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Title page of The Book of Urizen, copy G (printed 1818). In the collection of the Library of Congress

The Book of Urizen is one of the major prophetic books of the English writer William Blake, illustrated by Blake's own plates. It was originally published as The First Book of Urizen in 1794. Later editions dropped the "First". The book takes its name from the character Urizen in Blake's mythology, who represents alienated reason as the source of oppression. The book describes Urizen as the "primeaval priest" and tells how he became separated from the other Eternals to create his own alienated and enslaving realm of religious dogma. Los and Enitharmon create a space within Urizen's fallen universe to give birth to their son Orc, the spirit of revolution and freedom.

In form the book is a parody of the Book of Genesis, with Blake's Urizen being more similar to the demiurge of the Gnostics than a benevolent creator. Urizen's first four sons are Thiriel, Utha, Grodna and Fuzon (respectively elemental Air, Water, Earth, Fire, according to Chapter VIII). The last of these plays a major role in The Book of Ahania, published in 1795.

Contents

Background

In autumn 1790 Blake moved to Lambeth, Surrey. In the studio of his new house he wrote what became known as his "Lambeth Books", which included The Book of Urizen. In all these books, Blake completed their design composition, their printing and colouring, and their sales from that house.[1] Blake included early sketches for The Book of Urizen in a notebook containing images created between 1790 and 1793.[2] The Book of Urizen was one of the few works that Blake describes as "illuminated printing", one of his colour printed works with the coloured ink being placed on the copperplate before the page was printed.[3]

The Book of Urizen was printed from 1794 until 1818 and was larger than his America, A Prophecy. Only eight copies of the work survive, with many variations between them of the plate orders and the amount of plates. All the surviving copies were colour-printed.[4]

Poem

Copy G, plate 7. Urizen is cast out from eternity

The story deals with a struggle within the divine mind to establish and define both itself and the universe. It is a creation myth that begins before creation:[5]

Earth was not: nor globes of attraction
The will of the Immortal expanded
Or contracted his all flexible senses.
Death was not, but eternal life sprung. (36-39)

The creator is Urizen, a blind exile who was kept from eternity and who establishes a world that he could rule. As such, he creates laws:[6]

Laws of peace, of love, of unity;
Of pity, compassion, forgiveness.
Let each chuse one habitation:
His ancient infinite mansion:
One command, one joy, one desire,
One curse, one weight, one measure
One King, one God, one Law. (78-84)
Copy G, plate 21. Los, Enitharmon, and Orc are depicted; Los with his usual attribute of the hammer

However, Urizen suffers a fall when he creates a barrier to protect himself from eternity:[7]

And a roof, vast petrific around,
On all sides He fram'd: like a womb;
...Like a human heart strugling & beating
The vast world of Urizen appear'd.

He is chained by Los, the prophet, from whom Urizen had been rent:[8]

In chains of the mind locked up,
Like fetters of ice shrinking together,
Disorganiz'd, rent from Eternity.
Los beat on his fetters of iron (190-193)

Los forges a human image for Urizen in the course of seven ages, but pities him and weeps. From these tears Enitharmon is created, who soon bears the child of Los, Orc. Orc's infant cries awaken Urizen, who begins to survey and measure the world he has created. Urizen explores his world and witnesses the birth of his four sons, who represent the four classical elements. From these experiences Urizen's hopes are crushed and his:[8]

soul sicken'd! he curs'd
Both sons & daughters: for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment. (443-446)

In response, he creates a web of religion, which serve as chains to the mind.[9]

Themes

Copy G, plate 9.

