begin page 93 | back to top

The Shifting Characterization of Tharmas and Enion in Pages 3-7 of Blake’s Vala or The Four Zoas


The opening pages of the Vala or The Four Zoas manuscript present perhaps the most difficult bibliographical and interpretive cruxes in the entire manuscript. These pages have been described as “one of the most heavily revised parts of the poem” in which “the physical evidence in the manuscript is sometimes highly confusing.”11 Andrew Lincoln, “The Four Zoas: The Text of Pages 5, 6, & 7, Night the First,” Blake / An Illustrated Quarterly 12 (1978): 91. Indeed, the “thicket of erased and deleted original and additional lines”22 David V. Erdman, ed., The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, newly rev. ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1982), 821. has caused one critic to remark “Certainly no creation myth has ever done a better job of conveying a sense of the initial chaos out of which the world began.”33 Paul A. Cantor, Creature and Creator: Myth-making and English Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984) 69. The chaotic state of pages 3 through 7 has made a definitive text of the Tharmas-Enion conflict difficult to establish; however, recently Andrew Lincoln and David Erdman have reexamined the opening pages of The Four Zoas and, as a result, helped our bibliographical understanding of the stages in the genesis and growth of this text. Yet beyond the difficulties of establishing a faithful rendering of Blake’s textual intentions, the extensive erasures and rewritings which fill these pages reveal the process of composition in The Four Zoas. The extensive revisions suggest that the Tharmas character gradually evolved even as Blake transcribed his manuscript and that the significance of the character developed and in some cases shifted as he wrote and revised the first pages of Vala or The Four Zoas. In Tharmas’ shifting characterization we can see a specific example of Blake’s poetic process as he revised the tone, symbolism, and form of his narrative. Indeed, as we shall see, the development of Tharmas seems tied to the stress created within The Four Zoas as it moves from a linear to nonlinear narrative.44 I will return to this idea later in my essay, but for a more extensive discussion of nonlinear narrative in The Four Zoas see Donald Ault, “Re-Visioning The Four Zoas,” Unnam’d Forms: Blake and Textuality, Nelson Hilton and Thomas A. Vogler, eds. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1986) 105-39. For a more detailed study of Ault’s argument, see his recent full-length study, Narrative Unbound: Revisioning William Blake’s The Four Zoas (Barrytown: Station Hill, 1987) esp. 3-58. Because his approach is structural rather than developmental, it does not impinge directly on my approach to the evolution of the Tharmas-Enion conflict.

Blake seems to have invented Tharmas and Enion while writing The Four Zoas, since they do not appear in his earlier works.55 Tharmas and Enion seldom appear in Blake’s later writings. The Concordance to the Writings of William Blake, David V. Erdman, ed., 2 vols. (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1967) reveals that Tharmas’ and Enion’s names do not appear in Blake’s work before Vala, and they only appear infrequently in Milton and Jerusalem. Tharmas’ name appears 6 times in Milton and 11 times in Jerusalem; Enion’s, once in Milton and 6 times in Jerusalem. This absence may reflect Blake’s later change of focus to the struggle of specific universal characters such as Milton and Albion. It is not altogether certain, however, that Tharmas, in particular, played a significant role in Blake’s plan of the poem even at the time he began to transcribe it. Pages 4-6, those in which the narrative first introduces Tharmas and Enion, are a mass of erasures and rewritings in which different layers of text may be seen but not easily distinguished from one another. The earliest text, the transcription in Blake’s “copperplate hand,”66 The “copperplate hand” is described by G. E. Bentley, Jr., ed., Vala or The Four Zoas: A Facsimile of the Manuscript, A Transcript of the Poem and A Study of Its Growth and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963) 196. is almost entirely obscured. Indeed, the extent of these erasures suggests a radical departure by Blake from his original text on these pages. As the existence of two Nights VII indicates, Blake was loath to discard any text if he thought he could salvage anything from it. Thus, it seems possible that the revised text differs radically in tone, image, or perhaps even character from the original transcription. Such a complete change in the story could help to explain why such radical revisions were brought to these opening pages. Margoliouth, the only critic to speculate at length on this problem, argues that 7 H. M. Margoliouth, ed., William Blake’s Vala: Blake’s Numbered Text (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956) xx.

There is evidence that Vala originally played a larger part in Night I. . . . How Vala came into the lost eighty or so lines of the beginning of . . . [the earliest erased text of Vala] I cannot even conjecture, but somehow she must be identifiable with the Woman-Serpent which Enion becomes at the moment of her mating . . . [7]. The Woman-Serpent in the text there, in the drawing below and in the drawing on . . . [13], must be identifiable with the Woman-Serpent (Woman-Dragon) of the drawing on . . . [26], which represents Vala as described by Luvah.7
begin page 94 | back to top The exact nature of this earlier story remains and may always remain in question. It does seem likely, though, that the top layer of text was written considerably later than the rest of the copperplate text and perhaps even later than pages 43-84 of the Night Thoughts proof sheets. The surface text contains references to characters and ideas such as Jerusalem, the Daughters of Beulah, and sin and atonement not present in the basic transcription of pages 43-84. This text also contains passages used in Jerusalem, and thus it seems likely that the surface layer of pages 4-6 is a relatively late addition to the manuscript.

