Monday, August 31, 2015


George Rosso's first chapter of Blake's Prophetic Workshop investigates the perspectives that respected critics of the Four Zoas have published since Ellis and Yates first included the Four Zoas in The Works of William Blake in 1793. Each critic discerned different virtues and flaws, successes and failures, intents and influences. Rosso can't totally agree with any of his predecessors. In this statement he concludes that Blake's technique, which engenders confusion about his means and meaning, is integral to what he wants his reader to gain from his poem. The interaction between the reader and the text is intended to lead to an individual event of recognition.  

From Blake's Prophetic Workshop, Page 46:

"The poem's substantial achievement lies primarily in the way its experimental composite form delivers its powerful content. Blake's 'epic' exceeds the boundaries of its difficult, problematic structure because it treats both as meaning and as a means to individual and social liberation. I do not, I believe, simply invert formalistic assumptions about unity. Nor do I hedge the problem of formal incoherence. I try various critical approaches that direct attention to the contexts, both intrinsic and extrinsic, that readers must engage to participate in Blake's visionary epic theater.


Content and form need not perfectly align for a work to have impact. If a work lacks formal perfection, it can create an impact through sheer power. Its impact can reside in the force that links content and form, reverberating beyond the confines of artistic structure. I agree with Erdman that history is the force that disrupts the narrative structure of The Four Zoas, but I do not devalue the poem for this disruption. I think, rather, that the link between content and form can become a 'call' toward the social situation in which the work is created and received. I call this the kerygmatic meaning of the narrative."

ON HOMERS POETRY, (E 269)                  
"Every Poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homers is
peculiarly so, I cannot tell: he has told the story of
Bellerophon & omitted the judgment of Paris which is not only a
part, but a principal part of Homers subject
  But when a Work has Unity it is as much in a Part as in the
Whole. the Torso is as much a Unity as the Laocoon
  As Unity is the cloke of folly so Goodness is the cloke of
knavery  Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out
with a Moral like a sting in the tail: Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do
with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are
Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree
still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is
its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.
  It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral 
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil.
  The Classics, it is the Classics! & not Goths nor Monks, that
Desolate Europe with Wars."   
British Library
Four Zoas Manuscript
Page 95
 Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 87 [95] (FIRST PORTION)
"For far & wide she [Vala] stretchd thro all the worlds of Urizens journey
And was Ajoind to Beulah as the Polypus to the Rock
Mourning the daughters of Beulah saw nor could they have sustaind
The horrid sight of death & torment   But the Eternal Promise
They wrote on all their tombs & pillars & on every Urn     
These words   If ye will believe your Brother shall rise again
In golden letters ornamented with sweet labours of Love
Waiting with Patience for the fulfilment of the Promise Divine

And all the Songs of Beulah sounded comfortable notes
Not suffring doubt to rise up from the Clouds of the Shadowy Female 
Then myriads of the Dead burst thro the bottoms of their tombs
Descending on the shadowy females clouds in Spectrous terror
Beyond the Limit of Translucence on the Lake of Udan Adan
These they namd Satans & in the Aggregate they namd them Satan"

No comments: