Wednesday, September 25, 2013

America 15

Although this is Plate 14 of Erdman's  electronic edition of The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake's,
newly Revised 1988 edited  by  David V. Erdman, I've called it America 15; that's because I added a preliminary 
statement and called it America 1.

America 15
Rosenwald LC

                          The Text

                                      Plate 14

In the flames stood & view'd the armies drawn out in the sky

Washington Franklin Paine & Warren Allen Gates & Lee:
And heard the voice of Albions Angel give the thunderous command:
His plagues obedient to his voice flew forth out of their clouds
Falling upon America, as a storm to cut them off
As a blight cuts the tender corn when it begins to appear.
Dark is the heaven above, & cold & hard the earth beneath;
And as a plague wind fill'd with insects cuts off man & beast;
And as a sea o'erwhelms a land in the day of an earthquake; 
Fury! rage! madness! in a wind swept through America
And the red flames of Orc that folded roaring fierce around
The angry shores, and the fierce rushing of th'inhabitants
The citizens of New-York close their books & lock their chests;
The mariners of Boston drop their anchors and unlade;
The scribe of Pensylvania casts his pen upon the earth;
The builder of Virginia throws his hammer down in fear.
Then had America been lost, o'erwhelm'd by the Atlantic,
And Earth had lost another portion of the infinite,
But all rush together in the night in wrath and raging fire
The red fires rag'd! the plagues recoil'd! then rolld they back
with fury                

                        About the Text

In the flames: the fire appears in Plate 3, 9, 12, and perhaps
elsewhere referring of course to the violence, the war, the

Allen Gates & Lee: these three appear with the original three
named earlier:
Ethan Allen captured Fort_Ticonderoga and founded Vermont.

Horatio Gates 'won' the battle of Saratoga.

In the second Continental Congress   Richard Henry Lee moved
for Independence.

Albion's Angel, as you may recall, is a sobriquet for the king
of England. With his 'thunderous command' he threatens the
plague (of War) and all sorts of bad things (like a tax on tea).

The people respond with Fury! rage! madness; Blake named
Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Virginia where revolutionary
sentiments prevailed.  They turn their rage and red fires on
Albion's Angel.

                   About the Image

For the gobbledygook at the top I can only refer you to Erdman's

Illuminated Blake, page 152.

In the middle of the image we see the inevitable tree with a uprising 
limb (trunk?) and a horizontal limb overshadowing two figures; the 
roots go down on the right margin to the bottom. Behind it is the 
trunk of a second large tree.

The figure on the right is a nude female pointing on the reclining male
figure on the left. Her legs are spread and between them emerges a snake
like creature, his head pointed as if to strike the male.

This may be considered a representation of the Angel of Albion and of

Above the last four lines is the same sort of gobbledygook as there was
at the top.

At the bottom is a dragon like form with fire coming out of its mouth.
That may represent the general fiery distress of everyone.

If you use your imagination you may find a lot of meaning in the Plate.


Susan J. said...

this is very timely for me, Larry. I've been watching videos and listening to audiobooks about the Revolution, so for once I actually "get" some of the references, and some of the emotional sense behind the verse. To your knowledge did Blake ever mention or allude to Lafayette? our little book group is going to discuss Unger's biography of L soon, and I've been struggling to get some context... poor student of history that I've always been...


Larry said...

Thanks for your comment, Susan.
Check out

This was the result of googling William Blake Lafayette

Susan J. said...

thanks, Larry - I'll check that out --

can you explain to me about the "red flames of Orc"?