The red fires rag'd! the plagues recoil'd! then rolld they back
cross the limbs of Albions Guardian, the spotted plague smote Bristols
And the Leprosy Londons Spirit, sickening all their bands:
The millions sent up a howl of anguish and threw off their hammerd mail,
And cast their swords & spears to earth, & stood a naked multitude.
Albions Guardian writhed in torment on the eastern sky
Pale quivring toward the brain his glimmering eyes, teeth chattering
Howling & shuddering his legs quivering; convuls'd each muscle &
Sick'ning lay Londons Guardian, and the ancient miter'd York
Their heads on snowy hills, their ensigns sick'ning in the sky
The plagues creep on the burning winds driven by flames of Orc,
And by the fierce Americans rushing together in the night
Driven o'er the Guardians of Ireland and Scotland and Wales
They spotted with plagues forsook the frontiers & their banners
With fires of hell, deform their ancient heavens with shame &
Hid in his eaves the Bard of Albion felt the enormous plagues.
And a cowl of flesh grew o'er his head & scales on his back &
And rough with black scales all his Angels fright their ancient
The doors of marriage are open, and the Priests in rustling
Rush into reptile coverts, hiding from the fires of Orc,
That play around the golden roofs in wreaths of fierce desire,
Leaving the females naked and glowing with the lusts of youth
For the female spirits of the dead pining in bonds of religion;
Run from their fetters reddening, & in long drawn arches sitting:
They feel the nerves of youth renew, and desires of ancient
Over their pale limbs as a vine when the tender grape appears
About the Text
On Albions Angels: This passage represents the disaster to 'Guardians'
England suffered as much as America from the war.
of England, Ireland and Scotland and Wales, beginning with Bristol,
perhaps the embarkation point for the Redcoats heading to America.
This is the only use that Blake made of the term Bard of Albion; was
he referring to himself? so demoralized?
we can only reflect on what he meant. 'Bard' is used often:
At the beginning of Songs of Experience:
Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk'd among the ancient trees.
Calling the lapsed Soul
In the light of that poem we may assume that the Bard of
Albion was the prophet of England; Blake has certainly
assumed that role, but the bard in this plate has fallen
to the point of becoming serpent-like.
About the Image
Those strange hieroclyphics we've met before are used to separate
sections of the text; they might be throught of as limbs of the tree
that fills the left border, which has become so commonplace.
A group of figure may be thought of as climbing the tree; more clearly
defined figures (notably female) are found in flames at the bottom.
(In my mind its reminiscent if the conventional Hell.)
There are all sorts of ideas about the significance of the symbols that
Erdman's page 153 present to us, such as the 'liberated horse' at
line 3. (It does show up better in this copy.