The poetical works of William Blake (1906) Volume 1/A Song of Liberty
|The poetical works of William Blake (1906) Volume 1
A Song of Liberty, by William Blake.
|Other versions: A Song of Liberty|
A SONG OF LIBERTY
1. The Eternal Female groan'd ! It was heard over all the Earth.
2. Albion's coast is sick, silent. The American meadows faint.
3. Shadows of Prophecy shiver along by the lakes and the rivers, and mutter across the ocean. France, rend down thy dungeon.
4. Golden Spain, burst the barriers of old Rome.
5. Cast thy keys, O Rome, into the deep down falling, even to eternity down falling.
6. And weep.
7. In her trembling hands she took the new born terror howling.
8. On those infinite mountains of light now barr'd out by the atlantic sea, the new born fire stood before the starry king.
9. Flag'd with grey brow'd snows and thunderous visages, the jealous wings wav'd over the deep.
10. The speary hand burn'd aloft, unbuckled was the shield ; forth went the hand of jealousy among the flaming hair, and hurl'd the new born wonder
thro' the starry night.
11. The fire, the fire, is falling !
12. Look up ! look up ! O citizen of London, enlarge thy countenance. O Jew, leave counting gold ! return to thy oil and wine. African ! black African ! (Go, winged thought, widen his forehead.)
13. The fiery limbs, the flaming hair, shot like the linking sun into the western sea.
14. Wak'd from his eternal sleep, the hoary element roaring, fled away.
15. Down rush'd, beating his wings in vain, the jealous king; his grey brow'd councellors, thunderous warriors, carl'd veterans, among helms, and shields, and chariots, horses, elephants, banners, castles, slings, and rocks.
16. Falling, rushing, ruining! buried in the ruins, on Urthona's dens.
17. All night beneath the ruins; then their sullen flames faded, emerge round the gloomy king.
18. With thunder and fire, leading his starry
hosts thro' the waste wilderness, he promulgates his ten commands, glancing his beamy eyelids over the deep in dark dismay.
19. Where the son of fire in his eastern cloud, while the morning plumes her golden breast.
20. Spurning the clouds written with curses; stamps the stony law to dust; loosing the eternal horses from the dens of night, crying, Empire is no more!
And now the lion and wolf shall cease.
Let the Priests of the Raven of dawn, no longer in deadly black, with hoarse note curse the sons of joy. Nor his accepted brethren, whom, tyrant, he calls free. Lay the bound or build the roof. Nor pale religions letchery call that virginity that wishes but acts not.
For everything that lives is Holy.
MEANING OF 'A SONG OF LIBERTY
'A Song of Liberty,' though issued from Blake's own press under the same cover as the 'Marriage,' is really a separate book.
It is so entirely symbolic, as well as so early in date, and so short, that while its earliness makes the coherence of its symbolism with that of the later books a guarantee that Blake always knew his own mind—though it took so long for any one else to do so—its shortness makes it serviceable if paraphrased as a sort of exercise in which some portion of Blake's peculiar language may conveniently be learned.
And here the editor ventures to appeal to the readers, begging them first to take pains to learn all the language—not merely the little bits that he can teach in these italic notes, and, having learned it, to read it to himself as he would read a foreign tongue which had become as familiar to him as his native language, so that he ceases to translate it into other words as he goes along, but allows his mind to vivify it straight into its meaning, passing through its images to its purposes. Then, and then only, will he understand Blake's position among the poets.
1. The Eternal Female, the corporeal instincts, groaned. It was felt through all flesh—the earth (Adam, Red Earth). She will not be happy until with Ahania, and 'all the lovely sex,' all the pathos, the instincts. She obeys the sublime, the male.—'Vala,' Night IX., line 215.
2. The world of generation—the North of the North, Albion's coast in Europe—is sick with restraint. The American, or western meadows, or the tissues from which instincts arise, faint under it.
3. The spirits that awake the flesh to action in each person timidly sent desires down the nerves. France, Passion of the Blood—Luvah and Orc in one (compare 'Jerusalem,' page 49, line 46; page 55, line 29; page 60, line 15; and 'Vala,' Night VIII., lines 59 and 60)—be no longer restrained! (as Urizen said in 'Vala,' Night IX., line 186, when Tharmas is America).
4. Intellect that learns from generation and regenerates the Man, cast off thy restraining half.
5. Cast thy restraint off on South of North—Rome in Europe; religion in wai—Rahab—or Urizen in the Net.
6. And lay thy heart open with a sword of tears (compare notes to 'Jerusalem': the sword).
7. The 'woman old' of the Mental Traveller—who is both morality and Divine analogy—took the new-born spirit that discerns imaginative meaning through its desires (howling is symbol for desiring) in her hands, trembling.
8. It stood before Urizen (the Starry King) on those truly moral heights of unalloyed pure passion that were of the soul once, and that the body drowns now.
9. He was seen in vision waving over the lower passions,—wings—on which gloomy desiring and matter-of-fact elderly selfish faces appeared as though painted—in fact, as a flag's device is embroidered on a flag; and the wings were jealousy — they command the air, as jealousy commands the natural heart. (Luvah, demon of the Heart, is Prince of the Air.)
10. Armed mental control seized the new-born meaning (of the Bible and of the world, as about to be taught by Blake) and hurled him jealously down into the body's lower impulses.
11. Into which it fell as fire falls.
12. 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'
13. Imagination fell into flesh.
14. Whose matter-of-fact habits shrank from him.
15. Every argument that Reason could bring rushed down, seeing Jealousy's mistake, to catch Imagination and destroy him.
16. The fire that had risen in the East, stood in the South, and been flung through the West (the direction is that of the sun), entered the earth (the auricular nerves of human life, to which inspiration whispers: compare 'Vala,' Night I., lines 14, 15): brought forth an eternal brood of ideas.
17. The desire to live will not be repressed. If imagination be refused the mind, he will burn in the loins, and from thence re-arise, for this is the real story of the Incarnation. Compare 'Vala,' last line of Night V.
18. 19, 20. The stony law that is stamped to dust is not merely—whether or not it be partly—the moral law. The eternal horses loosened from their dens of night suggest the idea, for Swedenborg taught that in Scripture the horse is symbol of the intellect, and the dens of night are evidently that literal scripture now upheld by Rome, once otherwise treated by her when all was given a spiritual meaning, even the 'daily bread' in the Lord's prayer.
The last words describe the universal peace fellowship without greed and law that Blake believed would come of itself if all men's hands were filled with the priceless gold of poetic imagination. Most certainly he was right, but in believing that all could be so filled if they chose, he perhaps did more than justice to his fellow-creatures.
The chorus is frankly physical. The Haven here disappears from the scheme of symbolism to reappear picturesquely in 'Vala,' Night IX., line 60.
In the last three Nights of 'Vala,' the problem of the value and meaning, the danger and deception of mind that belong to the simple passions of the flesh are argued out in poetry, and are counterparts to the Night V., 66 to 182; Night VII., 5 to 99, 136 to 182, 171 to 126, and 439 to 699. In Night VIII., line 60 to end; in Night IX., 34, 69, 183, 186, 354, are the indicative references