The Four Zoas (Bloom)

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States of Being. The Four Zoas
автор Harold Bloom
Из цикла «THE VISIONARY COMPANY. A Reading of English Romantic Poetry. 7· States of Being». Источник: Harold Bloom: THE VISIONARY COMPANY

7· States of Being:


Few poets of the highest class have chosen to exhibit the beauty of
their conceptions in its naked truth and splendour; and it is doubtful
whether the alloy of costume, habit, &c., be not necessary to temper
this planetary music for mortal ears.
—SHELLEY, A Defence of Poetry

The difficulty of Blake's major poems, which has caused impatient readers to call them failures, is the difficulty of the beauty of Blake's conceptions in its naked truth and splendor. Frye, the most Blakean commentator on Blake we are likely to get, says of these poems that "they are difficult because it was impossible to make them simpler."20


The motto of The Four Zoas, from Ephesians, characterizes the tone of the work:

For our contention is not with the blood and the flesh, but with dominion, with authority, with the blind world-rulers of this life, with the spirit of evil in things heavenly.

The Zoas, the Four Mighty Ones who are in every Man, are now the blind world rulers of this life, and their fallen status makes them also the spirit of evil in things heavenly, for when united they had formed "the Universal Brotherhood of Eden." How they came to fall, the manner of their present warfare, and the ways in which they must regenerate form the subject of the poem.

The first and greatest problem presented by The Four Zoas is that it is neither complete in itself nor even one poem, but rather at least two poems intermingled, with many late additions and corrections in the manuscript. We cannot even date its versions confidently, except to say that Blake began it in 1795 and finally abandoned it in 1804. Yet he gave the manuscript to his disciple, the painter Linnell, just before he died, apparently in the hope that it would be preserved, so we cannot assume that Blake was altogether willing to see the poem die. In its first version the epic was entitled Vala, or the Death and Judgement of the Ancient Man, a Dream of Nine Nights. The hypothetical text of Vala was edited from the manuscript by H. M. Margoliouth, and can now be read and studied more or less in its own right. Here I will give a brief description of the second version, The Four Zoas, subtitled The Torments of Love 6 Jealousy in the Death and Judgement of Albion the Ancient Man. Though harder to hold together than Vala, The Four Zoos is much the richer poem, with an ampler rhetoric than the relatively chastened Milton or the somewhat astringent Jerusalem. It may even be that as Blake's poems become more widely read and accurately studied, our response to them will follow the now familiar pattern of response to Dante, where youth seems to prefer the Inferno, middle age the Purgatorio, and later years the Paradiso. The spectacular Four Zoas, with its dazzling Night the Ninth, Being the Last Judgment, is the most energetic and inventive of Blake's poems, while the rewards of Milton and Jerusalem become progressively subtler. The rhetorical movement is from the urgency of "The stars consum'd like a lamp blown out" to the quiet


clairvoyance of "All Human Forms identified, even Tree, Metal, Earth & Stone." In action, the poems progress toward ever deeper internalization, until at last we can never forget that "all deities reside in the human breast."

The account of the fall, in Blake's more comprehensive version, begins not with Urizen but "with Tharmas, Parent power, dark'ning in the West," and lamenting the loss of his Emanations. Tharmas, in Eternity, was the particular representative of unity, man's attribute of the power of harmony between love, intellect, and imagination. Man's unified sense of taste and touch, which still come together in sexual experience, is in the domain of Tharmas. The origins of the name "Tharmas" are obscure, but this is really just as well, as it is usually misleading to interpret one of Blake's creatures by its name's supposed etymology. The names are arbitrary, but the functions and qualities are not. Blake's entire purpose in breaking with names like Venus and Apollo was to eliminate irrelevant associations, and we serve him badly by the more irrelevant of our pedantries.

Tharmas is the unfallen link between the potential and the actual, what man wants and what he can get. Before the fall into division, every desire is carried over into realization by Tharmas. As Albion, or primal Man, was all Imagination for Blake, Tharmas must therefore be what Wallace Stevens means by "a figure of capable imagination." Urizen was the firm outline of imagination, Urthona (who becomes Los in fallen time) its shaping spirit, and Luvah (who becomes Orc) the passion that imparted desire to the forming and shaping inventiveness of Man. When the human ceased to be divine, and our world came into being, then Tharmas necessarily fell first, which is the story of Night I of The Four Zoas.

