Blake’s Orcan phase, when he goes into Orc, or revolution. Orc, the fiery babe. It begins: “The shadowy daughter of Urthona stood before red Orc./When fourteen suns had faintly journey’d o’er his dark abode” – Fourteen suns are the years 1762 – the year of Rousseau’s Social Contract – to the American Revolution, 1776. If you’re interested in that funny little detail. He was writing of his time and he was counting up what was happening in his day – “The shadowy daughter of Urthona” – now, this woman, who’s a shadowy daughter, will speak like Oothoon.
We’ve just had The Visions of the Daughters of Albion, where we’ve seen Oothoon frustrated somewhat. She hasn’t been allowed to have a full, liberated, birth. Oothoon is also ‘Nature’, so she’s still a shadowy daughter, say, or not completely born, in the sense that she’s still chained back-to-back with Bromion, who sort of represents the heavy critical mind. And the masculine spirit, Theotormon, still hasn’t woken up to relate to her. So, in slight change, this may be Oothoon – “the shadowy daughter of Urthona”. Urthona is imagination and Orc is a figure that will come up increasingly in Blake, and this is his first big appearance. So let’s follow in, and then we’ll get a little bit more into exactly who Orc is, and who Urthona is, and who “the shadowy daughter” is.
But, “the shadowy daughter”, basically, is unawakened nature, or nature not complete aroused, or fallen nature. That is, there once was, maybe, a Garden of Eden, but people are now stuck in the vegetable world and unawakened. So it’s sort of blind nature. If you remember in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – “Where man is not nature is barren.” Remember that? – “Where man is not nature is barren.” So Orc would be the man, and Urthona would be the barren nature. But she’s trying to wake up Orc. But Orc is only fourteen years old. He’s just getting puberty. He’s attaining puberty. He has been nourished by nature; she’s been giving him drinks in cups of iron.
“His food she brought in iron baskets, his drink in cups of iron …” – Well, all that iron baskets and cups of iron, that could be food but also weapons, because iron is for the plough, remember? The plough is made from iron. And at the same time it could be iron made weapons of conflict and warfare.
“Crown’d with a helmet & dark hair the nameless female stood ,..”- She still isn’t recognized yet, so she’s nameless. She hasn’t got a function, she hasn’t been fecundated yet.
“A quiver with its burning stores, a bow like that of night,/When pestilence is shot from heaven; no other arms she need …” – Erdman interprets the quiver’s “burning stores” as social starvation actually, starvation in London at the time. Poverty and starvation, caused by war, by excessive preparations for war. For war. Very much like Iran now [1979 – sic]. The iron preparations for war have caused the decline of farming and massive poverty in Iran, despite the wealth that was being spent for iron weapons. So Iran in a sense has “A quiver with its burning stores, a bow like that of night,/When pestilence is shot from heaven.”
“Invulnerable tho’ naked, save where clouds roll round her loins …” – Clouds, as we remember, were the clouds of reason and law – rational law, heavy Urizenic law. So “clouds roll round her loins.” It’s pretty. He’s building up a vocabulary, so that later on, in the prophetic books, like almost over word, or every major word, will have an esoteric meaning.
“Clouds roll round her loins”, ”Their awful folds in the dark air”, “silent she stood as night …” – This is dumb nature. Nature dumb. That is to say, silent – “For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise./But dumb till that dread day when Orc assay’d his fierce embrace.” – So this is life before the revolutions. Social life or nature unawakened by revolution by Orc. So this is the opening is a sort of statement of the scene as human nature before the breakthrough of revolution.
The illustrations to America a Prophecy will have a bit of … odd stuff. In Plate 1 you have “she clothed and confident that her kiss will wake him” illustrated on the bottom. So that’s … I guess that would be “the shadowy daughter” trying to wake up Orc, who has a kind of adolescent face there.
And then above, the title: America a Prophecy, which Erdman points out is “In the mental realm of the prophetic cloud” – “the mental realm of a prophetic cloud” – It is a cloud and so it’s sort of the thoughts above – the thoughts rising. Like the balloon on a comic strip. And you can read all that you want, but there’s a little, there’s one little figure pointing up to the “R” of America, pointing out to the title, another little figure going up, pointing out to enter into the book, flying up under the “A”: “a female and male philosopher are assisted by a page-turning child and three naked youths toward the reading of this prophecy” (Erdman).
So, ok, then, on the facing page, the first actual plate, an interesting cycle. Under the ground, unborn yet, there’s the worm. “The worm of sixty winters” with six loops”. You see the six loops of the worm on the bottom?
The “worm of sixty winters”, according to Erdman. Then, to the left, that probably is … I think it is Orc chained up on the ground, and maybe Orc’s spirit waiting for birth on the bottom, or… Then there seems to be the roots copulating, semi-human, above. From the worm at the bottom to the roots copulating, giving birth underground, to the birth of Orc on the ground but chained to the ground still, “the shadowy daughter”, looking at him (and weeping somewhat, or trying to wake him up, or reacting to him), “in the guise of an American Indian”, it says. Erdman is pointing out that, for this particular purpose, “the shadowy daughter” is dressed like an American Indian girl, an Indian maid, somewhat.
Los, the guy with his hands upraised, looking at the horror to come, this fiery revolution that’s going to get born out of the earth, coming from the worm, that’s Los, or the poetic imagination when poetic imagination is needed because the earth has fallen and is separated and is sundered. So Urthona, the complete imagination, has to have a sort of active representative in the fallen world, in the lost world, and so that’s Los – L-O-S. Poetic imagination struggling to get through samsara and to get to unify the entire being. Yes?
Student: What does the six and the sixty symbol (mean)?
AG: “A worm of sixty winters”. Remember “Four score years…”? A man.
AG: Blake has a phrase, “a worm of sixty winters,” describing man. “What is man but a worm of sixty winters.”
Student: Like the lifespan at that time?
AG: Yes. Sixty years. Sixty years. So here’s six (coils).
