THE REVISION OF THE SEVENTH AND EIGHTH NIGHTS OF THE FOUR ZOAS
The presence of two Nights headed “Night the Seventh” in The Four Zoas forces editorial choice of an uncomfortable kind. If we decide to exclude one we will exclude material which seems necessary for a full understanding of the poem. If both are included, how should we read them? We seem to be left with a narrative which is hopelessly confused. In this article I want first to analyze in detail some of the stages in the poem’s development, and then to suggest a textual arrangement which will allow the two Nights to be read as a single and reasonably coherent narrative.1↤ 1 All references to The Four Zoas follow the line-numbering in the facsimile edited by Gerald E. Bentley, Jr.: Vala, or The Four Zoas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), hereafter referred to in the notes as “Bentley.” In quotations, italics indicate an erasure or deletion; additions to the basic text are bracketed < >. In the text of my essay, the following abbreviations are used: Night VIIa1 ms pages 77-85 (to line 85:22) VIIa2 85-90 (85:23-98:68) VIIIa hypothetical lost draft VIIIb a second hypothetical draft, very similar to VIII* VIII* ms pages 99-110 before additions VIII final ms version IX* ms pages 119-39 (from line 119:24)
NIGHTS VIIa AND VIIb
By considering VIIa (pages 77-90) as a single homogeneous narrative, Sloss and Wallis helped to establish the critical tradition which has regarded this Night as later than VIIb (pages 91-98). They asserted that “Enitharmon’s fear of punishment and utter extinction . . . and Los’s creation of Bodies from the Spectres” were described “in the main body of the text,”2↤ 2 D. J. Sloss and J. P. R. Wallis, eds., The Prophetic Writings of William Blake (Oxford: Clarendon, 1926), I, 138. whereas they are clearly described in a subsequent addition to the main body of the Night, introduced after two previous Night endings (at 85:22 and 85:31). In order to have a meaningful basis for the discussion of relative dates, we must first try to distinguish the original form of VIIa from the subsequent additions.
The first four leaves of VIIa, pages 77-84, have stitch marks which indicate that they were once bound together with pages 43-76 and 111-12. The presence of stitch marks on pages 111-12 suggests that this leaf was not originally designed for its present context in VIII (the rest of which was never bound) but had some other place in the manuscript. Bentley suggests3↤ 3 Bentley, p. 200. that the leaf, which has a full-page sketch on page 112, was bound at the end of IV when Blake added the pencilled instruction “Bring in here the Globe of Blood as in the B of Urizen” between lines 17 and 18 on page 55. Bentley argues that the drawing (showing a male looking anxiously at a female howling in horror, the female trying to break away from the male’s embrace) was intended to illustrate the lines which follow the Globe of Blood passage in Urizen:
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.
(Urizen VI, 1)
Bentley concludes that the leaf was added after Blake had covered page 56 (originally left blank) with additions; but the two sets of additions which cover the page contain Christian symbolism of a fairly developed kind, and so Bentley’s suggestion implies that the binding which once held pages 43-84 and 111-12 was made after Blake had begun to introduce Christian material into the poem. As no other page containing Christian symbolism in the basic text shows any sign of stitch marks, this seems unlikely.
As there is no apparent connection between the drawing on page 112 and anything else at the end of IV, the leaf may have been designed for some other context within the binding that once held pages 43-84. Although only the first four leaves of VIIa were bound (pages 77-84), there is no Night ending on page 84, and the first ending now occurs after line 21 on the unbound page 85. Bentley comments: “Assuming that the Night was complete when bound, [Blake] later found it necessary to alter the last begin page 114 |begin page 116 | leaf so much that the whole leaf had to be removed and a new one substituted.”4↤ 4 Bentley, p. 162. This rests on the assumption that the Night was complete when bound, which is open to question. The first Night ending on page 85 comes after the description of Vala’s rebirth; and page 86 has a full-page drawing of a female figure who is probably Vala, which may have been intended to illustrate the Night ending. With this leaf VIIa would have nine pages of text plus a full-page drawing, in line with the pattern Blake had established in III, V, and VI, and which he probably intended for IV. As we have seen, it is unlikely that the leaf containing pages 111-12 was bound at the end of IV. It seems more likely, in view of the drawing on page 112, that the leaf was originally designed for the end of VIIa. The relationship between the Spectre of Urthona and the Spirit of Enitharmon described on pages 82-84 follows the pattern typical of Los and Enitharmon, the male tortured by jealousy, the female scornful and elusive:
He turned from side to side in tears he wept & he embracd
The fleeting image & in whispers mild wood the faint shade.
The drawing on page 112 would have been very suitable for VIIa if the Night had ended with the tension between the Spectre and Shadow still unresolved. When Blake bound the leaf with pages 43-84, that may have been his intention; but in transcribing VIIa he may have begun to feel that Vala’s birth would make a better climax (deciding, perhaps, to transfer it from the beginning of the eighth Night?). In that case he would naturally unbind his manuscript to remove pages 111-12; and he would also prepare a new sheet which would be exactly like pages 85-86 before the additions. When it was unbound page 111 was almost certainly still blank, and it was only written on when Blake decided to use it in VIII. In this case, then, Blake seems to have bound a leaf and prepared it with a drawing before anything had been written on it: a surprising instance which calls into question the assumption that the stitch marks were made after Blake had completed, or partially completed, a draft of the poem. This also suggests that the basic text of page 85 may have been the first ending of VIIa to be transcribed on proof pages, and that it may be regarded as the original end of VIIa. I shall subsequently refer to the basic text of pages 77-85 (ending with 85:22) as “VIIa1,” and to the added material (85:23-90:68) as “VIIa2.”
Night VIIa1 contains little that could be regarded as “late” in relation to pages 43-76. The Shadow of Enitharmon is a new figure, but she enters the poem through the same kind of division that produced the Spectre, and her appearance is a natural development in the disintegration of Urthona rather than a late development in Blake’s symbolism. There are references to Beulah in the Shadow’s account of the fall on page 83, but Beulah is also mentioned in the Spectre’s account of the fall on page 50 in IV. Night VIIa1 has strong narrative links with pages 43-76, as it describes the confrontation between Urizen and Orc (anticipated at the end of VI), and the rebirth of Vala (anticipated in V). Taken together, the narrative of pages 43-85 follows the narrative sequence of Urizen-Ahania (the active confrontation between Urizen and Fuzon becomes a verbal confrontation between Urizen and Orc, but at the end of both the defeated energy principle is forced to ascend the tree of Mystery).
As Erdman points out in his review of Bentley’s edition of the facsimile, stitch marks alone are of little help in questions of relative date.5↤ 5 David V. Erdman, “The Binding (et cetera) of Vala,” The Library, 5th Ser., XIX (1964), 121-22. Leaves without stitch marks could have been superseded and removed before Blake bound the manuscript, or they could have been added afterwards. Nor can we be sure at what stage in the process of composition the manuscript was bound. So we must rely on internal evidence: the coherence of the narrative may be indicative, and the date of transcription will be suggested by the latest reference in the basic text.
In VIIb there is material which clearly seems to be later than anything in the basic text of pages 43-76 or VIIa1, namely lines 4-14 on page 95, which describe the Daughters of Beulah “Waiting with Patience for the fulfilment of the Promise Divine,” and which conclude with the appearance of Satan. Once again, the relevance of these lines was obscured by Sloss and Wallis, who reported that they were “written over a previous draft, deleted,”6↤ 6 Sloss and Wallis, I, 337. whereas they are clearly part of the basic text. The “Promise” of these lines is a reference to the story of Lazarus in John 11. Similar references occur only in recognizably late additions to the poem, on the added page 21 (lines 9-10) and in an added passage on page 56 (line 1). Satan also appears only in late passages, as on the added page 22 (line 4), in the added passage on page 56 (line 19), and in the manifestly late eighth Night.
This evidence alone suggests that VIIb is later than VIIa1, but there is also the fact that VIIb has stronger narrative links with VIIa1 than it has with VI. The growth of the tree of Mystery, Orc climbing the tree, and Vala’s birth are all described in VIIa1, and yet all are assumed in VIIb; and the original beginning of VIIb (on page 91 before the narrative was rearranged) seems to follow from the end of VIIa1. Bentley suggests that Blake revised and expanded the eighth Night, rewriting it as two Nights, one of which was VIIb;7↤ 7 Bentley, pp. 162-63. this suggestion merits further consideration, for if VIIb does contain material which was displaced from the eighth Night we would expect to find some evidence of this displacement. I believe such evidence does exist.
In the Lambeth books Blake had developed two different images for the corruption of Orc: in Ahania crucifixion, and in the Preludium of America the embrace with the Shadowy female, whose possessive reaction suggests that she may simply absorb Orc’s energies. In VIIa1 Blake reconciles the two images. The Spectre draws Vala to embrace Orc who is stretched on the Tree of Mystery. An elaborate parallel to the Preludium of America begins with the begin page 117 |begin page 118 | daughters of Urizen feeding Orc (79:26-28). Orc’s transformation into a jewelled serpent recalls not only Fuzon’s corruption on the tree, but also Orc’s growth into maturity. Vala is born as a spreading cloud at the end of VIIal, and in the first lines of VIIb she stands before Orc (91:1-2). Directly after these lines in VIIb, Orc breaks free from his bondage and is embraced by Vala “that he might lose his rage” (91:4). The embrace completes the transformation of Orc: “his human form consumd in his own fires” (93:21) until “No more remaind of Orc but the Serpent round the tree of Mystery” (93:24). Vala herself is strewn on the abyss. The confrontation of Vala and Orc is resolved, then, near the beginning of VIIb. However, there is a passage in VIII (101:10-25) which should, logically, precede this embrace. In this passage Orc is still in bondage, and his transformation into a jewelled serpent is still not complete—he is still “raging,” his form is still partially “human.” The passage brings us to a point equivalent to the third line of the America Preludium, and it is at this point that we might expect a description of the embrace in which Orc breaks from bondage and loses his human form completely.