"Los howld in a dismal stupor,
Groaning! gnashing! groaning!
Till the wrenching apart was healed

But the wrenching of Urizen heal'd not...
"

The Book of Urizen is a creation myth that is similar to the Book of Genesis.[5] Blake's myth surrounding Urizen is found in many of his works, and can trace back to his experiments in writing myths about a god of reason in the 1780s, including in "To Winter".[10] In the work, Urizen is an eternal self-focused being who creates himself out of eternity. This creation is taken up again in The Four Zoas with a primal man, Albion, being the original form. In this work, it is only Urizen, the representation of abstractions and is an abstraction of the human self. From himself he first divides unknown shapes that begin to torment him. He also turns against the other Eternals and believes himself holy. In contemplating himself, he is able to discover sins and records them in a book of brass that are a combination of Newton, the laws of Moses, and deism that force uniformity. The rest of the Eternals in turn become indignant at Urizen's turning against eternity, and they establish the essence of the sins within living beings. This torments Urizen, who falls into a sleep, which allows Los to appear. Los' duty within the work is to watch over Urizen, and Urizen is seen as an eternal priest while Los takes the position of eternal prophet.[11]

Parts of the story were later revised in The Book of Los and The Book of Ahania, two experimental works.[12] The focus on Urizen emphasises the chains of reason that are imposed on the mind. Urizen, like mankind, is bound by these chains.[13] The point of both The Book of Urizen and the retelling in The Book of Los is to describe how Newtonian reason and the enlightenment view of the universe combine to trap the human imagination. In the Newtonian belief the material universe is connected through an unconscious power which, in turn, characterises imagination and intellect as accidental aspects that result from this. Additionally, imagination and intelligence are secondary to force. This early version of a "survival of the fittest" universe is connected to a fallen world of tyranny and murder in Blake's view.[14]

The poem portrays Orc and his three-stage cycle, whose stages are connected to historical events, although the latter are removed in The Four Zoas.[15] In the beginning is the fall of Urizen, the Satanic force, in a similar way to Milton's Satan. Creation, however, was the fall. Urizen is the representation of abstraction, which is a passive and mental force disconnected from reality. Los, in the fallen world, enters the world as the fire of imaginative energy. However, he too falls and becomes mechanical and regular. Los is the creator of life systems and of the sexes, which leads to the creation of his partner Enitharmon. Eventually, human forms are created and Orc is born as an evolution of life.[16]

Critical response

Harold Bloom claimed that the poem "is Blake's most powerful illuminated poem before the great abandoned Four Zoas and the epics that followed it."[17]

Notes

  1. ^ Bentley 2003 pp.122-124
  2. ^ Bentley 2003 p. 142
  3. ^ Bentley 2003 pp. 149
  4. ^ Bentley 2003 p. 154
  5. ^ a b Bentley 2003 p. 152
  6. ^ Bentley 2003 pp. 152-153
  7. ^ Foster 1988 p. 423
  8. ^ a b Bentley 2003 p. 153
  9. ^ Bentley 2003 pp. 153-154
  10. ^ Bentley 2003 p. 79
  11. ^ Bloom 1993 pp. 71–75
  12. ^ Bentley 2003 p. 156
  13. ^ Bentley 2003 p. 153
  14. ^ Frye 1990 pp. 254–255
  15. ^ Frye 1990 p. 220
  16. ^ Frye 1990 pp. 254–258
  17. ^ Bloom 1993 p. 71

References

  • Bentley, G. E. (Jr). The Stranger From Paradise. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Bloom, Harold. The Visionary Company. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993.
  • Damon, S. Foster. A Blake Dictionary. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1988.
  • Frye, Northrop. Fearful Symmetry. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Mee, Jon. Dangerous Enthusiasm. Oxford: Clarendon, 2002.

External links

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Book of Urizen
by William Blake
The Book of Urizen. Printed in 1794. The author's spelling.

THE [FIRST] BOOK of URIZEN


LAMBETH. Printed by Will Blake 1794.

The Book of Urizen, copy G, c. 1818: Title-page

PRELUDIUM TO THE
[FIRST] BOOK OF URIZEN



Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;
And gave him a place in the north,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.
Eternals I hear your call gladly,
Dictate swift winged words, & fear not
To unfold your dark visions of torment.
 

