Sunday, September 29, 2013

America 17

Rosenwald LC
Plate 16

The Text

                                      PLATE 16

Over the hills, the vales, the cities, rage the red flames fierce;
The Heavens melted from north to south; and Urizen who sat 
Above all heavens in thunders wrap'd, emerg'd his leprous head 
from out his holy shrine, his tears in deluge piteous
Falling into the deep sublime! flag'd with grey-brow'd snows 
And thunderous visages, his jealous wings wav'd over the deep;
Weeping in dismal howling woe he dark descended howling
Around the smitten bands, clothed in tears & trembling shudd'ring cold.
His stored snows he poured forth, and his icy magazines
He open'd on the deep, and on the Atlantic sea white shiv'ring.
 Leprous his limbs, all over white, and hoary was his visage.
Weeping in dismal howlings before the stern Americans
Hiding the Demon red with clouds & cold mists from the earth;
Till Angels & weak men twelve years should govern o'er the strong:
And then their end should come, when France reciev'd the Demons light. 
Stiff shudderings shook the heav'nly thrones! 
France Spain & Italy,In terror view'd the bands of Albion, and the ancient 
Guardians Fainting upon the elements, smitten with their own plagues 
They slow advance to shut the five gates of their law-built heaven
Filled with blasting fancies and with mildews of despair
With fierce disease and lust, unable to stem the fires of Orc;
But the five gates were consum'd, & their bolts and hinges melted
And the fierce flames burnt round the heavens, & round the abodes of men

FINIS(Erdman 57-8)

                    About the Text

Urizen who sat Above all heavens aptly described at several places in the image. 
Blake is saying that Urizen is in charge of this mess.Urizen was Weeping in 
dismal howlings: everything is wrong here.

twelve years: he's talking history now; the 12 years might be construed as the 
years between the end of the American Revolution and the beginning of the French 
one--- or he might mean something entirely different.

"the five gates of their law-built heaven": look at Song of Los:

"Thus the terrible race of Los & Enitharmon 
gave Laws & Religions to the sons of Har binding them more
And more to Earth: closing and restraining: 
Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete 
Urizen wept & gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke" 
(Erdman 68)

                           About the Image

A female bends on her knees with her head down and her hands in a pose

of prayer. Her hair is blue according to copy O and run over to the
right margin in what Erdman calls a niagara. A little man is sitting on
top of her head reading a book.

On top of her back two people are standing, one with a book perhaps and
the other pointing up to the right. Behind her feet seems to be a
figure on his hands with his face down.

Blake has put more and more small figures in juxtaposition with the
large one.  He's inviting his 'students' to think what they will
according to their level of perception.

These squigles reach their epitome at the bottom; first impressions of
it are a 'snake pit' or den of dragons, enclosing in the bottom center
'finis'.  You might suppose that he's saying that the American
Revolution is a batch of garbage.

Like the French Revolution Blake started out enthusiastically, so much
so that he wore the redcap of the revolutionists. But both revolutions
became illusory for Blake, succinctly expressed by the short slogan:
"he crushed the tyrant in his head
and became a tyrant in his stead.

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