Thursday, January 31, 2013
Chapter Ten 7
In the last Night of The Four Zoas Blake let all of his feelings out in a
magnificent vision of apocalypse that bears comparison with the one John wrote:
Los his vegetable hands Outstretch'd; his right
hand, branching out in fibrous strength, Siez'd
the Sun; His left hand, like dark roots, cover'd
the Moon, And tore them down, cracking the
heavens across from immense to immense. Then
fell the fires of Eternity with loud and shrill
Sound of Loud Trumpet....
And on and on it goes, much too imposing to describe in this short
review. But two things will be said:
First, Blake draws on John's Apocalypse as he already has in Night viii.
The strangest book in the Bible, utterly incomprehensible to the literal
mind, has much to offer to the trained imagination. To read the end of 4Z
with complete attention gives one a purchase on Blake's great source;
Revelation begins to come alive in an exciting new way.
Second, as great as it is, Blake simply wasn't able to 'Christianize' his apocalypse as he had done the two previous Nights. Perhaps it was already too
deeply stamped with his pre-Christian mind. Forgiveness is the soul, virtually
the alpha and omega of Blake's Christ, but Night ix shows little or no evidence
of this new spirit. Only in 'Jerusalem', in its last plates, do we find a
thoroughly Christian apocalypse. Neither Revelation nor Night ix has much of
forgiveness; what they do have is vengeance and retribution. Both writers had
suffered much at the hands of the ungodly, and both looked with anticipation to
the Day of Vengeance. So we must say that Night ix is a modern redoing of John's
Apocalypse, while the end of 'Jerusalem' is a Christian recreation of it.
Blake's epic ends with the eternal man awake, his four Zoas back in
union, each carrying out his appointed function in the harmonious consummation
of the Age. In the last harvest Urizen reaps, Tharmas threshes, Luvah tramples
out the vineyard and Urthona bakes the bread.
Night ix contains much magnificent poetry. A few lines near the end will
provide an appropriate end to this all too inadequate description of Blake's
The Sun has left his blackness and has found a
fresher morning, And the mild moon rejoices in the
clear and cloudless night, And Man walks forth from
the midst of the fires: the evil is all consum'd.
... He walks upon the Eternal Mountains, raising
his heavenly voice, Conversing with the Animal
forms of wisdom night and day, ... They raise their
faces from the Earth, conversing with the Man: "How
is it we have walk'd thro' fires and yet are
not consum'd? "How is it that all things are
chang'd, even as in ancient times?"
The Sun arises from his dewey bed, and the fresh
airs Play in his smiling beams giving the seeds of
life to grow, And the fresh Earth beams forth ten
thousand thousand springs of life.
For a more organized description of The Four Zoas
go to Characters.