Chap: I


 
1. Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific!
Self-closd, all-repelling: what Demon
Hath form'd this abominable void
This soul-shudd'ring vacuum? — Some said
"It is Urizen", But unknown, abstracted
Brooding secret, the dark power hid.
 
2. Times on times he divided, & measur'd
Space by space in his ninefold darkness
Unseen, unknown! changes appeard
In his desolate mountains rifted furious
By the black winds of perturbation
 
3. For he strove in battles dire
In unseen conflictions with shapes
Bred from his forsaken wilderness,
Of beast, bird, fish, serpent & element
Combustion, blast, vapour and cloud.
 
4. Dark revolving in silent activity:
Unseen in tormenting passions;
An activity unknown and horrible;
A self-contemplating shadow,
In enormous labours occupied
 
5. But Eternals beheld his vast forests
Age on ages he lay, clos'd, unknown
Brooding shut in the deep; all avoid
The petrific abominable chaos
 
6. His cold horrors silent, dark Urizen
Prepar'd: his ten thousands of thunders
Rang'd in gloom'd array stretch out across
The dread world, & the rolling of wheels
As of swelling seas, sound in his clouds
In his hills of stor'd snows, in his mountains
Of hail & ice; voices of terror,
Are heard, like thunders of autumn,
When the cloud blazes over the harvests

Chap: II



1. Earth was not: nor globes of attraction
The will of the Immortal expanded
Or contracted his all flexible senses.
Death was not, but eternal life sprung

2. The sound of a trumpet the heavens
Awoke & vast clouds of blood roll'd
Round the dim rocks of Urizen, so nam'd
That solitary one in Immensity

3. Shrill the trumpet: & myriads of Eternity,

Muster around the bleak desarts
Now fill'd with clouds, darkness & waters
That roll'd perplex'd labring & utter'd
Words articulate, bursting in thunders
That roll'd on the tops of his mountains

4: From the depths of dark solitude. From
The eternal abode in my holiness,
Hidden set apart in my stern counsels
Reserv'd for the days of futurity,
I have sought for a joy without pain,

For a solid without fluctuation
Why will you die O Eternals?
Why live in unquenchable burnings?

5 First I fought with the fire; consum'd
Inwards, into a deep world within:
A void immense, wild dark & deep,
Where nothing was: Natures wide womb

And self balanc'd stretch'd o'er the void
I alone, even I! the winds merciless
Bound; but condensing, in torrents
They fall & fall; strong I repell'd
The vast waves, & arose on the waters
A wide world of solid obstruction

6. Here alone I in books formd of metals
Have written the secrets of wisdom
The secrets of dark contemplation
By fightings and conflicts dire,
With terrible monsters Sin-bred:
Which the bosoms of all inhabit;
Seven deadly Sins of the soul.

7. Lo! I unfold my darkness: and on
This rock, place with strong hand the Book
Of eternal brass, written in my solitude.

8. Laws of peace, of love, of unity:
Of pity, compassion, forgiveness.
Let each chuse one habitation:
His ancient infinite mansion:
One command, one joy one desire,
One curse, one weight, one measure
One King, one God, one Law.

Chap: III



1. The voice ended, they saw his pale visage
Emerge from the darkness; his hand
On the rock of eternity unclasping
The Book of brass. Rage siez'd the strong

2. Rage, fury, intense indignation
In cataracts of fire blood & gall
In whirlwinds of sulphurous smoke:
And enormous forms of energy;
All the seven deadly sins of the soul

In living creations appear'd
In the flames of eternal fury.

3. Sund'ring, dark'ning, thund'ring!
Rent away with a terrible crash
Eternity roll'd wide apart

Wide asunder rolling
Mountainous all around
Departing; departing; departing:
Leaving ruinous fragments of life
Hanging frowning cliffs & all between
An ocean of voidness unfathomable.

