The works of William Blake, poetic, symbolic and critical/2/Book of Los

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1. Since the day of creative thoughts, the thunders of old time, when earth — or the five senses — was begun and made the chariot of Leutha — bodily beauty — Eno, the aged mother, has guided it, for the maternal power rules in the material sphere of thought.

2. Beneath the eternal vegetation — that oak which the mistaken Druids supposed to be imagination — Eno trembled, and, shaking- the earth, was delivered of children ; that is, of speech.

3. She called aloud on the times that had ceased to be, when the four quarters of humanity — now known as four evils — were, in right of imaginative freedom, four blameless things. When from the masculine — joy, and the feminine — love, came the child, adoration. (The three, as we learn elsewhere, became Selfhood, Pity and Desire.)

She calls to the four regions by their fallen names : —

Envy, Luvah.
Waste, | Tharmas.
Wantonness, they correspond to the old forms of Urthona .
Covet, Urizen.

4. Who, not being opposed as the limitations of matter oppose the freedom of idea, were harmless.

5. And generous, joy-giving, love-giving, and fruitful.

6. At this outcry -of the ancient maternity, living flames of the wrath and desire, the heart and loins of imagination that together make creations possible, ran through the generative region of prophecy. The fires were armed with destruction of freedom and plague of the senses that are open to pain, They were thus creative, This moment is the same as that told in the eighth stanza of the second "Book of Urizen."

Prophecy was watching the shadow or chaos, the unorganized body of restrictive reason. Los watched Urizen's dark globe.

7. Los manifested himself to eternals as the spirit of freedom. He divided the eternal fires that were beating around him and round Urizen's dark world. They are seen in the seventh stanza of the second chapter of "Urizen." These fires are feminine as compared with the fires of Los, for wrath is masculine compared with desire.

8. Los, having caused wrath to enter desire and so destroyed its virginity, caused imagination to enter sense, dividing its materiality, and remained there, the master.

9. He reduced the flames to their own opposites, darkness, trembling, hiding, and coldness.

10. But inactive sense, since the days when Eno guided the chariot, leads to inactive imagination in each individual man, and in Los. The flames turned to black marble of Egypt, to purely corporeal emotion, and so, frozen with lack of divine heat, closed round him.

Chapter II.

1, 2 and 3. (As the tomb triumphed on Christ for three days, so) for three stanzas the dark of maternity triumphs on the light paternity, materialism on imagination. At the third the rock is broken, and the spiritual body is free ; Los is impotent in the first stanza, rending in the second, utterly liberated in the third.

4. And suddenly finds that he has made an error. He should neither have bound the senses to be only sense, nor have destroyed them for being only sense. He suddenly finds himself in vacuum.

5. And so he falls, for truth has bounds, error none. But his fall is fructifying even now, for he whirls as he falls, measuring night and day, and where circles are, there the void will presently bear fruit.

6. And his fall having done its first work, changes to an oblique motion, and presently his head that had been downwards (for when the bodily man enters into activity of the loins, the spiritual man within him is reversed in all its regions, its head is in the bodily loins, its loins in the bodily lie id). This moment corresponds in the story of Los to that of the third stanza of the fourth chapter of "Urizen," where the eddies of his wrath settle to a lake.

7. In the ages of sorrow Los expiates his error, giving it organs, that it may be rightly met and put off in the end. Such was his action in the region of the loins.

8. In the dark purple air, the region of the heart, he floated sideways in sorrowful feminine feeling, and gave his emotion to all that has not up and down but long and wide for its mystic measurement, even to accident and chance.

9. And in the region of the head, the falling but still prophetic Mind organized itself, and became that which is called by mortals Imagination.

(The last three stanzas exactly show the contrast between the book of "Urizen" and of "Los." Both enter the feminine darkness. Both organize themselves. Urizen propagates restrictions and a net from the watery region of tears, from the loins, or pitiful and watery portion, in the head. Los ends by propagating freedom, the pliant faculty of entering into all the vacuity called nature, from the fiery, or mental and wrathful, region of the head of (or spiritual head in) the loins.)

Chapter III.

