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Tiriel: Two Corrected First Readings

The following corrections of the Tiriel transcript will be incorporated in the next revised printing of David Erdman’s Doubleday text.

1. “To raise his dark & burning visage thro the cleaving [world del] ground.”11 G. E. Bentley, Jr.’s facsimile edition of Tiriel (Oxford, 1967), line 247. All line references are to this edition.

The deleted word is not “world,” but “earth.” The cause for the unanimous misreading by editors is probably the d-like form of the last of the deleting loops. However, this loop cannot be a d because it is preceded by two vertical strokes where rl would be in “world.” Nor can these strokes be considered ld in “world”: ninety-two percent (336 of 363) of the serifs of word-ending d curve leftward in the poem as a whole; all of them (34) do so in this section. Either there is a very rare occurrence here of a straight d serif, or the deleted word is not “world.”

On the positive side, and bearing in mind the narrow range of synonyms for “ground,” the deleted word looks more like “earth” than “world” under the deleting loops. Michael Tolley, who very generously agreed to examine the manuscript in the British Museum, reports that the original’s initial letter looks like e but not w. In addition, the vertical strokes are similar to those of the th in “Earth” of the preceding line (246), and to those of the many other th’s in the surrounding text. Only the right-most portion of the crossing stroke of t, crossing h as well, is clear of the loops, and it is quite faint. But many similar strokes are equally faint, and two nearby th’s have no crossing strokes at all: “the” in 243 and “doth” in 244.

The terminal hump of h is not visible, but if it were as short and flat as the one in “earth” of 258, it would be obscured by the last deleting loop. Finally, from a semantic stand-point the deleted word must be “earth.” “Earth” and “ground,” the replacement, are natural synonyms; “world” and “ground” are not.

2. The sequence of vicissitudes in 385-86 is recorded erroneously in Damon’s Dictionary: “Such was Tiriel, [hypocrisy, the idiot’s wisdom & the wise man’s folly, del] compell’d . . . ” (p. 406). Alone among editors, Bentley notes that “is” in 385 was changed to “was,” but gives no evidence of understanding the full sequence of revision in these lines: that when “is” became “was,” “Tiriel” was affixed to the line-end, and the next line was cancelled.

Originally, 385 ended with “Such is,” the sense continuing in the next line: “Such is / Hypocrisy the idiots wisdom & the wise mans folly.” Since 386 ends the page we can speculate that the sense ran on to perhaps an entirely different conclusion on a now-lost recto. But at some point Blake decided against an abstract sermon on hypocrisy begin page 41 | back to top and in favor of the case of the particular hypocrite22 A similar strategy lay behind the wholesale cancellation of 364-74, which marks a shift from a panoramic to a developmental treatment of Urizenic depravity. Observe in 364-69 the fourfold analysis of man in reptile form: dragon, viper, plague serpent, and python. The python of 369 seems to represent the class of Kings and Judges. ; at which time he saw that he could maintain continuity and therefore save the verso by revising 385, deleting 386, and continuing on the present recto. Thus “Such is / Hypocrisy . . . ” became “Such was Tiriel / Compelld. . . .”

It might be objected that “Tiriel” need not have been added to 385 when 386 was cancelled; in other words, that “Hypocrisy” could be taken as an appositive to “Tiriel,” as Damon takes it. But Damon’s construction contains a double appositive, which besides sounding tortured and inept, does not sound like Blake, who was sparing of appositives. The correction offered above mollifies this stylistic Medusa, accounts for the changing of “is” to “was,” and explains the bad grammar of “Such was Tiriel Compelld” by supposing an originally correct “Such is Hypocrisy.”

Earth thus I stamp thy bosom rouse the earthquake from his den
			To raise his dark & burning visage thro the cleaving <earth> ground
			To thrust these towers with his shoulders. let his fiery dogs
			Rise from the center belching flames & roarings. dark smoke
			Upon the sand. &c
			And when the <foolish crawling> drone has reachd his crawling length
			Black berries appear that poison all around him. Such <is> was Tiriel
			<Hypocrisy the idiots wisdom & the wise mans folly>
			Compelld to pray repugnant & to humble the immortal spirit
			Till I am subtil as a serpent in a paradise
Lines from the manuscript of Tiriel  

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