The only surviving copperplate appearances of Tharmas occur in two brief instances where he is little more than a name. In Night I, Los alludes to the “cold expanse where watry Tharmas mourns” (11:27), and in Night II Blake writes that the windows in the “golden Building” (32:10) raised by Urizen and his sons 8 All quotations from Vala or The Four Zoas are taken from Bentley’s facsimile. Quotations from Blake’s other works are taken from Erdman’s The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. References to Erdman’s textual notes will be cited parenthetically by an E followed by the page number. Text in square brackets [thus] is that added by myself or Blake’s editors; italicized text in square brackets [thus] is that deleted by Blake; and angle brackets < > indicate text added by Blake. David Erdman and Cettino Tramontano Magno’s recently published edition of The Four Zoas: A Photographic Facsimile of the Manuscript with Commentary on the Illuminations (Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 1987) makes available a new photographic reproduction of the poem. While it offers a useful commentary on the designs in the poems, it does not, as the editors point out, comment extensively on the poem’s textual development: for the present enterprise we must stress that we cannot begin to do justice to the poem’s integrity, its own completeness—so much of which is not represented in the designs; so much of which is entangled in its own problems of interpretation and uncompleted revisions (and undeciphered cancelations). (16)

Lookd out into the world of Tharmas, where in ceaseless torrents
His billows roll where monsters wander in the foamy paths.8
Here Tharmas seems merely a ruler over a watery chaos set in contrast to Urizen’s ordered world. His world, with its “ceaseless torrents” and “monsters [that] wander in the foamy paths,” seems to be an imminent threat to that of Urizen. Tharmas, thus, appears to be a sea god, like Poseidon, set in opposition to a Zeus-like sky god.99 This opposition is played out more fully in Night IV where Tharmas enlists the help of Los to rebuild his watery world after the collapse of Urizen’s golden one. It should be remembered that Tharmas first appears in Night III as a product of the confusion and chaos created by the separation of Urizen and Ahania, and therefore he appears as a figure in symbolic opposition to them. Although the lines in Night IV are physically later in the narrative of the manuscript, it seems that they were likely transcribed before the revisions to the early part of Night I describing Tharmas, since Night IV presents a more simplified picture of him and does not define him as a “Spectre.” The juxtaposition of Tharmas’ chaotic world against Urizen’s world of light and order seems to say more about Urizen than Tharmas. It is designed to emphasize the precarious nature of Urizen’s endeavors and remind the reader that Urizen has not conquered the chaos of matter on which his world is built, but only circumscribed a portion of it. Blake may also have intended, however, that the brief appearance of Tharmas’ world of “ceaseless torrents” would adumbrate the world of disorder that follows the collapse of Urizen’s world of order.

In her first copperplate appearance, Enion is described as brooding “oer the rocks, the rough rocks” (8:12) of the barren world Los and Enitharmon are born into. Her brooding causes “the rough rocks” to “vegetate” and give rise to the forms of nature which protect “the bright Infants from the desolating winds” (8:20) of a hostile world. Her laments emphasize her role as a nurturing earth-mother figure; unfortunately, Enion is forced to substitute tares for crops, pestilence and famine for nourishment, hypocrisy for truth in fallen nature:

I am made to sow thistle for wheat; the nettle for a nourishing dainty
I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a poison tree

. . .

I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night.
(35:1-2, 7-10)
Her laments serve mainly to punctuate the endings of Nights I and II, casting a sense of desolation over the marriage feast of Night I and Urizen’s newly planted “Golden World” (32:8) in Night II. Beyond these laments, however, her identity in the poem seems some-what limited.


Blake appears to have begun his development, or redevelopment, of the Tharmas-Enion story on pages 3-7 by transferring a portion of his text on page 7 to page 5. Under a series of erasures on page 7, Erdman conjecturally reconstructs the following lines, apparently describing Tharmas:

?Weeping, then bending from his Clouds he stoopd his innocent head
?And stretching out his holy hand in the vast Deep sublime
?Turnd round the circle of Destiny with tears & bitter sighs
And said Return O Wanderer when the day of clouds is o’er
So saying he . . . ?fell . . . into the restless sea
Round rolld ?the . . . globe self balanc’d.
(E 821-22)
He then points out that “All six [lines] were apparently moved to p 5 for the modified copperplate addition there of lines 9-14 and 25” (E 822). Andrew Lincoln has noted that the Tharmas figure described in these lines is called “innocent” in contrast with the jealous, malevolent figure in the chronologically later text of pages 4-6. The evil tendencies of Tharmas, then, would only emerge after the “innocent” Tharmas falls into the sea.1010 Andrew Lincoln, “The Four Zoas” 91. The result of Lincoln’s argument is to demonstrate that Blake had two different ideas of Tharmas and that much of the revision on pages 5-7 was an attempt to reconcile the two figures.1111 Kathleen Raine, Blake and Tradition, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1968) 1:279-82, discusses the two-sided nature of Tharmas in terms of possible alchemical sources. On one hand, we have Tharmas, the begin page 95 | back to top victim, bending his “innocent head” from the clouds, turning the “circle of Destiny” and falling into the sea where he is woven into a spectrous form by Enion; on the other, we have the proud, malicious, Spectre-like Tharmas who asserts his will over Enion and finally rapes her. Though Lincoln’s argument is compelling, it rests in part upon the idea that the earliest text on these opening pages always referred to the union of Tharmas and Enion. While this is possible, it is by no means inevitable. The text reconstructed by Erdman does not name the male or female figures, and not until this passage is moved to page 5 are their identities firmly established as Enion and Tharmas. Furthermore, from my own examination of the manuscript in the British museum, I have found that it is not always possible to tell which erased text is the earliest copperplate one.

However, once Blake had decided to transfer his text from page 7 to page 5, for whatever reason and at whatever stage of composition, he began to rework the intervening pages in two fairly distinct phases. It seems that the lines 4:7-11, 18-16, 5:6-12, 14, 16-19, 23-28, 46-55, 57 and 6:5-27, 32-37 represent a single phase of rewriting, since they seem to be centered over the erased text, appear in the same writing style and are consistent in tone, image and narrative setting.1212 I do have some reservations about 6:5-8 in this grouping. They appear to be written higher on the page than the erased portion of text on page 6 and may have been added slightly later than the other lines I have included here. This idea is supported by the narrative connection between 5:57—“But standing on the Rocks her woven shadow glowing bright”—and 6:11—“Searching for glory wishing that the heavens had eyes to See.” Perhaps, then, the text on page 6 during this phase of rewriting began at line 6:11; however, lines 6:5-8 have little that would characterize them as distinctly later than the rest of this phase of rewriting. Presumably, they were added much earlier than the other obvious additions to pages 3-6. The emphasis on fear, terror, jealousy, hatred and delusive beauty characterizes these passages as much later than the copperplate transcription of Night I. I suspect that this stage of revision is concurrent with or follows the revision of the Los-Enitharmon and Urizen-Ahania stories in Nights I and II. An almost cynical emphasis on love and jealousy as motive forces in male-female relationships and a tendency to place the female in the more sinister role seem characteristic of the revision in both stories. References to love and jealousy are far less pronounced in the basic copperplate text; for the most part, Blake’s later revisions of this text tend to magnify these elements only suggested in the early transcription of The Four Zoas. It is probable, then, that the passages in the Tharmas-Enion conflict were added as a unit while Blake worked on the rest of the poem, heightening “The torments of Love & Jealousy,” and were intended to introduce Tharmas and Enion more fully earlier in the narrative in preparation for Tharmas’ appearances, in particular, in the text after page 43.

The structure of this text seems fairly simple. Tharmas laments the loss of his Emanations and calls for Enion to “come forth” (4:8). She appears and proclaims that “All love is lost Terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love / And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty” (4:19-20). Then, in an attempt to shield herself from his terrifying appearance, she begins to weave a “tabernacle of delight” (5:7) for herself which upon its completion becomes “the circle of Destiny” (5:11). Tharmas subsequently emerges from Enion’s loom in the form of a Spectre and after glorying in his own beauty, terrorizes and finally rapes Enion. The relative lateness of this text is suggested by the fact that specific terms such as “Emanation” and “Spectre” are not used in the text before revisions: “Emanation” is not found in the base text of The Four Zoas nor is the term “Spectre” applied to Tharmas in the narrative of the following Nights. Moreover, the weaving imagery used as a specifically feminine evil activity only appears in arguably late portions of The Four Zoas and thus would add to the evidence that this text on pages 5-6 is relatively late.1313 Morton D. Paley, in “The Figure of the Garment in The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem,” Blake’s Sublime Allegory: Essays on The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem, eds. Stuart Curran and Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1973) 119-39, discusses the late occurrence of weaving imagery in Blake’s poetry.

Lines 4:12-15, 16-17, 27-41, 5:13, 15, 20-22 and 6:27-31, apparently all added at the time of Blake’s work on Jerusalem, seem significantly later than the preceding phase of rewriting. They introduce the ideas of sin and repentance common in Jerusalem but found only in the added pages 86-90 of The Four Zoas. Moreover, this language of sin and repentance is further allied with feminine delusiveness and weaving imagery—Enion states, “I thought to weave a Covering [from] <for> my Sins from wrath of Tharmas” (6:38)—as it is in Milton and Jerusalem.1414 Milton 18[20]:30;E 111, 22[24]:38;E 117. Jerusalem 21:11-12;E 166, 64:1-5;E 215, 80:62-65;E 237, 87:18-19;E 246, 88:19-20, 27-28;E 247. Blake also revised specific lines in his earlier text to include these new ideas of sin and repentance. “Jealous Despair” becomes “Silent Contrition” in 4:10 and the “Seas of Trouble & rocks of sorrow” become “Seas of <Doubt> & rocks of <Repentance>” in 5:51. Furthermore, Blake changed “false woven bliss” to “Repentance & Contrition” in 5:28.

Throughout these two phases of revision, however, the source of Tharmas and Enion’s strife shifts at least three times, and as it shifts, so does the characterization of Tharmas and Enion. In the first stage, strife exists solely between Tharmas and Enion with no third party involved. Moreover, Tharmas is clearly the oppressor of Enion. Tharmas, in the earliest surviving reading of lines 10-11 on page 4, states, “I have hidden thee Enion in Jealous Despair / I will build thee a Labyrinth where we begin page 96 | back to top may remain for ever alone.” These lines begin a story of Tharmas’ jealousy and possessiveness that prepares for his later appearance as the domineering Spectre with Enion as his victim. Enion’s response, after their initial argument, is to weave “A tabernacle of delight” (5:7) which entraps Tharmas, but there is no suggestion that she weaves it for Enitharmon or Jerusalem, as later revisions show.

While modifying the first phase of rewriting pages 4 through 7, Blake complicates the Tharmas-Enion conflict by the addition of Enitharmon as a source of strife. Enitharmon’s presence in the story gives an external object for the story of jealousy. As a result, blame for strife in the Tharmas-Enion relationship shifts over to Enion. Blake revises Tharmas’ opening speech to read

I have hidden <Enitharmon> in Jealous Despair O Pity Me
I will build thee a Labyrinth <also O pity me O Enion>
<Why hast thou taken Enitharmon from my inmost Soul
Let her Lay secret in the Soft recess of darkness & silence
It is not Love I bear to Enitharmon It is Pity
She hath taken refuge in my bosom & I cannot cast her out>
In revision Blake brings out the pitying quality that Tharmas is generally noted for but that was virtually nonexistent in the first stage of revision. The cry for pity, even the wrong kind of pity, tends to make Tharmas a little more sympathetic; at the same time, Enion’s jealousy towards Enitharmon may now qualify our sympathy for her.

