Narrative unbound


Material Information

Narrative unbound re-visioning William Blake's The four Zoas
Series Title:
The Clinamen studies series
Physical Description:
xxvi, 517 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.
Ault, Donald D
Station Hill Press
Place of Publication:
Barrytown N.Y
Publication Date:
1st ed.


Subjects / Keywords:
Narration (Rhetoric)   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: p. 513-517.
Statement of Responsibility:
Donald Ault ; foreword by George Quasha.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001044308
oclc - 13010918
notis - AFC7153
lccn - 85030377
isbn - 0882680110 :
System ID:

Table of Contents
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Front Matter
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
        Table of Contents 3
    List of Figures
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
        Page xix
        Page xx
        Page xxi
        Page xxii
        Page xxiii
        Page xxiv
        Page xxv
        Page xxvi
    Preludium : unbinding Newtonian narrative
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Introduction : altering single vision
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Narrative processes and textual features of Blake's Four Zoas
        Page 6
        Page 7
    The Four Zoas narrative and text reconsidered
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    Reflections on the ontology of reading The Four Zoas
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Region A : perspective intiation in "Night the First"
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Introduction : subverting origin and identity
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
    Embedded structures in Night I
        Page 32
        Page 33
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    First primary bracket : Tharmas/Enion
        Page 40
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    Re-surfacing of the Tharmas/Enion bracket
        Page 92
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    Second primary bracket : "Eternity"
        Page 94
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    Ironic coda
        Page 109
        Page 110
    Region B : fictions of linear causality Nights II-VI
        Page 111
        Page 112
    Introduction : mapping Nights II-VI
        Page 113
        Page 114
    Hierarchical discontinuity in Night the Second
        Page 115
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    Narrative involution in Night the Third
        Page 140
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    Telescopic reduction in Night the Fourth
        Page 162
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    Progressive re-enactment in Night the Fifth
        Page 184
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    Retrogressive re-enactment in Night the Sixth
        Page 213
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    Region C: narrative branching and convergence in Nights VIIA, VIIB, and VIII
        Page 239
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    Introduction : anatomizing the narrative field
        Page 241
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    Overlapping narrative elements
        Page 244
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    Re-surfacing of suppressed narrative elements
        Page 259
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    New narrative elements
        Page 287
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    Structures of Nights VIIA, VIIB, and VIII
        Page 327
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    Region D : counter-apocalyptic resistances in Night IX
        Page 347
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    Preludium : reading night the ninth subversively
        Page 349 (MULTIPLE)
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    Structures of Night IX
        Page 357
    Preliminary analysis of the structural interferences in Night IX
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    A linear-temporal unfolding of Night IX
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    End of the dream
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    Postscript on The Four Zoas as visual text
        Page 469
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    List of Illustrations
        Page 473
        Page 474
    On the embedding of Night VIIB in Night VIIA
        Page 475
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    Key to the epigraphs
        Page 512
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text





William Blake's
The Four Zoas

Foreword b. George Quasha



is the first full-scale interpretation of
the verbal text of Blake's most complex
long poetic prophecy, The Four Zoas.
Never engraved or published in the
poet/artist's lifetime, the poem remains
m a single manuscript, apparently unfin-
ished and heavily revised, and yet is
widely celebrated as one of Blake's most
powerful narrative works. Ault chal-
lenges the view that the poem is mnrinsi-
cally incomplete and flawed, arguing
instead that the famous difficulties of
the text are aspects of Blake's transfor-
mative narrative strategies. By respect-
ing the integrity of Blake's work, taking
every written mark on the page as
potentially functional, Ault reveals the
intricate interweaving of narrative pat-
terns and interruptions to be instrumen-
tal in conscious reading. The poetic
intent is nothing less than a complete
renovation of the reading experience,
the potential of which is the realization
of what Blake has called "Fourfold Vis-
ion." Ault's approach, which does not
assume previous knowledge of Blake's
work, serves as a guide both to reading
The Four Zoas and to participating in
perhaps the most radical poetic method
in our literature. By demonstrating how
Blake's narrative strategies subvert
habitual ways of reading, Narrative
Unbound engages m the inquiry of con-
temporary poetics: how it is that altered
processes of reading can restructure

Jacket design b Susan Quasha

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The Clinamen Studies Series
George Quasha, Editor

Donald Ault
Narrative Unbound: Re-Visioning Blake's THE FOUR ZOAS
Mark Bracher
Being Form'd: Thinking Through Blake's MILTON
Charles Stein
The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum:
The Poetic Cosmology of Charles Olson and His Use of the Writings of C. G.Jung



William Blake's
The Four Zoas

Donald Ault
Foreword by George Quasha



M 0,

ev *


Copyright 1987 by Donald Ault. All rights reserved.

First edition.

Published by Station Hill Press, in the Clinamen Studies Series, Barrytown, New
York 12507.

Grateful acknowledgement is due to the Institute for Publishing Arts, a not-
for-profit, tax-exempt organization, for production and partial financial support
of this project; and to the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency in
Washington, D.C., and the New York State Council on the Arts for continuing
support of the literary projects of Station Hill Press. Special thanks to Prof. David
V. Erdman for directing the publisher's attention to this book and for many forms
of ongoing assistance; and to the British Library, keepers of Blake's manuscript,
for the opportunity to reproduce in facsimile a dozen pages of The Four Zoas, from
photographs provided by their Manuscript Room and Photograph Services.

Designed by Susan Quasha and George Quasha. Production assistance by Richard
Gummere and Bryan McHugh.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ault, Donald D.
Narrative unbound.

Bibliography: p.
1. Blake, William, 1757-1827. Four Zoas.
2. Blake, William, 1757-1827-Technique. 3. Narration
(Rhetoric) I. Title.
PR4144.F683A9 1987 821'.7 85-30377
ISBN 0-88268-011-0

Manufactured in the United States of America.


List of Charts viii
Foreword ix
Preliminary Remarks xi
Textual Note xxiv
Acknowledgements xxv


Perspective Transformation 6
Aspectual Interconnection 7
Perspective Transformation 8
Aspectual Interconnection: The "Fall" as Privileged Event and Pretext 10
Text as Flight 12
Text as Woven Pattern or Schema 16


Los/Enitharmon: First Phase 58
Los/Enitharmon: Transition 59
Los/Enitharmon: Second Phase 60
Interpolated Visions: Sub-Embedded Structure I:
Enitharmon's "Song of Vala" 63
Interpolated Visions: Sub-Embedded Structure II: Los's Response 66
Los/Enitharmon: Third Phase: Urizen/Los/Enitharmon 68
Los/Enitharmon: Second Sub-Embedded Structure: The "Feast" 75
The Feast: Sub-Embedded Phase: "The Nuptial Song" 81





WAR 255
ORC 259
Perceptual Structures of the Shadow 288
Narrative Consequences of the Shadow 298


The Tharmas/Enion Embrace 360

The Trumpet Sounding 361
The Harvest 363
Consuming, Consummation, Flames, and Fires 363
The Feast 365
The Luvah/Vala Plot 367

Postscript on The Four Zoas as Visual Text 469
List of Illustrations 473
Appendix: On the Embedding of Night VIIB in Night VIIA 475
Notes 481
Key to the Epigraphs 512
Bibliography 513

List of Charts

Fig. 1.1: Abstract Bracketed Structures for Night I 20
Fig. 1.2: Abstract Bracketed Embedded Structures in Night IX 21
Fig. A. 1: Primary Brackets of Night the First 32
Fig. A.2: Embedded Structures of the Tharmas/Enion Bracket 34-35
Fig. A.3: Abstract Bracketed Structures for Night I 38-39
Fig. A.4: "This [is] the Song! Sung at the Feast of Los and Enitharmon" 90-91
Fig. B.1: Hierarchical Discontinuity in Night the [Second] 138-139
Fig. B.2: Narrative Involution in Night the Third 160-161
Fig. B.3: Telescopic Reduction in Night the Fourth 182-183
Fig. B.4: Progressive Re-enactment in Night the Fifth 210-211
Fig. B.5: Progressive Re-enactment in Night the Sixth 236-237
Fig. C.1: Night the Seventh (a): Three Verbal/Bodily Conferences 330-331
Fig. C.2: Night the Seventh (b): Re-Orientation of Perspective Through Parallel 334-335
Fig. C.3: Night the Eighth: Dialectic of Discontinuous Information Segments 338-339
Fig. D.1: Abstract Bracketed Embedded Structures in Night IX 359
Fig. D.2: Pseudo-symmetrical Structures in Night IX 371
Fig. D.3: Night the Ninth: Symmetrical Nested Structures 376-377
Fig. X.1: Abstract of Night VIIa 477
Fig. X.2: Abstract of Night VIIb 478
Fig. X.3: Abstract of Night VIIb Embedded in Night VIIa 479


Laying Eyes on The Four Zoas

Where shall we take our stand to view the infinite & unbounded
The Four Zoas IX (122:24)

Even among the small number of powerful artists who cannot be fully absorbed by Western
tradition, Blake stands out as radically challenging to consensual values of every kind and at every
level. A century and a half after the fact, to celebrate him as a great poet or visual artist, even
excluding the issues of"intermedia art," is still to invite serious disputation. Understandably, and
usefully. Too easy agreement is as much a menace to his actual contribution as all out denuncia-
tion. The call of his work is not toward accommodation but transformation.
Consider what it would be like to acknowledge Blake as a great poet with no readers. Histori-
cally this is easy to see: in Blake's time few indeed had the opportunity to read the prophetic books
at all, since the small number printed remained in private (or the poet's own) hands. The Four
Zoas, his most problematic long text, remained in manuscript, unpublished, "unfinished,"
almost certainly unread. Even if the prophetic works had been widely available-a condition
complexly contrary to the nature of their insular composition-could we truly project an
appropriate reader for his time, a reader, that is, able to follow him at the level of his own journey?
For whom did he write? We read him as though he wrote for us. And we read him with ever
greater confidence, supported by brilliant scholarship, interpretation, and commentary. At times
the wild and woolly poet burning bright comes to seem rather like the pussycat image that
illuminates "The Tyger."Perhaps no other poetic oeuvre is so poignantly at risk amidst critical
"progress" and the pursuit of full intelligibility. But no need to worry. The textual immune
system remains vital, and interpretative transplants are eventually rejected. One has only to
return to the naked and often ungainly words on the page-more appropriately, the "prophetic"
handwriting on the plate or paper (even less reassuring than the kind on the wall) -to get the
authentic thrill of deathless unknowing.
Whether Blake wrote for Catherine or a secret coterie or some other historical reader can
hardly be discovered with certainty, and it is doubtful whether this reductive question much
addresses his challenge to existing models of reading. On the other hand, to construct an "ideal
reader" runs deeply against the grain of his transformative intent. When he offers us the end of a
Golden String leading to Jerusalem, he tells us we can be other than we now appear to be. This
serious promise of personal transformation implies that any projection of ideality is delusion, at
best amplifying present limitations. In the strictest sense, Blake wrote for no one. Instead he
opened a path and created a vehicle to travel it. In this respect he saw his task as following
visionary instructions, making art as a gateway to unknown terrain. Said differently, Blake wrote
for thepossible reader.
Standing before the huge pages of the Four Zoas manuscript, recently on exhibit at the New
York Public Library (apparently its first time in America), I was overwhelmed by its sheer
physicality. Its 123/4 x 16'/2 inch pages are too big to hold. This is a book only by a stretch of
imagination. It seems rather like a concrete space with a massive interior; the eyes tend to move in
and look around. If "Being is round," as Bachelard insists, here is a medium where it feels at
home; the "environmental" space incorporates, promotes the Book as living entity, asks to be
impregnated by reading. Applying a famous set of Contraries, The Four Zoas is the Art of the
Book in the raw, whereas Jerusalem is a point.

Laying eyes on the first page of the poem, I found myself able to "re-vision" the matter of
revision itself, seeing through (not with) the words to the incomplete erasures. I realized how
much this object is the work Blake made. Its pull is straight on, perpendicular to the axis of the
viewer, holographic and extra-dimensional. Seeing/reading becomes tactile, like moving
through veils to touch the body of the "real poem"; yet one finds instead a vibrant openness. The
"direction" of reading is multivalent, and, while in every moment perception is definite and
unique, the reader is not encouraged to find unity and consistency but multiplicity and difference.
The act of reading is in various ways involved in the very process of revision-seeing again,
writing again, following the literal underwriting as a cue to retrace the activity of "Blake" the
revisioner. This "accident" of the text, that it comes to us in manuscript and somehow still a
work-in-progress, inescapably offers an insight into its transformative poetics.
To read the poem in this "physical" way is to be haunted by what it chooses not to say,
undermining the "authority" of what is said. It asks not to be taken at face value but to be used as
the site of continuous self-re-vision. The past-either as previous text, the nostalgia for unity, or
the projection of an origin-is creation, a fictive option of the virtual narrative in which the
reader is inevitably co-creative. Anterior reality, that from which the present is presumed to arise,
is not "back there" but "in here," interior to the moment of reading, and is constantly being
rewritten. To embrace this truth, as Blake urges, is to escape induction into the trance of
consensus, the compulsive drama of personal perspective and the binding logic of linear narra-
tive; in short, to gain conscious choice.
Habituated as we are to reading typeset editions, we easily confuse The Four Zoas with "ordi-
nary text," literature. A by-product of ignoring its non-ordinary, very special reality is mistaking
its evident unfinished state for incompletion and underestimating the complexity of Blake's
realized intentions. To acknowledge its completion (which is not to say its revisionary process
could not have continued) is to accept its invitation to be willingly disrupted by its narrative
interruptions and to engage transubstantially with its matter. The appropriate frame of mind for
this unexampled species of mental travel is certainly akin to Negative Capability, the art of
experiencing doubt and mystery as possibility; and,just as usefully, Positive Incapability, an art of
accepting the impossibility of right interpretation as an opening to initiation into Fourfold
Vision. This is a retentional art, leading to energetic dialogue (Visionary Forms Dramatic) rather
than the orgasmic release of reified apocalypse. Blake says, "Rest before labor," not after, for
"with enlarged & numerous senses" one is "living going forth & returning" and thereby empow-
ered to act in the world.
The Four Zoas is an emergent work, evolving with its readers and just now coming fully into
view. This perspective is enhanced, as we go to press, by the publication of The Four Zoas by
William Blake: A Photographic Facsimile of the Manuscript with Commentary on the Illuminations, by
Cettina Tramontano Magno and David Erdman, as masterful and indispensable as Erdman's The
Illuminated Blake before it. Donald Ault's Narrative Unbound also reaches for the actual Book,
respecting the integrity of Blake's poetics by commitment to the poem as intrinsically complete.
Responding to virtually every written mark on the page as well as every created gap in the
narrative, he accepts the challenge of the text at the level of radical intentionality. He relentlessly
steers between the interpretive Scylla and Charybdis ofoverconcretization and unlimited associa-
tion, and keeps to the bounding line of the poem's energetic trajectory. Narrative Unbound meets
The Four Zoas face to face, risking full embodiment of Blake's subversive poetics, his unending
inquiry into conscious reading,his uncompromising stand -willing to have no readers to create
the possible reader-for the unbounded. George Quasha
George Quasha