There is evidence of similar displacements elsewhere in VIIb. Urizen’s triumphant proclamation at 95:15-24 was addressed to the Shadowy female in the basic text, and followed by a line which was immediately deleted: “The shadowy voice answerd O Urizen Prince of Light.” The speech that was to have followed here was omitted, but perhaps it is worth pointing out that Vala addresses Urizen only twice in the rest of the poem, once at 31:4-16 and once in VIII (102:28-103:20) in a speech which begins, as above, “O Urizen Prince of Light.” It seems possible that the speech in VIII was once intended as a reply to Urizen’s proclamation. Blake must have been editing the text from which he was copying when he transcribed VIIb. After 96:18 half a line was deleted: “Urizen namd it Pande,” which suggests that Blake was cutting short a longer passage here. He introduced instead, rather abruptly, the passage 96:20-98:31, which may have originally had a different context.
Urizen’s proclamation is followed by a description of his preparations—the construction of a slave-based economy and the erection of a temple of secret religion. More of these preparations are described in passages which now appear in VIII, and these passages seem to be leading up to an apocalyptic confrontation like the one described in 96:20-98:31. In the passage 100:27-32 Urizen begins to manufacture the machinery of warfare, the object of this work being “To undermine the World of Los & tear bright Enitharmon / To the four winds” (100:35-101:1). The work is continued in 102:14-22, where Urizen gives “life & sense . . . To all his Engines of deceit.” The four lines 101:29-32 apparently describe the culmination of this activity:
Thus Urizen in self deceit his warlike preparations fabricatedIn their present context these lines simply herald an intensification of the conflict which is seen to be an inherent feature of the fallen world over which Urizen presides; but the lines themselves seem to describe a more decisive event. All of Urizen’s preparations, now described variously in VIIb and VIII, seem to be leading up to such a moment. The sudden, apocalyptic battle-signal should herald the eruption of warfare. We might expect the passage 96:20-98:31, describing the furious response of Los and Tharmas to the outbreak of war, to follow such a signal. The passage apparently has a climactic significance. The relationship between Los and Enitharmon is at its lowest ebb. Los, as in Europe, rises eagerly to the prospect of war; his appearance is more wrathful here than at any other point in The Four Zoas, and his speech, 96:25-28, emphasizes the apocalyptic dimension of the conflict, closely following Revelation 19:17-18. The last line of the passage hints at the consequences of the spreading confusion, for “Urizen’s web vibrated torment on torment.”
And when all things were finishd sudden wavd <among the Stars>
<His hurtling> hand gave the dire signal thunderous Clarions blow
And all the hollow deep rebellowd with the wondrous war.
The collapse of Urizen’s web is described in VIII in a sequence which now begins with the Shadowy female’s speech. The collapse occurs at 103:21-31, and the description of Urizen’s final degeneration is continued in 106:17-107:36. In 107:32-35, Tharmas and the Spectre of Urthona give their strength to Los:
And Tharmas gave his Power to Los Urthona gave his strengthThese lines seem to anticipate some decisive action by Los, and it is possible that they were followed originally by the description of Los rending the heavens, now found in the beginning of IX. Several factors suggest that this description formed the conclusion of an eighth Night designed to follow VIIal. Night IX originally began on page 119 with the words “Without this Universal Confusion . . . ” (119:24). In the poem as it now stands these words clearly apply to the chaos described in the new beginning of the Night; but when they were first transcribed they must have applied to the end of the eighth Night. There is a reference to Los destroying the heavens in the main body of IX, on page 121:
Into the youthful prophet for the Love of Enitharmon
And of the nameless Shadowy female in the nether deep
And for the dread of the dark terrors of Orc & Urizen.
Let Orc consume let Tharmas rage let dark Urthona giveHere the destruction of the heavens is seen as a direct result of the Spectre of Urthona’s attempt to give up his strength to Los. When these lines were transcribed they cannot have referred to the new beginning of IX unless Blake added the new beginning before he had transcribed three pages of begin page 119 | the Night (the lines occur three pages after the original beginning). This seems to confirm that when Blake transcribed the main body of IX, the “Universal Confusion” was described at the end of the eighth Night, after the description of Urthona giving his strength to Los.
All strength to Los & Enitharmon & let Los self cursd
Rend down this fabric as a wall ruind & family extinct.
In the new beginning as it now stands, Los’s destructive gesture is described in a passage of thirteen lines (117:1-13) added over an erasure. In the added passage Los is watched over by Jesus, so the action appears to be part of the divine scheme of redemption, and the passage is clearly related to a late addition near the end of VIII (110:38-41). Without the Christian framework the significance of Los’s action would be different. The crucial lines on page 117, in which Los rends “the heavens across from immense to immense” recall his gesture in The Book of Los, Chapter II, where he stands “frozen amidst / The vast rock of eternity”; “The Prophetic wrath, strug’ling for vent” rends the rock “from immense to immense,” and he falls into the abyss. This is an example of the destructive nature of prophetic impatience, marking a further stage in the fall. As originally transcribed, the corresponding action in The Four Zoas may have been ironically redemptive, taking the confusion of Urizen’s empire to its ultimate limit, a collapse analogous[e] to the destruction of the ego necessary for Man’s awakening.
In lines 117:24-25, 118:1-6 there is an account of the destruction of the Spectres of Urthona and Enitharmon:
The Spectre of Enitharmon let loose on the troubled deepThe “Spectre of Enitharmon” here is clearly an alternative term for the “Shadow” that appears in VIIal as a result of a further division of Urthona. The passage seems to be an attempt to resolve the problem of Urthona’s disintegration. No solution is offered in VIIal. The added endings of VIIa do not completely resolve this division, but they do introduce a principle by which unity may be achieved: the principle of self-annihilation. Compared with the new endings of VIIa, the solution offered in the passage above seems crudely mechanical. The outcome would seem to be a separation from Los, rather than integration with him, as their bodies lie “buried in the ruins of the Universe.”
Waild Shrill in the confusion & the Spectre of Urthona
Recievd her in the darkning South their bodies lost they stood
Trembling & weak a faint embrace a fierce desire as when
Two shadows mingle on a wall they wail & shadowy tears
Fell down & shadowy forms of joy mixd with despair & grief
Their bodies buried in the ruins of the Universe
Mingled with the confusion. Who shall call them from the Grave.
The additions at the end of VIIal (i.e. in VIIa2) almost seem to take the situation described above as their starting point. In the additions, the Spectre speaks to astound Los’s ear with “irresistable conviction”
Of thy fierce Soul Unbar the Gates of Memory look upon meIt seems that the account of the Spectre of Urthona’s union with the Spirit of Enitharmon now contained in the new beginning of IX was composed before the additions at the end of VIIa were conceived. In fact the account may be Blake’s original solution to the problem of Urthona’s disintegration, a problem which is prominent in VIIal. Other manifestations of error introduced in VIIal—Urizen’s books and the Tree of Mystery—are consumed in the new beginning of IX, so the narrative as a whole would have formed an appropriate conclusion to an eighth Night designed to follow on from VIIal.
Not as another but as thy real Self I am thy Spectre
Tho horrible & Ghastly to thine Eyes tho buried beneath
The ruins of the Universe.
There does seem to be evidence, then, to support Bentley’s suggestion that in the process of revising the eighth Night, Blake rewrote it as two Nights, the first of which was VIIb. There are traces of a narrative sequence which may have been dislocated in the process of revision. This sequence probably began with the embrace of Vala and Orc, may have described how Urizen’s empire-building culminated in an apocalyptic confrontation with Tharmas and Los and in the collapse of Urizen’s web and the stupefaction of all of Man’s faculties except Los—who pulled down the heavens. Such a narrative would have formed an appropriate sequel to VIIal, and I shall subsequently refer to this (lost) version of the eighth Night as “VIIIa.”
At this stage, a consideration of the ninth Night may prove helpful, and Bentley’s comments on this Night make a convenient starting point for discussion. He suggests that early drafts of the eighth and ninth Nights may have been bound together with pages 43-84, and “may have described a titanic war among the Zoas (Night VIIb seems to be a prelude to such a war). This war would have resulted in ‘Universal Confusion’ (with which Night IX begins, page 119), and have been resolved perhaps, in the reunion of the four Zoas in the Eternal Man.” He suggests that as VIII and IX contain overt Christian references, they are probably later than VIIb: “They were probably recopied when VIIb was, but Blake’s rapidly changing ideas may have forced him to transcribe Nights VIII and IX yet once or twice again.” He suggests that IX is earlier than the existing VIII, and concludes: “Presumably Blake’s major alteration from the previous draft of Night IX was in his composition or rewriting of the great harvest of the vintage which concludes the Night.”8↤ 8 Bentley, p. 163.