4. The roaring fires ran o'er the heav'ns
In whirlwinds & cataracts of blood
And o'er the dark desarts of Urizen
Fires pour thro' the void on all sides
On Urizens self-begotten armies.

5. But no light from the fires. all was darkness
In the flames of Eternal fury

6. In fierce anguish & quenchless flames
To the desarts and rocks He ran raging
To hide, but He could not: combining
He dug mountains & hills in vast strength,
He piled them in incessant labour,
In howlings & pangs & fierce madness
Long periods in burning fires labouring
Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,
In despair and the shadows of death.

7. And a roof, vast petrific around,
 On all sides He fram'd: like a womb;
Where thousands of rivers in veins
Of blood pour down the mountains to cool
The eternal fires beating without
From Eternals; & like a black globe
View'd by sons of Eternity, standing
On the shore of the infinite ocean
Like a human heart strugling & beating
The vast world of Urizen appear'd.

8. And Los round the dark globe of Urizen,
Kept watch for Eternals to confine,
The obscure separation alone;
For Eternity stood wide apart,

As the stars are apart from the earth

9. Los wept howling around the dark Demon:
And cursing his lot; for in anguish,

Urizen was rent from his side;
And a fathomless void for his feet;
And intense fires for his dwelling.

10. But Urizen laid in a stony sleep
Unorganiz'd, rent from Eternity

11. The Eternals said: What is this? Death
Urizen is a clod of clay.

12: Los howld in a dismal stupor,
Groaning! gnashing! groaning!
Till the wrenching apart was healed

12: Los howld in a dismal stupor,
Groaning! gnashing! groaning!
Till the wrenching apart was healed

The Book of Urizen, copy G, c. 1818: Plate 9


13: But the wrenching of Urizen heal'd not
Cold, featureless, flesh or clay,
Rifted with direful changes
He lay in a dreamless night

14: Till Los rouz'd his fires, affrighted
At the formless unmeasurable death.

Chap: IV[a]



1: Los smitten with astonishment
Frightend at the hurtling bones

2: And at the surging sulphureous
Perturbed Immortal mad raging

3: In whirlwinds & pitch & nitre
Round the furious limbs of Los

4: And Los formed nets & gins
And threw the nets round about

5: He watch'd in shuddring fear
The dark changes & bound every change
With rivets of iron & brass;

6. And these were the changes of Urizen.

Chap: IV[b]



1. Ages on ages roll'd over him!
In stony sleep ages roll'd over him!
Like a dark waste stretching chang'able
By earthquakes riv'n, belching sullen fires
On ages roll'd ages in ghastly

Sick torment; around him in whirlwinds
Of darkness the eternal Prophet howl'd
Beating still on his rivets of iron
Pouring sodor of iron; dividing
The horrible night into watches.

2. And Urizen (so his eternal name)
His prolific delight obscurd more & more
In dark secresy hiding in surgeing
Sulphureous fluid his phantasies.
The Eternal Prophet heavd the dark bellows,
And turn'd restless the tongs; and the hammer
Incessant beat; forging chains new & new
Numb'ring with links. hours, days & years

3. The eternal mind bounded began to roll
Eddies of wrath ceaseless round & round,
And the sulphureous foam surgeing thick
Settled, a lake, bright, & shining clear:
White as the snow on the mountains cold.

4. Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity!
In chains of the mind locked up,
Like fetters of ice shrinking together
Disorganiz'd, rent from Eternity,
Los beat on his fetters of iron;
And heated his furnaces & pour'd
Iron sodor and sodor of brass

5. Restless turnd the immortal inchain'd
Heaving dolorous! anguish'd! unbearable
Till a roof shaggy wild inclos'd
In an orb, his fountain of thought.

6. In a horrible dreamful slumber;
Like the linked infernal chain;
A vast Spine writh'd in torment
Upon the winds; shooting pain'd
Ribs, like a bending cavern
And bones of solidness, froze
Over all his nerves of joy.
And a first Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe.