Then Erdman says, “If we hurry from the headless ‘worm of sixty winters’ (six coils) to the human form underground, sitting up but self-clutching” – (dig!) – and then move on up, “we see ‘human bodies or torsos twining and rising but becoming less animal than vegetable, to emerge from the ground as a willow tree that must remain rooted to exist. Yet on the grassy surface lies a lusty young man who can look and speak up….’ – He is kind of good-looking and muscular. That’s the young revolutionary Orc. But “he is chained in crucifixion to the rock” still, “like the black rebel in Blake’s engraving of ‘The Execution of Breaking on the Rack’. That would be interesting to see that. That would probably be in the book by Lawrence Binyon. ‘The Execution of Breaking on the Rack’ Who has the Binyon book? Yeah. Check that up. It’s probably an engraving or illustration he did for a slave book.
AG: (reading from David Erdman’s Illuminated Blake) – “That humans can stand up we see next in the Eve and Adam under the tree of paradise…” So, Los and the shadowy daughter are Adam and Eve.
However, they “hear the youth’s cry and turn back and look”….”This ironic sequence may seem to trap hope, risen from the worm, and send it back to the worm.” – A cycle, which we’ll get into later on, when, after Orc gets up and fucks the shadowy female, she says, “This is Eternal Death, and this the torment, long foretold!” – because being fucked she’s going to give birth, giving birth she’s going to give birth to death. In other words, whatever is born is going to die. Just like Thel was afraid to get born for fear of going into the grave, so is the shadowy female, who was really Thel, then she gets into Oothoon and does get born and does get raped, and now she’s here. In order to go through to maturity, she’s being screwed by the wrath of revolution. In order to break through the chains of cold reason, or the chains of heavy law, in order to attain liberation she’s got to be screwed by revolution. To be screwed by revolution means she’s got to experience death, (birth and death). And so this is the eternal death. This is the serpent “long foretold”.
And so on this cycle, on this page, you begin with the worm and you go all the way around, from man to worm, and man to worm back again. So it’s just different phases of the same cycle, as it’s shown in this circular motion of the picture. As the willow tree will weep, as the tree leans its boughs down back to the earth. So it’s, like, a whole cycle that he’s giving out. And you find, in the last line, “In vain!” Being born, “in vain”. The revolution, “in vain”.
And right at Orc’s foot – Orc the guy lying down, chained down – is a little three-coil miniature of the larger worm, (if you were interested in tiny detail), below Orc’s right foot. Well, we’ll get into it now.
“For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise,/But dumb till that dread day when Orc assay’d his fierce embrace/ Dark virgin; said the hairy youth, thy father stern abhorr’d..” – Los, who is poetic imagination, is the father of Orc. But how come the father’s poetry is scared of revolution there? We’ll find that out later on in our lives and we’ll also find it later on in Blake in the Book of Urizen, when the birth of Orc and his relation to his father, poetic imagination, is revealed more.
See, the whole point is that poetic imagination, Los, is jealous of the fury and energy of the revolution. At the same time, he realizes that it’s a bastard kid, that only is born when it’s needed for the energy and the fire and the destruction, but that after the revolution, it’s a big pain-in-the-ass. It’s chaos after the revolution, because that unrestrained fire that has to have a battle with Urizen – the king, law-maker, Jehovah – Once he triumphs over the king, then who’s going to curb him?
So we’ll come to that a little later perhaps, but we might read from today’s [sic] New York Times:
Ambassador Sullivan called Iran’s Revolutionary authorities for help when the Americans were freed by forces of Ayatollah Khomeini, led by a Deputy Prime Minister of the provisional government. The assault on the American embassy underscored the problems that Ayatollah Khomeini’s forces face in trying to bring the country under their control. It was not clear who started the attack on the embassy. Some supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini accused the Communists having been responsible for the assault, while others blamed the People’s Fehedeen, a Marxist guerilla group. Later the People’s Fehedeen denied responsibility. Many of Ayatollah Khomeini’s followers did not heed his order of yesterday’s return of weapons seized when the country’s armed forces capitulated last weekend. In an effort to end the chaos in the country, the religious leaders issued a proclamation today asking all Iranians to return to their jobs on Saturday, the beginning of the Moslem week. ‘Now that you’ve demolished the pillars of the Pahlevi dynasty and the Revolutionary temporary government has been established, all workers, merchants, office staffs, students and teachers are hereby requested to resume work on Saturday.’ The Ayatollah said that because of the strikes that were necessary to the Revolution the country is now in such a state that the economy must be immediately revived. ‘Those who disobey the Revolutionary Government will be regarded as opponents of the Revolution,’ Ayatollah Khomeini said. The response to the back-to-work order should show whether the Iranians are as obedient to the Ayatollah now that the Revolution has triumphed as they were during the struggle a radical government demanded. Leftist groups have already challenged the Khomeini forces.
And so forth. It’s from the New York Times, February 15th, 1979. So we’ll get more of this.
You see, Blake has made an eternal model for revolution and reaction and chaos. He’s still on the side of revolution, but we’ll see. In the ‘Preludium’ itself there’s a certain question that’s raised. “For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise,/But dumb till that dread day when Orc assay’d his fierce embrace/ Dark virgin; said the hairy youth, thy father stern abhorr’d”. So, Orc, then, his father, is acknowledging he is the father. He does give birth. Enitharmon is his mother. Actually, Enitharmon is beauty, harmony, the emanation of Los. He’s working out, see, from Thel, who’s a virgin, who never did get born because she didn’t want to see the grave, to Oothoon, who did struggle to get born, and then finally be the born one, and then there’s a shadowy daughter, still quite a little unborn, and then there’ll be Enitharmon, finally. She’ll emerge out of it all, among all the women coming out. But as yet he hasn’t worked it out whether it’s his wife or the daughter or the mother. And I’m not sure what this is, actually. He still hasn’t worked out his whole symbolism. He’s just working it out now. So I don’t know who “thy father stern abhorr’d” is. However, I believe that refers to Los, who is also his father.
Because it’s his father, Los, poetic imagination, “Rivets my tenfold chains….” Or “thy father”, either way – it’s his father, too. So maybe they’re both children of imagination, in a sense. Los, being poetic imagination. “Thy father/Rivets my tenfold chains while still on high my spirit soars..” – So he’s still riveted and chained down. Those chains are chains of blood, of jealousy and fear, that will be described in the Book of Urizen, later on, with a big picture of them, actually. A picture of the three – Enitharmon, Los, and the adolescent Orc in chains of blood.
However, his spirit soars as revolution, as spirit, as nature: “Sometimes an eagle screaming in the sky…” – The eagle was genius, remember – “…sometimes a lion,/ Stalking upon the mountains…” – The lion is kind of the guardian of the lambs that are being devoured by the wolves, that is to say, devoured by the cruelty of the kings or of nature. – “Stalking upon the mountains, & sometimes a whale I lash/The raging fathomless abyss”, sometimes “a serpent folding/Around the pillars of Urthona, The Tree of Liberty.”- The pillars of Urthona would be pillars of the imagination or the Tree of Liberty, or even maybe the Tree in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge.
“… and round thy dark limbs,/On the Canadian wilds I fold, feeble my spirit folds./For chain’d beneath I rend these caverns…”- Remember caverns were the interior caverns of the skull “the cavern’d man”. So he’s actually trying to break out of the heavy materialistic nature that’s been laid on him as a trip.
“… when thou bringest food/ I howl my joy! and my red eyes seek to behold thy face/In vain! these clouds roll to & fro, & hide thee from my sight”. – Materialistic reason; the “clouds roll to & fro.” Then, “Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy/The hairy shoulders rend the links, free are the wrists of fire..” – “Fire delights in its own form” (the French Revolution) – Fire delights in its own form, as a revolution, as liberty.
“Round the terrific loins he siez’d the panting struggling womb..” – There’s the revolution beginning.
“It joy’d: she put aside her clouds & smiled her first-born smile;/ As when a black cloud shews its light’nings to the silent deep.” – The black cloud, remember, would be the cloud of heavy moral law, opaqueness, you can’t see through it, mystery, Urizenic, the Urizenic mind.
“Soon as she saw the terrible boy then burst the virgin cry…” – so finally, she’s no longer dumb, nor blind, but she’s wakened up by what she has nourished – nature is wakened by what she has nourished – nature’s wakened by the wild spirit that’s grown up on her, which turns around to copulate with her. And so this is like in ‘The Mental Traveller’. Remember – “For there the babe is born a boy that was begotten …” She is “taken by”a Woman Old”, who “Catches his shrieks in cups of gold”. Remember that? – There is that thing where “he binds her down for his delight”- “he binds her down for his delight”? – Remember when we were reading “The Mental Traveller”? that interchange? So the same imagery is emerging here. So, actually, you can see it as nature and revolution in ‘The Mental Traveller’, maybe – or unborn nature wakened by revolution. But it’s revolution of the spirit, actually revolution and liberation of spirit. Not so much political (but there’s the political extrapolation that’s taking place here).
Then, Erdman notes on that hairy “terrific loins”:
Orc, born in 1762, is only potentially free. He is fed but in silence. His spirit soars but his body is chained to the rock. Yet, at puberty, one connotation of the fourteen suns, he has the strength to break his chains, embrace the womb of nature and engender a new and free-limbed Orc in 1776, theory and practice becoming both articulate and alive in the marriage of contraries.
“The hairy shoulders rend the links, free are the wrists of fire;/ Round the terrific loins he siez’d the panting struggling womb;/ It joy’d: she put aside her clouds & smiled her first-born smile” – This ritual copulation reunites man and earth and she recognizes the Christ-like seed planted for resurrection “to give me life.”
Then, what does she say? That’s really interesting – “I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go;/Thou art the image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa…” – That is to say, the crucified, rebel god of Africa, according to Erdman, the slave that’s been crucified, the naked human form divine and black who’s been crucified. And the picture shows a kind of resurrection (see image opposite).
“And thou art fall’n …” Thou art the image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa;/And thou art fall’n to give me life in regions of dark death.”
And now she goes through a whole political review of the world revolution: “On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions/ Endur’d by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:/I see a serpent in Canada, (Fire) who courts me to his love (Energy)./In Mexico an Eagle,(Air) and a Lion in Peru (Earth)” – He’s got earth, air, fire, and a whale, water, “I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.” – He’s got different elements. The different countries represent different elements – fire for the serpent, air for the eagle, earth for the lion, water for the whale. They all have different symbolisms, too, as animals. But they’re also amazingly parallel to the national symbols, like the Mexican eagle. And the whale in the South Sea refers to rebellions that were taking place in the South Sea at the time. So that was a symbol of that area of earth, which was also in revolution.
“Oh what rending …” – Let’s see now. So this is the political view. “The image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa may be pre-iron Eden” (Erdman) – Eden before iron, before the iron cups of war and agriculture … or actually of the nails of the cross, the pre-iron. But this is Erdman’s idea about the image of God. See, she knew him before, back in Eden – “I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go.” – She’s been asleep, “the shadowy daughter”, “since Jehovah came down with his law and told everybody not to eat the apple of knowledge. So she’s been asleep all this time, but she does recollect the prior state of open nature or wakened nature. That’s why she says, “I know thee.” She’s recollecting, see?
Then, remember in The French Revolution he says he’s breaking the mould of six thousand years, ever since the Garden of Eden and the rise of Jehovah, Urizen, the Great Dictator of Heaven.
“O what limb rending pains I feel thy fire & my frost/ Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightnings rent…” – There he is emerging from the furrow, in the painting or picture of Plate 2: “Orc, free of chains, crouching in a furrow,” according to Erdman. A “heaven-scaling tendril of ten loops guides us to the text.” A “heaven-scaling tendril of ten loops guides us to the text.”
This is hope scaling to heaven. Notice the serpent, curling down, in a vortex – “Fear moves geometrically downward in a vortex that tapers to nothing, to no return. Hope grows vitally upward in endless communication that expands into words and poetry”. So they’re sort of opposite notions, visually – the tendrils of hope and the vortex of down-pointing fear.