Preliminary Remarks

This study arose out of my desire to re-think the narrative foundations of William Blake's The
Four Zoas and to provide the reader with a process text that plausibly retells this immensely
complex manuscript poem's narrative through analytical discourse. By turning critical attention
to what has been left unthought in previous accounts of the poem, I offer a description of the
poem's narrative operations that is not intended to compete with the existing body of Blake
scholarship but rather to be fundamentally incommensurable with it.' More specifically, in
exploring the unique narrative properties of The Four Zoas, I have tried to make the reader as much
of a stranger as possible to Blake's unusual universe of discourse in order to accentuate the
differences between Blake and other poets, between The Four Zoas and Blake's other poems, and
between Narrative Unbound and other Blake criticism.
Accordingly, I have attempted as much as possible not to presuppose that the reader of this
book is familiar with Blake's other poetry or with the interpretive assumptions governing the
majority of Blake criticism. This strategy is an advantage for readers of Narrative Unbound who
are not Blake specialists, but a difficult suspension of belief for those, like myself, who have
internalized these assumptions. Stated otherwise, The Four Zoas I am addressing in Narrative
Unbound is a fundamentally different poem from The Four Zoas as it has been treated within the
paradigmatic conceptions that have dominated the analysis of Blake.2
This attempt to defamiliarize the reader with Blake's poetics has involved me in a process of
interpretation that requires constant retroactive reconstitution of "facts" or reader "events";
whenever I have looked back over my interpretive journey, the landscape has significantly altered.
Each time I have returned to readjust the overall analysis to accommodate a new (additional or
contrary) interpretation of a detail, the entire network of narrative interconnections began to
transform, sometimes radically: details that were the figure were now the ground; details that
previously had escaped my notice suddenly became the most important textual elements. I have
come to accept this process, which takes on the quality of Blake's own interminable revising of
The Four Zoas, as endless and inevitable, one in which the final fixity of meaning is neither
possible nor desirable.
This inexhaustible revision derives from presiding assumptions of Narrative Unbound's
inquiry-that every detail in the poem has aesthetic and perceptual significance and that the most
minute articulations of similarity and discrimination of difference hold the keys to vast narrative
riches. This study's recurrent interpretive practices involve finding similarities in apparent differ-
ences and finding differences in apparent similarities and, in the process, calling attention to what
has been omitted that apparently "should" be there in the text and interrogating the presence of
disruptive elements that, it seems, "should not" be there.
This relentless interrogation of similarities and differences, of anomalous exclusions and inclu-
sions, emphasizes the positive function of a large number of textual details that have been
previously disregarded by critics because these details 1) have been assumed to result from the
"unfinished" manuscript state of The Four Zoas or 2) have appeared to be anomalies or discrepan-
cies that interfere with, even contradict, traditional models of poetic coherence. By contrast,
Narrative Unbound assumes that the process of interference by means of discrepant details is an
irreducible reality of The Four Zoas narrative and demonstrates how a close analysis of the poem
from this particularizing vantage calls attention to details which in turn provide access to signifi-
cant but previously unarticulated structures in the text.


Narrative Unbound and the Textuality of The Four Zoas

Narrative Unbound is the first minutely detailed interpretation of the verbal text of "THE
FOUR ZOAS / The torments of Love &Jealousy in / The Death and Judgement / of Albion the
Ancient Man / by William Blake 1797," which was originally titled "VALA / OR / The Death
andJudgement of the (Eternal) [Ancient] Man / a DREAM / of Nine Nights / by William Blake
1797."3 The complexity of the poem's textual state has encouraged critics to resort to ex-
ternal, intertextual sources, either in Blake's other works or in texts not written by Blake, for
resolution of the poem's difficulties. My assumption, however, has been that it is both possible
and fruitful not to appeal to such intertextual lures but to keep a kind of tunnel vision focused on
The Four Zoas itself, without restricting analysis exclusively, or even predominantly, to
textual problems as such. The extent of the revisions and rearrangements of The Four Zoas text
indicates that its narrative difficulties are part and parcel of Blake's compositional/philosophical
situation, not an obfuscation of it. Thus, in Narrative Unbound, the manuscript status of The Four
Zoas serves as an index of Blake's compositional strategies rather than of his compositional
failures. When taken to be strategic, Blake's revisions begin to make uncanny sense as gestures
that address issues of psychic/ontological revision extending far beyond the boundaries of The
Four Zoas.
The manuscript status of The Four Zoas,4 like that of the poems in his Notebook reveals Blake's
elaborate, even obsessive, processes of composition and revision. Blake worked on The Four Zoas
over an undetermined period of time, usually taken to be approximately 1796-1807. During this
time influences seem to have passed back and forth between the Zoas and Milton and erusalem,
Blake's two later finished prophecies, in ways that render it impossible to determine exactly when
Blake decided to revise the Zoas no further,6 diminishing the possibility that the poem is no more
than a chronological bridge between Blake's earlier and later completed works. Even a superficial
glance at the manuscript, especially its most heavily over-written pages-with passages crossed
out, inserted, and sometimes drastically rearranged-reveals a veritable textual labyrinth. These
textual tangles have naturally generated a range of speculation from conflicting critical perspec-
tives concerning why the poem exists only in manuscript form, but virtually all of it comes to the
same conclusion: Blake's abandonment of the poem left it in a flawed, unfinished state of incom-
pleteness, even though recent criticism has come to recognize that "unfinishedness" may have a
formal poetic value.7
Years ago Northrop Frye, whose authority has sustained the paradigmatic approach to Blake,
proposed that Blake abandoned the poem due to a shift in the priorities of his evolving mythol-
ogy, calling The Four Zoas "The greatest abortive masterpiece in English literature" and its
"unfinished state a major cultural disaster."8 Another tradition of criticism, exemplified perhaps
most persuasively by Morton Paley, has held that Blake tried unsuccessfully to graft a Christian
framework onto the poem and so turned his attention to Milton and especially toJerusalem where,
from the outset, it is assumed, Blake is deeply committed to his own special brand of Christian-
ity.9 David Erdman and G.E. Bentley, Jr., the two most relentlessly vigilant editors of The Four
Zoas, have engaged in interpretive battles over the poem's textual details, but they agree that the
poem is flawed because it is unfinished. Based on his close examination of the text, Erdman
suggested some years ago that Blake may have intended The Four Zoas to be a unique illuminated
manuscript which he eventually abandoned when the revising process (for whatever reasons) got
out of hand.10 Bentley has argued that Blake's haphazard habits of revising were themselves
primarily responsible for Blake's failure to complete the poem." Though Erdman is much more


reluctant to fault Blake for carelessness, references to Blake's "giving up" on the poem are
essential to Erdman's editorial logic and rhetoric.
Though broad agreement has been reached about many features of The Four Zoas text, it suffers
from what might be called intra-textual excessivity: its sheer physical status is sufficiently inde-
terminate (or over determined) to render any final judgements about it merely conjectural.'2
Controversies concerning, for example, the precise period and sequences of composition and
revision, the dating of states of certain revisions with respect to one another, and the
inclusion, exclusion, and ordering of specific textual blocks are often undecidable. Other prob-
lems, notably the existence of two textual segments named "Night the Seventh,"' the multiple
endings to the First Night,14 or the absence of an unequivocal beginning to "Night the [Sec-
ond],"'5 pose threats to any critic attempting to extract Blake's "final intention" from such
particular textual situations. At times Blake leaves open or indeterminate the rules for interpret-
ing what and how segments of the text should be included or excluded, while at other times he is
meticulously clear about these matters.'6
While these facts about The Four Zoas have in one sense been a nightmare for textual critics,
they have simultaneously constituted a treasure trove, an extraordinary field of play for exploring
the limits and rules of textual editing. Similarly, the manuscript status of the poem, which has
allowed (indeed driven) critics to retreat from the poem's uncompromising complexities by
appealing to its incompleteness (or, in some cases, ignoring or selectively acknowledging the
interpretive problems the manuscript presents),' actually provides a unique opportunity to
explore the ways that the textuality of The Four Zoas challenges cherished assumptions concern-
ing what in fact a text is. In its naked preservation of the traces of its struggle to be (re)composed,
The Four Zoas pushes to the foreground the productive labor of writing: it is a text that insists on
its own radical heterogeneity, on its own struggle to be different from itself, indeed, ultimately on
its process of eradicating a potentially unitary textual "self" from which "it" could "differ."
One mark of the poem's heterogeneity lies in the fact that Blake never stitched it together as a
whole but only in parts, while he never bound many of the leaves at all.18 Perhaps the most
immediately visible mark of this self-differing of the text, however, is in Blake's revision of the
poem's title: Blake deleted both the name "VALA" and the reference to the poem as "a DREAM /
of Nine Nights"; yet he left the name "VALA" and the label of "Night" suspended over the
beginning of each division of the poem. One response to this incongruity is to assume that, since
this title change was evidently one of the last revisions made to the manuscript, Blake simply did
not care enough to go back and change the titles of each of the poem's divisions in the manuscript
to make them consistent with the title of the poem as a whole but would have done so had he ever
finished the poem. An alternative assumption, however, more congruent with the argument of
Narrative Unbound, is that, as it stands, the text announces, through a disparity in names, a radical,
unresolvable disjunction between its totality and its divisions-that its parts do not add up to a
whole; or that its parts exceed the whole; or, perhaps, that the very possibility of the poem's
existing as a coherent, closed totality is a fundamental problem that the poem is addressing.
Seen in this light, The Four Zoas enacts in the field of an ostensibly single text the process of
self-differing that occurs in the multiple copies of finished poems that Blake printed. In other
poems, as is well known, Blake changed illuminations from copy to copy, rendering no two texts
precisely alike and thereby undermining efforts to make the texts completely consistent with one
another or even "variations" on a privileged, primordial text." Some of the variations in different
copies of Blake's printed poems may issue, of course, from what Robert Essick calls "medium
reflexive" effects, that is, variations that are the result of the medium of reproduction rather than


of authorial "intention."20 In this respect, the critic of The Four Zoas is at an advantage: since all
the variations are incorporated into a single textual field as literal revisions, the dilemma of
"medium reflexive" effects is minimized. Furthermore, in the printed illuminated poems, the
verbal text is not so easily revised as the visual, so variation/revision takes place primarily within
the visual dimension of the text, either through a modification of colors or of visual details and
effects or through a reordering of the plates (as in Songs of Innocence and of Experience or The
Book of Urizen). In The Four Zoas, however, the verbal text is the primary field of revisionary play:
Blake does verbally in The Four Zoas what he does visually in other poems: he keeps it unfinished
to preserve an alternative kind of openness. Since the absence of some form of finality is a mark of
Blake's textual production, the unfinished state of The Four Zoas need not be seen as an indication
of failure. To the extent that this poem is the verbal equivalent of the illuminated texts, it
appropriately announces itself as open to endless revision.
The visual field of The Four Zoas is itself, however, similarly riddled with heterogeneous
self-differing. For example, although the bulk of the manuscript is written on large sheets
supplied for Blake's drawings and proofs of Edward Young's Night Thoughts, 21 the sheets of this
paper on which Blake composed most of the first two and a half "Nights" of The Four Zoas were
originally clean and are distinguished by a heavily revised verbal text accompanied by original
drawings in varying degrees of completeness, which Blake created specifically for Vala or The
Four Zoas. As the manuscript now stands, beginning in Night III (page 43), the physical surfaces
on which the verbal text of The Four Zoas is written are used proof sheets of Blake's elegant Night
Thoughts illustrations, which call attention to this external literary production from which The
Four Zoas specifically differs.22 Blake usually filled in both the empty space in the middle of the
illustration on the recto side of each proof sheet and the otherwise blank verso side, where he
continued to write the poem's verbal text and usually sketched new drawings to accompany it.
This pattern of composition is consistent (with a few exceptions) until the end of the poem.23 The
last page of The Four Zoas is written on the verso side of the title page of "Night the First" of
Young's Night Thoughts, creating a temptation to see the poem making a full circle: but this is
only conjectural; as the manuscript stands, the poem does not begin with Night Thoughts illustra-
tions. (See below pages 474 and 480 for the two sides of the terminal page.)
Numerous other more minute rifts abound in the visual field, but even this fundamental
division of the visual base for the verbal text (the Night Thoughts and non-Night Thoughts visual
fields) creates differing sets of relationships between the visual and verbal texts in different parts
of the poem, a problem which is also reflected in different handwriting styles in the different parts
of the poem (sometimes even of the same page). Because there is no consistency with regard to
the dating of the composition of the verbal text in relation to the leaves on which it was written,
speculation concerning the relations between the verbal and visual texts could range widely,24 but
all such speculations would be anchored in the desire to master The Four Zoas, to disguise its
power to stand forth as an enunciation of its own internal self-inquiry, to seek answers where the
text insists on questions.
These verbal/visual problems are fundamental to Blake's entire visionary project; however,
examining relations between the verbal and the visual aspects of Blake's text not only would have
opened up a parallel inquiry demanding interpretive strategies of a different order25 but would
have exponentially expanded the volume of this already lengthy study by the process of intefer-
ence that complicates Blake's own work. In general, therefore, except for brief commentary on
the illustrations reproduced in this book, Narrative Unbound is silent concerning the visual dimen-


sions of The Four Zoas. (See Postscript below, pages 469-473.)
Taking even the verbal revisions seriously carries with it serious and pervasive consequences.
For example, when Blake inserts a textual segment into The Four Zoas, this insertion affects the
entire narrative field from that point on, not just the point of insertion. More specifically, when I
say, for example, that in Night IX the Eternal Man is "unaware" of the Lamb of God creating
Beulah in Night I, it may be argued that originally there was nothing to be aware of; i.e., this
"fact" has come into existence in Night I only through a revision which cannot be firmly dated in
relation to Blake's composition of the sequence in Night IX. From the perspective of Narrative
Unbound, however, the positioning of the insertion in the temporal order of the narrative (i.e., in
Night I rather than Night IX where it would call attention to the Eternal Man's ignorance/
forgetting) is its fundamental meaning: it enacts in the reader the same forgetting as that of
the Eternal Man, and the textually distant intrusion of the Lamb conceals a jealousy plot in-
volving a covert sexual triangle between the Lamb, the Eternal Man, and Jerusalem that ripples
throughout the entire poem and finds its most disturbing realization in Night IX. This example
is not arbitrary, for it demonstrates how Narrative Unbound treats Biblical and especially Christian
elements as fictional variables and uproots their referential stability by persistently questioning
the function of Blake's Christian revisions to The Four Zoas. The addition of the phrase, "the
Torments of Love & Jealousy" to the revised title, for example, is not just coincidental with
Blake's grafting of intrusive Christian elements onto the poem; this title alteration is an aspect of
the poem's radical recontextualization of the conventionally suppressed erotic dimensions of

