William Blake’s The Song of Los (1795) is one of his epic poems known as prophetic books. It has two parts, “Africa” and “Asia.” The illustrative plates accompanying the poem combine art and literature, intrinsically impacting the affect of his work.
I will sing you a song of Los. the Eternal Prophet:
He sung it to four harps at the tables of Eternity.
In heart-formed Africa.
Urizen faded! Ariston shudderd!
And thus the Song began
Adam stood in the garden of Eden:
And Noah on the mountains of Ararat;
They saw Urizen give his Laws to the Nations
By the hands of the children of Los.
Adam shudderd! Noah faded! black grew the sunny African
When Rintrah gave Abstract Philosophy to Brama in the East:
(Night spoke to the Cloud!
Lo these Human form’d spirits in smiling hipocrisy. War
Against one another; so let them War on; slaves to the eternal Elements)
Noah shrunk, beneath the waters;
Abram fled in fires from Chaldea;
Moses beheld upon Mount Sinai forms of dark delusion:
To Trismegistus. Palamabron gave an abstract Law:
To Pythagoras Socrates & Plato.
Times rolled on o’er all the sons of Har, time after time
Orc on Mount Atlas howld, chain’d down with the Chain of Jealousy
Then Oothoon hoverd over Judah & Jerusalem
And Jesus heard her voice (a man of sorrows) he recievd
A Gospel from wretched Theotormon.
The human race began to wither, for the healthy built
Secluded places, fearing the joys of Love
And the disease’d only propagated:
So Antamon call’d up Leutha from her valleys of delight:
And to Mahomet a loose Bible gave.
But in the North, to Odin, Sotha gave a Code of War,
Because of Diralada thinking to reclaim his joy.
The Song of Los – Africa-2
These were the Churches: Hospitals: Castles: Palaces:
Like nets & gins & traps to catch the joys of Eternity
And all the rest a desart;
Till like a dream Eternity was obliterated & erased.
Since that dread day when Har and Heva fled.
Because their brethren & sisters liv’d in War & Lust;
And as they fled they shrunk
Into two narrow doleful forms:
Creeping in reptile flesh upon
The bosom of the ground:
And all the vast of Nature shrunk
Before their shrunken eyes.
Thus the terrible race of Los & Enitharmon gave
Laws & Religions to the sons of Har binding them more
And more to Earth: closing and restraining:
Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete
Urizen wept & gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke
Clouds roll heavy upon the Alps round Rousseau & Voltaire:
And on the mountains of Lebanon round the deceased Gods
Of Asia; & on the deserts of Africa round the Fallen Angels
The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent
The Song of Los – Asia-1
The Kings of Asia heard
The howl rise up from Europe!
And each ran out from his Web;
From his ancient woven Den;
For the darkness of Asia was startled
At the thick-flaming, thought-creating fires of Orc.
And the Kings of Asia stood
And cried in bitterness of soul.
Shall not the King call for Famine from the heath?
Nor the Priest, for Pestilence from the fen?
To restrain! to dismay! to thin!
The inhabitants of mountain and plain;
In the day, of full-feeding prosperity;
And the night of delicious songs.
Shall not the Councellor throw his curb
Of Poverty on the laborious?
To fix the price of labour;
To invent allegoric riches:
And the privy admonishers of men
Call for fires in the City
For heaps of smoking ruins,
In the night of prosperity & wantonness
To turn man from his path,
To restrain the child from the womb,
The Song of Los – Asia-2
To cut off the bread from the city,
That the remnant may learn to obey.
That the pride of the heart may fail;
That the lust of the eyes may be quench’d:
That the delicate ear in its infancy
May be dull’d; and the nostrils clos’d up;
To teach mortal worms the path
That leads from the gates of the Grave.
Urizen heard them cry;
And his shudd’ring waving wings
Went enormous above the red flames
Drawing clouds of despair thro’ the heavens
Of Europe as he went;
And his Books of brafs iron & gold
Melted over the land as he flew,
Heavy-waving, howling, weeping.
And he stood over Judea
And stay’d in his ancient place;
And stretch’d his clouds over Jerusalem
For Adam, a mouldering skeleton
Lay bleach’d on the garden of Eden
And Noah as white as snow
On the mountains of Ararat.
Then the thunders of Urizen bellow’d aloud
from his woven darkness above.
Orc raging in European darkness
Arose like a pillar of fire above the Alps
Like a serpent of fiery flame!
The sullen Earth Shrunk
The dead dust rattling bones to bones
shaking convuls’d the shivring clay breathes
And all flesh nakes stands
Mothers & Infants: Kings
The Grave shrieks with delight & shakes
Her hollow womb & clasps the solid stem:
Her bosom swells with wild desire.
And milk & blood & glandous wine,
In rivers rush & shout & dance,
On mountain dale and plain
The Song of Los is ended