For convenience I shall refer to the main body of the ninth Night, without the new beginning (i.e. 119:24-139:10) as “IX*.” It seems that the absence of stitch marks in IX* leads Bentley to conclude that this Night must have replaced an earlier copy; it follows from this that IX* must have evolved begin page 120 | through a major revision of the “earlier version,” as only such a major revision would justify the complete retranscription of a Night. But as we have noted, internal evidence is likely to provide a surer indication of relative date than the absence or presence of stitch marks. Curiously, Bentley’s hypothesis for the “original” ninth Night seems quite appropriate to IX*, which does resolve the Universal Confusion “with the reunion of the four Zoas in the Eternal Man.” How much of IX*, then, if any, is the product of subsequent revision?
The harvest and vintage sequence begins at 124:6 and continues to the end of the poem, forming the greater part of the Night. There are obvious precedents for such a sequence in Revelation 14:14-20, and in Ahania, where Urizen is introduced as the eternal sower. The detail in which the sequence of ploughing, sowing, and harvesting is described in IX* suggests that Blake was drawing on his observation of the rural life around Felpham, and the sequence contains none of the Christian references that might be regarded as conclusive evidence of revision, although some elements could be regarded as late relative to pages 43-85. First, there is a development in the presentation of Beulah: Urizen and his sons, wearied after the sowing, receive visions on the “Couches of Beulah” (131:21). Their vision is the long pastoral interlude in which Luvah and Vala, and Tharmas and Enion, are reunited in innocence. However, this development is anticipated in the Shadow of Enitharmon’s account of the fall in VIIal, where Beulah is identified[e] as a region of dreams, a pastoral retreat from Eternity, an enticing world where Man’s fall began: “he forgot Eternity delighted in his sweet joy / Among his family his flocks & herds & tents & pastures” (83:21-22).
The denunciation of Mystery on page 134 is clearly a direct allusion to the archetypal female of Revelation 17 and 18, but it is not certain that when IX* was transcribed the name Mystery had the specific meaning that it has in VIII, where it is the name of the most degenerate form of Vala, Rahab. In VI one of Urizen’s daughters is identified with the female of Revelation by the writing on her forehead, and the female in IX* may have been introduced similarly, as a simple personification of Urizenic mystery, appropriate to the apocalyptic context. The names “Satan,” “Rahab”, and “Mystery the Harlot” appear only in an addition to IX* (120: 47,49), suggesting that the specific symbolic meanings they have in the poem were developed after the Night had been transcribed.
The introduction of the Eternals on page 133 indicates Blake’s growing sense of the existence of an unfallen reality, a development which culminated in the introduction of “the Council of God;” and the reference to the “Mercy Divine” at 125:39 suggests an unequivocal faith in divine providence. However, there are references to “The ever pitying one who seeth all things” and to “Providence divine” in VI (71:25-26, 74:31-32); and the Eternals are to some extent anticipated in the Shadow of Enitharmon’s account of the fall in VIIal: “Wonder siezd / All heaven they saw him dark. they built a golden wall / Round Beulah” (83:9-11). If the Eternals in IX* do indicate a new concern with divine intervention, they are clearly closer to the Eternals of Urizen than to the providential Council of God. (As in Urizen, the intervention of the Eternals described in 133:15-21 contributes to man’s fall.)
Finally, the reference to the “crown of thorns” which falls from Luvah’s head (135:23) as he rises from the Eternal feast may be an example of the identification of Christ and Luvah which becomes important in the Christian additions to the poem, although there are no other examples of this identification in IX*, and as a passing reference the line may simply describe the risen Orc relinquishing the trappings of the Tree of Mystery.
There seems to be little in the harvest and vintage sequence which can be identified as the product of a major revision. In fact, the only parts of IX* which contain symbolism for which there is no precedent in the basic text of 43-85 are those passages near the beginning of the Night which refer directly to Christ and Jerusalem.
Man’s awakening, as it is described at the beginning of IX*, involves the gradual reassertion of his will. Responding to the Universal Confusion he reasons with himself until he recovers first a sense of determination, and then feelings of wrath (120:27). This active struggle is the natural sequel to the resignation of will described in the copperplate text (23:3,5,6). However, after a description of the regeneration of Urizen, there is a passage in which Man describes his awakening in terms of a divine intervention. The passage begins:
Behold Jerusalem in whose bosom the Lamb of GodThese lines introduce a description of the seasonal revival of Ahania in a harmonious relationship with Urizen, followed by five lines in which Jerusalem is hailed as the bride of Christ, “Mother of myriads redeemd & born in her spiritual palaces / By a New Spiritual birth Regenerated from Death” (122:19-20). This allusion to Revelation 21 shows a new readiness to use Christian symbolism in a direct way, but the providential awakening mentioned here seems quite irrelevant to the awakening actually described, and seems to deny the importance of Man’s struggle to reassert his will. This suggests that the eight lines referring to the Lamb of God were not originally an integral part of the passage in which they now appear, although they must have been introduced before page 122 was transcribed as they are in the basic text. In IX* there is no mention of the Council of God, and there is nothing to connect Jerusalem with Golgonooza, nor with Los (who is mentioned only four times in the Night), nor with Enitharmon (who is mentioned only twice). The immediate connection between St. John’s vision and the basic myth of IX* (apart from the obvious fact that both describe an apocalypse) is the fact that St. John’s vision involves the ordering of a creative sexual relationship, a principle of vital importance begin page 121 | in the reintegration of Man’s faculties in Blake’s poem. The passage framed by the Christian lines on page 122 describes the relationship between Ahania and Urizen in its ideal form. Blake seems to have introduced the Christian symbolism in a context which emphasizes the correspondence between the sexual harmony required in his own myth and that which forms the climax of Revelation.
Is seen tho slain before her Gates he self renewd remains
Eternal & I thro him awake to life from deaths dark vale.
The other example of this kind of Christiann symbolism occurs at the end of a passage describing how the dead gather, waiting to be delivered. Again, Blake seems to have introduced references to Revelation in a context which enables a general analogy to be made: Jerusalem appears as “the innocent accused before the Judges” (123:22) and, like the crucified Christ, is identified with the oppressed who now rise to be delivered from their oppressors. The vision of the Cloud of Blood is seen as the climax of the violent destruction of the universe, and identifies the destruction with the Judgment of Christ’s second coming. The vision includes
four Wonders of the AlmightyMargoliouth, commenting on the word “Life’s” in the last line, writes: “in spite of the apostrophe I think this is a plural and is a translation of ζῶα Zoa, the ‘beasts’ or living creatures of Revelation 4. . . . The four ‘Life’s’ have not here been identified with Urthona, Luvah, Urizen and Tharmas, so providing a new title for Vala.”9↤ 9 H. M. Margoliouth, ed., Vala, Blake’s Numbered Text (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), p. 148. As Margoliouth suggests, the symbolism of this passage has not really been assimilated into the symbolic structure of the Night. The references to divine intervention are registered as interpolations which remain ultimately separate from the rest of the Night. This is the fundamental difference between the Christian references in IX* and those in VIII. In any Night that had been retranscribed at least once to accommodate[e] material which would radically modify the conceptual basis of the poem, we might expect the new ideas to revise the existing ideas satisfactorily; we might expect their modifying effect to be dominant, if not complete. This is largely their effect in VIII. If the first fourteen lines or so of VIII are compared with the awakening described in IX*, the formalizing effect that the Christian framework was to have is evident. In the lines at the beginning of VIII the machinery of divine intervention has been fully developed, but at the expense of the will: Man responds passively to a regulated scheme of redemption in which his own will plays no part. In IX* the Christian references have no such controlling effect, but are subordinate in a narrative which is otherwise conceptually compatible with the basic text of pages 43-85. The limited importance of these references suggests that they were not introduced as part of a carefully planned revision; they seem to have been introduced more as an immediate response to the major model for the Last Judgment, the Book of Revelation, and Blake may even have decided to introduce them while he was actually transcribing the Night. Their extent is so limited that their inclusion would hardly seem to have justified the complete retranscription of the Night, or even of the individual leaves on which they occur. As there seems to be little evidence of major revision elsewhere in the Night, it seems likely that the Christian references were included in Blake’s first transcription of his “Last Judgment,” which survives as the basic text of IX*.
Incomprehensible. pervading all amidst & round about
Fourfold each in the other reflected they are named Life’s in Eternity.
This study of the ninth Night implies that IX*, like VIIa1, was part of a single draft of the poem which included the basic text of pages 43-76 and a copy of the eight Night similar to the sequence I have called “VIIIa”. Within this draft the lengths of the Nights had tended to increase towards the end of the poem, and there had obviously been some development in the symbolism. For example, Beulah had become more important towards the end of the poem, and Christian symbolism had been introduced in the ninth Night. It has long been recognized that much of the text on the proof pages may have been composed while Blake was staying with Hayley at Felpham. Commenting on the proof text, Margoliouth pointed out that “Some of the Tharmas passages, especially in Nights III and IV, point to a personal knowledge of the sea which we have no reason to suppose Blake had before he went to Felpham.”10↤ 10 Margoliouth, pp. xxiii-xxiv. As we have noted, Blake may have been influenced by his observation of the rural countryside around Felpham in his treatment of eternal harvest in the ninth Night. Blake’s letters from Felpham help to illuminate some of the developments in the poem.