Fall for Tharmas means separation from his outer female aspect, Enion, who becomes the earth mother of the generative world, and who resembles the fearful Earth, mother of Prometheus, in Shelley's lyrical drama. The poem's action begins with a pathetic dialogue of misunderstanding between Tharmas and Enion. Innocence has been lost, for Tharmas was the presiding genius of Beulah, where the Zoas rested in renovating passion, and where a fresh tide of life never ceased to pulsate. Split off from his emanation, Tharmas has lost Beulah and is in danger of becoming a shadow or spectral self of his shepherd's reality. He is now the


western or Atlantic ocean to Enion's isolated British earth, and so Blake reminds us again of the myth of destroyed Atlantis, and the great deluge that overwhelmed it. Tharmas was, in a sense, Thel's river of Adona, the life of the Gardens of Adonis. When the other Zoas split the unity of Albion, Tharmas raged until he became an oceanic flood, which drowned out the married land and produced what and where we are.

The separated Enion, as a female will, both desired Tharmas and yet in him "found Sin & cannot return." His eloquent lament refuses reunion on her analytical and self-righteous terms:

"Why wilt thou Examine every little fibre of my soul,
Spreading them out before the Sun like stalks of flax to dry?
The infant Joy is beautiful, but its anatomy
Horrible, Ghast & Deadly: nought shalt thou find in it
But Death, Despair & Everlasting brooding Melancholy.

"Thou wilt go mad with horror if thou dost Examine thus
Every moment of my secret hours. Yea, I know
That I have sinn'd, & that my Emanations are become harlots.
I am already distracted at their deeds, & if I look
Upon them more, Despair will bring self-murder on my soul.
0 Enionl thou are thyself a root growing in hell,
Tho' thus heavenly beautiful to draw me to Destruction."

Enion weaves the garment of phenomenal nature, until she has perfected a cycle or "Circle of Destiny" which is the monument and tombstone of her separation from Tharmas. The Daughters of Beulah, Blake's Muses, are terrified by the chaos their deity has become, and reject the now completed Circle of human destiny:

The Circle of Destiny complete, they gave to it a Space,
And nam'd the Space Ulro, & brooded over it in care & love.
They said: "The Spectre is in every man insane & most
Deform'd. Thro' the three heavens descending in fury & fire,
We meet it with our songs & loving blandishments & give
To it a form of vegetation. But this Spectre of Tharmas
Is Eternal Death. What shall we do? 0 God, pity & help!"
So spoke they, & clos'd the Gate of the tongue in trembling fear


To close the Gate of the tongue is to restrict the natural entrance into Beulah, and limits the imaginative possibilities of human sexual experience. Enion now becomes "a bright wonder, Nature, Half Woman & half Spectre." From her intercourse with the raging Spectre of Tharmas she brings forth the weeping infants of the Songs of Experience, now identified as Los and Enitharmon, time and space, restricted imagination and confining form. These infants soon become fierce, reject their mother, and wander through the painful world of Experience.

Meanwhile, Blake's narrative goes back to the events that caused the ruin of Tharmas. The fall of man is no longer viewed as the fault of Urizen alone, but of Luvah as well, and so the contraries of reason and energy are equally capable of selfish plotting against the full life of man. Luvah, like Phaethon, seizes the chariot of the sun, which belongs to Urizen, Prince of Light. Yet desire cannot usurp reason without disaster, even in Blake, and Luvah's desertion of moon for sun is Albion's fall into a self-righteousness of emotional pride, a glorification of the heart's impulses at the expense of man's other legitimate powers.

The remaining Zoa, Urthona, is working at his anvil, preparing spades and colters for the heavenly plowing, when he feels the effects of the strife between Eternals. In this crisis of imagination, the inventive faculty experiences a failure in nerve, in which Enitharmon, his emanation, flees from him to the comforting Tharmas. In a first act of possessiveness, "Enion in jealous fear I Murder'd her, & hid her in her bosom." Left a specter, Urthona also collapses into Enion, from whose form he is to reappear in the world below as the prophetic and poetic principle, Los.