Narrative Unbound and Blake Criticism
I began this study while my first book, Visionary Physics: Blake's Response to Newton, was still in
production. Because the difficulty and unself-evident nature of the "discoveries" I had made
concerning Blake's relation to Newton caused that book to seem to be a fundamentally "new"
kind of work, it was hailed as a "breakthrough" in Blake criticism.27 In fact, however, it uncriti-
cally accepted most of the methodological strategies that dominated thinking about Blake at that
time, and its major novelty or innovation was to explore peripheral possibilities that were already
contained in the dominant paradigm of Blake studies. Chief among the assumptions of this
paradigm were, first, the belief that Blake's poetic project is patterned on the fall/
redemption/apocalypse model articulated most influentially by Northrop Frye and elaborated by
Harold Bloom, a model which presupposes the desirability of a teleologically closed or unified
text or "system"; second, that Blake's "characters" (or atomic elements of his system) are inter-
changeable or transposable from one poem to another, functioning as allegorical or symbolic
projections of complex forces (psychic, mythic, religious, political, etc.), because Blake's sys-
tem, whether internally coherent or not, is assumed to exist at the level of the content of his
myth-i.e., in the composite or evolving meaning of his characters and the actions they perform;
third, that certain temptingly extractable doctrinal statements and definitions scattered through-
out Blake's texts hold a privileged status of truth that can be appealed to unproblematically; and
fourth, that decoding textual and historical references in Blake's texts (pioneered by critics such as
S. Foster Damon and David Erdman)28 is an indispensable key to unlocking Blake's meaning.
These methodological presuppositions supplied the conditions under which Visionary Physics



could be written. I did not question the fall/redemption/apocalypse model; I traced the evolution
of Blake's characters and images as allegories of scientific principles; I extracted doctrinal state-
ments from their narrative contexts; and I persistently sought sources, parallels, or structural
homologies that would make troublesome details in Blake's poetry coherent by reference to
mathematical and philosophical texts not written by Blake. Indeed, it was because its achieve-
ment could be situated in and measured against these strategies of prior Blake criticism that
Visionary Physics could be recognized as a "breakthrough" at all.
As my work on The Four Zoas progressed, Visionary Physics seemed more and more to have
involved a fundamental transgression of Blake's own project, due, at least in part, to the residual
influence of the "Chicago" Neo-Aristotelian emphasis on "adequacy" of explanation as a func-
tion of the kinds of details that have to be left out of an analytical account ofa text.29 Because I had
gone through the processes of historical decoding and intertextualizing that were central to
Visionary Physics, I was able to come to grips with the conditions under which such work could be
done and to understand what such a project had forced me to ignore or unconsciously assume.
Some variation of the fall/redemption/apocalypse model is what holds together the
methodological assumptions of traditional Blake criticism. It is in relation to this model that
critics have often proceeded as if it were not possible to talk about Blake's long works without
extensive cross-referencing to Blake's other works, a tendency which Blake encourages by using
the same names over and over from one work to another. Critics have tended to see those
cross-references functioning in two ways: as pointing toward Blake's poetry as ultimately a
coherent, systematic canon, or as pointing toward radical shifts in Blake's beliefs which can be
mapped by reference to the same character names as they come to express his altered or contradic-
tory systematic drives.
The assumption that certain doctrinal statements, which occur with extreme infrequency, can
be read unequivocally across the body of Blake's poetry often prevents critics from seeing how
these propositional eruptions are themselves contextualized by their surrounding networks of
details and how conflicting statements may function to open up a play of differences rather than to
indicate Blake's confusion or unsystematic, carelessly fabricated philosophy. The lure of such
extractable doctrines is perhaps unavoidable: it even persists into Narrative Unbound itself, which
begins by invoking Blake's dictum, "the Eye altering alters all," as if it were a universal principle
independent of its particular poetic context. One such "doctrine" of special interest to this study
is the identification of the characters Urizen, Luvah, Tharmas, and Urthona as "the Four Zoas."
Although the four names appear together at one point in a deleted line following 104:37 they are
never called "the Four Zoas" in the poem bearing "their" label, though they are so identified in
Milton and Jerusalem.
Resorting to materials external to Blake's own poetry to overcome its intransigencies follows a
double path similar to that followed in the analysis ofBlake's characters and system: it allows one
to see (as in Leopold Damrosch's eclectic Symbol and Truth in Blake's Myth)30 how Blakefails or
(as in Jacki DiSalvo's Marxist/feminist War of Titans)3' how Blake succeeds in incorporating/
transforming external materials into a totalized (utopian) vision. The power of such external
intertextualizing, whether or not it involves Blake's other writings, is that it allows the critic to
explicate and pass judgment on Blake's project by reference to a system/analogue which is itself
presumed to be masterable and at the same time provides a means of escape from some of the most
problematic dimensions of Blake's poetry.
These critical assumptions most relevantly dominate the first book-length reading of The Four


Zoas, Brian Wilkie and Mary LynnJohnson's Blake's "Four Zoas": The Design of a Dream .32 In their
own words: "we expect [our book] fundamentally to reinforce the consensus of Blakeans; if we
were to arrive at an interpretation that radically contradicted those ofJohn Middleton Murry or
Northrop Frye or the early Harold Bloom, we would belie our basic premise about the poem's
firmness of meaning and its subtle but demonstrable coherence."33 In the self-consciousness of its
stance as a confirmation of the dominant paradigm of Blake's myth-a filling in of details in
relationship to it-Wilkie andJohnson's book stands at the end or culmination, the most extreme
fulfillment, of the presuppositions that have until quite recently informed the Blake critical
Wilkie andJohnson, often elegantly, invoke the assumption that there is a central coordinating
paradigm for Blake's poetry, especially The Four Zoas, that is so embedded in Blake criticism as to
be beyond question: that there is (or was) a prior unified world from which the "fall" took place;
that much of The Four Zoas consists in the different ways characters incompletely, inac-
curately, and contradictorily "remember" the "fall"; that there exists a partially inexplicable
swerve toward a "redemptive" vision toward the end of Night VIIa in which the character Los
undergoes a kind of conversion experience; and that the poem strives toward a renovation,
depicted in the unfolding events of Night IX, that reinstates or improves on the original state of
Throughout their argument, Wilkie and Johnson's assumption of a movement in the narrative
world from fall to apocalypse prevents them from taking seriously either the radical instabilities
and resistances to the emergence of a unified world represented in the text or the extent to which a
goal-oriented interpretation of the events presented in the poem may conceal or divert attention
away from disturbing challenges with which The Four Zoas constantly assaults the reader. They
consider characters to be fundamentally interchangeable from one Blake poem to another, usu-
ally assuming that the "final" formulation of Blake's myth justifies their tendency to read retroac-
tively from clues embedded in Milton andjerusalem in order to stabilize narrative relations in The
Four Zoas between, for example, Los and Urthona or Orc and Luvah. When anomalies crop up,
as they do all the time, Wilkie and Johnson characteristically turn away from the immediate
webbing of the textual event to external sources or analogues.
Although it is misleading to assume that Narrative Unbound simply offers a counter-paradigm,
rather than an account incommensurable with the traditional paradigm, it is nevertheless true that
in this study the "fall" is considered provisionally, as a narrative pretext for enacting a "fall" in the
reader; "memories" are treated as ways of fictionalizing the present which contribute to the
possibility of the myth of the "fall"; Los's actions late in Night VIIa are microscopically inter-
rogated to reveal the dilemma of considering these events as unequivocally "redemptive"; and
Night IX is read subversively in order to resist the pull of its apocalyptic teleology by focusing on
the presence of structural interference that undermine the closure of the narrative. Furthermore,
Narrative Unbound entertains the possibility that, although characters with identical names appear
in other Blake poems, their modes of entry and their actions in The Four Zoas are unique to this
poem and may be illuminatingly considered as signifying new, unfamiliar characters. Finally,
Narrative Unbound attempts to resist the temptation to escape anomalies by recourse to exterior
sources. Rather discrepancies are taken to be significant as such.
Since The Design of a Dream did not appear until 1978, bringing with it the full persuasiveness
of the Blake critical community, it is not surprising that when I began working on this Four Zoas
project in 1971, there was little Blake criticism that turned away from or openly questioned the



critical presuppositions of the dominant paradigm. At approximately the same time, however,
the analyses of Helen T. McNeil, George Quasha, David Wagenknecht,James C. Evans, Ronald
Grimes, and others were beginning to explore from very different perspectives the same rifts in
the paradigm that I was bringing into question.34 Simultaneously, as close critical attention had
already begun to turn toward the visual dimensions of Blake's texts, in the work ofJohn E. Grant,
W.J.T. Mitchell, Robert Essick, and others,"3 the microscopic subversive surface of Blake's
illuminations began to break down the verbal paradigmatic walls.
During the last few years, especially in the wake of feminist and post-structuralist strategies
and the revitalization of Marxist and psychoanalytic criticism, tendencies in Blake studies much
more in line with my own work have begun to emerge. Recent collections of essays on Blake
reflect this changing critical climate by expressing dissatisfaction with the state of Blake criticism
and emphasizing previously marginal concerns,36 and the work of a new historicist like Jerome
McGann is addressing the structural meaning of Blake's textual anomalies.37 Mark Bracher's
Being Form'd: Thinking Through Blake's "Milton" and Fred Dortort's The Dialectic of Vision: A New
Reading of Blake's "Jerusalem" swerve decisively away from previous critical consensus on Blake
because, in these extremely detailed interpretations of Blake's longest completed poems, they
construct theoretical frameworks that allow them to confront anomalies avoided in previous
studies of these poems.38 It is inevitable, however, that even critics who focus on the subversive
tendencies of Blake's poetry sometimes uncritically retain key assumptions of the traditional
paradigm as they reformulate Blake's texts in relation to new terminologies and methodological
These recent departures from the state that Blake criticism was in when I began Narrative Un-
bound exist within a larger theoretical matrix circumscribed by, among many others, two di-
mensions of the politics of interpretive authority relevant to this study: first, a suspicion of master
texts (as The Four Zoas might well be considered) and of any attempt to master texts (as Narrative
Unbound might appear to do),"3 and, second, a hypersensitivity to the double-bind of the ideol-
ogy of citation-the inevitable complicity of any writer in perpetuating the underlying power
relations of the critical situation s/he wishes to modify or overthrow by virtue of the unques-
tioned demand that every new work be strategically situated in relation to prior work in the
field.40 These two ideological concerns are in some ways opposed-the former being taken up as
part of the feminist critique ofphallocentric systematicity, while the latter is deeply embedded in
the paradigmatic conception of progress in literary criticism and theory. Only if criticism
develops by moving in and through ideological paradigms established by interpretive com-
munities can clean breaks with prior authority, such as those attempted by some feminist writers,
be impossible or incomprehensible.41
In choosing The Four Zoas for my "master" text, however, I have been drawn toward providing
an account of Blake that is fundamentally incommensurable with previous criticism, in part
because The Four Zoas is the most uncanonical, unmanageable, and recalcitrant text Blake ever
wrote. The poem's internal operations exceed the possibility of mastery by virtue of their
heterogeneity and complexity. Instead of the poem's unfinished state rendering it incomplete, it
makes the poem too much and too diverse to be mastered. In the process of attempting to
revitalize the strangeness of The Four Zoas, I have been drawn toward a "Blake" who is perhaps as
incomprehensible a figure today as the historical Blake was in his own time. Consequently, rather
than establishing its authority by invoking the traditional paradigm in order to revise or refute it,
Narrative Unbound more accurately demands, as a condition of its production and reception, a
provisional abandonment of the myth of academic authority as its primary axis of interpretation,



by means of a strategic forgetting of Blake criticism and, as much as possible, Blake's other
Such a forgetting or bracketing out of Blake's other texts and of Blake criticism is, of course,
not really possible; indeed how could anyone attempt to forget an entire body of criticism and
poetry and yet forge an argument that would precisely swerve away from that criticism's presup-
positions toward articulating the radical difference between The Four Zoas and the rest of Blake's
writings? The necessity of invoking such a hypothetical forgetting came only after I had begun
work on The Four Zoas. Instead of beginning by strategic forgetting, I began by wondering what
would happen if the critical priorities were inverted-if the supposed substance of Blake's myth
were merely a network of pretexts or narrative operators while the anomalies, revisions, disrup-
tions, and interference were the primary features of his work. Eventually, I saw how such a
simple inversion of priorities was insufficient, how the very assumption that certain dimensions
of Blake's Four Zoas project are systematically subordinate to others began to break down as I
gradually glimpsed the way pretexts and anomalies began to intersect and interfere with one
another in my own work. Consequently, I felt constrained to develop the conceptual framework
of Narrative Unbound not only to free its operations as much as possible from the temptations to
which I fell prey in Visionary Physics-that is, to prevent my flight to the exterior contexts of
Blake's other poems and the assumptions of Blake criticism-but also to avoid a reductive
inverted valorization of only those elements of Blake's poetry that were incapable of being
addressed by the dominant paradigm.
The primary risks involved in forgetting or suspending these assumptions are 1) a radical
closing off of my analysis from those explanatory possibilities still left open and unexplored by
the traditional paradigm and 2) the possibility of being incomprehensible to (misread and dismis-
sed by) the book's primary audience. The risk involved in remembering these influential assump-
tions, however, is, at worst, a blindness to the sometimes astonishing effects specific to The Four
Zoas and to the way such paradigmatic assumptions are violated by the text at its extremes -at the
most minute and the most comprehensive levels of analysis.

Narrative Unbound and Other Critical Methods and Theories
Invoking the "text" as a stable being that can be "violated" by paradigmatic assumptions and
that, consequently, has the authority to pass judgment on interpretive strategies, brings us to the
intersection of Narrative Unbound and the concerns of contemporary literary theory. No one familiar
with the developments in critical theory in recent years can read Narrative Unbound without
noting some of its differences from certain strains of pragmatic and Marxist theories of literary
meaning as well as its similarities to certain other post-structuralist, reader response,
phenomenological, Marxist, psychoanalytical, feminist, and new historicist methods. Because
Blake's texts already address the issues confronted by these methods, these relationships are not
accidental. Though the basic impulses of Narrative Unbound arose directly out of my dissatisfac-
tion with my own previous work on Blake, it would be disingenuous of me to say that this
project has not been in some fundamental sense influenced by recent critical developments.42
Although I initially conceived my project as not needing schools of interpretive authority to
legitimize it, as time has gone on in the revision of this book, contemporary theoretical concerns
have unquestionably infiltrated it and partially modified its direction. For purposes of clarifi-
cation, therefore, it is important to indicate how certain of these developments in critical theory
and method relate to the argument of Narrative Unbound.



In terms of differences, this study de-emphasizes both the disappearance of the text in those
pragmatic theories in which meaning is solely the product of the hegemony of interpretive
communities43 and the denial of the text's ratifying authority in some Marxist theories of the
"scientific" severing of the reader's ideological relation to the text.44 My methodological
emphasis on the authority of the text does not, however, imply a de-radicalizing of Blake but
rather quite the opposite: returning to the text as arbiter of explanation is no reactionary move in
the study ofBlake, for there is nothing I (or anyone else) can say about Blake's text that is as radical
as Blake's text itself.
In terms of similarities, my bracketing off or forgetting certain critical presuppositions, includ-
ing those of contemporary theory itself, suggests a form of phenomenological reduction, while
the chronological stages of development of Narrative Unbound's relation to the dominant Blake
paradigm (first inverting priorities and then redistributing them) roughly parallel Jacques Der-
rida's double gesture of "overturning" and "positive displacement."45 By aligning itself with a
break from academic hegemony by being a materially different kind of book published at a press
dedicated to experimental poetry, fiction, and non-fiction prose-that is, by emphasizing the
materiality and the heterogeneous ideological scars of both its own text and the Blake text it
addresses-Narrative Unbound pushes into the foreground issues of textual production central to
much Marxist criticism.46
This account given thus far of the parallels between Narrative Unbound's methodology and
competing methods of contemporary schools of criticism is both incomplete and misleading,
however. For example, in the "Preludium" and in the opening sections of "Region A" and
"Region D," I frame my account of The Four Zoas in terms of the binary fiction of "Newtonian"
versus "anti-Newtonian" reader, text, and narrative.47 This conceptual framework grew out of
my research into British empiricism for Visionary Physics as well as from my training in method
at the University of Chicago. It also conveniently provided a rhetorical strategy that allowed me
to steer clear of the powerful and currently more fashionable terminology derived from Conti-
nental philosophy to which my methods have seemed to bear increasing resemblance. The
conceptions of narrative and text that emerge from this "Newtonian"strategy tend to invert those
that are central to much (especially American) "narratology," which is generally characterized by
some kind of division between story and discourse,48 a distinction already developed rigorously
in R.S. Crane's theory of "plot."49 This "Newtonian" twist to my argument also allows Narrative
Unbound to intersect Visionary Physics at the primary lacuna between the two works-the signifi-
cance of sequence and context to the ontology of reading Blake.
In the process of designing a methodology to confront the specific difficulties of The Four Zoas
text, I found it necessary to develop an ontological theory of reading and to test relentlessly how
this theory holds at (and between) two interpretive limits-the level of minutely particular
textual details and the level of conceptual models of the poem's textual and narrative patterns. A
small group of narratological functions that address these limits are explicitly set forth in the
"Preludium" and used implicitly throughout the body of my analysis. It may be useful to
consider briefly how other (mutually competing) critical orientations enter into or parallel the
narrative and textual categories I developed for Narrative Unbound from the demands of Blake's
Four Zoas text itself.

Narrative. I use the familiar term narrative for an unfamiliar process in Blake. It is an ontological
category that includes "perspective transformation" (including retroactive transformation,


perspective analysis, and narrative branching) and "aspectual interconnection" (which governs,
for example, the way details migrate from speeches into the landscape and back again). In its
emphasis on the temporality and linearity of the reading process and in its invocation of a special
kind of "reader" as an essential participant (but not the primary agent) in constituting the
possibility of narrative, perspective transformation parallels similar impulses in Neo-
Aristotelian, phenomenological, and reader-response methods. In its emphasis on the primary
role of relationships and the subordinate role of elements, aspectual interconnection bears
resemblance to strategies of structuralism. Both of these dimensions of narrative are topological
properties of reading The Four Zoas, and both contain "dialogical" features. (My use of the term
"dialogical" comes more directly from George Quasha's account of the dialogical practice of
contemporary poetry and poetics than from Mikhail Bakhtin's work.)s5

Text. "Text as flight" consists of local discontinuities, while "text as pattern" makes visible
otherwise inaccessible systematic relations within the textual field. In its emphasis on extremely
close reading and its assertion of the text as the primary authority and ratifier of interpretive
statements, text as flight reactivates features of the old "New Criticism." In its emphasis on
disunity, disruption, intrusion, the materiality and spatiality of the text/signifier, the subversion
of linguistic categories as they bear on the problem of being, and the way that perceptual or
interpretive repression of details peripheral to the dominant paradigm parallels the political
repression of marginal groups in society, text as flight resembles psychoanalytic, feminist,
Derridean, and Marxist critique. In its emphasis on the possibility of extracting spatial models
(present in the graphics for each Night) which visualize and exteriorize textual interrelatednesses,
text as pattern invokes the simultaneous unities and pseudo-mathematical synchronicities of
archetypal and structuralist methodologies (though these are undermined by the action of the
narrative and by the text in its role as perpetrator of disruption).
Like the theoretical/methodological programs they reflect, these dimensions of Narrative
Unbound's analytical project are sufficiently heterogeneous to interfere with one another, mirror-
ing the radical heterogeneity of the Four Zoas text by refusing to be a totality unto itself, despite
the constant temptation to try to make it so. All of these competitive analytical operators are
pragmatically gathered together and put into play in order to respond more adequately to the
internal self-interferences of The Four Zoas.

Special Textual Devices ofNarrative Unbound
Because of the self-interfering properties of Narrative Unbound and the volume of detail it
explores, special editorial devices have been incorporated to surround and enclose its text in order
to provide the reader with relatively stable points of reference and orientation.

The Marginalia/Marginal Glosses
These devices function in several different ways in relation to the text proper of Narrative
Unbound: to highlight or rephrase central points; to juxtapose segments of Blake's text not
otherwise noted; to provide additional information or interpretation; and to revise, even subvert,
the argument by providing alternative or contrary perspectives. Reading the marginalia apart
from the text proper will produce an independent sense of what the book is doing.


Page Headings
With very few exceptions, each page of Narrative Unbound has its own unique name. These
names always refer to the two-page spread of Narrative Unbound standing before the reader at any
moment in the reading process. In general, the left-hand heading gives the reader immediate
access to the line references that define the local and global boundaries of the Four Zoas text being
discussed, while the right-hand heading gives the reader a condensed point of reference for the
analysis of the lines specified in the left-hand page heading. Like the marginal glosses, the
running heads have acquired a life of their own, and thus a version or aspect of the book can be
constructed by simply reading the page headings. They form a kind of supra-text, a skeletal
framework for the argument of the book.

The Graphics
The graphics are visual models that picture the structural movement of the narrative in each
Night of The Four Zoas by reference to a simultaneous, synchronous pattern that otherwise could
not be directly experienced by the reader. Each graphic display provides the reader with a way of
thinking about where s/he is situated linearly in the process of reading. These have proved so
useful as teaching devices that it seemed appropriate to incorporate them into Narrative Unbound.
Except for Nights I and IX, however, the graphics are not an essential part of the argument of the
book but are situated at the close of the analysis of each Night to act as retroactive perspectives on
the reader's linear journey. Although the descriptive names given to Nights II-VI in the text of
Narrative Unbound are taken from the names of the structural maps for those Nights, David
Erdman's suggestion that the charts be published separately indicates the degree to which they are
independent of the argument of this book.

The endnotes primarily serve the function of extended marginal glosses. Where alternative or
peripheral perspectives would intrude on the text proper or be too long to be inserted in the
margins, they have been relegated to notes. In some cases, endnotes contain more technical
discussions of textual differences between the 1970 and 1982 Erdman editions of Blake's poetry.

Absence of a Separate Index
No index for this book has been deemed feasible, since virtually all nominalizations are
present on most pages, and the main text contains almost no reference to extratextual matters.
Categories that would make sense for an index to Narrative Unbound-such as "characters absent
from event x," or "transformations ofy by z"--would generate an index competitive in length
with the book itself, would take a very long time to compile, and, in addition, would probably
not be usable. Therefore, the functions normally served by conventional indexes have been
subsumed by marginalia, page headings, and endnotes

The bibliography contains works actually cited in the text of Narrative Unbound, works used
for epigraphs, and a small selection of works not actually cited but conceptually and methodolog-
ically relevant.



Retrospective / Prospectus
In Narrative Unbound, what initially appear to be intra-textual concerns take on the characteris-
tics of a radical inter-textualization. The regions of this inter-textuality include the revisionary
layers and phases of the poem itself. This self-inter-textualization breaks down the metaphor of a
division between an interior and an exterior to the text, because relentlessly close attention to The
Four Zoas text enacts in the reader the same kind of illuminating and exciting cross-referencing
that occurs in external contextualization. However it does not limit the reader to such possibilities
because it does not drive the reader to a fixed external source on which interpretation can rest.
While in one sense Narrative Unbound incorporates impulses from a range of critical orienta-
tions, a primary purpose of this book is to demonstrate how it is possible to sustain intensely
focused attention on the text and its internal self-contextualizations, despite continual tempta-
tions to look outside its boundaries, and how its assumption that reading is a primary location of
human being can perpetually open up new narrative possibilities. As noted above, it might seem
more methodologically regressive to submit to the authority of a text, to stick with a "close
reading" of a poem; but when the text is of the nature of The Four Zoas, such microscopic attention
produces a reading that is perpetually revising itself, opening from and onto itself. Consequently,
my reading is inadequate to The Four Zoas to the extent that it appears to "complete" Blake's text
analytically, to rule out or supersede prior accounts competitively. Since my aim in Narrative
Unbound is to open up possibilities of reading The Four Zoas, I constantly run the risk of seeming
to close off interpretive possibilities in the process of the linear unfolding of the argument. The
reading offered in Narrative Unbound is thus not a necessary reading-since so many contrary
readings already exist-but is a possible reading which reflects my own experience of the poem by
seizing a network of threads of the text and relentlessly following them through the poem to the
very end. In this sense, Narrative Unbound illuminates one of the many processes by which a
reader can undergo radical perspective transformation while negotiating the difficult path(s)
Blake has engineered.
This study itself has enacted these processes of transformation in its creation, revision, and
production. Narrative Unbound is the culmination of more than fifteen years of meditation on and
struggle with Blake's narrative methods and their implications for a range of human possibilities,
from theories of reading and sexuality to the subversion of metaphysics and religion as grounds
of human being. The massive revisions Narrative Unbound has undergone over these years have
rendered it compositionally (and ideologically) heterogeneous in a way reminiscent of The Four Zoas
itself. The length of time this book has been in progress -its perpetual openness to revision and its
resistance to closure-insures that the questions I ask and the details to which my methods call
attention are more important than any of the answers or interpretations on which I have finally rested
my analysis.
The revisions of Narrative Unbound have at times uncannily paralleled those of The Four Zoas:
for example, where Blake had the greatest difficulty with revising the poem (Nights I and VIII), I
had the greatest problems revising the book; where Blake added to the text of Night VIIa, I added
significantly to my own text. Whenever I have gone back to re-check my account against Blake's
text, I have invariably encountered a punctuation mark, a word, a phrase, a line, or even an entire
sequence that "should not be there" if my analysis were to hold. I have come to realize, however,
that such a new disruptive element is telling me, not that it should not be "there," but that I should
not be "here." In this way, the poem constantly has the power to move me from "here" to "there,"
to pull me into its own ground of transformation; and this power to move is a fundamental
dimension and guarantor of its being. The integrity of this process has persisted into the final
stages of the production of this book: the marginal glosses to the text have often opened up new


possibilities for reorganizing the narrative field; the threads of plot I had been following so
carefully suddenly became tangled in new knots of complexity; what presented itself as obvious
now appeared incongruous. The physical bulk of this book is integral to its program: the accumu-
lation of details does not exemplify but actually constitutes its argument. The book as a product thus
reflects the being of the poem it is attempting to interpret and retell analytically. What remains is a
temporal cross-section of reading-an arrested moment in an unfolding, interminable process.
Narrative Unbound thus stands as a residue of an ongoing struggle with a radically open text,
whose heterogeneity exposes the uncompletable, self-revisionary nature of its fundamental inquiry
into being. Due both to its narratological properties and the processes of revision it underwent, The
Four Zoas calls most deeply to Blake's method of composition and is an index and indication ofBlake's
request that we remain in a perpetual state of inquiry and exploration.

Textual Note

This study uses as its basic text the 4th edition, revised, 1970, of David V. Erdman's Poetry and
Prose of William Blake, with some corrections introduced from Erdman's more recent Complete
Poetry and Prose of William Blake, 1982. All references to Erdman's textual notes are given dual
citations, first to the 1970 edition and then to the 1982 edition. See Note 3 of "Preliminary
Remarks" and Notes 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19 to "Region A," as well as the "Appendix: On
the Embedding of Night VIIb in Night VIIla" for some reasons for this choice of text. All italics
within quotations are mine unless otherwise noted. See the List of Illustrations on page 473 for
the sources of our selection of "visual texts" from Young's Night Thoughts and The Four Zoas
manuscript, discussed in the Postscript, pages 469-472.



Work on this book began in the spring of 1971 during a particularly intense seminar I was
teaching on Blake at the University of California, Berkeley. I am indebted to those first students
who encouraged me as the project was being conceived. I wrote a good deal of the original
version of the manuscript while on an academic leave, 1971-72, made possible by a Humanities
Research Professorship, for which I am grateful to the Committee on Research, the Chancellor of
the Berkeley campus, and the Regents of the University of California.
In the fall of 1974, an early draft of my analysis of Nights I-VIII received a careful and
sympathetic reading by Leonard Michaels, Josephine Miles, Morton Paley, and Ralph Rader.
Other colleagues at Berkeley who expressed confidence in my work at that time include Stephen
Booth, Thomas Flanagan, Czelaw Milosz, and Masao Miyoshi.
In 1979 I completed an analysis of Night IX while on a summer grant awarded by the Vander-
bilt University Research Council. In 1980, when I had a complete version of the revised man-
uscript in hand, David Erdman, who prophetically foresaw the difficulties of publishing the
book in the form I envisioned, called George Quasha's attention to my work. Quasha, whose
enthusiasm for Blake is equaled only by his commitment to publishing books that are experimen-
tal both in form and in content, embraced the project, problems and all, and steered it to its final
form-which included my extensive and incessant revision of the book even after it was in
During this prolonged labor, Lynda, my wife, and Lara and Jamie, my daughters, have
provided unswerving support. In addition, my parents, Arthur and Lillian, my sister Mary and
her husband Earl, and Lynda's family, Ron, Mary, andJim Switzer have been essential to bringing
this project to life.
When a work has been in progress as long as this one has, it is difficult to distribute precisely the
weight of individual contributions to its final emergence into print, but it is safe to say that
without the protracted commitment of a small group of former students this book would not
exist in its present form. During the early drafting of the manuscript, I had the editorial assistance
of Chuck Corey, one of the brightest students I have ever taught. During this period many other
students at Berkeley, especially Glenn Butterton and Anthony Gallagher, made important
suggestions. More recently, Mark Bracher read the main text of the book in galleys and was
instrumental in formulating the issues of origin and identity in "Region A." Fred Dortort read
significant portions of the book both in manuscript and galley stages and has continually pro-
vided me with ideas, information, advice, and support. Tracy McLean read the edited manuscript
of Nights II-IX, carefully checking my readings against The Four Zoas text. The minutely
particular questions he raised about interpretive details substantially affected my argument,
especially in Night IX. Will Tomlinson has been a most meticulous and imaginative assistant. He
proofread the entire book both in galley and page proof states, including all the glosses and
variable running heads, demonstrating time and again his uncanny eye for errors both in style and
substance. Any typographical errors in this book are due to my obsessive tinkering with the text
after he had done his job. He also helped me keep a sense of humor during the various stages of
this seemingly interminable project. Other Vanderbilt students who have assisted with proof-
reading, checking citations, and editing includeJane Brigham, Harriet Davidson, Richard Rees,
Lisa Rone, Charles Shepherdson, Clay Smith, Elizabeth Vaughan, Martin Wallen, and Joseph
Colleagues at Vanderbilt who made specific contributions to this book include Emerson


Brown, Scott Colley, Paul Elledge, Mary Jane Doherty, Leonard Folgarit, James Kilroy,
Elizabeth Langland,John Plummer, and Jenny Spenser. I am also grateful to Nelson Hilton and
Jerome McGann for their confidence in this project.
Special thanks go to Donna Dangott, who redrew my original designs of the graphics and
made them conform to the book's format-in many cases no easy task.
I am especially indebted to David Erdman, who, in addition to recommending this book to
Station Hill, has been an invaluable guide through the textual labyrinths of The Four Zoas. The
crew at Station Hill, including Charmi Neely, Bryan McHugh, Richard Gummere, and Susan
Quasha, has demonstrated extraordinary patience and skill in putting this book together over the
several years it has been in production. Finally, George Quasha has been much more than a
publisher. He allowed me an unusual degree of participation in designing the book's format, and
he has been a full-fledged collaborator with me in solving both conceptual and practical problems
attending the various stages of producing this book. He has proved over and over that corporeal
friends need not be spiritual enemies.