“This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold.” – Now why does she say that being screwed is eternal death? We just came through that moment. Generative life means eternal death because, it’s just, as in the Buddhist thing, the cause of death is life. Generative life, as it was seen by Thel, meant death when she pictured generation and the worm and the clod told her to look into the grave and she saw her own grave and fled backward to the Vales of Har. So here, however, just as Oothoon was willing to get, as a swan, red-stained by the mud, was willing, as a lamb, to be stained by the smoke of the village, to be stained by experience, so the shadowy daughter, now wakened by spiritual revolution, nature wakened by man, is willing to experience life and death, both. And so, she says, “I know thee, I have found thee … this is eternal death … this is the torment long foretold.” Nature, so to speak, to die for man’s benefit, for one thing, but unless the seed die (there is no) renewal, actually. So it’s a very sort of demonic way of putting the notion of renewal. This is “eternal death”. This is “the torment long foretold”.
And the “eternal death” later picks up in the book, Milton. He picks up “eternal death”. Milton says, “I go forward to the earth, I go to Eternal Death!” That’s what Blake wants Milton to do. He doesn’t want Milton to be solidified in eternal life like an idol impervious to human suffering and joy and energy, a Urizenic solidification or statue. His idea of a human being is to include death and suffering and acceptance of death and suffering. He’s going back to the worm, as in the cyclical picture, going back down to the worm and then being reborn from worm up again, going up through the copulating roots of the tree, up to birth on the ground, swaddling bands, struggling, and then walking about copulating again, giving birth, dying.
So Blake is simply accepting nature, with pain. Nature as eternal death, but not being scared of it. Willing, actually. But very furious. I mean, that’s a really furious terror – “To find the Western path/Right thro the Gates of Wrath/I urge my way” is his model for that, or his motto for that.
Now, what happens? – “The stern Bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song; enrag’d he swung/His harp aloft sounding, then dash’d its shining frame against/A ruin’d pillar in glittering fragments; silent he turn’d away,/And wander’d down the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings”. It might be Orc talking, however it’s really Blake commenting on the book America because this thing was written, the ‘Preludium’ was written, after the book was written, and in the course of the book, according to Damon, he gets increasingly pessimistic about the fate of revolution. Also, increasingly pessimistic about the political fate of England, which is getting more and more reactionary, more and more counter-revolutionary, more and more anti-Jacobin, more and more warlike, being led by William Pitt into war with France, more and more destructive of the countryside, rich men in banks are buying up and grabbing more and more land, more and more people are going into the cities to work for the industrial revolution, the farm soil is declining.
AG [to Peter Orlovsky]: You had something about iron and revolution? Iron and farming? Can you tell us? Something in Erdman that you noticed?
Peter Orlovsky: That Blake was reading Thomas Chatterton…?
Peter Orlovsky: … and Chatterton has a line in there, that the reason that wars are started is as a sacrifice to the earth, because the earth is getting damaged so that instead of sacrificing to gods, they sacrifice and kill people in wars so they can spill blood on the ground and fertilize the ground so you can grow good fruit trees.
AG: “Thus man have fought for bread, and even reversed the pestilential effect of war to the extent that the blood of tyrants and hirelings, added to their own, has enriched the lean earth. In at least two antiquarian sources, Chatterton’s Rowley Poems and Percy‘s Northern Antiquities. Blake found indications that many of man’s struggles are literally preparations for harvest….”
“Howe oft ynne battaile have I stoode,/Whan thousands dyed arounde;/Whan smokynge streemes of crimson bloode/Imbrew’d the fatten’d grounde..” – Chatterton, I think. Was that Chatterton? Yes.
What’s going on in England at that time that makes him worry that “the stern Bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song.” See, he’s gotten to the point of, in extremis, saying that we’ve got to have this revolution, we’ve got to have death, we’ve got to have fury, there’s no way out. And so he’s prophesying the revolution to continue from the American and the French Revolution, it’s now 1793. He’s still pro-Jacobin (that is to say, pro-Populist), even though there have been Stalin-oid reversals, Robespierre has killed… (well, I think, 1793 was the year that King Louis had his head cut off). And there’s a picture of that, by the way. Louis, with his head cut off, if you’ll notice, is in the one with the serpent and the vortex – “The top figure”… There are three kids in judgement, apparently, at the top – “three naked youths up in the heavens … with fiery sword and scales of” judgement.
And there’s a central figure of the central kid – do you see him? – with a body, carrying a body.. On the top, center top, standing on a cloud. See him?
Anybody not see him? He’s got the King in his hand and he’s tossing him down to the serpent – revolution, Leviathan. Remember The Marriage of Heaven and Hell? From the Tory point of view, the Tory Angel point of view, the revolution was seen as a horrible serpent with a blood-mottled forehead. So if you’ll notice there’s a headless naked body tossed down to the serpent – that’s King Louis, who had his head chopped off with a guillotine, according to certain commentators.
It says here (Erdman, again), “At the top the King, bound, is tried and found wanting … then sent hurtling to the bottom where his possibly decapitated (body) is encircled by a blood-red serpent with human face but forked tongue….The King and Queen of France had recently been guillotined, January 1793″ – (same year this poem was put out).
So, but why is Blake worried? Page 295, we’ll find out, out of Erdman’s Blake – Prophet Against Empire . Okay, this is worth reading, because if you do … It’s about a page but it’ll give you the whole historical background, similar to ours:
For months they could not silence the growing demand for peace and bread, just as the allied monarchs were unable to stifle the Republic of France. But Pitt‘s king and priest would continue for some time in the ancient way, and the pride of many an Englishman would fail as he learned to obey. The laborious poor were placated by minimum wages of a sort in the form of a supplementary dole, the ‘Speenhamland system’ as it was called. Parliament talked for a while about peace – and then passed a series of ‘gagging acts’ (to prevent people from talking about peace) “to prevent the people from doing so.” – One of these acts gave the legal definition of ‘treason’ an elasticity such as “un-American” attained in the 1950’s. Another defined almost any kind of meeting as seditious, forbade discussion of government policy, and further curtailed press freedom. Pitt’s popularity diminished – but his power increased. Subsequent popular demonstrations for peace and old prices – (because there was now inflation on account of the war with France) – were relatively ineffectual. The ‘British Inquisition’ with its ‘Black List of English Jacobins,’ – (the Jacobins were the pro-Revolutionary sympathizers) – was now empowered.
“It is true that Pitt had grossly underestimated the military potential of the French Republic” – (or it’s true that American President Richard Nixon had grossly underestimated the military potential of the Republic of Vietnam) – “and would continue to do so. It is true that the sharp decline in textile production would continue through the bank crisis of 1797; that popular meetings against war taxes would swell by that year’s end to the magnitude of a brief third wave of English Jacobinism in January 1798, with the Foxites and Coleridge” – (the poet) – “(in the Morning Post) crying out for ‘Reform and Peace.’ But Patriots had overestimated the fluidity of the situation. The desire of Burke for ‘a long war’ was not eccentric. Ironmongers and most of the mercantile and financial interests behind Pitt” – (The ironmongers) – “enjoyed the growing war budget. Landlords and large farmers, weathering the drought and the bread riots, plowed even the downs and sands and ‘prayed incessantly to Heaven to preserve Pitt and to keep up religion and prices.’ Pitt or any successor representing these interests would continue to fight France, while on the other side the militarist Napoleon would emerge as a man of destiny for the most aggressive section of the French bourgeoisie.
So now what is Blake going to do? – “As the prospect darkened and the Societies grew weak it is not surprising that England’s prophetic bards succumbed to moments of intense pessimism. Wordsworth, in 1795″ – (two years after this America) – “‘yielded up moral questions in despair’ – abandoned, that is, the effort to discern where political justice and his moral duty lay in the dubious struggle between France and England; and so he abandoned London for ‘the open fields’. – So Wordsworth, Coleridge, and all the other Romantic poets, towards the end of that century, disillusioned by the wars and revolution that they had been partisans in, and advocates of, and written great poems about, moved out to the country (to the Lake District, actually) to get out of… they decided that it was an apocalypse, civilization was falling, everything was degenerating, London was uninhabitable, crime waves, high prices, grow-your own food … – “Blake, however, was rooted in London, but he did ‘shrink from his prophetic task’ – and from his republican confidence, as we learn from the following quatrain which he etched into the clean margin of one of the copper plates of America, below the hopeful picture of Orc rising from the earth like a wheat sprout.”
Revolution like a wheat sprout. But given that circumstance, in only one copy of the book, (which they’re using here), there’s a quatrain – “The stern Bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song; enrag’d he swung/His harp aloft sounding, then dash’d its shining frame against/A ruin’d pillar and glittring fragments…” – The ruined pillar of nature – Urthona‘s pillar. But we’ll get that later – I think he speaks of himself as a serpent winding around the pillar of imagination, of Urthona – “… silent he turn’d away,/And wander’d down the vales of Kent” – (England) – “… in sick & drear lamentings….”
“This tells us,” observes Erdman, “not only that the prophet of Hercules Buildings” – “the prophet of the Hercules Buildings” in Lambeth, that’s where Blake was living – “put aside his work and took a walk down the Old Kent Road” (nearby), “feeling that America – this book — “was a ruined pillar, and also that his dismay lasted long enough to be recorded with aqua fortis” – with acid on the plate. After 1795, “Blake published no new work for a decade. Nor did he ever again write such precisely dated prophecies as America and Europe” (Erdman). He got burned!
When Blake had “called all his sons to the strife of blood: he had had simply no idea how that strife would sear the inlets of the soul both in France and in England.”
So things got tough in there.
So now we get on to the actual prophecy. We get on. The ‘Preludium’ is interesting because the actual prophecy is history, and that’s clear. The ‘Preludium’ was the one where he got all of his mythology, all of his secret thought. That’s why I’ve gone to such lengths trying to expound that one.
You could get more on the politics of Africa, Canada, and so forth, if you want to check it out in Erdman’s Prophet Against Empire. If you want to know what his basic ideas are of Africa, Canada, Mexico, Lion – Peru. You’ll notice, in lines 13 to 18, he introduces the lion (and) the whale, as part of nature – so it’s a revolution in nature and spirit. It’s a spiritual revolution. That is, in the lines between 10 and 15 in Plate 1, he has the eagle and whale as part of nature, and then in Plate 2, he’s got them associated with countries, so he’s bringing it down to politics. He’s applying it. So the first plate is the spiritual revolution, the second plate the political revolution. It’s built like a brick shithouse — it’s really amazing. The whole thing.
So, Prophecy, Plate 3: “The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent …” – The Guardian Prince is otherwise known as his Guardian Angel, and he’s George III. This is the same language as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, where the Angel turns out to be the evil guy, and the Devil, or serpent (or the demonic), turns out to be the real Angel. Turns out to be the real good guy, or the real revolutionary.
“The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent,/Sullen fires across the Atlantic glow to America’s shore:/Piercing the souls of warlike men, who rise in silent night,/ Washington,” – (Military) – “Franklin,” – (Politics) – “Paine,” – (Ideology) – “and Warren, Gates” – (Army) – “Hancock & Green…”
Washington spoke: “Friends of America look over the Atlantic sea;/ A bended bow is lifted in heaven, and a heavy iron chain/ Descends, link by link from Albions cliffs across the sea, to bind/ Brothers & sons of America..” – That heavy iron chain is sort of a funny resonance with the chains that bind down Orc on the ground; that is, that the imagination has chained him still, or the poetic imagination has chained him. On another level, Urizenic imagination, the king’s imagination, the royal imagination, the law imagination, the Jehovaic imagination, the militarist imagination, a heavy iron chain is descending from England to America – “till our faces pale and yellow;/ Heads depress’d, voices weak, eyes downcast, hands work-bruis’d,/Feet bleeding on the sultry sands, and the furrows of the whip/ Descend to generations that in future times forget.”
“The strong voice ceas’d; for a terrible blast swept over the heaving sea;/ The eastern cloud rent; on his cliffs stood Albions wrathful Prince..” – (King George III) – “A dragon form clashing his scales at midnight he arose,/ And flam’d red meteors round the land of Albion beneath,/ His voice, his locks, his awful shoulders, and his glowing eyes,/Appear to the Americans upon the cloudy night.”