7. From the caverns of his jointed Spine,
Down sunk with fright a red
Round globe hot burning deep
Deep down into the Abyss:

Panting: Conglobing, Trembling
Shooting out ten thousand branches
Around his solid bones.
And a second Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe.

8. In harrowing fear rolling round;
His nervous brain shot branches
Round the branches of his heart.
On high into two little orbs
And fixed in two little caves
Hiding carefully from the wind,
His Eyes beheld the deep,
And a third Age passed over:
And a state of dismal woe.

9. The pangs of hope began,
In heavy pain striving, struggling.
Two Ears in close volutions.
From beneath his orbs of vision
Shot spiring out and petrified
As they grew. And a fourth Age passed
And a state of dismal woe.

10. In ghastly torment sick;
Hanging upon the wind;

Two Nostrils bent down to the deep.
And a fifth Age passed over;
And a state of dismal woe.

11. In ghastly torment sick;
Within his ribs bloated round,
A craving Hungry Cavern;
Thence arose his channeld Throat,
And like a red flame a Tongue
Of thirst & of hunger appeard.
And a sixth Age passed over:
And a state of dismal woe.

12. Enraged & stifled with torment
He threw his right Arm to the north
His left Arm to the south
Shooting out in anguish deep,
And his Feet stampd the nether Abyss
In trembling & howling & dismay.
And a seventh Age passed over:
And a state of dismal woe.

Chap: V



I. In terrors Los shrunk from his task:
His great hammer fell from his hand:
His fires beheld, and sickening,
Hid their strong limbs in smoke.
For with noises ruinous loud;
With hurtlings & clashings & groans
The Immortal endur'd his chains,
Tho' bound in a deadly sleep.

 2. All the myriads of Eternity:
All the wisdom & joy of life:
Roll like a sea around him,
Except what his little orbs
Of sight by degrees unfold.

3. And now his eternal life
Like a dream was obliterated

4. Shudd'ring, the Eternal Prophet smote
With a stroke, from his north to south region
The bellows & hammer are silent now
A nerveless silence, his prophetic voice
Siez'd; a cold solitude & dark void
The Eternal Prophet & Urizen clos'd

5. Ages on ages rolld over them
Cut off from life & light frozen
Into horrible forms of deformity
Los suffer'd his fires to decay
Then he look'd back with anxious desire
But the space undivided by existence
Struck horror into his soul.

6. Los wept obscur'd with mourning:
His bosom earthquak'd with sighs;
He saw Urizen deadly black,
In his chains bound, & Pity began,

7. In anguish dividing & dividing
For pity divides the soul
In pangs eternity on eternity
Life in cataracts pourd down his cliffs
The void shrunk the lymph into Nerves
Wand'ring wide on the bosom of night
And left a round globe of blood
Trembling upon the Void

Thus the Eternal Prophet was divided
Before the death-image of Urizen
For in changeable clouds and darkness
In a winterly night beneath,
The Abyss of Los stretch'd immense:
And now seen, now obscur'd, to the eyes
Of Eternals, the visions remote
Of the dark seperation appear'd.
As glasses discover Worlds
In the endless Abyss of space,
So the expanding eyes of Immortals
Beheld the dark visions of Los,
And the globe of life blood trembling.

8. The globe of life blood trembled
Branching out into roots...

The Book of Urizen, copy G, c. 1818: Plate 18


8. The globe of life blood trembled
Branching out into roots;
Fib'rous, writhing upon the winds;
Fibres of blood, milk and tears;
In pangs, eternity on eternity.
At length in tears & cries imbodied
A female form trembling and pale
Waves before his deathy face

9. All Eternity shudderd at sight
Of the first female now separate
Pale as a cloud of snow
Waving before the face of Los

10. Wonder, awe, fear, astonishment,
Petrify the eternal myriads;
At the first female form now separate

They call'd her Pity, and fled

11. "Spread a Tent, with strong curtains around them
"Let cords & stakes bind in the Void
That Eternals may no more behold them"
 