To my friends
who supported me
in completing a work
that could scarcely be finished



Unbinding Newtonian Narrative

The Man who can Read the Stars. often is pressed by
their Influence, no less than the Newtonian who reads ..*
Not & cannot Read is pressed by his own Reasonings &
William Blake
The literary work or cultural object, as though for the first
time, brings into being that very situation to which it is
also, at one and the same time, a reaction.
A specific kind of onesidedness is implied in the act of
Paul Ricoeur
All things past are equally and perfectly at rest; and to this
way of consideration of them are all one, whether they
were before the beginning of the world, or but yester-
day..... o L
John Locke ." .
"7- -2-


tMf'-. j, a ,



A,*"j "-n7 A,.~

A4.3 r, ~.4A-.


-~ ___ ,,-gl~ y-.-- J e



Introduction: Altering Single Vision

Without giving full weight to the narratological implications of Blake's
well-known visionary dictum that "the Eye altering alters all,"1 it is
difficult, if not impossible, to realize how the disruptive complexities that
beset Blake's composition and revision of the verbal text of The Four Zoas
constitute not a confusion of purpose or lack of fit between philosophy and
poetic method but the emergence of a radical poetic ontology which
fundamentally revises the meaning of "narrative," of "text," and of
"reader." Taking Blake's "Eye altering" dictum seriously, however, puts us
immediately at odds with a powerful assumption without which most
scientific and technological progress prior to the twentieth century would
not have been possible: that behind the complex world of external appear-
ances lies one single unified world toward which all true explanation must
point.2 This world view presupposes that subjective experience partially
grasps and partially distorts features of the hidden unified field that allows
"external objects" to appear; in this metaphysics, such external objects
acquire the authority to passjudgment on the validity and completeness of
subjective experience. In this world view it seems inconceivable that the
way something is perceived constitutes its being or reality; indeed, such
constituting would seem to imply an idealism profoundly more prob-
lematic than Bishop Berkeley's "esse is percipi." Blake, however, labeled
this pervasive world view "Single vision & Newtons sleep" (E693, 722),'
insisting that the surface dualism in, for example, such guises as Locke's
primary and secondary qualities and powers betrays a yearning to pene-
trate and merge with the mysterious underlying unified world, a nostalgic
desire for final rest and complete certainty in a state of metaphysical
Throughout his career Blake waged uncompromising war against
"Single vision," which he perceived infiltrating the most crucial fields of
existence, binding down and artificially limiting social organization, indi-
vidual fulfillment, narrative possibility, and language itself. Especially in
his extended struggle to compose and revise The Four Zoas Blake
experimented with developing narrative structures that could function
therapeutically to rehabilitate imaginations damaged by "Single vision."
This experiment is by no means restricted to The Four Zoas, although the
manuscript state of the text of the Zoas affords peculiar insight into Blake's
process of narrative composition.6 Milton and erusalem are permeated with
the strategies he developed in the Zoas to combat and subvert the form of
explanatory storytelling that can be labeled generically as "Newtonian
"Newtonian narrative" presupposes that behind the text lies a single
unified field (ur-narrative, privileged originating event, state of conscious-
ness, and so on) whose essential features do not irreconcilably and incom-
mensurably conflict with one another but can (in theory at least) be fully
captured through systematic analytic explanation. In such a view, dis-

See note 1 for contextual
variations on Blake's
doctrines of perceptual
variability as an ontolog-
ical principle.

The attraction of the
"one true world" of
prisca sapientia: see note 2.

"incomprehensible / To
the Vegetated Mortal
Eye's perverted & Single
Vision" (Jerusalem

The "reader" of The Four
Zoas is created through
the resistances of its nar-
rative processes.

Blake prepares the
reader to battle the per-
ceptual delusion of the
"Single Vision" world
by exercising dimen-
sions of the reader's
being that are vulnerable
to Newtonian assault.


For Blake, the stray data
that escape the repressive
certainty of "Single Vi-
sion" are keys to reno-
vating the individual's
perceptual structures.

Revision as an ontologi-
cally destabilizing action
rather than a movement
toward closure

The presence of an
implied world behind
the text is progressively
obliterated by The Four

crepancies between textual details merely reflect errors of perception or
memory in characters or in the narrator. Both "Single vision" and "New-
tonian narrative" aim toward realizing the coherence and completeness of
a narrative world or text (which, in this view, contains a narrative world in
potential form) and toward realizing a preordained "end" or closure that
resolves conflicts into a unified whole.8 The implicit goal of Newtonian
narrative is imaginative death through positive affirmation; the explicit
goal of Blake's narrative is an intense awakening, through negative dialec-
tic,9 to hitherto buried possibilities of the human imagination.
The conflict between, on the one hand, Blake's desire to renovate his
reader's perception by relentlessly subverting "Single vision," and, on the
other, the powerful temptations of Newtonian narrative itself is played out
in the radical process of revising that The Four Zoas underwent. At times,
Blake's disruptive revisions seem almost an overreaction against his own
Newtonian impulses, resulting in alien poetic strategies and narrative
complexities that easily could be (and have been) taken as demonstrating
incoherence or a loss of control and purpose.10 How the poem was trans-
formed from its Vala state into The Four Zoas suggests that revision takes
on a double significance: it is both something that Blake did to the text and
something that the text does, through the agency of narrative, not only to
the reader, but to itself. Indeed, Blake's whole enterprise constitutes the
irreducible presence of multiple interfering and incommensurable struc-
tures that operate 1) to rule out a pre-existent underlying world which
surface events (i.e., those narrated by the linear text) partially rearrange
and partially distort, and 2) to generate a narrative field in which the past is
not finished and closed but incomplete and open-alterable and revisable.
That is, instead of a prefabricated underlying single world or
ur-narrative (whether it be an ideal substratum of the text or Vala itself)
that supports the details of the surface narrative-is signified and re-
arranged by them-Blake substitutes a transformational process at the
service of (and brought into existence by) the temporally unfolding sur-
face narrative itself. This continuously originary process retroactively
resembles a deep structure in that, although characters and events come
into existence the moment they are narrated (that is, they are not presup-
posed or contained in any fashion, potential or otherwise, until they
explicitly enter the poem), once characters and events come into existence
they behave as if they belonged to an underlying world, one that is never
articulated except through self-cancellation, but to which characters
attempt to refer. In this sense, the surface narrative is primary, and what-
ever deep structure there is emerges as an evolving secondary by-product
of the operations of the poem's narrative surface." By incorporating into
The Four Zoas subversive narrative processes (perspective transformation
and aspectual interconnection) and textual features (text as flight and text
as woven pattern), Blake achieves what otherwise might seem virtually
impossible-a narrative field with an open past such that past narrative
facts can be altered and revised by present ones, thereby allowing present


events to resist being absorbed passively into a static, dead, and unrevis-
able underlying world. In this sense, The Four Zoas embodies a vision of the
process of linear re-visioning. The narrative ontology that thus emerges
from the poem necessarily resists being completed into a closed, reified
object that permits no further revision.
Although the conflict between closure and revision indirectly parallels
the struggle between Newtonian and anti-Newtonian composition, it is
possible (though unlikely) that Blake was unaware of this aspect of the
conflict and thus may have been tempted (by the lures of Newtonian
narrative) to "complete" the poem even though it progressively assumed a
form he did not intend.12 Presuming to delineate authoritatively what
Blake's conscious "intentions" were in the face of the manuscript's textual
tangles, which evolved over many years, would necessarily be misguided
and misleading. Since our purpose is to describe and demonstrate the
operation of narrative processes and textual features that are manifest in
the poem itself, it is possible to defer or bracket the question of intention in
favor of the analysis of the poem's narrative field (including the features
that the revisions brought into existence). It must be said, however, that
Blake's tendency to subvert the idea of a "definitive" text-by altering
details in different copies and subsequent printings of poems and by allow-
ing narrative segments, under revision, to migrate from one poem to
another, with the effect ofde-entifying the existence and meaning of those
segments -suggests that he was well aware of the threat that closure posed
to his transformational narrative ontology.
It is inevitable that, in assaulting his reader so aggressively with presup-
positions and techniques that fundamentally conflict with Newtonian
narrative and thus with entrenched, habitual thought processes and con-
ventional narrative procedures, Blake risked losing most of the audience
most in need of the imaginatively therapeutic operations of the poem -
readers caught up in "Single vision." Moreover, in order to square his
philosophical principles with the narrative strategies they demand--
which include a continual teaching of subversive narrative rules and a
subsequent testing of the reader's imaginative judgment in terms of those
rules, a continual laying of traps to ensnare, especially, the Newtonian
reader-he risked, almost invited, a total misunderstanding of the poem
even by those readers more sympathetic to his poetic program, readers
eager to have their "doors of perception" opened."
Blake's risky challenge to normal reading procedures demands a revi-
sion of those Newtonian notions of text, of narrative, and of reader that
cling to a rigid subject-object division. Specifically, the assumptions that
the text is purely "objective," an unchangeable, inert, pre-existent given;
that the reader is purely "subjective," a self-identical, centralized, unified
consciousness whose function is merely to respond to and interpret the
given text; and that the narrative world exists potentially complete within
the text and is progressively realized through the interaction between
subjective reader and objective text-all these are ruthlessly undermined

How a goal-directed
reading process, from an
origin to an end, is both
presupposed and under-
mined by The Four Zoas

Retaining "Blake" as an
operational fiction,
despite the refusal of
Narrative Unbound to
reduce the narrative's
power to conscious

The Four Zoas challenge
to reading as a primary
place where human
being originates and can
be revised: the risk of
throwing too many
obstacles in the reader's

The visual surface of the
text constrains the
reader to acknowledge
that contrary dimen-
sions of the narrative are
struggling for domi-


by The Four Zoas. In the poem Blake experiments with creating a text that
cannot sustain its authentic existence independent of and prior to the
narrative world in the process of being constituted through sequential acts
of reading, thereby creating a reader whose perception is able to alter the
very being of the text's supposedly fixed facts and devising a narrative
world that, although it comes into existence temporally through the
mutual interconstitution of reader and text, functions as the primary agent
by which the reader and text are able to transform one another mutually. 14

Narrative Processes and Textual Features of Blake's Four Zoas

It is clear, even from this preliminary sketch, that narrative, text, and
reader come into existence simultaneously to constitute and alter one
another at each point in the poem. Because of this subversive poetic pro-
Conflict in The Four gram, The Four Zoas resists penetration by traditional critical tools. It is
Zoas is less between therefore necessary to make a sudden break into the explanatory circle of
"characters" than be-
tween competing text, narrative, and reader, much like the rupture near the poem's opening
dimensions of the narra- where Blake interrupts'5 the unfolding pseudo-invocation with the man-
tive. ifesto, "Begin with Tharmas Parent power" (4:6). One episode that can be
isolated from its context with little damage to the poem's complex dialec-
tics and which, at the same time, clearly exhibits the narrative and textual
features that are the building blocks of The Four Zoas occurs in the cryptic
events surrounding the appearance of the "Circle of Destiny" (whose
minute details are understandably often disregarded), near the beginning
of Night I. In this episode, following an elliptical conversation with his
female counterpart Enion, "Tharmas Parent power," the ostensible narra-
tive nucleus out of which the poem generates, turns "round" the "Circle of
Destiny" and then sinks into the sea. As he descends, however, Tharmas
exudes bodily fibres that Enion weaves into a "perverse" form with "a will /
(5:20-21) Of its own" that then becomes (or brings into existence) the Circle of
Destiny itself. 16

Narrative Implications of the Circle of Destiny Episode
Perspective Transformation. This sequence exemplifies perspective
transformation (specifically retroactive transformation) under the guise of
a causal loop or circle on the surface of the text: if the Circle existed before
Tharmas sank down into the sea, how can it come into existence as a result
of his sinking down? By means of this causal paradox in the narrative
surface, Blake invites the reader to undergo a retroactive perspective trans-
formation, a process that always requires a conflict (or discrepancy) be-
tween two very different but closely related reader events. In this case the
Circle first appears as if it does not need explanation, as if it were a given,
pre-existent feature of the poem's underlying or presupposed world. But
the Circle's second appearance retroactively corrects the reader's natural


assumption that the Circle must have existed prior to the action of the
poem, or it could not have been referred to. Now, in the Circle's second
appearance, its origin requires elucidation in terms of the most specific
details of the emerging plot (Tharmas'sinking down, his fibres, the weav-
ing of the Circle). The second appearance interferes with the first, nearly
but not quite canceling it out. This retroactive transformation is anything
but unique; the process occurs relentlessly throughout the poem, often in
even more radical cases.

Aspectual Interconnection. As noted above, the appearances of the Cir-
cle are situated in the poem following an elliptical conversation between
Tharmas and Enion in which he accuses her of a kind of questioning or
examining that extracts fibres from his soul. When these fibres are trans-
ferred from Tharmas' speech into the narrative proper (events uttered by
the narrator), they become bodily fibres, the material out of which Enion
weaves the Circle of Destiny. This aspectual interconnection, by which
details can migrate from inside a speech into the narrative proper (and vice
versa), reveals how the narrator, the characters, and the landscape inter-
constitute one another. While information seems to be divided between
two discrete sources (the narrator proper and the speeches, questions,
visions, and so on, of characters), with ostensibly minimal overlapping of
the two sets of events, these two streams of information are in reality
aspects of one another and transformations of each other. The possibility
ofsuch a process ofinterconnection presupposes that continually originat-
ing and transforming relationships constitute the primary identity of
characters, of the narrator, and of events. When relationships between
narrative details crystallize in such a way that they can acquire names, they
begin to act as if they were independent beings with lives of their own
(much as, in Night I, the alternate version of the form that emerges from
Tharmas' woven fibres is actually a separate character, the Spectre of
Tharmas). At any time, however, independent characters can dissolve
back into the landscape or into the narrator's voice. Events, characters, and
perspectives are completely interconnected, but only by implication.
Since the characters suppress (or are unaware of) their mutual inter-
connectedness and treat themselves as isolated entities or egos, even the
narrator cannot make connections for the reader, because the narrator
takes on the aspects of the characters and events he is narrating.

Textual Implications of the Circle ofDestiny Episode

The Circle of Destiny episode involves two actions, Tharmas' with-
drawal beneath the surface of the sea and Enion's weaving. These actions
constitute two opposing aspects of Blake's Four Zoas text. The word text
has etymological roots in the process of weaving7 and the aspect ofBlake's
text that interweaves minute details into complex and interfering ("per-
verse") patterns is dialectically opposed to the aspect of Blake's text which

The fiction ofnarra-
tional "utterance"should
not be confused with
actual utterances occur-
ring in dialogical con-
texts outside of The Four

The mutual inter-
changeability of"nar-
rator proper" and
"characters" challenges
the assumption that
these aspects of the nar-
rative are constituted as
subjective conscious-
ness: rather, they are
tools oflanguage (invok-
ing reader assumptions
with regard to fictional-
ity) that render perspec-
tive transformation pos-

As The Four Zoas prog-
resses, and especially in
Nights VIII and IX, the
"narrator" functions
more and more like a

Events in the narrative
serve as allegories for
exposing dimensions of
the text.