Then, take a look at page 4, Plate 4. That’s an illustration of that: “A dragon form clashing his scales at midnight he arose,/ And flam’d red meteors round the land of Albion beneath,/ His voice, his locks, his awful shoulders, and his glowing eyes”. The dragon form clashing his scales at midnight.
Up there, on top, you’ll see, according to Damon, a basilisk; that’s what that little dragon is, with old horny hands – kind of a funny human face and old horny hands – “appear(ing) to the Americans upon a cloudy night”, (from that line above it).
So that’s his sort of monstrous form. But then he’s got to approach Parliament, so the King takes somewhat human form with a sceptre, floating down on the left. See?
However, there’s the Leviathan, that big blunk on the seashore (bottom, left), and there’s the King, England’s King, again, down below, holding his head like that (with his hands on his head), seeing the Leviathan of Revolution approach him. And there’s a fallen oak tree on his right, by the way.
The basilisk is a king-killer, according to Kathleen Raine’s book (Blake and Tradition). She says, “Has the falling aged figure of Urizen been killed by the glance of the basilisk” (Orc?” – the basilisk). The “angel form” of the king “divides down the left margin, law book clutched behind his back”- see the law book there, behind his back – “sceptre held in his left hand like a magic wand. He is preceded and followed by lightning” which is Blake’s trademark of wrath. He’s “a beached sea monster” (“an orc or revolutionary whale,” according to Damon – these are all Damon’s amusements). A dragon form.
Okay, so: “Solemn heave the Atlantic waves between the gloomy nations,/Swelling, belching from its deeps red clouds & raging Fires!/ Albion is sick! America faints! enrag’d the Zenith grew./As human blood shooting its veins all around the orbed heaven” – The eyeball, actually. Human blood shooting its veins all around the eyeball – “The Eye altering alters All.”
“Red rose the clouds from the Atlantic in vast wheels of blood/ And in the red clouds rose a Wonder o’er the Atlantic sea -/Intense! naked!” – This is Orc. Remember, he’s using the Devil’s language from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, so the Angel was really the Devil, the Angel King, the Prince, was really the wrathful Devil, angry, trying to repress.
And here is the birth of Volcanic Orc: “Intense! naked! a Human fire fierce glowing, as the wedge/Of iron heated in the furnace” – Orc’s father, as I said, was Los, the imagination – poetic imagination, and Los’s impertinences, as we’ll find out later on, his tools, are the forge and the bellows –“What the hammer? what he chain,/ In what furnace was thy brain?” – The tiger of wrath created by poetic imagination. Or Orc’s wrath – “What the hammer? what he chain,/In what furnace was thy brain?/What the anvil? what dread grasp,/Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”- So the symbolism pervades even the Songs of Experience. Even the the things you took for granted are actually built into Blake’s total symbolic system.
So, “the wedge/Of iron heated in the furnace” is the revolution. Heated in the furnace of the mind and the emotions. – “his terrible limbs were fire/With myriads of cloudy terrors banners dark & towers/Surrounded; heat but not light went thro’ the murky atmosphere.”
Okay, where is that coming from? (as the whole thing is coming)? – Milton’! – Paradise Lost, Book I, line 58: Down in hell.
Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate.
At once, as far as angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild:
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Paradise Lost, Book 1
That kind of rhetoric comes from Milton, Blake’s rhetoric, somewhat, comes from Milton, his style: “No light, but rather darkness visible”- “yet from those flames/No light, but rather darkness visible.” And we have in Blake’s “heat but not light went thro’; the murky atmosphere.”
Well, it’s not precisely, exact, one-to-one, but you see where Blake’s poetic, verbal imagination comes from. Harold Bloom in his notes points out the parallel between those lines.
“The King of England looking westward trembles at the vision/Albions Angel stood beside the Stone of Night”, – What’s the “Stone of Night”?
Student: In the Blake Dictionary it says revenge.
AG: The “Stone of Night”?
AG: Well, “an eye for an eye”, right?
AG: The stones or the tablets of the Law. If you open the Book of Urizen, when you get to Urizen, you’ll see this somewhat blind, bearded, white-haired, old, Jehovaic figure writing with both hands on the tablets of Law. And there’s another, where Orc assaults Urizen, grabbing him, rising up. Urizen’s on his throne surrounded by tablets, Mosaic tablets – the Ten Commandments – and Orc rises up to his throne and grabs him by the shoulders to pull him down and the tablets are breaking apart.
AG: That would be in the Book of Urizen, I think.
“The terror like a comet, or more like the planet red/That once inclos’d the terrible wandering comets in its sphere/.Then Mars thou wast our center” – (War – Mars) – “and the planets three flew round/Thy crimson disk…” – I don’t know what that is – “so e’er the Sun was rent from thy red sphere/ The Spectre…” – This is still Orc, now – “The Spectre glow’d his horrid length” – Like a snake – “staining the temple long/ With beams of blood, & thus a voice came forth, and shook the temple”.
So, this is the same Leviathan that we saw (before); that monsterous Leviathan in the bottom of the ocean in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, remember? Leviathan was speckled in green with a blood-red forehead?
You’ll see a funny little cute serpent, Leviathan, with a human face and a forked tongue in Plate 5. But the fires are there, and the King, again, going into the fires. The King had his hand on his head looking at Leviathan on the seashore, and here he’s falling into the fire with his hand on his head. The same king figure from Plate 4 to Plate 5.
Plate 6 – Finally, the Declaration of Independence. It’s the second great oration in Blake, since the great one we had with Oothoon’s beautiful rhetorical speech about the shadowy chamber of masturbation. So here is a Declaration of Independence, which, according to Alicia Ostriker’s notes, includes life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in its three parts.