Albion's emanation is Jerusalem. Blake said that he knew no other Christianity "than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the divine arts of imagination," and Jerusalem is identified by him as this "liberty," which is in every man insofar as he possesses the Inner Light of the Protestant tradition. Night I closes with the darkening of this Light, as Jerusalem is "scatter'd into the indefinite," and man falls "downwards & outwards" into chaos. Night II centers on the fall of Luvah and his emanation Vala, who becomes the deceptive beauty of nature after she has won primacy over Albion. The wandering children of Experience, Los and Enitharmon, whom we now know to be only foster children of


Tharmas and Enion, rehearse in song the story of Luvah's fall. The complexity of Blake's art has largely escaped notice here. As Enitharmon and Los repeat the fall in song, they enact the torments of love and jealousy between themselves as well, and their nuptial song recapitulates both the terror of their own ambiguous passion and the strife of Eternity. Their tribulations are the direct consequence of Urthona's self-separating fear and doubt in Night I of the poem.

As Los and Enitharmon torment one another, they become the proper prey of Urizen, who descends as god of this world and offers the quarreling children dominion over the realm of the emotions, and the right of judgment upon Luvah and Vala. They accept, and so lose their last heritage of Innocence, the refusal to judge or be judged. Their powerful Nuptial Song places the blame for the fall entirely upon the emotional life, and so prepares them for a marriage of mutual envy and jealousy, a Urizenic compact between two grim children determined to perform again the cruelties and deceptions that disintegrated Eternity. As this dreadful union is celebrated, Enion wanders in chaos, lamenting the triumph of fallen morality to which she has contributed. At this point she is the Earth of the introductory poems of the Songs of Experience. Hearing the voice of the wailing earth mother, the sick-untodeath Albion rises "upon his Couch of Death" and calls Urizen to take the scepter of control, so as to impose some order upon chaos. It was at this point that the poem Vala seems to have commenced. Urizen now becomes "the great Work master," a demiurge who will build the Mundane Shell of present-day reality around the Rock of Albion. While Urizen prepares his instruments of measure· ment and restriction, the poem moves its focus to the fall of Luvah, now melted down by Vala in the Furnaces of affliction. Albion, like Urizen, has now equated chaos and emotion, and so man is delivered to Urizenic religion, with its hatred and repression of human sexual love. Such love is now self-divided and tormented, with its emanative portion become a separate, mocking, elusive creation. Inspired by the example of Vala, Enitharmon sings a courtly love hymn that proclaims the triumph of the female will :

"The joy of woman is the Death of her most best beloved
Who dies for Love of her


In torments of fierce jealousy & pangs of adoration:
The Lovers' night bears on my song,
And the nine Spheres rejoice beneath my powerful controll."

Night II concludes with what may be the finest of Blake's Biblical chants, the lament of Enion. The context of this song is complex; all of the Zoas are now separated from their Emanations, but Enion has been separated the longest. As she contemplates the active errors of Vala and Enithannon, and grieves over her own outcast fate, Enion also excites Ahania, the wife of Urizen, to an awareness of the fallen state. Enithannon is an Eve figure who will become a courtly-love Queen of Heaven. Vala is the beauty of outward nature, becoming progressively more deceptive as history continues. Enion herself is only a wandering Demeter, but Ahania is a more crucial figure in Blake's myth. As in The Book of Ahania, Urizen's Emanation is a total form of intellectual desire, which must express itself as sexual in the fallen world. Most particularly, then, Ahania is the kind of desire which a repressive Urizenic ethic dismisses as sin, but which Divine Wisdom nevertheless requires. Ahania is precisely the "lov'd enthusiast, young Fancy," of Collins' Ode on the Poetical Character, who must participate in any of the mind's acts of creation, lest those acts become merely the hindrances of sterility.

In the lament of Enion we hear for the first time in The Four Zoas the true voice of Blake himself:

"What is the price of Experience? do men buy it for a song,
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No! it is bought with the
Of all that a man hath-his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to
And in the wither'd field where the fanner plows for bread
in vain."

