Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The character Urizen dominates much of Blake's writing. He appears and reappears from the First Book of Urizen to the end of the Four Zoas. Why was his configuration of characteristics so important in the mind of Blake?

Trying to recall Urizen to his former self and to union with the Botherhood, Albion speaks thus to Urizen in Four Zoas, Night IX, PAGE 120 (E 389):

"The Eternal Man sat on the Rocks & cried with awful voice

O Prince of Light where art thou I behold thee not as once
In those Eternal fields in clouds of morning stepping forth
With harps & songs where bright Ahania sang before thy face
And all thy sons & daughters gatherd round my ample table
See you not all this wracking furious confusion
Come forth from slumbers of thy cold abstraction come forth
Arise to Eternal births shake off thy cold repose
Schoolmaster of souls great opposer of change arise
That the Eternal worlds may see thy face in peace & joy
That thou dread form of Certainty maist sit in town & village

While little children play around thy feet in gentle awe
Fearing thy frown loving thy smile O Urizen Prince of light"

Reclining Urizen This is an image of a man who lives almost entirely in his head; his body is atrophied and his hand rests on a second skull.

These are the characteristics which Albion sees as dividing Urizen from his Eternal form. He is cold, he deals in abstractions, he is asleep, and repetitive, and certain of his own correctness. Albion's hope is that he can return to a condition in which the Eternals as well as little children may enjoy his former demeanor.

During the unfolding of Blake's myth, Urizen's characteristics become expressed in the law. Urizen is portrayed as projecting his inner characteristics onto his outer experience; including his attitude as to how the world should function and the people in it should behave.

Blake himself outwardly rejects Urizen's attitudes of distance, rigidness, non-involvement, inflexibility, blindness, and fear of the unknown. But his poetry may reveal that he struggled internally against the very characteristics he objected to. His Shadow may have been expressed in Urizen.

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