Perspective transforma-
tion is circular and self-

The manuscript status of
The Four Zoas exposes
the textuality of surface
revision -foreground-
ing text as flight and
concealing text as pat-
tern, thus facilitating the
misleading assumption
that the poem is flawed
because incomplete.

conceals, represses, and evades in flight, withdrawal, and hiding; this flight
manifests itself as discrepancies, inconsistencies, gaps, and discontinuities
in the text. Text as flight makes mandatory the reader's microscopic
scrutiny of syntax and diction, an anatomizing attention that constitutes
the discrete acts of perception through which the continuously unfolding
and originating narrative field is shattered and reconstituted; text as inter-
woven pattern is the ground for extrapolating visual graphic schemas that
express (through arbitrary signifiers) those (signified) structural
strategies, narrative switchpoints, and so on, that are inherently inaccessi-
ble to direct temporal experience of the poem but that in part govern the
organization of narrative details and discrepancies (see the graphics located
throughout this book for examples of this potentiality of the text). Taken
by itself, text as flight gives rise to the impression of arbitrariness and
incompleteness; text as interwoven pattern, taken by itself, divides the
narrative into finite, reified, closed structures. These schematic patterns
are second-order phenomena, generated by the primary surface narrative,
which acts inexhaustibly to revise, subvert, and desubstantialize the very
perceptual structures that allow the temporal narrative to exist.
The narrative aspects of Blake's Four Zoas (perspective transformation
and the aspectual interconnections between the narrator's voice and other
narrative voices) and the dialectical conflict between flight and weaving of
the text itself produce the tight, dense network of transformations that is
the primary reality of the poem, apart from which there are no events in
The Four Zoas. These narrative and textual aspects, taken together, guaran-
tee that there is no pre-existing substructure, constituted by a specifiable
sequence of events, that is partially distorted or partially interpreted by
surface perspectives. The narrative principles reflect or mirror the work-
ings of the text itself, because each of these features is an aspect of the
others: they invade and interconstitute one another in an incestuous or
narcissistic way, so that any language that attempts to describe them must
fold back on itself, and so that any attempt to isolate them analytically
from one another must rupture their field of mutual interrelations.
Nevertheless, because Blake was unwilling to compromise the difficulty
of realizing his goal-a fundamental restructuring of his reader's con-
sciousness-it is necessary not to recoil from Blake's challenge but to
respond to it directly, no matter to what alien territory such an investiga-
tion may lead. Thus, in order to move forward, it is necessary to back up
and examine these narrative and textual features in more detail.

The Four Zoas Narrative and Text Reconsidered

The Narrative Field

Perspective Transformation. An implication of the apparent causal loop
at the center of the Circle of Destiny episode is that the very possibility of


an event's occurrence (Tharmas' turning round the Circle) is nearly can-
celed out at the exact moment its preconditions come into existence in a
subsequent event (the emergence of the Circle itself from Tharmas' woven
fibres). A natural Newtonian reflex in the face of this causal paradox might
be to posit an underlying event, object, or structure-the ur-Circle of
Destiny-then assign subscripts to the two narrated events in the order of
their appearance (i.e., Circle, and Circle2) and treat each of these as surface
transformations or aspects of the primordial underlying Circle of Destiny
event. This gesture defeats the purpose for which it was made, however;
it cannot account for causal discrepancies because such a primordial
event must be constituted-as must all such substantialist abstractions-
by features that the two surface events have in commonn.8 Beyond the
words of the text, however, the two narrative "Circles" have little in
common (and even here there is variation, see note 19 below).
A more productive strategy would be to treat the Circle2 as a transfor-
mation of the Circle1, and indeed this approach finds some support in the
minute verbal differences between these two events." Although this tactic
avoids the distracting and unexplanatory assumption of a completed
underlying world, it does not go far enough; it does not account for the
way Circle2 actually subverts the possibility of Circle1. While it acknowl-
edges that relationships between elements in a narrative series can signifi-
cantly be constituted by differences rather than similarities, it stops short
of seeing that what primarily connects the two events is a radical narrative
principle: that the past itself is not fixed and stable but can undergo trans-
formation or revision.
Such retroactive transformations appear at almost every juncture,
sometimes in cases much less noticeable than in the Circle of Destiny, but
often in cases even more radical. The process is always the same: details
that are the consequences of a linear narrative chain turn out not only to
establish the preconditions of a prior event in the chain but actually to
subvert the prior event per se: the subsequent event seems to cause and nearly
rule out the prior event at the same time. Retroactive transformations
must alter significantly the reader's perception, not only of the transform-
ing past but of the future as well. The text evokes a kind of free-floating
anxiety (which in any given narrative situation is nevertheless quite pre-
cise) concerning how the future of the text will make possible or cancel out
the contours of the present narrative event.
This process cannot be explained away by the Newtonian assumption
that the "events" in question occur only in the "reader" and not in the
"text" itself. Retroactive perspective transformation is, we must recall, an
aspect of the narrative, and the narrative is the primary agent by which the
reader is able to cause the text to alter or revise itself. Retroactive transfor-
mation must, of course, occur in the reader, or it cannot occur in the text;
but it must be perceived by the reader (through the agency of the narrative)
as occurring in the text itself (and notjust in the reader). If the reader does
not experience the text as transforming itself, the reader will simply per-

The Circle of Destiny

Simultaneous cancella-
tion and constitution in
the operation ofretroac-
tive transformation

Retroactive revision
must appear to be hap-
pening to the text itself.


The possibility that The
Four Zoas narrative will
be denied existence by
the resistive reader

"Deep structure": a con-
venient misnomer for
the unstable structures
generated by The Four
Zoas narrative

Perspective transforma-
tion operates on itself.

Self-reflexivity of
perspective transforma-
tion produces narrative

ceive the discrepancy between the two textual facts and interpret it as a
subjective error on the part of the reader or the narrator. In this latter case,
the radical Four Zoas narrative fails to come into existence at all, and the
text exists as an inert nest of paradoxes, mistakes, and non sequiturs. Any
reader who is able to perceive the text as though it were itself undergoing
transformations, dissolving fixed facts in the receding narrative and allow-
ing the past to be re-enacted and revised, has already been initiated into
Blake's perspective drama. The reader who resists Blake's text and anx-
iously clings to the security of one of the fundamental elements of a pre-
existent underlying world-a privileged originating event, a primal rup-
ture, or "fall"-refuses to acknowledge that the "fall" or rupture actually
comes into existence through the reader's failed imaginative judgment in
the face of radical discrepancies and does not lie before or beneath the text
(see below).
Because it rules out the existence of a prefabricated world that acts as a
mysterious substratum of the text (akin to the "I know not what" ofLocke
and Berkeley), perspective transformation argues that whatever underly-
ing world or deep structure the poem could possibly exhibit must come
into existence in the process of being narrated. The operation of this
generative process imposes on Blake's narrative field a severe restriction -
the primacy of narrative sequential order-that dictates that the order in
which characters appear and events occur is a primary feature of their
reality. This narrative requirement in part accounts for the intensity of
Blake's obsession with rearranging, inserting, and deleting segments of
The Four Zoas. 20
Finally, retroactive and projective perspective transformations are
structurally self-reflexive: they operate not only on narrative details but
also on themselves. By their very nature, perspective transformations have
the power to modify the rules of the game at those junctures where the
content of the narrative reaches a state of crisis. One such point occurs in
Night Vila in the context of the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Mystery,
where characters begin to become consciously aware that they are in a
narrative world where it is possible to revise the past by re-enacting it-a
process which had previously operated as unconscious "perspective
analyses" of events by the narrative (see below). Characters thus attempt
consciously to undo prior events in Night VIIa under the guise of repen-
tance and contrition. As if to subvert this emergence into consciousness
of its own unconscious processes, the narrative begins generating branch-
ing, alternative routes through which conflicting narrative possibilities of
prior events are realized. Perspective transformation itself undergoes
transformation by not only analyzing prior events but also simultaneously
generating different and irreducibly incommensurable ways the same
event actually happens (enters into the narrative).

Aspectual Interconnection: The "Fall" as Privileged Event and Pretext.
Throughout the poem Blake distinguishes between two sources of infor-
mation: the constantly modulating voice of the narrator and the spoken


words-questions, interpolated visions, remembrances, and so on-of
characters who appear in the narrative proper. Initially it seems as if there
are two distinct and contrapuntal streams of information alternating with
each other: spoken visions, memories, and so on, that seem to refer com-
pulsively to a privileged originating event (the primal "fall" of "Man") and
the narrative proper, whose events seem to be happening after the events in
the spoken accounts.21 Since the characters (and even the narrator) rarely
talk about, remember, or directly refer to what has been happening in the
unfolding narrative proper, its events seem to be constantly disappearing.
Characters' speech gestures often act as decoys to draw attention away
from the actions they are engaged in and which are disguised (though
sometimes obliquely enacted) by their speech gestures. Despite the fact
that in these interpolated visions the characters claim to be referring to
another state of being altogether, the poem invites the reader to interpret
these visions as the characters' own fictional transformations of relation-
ships between already present characters and events.
Though nothing less than a vast accumulation of instances could be
fully persuasive here, perhaps a simple example will suffice. In Night IV,
the "Spectre of Urthona" enters the narrative proper at the moment Thar-
mas separates Los from Enitharmon; but the Spectre retells this event as if
it had notjust occurred but had happened in the distant past, at the original
"fall," associated with an utterly different causal background. Signifi-
cantly, he has no memory of, or makes no reference to, his immediate
separation in the narrative proper. In general, the characters behave as if
they were referring to (rather than fantasizing or fictionalizing) a world
other than temporallyy prior to, spatially beyond) the world of the narra-
tive proper. In fact, the near absence of references (by characters) to events
in the narrative proper cumulatively creates the possibility that the
retroactively dissolving events in the narrative proper are themselves the
fantasy and not the common world that the characters mutually inhabit.
Within this framework of a fundamental, though undermined, distinc-
tion in the The Four Zoas between narrated events and visions, songs,
soliloquies, and so on, the reader is constantly caught between the narra-
tor's version and various characters' versions of "events": it is in this
moment of suspension that the reader's (Newtonian) reflex yearning to
grasp the primordial event (the "fall") itself enacts in the reader the breach
that the reader is attempting to locate before or beneath the text. In terms
of Blake's anti-Newtonian strategy, narrative events do not occur after a
primal "fall" beyond the text, nor do interpolated visions refer to a primal
"fall" in the dim past. The "fall" is a narrative pretext, occasioning a
breach in the reader who refuses to recognize that the opposition between
narrative and interpolated information is only apparent, and who thereby
re-enacts the speakers' evasive directing of their speech gestures away
from the present narrative context, fictionalizing that context in parables
involving other names, times, and places in order to deny the living reality
of their present situation.
Blake's narrative thus intermittently tempts the reader into believing

The mechanism ofinter-
polated visions works as
a character and event

See Note 21 for a
catalogue of discourse
types in The Four Zoas.

The central event of the
"fall" has no structure or
context other than serv-
ing as a pretext for set-
ting incommensurable
perspectives in motion.

The way the reader of
The Four Zoas functions
as a character in the pre-
text of the "fall"


The text lures the reader
into experiencing a delu-
sion, into believing in a
false apocalypse.

that the poem's events are linearly unfolding re-enactments of a single
unapproachable, pre-existent moment, all the while undermining the
possibility of such a privileged primordial event. In addition, begin-
ning especially in Night VIIa, the narrative begins to open up the desire
(even hold out the hope) that the knotted complexities and paradoxes of
that precipitating event, which always seems outside the text, will be
revealed, reversed, and resolved within the text itself in Night IX. The
asymmetry is obvious: in this reading, the precipitating event cannot be
directly dramatized but the resolving event can be. There is, however,
strong evidence that one dimension of the ostensible precipitating event
(the "fall") finally materializes in the text itself at the moment the
apocalyptic reunion of Tharmas and Enion takes place -in which case it is
the most radical case of retroactive constitution/canceling out in the

The Dialectic of the Text

The emergence of the
dialogically constituted
"narrator" from the gaps
in the text

Text as Flight. The subversive microscopic surface of The Four Zoas
narrative is the aspect we have identified with Tharmas' withdrawal
beneath the oceanic surface in the Circle of Destiny episode. Indeed, this is
no unique act by Tharmas: he is constantly perceived as fleeing from
confrontations, leaving in his wake perceptual vortexes and voids. Thar-
mas' compulsive fleeing reappears as an aspect of the text under the guise
of discrepancies, gaps, and discontinuities. Perhaps the most problematic
point at which to enter the text under the aspect of flight is one of the
points that caused Blake the greatest difficulty (as evidenced by massive
deletions and revisions) -the opening lines of the poem itself. In the first
eight lines of the poem proper, the narrative voice divides into a sequential
dialogue or dialectic whose physical, spatial layout on the page possesses
significance in itself. The first three lines focus on the "Song of the Aged
Mother"; the next three lines emphasize the "Universal Brotherhood";
and from the last two lines of this sequence the "Heavenly Father"
emerges. (This family constellation is further completed when the
"Daughter ofBeulah" appears six lines later.) The physical relationship of
these three segments to one another on the space of the page sandwiches
the Brotherhood between the Mother (on top) and the Father (below). In
so doing these lines embody a fundamental discrepancy ideographically:
is it significant that the Brotherhood has come spatially between the Aged
Mother and the Heavenly Father? And why does the physical arrangement
of the lines of the text seem to invert the traditional spatial arrangement
(by analogy with nature) in which the "Heavenly Father" is a sky god
above and the "Aged Mother" is the earth below? If we read this spatial
descent down the page as signifying a temporal order, it is possible that the
sequence of the lines embodies a narrative sequence in which the Aged
Mother's matriarchy precedes the seizure of power by the sons, and the


Father appears as a reflex to the sons' achievement of Brotherhood, from
which females (such as the Daughters of Beulah) are excluded.
These observations concerning the spatial layout of the text do not, of
course, fully take into account the microscopic detail of the poem's surface
at this point. David Erdman points out that Blake made several tries at a
six-line introductory stanza, "with erasure on erasure"(E739, 819). The
original versions of these lines clarify the syntactic tension in a way that
(for whatever reasons) did not satisfy Blake. As they stand in Erdman's
edition in the state beyond which Blake revised no further (usually
attributed to his giving up), these lines read:
The Song of the Aged Mother which shook the heavens with wrath
Hearing the march of long resounding strong heroic Verse
Marshalld in order for the day of Intellectual Battle

The earliest layer of the text Erdman could recover made explicit the
relation of the "Song" to the poem we are reading, and the relation of both
the song and the poem to the individual reader of the poem:
This is the [Dirge] (Song) of [Eno] (Enitharmon) which shook the
heavens with wrath
And thus beginneth the Book of Vala which Whosoever reads
If with his Intellect he comprehend the terrible Sentence
The heavens [shall] quake: the earth [shall move] [moves] (was moved)
& [shudder] [shudders] (shudderd) & the mountains
With all their woods, the streams & valleys: [wail](waild) in dismal
[To hear] (Hearing) the [Sound] (march) of Long resounding strong
heroic verse
Marshalld in order for the day of intellectual battle
(E739, 819, Erdman's italics)

The fact that Blake at some time numbered the lines 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 4, 5
(E739, 819), a revision that dictated some of the verb phrase alterations,
does not remove the fundamental gap between the three-line introduction
(which Blake revised no further) and the earlier longer deleted versionss.
In the original versions) the opening lines express the analogy between
the shaking of the heavens in wrath against the Song (which begins the
poem we are reading, the "Book of Vala") and the shaking of the heavens
infear at the comprehension by any individual of the "terrible Sentence" of
the Song/Book. In the final version, it is quite unclear who or what is
doing the "hearing": it is possible that the "heavens" are hearing the song
composed of "strong heroic verse" and are shaking in wrath against it; it is
also possible that the Aged Mother is doing the hearing and that her
"Song" is a wrathful response to the strong heroic verse that composes The
Four Zoas.
As Blake left it, the revised version of these lines decisively compresses
the reader into the ambiguity of the syntax, deletes the "Book of Vala,"

Textual discrepancies
stand at the threshold of
the poem.