The burden of Enion's song is a thought that, as Frye observes, can lead only to madness or apocalypse, for the song is a culminating lament for lost innocence, organized about the idea that human pleasure is based on a willful ignorance concerning the suffering of others.21 Enion first "taught pale artifice to spread his nets


upon the morning," when she accused Thannas of sin. Now she understands the experiential price of such self-righteousness, but she has purchased wisdom at the expense of her being. Blake himself, in a passionate undersong, reminds us of the prophet's fate. Wisdom can be sold only where none will come to buy, and will be sought only where no harvest can come:

"It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer's sun
And in the vintage, & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn.
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
To listen to the hungry raven's cry in wintry season,
When the red blood is fill' d with wine & with the marrow of

"It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements; To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan; To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast; To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies' house, To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children, While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door, & our children bring fruits & flowers.

"Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten, & the slave
grinding at the mill, And the captive in chains, & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field, When the shatter'd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead. It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity Thus could I sing, & thus rejoice; but it is not so with me."

The vision of Innocence is based upon ignorance, and the joy of righteousness upon the prosperity of an untried Job. Enion's warning, which forever ends Ahania's rest, preludes the blindness of Urizen in Night III, where the fall of Urizen and Ahania leads to a reappearance of Tharmas, a second deluge. Night III is


dominated by images of light and darkness, as we would expect in a Book of Urizen. The King of Light looks upon futurity, "dark­ 'ning present joy." He beholds a reborn Luvah, in the shape of the rebel Orc, "that Prophetic boy," who will be "born of the dark Ocean" that Tharmas has become. In anticipated revenge, Urizen curses the passional life of man, asking that it die "a dark & furious death" in the loins of Los before that shaper can bring it forth as an articulated antagonist. Ahania remonstrates with the now Satanic Urizen:

"O Prince! the Eternal One hath set thee leader of his hosts.
Leave all futurity to him; resume thy fields of Light.
Why didst thou listen to the voice of Luvah that dread mom,
To give the immortal steeds of light to his deceitful hands,
No longer now obedient to thy will? thou art compell'd
To forge the curbs of iron & brass, to build the iron mangers,
To feed them with intoxication from the wine presses of
Till the Divine Vision & Fruition is quite obliterated.
They call thy lions to the fields of blood; they rouze thy tygers
Out of the halls of justice, till these dens thy wisdom fram'd,
Golden & beautiful, but 0 how unlike those sweet fields of
Where liberty was justice, & eternal science was mercy!"

The appeal leads to her expulsion, as Urizen suddenly sees her as another Vala, prophesying for him the fallen fate of Luvah:

He siez'd her by the hair
And threw her from the steps of ice that froze around his
Saying: "Art thou also become like Vala? Thus I cast thee out!
Shall the feminine indolent bliss, the indulgent self of weariness,
The passive idle sleep, the enormous night & darkness of
Set herself up to give her laws to the active masculine virtue?"

The fear of lapsing into passivity has begun to dominate Urizen. But to cast out one's desire is to become only the shadow of desire, and a Spectre must fall. Urizen crashes down, and his world of


imposed reason and order with him. Noah'"s flood has come, and Thannas with it as an instinctive principle of chaos, where once he was the spirit of unity. Emerging from the Smoke of Urizen, Tharmas stands on the affrighted Ocean:

Crying: "Fury in my limbs! destruction in my bones & marrow!
My skull riven into filaments, my eyes into sea jellies
Floating upon the tide, wander bubbling & bubbling;
Uttering my lamentations & begetting little monsters
Who sit mocking upon the little pebbles of the tide
In all my rivers, & on dried shells that the fish
Have quite forsaken! 0 fool! fool! to lose my sweetest bliss!
Where art thou, Enion? ahl too near to cunning, too far off,
And yet too near! Dash'd down, I send thee into distant
Far as my strength can hurl thee: wander there, & laugh &
Among the frozen arrows; they will tear thy tender flesh.
Fall off afar from Thannas! come not too near my strong fury!
Scream, & fall off, & laugh at Tharmas, lovely summer beauty,
Till winter rends thee into Shivers, as thou hast rended me!"

One wonders how the voice of chaos could be better rendered. As always in his epics, Blake's rhetoric is wonderfully appropriate for each character, and in every context. Tharmas can barely articulate his watery longings, nor can he separate his desire for Enion from his wish to punish her in revenge. The confusions of fallen instinct are matched by the violent fluctuations of Tharmas' bellowing, as his voice thunders, sobs, and bursts over the ocean of space and time.

