Monday, July 16, 2012


We return to Fearful Symmetry for assistance from Northrop Frye in squeezing more meaning from Blake's Symbolic Figure. Frye's chapter Nightmare with Her Ninefold is a study of Blake's Four Zoas. During the writing of the Four Zoas, Blake was working out the symbolism which would reappear in other forms. Frye's mastery of Blake's thought makes him the ideal reference for seeing the depth and breath of the constructions of Blake's imagination.

Frye, Page 274-5:
"Los and Orc are called Urthona and Luvah respectively when spoken of in the context of the eternal as opposed to the temporal world. The whole four represent more of less the four aspects of God's imaginative energy, Urthona being his creative fertility, which appears in the fallen world as Los; Tharmas his power to bring what he creates into complete existence, the first privilege lost to man at the Fall; Luvah his capacity for love and joy; and Urizen his wisdom and sense of form. Urizen is thus the  unfallen or eternal name of what in the fallen world eventually becomes Satan, the dead matter which is the 'form' of nature insofar as it has any apart from life.
"The imagination sees the east, not as one of thirty-two arbirtrary divisions of what Blake calls a 'concave' space, but as the quarter of beginnings, as the region of newborn life and light. It sees the north, at least in Britain, as an attractive magnet pulling all things downward to it. The north then is a 'nadir' and the east a 'center' of renewed energy: the south, the region of intensest sunshine, is therefore a 'zenith' and the west with its bounding ocean a 'circumference.'
"We may understand this point more clearly if we go back to the Book of Daniel again to Nebucadnezzar's dream of himself as a statue with a head of gold, breast of silver, loins of brass and legs of iron. This statue is Albion before the fall, when great nations dwelt together as one Man. Now this Man must have been the form of unfallen space, and it is the form which the prophetic imagination strives to visualize here. We may notice that Nebucadnezzar forgot his dream and had to have it recalled to him by a prophet.
"Albion's golden head in the southern zenith was Eden, the city of the sun, and the unfallen Urizen. The silver breast of the circumference was the surrounding garden of Eden, or Beulah, the unfallen Tharmas. The brazen loins and genitals of the center were the region of generation and sexual desire, the unfallen Orc and Vala...The iron legs were dark but unfallen 'Ulro,' more of less the region the imagination now enters when it tells ghost stories, the abode of Urthona...The four levels of existence are the four levels of consciousness also. Urizen is the highest level or zenith of active awareness, or creation; Tharmas is the lower level of relaxed awareness; Luvah is the still lower level of love and copulation; and Urthona is 'subconscious' sleep and dream, the nadir of imaginative energy. Further, this world of city and garden is no longer underneath an indefinite sky. The domain of the unfallen Urizen,  Albion's golden head, is the real or mental sun; that of Tharmas the real moon; that of Luvah or Orc the real stars; and that of Urthona the real mountains, full of mines which are fairy palaces. The present physical universe, the underground cave of the mind, or mundane shell, is thus the fallen Urthona's 'dens.' "          

William Blake 
English 1757 1827 

Illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy 1824-27

Hell Canto 14: The Symbolic Figure of the Course of

Human History Described by Virgil 

pen, ink and watercolour over pencil and black chalk

52.7 x 37.3 cm

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Felton Bequest, 1920

In Frye's passage he has described the positions and meanings of the fourfold functions in the unfallen world. Here is a account from the Four Zoas as the 'Four Mighty Ones' have fallen into disarray and struggle among themselves for dominance.

Four Zoas, Night VI, Page 74, (E 351)
"Thus Urizen in sorrows wanderd many a dreary way
Warring with monsters of the Deeps in his most hideous pilgrimage
Till his bright hair scatterd in snows his skin barkd oer with wrinkles
Four Caverns rooting downwards their foundations thrusting forth
The metal rock & stone in ever painful throes of vegetation
The Cave of Orc stood to the South a furnace of dire flames
Quenchless unceasing. In the west the Cave of Urizen             
For Urizen fell as the Midday sun falls down into the West
North stood Urthonas stedfast throne a World of Solid darkness
Shut up in stifling obstruction rooted in dumb despair
The East was Void. But Tharmas rolld his billows in ceaseless eddies
Void pathless beat with Snows eternal & iron hail & rain  
All thro the caverns of fire & air & Earth, Seeking
For Enions limbs nought finding but the black sea weed & sickning slime
Flying away from Urizen that he might not give him food
Above beneath on all sides round in the vast deep of immensity
That he might starve the sons & daughters of Urizen on the winds 
Making between horrible chasms into the vast unknown
All these around the world of Los cast forth their monstrous births
But in Eternal times the Seat of Urizen is in the South
Urthona in the North Luvah in East Tharmas in West

And now he came into the Abhorred world of Dark Urthona          
By Providence divine conducted not bent from his own will
Lest death Eternal should be the result for the Will cannot be violated
Into the doleful vales where no tree grew nor river flowd
Nor man nor beast nor creeping thing nor sun nor cloud nor star
Still he with his globe of fire immense in his venturous hand    
Bore on thro the Affrighted vales ascending & descending
Oerwearied or in cumbrous flight he venturd oer dark rifts
Or down dark precipices or climbd with pain and labour huge
Till he beheld the world of Los from the Peaked rock of Urthona
And heard the howling of red Orc distincter & distincter   
Page 75 
Redoubling his immortal efforts thro the narrow vales
With difficulty down descending guided by his Ear
And by his globe of fire he went down the Vale of Urthona   
Between the enormous iron walls built by the Spectre dark
Dark grew his globe reddning with mists & full before his path 
Striding across the narrow vale the Shadow of Urthona   
A spectre Vast appeard whose feet & legs with iron scaled
Stampd the hard rocks expectant of the unknown wanderer
Whom he had seen wandring his nether world when distant far
And watchd his swift approach collected dark the Spectre stood   
Beside hi[m] Tharmas stayd his flight & stood in stern defiance
Communing with the Spectre who rejoicd along the vale
Round his loins a girdle glowd with many colourd fires
In his hand a knotted Club whose knots like mountains frownd
Desart among the Stars them withering with its ridges cold
Black scales of iron arm the dread visage iron spikes instead
Of hair shoot from his orbed scull. his glowing eyes
Burn like two furnaces. he calld with Voice of Thunder

Four winged heralds mount the furious blasts & blow their trumps
Gold Silver Brass & iron clangors clamoring rend the shores     
Like white clouds rising from the Vales his fifty two armies
From the four Cliffs of Urthona rise glowing around the Spectre
Four sons of Urizen the Squadrons of Urthona led in arms
Of gold & silver brass & iron he knew his mighty sons

Then Urizen arose upon the wind back many a mile         
Retiring into his dire Web scattering fleecy snows
As he ascended howling loud the Web vibrated strong
From heaven to heaven from globe to globe."

No comments: