Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Pierre Berger wrote William Blake: Poet and Mystic in French. It was translated into English by Daniel Henry Conner. The book is made available by Google. Since it is out of copyright, Google offers a text version from which passages can be copied and pasted. Thus I can provide you with a long passage of Berger's incredibly perceptive insights.

This post follows BEGINNING OF SEPARATION. From William Blake: Poet and Mystic, Page 104-7:  

"Thus Urizen passed through changes; and each change was no longer eternal, but fixed a period, and was existent in Time. Now, Urizen himself, like the Eternals, is nothing but an aggregate of myriads of elemental essences, alive only in the general knowledge of his unity. These elements might combine in a different order, might divide and separate themselves from him after the example he has given them. And these are the changes that Time, by his division, would bind or fix—the rivets of brass and iron. In like wise, as we read in Genesis, God divided the light from the darkness, and the evening and the morning were the first day. But the story in Genesis is only a symbol, signifying to Blake that Urizen tore himself apart from Eternity, and that Time began. It is partly on account of this symbol that, later on, he calls Urizen the Prince of Light, and that the name Los is also the name of the sun—an anagram of " Sol."

From this moment in the story follow the seven days of creation, as symbolised in the majestic Bible narrative, and in the even more majestic evolution of the earth and of life which geological knowledge is beginning to reveal to us. What really came to pass in the invisible world was the progressive creation of Urizen. He developed, age by age, like some monstrous animal in the throes of a painful gestation and a delivery wrapped in darkness and confusion. At first, there was nothing but a dark globe of invisible flame, the fire of life, sometimes spherical, because he is wrapped in self-concentration; at other times becoming heart-shaped, because the pulse of life beats in him, and at others again like great loins, ready to bring forth the universe.

[Urizen, Plate 5, (E 73)]
Like a black globe
Viewed by sons of Eternity; standing
On the shore of the infinite ocean,
Like a human heart struggling and beating,
The vast world of Urizen appeared.

Thus, in a dreamless night, this spirit, who is also a world, remained an unshapen mass of flesh or clay, until in time, with the help of Los, definite forms began to appear in him.

Library of Congress
Book of Urizen
Copy G
Plate 10
[Urizen, Plate 10, (E 75)]
Restless turn'd the immortal inchain'd,
Heaving dolorous, anguish'd, unbearable,
Till a roof shaggy wild inclos'd
In an orb his fountain of thought.
In a horrible dreamful slumber,
Like the linked infernal chain,
A vast Spine writh'd in torment
Upon the winds; shooting pain'd
Ribs, like a bending cavern,
And bones of solidness, froze,
Over all his nerves of joy.
And a first Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe.

And straightway Blake draws, on the opposite page, a globe of light in the midst of darkness, and in this globe a monstrous skeleton, bent and crouching like the embryo in its envelope; its elbows touching its knees, one bony hand clasping its eyeless skull, in an attitude of misery, terror and immense despair. Thus age succeeds age, and in horror and suffering, the flesh and muscles, the eyes, nose and tongue, all take shape. At last, Urizen stands upright, flings his arms out to north and south, and with his feet stamps the nether abyss, trembling, howling, in despair. He feels that he has lost eternity, and consequently is miserable and furious. But all in vain. From henceforth Urizen will live by his own vitality; and the world which he has created, the universe which he constitutes, will continue to develop itself.

But other lives also are created at the same time, and always in consequence of the first creation. The separation of Urizen has divided Eternity. From henceforth, the Eternals are in one place, and Urizen's universe in another. The Infinite has become finite. Space comes into existence at the same moment with Time.

[Urizen, Plate5, (E 73)]
Sund'ring, dark'ning, thund'ring,
Rent away with a terrible crash,
Eternity rolld wide apart,
Mountainous all round,
Departing, departing, departing,
Leaving ruinous fragments of life,
Hanging, frowning cliffs, and all between
An ocean of voidness unfathomable.

And whilst Los, the mighty smith, forged his rivets of iron and brass, creating Time and its divisions, he by that act enclosed Urizen, not in Time only, but also in Space, separating him from the Infinite. Urizen's senses also, his nose, ears, eyes and tongue, as they came into being, felt that they were limited, and could no longer perceive Eternity and the Infinite. With these same senses began the feeling of visible space with its dimensions and its limitations. Thus Los was the personification of both Time and Space, the two new and inevitable consequences of the creation of the new universe.

Now it is the fate of those who separate themselves from others to feel fresh divisions within their own beings. Los, in separating Urizen from Eternity, became himself conscious of an individual existence. He was an "Ego," as Urizen was. He could no longer be one with Eternity, nor return to his former state. He, who was at once Time and Space, was for ever separated from the Eternal-Infinite, confined within the same limits as those in which he had bound Urizen. Further, the two elements of which he was composed must themselves soon divide, Space becoming an entity distinct from Time. As Urizen broke away from Eternity, so would Enitharmon break away from Los."

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