Night III climaxes in a desperate dialogue of misunderstandings and despairs. Enion, blind and bent by age, plunges into the cold billows in terror at Tharmas' mixed curses and entreaties, and she withers away in the cold waves of despair. Action and image are fused, as is characteristic of Blake's epic style. Enion asks to be only "a little showery form" near her "loved Terror," and she dis· solves into a tear even as she utters her prayer. Too late, Tharmas recoils from his fierce rage into her semblance. He becomes a thundercloud dissolving in tears, hoping thus to join her. But she


is "vanished from the wat'ry eyes of Tharmas," and her wandering place at the verge of non-existence is taken by Ahania. Night IV is a night of raging flood, as the despairing Tharmas pursues his lost "lineaments of ungratified desire." Luvah and Urizen, who actively caused Tharmas to fall, are now without power. The Spectre of Tharmas makes his instinctual attempt to find a way out of his own inchoate rage. He commands Los to "rebuild this Universe beneath my indignant power," but as "a Universe of Death & Decay." Los is now in much the same position that he held in The Book of Urizen, for he must hammer form out of chaos, and set both a Limit of Opacity (Satan) and a Limit of Contraction (Adam) beyond which man and the universe cannot fall. The fate of the poetic visionary as he performs this grim task is to take on the fallen form of what he beholds, to become what he is doing. Night V opens with a frightening metamorphic dance of destruction, as the creative imagination falls over into contraction. 1l1is, for Blake, is the true fall of man:

Infected, Mad, he danc'd on his mountains high & dark as
Now fix'd into one stedfast bulk, his features Stonify:
From his mouth curses, & from his eyes sparks of blighting.
Beside the anvil cold he danc'd with the hammer of Urthona
Terrific. Pale, Enitharmon, stretch'd on the dreary earth,
Felt her immortal limbs freeze, stiffening, pale, inflexible.
His feet shrink with' ring from the deep, shrinking & withering;
And Enitharmon shrunk up, all their fibres with'ring beneath;
As plants, wither'd by winter, leaves & stems & roots decaying,
Melt into thin air, while the seed, driv'n by the furious wind,
Rests on the distant Mountain's top.

Night V recapitulates the story of the birth and binding of Orc from The Book of Urizen, with the difference that the bound babe of Urizen or The Mental Traveller is now understood to be a reborn Luvah, one of a series of such reincarnations which will culminate in the birth of Jesus. Urizen begins to explore his dens, as before, in Night VI, which largely follows chapter eight of The Book of Urizen, down to the creation of the Web of Religion. Toward the end of Night VI the exploring Urizcn hears the howling of the bound Orc, redoubles his immortal efforts, and is about to have


Orc at his mercy when he encounters Tharmas and a dreadful figure called the Spectre of Urthona:

& full before his path,
Striding across the narrow vale, the Shadow of Urthona,
A Spectre Vast, appear'd, whose feet & legs, with iron scaled,
Stamp'd the hard rocks, expectant of the unknown wanderer
Whom he had seen wand'ring his nether world when distant far,
And watch'd his swift approach. Collected, dark, the Spectre stood.
Beside him Tharmas stay'd his flight & stood in stem defiance,
Communing with the Spectre who rejoic'd along the Vale.
Round his loins a girdle glow'd with many colour'd fires;
In his hand a knotted club whose knots like mountains frown'd,
Desart among the Stars, them withering with its ridges cold.
Black scales of iron arm the dread visage; iron spikes instead
Of hair shoot from his orbed scull; his glowing eyes
Burn like two furnaces.

Faced by this double protector of man's imprisoned life force, Urizen retires into his Web, which moves out to prepare his path before him, and causes Tharmas and the Spectre of Urthona to flee. Their flight and the descent of Urizen down to the Caves of Orc begin Night VII of the poem, but this is a second Night VII. In 1799-1800 Blake seems to have discarded his first version of Night VII, and to have created a second that redetermined the shape of his poem. One influential critic, Margoliouth, reads this revision as a major change in Blake's mind, even calling it a "conversion" to a "new acceptance of Christianity."22 As Margoliouth concludes his useful book by saying that Blake "has much in common with St. Paul," his fanciful account of a conversion was clearly part of a rather personal pattern-making. Whatever Blake was, he believed to the end that "Energy is the only life, and is from the Body," which is antithetical to the dualism of St. Paul. Yet there is a crisis in Night VII of The Four Zoas, and it is possible that some crisis in Blake's inner life is involved. Erdman finds a double crisis embedded in the Zoas manuscript, the first being the Peace of Amiens (first announced, autumn 1801) and the second a renewal of war between France and England in the spring of 1803.23 This


may be, but the problematical Spectre of Urthona seems to have more to do with problems of poetic incarnation than with the external warfare that undoubtedly provides the basis for Blake's historical allegory.