After the depressing final years at Lambeth, the removal to the peaceful environment of Felpham and the security of Hayley’s patronage seem to have given Blake a profound sense of spiritual release. His enthusiasm is evident in his first letters from Felpham, and a fortnight after his arrival he sent a poem to Butts which describes his “First Vision of Light.”11↤ 11 See the letter to Butts of 2 Oct. 1800: Geoffrey Keynes, ed., Blake: Complete Writings, rev. edn. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), p. 804-06. The poem relates how, on the beach at Felpham, he has a vision in which his limbs are infolded in beams of gold by “One Man.” This is a regeneration visualized in terms far removed from the fierce, revolutionary apocalypse of the Lambeth books. The tone and imagery of the poem are mild, the poet is passive, there is little sense of a determined imaginative effort. This implies an awareness of divine providence which had largely been absent from Blake’s work since Songs of Innocence, and the poem also suggests a new readiness to use direct (as opposed to satirical) Christian parallels. The “One Man” may be identified readily with the New Testament “Good Shepherd.” Man’s vision of Jerusalem on page 122, derived from Revelation 21, has obvious similarities with the “Vision of Light” that Blake described to Butts: just as Blake was reborn in a renewed environment at “Female” Felpham, so Man is awakened by Christ to be reborn in Jerusalem’s “spiritual palaces.” Blake’s adoption of Christian symbolism in The Four Zoas may have begun with his tentative attempt to reinterpret the resurrection described in the ninth Night in the light of his growing awareness of a begin page 122 | divine providence. The willingness to adopt symbols from both Testaments of the bible, a willingness apparent in additions to the poem, was undoubtedly stimulated further by his study first of Greek, and then of Hebrew, begun under Hayley’s supervision at Felpham. By January 1803 Blake felt confident of his mastery of Greek, and was looking forward to reading “The Hebrew bible.”12↤ 12 Keynes, p. 821.
In a letter to Butts dated 22 November 1802,13↤ 13 Keynes, pp. 816-19. Blake included a poem “composed above a twelve month ago” which, after dramatizing some of the doubts and uncertainties he suffered at Felpham, ends triumphantly:
Now I a fourfold vision seeWhether the word “Now” in the first line refers to the date of the rest of the verses, which were composed “above a twelve month ago” (i.e. in 1801), or to the date of the letter (November 1802) is open to question. But it seems unlikely that Blake could have delayed by a year the announcement of the gift of fourfold vision, and these last lines may have been added to the rest of the poem when the letter was written (i.e., Blake was writing of past difficulties which had now, in November 1802, been resolved). Another letter to Butts of the same day seems to confirm this, for Blake declared “I am again Emerged into the light of day; I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore him who is the express image of God . . . My Enthusiasm is still what it was, only Enlarged and confirm’d.”14↤ 14 Keynes, pp. 815-16. I think the tone of this letter expresses more than the need to keep in favor with a more orthodox patron; it suggests that as Blake progressed into fourfold vision, Christianity assumed a new meaning for him.
And a fourfold vision is given to me.
In the basic text of pages 43-76 the term “Beulah” occurs only twice, in IV, where the Spectre tells Tharmas “thou Drewst all the Sons of Beulah into thy dread vortex following / Thy Eddying spirit down the hills of Beulah” (50:5-6). This reference to the “Sons of Beulah” is unique: Blake normally refers to the “Sons of Eden” and the “Daughters of Beulah,” and the reference in IV may have survived from a time when Blake regarded Beulah as Man’s, eternal dwelling place, the highest attainable ideal. When he received the gift of fourfold vision Beulah would naturally come to be seen as a lower paradise, and the need to distinguish the different degrees of vision in a coherent symbolic structure must have become apparent. A passage in the Shadow of Enitharmon’s account of the fall in VIIa1 seems to be an early attempt to make such a distinction:
Wonder siezdHere Beulah is clearly identified as a lower paradise, distinguished from a higher ideal identified vaguely as “All heaven.” In IX* there is a further development, for Beulah is identified as a resting place from Eternity where Man reposes, entertained by dreams before his resurrection.
All heaven they saw him dark. they built a golden wall
Round Beulah There he reveld in delight among the Flowers.
There are two descriptions of cyclical relationships in IX*. In the long pastoral passage Tharmas complains:
the sweet smelling fruitThe recurring cycle described here is comparable to the cycle which Blake developed more fully in “The Mental Traveller.” In introducing this myth showing history as a series of recurring cycles, Blake was beginning to go beyond the original structure of The Four Zoas, which was concerned with a single cycle from fall to redemption. As a counterpart to the relationship of Tharmas and Enion there is a description of an ideal cyclical relationship between males and females, in which the obedient female sacrifices herself so that the male remains “Immortal”:
Revives me to new deaths I fade even like a water lilly
In the suns heat till in the night on the couch of Enion
I drink new life.
Then bright Ahania shall awake from deathThis harmonious relationship is the converse of the time-bound cycle, and both cycles suggest that when Blake transcribed IX* he was already beginning to devise a structure in which the different levels of vision would be characterized by distinct and antithetical modes of existence.
A glorious Vision to thine Eyes a Self renewing Vision
The spring. the summer to be thine then sleep the wintry days
In silken garments spun by her own hands against her funeral.
The new developments visible in VIIa1 and IX* are on a small scale and do not seriously threaten the general coherence of the narrative in which they occur. Bentley has discovered that page 48 of the manuscript was used as a backing sheet when Blake was printing engravings for Hayley’s ballads at Felpham. Engravings for the first ballad are dated 1 June 1802, and, as it is very unlikely that Blake would temporarily remove a page of his manuscript to use it as a backing sheet, it is reasonable to conclude, as Bentley does, 15↤ 15 Bentley, p. 161. that the page was not transcribed until after the end of May 1802. Pages 43-84 may have been bound together some time after this date; and as we have seen, at least one leaf (pages 111-12) seems to have been bound before any thing was written on it. Early in 1803, two months after Blake had written to Butts about “fourfold vision,” his letters began to refer to the completion of a major work, and on 6 July he mentioned ↤ 16 Keynes, p. 825.
a Sublime Allegory, which is now perfectly completed into a Grand Poem. . . . This poem begin page 123 | shall by Divine Assistance be progressively Printed and Ornamented with Prints & given to the Public.16Frye thinks that this “does not literally apply to The Four Zoas, which was never completed into anything.”17↤ 17 Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1947), p. 314. But although the poem was never “progressively Printed and Ornamented with Prints” there is no reason to suppose that it was never completed into anything. The poem as it stands contains revisions almost certainly made after 1803; but Blake could have been referring to an intermediate stage of composition in which nine Nights had been completed into a unified and symbolically homogeneous whole. It is possible that Blake was referring to a single draft of The Four Zoas which included a revised copperplate text, pages 43-85 and IX*. Blake’s symbolism may have begun to develop in new directions when his Grand Poem was almost complete. This would explain the new developments apparent in VIIal and IX*; and it would also explain why Blake subsequently began to revise the poem, to integrate the new ideas more fully.
THE FIRST REVISION OF THE EIGHTH NIGHT
If VIIb was composed during a revision of “VIIIa,” what kind of changes were made to the eighth Night at this stage? The text of VIIb and of the present eighth Night should provide useful clues. The existence of VIIb suggests that Blake was extremely reluciant to discard material once it had been used in the poem, and so it may be possible to find traces in VIII of material introduced in any previous revision (even if it has been subsequently modified). Night VIII is manifestly composite, and consists of: (i) six leaves which contain a continuous narrative running from the title-page (page 99) to page 110, on which “End of the eighth Night” was twice written and twice erased; and (ii) three leaves (pages 111-16) which contain material to be interpolated in or added to pages 99-110. For convenience I shall refer to the basic text of pages 99-110 as “VIII*.” This text ends at 110:28, “And all his Sorrows till he reassumes his ancient bliss.”
Broadly speaking, VIII* falls into three sections, as the Night is divided by a sequence describing the descent, judgment, and crucifixion of Christ, the sequence occuring almost exactly in the middle of the Night (104:5 to 106:6). The last part of the Night begins “Darkness & sorrow coverd all flesh Eternity was darkend,” and from this point to the end of VIII* there is nothing in the basic text necessarily later than the basic text of pages 43-85. Although the rest of VIII* contains highly developed Christian symbolism, the reference to the Divine Lamb at 107:37-39 and 110:1-2 are both subsequent additions; and there is no mention of the redemptive labors of Los and Enitharmon in this part of the narrative, although they are prominent in the rest of the Night. This suggests that the last section may have been composed before the development of Blake’s Christian symbolism was advanced, and before Los had begun to assume an actively redemptive role in the poem. The section ends, after Tharmas and the Spectre give up their strength to Los, with the final lamentation of Ahania and Enion’s comforting answer. One of Blake’s first revisions to VIIIa may have been the addition of the lament with Enion’s reply, which would have displaced the original ending (Los rending the heavens), which would then have to be added at the beginning of the ninth Night. Such a revision, while changing the ending of the eighth Night from an explosive climax to a passage of elegiac expectation, would help to re-establish the presence of Enion and Ahania (who are largely absent from the central Nights of the poem) before their resurrection in the last Night.
The material in the basic text of VIIb which seems manifestly late indicates that when the Night was composed, Blake was beginning to define the different degrees of vision in a coherent structure. In VIIal and IX* Beulah had been distinguished from Eternity; in VIIb two more levels are distinguished, although they are not named. The Shadowy female extends through one:
far & wide she stretchd thro all the worlds of Urizens journeyThis world has been the scene of most of the events described in the poem, but now Blake distinguished a lower world “Beyond the Limit of Translucence,” the world of single vision and opacity which was subsequently called “Ulro.” As the dead descend into this world to form Satan, the daughters of Beulah sing songs of comfort, “Waiting with Patience for the fulfilment of the Promise Divine.” This passage suggests that when Blake composed VIIb he envisaged a comprehensive scheme of divine intervention which would control the events of the fallen world.
And was Adjoind to Beulah as the Polypus to the Rock.
At the end of IV Blake made two additions, the first of which was twenty-two lines long, transcribed over the original (erased) Night ending, at the foot of page 55 and at the top of page 56. It was marked for insertion after 55:9 (i.e., it was designed to follow the description of Los binding Urizen). In this addition the daughters of Beulah observe the fallen world from “Beulahs mild moon coverd regions,” and take comfort in the Divine Vision embodied in the Council of God. The last six lines of the passage, which were subsequently erased, may have described a measure of divine intervention by the Council, and, if Erdman’s conjecture for the fourth line is correct, the founding of the limit of Contraction.18↤ 18 David V. Erdman, ed., and Harold Bloom, The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, rev. edn. (New York: Doubleday, 1970), p. 752. The founding of this limit is described in the passage which replaced these six lines, and also the founding of the “Limit of Opacity” or Translucence, which suggests that the erased lines may also have described the founding of the limit of Translucence. This means that the first addition at the end of IV may have been designed to prepare for the related passage in VIIb, where the dead descend below the limit of Translucence to become Satan. (In the first addition the daughters of Beulah quote Martha’s rebuke to Jesus: “Lord if thou had’st been here, my brother had not died,” John 11:21; in VIIb the daughters are comforted by Christ’s reply to Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again,” v. 23.)begin page 124 |
The passage at the beginning of the eighth Night, in which the Council, described as a “Vision of all Beulah,” meets to create the fallen man, brings the scheme initiated at the end of IV to fruition. Christ’s descent and the final epiphany of Satan in the eighth Night are seen as the culmination of a divine scheme which has been observed in all its stages by the daughters of Beulah. The description of the Council of God in the eighth Night, then, is closely related to the first addition at the end of IV and to the passage in VIIb describing the formation of Satan, and it was probably introduced during the revision which produced VIIb. The passage may have been modified subsequently when Blake composed VIII*, for it contains Old Testament references and the term “Eden,” for which there is no precedent in VIIb. Similarly, it seems unlikely that the second addition at the end of IV, or the reference to the story of Lazarus on page 21 (lines 9-10) were added at this time; both passages contain terms, such as “Emanation,” which seem later than anything in the basic text of either VIIb or VIII*.
It seems clear that when Blake composed VIIb he must have planned to include in the eight Night some kind of sequence describing the epiphany of Satan, and the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. The late passage in VIIb clearly prepares for Satan’s epiphany, and the crucifixion would form the prelude to the triumphant second coming which had already been described in the ninth Night. There is little in the account of Satan’s epiphany described on page 104 in VIII* that is not anticipated in VIIb or compatible with the Christian passages in IX*, except perhaps the introduction of the “Sons of Eden.” The last lines on page 104 originally stated that the Lamb of God would “rend the Veil of Mystery / And the Call Urizen & Luvah & Tharmas & Urthona,” which prescribes a more directly active role for Christ than he actually has in the rest of VIII*: they suggest that he will become a kind of divine caretaker who will assume responsibility for reintegrating the faculties on Man’s behalf. In VIII* Man’s regeneration depends on the creative labors of an enlightened Los who is inspired by Christ. The pencilled addition at 104:31, “Los said to Enitharmon Pitying I saw,” may be an attempt to maintain the presence of Los in a passage which was conceived before Los had been seen as an enlightened redeemer. There may also have been an early version of the judgment and crucifixion which was subsequently revised to produce the fragment p. 145, and the final version 105:1 to 106:6.
Each of these additions to the eighth Night—the description of the Council of God, the Christian sequence, the lament of Ahania and Enion’s answer—would have increased the length of the eighth Night. This increase in size, together with the fact that the introduction of a scheme of divine intervention would have a far-reaching effect on the poem as a whole, may have prompted Blake to undertake a major reorganization of the narrative sequence of the Night. It was probably at this stage that Blake decided to add the new beginning to the ninth Night and to compose an entirely new Night, VIIb, taking from VIIIa the description of the Vala-Orc embrace, the construction of Urizen’s empire, and the passage describing how Tharmas, Los, and Enitharmon react to the warfare.
In composing VIIb, Blake would have to change the sequence and the significance of events originally described in the eighth Night. The warfare was now seen to begin not with Urizen’s apocalyptic battle-signal but with the Vala-Orc embrace; and the conflict became an inherent feature of Urizen’s empire, rather than the culmination of his elaborate preparations. Orc no longer loses his rage completely at the moment of the embrace with Vala, for although the embrace is now described in VIIb, the description of Orc’s transformation on the Tree of Mystery is retained in the eighth Night, the swelling Orc symbolizing enslaved energy bound in the widening conflict of Urizen’s empire. Orc is thus seen as an active force in Urizen’s empire. Orc and Urizen are now seen to be “Communing” (100:33).
Night VIIb seems to have been composed before Blake had reassessed the role of Los, for he appears in the Night as a wrathful figure rather than a patient, enlightened redeemer. The major difference between the version of the eighth Night produced at this stage and the present VIII* (apart from local revisions) would be the absence of the three passages which in VIII* describe the redemptive labors of Los and Enitharmon (99:20 to 100:26, 101:35-37, 103:32 to 104:4). In other respects the outline of the eighth Night—beginning with a description of the Council of God, continuing with chaotic warfare, a central sequence describing the crucifixion, and concluding with a passage possibly identical to begin page 125 | 106:17 to 110:28—would have been very similar to VIII*. I shall subsequently refer to this second version of the eighth Night, contemporary with VIIb, as “VIIIb.”
When he transcribed VIIb Blake probably did not intend to exclude VIIal from the poem, as both Nights contain elements essential to the coherence of the poem’s narrative, and VIIb seems to have been designed to follow on from the end of VIIal. As Bentley suggests,19↤ 19 Bentley, p. 163. it seems likely that Blake intended to conflate the first seven Nights into six; but whatever revision he had in mind, he doesn’t seem to have carried it out at this time, and he probably deferred the problem of reconciling the two seventh Nights.
Although VIIb had just under 300 lines as originally transcribed (comparable to VI and VIIal), it was transcribed on four leaves instead of the usual five, and no room was left for a full-page drawing on the final page. This suggests that when he transcribed VIIb Blake had used up most of the Night Thoughts proof-leaves, and had started to use them more sparingly. The new beginning of the ninth Night was probably transcribed at about the same time. An addition at 118:7 refers to Rahab and Tirzah, who are mentioned nowhere else in the new beginning, although they occur in the basic text of VIII*. This suggests that the new beginning was probably transcribed before VIII* was composed. However, it seems unlikely that the revised eighth Night (“VIIIb”) was transcribed at this stage. The last part of VIII* (106:17 to the end), as we have seen, contains no late symbolism in the basic text, and was probably identical to the last section of VIIIb. It seems unlikely that Blake would copy out this section twice, once in VIIIb and again in VIII*, without making any changes. Before it was transcribed the eighth Night probably underwent further revision.
THE SECOND REVISION OF THE EIGHTH NIGHT
In a letter to Hayley of 23 October 1804, Blake suddenly made an unusually enthusiastic announcement: ↤ 20 Keynes, p. 935.
I have entirely reduced that spectrous Fiend to his station, whose annoyance has been the ruin of my labours for the last passed twenty years of my life. He is the enemy of conjugal love and is the Jupiter of the Greeks, an iron-hearted tyrant, the ruiner of ancient Greece. . . . Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a door and by window-shutters. . . . he is become my servant who domineered over me, he is even a brother who was my enemy.20
As John Sutherland has observed, this enlightenment seems similar to the one experienced by Los in some of the additions to The Four Zoas: “After 1804, Blake seems more concerned with communicating a method he had discovered by which men may win free from individual, internal tyranny—a method by which an individual may free himself from the domination of one distorted aspect of his own psyche (either from Urizen, or from the Spectre of his dominant Zoa—in Blake’s case, from the Spectre of Urthona).”21↤ 21 John Sutherland, “Blake and Urizen,” Blake’s Visionary Forms Dramatic, ed. David V. Erdman and John E. Grant (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970) pp. 250-51. Throughout much of The Four Zoas Los appears as a spectral figure. In the main body of the ninth Night, for example, he is mentioned only a few times, once near the very end of the poem, where he is not clearly distinguished from the Spectre of Urthona:
Urthona is arisen in his strength no longer nowThe apparent lack of distinction between Los and the Spectre in parts of the poem possibly reflects Blake’s own difficulties in freeing his prophetic voice from its attendant Spectre. In additions at the end of VIIa the relationship between Los and the Spectre is brought into focus. The original Night-ending on page 85 [after line 18] was erased to make room for an addition of six lines in which
Divided from Enitharmon no longer the Spectre Los
Where is the Spectre of Prophecy the delusive phantom.
Los Embracd the Spectre first as a brotherThere are echoes in these lines of the extract from the letter quoted above; and in another letter to Hayley (4 December 1804) Blake writes in similar terms that he has lived a “Divided Existence”22↤ 22 Keynes, p. 935. but is no longer at war with himself. The passages in The Four Zoas in which Los unites with his Spectre to assume the role of enlightened redeemer were probably suggested by the dramatic enlightenment that followed Blake’s visit to the Truchsessian Gallery in the Autumn of 1804.