It’s Blake’s version of the Declaration of Independence. It makes use of all of his old imagery, (except you can either read it as his imagery symbolism – like the word “mill” which is the intellect, Urizenic intellect, or just “mill”, the capitalist, Satanic mill, or the “mill” where you’re imprisoned, you work, the workhouse. Or you can use the “sun has left its blackness” – remember we had “blackness” as the wrath covering the sun, the anger covering the sun? The Lion and the Wolf … It ends, “For “Empire is now no More! and now the Lion & (the) Wolf shall cease.” We’ve had that line a number of times.
So, before I read this, I want to figure out that image so that you’ll understand it, so let’s get the lion and the wolf and find out what they are. Remember “Empire is no More! and now the Lion & (the) Wolf shall cease”? The end of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell? And it comes up here and it’ll keep coming.
So let’s… According to Damon, see exactly what the “wolf” is – “The wolf is a predatory animal whose victims are the flocks which the noble Lion protects. Blake often refers to the warfare between the two – in various poems, like ‘Night’ (in Songs of Innocence), ‘When wolves and tygers howl for prey/They pitying stand and weep’ – The lion – “Seeking to drive his thirst away,/And guide them from the sheep./But if they rush dreadful, The angels, most heedful,/ Receive each mild spirit,/ New worlds to inherit./ And there the lions ruddy eyes,/Shall flow with tears of gold…” – That’s in ‘Night’.
And the ‘Little Girl Found’, in Songs of Experience, she’s found by a lion. It’s actually the lion of wrath and death. Death is a kind of protector in a way.
But, anyway, “Loud howls the eternal Wolf! the eternal lion lashes his tail!” – That’s in America – “Empire is no More! and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease” – Marriage of Heaven and Hell. So, the wolf, then is “predatory animal whose victims are the flocks which the Lion feeds”. And on the next page, (page seven), you’ll see a ram and a bunch of little kids sleeping. They haven’t been preyed on by the wolf, yet.
Let’s see what he’s got on the lion. Well, it’s pretty much self-evident, I think. Energy. The lion very often is, for Blake, the loins, oddly enough, the genitals – the lion. The energy there forms a trinity with head and heart. At any rate, we had it originally. But its relation to the wolf is as the protector, the spiritual protector, I guess, from the predator.
So, Orc burst forth in all his serpent beauty and power, and makes a speech:
“The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;/The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up..” – That’s from (the Bible – “The grave is burst” is the resurrection of Christ – “The bones of death…” – from Ezekiel – Remember these dry bones? “Shall these bones live?” “these dry bones?” – “The bones of death, the cov’ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry’d./ Reviving, shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!/Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst; /Let the slave grinding at the mill, run out into the field:/Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air;/ Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,/ Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years;/ Rise and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open …”
His senses are open – the dungeon, the caverned man. The senses are open. The slave grinding in the mill, the reasoner grinding inside his own brain. So the spiritual revolution as well as the physical liberation. The light was the bones of death, the grave is burst, the liberty has let him look up at the heavens and laugh in the bright air, and the opening of the senses as the “dungeon doors are open”.
“And let his wife and children return from the oppressors scourge;/They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream./Singing. The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning/ And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night;/ For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease.”
That’s a great one, that one – “In thunders ends the voice. Then Albions Angel wrathful burnt/Beside the Stone of Night; and like the Eternal Lions howl/In famine & war, reply’d. Art thou not Orc; who serpent-form’d/ Stands at the gate of Enitharmon to devour her children…” – Harmonious nature, Enitharmon – “Blasphemous Demon, Antichrist, hater of Dignities;/ Lover of wild rebellion, and transgresser of God’s Law…” – Red Brigade! – “Why dost thou come to Angels eyes in this terrific form?”
This is all the language of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – Demon, why do you come to the Angels in this horrible and snakelike form? It’s all a projection of the law-giver and the man who wants the law and order to be his way because he profits from it. So anything that breaks up that solidification of his own projections then appears to be demonic, horrible, wrathful, full of fright and fear and Leviathan, blood-specked anarchy. Terror.
And, “The terror answerd: I am Orc, wreath’d round the accursed tree” – What “accursed tree”? The Tree of Paradise, The Tree of Knowledge in Paradise, the serpent in Paradise. So finally Blake is taking the side of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Blake is totally identifying with the serpent, finally, and identifying as revolution. That is to say, the serpent, Orc, is the Messiah who tempts man to break the prohibition. The serpent is the Messiah, in Blake’s imagery here, and he’s taking that from, I think I’ve already gone through this old tale of the Ophitic interpretation of the Garden of Eden. Did I do that earlier here…?
Student: I don’t believe so. [Editorial note – much of the following material can also be accessed here (from a June 1975 Naropa lecture of Allen’s), and also here, (transcript of a 1978 Naropa series of classes on Blake, focusing, on that occasion, on The Book of Urizen)]
AG: The Mandaean Gnostic, I think it’s the Mandaean Gnostic, interpretation of the Garden of Eden. Does anybody know that here? I haven’t mentioned it?
AG: Well, Blake would have known it from his work with Thomas Taylor, the Platonist who translated all of the earlier Gnostic fragments. Do you know that story?
Student: Yeah, the alchemical version of the Garden of Eden … that the serpent was actually another path of God’s consciousness that he wasn’t aware of.
AG: Part of God’s unconscious! Well….
Student: It was a subtle snake, he knew the language.
AG: Yeah. Well, the traditional thing (which I make use of in the last long poem I wrote called ‘Plutonian Ode’), which I’ll take a minute to tell, then, is – in the beginning was dharmakaya (according to the Buddhists) – or the Abyss of Light, (according to the Cabalists and hermetic teachers, according to the Mandaean Gnostics, who had this Ophitic, or snaky (Ophitic, ophite – snake), Ophitic or snaky interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden, which is that in the beginning is the Abyss of Light, (open void, according to the Existentialists), and there was a little shudder of intelligence or movement in this Abyss of Light, which would be perhaps be something similar to the first skandha in Buddhism – some shudder or gleam of intelligence or self-reflection. A reflection in the Abyss of Light. Light reflecting on itself. And that’s known as Sophia, the word, wisdom, the Goddess Sophia. Mother of creation, or thought, or consciousness. Sophia – “In the Beginning was the Word”, in the beginning was consciousness, or the Word. This is like William S. Burroughs, basically. The Word’s been with us all along, rub out the Words? The Word has created this vegetable universe.