If one reads The Four Zoas as a Freudian allegory, it would seem clear that Urizen was a kind of superego, Tharmas an id, with Luvah. Orc rising from him as libido; but Los, the fourth Zoa, is hardly a representation of the Freudian ego. His dark brother, the dread Spectre of Urthona, is closer to a function that meets external reality and reacts to it by mediating between prevailing conceptions of it and instinctual drives. Blake believed finally with the speculative psychologist Meister Eckhart that "you are what you will to be," and his mature idea of Los identifies the fallen shaper-in-fire with the active poetic will. Urizen is defied momentarily by ego and id, the Spectre and Tharmas, but both yield to the Net of Religion, and the bound energies of libido become vulnerable to the arts of the superego. Los has no part in this scene, which is deterministic and clearly indisputable as an act of psychic cartography.

Urizen proclaims that he has descended to view Orc out of pity, but the fiery youth rejects his advances. As Urizen sits brooding over Orc, the Tree of Mystery springs up around him. Though Orc continues to resist, he is forced into the cycle of Mystery, to become at length what he beholds. Urizen suddenly realizes that the terrible being in front of him is a reappearance of his brother Luvah, with whom he plotted to bring about the fall. Despising Urizen's light, Orc turns it into flaming fire, and in the fury of his hatred "begins to Organize a Serpent body." As the serpent, Orc goes up the mysterious tree and so represents a state of nature giving itself up to mystery, and the religion of Urizen.

The remainder of the revised Night VII deals with the crisis of the visionary will in Los. Beneath the tree of Mystery are Los and Enitharmon, absent from the poem since their binding of Orc in Night V. Enitharmon, in the shadow of the tree, puts on the Mystery of the possessive female will, and becomes the Shadow of Enitharmon, the "yardstick space" of the material world, as Frye calls her.24 TI1e Spectre of Urthona, in his manifestation as the "clock time" that governs the ego, comes to embrace her. He has a clear idea of his own nature:


Thou knowest that the Spectre is in Every Man insane, brutish,
Deform'd; that I am thus a ravening devouring lust, continually
Craving & devouring: but my Eyes are always upon thee, O lovely
Delusion, & I cannot crave for any thing but thee. Not so
The spectres of the Dead, for I am as the Spectre of the Living.
For till these terrors, planted round the Gates of Eternal life,
Are driven away & annihilated, we can never repass the Gates.

He takes her, knowing her for a "lovely delusion," hoping somehow that this act of possession will help him back into Eternity. But the product of dead time and dead space is "a wonder horrible," and the ego begets upon nature the image of a shadowy female, who in Night VIII is to be identified with Vala. The parents of this concentration of Mystery and delusion have courted one another with a story that is the most sinister version of the fall of Albion. In taking Luvah's emanation, Vala, as his mistress, and thus giving primacy to passive emotion, Man only prepared the way for his fall. The new element is that Urizen was born of that seduction, and finally conspired with Luvah to a joint revenge upon Man. That revenge attains its most ironic consequence in the dark event that has just taken place. The conspiracy of Urizen and Luvah led to the division of Urthona, which division in tum led to the fall of Tharmas. But the fall of one god is the collapse of all, and Luvah and Urizen followed Tharmas into the abyss. The falling Tharmas contained the divided components of Urthona, and we have summarized the complex story from that point on.

Everything that is material and negative culminates in Night VII with the birth of the Shadowy Female, which also climaxes the Ore cycle, as the serpent in the tree above the new Female is a final debased form of human energy and desire. But meanwhile another embrace leads to an apocalyptic prospect. Ego and will, clock and imaginative time, embrace in mutual forgiveness:

Los Embrac'd the Spectre, first as a brother,
Then as another Self, astonish'd, humanizing & in tears

After a struggle, Enitharmon is reconciled to the work of creation that Los and the Spectre can perform together. Los summarizes the value of these labors:


Stem desire
I feel to fabricate embodied semblances in which the dead
May live before us in our palaces & in our gardens of labour,
Which, now open'd within the Center, we behold spread
To form a world of sacrifice of brothers & sons & daughters
To comfort Orc in his dire sufferings. Look, my fires enlume
Before my face ascending with delight as in ancient times.