The myth, as told here, is elaborated in one of the last additions to Night I and indeed the entire poem. On page 22, thought by Bentley to be added sometime after 1805 and the transcription of Night VIII (B 165), Blake tells of Urthona’s experience of the fall and how

dividing from his aking bosom fled
A portion of his life shrieking upon the wind she fled
And Tharmas took her in pitying Then Enion in jealous fear
Murderd her & hid her in her bosom embalming her for fear
She should arise again to life Embalmd in Enions bosom
Enitharmon remains a corse such thing was never known
<In Eden that one died a death never to be revivd>.
Blake had used the idea of the love triangle as early as The Visions of the Daughters of Albion, but this mythic mode of expressing it was part of a later development. In particular, the interchangeable nature of the female Emanation, fleeing from one Zoa to seek refuge with another, is a later development very important to Milton and Jerusalem. Before the composition of The Four Zoas, Blake had written of Enitharmon splitting from Los’ side or of Ahania “Cast out from thy [Urizen’s] lovely bosom” (Book of Ahania 5:40; E 90), but he had not yet fully developed the idea that Emanations could leave one male figure’s bosom and enter another. Not until Jerusalem does Blake present the most highly developed explication of the Emanative function:
When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter
Into each others Bosom (which are Universes of delight)
In mutual interchange. and first their Emanations meet
Surrounded by their Children. if they embrace & comingle
The Human Four-fold Forms mingle also in thunders of Intellect
But if the Emanations mingle not; with storms & agitations
Of earthquakes & consuming fires they roll apart in fear
For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity.
(J 88:3-11; E 246)
In the Lambeth books, after leaving the male source, the female Emanation either becomes highly assertive over the male, as Enitharmon ultimately does or, like Ahania, becomes “a faint shadow wandring / . . . / As the moon anguishd circles the earth” (Book of Ahania 2:38, 40; E 85). There is never any mention of one Emanation fleeing into the bosom of a male figure who is not her place of origin (e.g., Enitharmon entering Urizen’s bosom or Ahania fleeing to Los).

As Blake revises the story of Tharmas and Enion, he connects the source of their strife to a breakdown in the free movement of Emanations. At the end of Tharmas’ opening speech, Blake adds, “The Men have received their death wounds & their Emanations are fled / To me for refuge & I cannot turn them out for Pitys Sake” (4:16-17.1515 Note that Enion’s lines at 7:3-8 appear to be part of this revision. Blake anticipates (or repeats?) his own idea developed in Jerusalem that Jerusalem herself is an Emanation comprised of the Emanations of all men just as Albion is seen as the composite form of the human imagination. Thus the “Emanations” which flee to Tharmas begin page 97 | back to top for refuge are symbolized by the figure of Jerusalem who hides in Tharmas’ bosom. We see here that Tharmas has begun to take on a fairly significant role as the repository of the creative emanative power of humanity which survives the fall. Unfortunately, Tharmas’ secretive and deceptive protection of these Emanations demonstrates that his attitudes to the emanative process are perverted by the fall. By hiding these Emanations, he begins separating himself from his own Emanation and falls further into the chaos of fallen existence.

Yet the idea that Tharmas acts as a repository for man’s redemptive Emanations suggests that Blake saw him as an increasingly important figure or quality to be tapped in the process of undoing the effects of the fall. The Circle of Destiny is composed, at least in part, from the fibers of his being, and although it may be a constraining force of destiny, it does help put a limit to the chaos existing at the beginning of the poem. Moreover, when Tharmas reemerges from the chaos resulting from the collapse of Urizen’s world in Night IV, he is instrumental in initiating the reconstruction of the collapsed universe. Ultimately, Tharmas, along with the Spectre of Urthona infuses power into Los which enables him to tear down the sun and moon, bringing about the Last Judgement (107:32-35). These features point to Tharmas’ potential importance in the poem as the “Parent Power,” as a kind of encompassing form, central to the substructure of the poem’s mythology. Blake was later able to exploit these features in the revisions to Night I, making Tharmas a figure containing the seeds of destruction and recreation. These changes seem designed to make him an increasingly more central figure.

In the basic development of female-male relationships, however, many elements of the Enion-Tharmas story as Blake revises it in pages 3-7 resemble the interactions in the notebook poem, “My Spectre around me night & day,”1616 This poem is difficult to date precisely. Bentley, Blake Books (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977) 322, dates “My Spectre” in period 1801-03, while Erdman, The Notebook of William Blake: A Photographic and Typographic Facsimile, rev. ed. (New York: Readex, 1977) 55, dates it after August 1803. Despite this disagreement between Bentley and Erdman, it seems safe to assume that based on similarities in symbolism, character, and tone, this poem was written during roughly the same period when Blake was reworking the opening of Vala. and “The Mental Traveller” of the 1800-04 period.1717 Bentley, Blake Books 342, notes that the earliest this poem could have been written in its present form is 1802, since it is written on blank leaves from Hayley’s Ballads of that year. However, Bentley qualifies this late date by noting that “The dates of original composition may well be 1800-4 for the Ballads Manuscript poems.” A date of soon after 1800 would correspond roughly with the time Blake was working on the Tharmas-Enion material. In “My Spectre around me,” the Spectre, like Tharmas, complains that his Emanation, like Enion, murders his sweet Loves and seems to have the power of life or death over them and him: he pleads

When wilt thou return & view
My loves & them to life renew
When wilt thou return & live
When wilt thou pity as I forgive.
(29-32; E 476)
The note of lament for the absent loved one who causes such pain is also typical of Tharmas’ complaints. Further, the counter accusations of sin by Tharmas (6:29-31) and Enion (4:27-41) are paralleled in what appears to be a postscript to “My Spectre around me”:
Oer my Sins Thou sit & moan
Hast thou no Sins of thy own
Oer my Sins thou sit & weep
And lull thy own Sins fast asleep.
(1-4; E 477)

In addition, Enion resembles the “Woman Old” of “The Mental Traveller”—a poem written in the same period as “My Spectre” and which describes a similar relationship—who binds her love and

