Tuesday, March 05, 2013


British Museum
Book of Urizen
Plate 26
Copy D

Industrialization was taking place at a fast pace during Blake's lifetime which extended from 1757 to 1827. The two processes at which we have been looking as images for the transformation of man's psyche, the furnaces and the looms, were rapidly developing as means by which society and the economy were entering a new age. The technical advances made possible by inventions and applications, and the might of empire, spread the means of automated manufacture throughout Britain. Blake latched onto the powerful images of the industrial revolution as symbols for the trauma which modify the inner workings in the brain.

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 55, (E 33)
[An early Song of Experience included in one late copy] 
"Cruelty has a Human Heart
And Jealousy a Human Face
Terror, the Human Form Divine
And Secrecy, the Human Dress

The Human Dress, is forged Iron
The Human Form, a fiery Forge.
The Human Face, a Furnace seal'd
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge."
Milton, Plate 6, (E 100)
"But now the Starry Heavens are fled from the mighty limbs of Albion

Loud sounds the Hammer of Los, loud turn the Wheels of Enitharmon
Her Looms vibrate with soft affections, weaving the Web of Life
Out from the ashes of the Dead"
But the furnaces and looms likewise were used by Blake to symbolize the loss of human values as mechanization replaced manual skills. Blake saw that the souls who were the inhabitants of Britain were thrown into the furnaces and woven in the looms 'among the dark Satanic wheels.'
Jerusalem, Plate 15, (E 159)
"But first Albion must sleep, divided from the Nations

I see Albion sitting upon his Rock in the first Winter           
And thence I see the Chaos of Satan & the World of Adam
When the Divine Hand went forth on Albion in the mid Winter
And at the place of Death when Albion sat in Eternal Death
Among the Furnaces of Los in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom
Hampstead Highgate Finchley Hendon Muswell hill: rage loud
Before Bromions iron Tongs & glowing Poker reddening fierce
Hertfordshire glows with fierce Vegetation! in the Forests
The Oak frowns terrible, the Beech & Ash & Elm enroot
Among the Spiritual fires; loud the Corn fields thunder along  
The Soldiers fife; the Harlots shriek; the Virgins dismal groan
The Parents fear: the Brothers jealousy: the Sisters curse
Beneath the Storms of Theotormon & the thundring Bellows
Heaves in the hand of Palamabron who in Londons darkness
Before the Anvil, watches the bellowing flames: thundering       
The Hammer loud rages in Rintrahs strong grasp swinging loud

Round from heaven to earth down falling with heavy blow
Dead on the Anvil, where the red hot wedge groans in pain
He quenches it in the black trough of his Forge; Londons River
Feeds the dread Forge, trembling & shuddering along the Valleys 

Humber & Trent roll dreadful before the Seventh Furnace
And Tweed & Tyne anxious give up their Souls for Albions sake
Lincolnshire Derbyshire Nottinghamshire Leicestershire
From Oxfordshire to Norfolk on the Lake of Udan Adan
Labour within the Furnaces, walking among the Fires              
With Ladles huge & iron Pokers over the Island white.
Scotland pours out his Sons to labour at the Furnaces
Wales gives his Daughters to the Looms; England: nursing Mothers
Gives to the Children of Albion & to the Children of Jerusalem
From the blue Mundane Shell even to the Earth of Vegetation      
Throughout the whole Creation which groans to be deliverd.
Albion groans in the deep slumbers of Death upon his Rock."
Jerusalem, Plate 65, (E 216)
"Then left the Sons of Urizen the plow & harrow, the loom
The hammer & the chisel, & the rule & compasses; from London fleeing
They forg'd the sword on Cheviot, the chariot of war & the battle-ax,
The trumpet fitted to mortal battle, & the flute of summer in Annandale
And all the Arts of Life. they changd into the Arts of Death in Albion.
The hour-glass contemnd because its simple workmanship.
Was like the workmanship of the plowman, & the water wheel,
That raises water into cisterns: broken & burnd with fire:
Because its workmanship. was like the workmanship of the shepherd. 
And in their stead, intricate wheels invented, wheel without wheel:
To perplex youth in their outgoings, & to bind to labours in Albion
Of day & night the myriads of eternity that they may grind
And polish brass & iron hour after hour laborious task!
Kept ignorant of its use, that they might spend the days of wisdom
In sorrowful drudgery, to obtain a scanty pittance of bread:
In ignorance to view a small portion & think that All,
And call it Demonstration: blind to all the simple rules of life."
Alfred Kazin in his introduction to Blake: The Viking Portable Library provides this insight into Blake's first-hand experience of changes induced by the industrial revolution:
"Blake was only one of many Englishmen who felt himself being slowly ground to death, in a world of such brutal exploitation and amid such inhuman ugliness, that the fires of the new industrial furnaces and the cries of the child laborers are always in his work. His poems and designs are meant to afford us spiritual vision; a vision beyond the factory system, the hideous new cities, the degradation of children for the sake of profit, the petty crimes for which children could be hanged. 'England,' a man said to me on V-E day, 'has never recovered from its industrial revolution'; Blake was afraid it could not survive it; the human cost was already too great. He never saw the north of Britain, but the grey squalor of the Clydebrook, the great industrial maw of Manchester and Liverpool, the slums the broken families are remembered in the apocalyptic rant of Jerusalem, where

'Scotland pours out her son to labour in the Furnaces;
Wales gives her daughters to the Loom.'"

No comments: