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

Selections from ‘The Four Zoas’

[The Woes of Urizen in the Dens of Urthona]

(Four Zoas, Night V, ll. 190–241.)

AH! how shall Urizen the King submit to this dark mansion?

Ah! how is this? Once on the heights I stretch’d my throne sublime.

The mountains of Urizen, once of silver, where the sons of wisdom dwelt,

And on whose tops the virgins sang, are rocks of Desolation.

My fountains, once the haunt of swans, now breed the scaly tortoise,

The houses of my harpers are become a haunt of crows,

The gardens of Wisdom are become a field of horrid graves,

And on the bones I drop my tears, and water them in vain.

Once how I walkèd from my Palace in gardens of delight!

The sons of wisdom stood around, the harpers follow’d with harps,

Nine virgins, cloth’d in light, compos’d the song to their immortal voices,

And at my banquets of new wine my head was crown’d with joy.

Then in my ivory pavilions I slumber’d in the noon,

And walkèd in the silent night among sweet-smelling flowers,

Till on my silver bed I slept, and sweet dreams round me hover’d;

But now my land is darken’d and my wise men are departed.

My songs are turnèd to cries of lamentation

Heard on my mountains, and deep sighs under my palace roofs;

Because the steeds of Urizen, once swifter than the light,

Were kept back from my Lord and from his chariot of mercies.

O! did I keep the horses of the Day in silver pastures!

O! I refus’d the Lord of Day the horses of his Prince!

O! did I close my treasuries with roofs of solid stone,

And darken all my palace walls with envyings and hate!

O fool! to think that I could hide from his all-piercing eyes

The gold and silver and costly stones, his holy workmanship.

O fool! could I forget the light that fillèd my bright spheres

Was a reflection of his face who call’d me from the deep!

I well remember, for I heard the mild and holy voice

Saying: ‘O Light, spring up and shine,’ and I sprang up from the deep.

He gave to me a silver sceptre, and crown’d me with a golden crown,

And said: ‘Go forth and guide my Son who wanders on the ocean.’

I went not forth: I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath:

I call’d the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark;

The stars threw down their spears, and fled naked away.

We fell: I seiz’d thee, dark Urthona, in my left hand, falling,

I seiz’d thee, beauteous Luvah; thou art faded like a flower,

And like a lily thy wife Vala, wither’d by winds.

When thou didst bear the golden cup at the immortal tables,

Thy children smote their fiery wings, crown’d with the gold of Heaven.

Thy pure feet stept on the steps divine, too pure for other feet,

And thy fair locks shadow’d thine eyes from the divine effulgence.

Then thou didst keep with strong Urthona the living gates of Heaven;

But now thou art bow’d down with him, even to the gates of Hell.

Because thou gavest Urizen the wine of the Almighty

For steeds of Light, that they might run in thy golden chariot of pride,

I gave to thee the steeds. I pour’d the stolen wine,

And, drunken with the immortal draught, fell from my throne sublime.

I will arise, explore these dens, and find that deep pulsation

That shakes my caverns with strong shudders. Perhaps this is the Night

Of Prophecy, and Luvah hath burst his way from Enitharmon.

When Thought is clos’d in Caves, then Love shall show its root in deepest Hell.