Deletion of eruptive
imagery suppresses the
sexual dimension of tex-
tual origin.


The deleted utterance as
an allegory for the
poem's syntax and for
the judgement the poem
passes on the reader

Revision toward

and thereby complicates the relation of the "Song" to the poem we are
reading. Equally significant is Blake's deletion of the acknowledgment that
the poem potentially has the power to pronounce a "Sentence" so "terri-
ble" that its comprehension will issue in immediate and catastrophic
apocalyptic consequences in the reader Blake hopes to create through the
process of reading The Four Zoas. This strategy of deletion deflects the
Newtonian reader from awareness of the immediate urgency of the poem's
radical theme-the opening up of terrifying ontological options through
the act of reading the poem's "Sentence," in all its polysemous suggestive-
ness. By withholding this information Blake refuses to call attention to
the poem's frightening urgency and thus refuses to set in motion self-
conscious ego-gratifying expectations and anxieties directed toward a
goal-of either achieving or fleeing from the judgment of the "terrible
Sentence" that the deleted segment hides from the reader and yet (by virtue
of the gaping hole left by its exclusion) simultaneously thrusts upon the
Thus in these three lines, there is an urgent feeling that something is
missing or lost-in this case both the vanished elements that would com-
plete the syntax and the explicit references to the reader and to the basic
underlying narrative pretext (hidden from the reader), the "Book of Vala,"
whose only trace is the word "Vala" suspended over the page.
It is no accident that such a gap or discrepancy stands at the very
threshold of the poem. It seems likely that Blake tried to undercut the clear
causal relations that the original version provided, first by renumbering
the lines to 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 4, 5 (E739, 819) with attendant changes in verb
tenses and then by completely striking the lines that fill in the causal gaps.
The original version adheres strictly to subject-predicate syntax ("This is
..," "Thus beginneth..."). The revised lines eliminate the predicateper
se but still imply that there has been a radical grammatical transformation
that has deleted and/or suppressed the predicate. The earlier version is
neatly divisible into causally connected phrases. The revised version com-
plicates even the subordinate clause ("which shook...") by juxtaposing it
with the participial form "Hearing," which is ambiguous in temporal and
spatial reference. As they stand, apparently incomplete and incomplet-
able, the revisions do not move toward a visual surface text that simplifies,
reduces problems, unpacks syntax, and clarifies the reader's response.
Blake's vision moves toward compression and complication simulta-
In the next three lines, two periods occur22 which function to make
more explicit the subversive nature of the statements they punctuate. The
narrative voice shifts from the initial psuedo-epic diction, saturated with
imagery that hints at violent conflict, to a propositional form:
Four Mighty Ones are in every Man; a Perfect Unity
Cannot Exist. but from the Universal Brotherhood of Eden
The Universal Man. To Whom be Glory Evermore Amen


The spatial layout of these lines requires constant reinterpretation and
redirection of expectation as the words are read. The first line taken alone
asserts and visualizes the perfect unity of the Four. The next line begins by
denying that unity-it "Cannot Exist." Nor does the syntax which fol-
lows completely relieve the tension. The crux of the line is "but from,"
following the intrusive period. Even if the problematic period after "Can-
not Exist" were not there, these two words would, in themselves, disrup-
tively revise the settled, completed, unified world/utterance of the previ-
ous line. Blake holds in balance the discontinuous shock of denying the
perfect unity and the continuous syntax that proceeds to assert the condi-
tions under which that unity is possible, however tenuous they may be:
"but from" may signify that unity can exist only as derived from the
Universal Brotherhood-a reading that simultaneously neutralizes the
shock effect of Blake's spatial grammar (and punctuation) and readily
conforms to the traditional paradigms of Newtonian narrative.
In order to move beyond such Newtonian reflexes and get a glimpse of
why Blake had so much trouble with the opening, whose revisions move
in the direction of making outrageous demands on the reader, it is neces-
sary to recognize that this disjunctive period opens up the disturbing
possibility that perhaps only apart from, that is, outside of the context or
beyond the influence of the Universal Brotherhood can Perfect Unity exist
-that is, the Brotherhood is somehow at odds with unity. This second
reading is complicated by the fact that, as we have seen, "unity" is not
always unambiguously valorized, since it is easily a characteristic of
"Single vision."" The previous Newtonian reading neatly collapses the
object and seeker of desire: the Brotherhood equals "perfect Unity,"
whereas the radicalized text opens gaps precisely at the points of ostensible
unity. These three lines abruptly end with an incantation and prayer,
which modify the seriousness of the matter at hand (even though we know
from the opening epigraph that issues of great importance are in play).
Either this line is a parody of a prayer as its perfunctoriness and second
intrusive period (which divides the prayer from the being about whom it
is uttered) suggest, or it literally is a prayer. The optical illusoriness of the
preceding lines creates an environment of ambiguity that subverts the
possibility that only one of several mutually conflicting readings must
The next two heavily revised (possibly incomplete) lines are uttered as a
question-and-answer dialogue (which holds true regardless of possible
deletions) that could well end the poem, or at least its relevance to the
individual reader:

[What] are the Natures of those Living Creatures the Heavenly Father
[Knoweth] no Individual [Knoweth nor] Can know in all Eternity

What is the purpose of going any farther? Individuals are barred "in all

One of two places where
marginal references to
the Bible occur in the
poem is situated in the
text to the right of lines
3:4-6; the other marginal
reference is located in
Night IX beside lines
133:21-23. In both cases,
the references stand as
glosses to problematic
syntax surrounding the

Punctuation operates
both spatially and

"Incomplete": only
from the perspective of
an ideally "completed"
text; incompleteness is a
textual strategy, in this
case offering entirely
different readings with
the addition or subtrac-
tion of the crossed out


Perhaps only those "in
all Eternity" are barred
from knowledge of the

The poem begins with
an enumeration of the
unknowable "Four" not
at the first, but at the
"fourth.. one."

The subordinate status
of textual patterns

Eternity" from knowing the "Natures" of (supposedly) the "Four." In the
first three lines of the poem Blake deleted reference to the reader's com-
prehension; here we have an implicit reintroduction of the reader as an
individual spectator to a drama that the reader, as an individual, will be
unable to comprehend. Since the poem immediately continues with the
line "Los was the fourth immortal starry one," and seemingly proceeds to
delineate his nature, either the previous statement is irrelevant to the
individual reader of the poem, or the narrative voice has, once again,
undergone an internal transformation.
In these opening lines Blake calls direct attention to the act of reading,
and the revisions compress or suppress information that subsequently
(inadvertently or intentionally) turns up in disguised form, as happened in
the case of the initially deleted reader. Another feature of these opening
lines is the submergence of causal connections under incomplete syntax
(as in the exclusion of subject-predicate forms as if under grammatical
transformation), and the structural overlapping of discrete pieces of infor-
mation (as in the case of the emerging family constellation in which the
Mother and Father are spatially separated by the "Brotherhood").

Text as Woven Pattern or Schema. The aspect of the text that weaves
minute details into large, abstract tapestries or schematic patterns lies at
the opposite extreme from the frustrating gaps in the text that enact
Tharmas' flight. Moreover, Enion's weaving of the Circle of Destiny,
which serves as a model for this most complex sense of Blake's text,
connects the process of perspective transformation to the sequential dis-
crepancies of the text as flight. As Enion weaves the Circle out of elements
of the conversation she just had with Tharmas, her weaving takes on a will
of its own, "perverse & wayward." Similarly, the schematic patterns of
The Four Zoas mutually interfere with, as well as mutually constitute, each
The narrative of each Night of The Four Zoas has its own perspective or
perceptual grammar whose features are marked by minute details of the
text. These patterns are no more primordial than the temporal surface
details: in a sense they have less claim to textual reality because they can be
experienced by the reader only indirectly. These textual structures work
to subvert normal patterns of processing and grouping perceptual and
conceptual information and to open up new ways of structuring con-
sciousness. Among the comprehensive textual models or patterns for
perspective transformation which Blake invokes throughout the poem,
the following are most prevalent: 1) perspective analysis and linearly
embedded structures; 2) hierarchical displacement; 3) fictions of causal
sequence; 4) overlapping of "events" by repetition; 5) involution of events
by causal circularity and information loops; 6) disjunctive jumps (within a
nexus of events) between discrete information bits; and 7) continuous
re-orientation of perspective. There are many others, but these are the
primary organizing/disorganizing textual patterns.


Night VIII, for example, makes maximum use of technique 6, while
Night II seizes on technique 2; Nights I, III, VIIa, and IX are strongly
influenced by technique 1; and so on. But these types are never simply
dormant while others operate: each can occur at any moment the narrative
permits, and each structure is struggling to be dominant at each point in
the narrative. Night II, for example, though initially controlled by spatial
imagery and by a spatialization of the narrative structure, is finally over-
whelmed by the emerging embedded structure of which Los and Enithar-
mon are the bearers. In addition to these supervening structures, without
exception the narrative of each Night of The Four Zoas shifts perspective
and/or plot focus approximately one-half to two-thirds of the way
through, though in each case the significance of such a shift is unique.
Switchpoints at which one phase of structure transforms into another
are often marked either by the most radical discrepancies and gaps or by
quite explicit forms of repetition. Though there are always markers for
dividing the text into definite perspective patterns, these markers often get
buried, overwhelmed by other details. By continual use of excessive repe-
titions and discrepancies, Blake juggles the linear surface of the poem in
such a way that there are several legitimate ways of dividing the text, and,
since a serious shift of the boundaries within which perspectival structures
are deployed totally reorganizes the narrative field, such a transposition of
pattern markers at a critical point in the narrative could completely invert
the perspectival significance of an event.
Ifa reader loses track of which details are perspective switchpoints in the
narrative and which are elements within a perspective structure, or misses
a key transformational signal planted strategically in a particular Night, or
disregards textual perspective markers altogether, the reader might well
be completely baffled by the apparently random flowing of events. In such
a state, the reader becomes vulnerable to intrusive appearances in the text
of conventionally providential figures (like the Lamb of God or Jesus):
these flashes or fragments of Eternity tempt the reader to believe that the
poem's complexities will be satisfactorily resolved by redemptive agents
in the text itself.24 This problem of perspective boundaries and redemp-
tion in the text itself is most urgent in Night the Ninth, which nearly
unhinges Blake's text and passes harshjudgment on any analytical method
which tries to penetrate it.
The most powerful way Blake incorporates perspective structure into
the dialectic between character-originated and narrated information is in
the formation of "perspective analyses" of events -a process that reveals
how fully narrative processes and textual features constitute one another.
A perspective analysis of a prior event re-enacts the earlier event within the
same fictional framework -as when the key Tharmas/Enion conversation
in Night I is twice re-enacted, once in the metaphoric action of weaving
and once in the metaphor of sexual union. Blake overlaps contexts by
careful repetition of syntax and diction to subvert linear causal order and
make the two narratively subsequent actions function as retroactive trans-

Textual structures vie for
dominance in the
unfolding narrative.

Textual switchpoints:
repetition and/or discre-

Careful attention to the
places where Blake
inserted redemptive
figures reveals that these
intrusions disturb rather
than relieve the reader.

Perspective analysis


The embedded struc-
tures of Night the First

The transition of charac-
ters into the narrative
proper from inter-
polated visions

formations of the prior conversations. As discussed earlier under the
category of narrative, these successive analyses further make the initial
event possible by establishing in the subsequent event the conditions for the
narratively prior event, often at the same instant that they cancel out the
possibility of the earlier event.
The most complex mode of perspective analysis "embeds" subsequent
events in prior plots. In an embedded plot previous narrative events are
re-enacted within a new fictional framework; new characters re-enact
prior events under a transformed perspective, thereby revealing (bringing
into explicit narrative existence) information that retroactively seems to
have been repressed within the previous fictional framework. This narra-
tive process of embedding can be visualized by bracketing textual details
into groups within which sub-groups of details are embedded. The Thar-
mas/Enion plot constitutes the first primary bracket of Night I, and the Los/
Enitharmon plot functions as the first embedded structure of the Tharmas/
Enion plot: as narratively derivative characters, Los and Enitharmon act
out in great detail the actions of the Tharmas/Enion plot and generate
other characters (Urizen, the Fallen/Wandering Man, Luvah, and Vala)
through interpolated visions. The most deeply embedded structure of the
Tharmas/Enion bracket is the "Song" at the Feast of Los/Enitharmon: in
it the maximum information surfaces, and the prior narrative elements are
most radically revised and redistributed. The second primary bracket of
Night I, which competes ontologically with the Tharmas/Enion plot, is
constituted by the "Eternity" plot, which generates characters in the
opposite order from that of the first primary bracket. The massive "war"
that surfaces in the "Song" at the Feast is narratively generated out of the
primary Tharmas/Enion sexual division; in the "Eternity" plot, however,
war is the generative nucleus that forces to the surface the sexual division of
Tharmas and Enion as a secondary by-product of the war.

The interesting discontinuities and repetitions on the level of syntax and
diction (text as flight) mark boundaries and reveal organizing principles of
the perspectives constituted through them, along with the elements that
enter into and are constituted by the perspective. When seen from a New-
tonian perspective, the sequence of events of Night I appears to be ran-
dom; when taken as a narrative process of perspective and embedded
analysis, this sequence can be mapped as a complex symmetrical pattern
(Fig. l.l:p.20) (Fig. 1.1).
Night IX exhibits an even more narcissistically nested set of bracketed
structures. The complex embedded structures of Night IX strongly
suggest that the "Last Judgment" is an act of consciousness Blake chal-
lenges the reader to make in relation to the unsatisfactory "End" of Night
The embedded struc- IX. The text of Night IX inverts and superimposes the two competing
tures of Night the Ninth perspective structures of Night I. In Night IX the Tharmas/Enion bracket
is the innermost narrative structure, being enclosed within the Urizen/
Eternal Man plot, which is itself contained by a fusion of the Los/Enithar-
mon sexual plot with the imagery of war. Tharmas and Enion assume the
role of children as Los and Enitharmon did in Night I, and the "Eternals"


eventually interact with the main characters of the narrative at a great
"Feast," not as in Night I where the Eternal and the first primary brackets
are askew (Fig. 1.2).
The neatness and symmetry of these embedded structures indirectly
give rise to the ominous feeling that something sinister is happening
offstage, that the narrative surface is, even more than usual, pervaded by
delusional traps. The embedded structures of Night IX thus throw into
relief and complexly refocus the sequence of events that seems to override
the embedded structures-the sequential unions of the Zoas with their
female counterparts. Even at the level of the unfolding narrative surface,
the accumulating frustration of the reader's desire that (finally) complete
joy will characterize these unions points to a more hidden and opposite
movement (foregrounded by the embedded structures) in Night IX-the
eventual separation of the "female form" from the Eternal Men themselves,
as a direct response to the reunion ofTharmas and Enion, the first sexually
divided pair in the poem. Seen in the context of Night IX's embedded
structures, this separation of the female form, very likely, finally enacts the
"fall" in the text itself, but as the outcome or result of the vast prior
narrative chains and not as it seemed to the Newtonian reader-a primor-
dial reality prior to the text, its originating privileged event.

