Thursday, December 10, 2015


 Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 139, (E 407) 
"The Sun arises from his dewy bed & the fresh airs 
Play in his smiling beams giving the seeds of life to grow 
And the fresh Earth beams forth ten thousand thousand springs of life 
Urthona is arisen in his strength no longer now 
Divided from Enitharmon no longer the Spectre Los 
Where is the Spectre of Prophecy where the delusive Phantom 
Departed & Urthona rises from the ruinous walls 
In all his ancient strength to form the golden armour of science 
For intellectual War The war of swords departed now 
The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns 

                      End of The Dream"

Blake saw human development as process not product. The Four Zoas was intended not to delineate the Man who has been transformed, but to demonstrate the process through which Man goes to arrive at transformation. The unified status which he attained was not a permanent condition but a jumping off point for continued differentiation and integration. The tools which had served Man in his earth-bound life had been war and religion through which he had hammered out his existence in a natural world of limitations and uncertainties. With no further need to be in conflict within himself Man turns to his inner resources to guide his further progress.

Growing seeds, flowing springs, and ruined walls made possible a new paradigm to represent the activity of the New Man: Intellectual War supported by 'the golden armour of science' growing out of intuition and imagination supplied by Urthona.        

The images which Blake choose to structure the progress of Man through life are set forth in this passage from Frye's Fearful Symmetry. Frye traces stages of developmental potential through the the vegetative seed, to the mammalian embryo, to the oviparous egg. In this illustration for Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, we notice in the foreground a female figure lying in the snow. Blake was calling to our minds Vala as an image of the natural world where the seed contains the potential for development. In the center of the picture is an enclosed space in which the holy family rejoices in the arrival of new life. The enclosure is the womb in which the new man is nurtured until he is born of the spirit. The winged being in the arc of a rainbow partakes of the Dove of the Spirit which has been released from the egg of mortality.

Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity 
Butts Set, Page 1
Northrop Frye:
"The natural man is, speaking in terms of conscious vision, an imaginative seed. Just as a seed is a dry sealed packet of solid 'matter,' so the natural mind is a tight skull-bound shell of abstract ideas. And just as a seed is surrounded by a dark world which we see as an underworld, so the physical universe, which surrounds the natural man on all sides, and is dark in the sense that he cannot see its extent, is the underworld of the mind, the den of Urthona, the cave of Plato's Republic. The majority of seeds in nature die as seeds, and in human life all natural men, all the timid, all the stupid, all the evil, remain in the starlit cavern of the fallen mind, hibernating in the dormant winter night of time. They are embryos of life only, infertile seeds, and die within the seed world. The possibility of life within them remains in the embryonic form of abstract ideas, shadows and dreams. Some of the dreams are troubled visions of the real world of awakened consciousness; others are the nightmares of paralyzing horror which all minds in a stupor of inertia are prone to. Here or there a seed puts out a sprout into the real world, and when it does so it escapes from the darkness of burial into the real world into the light of immortality. Such a seed would only have begun its development, for the vegetable life is not the most highly organized form of life, because it is till bound to nature. The animal symbolizes a higher stage of development by breaking its navel-string, and this earth-bound freedom of movement is represented in our present physical level.

The bird is not a higher form of imagination than we are, but its ability to fly symbolizes one, and men usually assign wings to what they visualize as superior forms of human existence. In this symbolism the corresponding image of nature would be neither the seed-bed of the plant nor the suckling mother of the mammal, but the egg, which has been used as a symbol of the physical universe from the most ancient times. We think of the cosmic egg chiefly in connection of the Gnostic or Orphic imagery, but the account of creation in Genesis as a watery chaos surrounded by the shell of 'firmament,' which the Spirit of God, later visualized as a dove, broods upon and brings to life, also has oviparous overtones. In Blake the firmament is the mundane shell, the indefinite circumference of the physical world through which the mind crashes on its winged assent to reality."
(Page 347-8)  

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