The palaces are of a City of Art, a New Jerusalem that Blake calls Golgonooza (evidently an anagram for New Golgotha, to replace the scene of the Crucifixion). The Center cannot hold, but opens this world into the firmness of Eternity, rather than into the vacuum of Ulro, where things fall apart to no definite end. The new creation that provides bodies for the impending Resurrection is intended as a comfort for Orc, the desire now at the end of its suffering endurance.

Night VII is more of a textual tangle than my description would suggest, but the remainder of the poem is very clear. Night VIII records the events, positive and negative, that carry the world to the verge of apocalypse. A saving remnant of Eternity meets in council and takes on the shape of One Man, Jesus. Los has fixed the limit of sensual Contraction as Adam, man in his present form, so the fall can go no further. The limit of opaque matter, of Opacity, has been fixed by Los as the Selfhood, now called Satan or the Accuser. As he can be in no worse condition, Albion begins to wake upon his rock. A conflict for the specters of this world begins between Los and Enitharmon, on the side of vision, and "the Shadowy female's sweet delusive cruelty." Jesus descends and puts on the robes of Luvah, thus consenting to be the last of the crucified vegetative gods in the Orc cycle. That cycle burns itself out in fierce wars, against which Los labors incessantly to build up his City of enduring imaginative forms. Vala seeks a reborn Luvah as Adonis to her Venus, but her quest becomes only another part of the Direful Web of Religion, of a nature unable to save itself and unwilling to be saved by a renovated Human.

The long labors of Los and Enitharmon climax in a reappearance of Albion's emanation, Jerusalem, "a City, yet a Woman," who


carries within herself the image of lost Innocence, the Lamb of God. In a last blood sacrifice of natural religion, the Lamb suffers the dual fate of Jesus and Prometheus, crucified on the dead tree of Mystery, and bound down to the rock of matter. The advent of Jesus is the start of the final Orc cycle, and though it ends in the irony of Jesus going up the dead tree to be worshiped as Jehovah, it also causes error to culminate in a new Babylon, identified by Blake with the Deism of his own day:

For God put it into their heart to fulfill all his will.
The Ashes of Mystery began to animate; they call'd it Deism
And Natural Religion; as of old, so now anew began
Babylon again in Infancy, Call'd Natural Religion.

Something of the force of Blake's hatred of Deism has been lost with time. If we understand Deism only as a rejection of supernatural revelation, or as an exaltation of an indifferent and withdrawn God, we will think Blake to have been merely obsessed. To Blake, Deism was everything in his world that hindered humanization and then justified such hindrance by an appeal to reason, nature, or morality. We would not call our culture a Deist one today, but the relevance of Blake's passion and protest is a constant, as the thing, if not the name, survives. The scheme of the Zoas had failed Blake's imagination, not because it explained too little, but because it explained so much as to be a determinism. It could account for the genesis of horrors, but itself becomes a machinery of apocalypse, not a human form of renewal. Night IX is the Last Judgment, and by itself is a uniquely powerful and complete poem. Read as the last section of The Four Zoas, it lacks all necessity. We can understand where it is going, but we rightly wonder where it comes from. Its dialectic is purely emotional and not imaginative, though its execution is a triumph of imagination. In a terrified reaction to the death of the Lamb, Los does what we might expect a liberated Orc to do: he stretches out his hands and attacks the starry heavens of Urizen :

his right hand, branching out in fibrous strength,
Siez'd the Sun; His left hand like dark roots cover'd the Moon
And tore them down, cracking the heavens across from immense to immense.

Then fell the fires of Eternity, with loud & shrill


Sound of Loud Trumpet thundering along from heaven to
A mighty sound articulate: "Awake, ye dead, & come
To Judgment, from the four winds! Awake, & Come away!"
Folding like scrolls of the Enormous volume of Heaven &
With thunderous noise & dreadful shakings, rocking to & fro,
The heavens are shaken, & the Earth removed from its place,
The foundations of the Eternal hills discover'd.

