Wednesday, August 05, 2015


British Library
Four Zoas Manuscript
Page 92

Four Zoas, Night VII b, PAGE 92, (E 364)
"Of death O northern drum awake O hand of iron sound
The northern drum. Now give the charge! bravely obscurd!
With darts of wintry hail. Again the black bow draw
Again the Elemental Strings to your right breasts draw
And let the thundring drum speed on the arrows black  

The arrows flew from cloudy bow all day. till blood
From east to west flowd like the human veins in rivers
Of life upon the plains of death & valleys of despair

Now sound the clarions of Victory now strip the slain
clothe yourselves in golden arms brothers of war   
They sound the clarions strong they chain the howling captives
they give the Oath of blood They cast the lots into the helmet,
They vote the death of Luvah & they naild him to the tree
They piercd him with a spear & laid him in a sepulcher
To die a death of Six thousand years bound round with desolation 
The sun was black & the moon rolld a useless globe thro heaven

Then left the Sons of Urizen the plow & harrow the loom
The hammer & the Chisel & the rule & compasses
They forgd the sword the chariot of war the battle ax
The trumpet fitted to the battle & the flute of summer 
And all the arts of life they changd into the arts of death
The hour glass contemnd because its simple workmanship
Was as the workmanship of the plowman & the water wheel
That raises water into Cisterns broken & burnd in 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
Of day & night the myriads of Eternity. that they might file
And polish brass & iron hour after hour laborious workmanship
Kept ignorant of the 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

Now now the Battle rages round thy tender limbs O Vala
Now smile among thy bitter tears now put on all thy beauty  
Is not the wound of the sword Sweet & the broken bone delightful
Wilt thou now smile among the slain when the wounded groan in the field"

Harold Bloom, on Page 244 of Blake's Apocalypse, makes this comment:
"It is customary to speak of Blake's two attempts at Night VII as two 'versions', but the word is misleading if it is taken to mean that one is a revision of the other. They are rather alternate versions of a crucial section of the poem, and might better be called rival visions...The first attempt was much revised by Blake, who clearly was unhappy with it, and who finally so scrambled the sequence of passages within it that the reader cannot be sure what the best and definite sequence is.

Night VII in this revised version, has given birth to dual transformations of psychic potential. The first has left us with a shadowy female, Vala, the delusive beauty of nature and with the fallen Urizen, the concentration of everything deathly in the fallen intellect. The second has given us a Los reformed into a poet-prophet life Blake himself, capable of loving everything that is most opposed to him. From the conflict of these two principles, that toward natural death and that toward imaginative life, the antinomies of Night VIII will be formed." 

On Page 90 Los had made a breakthrough to a degree of self-knowledge through which he could accept aspects of himself which had been alienated. Urizen, however, was not mollified by the alteration in Los' outlook. In fact Urizen was impelled to intensify his attack on Los.

On Page 92 Blake inserts words to remind us of the final attack on Jesus as he stood up against the powers of this world. The violence surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus is like the violent reaction of Urizen to Los' opening to compassion as described on Page 90. As a portent to conflict Blake twice uses the phrase Elemental Strings: once on Plate 3 of Europe once on page 92 of the Four Zoas.

Glasgow University Library  
Plate 3, Copy B
Europe, Plate 3 [5], (E 61) 
"Again the night is come 
That strong Urthona takes his rest, 
And Urizen unloos'd from chains 
Glows like a meteor in the distant north 
Stretch forth your hands and strike the elemental strings! 
Awake the thunders of the deep."

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