Her fingers number every Nerve
Just as a Miser counts his gold
She lives upon his shrieks & cries
And She grows young as he grows old.
(17-20; E 484)
Enion torments Tharmas in similar terms:
In [dismal] <gnawing> pain drawn out by her lovd fingers every nerve
She counted. every vein & lacteal threading them among
Her woof of terror. Terrified & drinking tears of woe
Shuddring she wove nine days & nights Sleepless her food was tears
. . .
A Frowning Continent appeard Where Enion in the desart
Terrified in her own Creation viewing her woven shadow
Sat in a sweet intoxication of false woven bliss.
(5:16-19, 26-28)
Only the added note of terror differentiates the picture of Enion from that of the “Woman Old”; yet the “sweet intoxication” of her actions seems to mitigate Enion’s terror. Thus, it appears that the changing face of the Tharmas-Enion story is linked to a widespread development in Blake’s presentation of the male-female conflict in terms of what he would ultimately depict between the Spectre and Female Will. Although his latest revisions were not thoroughly consistent, Blake eventually replaced “Enitharmon” with “Jerusalem” in Tharmas’ opening speech. It seems probable that Blake made this change around the time he added the ideas of language of Sin and Repentance to his text. The concurrence of these additions is by no means certain; however, their thematic congruency could not be overlooked by Blake. begin page 98 | back to top As a scene of love and jealousy expanded to include the language of sin and repentance, it seems logical that Blake might decide to locate the source of controversy in Jerusalem, a victimized biblical figure of increasing importance his later writings. Moreover, both elements share a common relative lateness in the manuscript.1818 If the addition of Enitharmon to the Tharmas-Enion conflict is concurrent with the addition of pages 20-22 to the manuscript, as I suggested earlier, then the addition of Jerusalem to the conflict (and also the language of Sin and Repentance) would be very late indeed, perhaps the latest addition to the entire poem. Basically, the emotional conflict between Tharmas and Enion remains the same in this love triangle except that Tharmas has “Hidden <Jerusalem [instead of Enitharmon] in Silent Contrition>” (4:10), and he now asks Enion, “<Why hast thou taken sweet Jerusalem from my inmost Soul> (4:12). Blake did not, however, carry out these revisions in Tharmas’ plea, “It is not Love I bear to Enitharmon It is Pity” (4:14) or in the story told by the messengers from Beulah on page 22, and this fact leads me to assume either that the change was only very tentative or that Blake “accidentally neglected making the same change here as in lines 9 and 11, and 5:7” (E 819). Moreover, Blake’s incomplete revision of the Enion-Tharmas-Jerusalem triangle may have signalled his temporary abandonment of the text of pages 5-7.


In the process of developing and later deleting the text of pages 4-6, Blake put his characters through a series of interesting changes. Blake’s tampering with this text is quite revealing in terms of his development of the relationship between Tharmas and Enion and their characterization. In lines 9-15 on page 6 Tharmas is described in “self admiring raptures” (6:13)

wishing that the heavens had eyes to See
And courting that the Earth would ope her Eyelids & behold
Such wondrous beauty repining in the midst of all his glory
That nought but Enion could be forced to praise adore & love.
In a subsequent passage (6:26-35) Tharmas finds that Enion does not admire him half as much as he himself does, rebukes her accusations of sin (26-28), asserts his own moral purity against her supposed sins (29-31) and proclaims himself god over her tortured soul (32-35). Finally, he accuses her of being a false temptress (7:12-17) who first wants him to “hide thee with my power and delight thee with my beauty” (13) but then “darknest in my presence” (14) when he does appear. Thus, he decides “In my jealous wings / I evermore will hold thee when thou goest out or comest in” (15-16). Throughout these lines, we see Blake developing the most negative aspects of the Spectre which he later called the “Selfhood.” The net effect of these passages is to polarize the innocent and evil sides of Tharmas into two distinct characters. On the one hand, we have the innocent Tharmas, a victim of the fall caused by the war between Luvah and Urizen; on the other, we find the malevolent Spectre of Tharmas, the perversion of the victimized Tharmus, bent on dominating and destroying Enion. It is not surprising to find that as Tharmas grows more evil, Enion becomes a more sympathetic (or simply pathetic) victim.

In her first speech in this section (5:46-55, 57), Enion repents of weaving Tharmas into a Spectre, an act in which “Love is changed to deadly Hate” (48) and laments the feeling that her “Soul has lost its splendor & a brooding Fear / Shadows me oer & drives me outward to a world of woe” (53-54). Following the description of Tharmas’ “self admiring raptures,” Enion laments her solitude and calls out for Tharmas whom she does not recognize in his Spectre form (6:16-25). And finally, she repents for slaying Tharmas’ Emanations and defies the Spectre’s perceived temptation that she “murder my own soul & wipe my tears & smile” (6:36-7:11). In Blake’s rather patchy narrative here, it appears that the victimized Tharmas sinks beneath the waves of Enion’s “filmy Woof” (5:14) after turning “round the circle of Destiny” (5:11). This “innocent” Tharmas does not reappear until pages 43-44 where he arises from the watery ruin of Urizen’s world. Enion, through her weaving, draws out the Spectre of Tharmas from the nerves and veins of the innocent Tharmas.1919 Blake also mentions the “World of Tharmas” at 33:6. This passage, as part of the early copperplate text, does not contain enough information to state clearly which Tharmas Blake meant here; however, the later narrative context created after the revisions to Night I suggests a logical connection with the innocent Tharmas trapped beneath the waves until he arises in Night III. The narrative then follows the Spectre’s rape of Enion, after which he seems to disappear from the narrative. Blake leaves some clues suggesting that, in mingling with Enion, the Spectre becomes one with her in a perverse attempt to dominate and at the same time unify with her. His influence continues in the birth of Los and Enitharmon and the “Spectrous Life” (9:4) they draw from Enion. Ultimately, this spectrous quality would seem to emerge in the Spectre of Urthona. In a sense, this chronicle reinforces the connection between Tharmas and Urthona as brothers in Eternity and allies in the war against Urizen while trapped in the fallen world. Again, the revisions of these opening pages make Tharmas a more central figure. In his Spectre form, he stands as the starting point for the spectrous qualities which enter the fallen world.

