Friday, December 25, 2015


The fall of Urizen

British Museum
Book of Urizen
Copy B, Plate 8
Although Blake created multiple images of Urizen, he often represented him as a bearded, white haired old man. To see the younger, unfallen Urizen we must refer to the portrayals of the element Air in the Gates of Paradise and in the Book of Urizen.
The first mentions of Urizen are in Visions of Daughters of Albion, America, and Europe. The First Book of Urizen is devoted to a struggle between Los and Urizen which results in mankind being "bound down to earth by their narrowing perceptions."  
The Publishers Note in Dover Publications' Book of Urizen states: "The Book of Urizen recounts the creation of the world and of mankind and explains man's fall from unity with the spiritual and the eternal to a state of dualistic isolation in a merely  materialistic reality."
British Museum
Book of Urizen
Copy B, Plate 8

British Museum
Book of Urizen
Copy D, Plate 20

This image of Urizen printed on a separate page bears the inscription, "Frozen doors to mock The World: while they within torments uplock." Erdman's comment on this inscription is that Urizen's chains forged by his own mind to mock the world instead lock him into his own torments. (The Illuminated Blake

America, Plate 8, (E 54)  
"The terror answerd: I am Orc, wreath'd round the accursed tree: 
The times are ended; shadows pass the morning gins to break; 
The fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands, 
What night he led the starry hosts thro' the wide wilderness:" 

Wikipedia Commons
Copy A, Plate 10

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 5, (E 48)

"But when the morn arose, her lamentation renewd, 
The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs.
 O Urizen! Creator of men! Mistaken Demon of heaven: 
Thy joys are tears! thy labour vain, to form men to thine image. 
How can one joy absorb another? are not different joys 
Holy, eternal, infinite! and each joy is a Love."  
 Four Zoas, Night V, PAGE 65, (E 344) 
"Thy pure feet stepd on the steps divine. too pure for other feet
And thy fair locks shadowd thine eyes from the divine effulgence
Then thou didst keep with Strong Urthona the living gates of heaven
But now thou art bound down with him even to the gates of hell

Because thou gavest Urizen the wine of the Almighty             
For steeds of Light that they might run in thy golden chariot of pride
I gave to thee the Steeds   I pourd the stolen wine 
And drunken with the immortal draught fell from my throne sublime

I will arise Explore these dens & find that deep pulsation
That shakes my caverns with strong shudders. perhaps this is the night
Of Prophecy & Luvah hath burst his way from Enitharmon
When Thought is closd in Caves. Then love shall shew its root in deepest Hell"

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 120, (E 389)
"The Eternal Man sat on the Rocks & cried with awful voice

O Prince of Light where art thou   I behold thee not as once
In those Eternal fields in clouds of morning stepping forth 
With harps & songs where bright Ahania sang before thy face
And all thy sons & daughters gatherd round my ample table
See you not all this wracking furious confusion
Come forth from slumbers of thy cold abstraction come forth
Arise to Eternal births shake off thy cold repose 
Schoolmaster of souls great opposer of change arise
That the Eternal worlds may see thy face in peace & joy
That thou dread form of Certainty maist sit in town & village
While little children play around thy feet in gentle awe
Fearing thy frown loving thy smile O Urizen Prince of light" 

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 122, (E 391)
"Urizen Said. I have Erred & my Error remains with me
What Chain encompasses in what Lock is the river of light confind
That issues forth in the morning by measure & the evening by carefulness
Where shall we take our stand to view the infinite & unbounded
Or where are human feet for Lo our eyes are in the heavens   

He ceasd for rivn link from link the bursting Universe explodes
All things reversd flew from their centers rattling bones
To bones join, shaking convulsd the shivering clay breathes
Each speck of dust to the Earths center nestles round & round
In pangs of an Eternal Birth in torment & awe & fear"
Milton, Plate 18 [20], (E 112)
"Urizen emerged from his Rocky Form & from his Snows,
Plate 19 [21]
And he also darkend his brows: freezing dark rocks between
The footsteps. and infixing deep the feet in marble beds:
That Milton labourd with his journey, & his feet bled sore
Upon the clay now chang'd to marble; also Urizen rose,
And met him on the shores of Arnon; & by the streams of the brooks    

Silent they met, and silent strove among the streams, of Arnon
Even to Mahanaim, when with cold hand Urizen stoop'd down
And took up water from the river Jordan: pouring on
To Miltons brain the icy fluid from his broad cold palm.
But Milton took of the red clay of Succoth, moulding it with care
Between his palms: and filling up the furrows of many years
Beginning at the feet of Urizen, and on the bones
Creating new flesh on the Demon cold, and building him,
As with new clay a Human form in the Valley of Beth Peor."

Library of Congress
Copy D, Plate 45

Having been transformed by his encounter with Milton, Urizen casts off his Selfhood and is given a human form. A subdued Urizen is shown on Plate 45 of Milton.  

Read the complete Book of Urizen on the website of University of Adelaide.

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