The Four Zoas
- Four Mighty Ones are in every Man;
a Perfect Unity
Cannot exist but from the Universal
Brotherhood of Eden
The Universal Man: To Whom be
Glory Evermore Amen.
Blake writes about himself, about us, about the world- all of one piece.
The Four Zoas is a sort of notebook or rough draft of the large finished works that Blake produced in his mature years: Milton and Jerusalem.
If you ever read the Book of Isaiah, you find pages and pages of indictments, excoriations,
judgments on Israel as default in every moral virtue and almost surely headed for dire punishment.
But interspersed in the midst of all this gloom you will discover a page here and there of the most
ethereal beauty, warmth, love and promise. (This is most apt to appear in the midst of one of God's dire punishments, as comfort for a downtrodden and suffering people. (comfort ye, comfort ye my people for example.)
Such is The Four Zoas of William Blake, the prophet, interminably cataloging the misteps, the
failures, the fallenness of Albion (the universal man) and his various separated parts, but always with the golden chain of progress.
- I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate
Built in Jerusalem's wall. (Introduction to Chapter Four of Jerusalem; E231)
- Lest the state calld Luvah should cease, the Divine Vision
Walked in robes of blood till he who slept should awake.
Thus were the stars of heaven created like a golden chain. (The Four Zoas [Nt 2], 33.14; E321
Many a musical masterwork on its initial performance has met a cold reception. In the same way the
taste for many foods grows with experience; young children often reject what their parents keenly
enjoy; in due course they may develop a taste for what they at first found exotic and repulsive.
4Z is a very exotic masterpiece and most definitely an acquired taste. The reader initially encounters an appalling mass of strange ideas and much that appears to be sheer gibberish. But with perseverance the strange ideas become familiar bit by bit, and the gibberish clarifies into some of the most exalted thought forms of the human mind. To the seasoned reader 4Z is a treasure house of imaginative delights. Or call it a mine that releases its gold to the pertinacious. The same could be said of the Bible.
Blake wrote the poem over a period of years while his mind and spirit were rapidly developing and changing. It began as the story of Vala, the incarnation of the Female Will. Later it became an account of cosmic and psychic history written in terms of the four Giant Forms--their breakup and struggle for dominion. At Blake's spiritual crisis this seed bed gave birth to Jesus and Jerusalem, his bride. Blake then made an attempt to rewrite 4Z to reflect his new spiritual orientation, but after a while he gave up.
4Z was aborted because Blake's world had fundamentally changed, and he was ready to start over.
After many years of looking for the New Age he had become a New Man. The new man wrote Milton and Jerusalem using 4Z as a quarry. 4Z is fascinating in its own right, although unfinished, but most significant as a platform from which to rise to the ethereal glory of the mature poems.
Focusing on The Four Zoas Milton Percival, who wrote William Blake's Circle of Destiny, tells us that ten characters make up his myth: Two Albions (man), the Eternal One and the One who fell asleep down here in this vale of tears; Four Zoas (Urizen, Luvah, Los, and Tharmas) and their feminine parts (Ahania, Vala, Enitharman, and Enion)