Blake seems uncertain, however, about the degree of malevolence to attribute to the Spectre of Tharmas. Like the Spectre of Urthona—perhaps the first use of the idea of a Spectre—the Spectre of Tharmas arises as the product of sexual dissension and division, a perverted dopplegänger for an eternal identity,2020 Nelson Hilton, Literal Imagination: Blake’s Vision of Words (Berkeley: U of California P, 1983) 151. and represents a begin page 99 | back to top spirit of despair and self-destruction. In particular, the Spectre of Tharmas seems an inversion of Tharmas’ unanswered desire for pity into a tyrannical attempt instill terror and dominate or destroy the appearance of weakness in others, especially Enion. This entirely negative presentation of the Spectre seems more in keeping with the bat-winged, devouring figure in Jerusalem and lacks the potentially redemptive memory of eternity that we see in the Spectre of Urthona in Night VIIa.2121 This factor suggests that Blake did not develop the story of the Spectre of Tharmas until after much of Vala was transcribed, and he was well into work on Jerusalem. Thus at some point, Blake sought to moderate this confrontation of extremes and deleted all of the above passages with grey wash, diagonal ink strokes or both. The result of this deletion was to neutralize the characterization of Tharmas somewhat and to confine his violent nature to the union with Enion (7:21-26). But another problem arises as a result of such extensive deletions. Enion has now lost much of the sympathetic quality that her laments gave her, and the keynote of her repentance is entirely lost. She is now merely a character acting out of sorrow and terror, weaving her lover into a terrible Spectre. Therefore, Blake may have decided to circle certain passages to be readmitted to the final version of Night I.

At one time the ink circles around certain passages on pages 5, 6 and 7 were seen as part of Blake’s process of deletion, but Andrew Lincoln has demonstrated that these circles were actually used by Blake to set off material that was to be saved from the mass of deletions on the page and that Blake had added to these passages after they were struck out and circled.2222 Lincoln, “The Four Zoas” 94. The passages discussed here are as follows (the undeleted form of these lines is based on Lincoln’s arguments): Stage 1—passages marked for deletion Stage 2—passages circled for return to final draft Tharmas Enion Tharmas Enion 5:46-57 5:46-55 6:9-15 6:16-25 6:26-35 6:26-27, 29-35 6:36-7:11 6:36,38,-7:3-8,11 7:12-17 Blake leaves the passage concerning Tharmas’ “self admiring raptures” deleted, possibly because the line preceding it—“Glorying in his own eyes Exalted in terrific Pride” (6:8)—carries the essential significance of the 7 deleted lines (6:9-15). Blake also leaves out the previously deleted passage in which Tharmas condemns Enion as a temptress (7:12-17). This passage is useful in offering a clear explanation for Tharmas’ violent attack, but perhaps Blake felt that the venom in the one passage he returned to the text was strong enough to get his point across. Thus, Tharmas’ rebuke of Enion and his proclamation of himself as a god of moral purity over her tortured soul (6:26-35) is circled in order to be retained for a later version of the poem. The modified version of these lines (6:26-27, 29-35)2323 Lincoln, “The Four Zoas” 94-95, notes that in Blake’s revision, “The end of the first line [6:26] and all of the second line (‘Art thou not my slave & shall thou dare / To smite me with thy tongue beware lest I sting thee also’) were deleted and replaced by an addition of one-and-a-half lines (the full line subsequently deleted): Who art thou Diminutive husk & shell [Broke from my bonds I scorn my prison I scorn & yet I love].” Erdman, following Lincoln’s reconstruction, prints this modified version at 6:8-16 in his new edition. expands Tharmas’ accusation that Enion is a “sinful Woman” (the deleted line 7:12), and perhaps this is another partial explanation for leaving 7:12-17 deleted. Further, Blake probably retained these lines because they present an essential expression of the Spectrous aspect of Tharmas’ character and also because they establish an aspiration to godhood and moral purity that is characteristic of Tharmas and the rest of the Zoas and increasingly becomes a central concern for Blake. In these respects, this passage seems to supersede the characterization developed in the passages which Blake did not circle to retain for later use.2424 Brian Wilkie and Mary Lynn Johnson, Blake’s Four Zoas: The Design of a Dream (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978) 74, point out that in Night III, “Urizen’s insistence that Ahania is ‘diminutive’ repeats the pattern of Tharmas’s rejection of Enion in Night I; in both instances a domineering character projects his own smallness or sense of it onto his more passive partner.” In a note to this discussion, Wilkie and Johnson (268) suggest that 6:27 (and the remaining portion of this deleted passage), in particular, may have been reinstated to strengthen the parallels between the Tharmas-Enion and Urizen-Ahania stories.

Of the three Enion passages, Blake circled two and left the other one deleted. He retains most of Enion’s first lament, “What have I done . . . accursed wretch! What deed . . .” (5:46-57), but drops the last two lines. This passage is of importance in returning the sympathetic and lamenting quality to Enion. It establishes her realization of error that drives her “outward to a world of woe” (5:54) where she wanders throughout the course of the poem. Also, a modified form of the passage at the top of page 7 is retained in part as a continuation of the circled passage at the bottom of page 6 (Tharmas’ assertion of godhood over Enion). “The final text at the top of page 7,” argues Lincoln, “. . . should probably include lines 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 11.”2525 Lincoln, “The Four Zoas” 95. This passage expands on the sense of realization within Enion about the murder of Tharmas’ Emanations and adds a heightened pathos to her character with her realization “now I find that all those Emanations were my Childrens Souls / And I have murderd them with cruelty above atonement” (7.5-6). The depth of pathos here puts her characterization quite in line with that of her other laments at 17:2-18:7 and 35:1-36:13, and her sense of murder without atonement gives an added explanation for the fact that she never answers to Tharmas’ call as she wanders in the “dark deep” (34:98).