12. They began to weave curtains of darkness
They erected large pillars round the Void
With golden hooks fastend in the pillars
With infinite labour the Eternals
A woof wove, and called it Science

Chap: VI



1. But Los saw the Female & pitied
He embrac'd her, she wept, she refus'd
In perverse and cruel delight
She fled from his arms, yet he followd

2. Eternity shudder'd when they saw,
Man begetting his likeness,
On his own divided image.

3. A time passed over, the Eternals
Began to erect the tent;
When Enitharmon sick,
Felt a Worm within her womb.

4. Yet helpless it lay like a Worm
In the trembling womb
To be moulded into existence
 
5. All day the worm lay on her bosom
All night within her womb
The worm lay till it grew to a serpent
With dolorous hissings & poisons
Round Enitharmons loins folding,

6. Coild within Enitharmons womb
The serpent grew casting its scales,
With sharp pangs the hissings began
To change to a grating cry,
Many sorrows and dismal throes,
Many forms of fish, bird & beast,
Brought forth an Infant form
Where was a worm before.

7. The Eternals their tent finished
Alarm'd with these gloomy visions
When Enitharmon groaning
Produc'd a man Child to the light.
 
8. A shriek ran thro' Eternity:
And a paralytic stroke;
At the birth of the Human shadow.
 
9. Delving earth in his resistless way;
Howling, the Child with fierce flames
Issu'd from Enitharmon.

10. The Eternals, closed the tent
They beat down the stakes the cords

Stretch'd for a work of eternity;
No more Los beheld Eternity.

11. In his hands he siez'd the infant
He bathed him in springs of sorrow
He gave him to Enitharmon.

Chap: VII



 1. They named the child Orc, he grew
Fed with milk of Enitharmon

2. Los awoke her; O sorrow & pain!
A tight'ning girdle grew,
Around his bosom. In sobbings
He burst the girdle in twain,
But still another girdle
Opressd his bosom, In sobbings
Again he burst it. Again
Another girdle succeeds
The girdle was form'd by day;
By night was burst in twain.

3. These falling down on the rock
Into an iron Chain
In each other link by link lock'd

4. They took Orc to the top of a mountain.
O how Enitharmon wept!
They chain'd his young limbs to the rock
With the Chain of Jealousy
Beneath Urizens deathful shadow

5. The dead heard the voice of the child
And began to awake from sleep
All things. heard the voice of the child
And began to awake to life.

6. And Urizen craving with hunger
Stung with the odours of Nature
Explor'd his dens around

7. He form'd a line & a plummet
To divide the Abyss beneath.
He form'd a dividing rule:
 
8. He formed scales to weigh;
He formed massy weights;
He formed a brazen quadrant;

He formed golden compasses
And began to explore the Abyss
And he planted a garden of fruits

 9. But Los encircled Enitharmon
With fires of Prophecy
From the sight of Urizen & Orc.

10. And she bore an enormous race

Chap: VIII



1. Urizen explor'd his dens
Mountain, moor, & wilderness,
With a globe of fire lighting his journey
A fearful journey, annoy'd
By cruel enormities: forms

Of life on his forsaken mountains

2. And his world teemd vast enormities
Frightning; faithless; fawning
Portions of life; similitudes
Of a foot, or a hand, or a head
Or a heart, or an eye, they swam mischevous
Dread terrors! delighting in blood
 
3. Most Urizen sicken'd to see
His eternal creations appear
Sons & daughters of sorrow on mountains
Weeping! wailing! first Thiriel appear'd
Astonish'd at his own existence
Like a man from a cloud born, & Utha
From the waters emerging, laments!
Grodna rent the deep earth howling
Amaz'd! his heavens immense cracks
Like the ground parch'd with heat; then Fuzon
Flam'd out! first begotten, last born.
All his eternal sons in like manner
His daughters from green herbs & cattle
From monsters, & worms of the pit.