Then as another Self; astonishd humanizing & in tears
In Self abasement Giving up his Domineering lust.
The new enlightenment seems to have come after VIIb was transcribed, and after the Christianization of the poem had begun, but before the second version of the eighth Night (VIIIb) had been copied out. It was a development which would cause a peculiar problem of organization. When VIIb was composed, it seems probable that Christ’s descent in the eighth Night was to have been the major turning point in the poem, because at this stage in the poem’s development none of Man’s faculties would have been capable of enlightened action (Los’s final rending of the heavens would have been an act of desperation rather than an enlightened gesture). When Los became an enlightened redeemer, Christ’s descent would appear as a culmination rather than a turning point. The redemptive labors of Los would be described most appropriately in the prelude to Man’s awakening, the eighth Night. But as Los’s reconciliation with the Spectre provides a partial solution to the problem of Urthona’s disintegration, a problem which is discussed in some detail by the Spectre and the Shadow of Enitharmon at the end of VIIal, the reinterpretation of Los would inevitably strengthen the narrative links between the end of VIIal and the eighth Night—despite the fact that the two Nights were now separated by the new Night, VIIb.begin page 126 |
The exact nature of this problem will become clear if we examine some of the elements of the VIIb narrative. At the end of VIIal the rebirth of Vala is described thus: “a Cloud she grew & grew / Till many of the dead burst forth from the bottoms of their tombs” (85:17-18). Before later additions were made to this page, the last line would seem to have had only a general significance, identifying Vala’s rebirth as an event of apocalyptic importance. A variant of the same line occurs in VIIb, where the dead descend beyong the limit of Translucence to form Satan (95:11-14). There “the Dead” begin to take on a specific importance in the developing mythology. When Los had been reassessed, the identification of the Dead as victims of Urizen’s war became important to Blake’s conception of Los’s redemptive activities. In VIII*, for example, Los strives to assimilate the chaotic warfare:
Los builds the walls of Golgonooza against the stirring battleThe pronoun “they” refers to “the Dead” who are rescued by Los and Enitharmon as they descend towards the lowest level of existence “tempted by the Shadowy females sweet / Delusive cruelty.” The descent described in VIIb thus became an integral part of the process of redemption.
That only thro the Gates of Death they can enter to Enitharmon.
However, in VIIb there is tension rather than cooperation between Los and Enitharmon. Los responds enthusiastically to the violence, and Golgonooza seems threatened by his neglect rather than strengthened by his efforts: Enitharmon cries “O Los unless thou keep my tower the Watchman will be slain” (98:6). In short, in VIIb the misguided Los contributes eagerly to the chaos which, as an agent of redemption, he should be striving to assimilate. When Los had been reassessed, then, part of VIIb became useful to the developing scheme of salvation, while part became manifestly inappropriate to that scheme. As long as the narrative of VIIb remained unchanged between VIIal and the eighth Night, Blake would have difficulty in introducing an account of Los’s enlightening reconciliation with the Spectre and Enitharmon where it would be most appropriate—at the end of VIIal.
Another problem in introducing new material to the poem would be the inevitable strain imposed on the general structure. The basic text of VIII* had over 400 lines—about 100 more than any other Night except the ninth; it had six leaves instead of five; and the text continued on the verso of the sixth leaf, leaving no room for a full.-page drawing. In these respects the Night was “irregular.” Blake was being forced by the quantity of his material to abandon some of the formal patterning which had shaped his earlier Nights. However, the Night was transcribed on Night Thoughts proof pages in the normal way, and had approximately the same number of lines per page as the earlier Nights on the proof pages, which suggests that Blake still maintained some concern for the general appearance of his manuscript, and was hoping to resolve the problem of his two seventh Nights within a nine-Night structure. The desire to preserve the formal structure of the poem obviously conflicted with the desire to include growing quantities of new material, but Blake may have maintained a fairly selective attitude towards new material at this stage.
The regularity of VIII* will be appreciated if it is compared with the two leaves added at the end of VIIal, in which the reuinion of Los with the Spectre and Enitharmon is described. These leaves, pages 87-90, were formed by cutting in two a print (of Edward & Elenor, 1793); the text is written on one side of each leaf (with the print on the other side), and the number of lines per page is considerably larger than the average for the rest of the proof-text. The fact that the leaves were made by destroying a large print would suggest that they were among the very last to be added to the poem, used when Blake was having difficulty finding paper of an appropriate size, and when the overall appearance of the manuscript was less important to him than the inclusion of all relevant material. However, with one or two local exceptions, the basic text of pages 87 and 90 seems to be contemporary in date of composition with those passages in VIII* which describe the redemptive labors of Los and Enitharmon. Much of the material added at the end of VIIal, then, may have been composed before, but transcribed some time after, VIII* was transcribed.
On page 85 Blake erased the original Night ending (of VIIal), adding nine lines in which Los embraces the Spectre and gives up his “Domineering Lust,” and a new Night ending which was erased when the Night was extended further. The final result of the later additions was a continuous narrative from 85:32 to 90:68. Although as the poem now stands this narrative is continuous, there is evidence to suggest that it was originally composed and transcribed as two distinct sections designed for separate contexts within the poem. The first section runs from 85:32 to the foot of page 87 (line 59 in the basic text). The text from 85:32 to 86:14 is really a more elaborate version of the previous nine-line addition, except that it describes Los’s reunion with the Spectre in terms quite new to the poem, for Los now responds to the Spectre’s doctrine of “Self annihilation.” Golgonooza, previously featured in IV (49:18-21), V (59:28; 60:1-3), and VIIb (97:31-32), now becomes prominent, opening a way to “new heavens & a new Earth” (87:9). In 87:30-35 the Spectre explains that Los’s task will be to ransom the “Spectres of the Dead,” a phrase which here refers to the dead who burst from their tombs when Vala is reborn at the end of VIIal. But Los can find no way to redeem the Spectres until he has been reconciled with Enitharmon, an event which will complete the second stage of his enlightenment. In 87:13-29 Enitharmon tempts Los with the fruit of Urizen’s tree, and Los eats the fruit, sitting down “in Despair.” This passage ties the narrative firmly to that of VIIal, as it continues the tension between Los and Enitharmon described on pages 81 to 85. The text of page 87 concludes with Enitharmon still possessed by jealous fears, still refusing the entreaties of Los and misinterpreting the descent begin page 127 | of Christ: “I . . . fear that he / Will give us to Eternal Death.” At this point Los’s restoration is incomplete, as he has yet to be reconciled with Enitharmon.
Whereas the passage from 85:32 to 87:59 was clearly designed as a continuation of VIIal, the basic text of page 90 may have been designed originally for a different context. In 90:5-7 Los pleads once more with Enitharmon:
Lovely delight of Men Enitharmon shady refuge from furious warThe references to “war” and the “victims of battle” are explained when Enitharmon is finally reassured by Los and they are reconciled: Los draws flames “From out the ranks of Urizens war” (90:30). “Urizens war” is the chaotic conflict which is described in VIIb and the eighth Night. On page 90 the identification of the Spectres of the dead as victims of this battle suggests that this passage may have been designed originally for some context after the embrace of Vala and Orc, which in VIIb initiates the conflict.
Thy bosom translucent is a soft repose for the weeping souls
Of those piteous victims of battle . . .
On page 100 in VIII a marginal note “Los stood &c” indicates that a passage was to be inserted between lines 1 and 2. Erdman suggests that this refers to 90:2, originally the first line on page 90, which originally read “Los stood in Golgonooza in the Gate of Luban.” Erdman observes that “The thematic material of 90, amplified with marginal additions, seems all an amplification backward from the ‘Looms in Luban’s Gate’ in 100:2.”23↤ 23 Erdman, Poetry and Prose, p. 758. The suggestion of an “amplification backward” follows from the observation that page 90 is “unquestionably a late addition.” The physical evidence, we have seen, would certainly suggest that pages 87 to 90 were among the last additions to the poem, but this does not necessarily apply to the original date of composition. From the internal evidence the material in VIII* describing the labors of Los and Enitharmon seems to be a continuation of the text of page 90. Los’s reunion with the Spectre and with Enitharmon, and his discovery of a way to redeem the victims of Urizen’s war, are assumed in VIII*, where there is no mention of the Spectre, and where Los and Enitharmon start to rescue the Spectres of the dead at the beginning of the Night. In fact, shortly after Los and Enitharmon are introduced the focus of attention moves away from Los to the building and working of Enitharmon’s looms. The shift in emphasis seems quite natural if VIII* is read as a continuation of page 90, where full attention is paid to Los’s role and Enitharmon, finally reassured, begins to assume importance in the scheme of salvation. It seems more likely that Blake worked out the details of Los’s reunion with the Spectre and Enitharmon before VIII* was copied out, rather than composing it afterwards as an “amplification backward.” Old Testament references occur in the three leaves added to VIII* (pages 113, 115, and 111) and in the added leaves pages 19-20, all of which also seem to be unquestionably late additions, but there are no comparable references in pages 87 and 90, which again suggests that the texts of the later pages may have been composed before Blake had begun to adopt Old Testament references.
When Blake first reassessed the role of Los, he may have composed two related but distinct passages: (i) a new ending to VIIa, describing the conversion of Los by the new doctrine of “Self annihilation,” which included his reunion with the Spectre but did not resolve the tension between Los and Enitharmon; (ii) a narrative designed to come after VIIb (i.e., to be included in the eighth Night) which described Los’s reconciliation with Enitharmon and the construction of Enitharmon’s looms. By leaving the tension between Los and Enitharmon unresolved in the new ending of VIIa, Blake may have hoped to explain the strained relationship in VIIb, although the Spectre-like Los of VIIb is hard to equate with the humanized Los of page 87, who has already begun his inspired construction of Golgonooza. When Blake first composed this passage he was possibly more concerned with developing the myth to his own satisfaction than with the problem of containing it within the existing structure of the poem.
I have suggested that in his attempts to preserve the formal outline of the poem Blake probably maintained a fairly selective attitude to new material. In view of the fact that the new passages were developing beyond the original scheme of the poem—could provide, in fact, the basis of a separate poem—Blake may even have considered dropping VIIal from the poem at this stage. A note on page 91 of VIIb reads, “This Night begins at line 153 the following comes in at the End”; on page 95 after line 14 a note indicates the “Beginning of the Book Seventh Night”; and at the foot of page 98 Blake wrote, “Then follows Thus in the Caverns of the Grave &c as it stands now in the beginning of Night the Seventh.” When he added these instructions he clearly intended the seventh Night to begin at 95:15. The sixth Night ends on page 75 with Urizen’s confrontation with Tharmas and the Spectre, who impede his progress down the vale of Urthona. In the final lines of the Night Urizen breaks down their resistance, as his “massy Globes . . . slow oerwheel / The dismal squadrons of Urthona.” Line 15 on page 95 would follow on quite well from this point as the beginning of the seventh Night:
But in the Deeps beneath the tree <Roots> of Mystery in darkest nightThe “Shadow” in line 16 was the Shadowy female in the original context. If these lines followed from the end of VI, however, “Shadow” would refer to the Spectre of Urthona, who is called the “Shadow of Urthona” in 75:6, where the term was altered from begin page 128 | “Shade of Urthona,” possibly to emphasize this identification. It may have been at this stage that Blake deleted the last surviving reference to the Shadowy female, in line 17, and substituted “his warriors.” Urizen’s triumph in lines 18 and 19 would thus be seen as the consequence of his victory over Tharmas and the Spectre, and the chaotic warfare that follows would be seen as a consequence of the confrontation at the end of VI. This may have been the kind of transition Blake intended when he indicated that the seventh Night began at 95:15.
When Urizen sat on his rock the Shadow brooded I dismal
Urizen saw & triumphd & he cried to the Shadowy female <his warriors>
The time of Prophecy is now revolvd & all
This Universal Ornament is mine . . .
Blake’s instruction at the original beginning of VIIb clearly states that “the following [i.e., 91:1 to 95:14] comes in at the end.” This portion continues the description of the chaotic conflict (but without featuring Los or Enitharmon) and shows how the Shadowy female, stretching through the fallen world, creates the conditions necessary for Los’s redemptive activity in the eighth Night, as the dead descend on her clouds to form Satan. The portion ends with the description of the descent of the dead, which would lead appropriately into VIII*, on the first page of which there is a similar passage (99:24-26).
The transposed halves of VIIb, then, would link effectively with both the end of VI and the beginning of the eight Night, and when he added the instructions to indicate the transposition, he may have intended to exclude VIIa1 from the poem. This, however, was probably only a temporary measure, for the lengthy revisions in VIIa (i.e. the addition of VIIa2) show that Blake decided to keep the Night after all.
Rather than abandon VIIa1, or further unbalance the poem by introducing the two new long passages describing the enlightenment of Los and Enitharmon, he may have decided to edit the new passages in a drastic way. The nine lines which formed the first new ending to VIIa may have been designed as an alternative to the longer ending. The lines give a brief summary of Los’s union with the Spectre without introducing any new terminology: Los does not respond to the doctrine of Self annihilation, but simply to the Shadow of Enitharmon’s “tale of Urthona.” After the new ending Blake wrote “The End of the Seventh Night” indicating that he still thought of this as the seventh Night. The addition would therefore supersede the instructions in VIIb, and might even imply that Blake had decided to drop VIIb from the poem. The new ending would certainly introduce an anomaly, as the Los of VIIb is almost an epitome of the “Domineering Lust” which, in the new ending, he gives up. Perhaps he regarded the new ending as a provisional measure, a concession to the new material he had decided to exclude at this stage, written at a time when he had found no way to reconcile the two seventh Nights.
Of the second passage, designed for inclusion in the eighth Night, Blake seems to have decided to introduce only a part at this stage—namely the three passages describing the labors of Los and Enitharmon and the weaving of a “Universal female form” identified as Jerusalem (99:20 to 100:26, 101:35-36 and 103:32-39, 104:1-4). This is the culmination of their redemptive labors, and relates their activity to the descent of Christ, already described in the eighth Night. Lines 99:20-23, begin page 129 | which as the manuscript now stands represent the final stage in a gradual process of enlightenment, would have represented the moment of enlightenment itself in the absence of the long additional passages at the end of VIIa. All the references to “Ulro” in VIII* are contained in the three passages describing the enlightened Los and Enitharmon; Blake probably adopted the term at this stage. He also further revised the central Christian sequence at this time, introducing first the figure of Rahab (as the fragment page 145 shows), and then the song of the females of Amalek which features Tirzah. At this stage, then, Blake’s reading of the Old Testament began to influence the poem’s symbolism more directly. Having introduced this song to the revised Christian sequence, Blake transcribed VIII* on the proof-pages.
The revision which in two stages transformed the original eighth Night into VIII* reveals a growing tension between the wish to incorporate large quantities of new material and the wish to preserve the poem’s original structure; and there is evidence to suggest that Blake’s symbolism was still developing rapidly when VIII* was composed. The song which features Tirzah and the passage which introduces Rahab suggest that Blake was trying to contain as concisely as possible a mythology which was rapidly developing beyond the original myth of the poem. VIII* was not the final product of this development, but represents an intermediate stage.
Blake made two kinds of revisions to VIII*: (i) local modifications within the original six leaves of the Night; (ii) additions contained on three extra proof-leaves, pp. 111-12, 113-14 and 115-16. The three extra leaves radically change the structure of the Night, but the first revisions to VIII* were probably the local revisions designed to integrate more satisfactorily the older and newer elements of the existing mythology, without introducing any more new ideas. Three Christian additions in the last section of VIII* have this function, updating part of the narrative which contained no Christian references when it was copied out. At the beginning of the Night an addition of twelve lines on page 99 describes the double female form of the daughters of Beulah, mentioned in the first addition at the end of IV. The narrative sequence was altered on pages 100 and 101, the passage 100:27-101:3 having a new context between lines 32 and 33 on page 101; and two additions on page 101 were probably made at this time: a passage of five lines describing the appearance of Satan (written in the margin without a guideline, but placed by Keynes and Erdman after 101:3), and five lines describing the labors of Los. The description of Orc’s transformation into a jewelled serpent would now be followed by the description of Urizen’s instruments of war, in which Urizen is seen “Communing with the Serpent of Orc.” The rearrangement restores to Urizen’s battle-signal something of its original significance, for it is now seen to have special consequences, intensifying the conflict which begins to take the form of Satan. The new sequence also suggests that the epiphany of Satan is the culmination of Orc’s transformation and of the sinister communion between Urizen and Orc. The added lines describing Los’s redemptive labors, by which the dead are humanized, emphasize the opposition between Los’s effort and Urizen’s military campaign which causes the dead to degenerate into the form of Satan.
These revisions make better or wider use of ideas which were already present in VIII*. However, Blake undertook another series of revisions designed to integrate the figure of Rahab more successfully into the Night, which led eventually to major alterations. In the description of the crucifixion in VIII* the daughters of Amalek, Canaan, and Moab were identified as different forms of Rahab, and Rahab herself was identified as Mystery (who had been introduced as a simple personification in the ninth Night). An addition at 105:11-24 attempts to account for the appearance of Rahab in the poem: “The Synagogue Created her from Fruit of Urizens tree”; and the addition was subsequently extended by three-and-a-half lines which explain that she was “hidden within / The bosom of Satan,” and that her daughters are called Tirzah. Tirzah, who in VIII* had been introduced within the song of the daughters of Amalek, now entered the main narrative, and her relationship with Rahab was clarified. Other revisions probably made at about the same time are the added line 105:13, which describes Vala hidden in Satan’s bosom “as in an ark & Curtains”; and, at the foot of page 104, the last one-and-a-half lines, which were deleted and replaced by a new account of the purpose of Christ’s incarnation: “to Give his vegetated body / To be cut off & separated that the Spiritual body may be Reveald.” With these revisions Blake was apparently preparing to introduce the description of Rahab’s epiphany after the revelation of Christ’s spiritual body, which had been included in the fragment page 145, but excluded from VIII*. It was probably after he had made these additions that he erased the original Night ending of VIII* and added a new passage (110:30-37) in which he seems to have been working towards a climactic conclusion describing the final epiphany of Rahab before the revealed Christ. The passage was not finished, but was deleted and replaced by a shorter passage (110:38-41) in which Los takes Christ’s body from the cross and places it “in a Sepulcher which Los had hewn / For himself.” This action is repeated at the end of a marginal addition on page 106 (7-16); and the new passage of thirteen lines introduced on page 117, in the new beginning of the ninth Night, describes how “Los & Enitharmon builded Jerusalem weeping / Over the Sepulcher & over the Crucified body.” Both of these revisions were probably made when Blake revised the ending of VIII*.
