Friday, November 12, 2010

Urizen by William Blake Chapter 2 [Part 1]

In the second chapter we get Urizen's side of the story. It begins (ostensibly) before Time and Space are created:

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

The description of the planets as “globes of attraction” contrasts with Urizen's characteristic of being all-repelling. We have a contrary, and a new way to connect Urizen with the sky. To define the Earth as a “globe of attraction” is draw it in terms of a repulsive contrary. Attraction and Repulsion are specifically named by Blake as constituting Contraries in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Also, as we begin, we begin in the state of “eternal life” which we can understand as analogically connected (or isomorphically descended) to the state Adam and Eve enjoyed in the pre-Fall Garden of Eden. To say it analogically connected, one need only reason and compare. To call it an isomorphism, presupposes a parent or an eternal form (in Derrida an origin that is not The Origin), from which the Book of Urizen, and the story of Eden are both articulations of. They are receptions of the loss of an eternal form of life, representations of an eternal form of loss.

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

The sound of the trumpet heralds (or signals) the beginning of the fall. Blake is cleverly mixing his metaphors here, for the trumpets sound in Revelation to herald the beginning of the Final Judgment.

Here the final judgement is conceived at the moment it of it's entry way into this world. In other words "it came with the frame."

But in order to do so it must play itself out in time, some great script whose beginning, middle, and end has already been written, yet hasn't unfolded.

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

Again, Blake mixes up imagery, waters and clouds in bleak deserts, and again we're called back to the “image” of voices (articulate) bursting from thunders on the tops of mountains. Time and again, we're being called back to that same image of the preacher on the mountain.

4: From the depths of dark solitude. From
The eternal abode in my holiness,
Hidden set apart in my stern counsels
Reserv'd for the days of futurity,
I have sought for a joy without pain,
For a solid without fluctuation
Why will you die O Eternals?
Why live in unquenchable burnings?

For the first time we hear Urizen's voice, for this is Urizen who speaks, addressing the Eternals. He is about to present them with his religion! Firstly, (however) “unquenchable burnings” suggests an almost Buddhist sensibility toward desire. Urizen sees desire as the cause of suffering. Restraint restrains with the ultimate goal of eradicating the desire, holding it down, and suffocating it so that it by degrees becomes passive. So all the passions that spring from the body are now deemed sinful. The desire is for purity, and purity finds its ultimate expression in uniformity, and this uniformity will be imposed on the other Eternals, because Urizen is pretty certain that it's in their best interests.

A solid without fluctuation is one that does not change. A joy without pain could only be a negation of suffering. His holiness and stern counsels are born out of the depths of his solitude.

5 First I fought with the fire; consum'd
Inwards, into a deep world within:
A void immense, wild dark & deep,
Where nothing was: Natures wide womb
And self balanc'd stretch'd o'er the void
I alone, even I! the winds merciless
Bound; but condensing, in torrents
They fall & fall; strong I repell'd
The vast waves, & arose on the waters
A wide world of solid obstruction

Firstly, he fights with fire, and is himself “consum'd/Inwards.” And once again, Urizen's void is identified with Nature, this time as “Natures wide womb.” Then Urizen “stretches over” the void/Nature's wide womb, like a sky. He draws a lot of attention to himself in his speech: “I alone, even I!”. The winds condense and fall. He repels the waves, and emerges on the waters into a wide world of solid obstruction.

The conflation of the Void with Nature's Wide Womb is of course, counter intuitive. Also, if we think of Nature's Wide Womb as the Earth itself, and we can see Urizen stretching across her like a sky. Visually, the Womb, or the Uterus proper, is an inversion of the sort of generation brought forth by the Earth. For the womb, like an Egg, incubates within, while the Earth teems upon its surface.

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

Here now, is Urizen, creating a measure for the soul.

Most of this is pretty self-explanitory; Urizen is presenting his religion before the other Eternals. Dark contemplation, battles against sin-bred monsters; “Which the bosoms of all inhabit.” Blake could have said here, “Which inhabit the bosoms of all,” but this would have clearly demonstrated the locus of the inhabitation. There is a sense of potential inversion. The bosoms of all can inhabit the Sin-bred monsters. And we find out these are the Seven deadly Sins of the soul: Greed, Pride, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath.

7. Lo! I unfold my darkness: and on
This rock, place with strong hand the Book
Of eternal brass, written in my solitude.
8. Laws of peace, of love, of unity:
Of pity, compassion, forgiveness.
Let each chuse one habitation:
His ancient infinite mansion:
One command, one joy, one desire,
One curse, one weight, one measure
One King, one God, one Law.

This pretty much speaks for itself. Thus ends chapter two.

Until next time...

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