4. He in darkness clos'd, view'd all his race,
And his soul sicken'd! he curs'd
Both sons & daughters; for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment.

5. For he saw that life liv'd upon death

The Ox in the slaughter house moans
The Dog at the wintry door
And he wept, & he called it Pity
And his tears flowed down on the winds

6. Cold he wander'd on high, over their cities
In weeping & pain & woe!
And where-ever he wanderd in sorrows
Upon the aged heavens
A cold shadow follow'd behind him
Like a spiders web, moist, cold, & dim
Drawing out from his sorrowing soul
The dungeon-like heaven dividing.
Where ever the footsteps of Urizen
Walk'd over the cities in sorrow.

7. Till a Web dark & cold, throughout all
The tormented element stretch'd
From the sorrows of Urizens soul
And the Web is a Female in embrio
None could break the Web, no wings of fire.

8. So twisted the cords, & so knotted
The meshes: twisted like to the human brain

9. And all calld it, The Net of Religion

Chap: IX



1. Then the Inhabitants of those Cities:
Felt their Nerves change into Marrow
And hardening Bones began
In swift diseases and torments,
In throbbings & shootings & grindings
Thro' all the coasts; till weaken'd
The Senses inward rush'd shrinking,
Beneath the dark net of infection.

2. Till the shrunken eyes clouded over
BDiscernd not the woven hipocrisy
But the streaky slime in their heavens
Brought together by narrowing perceptions
Appeard transparent air; for their eyes
Grew small like the eyes of a man
And in reptile forms shrinking together
Of seven feet stature they remaind

3. Six days they shrunk up from existence
And on the seventh day they rested
And they bless'd the seventh day, in sick hope:
And forgot their eternal life

4. And their thirty cities divided
In form of a human heart
No more could they rise at will
In the infinite void, but bound down
To earth by their narrowing perceptions

They lived a period of years
Then left a noisom body
To the jaws of devouring darkness

5. And their children wept, & built
Tombs in the desolate places,
And form'd laws of prudence, and call'd them
The eternal laws of God

6. And the thirty cities remaind
Surrounded by salt floods, now call'd
Africa: its name was then Egypt.

7. The remaining sons of Urizen
Beheld their brethren shrink together
Beneath the Net of Urizen;
Perswasion was in vain;
For the ears of the inhabitants,
Were wither'd, & deafen'd, & cold:
And their eyes could not discern,
Their brethren of other cities.

8. So Fuzon call'd all together
The remaining children of Urizen:
And they left the pendulous earth:
They called it Egypt, & left it.

9. And the salt ocean rolled englob'd

 The End of the [first] book of Urizen



Notes

This book was printed by Blake on 28 plates (but some of copies contain 24 plates). There are 7 copies known.

The word "First" was erased from the title "The Book of Urizen" in the later copies, and the sequel was named "The Book of Ahania" (1795). "The Book of Los" (1795) is closely related.

"Urizen" was pronounced by Blake with stress on the first syllable. Urizen received much of his characterization from popular conceptions of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. The name may came from "You Reason" or "Your Reason", i.e., the accepted wisdom of the age; or from the Greek horizein, "to set limits"; or, conceivably, from both equally. Not a benevolent character, Urizen oppresses Orc, who embodies revolutionary passion and creativity, and who serves as a suffering saviour figure. He is also an enemy of Luvah, the spirit of love.

As S. Foster Damon noted: "He is the southern Zoa, who symbolizes Reason. But h ie much more that we commonly understand by "reason": he is the limiter of Energy, the lawmaker, and the avenging conscience. He is a plowman, a builder, a driver of the sun-chariot. His art is architecture, his sense is Sight, his metal is Gold, his element is Air. His Emanation is Ahania (pleasure); his contrary, in the north, is Urthona (the Imagination)." A Blake Dictionary, Brown University Press, Providence, Rhode Island, 1965/1973, p. 419.

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