Saturday, November 24, 2018

Myth in Blake 6

Wikipedia Commons
Song of Los 
Copy E, Plate 4

This central event of the Fall gives the key to the meaning of The Four Zoas. Before we proceed with the outline of the poem, we need to look at one other central fact: the identity of Los, the fourth zoa (in Eternity called Urthona). Whereas the 'central event' gives the key to six thousand years of fallenness, so the identity of Los gives the key to redemption. This becomes clear in the end when we read about Jesus, the Imagination, but from the beginning we should be aware that Los is the fourth who makes Man whole. Blake derived the first three in part from Daniel's three friends who were cast into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. Los was the fourth, whom the king saw walking in the furnace "like the Son of God". Like the other zoas Los has a chequered career, but he is always moving toward this ultimately revealed identity. 

Near the end of 'Jerusalem' Blake put the finishing touches on Los's identity with these words:

Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 255)
"Therefore the Sons of Eden praise Urthona's Spectre [Los] in songs 
Because he kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble"
And in the following plate:

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Then Jesus appeared....
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness and similitude of Los"
The clue to this identity appears at the very beginning of The Four Zoas where the poet states his theme:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 301)
"Four Mighty Ones are in every Man; 
a Perfect Unity 
Cannot Exist but from the Universal 
Brotherhood of Eden, 
The Universal Man, to Whom be 
Glory Evermore. Amen.
Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth 
Of a bright Universe, Empery attended day & night, 
Days & nights of revolving joy. Urthona was his name
In Eden....... Daughters of Beulah, Sing, 
His fall into Division & his Resurrection to Unity: 
His fall into the Generation of decay & death, & his Regeneration by the Resurrection from the dead."

Here Blake has made the antecedent of 'his' deliberately ambiguous: Albion, the Ancient Man, of course, but also los. It is Los's career that we follow most intently. Blake deeply identified with Los, and so do we if we read the poem with imagination.
But "Begin with Tharmas, Parent power dark'ning in the West". Tharmas represents the Body, or in the psychic realm the instinct, and in Eternity he's a glorious shepherd. But "dark'ning in the West" beneath the jealous attack of his emanation, Enion, he sets in motion the Circle of Destiny and sinks into the sea where he becomes an insane old man. From his 'corse' arises the ravening spectre, a most gruesome embodiment of pure egocentricity. A loveless embrace of Enion leads to the birth of Los and Enitharmon, the divided earthly form of Urthona. (Note that all this happens after the 'central event', although in the poem we read about it first.)
This first earthly family displays the ubiquitous dialectic of Blake (and of universal experience); the angelic and demonic processes go on side by side. Enion's intense mother love turns her daughter, Enitharmon, into a teasing and heartless bitch and drives Enion to the abyss where she becomes a disembodied voice of pure consciousness. We hear her voice at the end of Nights i, ii, and viii sounding the purest prophetic judgment on what has transpired. In a real sense Enion is Blake. (For more on Enion see Pages 75 and 88).
When Enitharmon sings her Song of Death (quoted a few pages back), Los strikes her down and then gives his own, more prophetic account of the Fall. Enitharmon retaliates by calling down Urizen. This precipitates the first encounter between these two adversaries in one of the relationships that dominates the poem--and Blake's life as well (See Chapter One). In this initial confrontation Los weakens through his pity or remorse over Enitharmon and joins the Nuptial Feast of Fallenness. In the New Testament the marriage of the Lamb inaugurates the Kingdom of Heaven; this demonic parody of it announces the Kingdom of Satan. Enion responds with her first stirring prophetic utterance, concluding the first night in the earlier draft.

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