This passage also strengthens Enion’s connection with her mythological antecedent, Demeter, who wanders the earth in search of her child Persephone.2626 Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969) 279, notes this correspondence between Demeter and Enion. See also Judith Lee, “Ways of Their Own: The Emanations of Blake’s Vala or The Four Zoas,” ELH, 50 (1983): 134, for a more detailed discussion of this correspondence. Note that Blake strengthened these associations in additions to the poem which show that Enion’s lament, at least in part, may be traced to her children, Los and Enitharmon, who draw life and vitality from their parent “And then they wanderd far away she sought for them in vain / In weeping blindness stumbling she followd them oer rocks & mountains” (9:1-2). Enion’s laments show her wandering through a spiritual wasteland, lamenting for her surviving children who flee from her “cruelty into the desarts / Among wild beasts to roam” (7:7-8). Yet Blake goes beyond his Greek sources to depict a mother who drives all love from her life and thereby exiles her creative potential as represented by her offspring. Indeed, her own self-absorption creates children who draw away her own life and vitality. Blake, however, remains unwilling to condemn Enion whole-heartedly. The one passage Blake did not circle to be reclaimed (6:16-25) does not evoke the same degree of pathos as the two circled passages nor does it contain any statement of self-realization or repentance. Indeed, Enion seems to show less awareness in this than in the begin page 100 | back to top previous speech. This deleted passage is merely a lament in solitude and a call for Tharmas that does not really fill out the narrative. In fact, some confusion seems to re-main in the setting, since Enion first stands “on the Rocks” before “her woven shadow glowing bright” (5:57), then hides “in the darksom Cave” (6:15) and then sits “among the Rocks” (6:22) and finally sleeps “in a Chasm of the Valley” (6:24). I may perhaps be seeking a greater degree of consistency here than Blake saw necessary; however, because of the deletion of the material around this passage, it does not seem that it could be easily refitted into the narrative at this point. Yet just as importantly, Blake could not logically undermine Enion’s laments at the ends of Nights I and II; she makes a central statement about the actual effect of the fall in these laments that is true not only for the world of the poem but also the failings in contemporary British life that Blake attacked throughout his career. The pathos in her laments represents the spirit of pathos shut out from the sublime at the fall.2727 In a unique version of the frontispiece to Jerusalem (see Geoffrey Keynes, “New Lines from Jerusalem,” Blake Studies: Essays on His Life and Work, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971) 115-17, Blake wrote of the sublime and the pathos at the fall: His [Albion’s] Sublime & Pathos become Two Rocks fixd in the Earth
His Reason his Spectrous Power, covers them above
Jerusalem his Emanation is a Stone laying beneath
O [Albion behold Pitying] behold the Vision of Albion.
(J 1:4-7;E 144)
Possibly, Blake began to see Tharmas and Enion’s relationship as an icon of the situation represented by these lines and continued to revise it accordingly in late stages of revising pages 4-7. Tharmas and Enion, as the Sublime and the Pathos, are fixed and separated by virtue of the Spectrous power emerging from mutual distrust and jealousy over Tharmas’ relationship with Jerusalem.

Throughout this process of revision, however, we can see a tendency in Blake’s writing, first, to fill out the symbolic and conceptual elements in his character and then revise these elements to fit the character they apply to. Thus, he works out the Spectre-like aspect of Tharmas to its fullest and then attempts to revise it in this case to limit the singular evil that the Tharmas character seems to take on. With Enion, Blake shifts the degree and expression of her pathos in relation to the ferocity of Tharmas. The result of such a process of revision seems to bring a balance between the two characters. Of course, the fact that Blake revised the opening of Night I long after he had already written most of the poem also means that he had to consider whether he should accommodate his revisions to make later appearances of Tharmas consistent. It is not clear whether he was wholly committed to abandoning the consistency necessary to the relatively linear narrative of The Four Zoas in favor of a more nonlinear form such as that used in Jerusalem.


Although Blake worked extensively with the Tharmas-Enion story in Night I, I suspect that this painstaking work eventually contributed to his abandonment of the manuscript. It seems that Tharmas’ significance began to outstrip his role as one of the Four Zoas. Even as Blake elaborates on the identity of Tharmas, he develops him beyond the immediate needs of the narrative. In the poem’s narrative, he stands at the nodal point of the fall into the chaotic sea of time and space and acts as a source for the conditions of fallen existence. Enion’s weaving of Tharmas into the Circle of Destiny and the form of the Spectre suggests that Tharmas’ fall introduces fate and error. The weaving imagery also suggests Tharmas’ incarnation into the limitations of the physical body, while the notion that he holds the Emanation Jerusalem within suggests the potential for redemption of the body when it contains the City of God. These associations suggest that Tharmas is analogous to the universal human form of the One Man, Jesus Christ. Such associations give Tharmas a symbolic equivalence with Albion. Indeed, as he developed the Tharmas character more fully, while, at the same time, working on Jerusalem, Blake may have begun to transfer some of his characteristics to Albion. In the design on plate 25 of Jerusalem, Albion’s fibers, like Tharmas’, are drawn out by female figures to create the vegetated world. Also, Albion’s Spectre, like Tharmas’, emerges at the opening of the poem and moves to the west—Tharmas’ dark domain (4:6)—where he remains “a black Horror” (J. 5:68; E 148). The influence of these Spectres symbolically overshadows events in their respective poems. Moreover, the action of Tharmas’ hiding Jerusalem “in the Soft recess of darkness & silence” (4:13) from Enion may be compared to Albion’s hiding of Jerusalem “in jealous fears” (J 4:33; E 147) “From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one” (J 4:17; E 146). In addition, lines addressed by Enion to Tharmas in The Four Zoas (4:18-21) are transferred to Jerusalem where they are spoken by Vala to Albion (J 22:1, 10-12; E 167).2828 Morton D. Paley, The Continuing City: William Blake’s Jerusalem (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983) 79-80. compares the use of these lines in Vala and Jerusalem. See also 35-6. Of these lines, Paley remarks that “Although it cannot be proved that the traffic goes from FZ to J here, it seems as if Blake were quarrying material from his nearly abandoned Zoas myth for the later myth of Jerusalem and Albion.”2929 Paley, The Continuing City 80. The suggestion that Tharmas became a model for Blake’s development of Albion thus seems quite possible; the outcome of such revision would render Tharmas a redundant character in Jerusalem and explain his relative absence from that poem.

