Wednesday, September 04, 2013

America 4

                         AMERICA a PROPHECY                  
                Printed by William Blake in the year 1793.


The shadowy daughter of Urthona stood before red Orc.
When fourteen suns had faintly journey'd o'er his dark abode;
His food she brought in iron baskets, his drink in cups of iron;
Crown'd with a helmet & dark hair the nameless female stood;
A quiver with its burning stores, a bow like that of night,
When pestilence is shot from heaven; no other arms she need:
Invulnerable tho' naked, save where clouds roll round her loins,
Their awful folds in the dark air; silent she stood as night;
For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise;
But dumb till that dread day when Orc assay'd his fierce embrace.

Dark virgin; said the hairy youth, thy father stern abhorr'd;
Rivets my tenfold chains while still on high my spirit soars;
Sometimes an eagle screaming in the sky, sometimes a lion,
Stalking upon the mountains, & sometimes a whale I lash
The raging fathomless abyss, anon a serpent folding              

Around the pillars of Urthona, and round thy dark limbs,
On the Canadian wilds I fold, feeble my spirit folds.
For chaind beneath I rend these caverns; when thou bringest food
I howl my joy! and my red eyes seek to behold thy face
In vain! these clouds roll to & fro, & hide thee from my sight.  
(Erdman 51)

On the Text In this Plate it's hard to see how the text relates to the image. 

 The 'shadowy daughter of Urthona is feeding Orc. We might suppose that she is
the agent in the continuously increasing oppression of the Americans, as well as the common people of Great Britain. 
War and Pestilence and Slavery express her character. 

 "that dread day when Orc assay'd his fierce embrace" Doesn't that mean that Revolution chose War? 

In America a Prophecy, the figure of the Shadowy Female is described as one of Urthona's  daughters and Orc, as a serpent, is wrapped around Urthona's pillars.

Plate 3 of Milton, speaking of the shadowy female has this to say:
"They Builded Great Golgonooza Times on Times Ages on Ages
First Orc was Born then the Shadowy Female: then All Los's Family
At last Enitharmon brought forth Satan Refusing Form, in vain
The Miller of Eternity made subservient to the Great Harvest
That he may go to his own Place Prince of the Starry Wheels"

"On the Canadian wilds I fold, feeble my spirit folds." Blake thinks that Canada did not have the stomach to choose war; they remained in the Empire.

The Image
Across the left border we see a willow tree rising from its roots at the lower left. Beneath the roots sits a figure closed up in himself; he's the unconscious man. Found in consciousness at the top, the youth whom Blake called Orc, is chained to a rock in spite of efforts to free him by his parents, Los and Enitharmon. You may remember in the Book of Urizen Orc was chained down by his jealous father.

Erdman's Illuminated Blake 139: 

compares this to the engraving of the execution of "breaking on the rack" for John Gabriel Stedman (in the National Gallery):

See also Essays.

In the tree with vines growing around it Erdman saw "human bodies or torsos twining and rising but becoming less animal than vegetable" to emerge at last to Orc.


In fact many fathers become jealous of the time and attention their wife shows to their son. Fortunately Blake did not have that temptation.

Erdman continually saw things in these pictures of which I am completely oblivious. 

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