Clearly, Rahab was becoming increasingly important in this series of local additions. The new passages show how she managed to absorb the crucifixion in a religion of mystery. Los, Enitharmon, and Jerusalem weep over the sepulchre, and their misunderstanding of Christ’s death is Rahab’s triumph. When Blake added the new ending on page 110 he had still not introduced a description of Rahab’s epiphany, although Jerusalem weeps begin page 130 | over the sepulchre “two thousand years,” suggesting a relationship between Rahab’s triumph and contemporary history. This relationship is brought into focus in the text of the added page 111. After explaining that St. John understood the immediate absorption of Christ’s death into a religion of mystery, the passage describes the rise of Natural Religion after the Synagogue of Satan had resolved to burn Mystery:
The Ashes of Mystery began to animate they calld it DeismThis satanic second coming provides the logical conclusion to the series of local additions made to VIII*, for it is the final consolidation of error, the final epiphany of Rahab, and the passage may have been added shortly after Blake made the final additions on pages 110 and 117. The references to “Ahania weeping on the Void” and to Enion speaking “from the Caverns of the Grave” indicate that this text was designed for the end of the eighth Night, and when he composed it Blake may have intended to add it at the foot of page 110 after the second Night ending. He chose instead to transcribe it on a separate leaf, the leaf which may originally have been intended for the end of VIIa (the engraving of the sorrowful, pierced Christ on the recto of the leaf would make an appropriate illustration for a text which describes how Christ’s death was mis-interpreted). The text was first pencilled—possibly Blake was hesitant about using up a near-exhausted stock of proof-leaves for revisions of this kind-then it was inked, but without a new Night ending at the foot of the page. By this time he had added almost eighty new lines to VIII*, and the night now had seven leaves. There would be little reason now not to include material which had previously been exluded on grounds of economy in deference to the poem’s structure. When page 111 was written he may have omitted a new night ending because he intended, or felt that he might need, to add more new material at the end of the Night. For some time the pressure of new material had been gradually eroding the poem’s structure. At this point it seems that Blake opened the flood-gates, and the original structure was overwhelmed.
And Natural Religion as of old so now anew began
Babylon again in Infancy Calld Natural Religion.
In the manuscript as it now stands, the texts of pages 113-116 have been interpolated into the eighth Night at two points: 113:1-39 is inserted on page 104, in the song of the Sons of Eden; and 113:40-116:6 is inserted on page 106 after the description of the crucifixion. Both passages have been modified to suit their present contexts. The text on page 113 originally began with an invocation to Blake’s muse, “Daughter of Beulah describe . . . ,” but this was subsequently changed to “We behold with wonder” so that the narrative could become part of the song of the Sons of Eden. The added line 24 beginning “We look down into Ulro . . . ” and the alteration in line 33 have the same effect. An ink line was drawn after line 39, and the passage below the line was modified to introduce Rahab, while on page 115 the third-person description in the basic text was altered to become part of Los’s speech to Rahab. Before these changes were made pages 113 and 115 may have formed a single narrative, but it would have been a passage unlike the narrative of the rest of the poem: it would have been a digression amplifying the main narrative by providing an historical perspective. The description of the geography of Golgonooza and Udan Adan, and the myth of Rintrah, Palamabron, and Satan seem to be the result of independent experiments rather than developments designed for a specific context in the poem. The pages have more lines of text than any of the other proof-leaves used in the manuscript, which again suggests that Blake’s stock of proofleaves was dwindling. Page 114 has a full-page engraving of the risen Christ, and page 116 has a full-page drawing which may represent the risen Man. The illustrations may indicate that the narrative was originally intended for the end of the eighth Night, but as there is no Night ending on page 115, the pages may have been interpolated in the rest of the Night shortly after they were transcribed.
Blake interpolated the pages by modifying the passages as we have said; by adding a marginal direction after 104:10, “We behold with wonder &c,” to indicate where 113:1-39 should be inserted; by adding a note after the six lines at the top of page 116, “Darkness & sorrow &c turn over leaf”; and by adding after 106:16 the instruction, “But when Rahab &c turn back 3 leaves.” This marked another departure from the regularity of the manuscript. Not only was the length of the eighth Night further increased, but the leaves of the manuscript were no longer in a strictly sequential order. In other words, at this stage the manuscript was beginning to look more like a rough draft than a fair copy. There would be little reason now not to make any other major alterations that seemed necessary by annotating existing leaves instead of recopying the revised text; and there would be little reason not to include material previously excluded to preserve the shape of the poem. In short, there would be little reason to exclude the full account of Los’s enlightenment, and Blake probably decided to introduce this material after he had added pages 113-16.
He seems to have used up his last Night Thoughts proofs in pages 113-16, for to accommodate the new material about Los he had to cut a large print of Edward & Elenor in two. When he used these sheets he may still have intended to introduce the account of Los’s enlightenment as two separate passages. Erdman notes that “90:1 is probably an addition, the text originally starting within the platemark”—and it is this line that now links the narratives of pages 87 and 90. Line 90:2 originally began “Los stood in Golgonooza . . . ” and between lines 1 and 2 on page 100 in the eighth Night a marginal note, “Los stood &c,” calls for an insertion which, as Erdman notes, “probably refer[s] to 90:2 before revision.” Erdman concludes that “Blake wrote the begin page 131 |begin page 132 | 24↤ 24 Erdman, Poetry and Prose, p. 758. However, when Blake added 90:1 he may have been creating rather than tightening a sequence, and as originally transcribed page 90 may have been intended as an addition to the eighth Night, to be interpolated like pp. 113, 115, and 116. (The reference to Rintrah and Palamabron in 90:45-58 may have been introduced as the page was transcribed to account for the appearance of these characters in the myth described on page 115.)
We have seen that although VIIb seems to follow logically from the end of VIIal, the scenes describing the tension between Los and Enitharmon would seem completely out of place if made to follow an account of their enlightened reunion. This may be why the description of the reunion on page 90 was originally designed for inclusion in the eighth Night. When Blake moved page 90 from VIII to the end of VIIa, he must have felt that he had overcome this problem. Presumably, when he moved the page, he had decided to drop VIIb from the poem, thus removing the anomaly.
As we have seen, he may have considered removing VIIb earlier, when he added the first new ending of nine lines to VIIa. But the fact that VIIb has survived in the manuscript suggests that Blake was never finally committed to excluding it, although he left no indication of how the Night should be fitted into the poem. However, as VIIb had been rearranged so that the second half (95:15-98:31) would follow on directly from VI, and the first half (91:1-95:14) would lead into the eighth Night, it is possible to conflate the two versions of the seventh Night simply by inserting the whole of VIIa between the transposed halves of VIIb. The scenes describing the tension between Los and Enitharmon would thus be placed in a context which would allow a relatively coherent narrative sequence to develop, describing a steady progress in the relationship of Los and Enitharmon, from disharmony to unity.
We have already seen how the transition from VI to 95:15 would work. The new beginning of the seventh Night would describe Urizen’s initial triumph over Tharmas and the Spectre (following their confrontation at the end of VI), the preparations for Urizen’s Universal Empire, Los and Tharmas rallying to the battle, the consequent degeneration of Los’s relationship with Enitharmon, and the universal conflict of the natural world:
sullen the wooly sheepThe transition from this part of VIIb to the beginning of VIIa would be assisted by the similarities between the lines above and 77:6-9. Urizen, having conducted his preparations while sitting on a rock (95:16) now rises, causing Tharmas and the Spectre to flee once more. Leaving the battle, Urizen descends to the caves of Orc. After the confrontation with Orc, the narrative focuses on the disordered relationship of Los and Enitharmon. Vala is reborn, and is given charge over the howling Orc, an event which underlines the urgency of the problem of Urthona’s divided personality. On page 87 the narrative continues with an account of Los’s reunion first with the Spectre and then with Enitharmon. After the reconciliation (on page 90), which sets another part of the scheme of redemption in motion, the narrative would return to the confrontation between Vala and Orc, prepared for in 85:22. VIIb pages 91-95 would follow effectively from the end of VIIa2. On page 90 Tharmas is heartened by the first signs of recovery:
Walks thro the battle Dark & fierce the Bull his rage
Propagates thro the warring Earth the Lion raging in flames
The Tyger in redounding smoke.
But Tharmas most rejoicd in hope of Enions returnBut in pages 91-95, after Vala has embraced Orc she mocks this hope and attempts to deceive Tharmas (94:12-23), while the Dead descend upon her clouds and begin to take up the form of Satan, thus preparing for the epiphany of Satan in the eighth Night. begin page 133 |
For he beheld new Female forms born forth upon the air
This arrangement produces a seventh Night of about 790 lines, compared with about 620 in the eighth Night and about 850 in the ninth Night. The total sequence is inevitably rather disjointed, but Blake had used a comparable patchwork method when composing VIIb and VIII. Furthermore, the arrangement tends to reduce serious anomalies in the text rather than create them.
It seems that here, as elsewhere in the poem, Blake did not finally complete his revisions. We have no authority for this textual arrangement, but neither do we have authority to exclude VIIb from the poem. As I said at the beginning of this article, the problem compels editorial choice of an uncomfortable kind. I suggest we adopt an arrangement which includes all the available material necessary for a full understanding of the poem, and which introduces order to the narrative.