William Blake (1757–1827). The Poetical Works. 1908.

The Book of Los

(Engraved 1795)

1. ENO, agèd Mother,

Who the chariot of Leutha guides,

Since the day of thunders in old time,

2. Sitting beneath the eternal Oak,

Trembled and shook the steadfast Earth,

And thus her speech broke forth:—

3. ‘O Times remote!

When Love and Joy were adoration,

And none impure were deem’d,

Not eyeless Covet,

Nor thin-lipp’d Envy,

Nor bristled Wrath,

Nor Curlèd Wantonness;

4. ‘But Covet was pourèd full,

Envy fed with fat of lambs,

Wrath with lion’s gore,

Wantonness lull’d to sleep

With the virgin’s lute,

Or sated with her love;

5. ‘Till Covet broke his locks and bars,

And slept with open doors;

Envy sung at the rich man’s feast;

Wrath was follow’d up and down

By a little ewe lamb;

And Wantonness on his own true love

Begot a giant race.

6. Raging furious, the flames of desire

Ran thro’ heaven and earth, living flames,

Intelligent, organiz’d, arm’d

With destruction and plagues. In the midst

The Eternal Prophet, bound in a chain,

Compell’d to watch Urizen’s shadow,

7. Rag’d with curses and sparkles of fury:

Round the flames roll, as Los hurls his chains,

Mounting up from his fury, condens’d,

Rolling round and round, mounting on high

Into Vacuum, into nonentity,

Where nothing was; dash’d wide apart,

His feet stamp the eternal fierce-raging

Rivers of wide flame; they roll round

And round on all sides, making their way

Into darkness and shadowy obscurity.

8. Wide apart stood the fires: Los remain’d

In the Void between fire and fire:

In trembling and horror they beheld him;

They stood wide apart, driv’n by his hands

And his feet, which the nether Abyss

Stamp’d in fury and hot indignation.

9. But no light from the fires! all was

Darkness round Los: heat was not; for bound up

Into fiery spheres from his fury,

The gigantic flames trembled and hid.

10. Coldness, darkness, obstruction, a Solid

Without fluctuation, hard as adamant,

Black as marble of Egypt, impenetrable,

Bound in the fierce raging Immortal;

And the separated fires, froze in

A vast Solid, without fluctuation,

Bound in his expanding clear senses.

1. The Immortal stood frozen amidst

The vast Rock of Eternity, times

And times, a night of vast durance,

Impatient, stifled, stiffen’d, hard’ned;

2. Till impatience no longer could bear

The hard bondage: rent, rent, the vast Solid,

With a crash from Immense to Immense,

3. Crack’d across into numberless fragments.

The Prophetic wrath, struggling for vent,

Hurls apart, stamping furious to dust,

And crumbling with bursting sobs, heaves

The black marble on high into fragments.

4. Hurl’d apart on all sides as a falling

Rock, the innumerable fragments away

Fell asunder; and horrible Vacuum

Beneath him, and on all sides round,

5. ‘Falling! falling! Los fell and fell,

Sunk precipitant, heavy, down! down!

Times on times, night on night, day on day—

Truth has bounds, Error none—falling, falling,

Years on years, and ages on ages;

Still he fell thro’ the Void, still a Void

Found for falling, day and night without end;

For tho’ day or night was not, their spaces

Were measur’d by his incessant whirls

In the horrid Vacuity bottomless.

6. The Immortal revolving, indignant,

First in wrath threw his limbs, like the babe

New-born into our world: wrath subsided,

And contemplative thoughts first arose;

Then aloft his head rear’d in the Abyss,

And his downward-borne fall chang’d oblique.

7. Many ages of groans! till there grew

Branchy forms, organizing the Human

Into finite inflexible organs;

8. Till in process from falling he bore

Sidelong on the purple air, wafting

The weak breeze in efforts o’erwearièd:

9. Incessant the falling Mind labour’d,

Organizing itself, till the Vacuum

Became Element, pliant to rise,

Or to fall, or to swim, or to fly,

With ease searching the dire Vacuity.

1. The Lungs heave incessant, dull, and heavy;

For as yet were all other parts formless,

Shiv’ring, clinging around like a cloud,

Dim and glutinous as the white Polypus,

Driv’n by waves and englob’d on the tide.

2. And the unformèd part crav’d repose;

Sleep began; the Lungs heave on the wave:

Weary, overweigh’d, sinking beneath

In a stifling black fluid, he woke.

3. He arose on the waters; but soon

Heavy falling, his organs like roots

Shooting out from the seed, shot beneath,

And a vast World of Waters around him

In furious torrents began.

4. Then he sunk, and around his spent Lungs

Began intricate pipes that drew in

The spawn of the waters, outbranching

An immense Fibrous Form, stretching out

Thro’ the bottoms of Immensity: raging.

5. He rose on the floods; then he smote

The wild deep with his terrible wrath,

Separating the heavy and thin.

6. Down the heavy sunk, cleaving around

To the fragments of Solid: uprose

The thin, flowing round the fierce fires

That glow’d furious in the Expanse.

1. Then Light first began: from the fires,

Beams, conducted by fluid so pure,

Flow’d around the Immense. Los beheld

Forthwith, writhing upon the dark Void,

The Backbone of Urizen appear,

Hurtling upon the wind,

Like a serpent, like an iron chain,

Whirling about in the Deep.

2. Upfolding his Fibres together

To a Form of impregnable strength,

Los, astonish’d and terrifièd, built

Furnaces; he formed an Anvil,

A Hammer of adamant: then began

The binding of Urizen day and night.

3. Circling round the dark Demon with howlings,

Dismay, and sharp blightings, the Prophet

Of Eternity beat on his iron links.

4. And first from those Infinite fires,

The light that flow’d down on the winds

He seiz’d, beating incessant, condensing

The subtil particles in an Orb.

5. Roaring indignant, the bright sparks

Endur’d the vast Hammer; but unwearièd

Los beat on the Anvil, till glorious

An immense Orb of fire he fram’d.

6. Oft he quench’d it beneath in the Deeps;

Then survey’d the all-bright mass. Again

Seizing fires from the terrific Orbs,

He heated the round Globe, then beat;

While, roaring, his Furnaces endur’d

The chain’d Orb in their infinite wombs.

7. Nine ages completed their circles,

When Los heated the glowing mass, casting

It down into the Deeps: the Deeps fled

Away in redounding smoke: the Sun

Stood self-balanc’d. And Los smil’d with joy:

He the vast Spine of Urizen seiz’d,

And bound down to the glowing Illusion.

8. But no light! for the Deep fled away

On all sides, and left an unform’d

Dark Vacuity: here Urizen lay

In fierce torments on his glowing bed;

9. Till his Brain in a rock, and his Heart

In a fleshy slough, formèd four rivers,

Obscuring the immense Orb of fire,

Flowing down into night; till a Form

Was completed, a Human Illusion,

In darkness and deep clouds involv’d.