1. The loins are a duplex symbolic region of earth and water. The earth Los had cast away. The water he must vivify. First with lungs he brings air to the water, or heart to the loins.

2. Emotion entered the region of sense, and they both became weary first, struggling after.

3. Struggle leads to fruitfulness in eternity, and the waters became torrents, the lungs became organs.

4. Presently, in the region of material sense compared to which heart is masculine — as head is masculine compared in its turn with heart — a form is born of heart and loins, collected from the spawn of the waters as the burning globe of Urizen from the fires of the air.

5. Then, as in "Urizen" (Chapter V., stanza 4), Los smote the north from the south region (darkness from light, earth from fire, or loins from head), so now he separates the "heavy from the thin," west from the east, water from air, loins from heart.

6. The two loins, or female elements, water and earth, clove together — being the "heavy" — and sank; that is to say, passed into the outer or lower of human nature, while the "thin" or air, flowing around the fierce fires, coalesced with them and going to the upper or inner, really began uniting the scattered fires into an orb, a self-hood.

Chapter IV.

1. At this, light or human imagination first began. The pure fluid conducted the light from the fires. Air, the influence of the heart, being added to fire — passion of the head. Forthwith by this light Los beheld the void's spiritual form. It was a serpent. It was the backbone of Urizen. It was the system of logic or mere coherence without imagination, experience without inspiration, natural tendency without exaltation, the vast "chain of the mind" that "locks up," the head, heart, loins of unimaginativeness in the book of "Urizen" (Chapter VI., stanza 4) into forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity. 2, 3. Los, astonished and terrified at his own experiences, now made furnaces that there might be a counterpart to the pipes that drew in the spawn of the waters. He formed the anvil and hammer. Just as the loins are a duplex region, so is the heart, a place not only of breathing but of heating, with a fire as well as an air of its own, otherwise the loins would overbalance the region above them and the outer control the inner. Then began the binding of the cold head — of Urizen. This is the moment of the close of the second and the whole of the third chapter of "Urizen."

4, 5. And while outwardly he merely enclosed Urizen's fountain of thought under a roof ("Urizen," IV., 8), he was really condensing the moods of desire into a self-hood which should eventually bring them forth again as its own, whether under the name of Orс, or under any other.

6. Oft the incomplete vitality was quenched in the deeps of its own material. This is the strange alternation of experience and imagination whose ultimate symbol is the ever buried and ever rising Christ.

7. And nine ages completed the fruitful circlings of the fires, for the whirling that began in void, went on in torrents of water, after earth was burst, and is now in fire, so that the four regions are all fructified. Then Los knew that the product he had made was completed. What is called Orc when seen from another portion of the visionary world, and is changed to a rock, and awakens Urizen, is now brought as a glowing rock, or sun, and to it is chained the backbone of Urizen, his system of scientific and moral restrictiveness.

8. On this hot and dark rock Urizen lay — head chained to loins — in torment, as Orc lay in torment on the cold rock — loins chained to head. For the furnaces with their fires had joined the regions that the waters had divided when heavy and thin fell apart, for in this version, pity divides, as elsewhere pity unites, what wrath divides — action and re-action being eternal.

9. And from this orb of fire, a paradise whose four rivers spring from the mount of rocky brain and the marsh of vegetative heart, the completed form, the human illusion, the body form in which we see among clouds (in a glass darkly) the spiritual and real human form, was completed.


In the numberings of the stanzas of this book, the main meaning of the 3, 6, 7, 9, 10 are as in "Urizen," creation, preparation, manifestation, separation or birth-completeness.

But the whole is seen from another side. "Los" is, as it were, the second book of "Urizen," and perhaps was intended to have been so called, when in the previous year he called its predecessor the cc First book of Urizen." It, however, is better entitled "Book of Los." Where the same subject is touched in both books, it will not always be found that the allusion is invariably from a fifth stanza to a fifth, or from a fourth to a fourth. But that does not in any way destroy the value of what may be called the numerical cypher as used within the limits of each. The sequence of the main story gathers meaning from the numerical hint, no less faithfully in the books taken separately, and each for its own department of the vast myth.