Urizen, suffice it say, is a sort of personification, and there is one distinct difference between the Ancient Poets, and William Blake. Blake is personifying something which by nature is abstract. And it's only in his character that we may discover his qualities. And we can safely get the sense now that when the other Eternals would not be subject to his laws, he separated himself from them, and created/or was given a space of his own in which to dwell. What does he do there? So far, he only divides and measures.
3. For he strove in battles dire
In unseen conflictions with shapes
Bred from his forsaken wilderness,
Of beast, bird, fish, serpent & element
Combustion, blast, vapour and cloud.
He battles against shapes which are “bred from” his “forsaken wilderness” of “beast, bird, fish, serpent, element.” His senses are being inundated with the heat of combustion, the blast, the vapour, the cloud. His forsaken wilderness is the animal kingdom, and he contends against the shapes that it begets. It seems that Urizen's void in the North is being adorned with the creatures of nature. But he himself has no agency in this creation, so it is therefore in a sense wrong to fully equate him with the Hebrew God, because Urizen is in no sense a creator. We know he measures.
I point this out to avoid claims that Blake is a Gnostic. What the Gnostics do to the God of Old Testement is similar to what Blake is describing in the Urizen character, a sort of Demi-urge who like Ialtobaoth, the Gnostic demon creates a world of his own, and attempts to enslave.
So he makes the wilderness, forsakes it, and contends against the shapes that arise out of it. This is Blake's interpretation of the "priests" reception and teachings concerning the Old Testement God. Very anti-body, anti-animal, anti-desire.
These are foundation negations in Western Religious theory and Western Philosophy.
This however doesn't fully excuse the fact that Blake's understanding of Judaism is somewhat lacking. Blake sees Christ as a Satanic figure rebelling against traditional laws passed down from the Old Testement. This vision of Christ does have a very Gnostic feel to it. We must, however, refrain from allowing that to Gnostify what is happening here, which in many ways would cause us to conclude the opposite of what Blake is actually preaching, which is actually closer to Native American spirituality or Taoism in it's relation and reverence for the life present in this world.
Blake sees it as an abomination to sacrifice this life to the next, and Blake, naively, wants to "free" the Jews from the OT-Laws.
4. Dark revolving in silent activity:
Unseen in tormenting passions;
An activity unknown and horrible;
A self-contemplating shadow,
In enormous labours occupied
Self-contemplation shadow, interesting idea. Well. Number one, the hermit who rejects the world for a time is going to return with the fruits of his labor, perhaps some great book about God.
When I say it like that, it seems obvious, but I've read Urizen six hundred and sixty six times, and on the 314th I picked up on it.
My head was so up my ass trying to think about circularity, recursion, all these complex structural elements happening, that I'd completely glossed the most important thing about this prophesy.
All of these images are going to map to multiple real world figures, obviously here, Moses and Mohammed are being sort of lumped in the archetype of Urizen. It would be Blakean to say that Moses and Mohammed are manifestations of this Urizenic impulse to create a measure, a standard, external, from which to gage all things.
5. But Eternals beheld his vast forests
Age on ages he lay, clos'd, unknown
Brooding shut in the deep; all avoid
The petrific abominable chaos
Once again, Urizen's void in the north is adorned with forests, and things of nature. The linking of petrific to chaos once again presents with a counter intuitive tangle of meanings. The Eternals can see his forests, but he himself is unknown, and closed.
This is kind of neat. They can see evidence of him, but not him himself. Also "petrific" meaning "of stone" or figuratively unchanging. Urizen wants to stop time from changing his shapes.
6. His cold horrors silent, dark Urizen
Prepar'd: his ten thousands of thunders
Rang'd in gloom'd array stretch out across
The dread world, & the rolling of wheels
As of swelling seas, sound in his clouds
In his hills of stor'd snows, in his mountains
Of hail & ice; voices of terror,
Are heard, like thunders of autumn,
When the cloud blazes over the harvests
It's really easy when the writing is so fluid and well done to glaze over for a moment and let the analytical part of your mind kind of fall by the wayside. The problem is you won't pick up certain elements when you do. Then the issue becomes, well, I kind of have to force myself to see each element as a concept, and not as a sensation, and you miss the other half of what is going on.
The trick would be to see them both at once, using both manners of seeing at the same time, holding two different procedures, which often contradict and mutually exclude each other, as simultaneously true, and then employing them.
Now, this isn't the whole story. If it was I could draw a picture of a cube to demonstrate. There are four Eternals, and the trick is then to get them working all in sync, without a centroid (or with one, your choice).
The centroid method is Urizen's and Blake's critique is nearly identical to Jung's. We'll see
more of this stuff pop up when Blake talks about conglobing.
But, more to the fact, and less non-sequitur...
Thus ends the first chapter of Urizen. The Primeval Priest, prepares the ten thousand thunders to set some sort of wheels in motion. But from his cold hills and mountains, voices of terror (as opposed to say, screams) can be heard, themselves like thunder. From the frozen tips of mountains, their voices “blaze.” And then we get a reference to autumn, and harvests, which these blazing voices loom over like a cloud. Now, we need only summon in our mind the image of a man screaming from a mountain top, his words like fire, his body freezing, to understand the sort of picture Blake is painting here. The fact that this “voice of terror” looms over the Harvest, as an event specifically characterized by plenitude and abundance is also noteworthy.
It is also significant that blazing voices come from freezing bodies, as if the one is in one sense attempting to negate the other, or in another sense, acting to balance it.
Also noteworthy, is that Urizen acts from his clouds with thunders, which further identifies him with the sky.
Until next time...