They [the sons of Albion] become like what they behold! Yet immense in strength & power,
In awful pomp & gold, in all the precious unhewn stones of Eden
They build a stupendous Building on the Plain of Salisbury; with chains
Of rocks round London Stone: of Reasonings: of unhewn
In labyrinthine arches. (Mighty Urizen the Architect.) thro which
The Heavens might revolve & Eternity be bound in their chain.
Labour unparallelld! a wondrous rocky World of cruel destiny
Rocks piled on rocks reaching the stars: stretching from pole to
The Building is Natural Religion & its Altars Natural Morality
A building of eternal death: whose proportions are eternal
Here Vala stood turning the iron Spindle of destruction
From heaven to earth: howling! invisible! but not invisible
Her Two Covering Cherubs afterwards named Voltaire & Rousseau:
Two frowning Rocks: on each side of the Cove & Stone of Torture:
Frozen Sons of the feminine Tabernacle of Bacon, Newton & Locke.
For Luvah is France: the Victim of the Spectres of Albion.
Los beheld in terror: he pour 'd his loud storms on the Furnaces:
The Daughters of Albion clothed in garments of needle work
Strip them off from their shoulders and bosoms, they lay aside
Their garments; they sit naked upon the Stone of trial.
The Knife of flint passes over the howling Victim: his blood
Gushes & stains the fair side of the fair Daug[h]ters of Albion.
They put aside his curls; they divide his seven locks upon
His forehead: they bind his forehead with thorns of iron
They put into his hand a reed, they mock: Saying: Behold
The King of Canaan whose are seven hundred chariots of iron!
They take off his vesture whole with their Knives of flint:
But they cut asunder his inner garments: searching with
Their cruel fingers for his heart, & there they enter in pomp,
In many tears; & there they erect a temple & an altar:
They pour cold water on his brain in front, to cause.
Lids to grow over his eyes in veils of tears: and caverns
To freeze over his nostrils, while they feed his tongue from cups
And dishes of painted clay. Glowing with beauty & cruelty:
They obscure the sun & the moon; no eye can look upon them.
Ah! alas! at the sight of the Victim, & at sight of those who are
All who see. become what they behold. their eyes are coverd
With veils of tears and their nostrils & tongues shrunk up
Their ear bent outwards. as their Victim, so are they in the
Of unconquerable fear! amidst delights of revenge Earth-shaking!
And as their eye & ear shrunk, the heavens shrunk away
The Divine Vision became First a burning flame, then a column
Of fire, then an awful fiery wheel surrounding earth & heaven:
And then a globe of blood wandering distant in all unknown
Afar into the unknown night the mountains fled away:
Six months of mortality; a summer: & six months of mortality; a
The Human form began to be alterd by the Daughters of Albion
And the perceptions to be dissipated into the Indefinite.
A mighty Polypus nam'd Albions Tree: they tie the Veins
And Nerves into two knots: & the Seed into a double knot:
They look forth: the Sun is shrunk: the Heavens are shrunk
Away into the far remote: and the Trees & Mountains witherd
Into indefinite cloudy shadows in darkness & separation.
By Invisible hatreds adjoind, they seem remote and separate
From each other; and yet are a Mighty Polypus in the Deep!
As the Misletoe grows on the Oak, so Albions Trce on Eternity:
He who will not comingle in Love, must be adjoind by Hate
They look forth from Stone-henge! from the Cove round London
They look on one another: the mountain calls out to the mountain:
Plinlimmon shrunk away: Snowdon trembled: the mountains
Of Wales & Scotland beheld the descending War: the routed flying:
Red run the streams of Albion: Thames is drunk with blood:
As Gwendolen cast the shuttle of war: as Cambel returnd the beam.
The Humber & the Severn: are drunk with the blood of the slain:
London feels his brain cut round: Edinburghs heart is
York & Lincoln hide among the flocks, because of the griding
Worcester & Hereford: Oxford & Cambridge reel & stagger,
Overwearied with howling: Wales & Scotland alone sustain the
The inhabitants are sick to death: they labour to divide into
And Nights, the uncertain Periods: and into Weeks & Months. In
And in vain the Eagle & Lion over the four-fold wilderness.
They return not: but generate in rocky places desolate.
They return not; but build a habitation separate from Man.
The Sun forgets his course like a drunken man; he hesitates,
Upon the Cheselden hills, thinking to sleep on the Severn
In vain: he is hurried afar into an unknown Night
He bleeds in torrents of blood as he rolls thro heaven above
He chokes up the paths of the sky; the Moon is leprous as snow:
Trembling & descending down seeking to rest upon high Mona:
Scattering her leprous snows in flakes of disease over Albion.
The Stars flee remote: the heaven is iron, the earth is sulphur,
And all the mountains & hills shrink up like a withering gourd,
As the Senses of Men shrink together under the Knife of flint,
In the hands of Albions Daughters, among the Druid Temples.
The line “The Sons of Albion become what they behold” concludes that previous Plate. (You might say we are the product of our experience.)
“They build a stupendous building..”
(The Sons of Albion build Golgoonza: this might apply to 20th century established Protestant Churches, where they avowedly are in the business of ‘building the Kingdom”, which no man can do according to William Blake. Golgonooza is the worldly image and shadow of the Kingdom of God.
“building...of Reasonings: from this we might infer that it was the magnificant structure of fallen Urizen.
A few lines on he called it Natural Religion and “a building of eternal death”.
Vala seemed to be in charge, “invisible” but not to her two covering cherubs...Voltaire and Rousseau (Natural Reason and Natural Feeling), the descendants of Bacon, Newton and Locke.
(That last three are among Blake’s favorite demons.)
The passage beginning “Los beheld in terror” introduced another image of the Passion of Christ, and Blake made it clear that it is us who participate in the crucifixion.
Then he repeated like a refrain the opening word:
“they become what they behold.” In consequence our faculties and sensations and even our bodily stature shrink up far from the Divine Visions of Eternity; even the sun and moon have become obscure. You might say we’re sitting in Plato’s cave facing the wall, away from the light. We have been diminished by our depravity;
we reside in the bottom of Ulro.
we reside in the bottom of Ulro.
Blake referred to it as “a mighty Polypus nam’d Albion’s Tree.
“He who will not commingle in Love must be adjoined by Hate” (according to Blake the only antidote to that is mutual forgiveness, ‘the water and the wine’.
The Plate concludes with two long paragraphs, unintelligible to me today.
I cannot hope to provide an attempt at interpretation for more than a small fragment of the Plates of Jerusalem-- a sort of Introduction meant to encourage the reader to pursue his own meanings in the text.