Yet the shifting portrayal of Tharmas, in particular, suggests that Blake conceived of his characters’ significances as more fluid than many critics have yet suggested. He seems more than willing to experiment freely with a character in a particular episode. Indeed, in the case of Tharmas, Blake seems to become obsessed with the scene before him, giving it a greater immediacy by straining certain attributes to their limits. Under this obsession, Blake relaxes concerns with narrative consistency begin page 101 | back to top (whatever value that term may have to a poet who often undermines consistency) for the immediacy of effect. Yet with The Four Zoas, Blake seems again to modify the immediacy of a scene to fit with the consistency of the thematic whole. Blake perhaps felt uncertain about how to resolve the tension emerging in the revisions to The Four Zoas between a sequentially coherent and consistent narrative structure—what Donald Ault has called the “Newtonian” narrative—and a subversively disjunctive and disruptive narrative—“anti-Newtonian,” in Ault’s terms.3030 Ault, “Re-Visioning The Four Zoas” 105-09. The Newtonian narrative is necessary in conveying a fixity of events which may be understood and interpreted by the reader. Interpretation of such narrative, however, involves a rational assemblage and comparison of events along a temporally and spatially limited schema, but the anti-Newtonian narrative offers expanded possibilities in educating the reader. The anti-Newtonian narrative, with its lack of explicitness and interpretive closure,3131 Ault, “Re-Visioning The Four Zoas” 108, sees an “open narrative field in which the past is not closed and complete but open—unfinished and revisable” as one of the prime elements of the anti-Newtonian narrative. exerts pressure on the reader, forcing him to use his own imaginative vision to unify rather than assemble potential meaning in the text. Blake found his answer to this tension in Jerusalem. In reading Jerusalem, we find that Blake seems to demonstrate that immediacy of scene is all; overall effect seems derived from the imaginative unification of disparate parts. Thus, meaning derives from an accretion of disjunctive parts rather than from a linear narrative imposed by the consistencies of time and space. In The Four Zoas, Blake still seems to feel a certain stress between sequential and disjunctive narratives and does yet not fully abandon one for the other. Perhaps the stress between these two forces caused additional delays in Blake’s work on the poem, and created fractures in the framework of his epic that he found he could never completely or satisfactorily repair.

Print Edition

  • Publisher
  • Department of English, University of Rochester
  • Rochester, NY, USA
    • Editors
    • Morris Eaves
    • Morton D. Paley
    • Bibliographer
    • Detlef W. Dörrbecker
    • Review Editor
    • Nelson Hilton
    • Associate Editor for Great Britain
    • David Worrall
    • Production Office
    • Morris Eaves
    • Morton D. Paley
    • Detlef W. Dörrbecker
    • Nelson Hilton
    • David Worrall
    • Managing Editor
    • Patricia Neill
    • Contributors
    • G. E. Bentley, Jr.
    • Martin Butlin
    • Michael Phillips
    • John B. Pierce
    • Aileen Ward

    Digital Edition

    • Editors:
    • Morris Eaves, University of Rochester
    • Robert Essick, University of California, Riverside
    • Joseph Viscomi, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Project Manager
    • Joe Fletcher
    • Technical Editor
    • Michael Fox
    • Previous Project Manager and Technical Editor
    • William Shaw
    • Project Director
    • Adam McCune
    • Project Coordinator, UNC:
    • Natasha Smith, Carolina Digital Library and Archives
    • Project Coordinator, University of Rochester:
    • Sarah Jones
    • Scanning:
    • UNC Digital Production Center
    • XML Encoding:
    • Apex CoVantage
    • Additional Transcription:
    • Adam McCune
    • Jennifer Park
    • Emendations:
    • Rachael Isom
    • Mary Learner
    • Adam McCune
    • Ashley Reed
    • Jennifer Park
    • Scott Robinson
    • XSLT Development:
    • Adam McCune
    • Joseph Ryan
    • William Shaw
    • PHP and Solr Development:
    • Michael Fox
    • Adam McCune
    • Project Assistants:
    • Lauren Cameron,
    • Rachael Isom,
    • Mary Learner,
    • Jennifer Park,
    • Ashley Reed,
    • Adair Rispoli,
    • Scott Robinson
    • Sponsors
    • Funders
    • Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly
    • William Blake Archive
    • Carolina Digital Library and Archives
    • Use Restrictions
    • Copyright © 2015 Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, all rights reserved. Items in this digital edition may be shared in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. copyright law. Redistribution or republication on other terms, in any medium, requires express written consent from the editors and advance notification of the publisher. Permission to reproduce the graphic images in this digital edition rests with the owning institutions.