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

Selections from ‘Milton’

[The Wine-Press of Los]

(Milton, f. 24, ll. 1–41.)

BUT the Wine-press of Los is eastward of Golgonooza, before the Seat

Of Satan: Luvah laid the foundation, and Urizen finish’d it in howling woe.

How red the Sons and Daughters of Luvah! here they tread the grapes,

Laughing and shouting, drunk with odours; many fall, o’er-wearièd;

Drown’d in the wine is many a youth and maiden: those around

Lay them on skins of tigers and of the spotted leopard and the wild ass,

Till they revive, or bury them in cool grots, making lamentation.

This Wine-press is call’d War on Earth: it is the Printing-Press

Of Los; and here he lays his words in order above the mortal brain,

As cogs are form’d in a wheel to turn the cogs of the adverse wheel.

Timbrels and violins sport round the Wine-presses; the little Seed,

The sportive Root, the Earth-worm, the Gold-beetle, the wise Emmet

Dance round the Wine-presses of Luvah; the Centipede is there,

The Ground-spider with many eyes; the Mole clothèd in velvet,

The ambitious Spider in his sullen web, the lucky Golden-spinner,

The Earwig arm’d, the tender Maggot, emblem of immortality,

The Flea, Louse, Bug, the Tape-worm; all the Armies of Disease,

Visible or invisible to the slothful, Vegetating Man;

The slow Slug, the Grasshopper, that sings and laughs and drinks—

Winter comes: he folds his slender bones without a murmur.

The cruel Scorpion is there, the Gnat, Wasp, Hornet, and the Honey-bee,

The Toad and venomous Newt, the Serpent cloth’d in gems and gold:

They throw off their gorgeous raiment: they rejoice with loud jubilee,

Around the Wine-presses of Luvah, naked and drunk with wine.

There is the Nettle that stings with soft down, and there

The indignant Thistle, whose bitterness is bred in his milk,

Who feeds on contempt of his neighbour; there all the idle Weeds,

That creep around the obscure places, show their various limbs

Naked in all their beauty, dancing round the Wine-presses.

But in the Wine-presses the Human grapes sing not nor dance!

They howl and writhe in shoals of torment, in fierce flames consuming,

In chains of iron and in dungeons, circled with ceaseless fires,

In pits and dens and shades of death, in shapes of torment and woe—

The plates, and screws, and racks, and saws, and cords, and fires and cisterns,

The cruel joys of Luvah’s Daughters, lacerating with knives

And whips their Victims, and the deadly sport of Luvah’s Sons.

They dance around the dying, and they drink the howl and groan;

They catch the shrieks in cups of gold, they hand them to one another:

These are the sports of love, and these the sweet delights of amorous play,

Tears of the grape, the death-sweat of the cluster, the last sigh

Of the mild youth who listens to the luring songs of Luvah.