Revelation uncovers reality, but first the unreal vanishes in destruction:

The tree of Mystery went up in folding flames.
Blood issu'd out in mighty volumes, pouring in whirlpools
From out the flood gates of the Sky. The Gates are burst;
down pour
The torrents black upon the Earth; the blood pours down incessant.
Kings in their palaces lie drown'd; shepherds, their Bocks, their
Roll down the mountains in black torrents. Cities, Villages,
High spires & Castles, drown' d in the black deluge; shoal on
Float the dead carcases of Men & Beasts driven to & fro on
Of foaming blood beneath the black incessant Sky, till all
Mystery's tyrants are cut off & not one left on Earth.

Albion, bowing his head over the consuming Universe, cries out against the "war within my members" but in a very different spirit from the cry of St. Paul. He summons Urizen, warning him that the "deceit so detestable" of Urizenic religion is past forgiveness. In a tremendous (and inexplicable) effort of will, Urizen reassumes the human:

Then Go, O dark futurity! I will cast thee forth from these
Heavens of my brain, nor will I look upon futurity more.
I cast futurity away, & turn my back upon that void
Which I have made: for lo, futurity is in this moment.


The effect of these lines depends upon The Book of Urizen as well as upon The Four Zoas. The fall of Urizen was from the beginning based upon his failure to see that "futurity is in this moment," in the timelessness of imaginative choice. Alive again in the moment, he rises again into the heavens in radiant youth, to be rejoined there by Ahania. Yet she seems to die, in excess of joy, but sleeps again until the final spring shall revive her. First comes a final cycle of plowing and sowing (the work of Urizen ) in which the seeds of life are planted for a last time. Orc having burned up in the fires of judgment, Luvah and Vala return to where they belong, and the reign of what D. H. Lawrence called "sex in the head" is over:

Return, O Love, in peace
Into your place, the place of seed, not in the brain or heart.
If Gods combine against Man, Setting their dominion above
The Human form Divine, Thrown down from their high
In the Eternal heavens of Human Imagination, buried beneath
In dark Oblivion with incessant pangs ages on ages
In enmity & war first weaken'd; then in stem repentance
They must renew their brightness, & their disorganiz'd functions
Again reorganize, till they resume the image of the human,
Co-Qperating in the bliss of Man, obeying his Will,
Servants to the infinite & Eternal of the Human form.

These lines summarize the themes of the epic. Luvah and Vala, Tharmas and Enion, are reborn into Beulah, to the accompaniment of Blake's most rapturous hymns of innocence; nervous, intense and vivid, and unique in literature as effective projections of paradise.

The last harvest begins with Urizen threshing out all nations, and with "the stars thresh'd from their husks." Tharmas wields the winnowing fan, until Luvah begins the fearful but necessary labor of the "Wine-press," and the vintage is trampled out. Urthona appears as the crippled heavenly smith of tradition, "limping from his fall," but able now to lean upon Tharmas. The two most primal Zoas, restored as imagination and intuition unhindered by negations, take on the task of loading "the waggons of heaven," and


take away "the wine of ages with solemn songs and joy." The climax is in the fires that will not singe a sleeve:

How is it we have walk'd thro' fires, & yet are not consum'd?
How is it that all things are chang'd, even as in ancient time?

It is continuously inventive and beautiful, but Blake came to trust it less and less. The Last Judgment, he began to sense, was not so dramatic, and hardly so external a phenomenon. By 1804, at the latest, he had decided to put The Four Zoas aside forever, and to transfer his vision to the struggle within himself. A Last Judgment, as he came to understand, began within each man, and not in the outer cosmos:

Whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth,
a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual.

The brief epic Milton (1800-08) shows an individual poet prophet, Milton, rejecting Error in Eternity, and descending to earth again to embrace Truth, thus passing a Last Judgment upon himself. When Milton enters Blake, to be joined with him, a Last Judgment is passed upon Blake as well, and an approach is made to an apocalypse shaped by the imagination out of strength as well as need, and without the necessity of natural fear.


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 61-9483

Copyright © 1961 by Harold Bloom All Rights Reserved Printed in the United States of America First Edition