Well, anyway. So, Sophia thinks, and as Blake says in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “One thought fills immensity.“ Right? So, her thought is an entire universe. Then, within her universe, it produces other thoughts, or other things think within that universe, and so there’s a whole Aeon of thought called “IO” – I-O – and Io is the Archon, or owner, or magister, or ruler, or king, or Urizen, of that Aeon. And he has a thought and his thought is called Ialdabaoth – which is the Archon or Aeon of Ialdabaoth. Ialdabaoth has a thought and his thought is better known to us – It’s a whole Aeon, and the owner, or Archon, or magister, or Urizenic creator, or possessor of that is called Elohim. That’s how we got Elohim. Then Elohim had a thought and his thought was Jehovah. And Jehovah had a thought and his whole Aeon was the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and the Tree of Knowledge.
Now, he had Adam and Eve in it, so he said, “You enjoy yourself, worship me, take care of everything and be good-good, but don’t ever take that Apple of Knowledge from that tree because it’s forbidden.”
Student: It’s bad.
AG: Well, see, if they ever tasted it they’d realize that he doesn’t exist, that he’s just a thought of a thought of a thought of Sophia, who’s just a reflection in the Abyss of Light. And Jehovah’s a great egotist like Urizen, who solidified his own self-hood, and doesn’t want him to disappear, and doesn’t want any question of it, doesn’t want any crack of insight, much less Adam and Eve, his own creations, taking a bite of the apple and realizing that they’re not really under his power, that it’s all samsaric dream, so to speak.
So, there’s a stasis. However, Sophia, realizing the situation, realizes that all these descendants from the Abyss of Light are little particles of light – they still pertain to the light, or they are reflections of the light – and she takes pity on them because they’re separated from the main body of light. (And in this case, it’s very similar to the old Cabalistic-Hebraic tales, that the Rabbis are engaged in returning the light to the light – I don’t know if you’re familiar with that phraseology, but it’s famous – The picking up of the pieces of light then returning it in Cabalistic terminology.
So Sophia realizes that because of her own thought she’s created this karmic world in a fix, in a thrall to its own self-hood and its own projections, and her own projections (it’s her own projection). And she realizes all these self-hoods are very jealous of their Aeons and they don’t want to see their territory broken up, or invaded, or dispersed, or dissolved. So, she can’t launch a frontal assault on it, so she has to… she sends a messenger down to Adam and Eve. But it has to be somebody in disguise who just goes slinking along under the feet of Archons, along the floors of the Aeons, from Aeon to Aeon, so nobody will notice them. And the name of the messenger traditionally is called “The Caller of the Great Call” (a fantastic phrase!) You know, one who calls throughout all creation, to waken creation to its own nature, to its own transitory nature, – or the “Caller of the Great Call”, or “the Messenger”, or “the Wanderer”. (I guess that’s where the Wandering Jew notion is derived).
But the “Caller of the Great Call” is the snake. So the snake goes down through the Aeons, goes to Adam and Eve and says, “Eat the apple. You’re being used. Eat the apple, get out of the Garden of Eden and Paradise. Be willing to live and die”. Because otherwise you’re up in the Vales of Har, so to speak, otherwise you’re stuck in the Vales of Har.
So Jehovah’s Eden would have been the Vales of Har. Remember the Vales of Har? Is that mysterious language to anyone? That was sort of the limbo where nobody died ever but just went on playing with the little birdies. So, it was Love and Light. Love and Light Universe.
So, the serpent came down, told off Adam and Eve, and so: “The terror answerd: I am Orc, wreath’d round the accursed tree:/ The times are ended; shadows pass the morning begins to break;/ The fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands” – The Ten Commandments, perverted from liberty – “What night he led the starry hosts thro’ the wide wilderness…” – the “wild wilderness” would be the Abyss of Light. The starry hosts, remember, we had “starry” as reason, as Urizenic rational solidification of the universe – We had that before as part of the symbolism, if you remember, stars connected with that reason.
“That stony law I stamp to dust: and scatter religion abroad/To the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves;/ To the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves/But they shall rot on desarts blossom, & consume in bottomless deeps;/ To make the desarts/Bloom…” – Isaiah, that comes from – “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1 – King James version of the Bible ) – “& the deeps shrink to their fountains,/And to renew the fiery joy, and burst the stony roof./That pale religious letchery, seeking Virginity,/May find it in a harlot, and in coarse-clad honesty/The undefil’d tho’ ravish’d in her cradle night and morn:/For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life;/Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil’d…” – Oothoon – “Fires inwrap the early globe, yet man is not consumd…” – In other words, man dies, and dies and dies, and man is not consumed, because he goes back to the worm and the worm eats him and another man gets born.
“Amidst the lustful fires he walks…” – “The Road of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom”, or, “Energy is Eternal Delight” – “Amidst the lustful fires he walks: his feet become like brass…” – Not feet of clay. So this is from the fires… from the Biblical myths of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. Daniel? Who was it that was thrown into the fire? Daniel?
Student: Daniel and his friends.
AG: Yeah, they had feet of clay. But anyway, in this case, his feet become like brass, “His knees and thighs like silver, & his breast and head like gold” – Well, that’s pretty good.
Well, we’ll quit there because it nine-five.
Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was an American poet and writer. As a student at Columbia University in the 1940s, he began friendships with William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, forming the core of the Beat Generation. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression, and he embodied various aspects of this counterculture with his views on drugs, sex, multiculturalism, hostility to bureaucracy, and openness to Eastern religions.
Ginsberg is best known for his poem Howl in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.
In 1948, Ginsberg experienced what he described as a religious vision of 18th-century English poet William Blake appearing in his East Harlem apartment and reciting poetry to him. He was profoundly moved by this experience and inspired to set Blake’s poetry to music. According to art historian Stephen F. Eisenman, “all at once, Ginsberg later said, he apprehended the unity of things material and spiritual, religious and carnal. Looking out the window, he saw ‘into the depths of the universe’ and understood that ‘this was the moment that I was born for.'”