Reflections on the Ontology of Reading The Four Zoas

As we have just seen, the crisis of "Last Judgment" in Night IX raises
most urgently, indeed makes unavoidable, the question of what happens
to the narrative and the text of The Four Zoas when they are perceived by a
reader in a state of failed imaginative judgment.25 Since narrative, text,
and reader interconstitute one another ontologically, whenever the reader
encounters the text through a sequence of failed acts of judgment, the
narrative in the radical sense of The Four Zoas -a perceptual agent enacting
perspective transformations and aspectual interconnections -simply does
not come into existence. Rather, the text is constituted by such a reader as
if it were given, fixed, unalterable, purely objective-that is, as if it were
not being constituted by the reader at all but simply existed prior to the act
of reading. In this state the reader's eye (I) constitutes itself as a tyrannical,
centralized, unified consciousness, inert and inflexible, incapable of alter-
ing or being altered by the apparently objective Newtonian beings that it
encounters in the fixed text. Thus the only narrative that can emerge from
the encounter between inertial reader and Blake's text is a Newtonian
narrative that seems to be (and thus, to this state of consciousness, is)
potentially already contained in the inert text itself-the core event, the
presupposed world, and so on-a narrative that is not at all a transforma-
tive agent through which reader and text mutually alter and revise one
another but merely an interpretation by the reader that attempts to con-
strue a coherent unified world (analogous to the reader's own singular
consciousness) from the multiple details of the text.26

(Fig.1.2: p. 21)

(132:6-133:9) this event
is accompanied by a ver-
bal near-repetition that
undermines the distinc-
tion between inter-
polated visions and the
narrative proper. See
below, pp. 420-21.

Blake's reader can be
glimpsed indirectly
through the perceptual
transformations The
Four Zoas text makes

Note 26: an account of
primary, secondary, and
tertiary perspectives


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Though the actual individual reader is absolutely indispensable to the
existence of the Four Zoas narrative and text, it is not the reader but the
narrative itself that is the primary agent of transformation, while the text
participates equally with the reader in their acts of mutual constitution and
revision. It would thus be as much a misappropriation of terms to say that
the Four Zoas text or narrative already contains the reader's response (even
potentially), or that the text and reader already contain the narrative, as it
would be to say that the narrative and the reader already contain the text.
From the perspective of the reader's response, however, the Four Zoas
narrative and text either come into existence or fail to come into existence
only through the reader's imaginative acts and decisions. Once the reader
makes a crucial decision (which may be unconscious or preconscious)
concerning a textual feature-say a disturbing discrepancy of the text as
flight-this decision either allows the text to revise itself through the
agency ofa Four Zoas narrative process such as perspective transformation,
or it merely interprets that textual detail as a feature of Newtonian narra-
tive, such as error, inconsistency, or incoherence, generally to be repressed
or condemned. Likewise, the reader's decision in the face of the excessive
repetition of diction or syntax which often marks the boundaries of the
text as woven pattern either allows the text to revise itself through the
agency of a Four Zoas narrative process such as aspectual interconnection,
or the decision interprets that textual detail as a Newtonian rhetorical or
decorative trope to be admired on the basis of its appropriateness or
rejected on the basis of its obsessiveness.
Unlike the individual reader, who to Newtonian consciousness seems
to exist as an individual human being, able to be pointed to independent of
and prior to the act of reading, and unlike the text whose palpable physi-
cal, visible features (words, spaces, punctuation, and so on) and even
structural features (not directly observable but inferrable; hypothetical but
verifiable in terms of lines of the poem) can likewise be pointed to arbitrar-
ily apart from any particular act of reading (witness the schematic charts in
this essay), the Four Zoas narrative is a purely relational process that has no
existence (cannot be pointed to) in any form except through the act of
reading. But instead of simply coming into existence as a dialectical pro-
duct of the interaction between reader and text, the Four Zoas narrative
actually brings the reader and text into mutual existence. This radical
relational narrative process undermines Newtonian narrative ontology
(through retroactive transformation, aspectual interconnection, and so
on): it invades and desubstantializes the independently existing Newto-
nian reader and text, reconstituting them relationally as the primary con-
ditions of the coming-into-existence of the narrative. The Four Zoas narra-
tive can come into existence only if reader and text are freed from existing
independent of reading, but this liberation can be performed only by the
narrative itself: reader, text, and narrative are thus mutually preconditions
for one another's existence. The explanatory circle of reader, text, and
narrative closes once again, only to open up as yet unexplored regions of
possibility for reading The Four Zoas.


Perspective Initiation in
"Night the First"

Some called him a "pretext." Others felt he was a point-
for-point microcosm.
A Spokesman for the Counterforce
Interactions... (or more generally, interrelations), are
never directly seen or perceived.
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
The third position, then, is that of structuralism, but
interpreted as relational, that is to say as positing systems
of interactions or transformations as the primary reality
and hence subordinating elements from the outset to the
relations surrounding them.
Jean Piaget
We would abandon a notion of our personality as
ultimately a unity of self. Instead of trying to cure
pathological fragmentation wherever it appears, we
would let the content of this fantasy cure consciousness of
its obsession with unity.
James Hillman




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Introduction: Subverting Origin and Identity

Because, as we have just seen, Blake's war against "Single vision &
Newtons sleep" demands the perpetual subversion of a single, stable,
unified world underlying the text, the greatest enemy of Blake's narrative
is also its precondition: the Newtonian reader's inertial resistance to the
transformational narrative processes of The Four Zoas dictates the minute
organization and deployment of textual details that make possible the
initiation of the Newtonian reader into the poem's perspective ontology.
This conflict, comprising the "Intellectual Battle" announced at the open-
ing of the poem (3.3), lies at the heart of the circular interconstitution of
reader, narrative, and text that is fundamental to the poem. Because ref-
erentiality and linear processing of language are two primary perceptual
categories through which the Newtonian reader constitutes the underly-
ing world which The Four Zoas is designed to undermine, Blake is con-
strained to work through those categories in order to subvert them. This
constraint guarantees that The Four Zoas narrative is not solipsistically
self-enclosed and merely self-referential, even though it exists to deny a
fixed underlying narrative "world" to which its events "refer." The poem's
most fundamental reference is, instead, to the forces against which it is
constantly struggling, "Single vision & Newtons sleep"--a strategic ref-
erentiality that enacts the spiritual struggle announced in the epigraph to
the poem.' This constraint also guarantees that the sequence of narrative
events is not at all arbitrary or indifferent to rearrangement: it is precisely
through the narrative's linear sequence that processes such as retroactive
transformation become possible and the apparent unrevisability of the past
can be challenged.
Blake's combat with "Single vision" thus raises subversive questions
about its own integrity: To what degree are Newtonian vestiges necessar-
ily present in Blake's text? To what extent is there a residual underlying
world in The Four Zoas, even if it exists primarily to be undermined? To
what extent does Blake's text participate in the world it is subverting? All
of these questions focus on the boundary between the inertial conscious-
ness of the reader and the transformational fluidity of Blake's narrative
field as it battles to break down that Newtonian resistance. Because this
boundary is also the point of intersection between language as prohibition
or limit and language as locus ofvisionary possibility, it poses a fundamen-
tal continuing challenge to Blake's verbal imagination and composition.
The difficulty of this challenge is perhaps most graphically
demonstrated in the opening pages of the poem's manuscript, where
Blake's revision upon revision produced what can only be called a textual
disaster area. Within that verbal tangle, however, lie with astounding
clarity the rudiments of text as flight and text as pattern or woven structure,
two interacting textual dimensions of the narrative which Blake continu-
ally exploits to counteract the natural pull of consciousness toward "Single
vision." In the opening lines of the poem, Blake deleted explicit reference

The minute particulars
of The Four Zoas

The referentiality of The
Four Zoas

Newtonian residues in
The Four Zoas

Reconsidering text as
flight and text as pattern


The family constellation
as a moment of text as
pattern (cf. above, pp.

Origin and identity

Beginning versus origin

Res: rei: reification

to the beginning ("thus beginneth the Book of Vala") in favor of a causally
depleted syntactic construction, generated out of the participle "Hear-
ing," which renders both subject and object indeterminate. This segment
of the poem not only exemplifies "text as flight"--embodied by gaps,
discrepancies, and discontinuities in the surface of the text-but also
enacts a defacement of the actual pre-existent verbal world lying physi-
cally beneath and covered over by the remaining surface text. At the same
time, these opening lines express a virtually hidden structure of an entirely
different order-the spatial and temporal configuration of a primordial
family: the Aged Mother/the Brotherhood/the Heavenly Father. This
organization, or "text as pattern," is interwoven into the same lines with
the discrepancies that constitute "text as flight" and equally serves to
subvert the underlying text, even though structurally "text as flight" and
"text as pattern" systematically oppose one another.
The particular crisis that besets the beginning of the poem is traceable to
the power of two fundamental presuppositions of "Newtons sleep" itself:
1) a pre-existent, privileged origin of the world/text (and a correspond-
ing definitive closure) and 2) the primacy of continuous or fixed personal
and entitative identity. These two basic features, inextricably bound up
with one another, jointly generate all the categories of Newtonian con-
sciousness. The presupposed origin, or generative nucleus of the system,
lies prior to or beyond the world/narrative it engenders; it is forever
hidden and in retreat, beyond the reach of consciousness. Identity presup-
poses origin and closure: it yearns to grasp the origin/closure which alone
can guarantee the continuity of identity but which forever flees from
identity. These characteristics of Newtonian origin and identity suggest
that they correspond to Four Zoas "pattern" and "flight," but this corres-
pondence is only partial and misleading. While text as "pattern" is analog-
ous to the way Newtonian origin perceives identity and text as "flight" is
analogous to to the way identity perceives origin and closure, this facile
similarity is deceptive, for text as pattern and text as flight both function to
undermine Newtonian origin and identity in surprising and exact ways.
The place where the text physically begins-where the linear reader
begins reading-creates a monumental obstacle to the opening up of an
anti-Newtonian narrative, for this is the first point of intersection between
the world constituted through inertial consciousness and Blake's subver-
sive world constantly in a state of undermining its own preconditions.
Blake's challenge at the poem's beginning, then, is to incorporate the
impulses of Newtonian consciousness in such a way as to subvert the
assumption of a pre-existent origin and fixed identity without succumb-
ing to the temptations of Newtonian narrative itself. One of Blake's
strategies, as we shall see in more detail below, is to create the impression
that he is plunging the reader into the narrative in medias res when there are
in fact no res -things--in Blake's narrative world into whose midst the
reader could be thrown-only relational transformative processes. Blake's
task is thus to manipulate microscopic details of the Four Zoas text as


pattern and text as flight in ways that confront the reader with a choice
between: 1) entering into an uncomfortable, anxiety-producing process of
endless mutual imaginative revision in which both the reader and the text
lose their fixed/centralized identities, and 2) resisting that process of
mutual revision by clinging to the inertial presuppositions of Newtonian
consciousness. This disturbing mutual revision of the apparently pre-
existing identities of the reader and the text demands a new vision of
origin itself-instead of a fixed origin, extrinsic to the narrative surface,
Blake's origin is an immanent, continuously generative agent that is the
active ground of the possibility of revising the past. The narrative past is
thus fixed, dead, and unrevisable only if the origin or generative nucleus
is itself exempt from revision; if, on the other hand, the origin is ever-
present, continuously open to and constitutive of the fluid re-visionary
interactions of the narrative field, then the past has only one privileged
status over the present or future: it has already been linearly processed by
the reader and thus is susceptible to conscious revision in a way the present
and future are not. The reader must also be willing to entertain a new
vision of identity: while the narrative retains a form of active identity
through its continuous origination, the reader and text lose their identities
by virtue of the mutual revision made possible by the continuous originat-
ing power of the narrative.
The two lines (4:6-7) immediately following the pseudo-invocation
(3:1-4:5)2 demonstrate the danger and the opportunity posed by this point
of intersection between "Single vision" and the Four Zoas text. At this
point the apparent arbitrariness of the official "beginning" of The Four
Zoas text ("Begin with Tharmas") seems to presuppose a non-arbitrary
origin of the poem's narrative world which is both the generative nucleus
of that narrative world and ontologically anterior to the text, an origin
which, if its existence is presumed certain, even though it cannot be
directly sighted, will guarantee the "identity" of both the reader and the
text. Blake strategically relocated this official point of "beginning" by
deleting the original explicit reference to the "beginning" ("thus begin-
neth the Book of Vala," E739, 819) in the heavily revised opening lines of
the poem and including a very different reference to the "beginning" in
4:6: "Begin with Tharmas Parent power, darkning in the West." The
earlier reference to the "beginning" is a logical and authoritative statement,
addressed to an apparently general audience, with the narrator firmly in
control of the act of beginning the poem. Further, what is beginning at
this point in the text is itself decidedly unambiguous: it is the "Book of
Vala," treated as if it were a given, completed object existing external to the
statement being made about it. Line 4:6, on the other hand, is a command
ostensibly addressed to the "Daughter ofBeulah" mentioned immediately
preceding it (4:3), but it is equally directed toward the narrator, the reader,
and the text itself. Whereas "thus beginneth..." seems to leave no alterna-
tives open, "Begin with..." by its very nature implies that other alterna-
tive beginnings are possible, that this beginning is in some fundamental

Immanent, generative

Different identities

Beginning the subver-
sion of Newtonian ori-
gin and identity

Different beginnings

Revision deletes the
"Book of Vala."


The "narrator" at once
becomes a tool of
analysis-as if the nar-
rator were a character
with subjective con-
sciousness (but is not).

How beginning with
Tharmas undermines
Newtonian origin

Arbitrary versus neces-
sary origin

The "Parent power" is
initially ungendered.

Text as flight and as pat-
tern in Newtonian and
Four Zoas incarnations

sense arbitrary (or at least optional, expedient), for at first glance it pre-
sents itself as simply a point of departure-other, prior attempts to
"begin" the narrative in the preceding lines having failed.
Following immediately upon the pseudo-invocation which has just
fragmented the narrator's identity several times over, this command be-
trays the narrator's own desperation. In seizing this apparently arbitrary
point of departure in medias res Blake seems to be falling into the trap of
presupposing another, hidden, ungraspable, non-arbitrary origin, thus
providing exactly what the Newtonian reader yearns for. The appearance
of the words, "Tharmas Parent power," however, suddenly revises the
initial impression of desperate arbitrariness by demanding that this is the
only beginning possible, for it purports to invoke a stable continuous
identity (the character/name "Tharmas") who is (by implication, since the
copula is deleted) the primordial origin, the structural nucleus or "Parent
power" out of which the subsequent events of the narrative will be gener-
ated.3 In this move, Blake undermines the prior arbitrariness of the point
of departure but seems to provide something even more Newtonian
instead: the primordial origin and identity of the narrative world itself,
which appears to be neatly closed off by the intrusive period following
"power." The second half of the line, however, turns back on both Newto-
nian originary urges. While the arbitrariness of "Begin with" was
immediately revised by the substantiality of"Tharmas Parent power," the
second half of 4:6 (following the period) retroactively undermines the
stability of the substantive identity/origin Tharmas (and the act of begin-
ning itself) by characterizing this "Parent power" as an act of vanishing or
terminating-"darkning in the West"-thereby problematizing the ori-
gin (in both its arbitrary and substantive forms) by initiating here, at the
verbal edge of the first explicitly spoken words of the poem (4:7ff), the
possibility that the origin is (in its essence or being) constantly vanishing,
asymptotically closing.
Blake's final move in this line is thoroughly anti-Newtonian and
retroactively clarifies the degree to which the line's prior gestures toward
Newtonian origin and identity occur expressly for the purpose of drawing
Newtonian consciousness into its own ontological vortex. This single line
therefore displays the Janus-faced nature of text as flight and text as pat-
tern, both of which now clearly have Newtonian as well as Four Zoas
functions. "Begin with" enacts the Newtonian text as flight in that it
gestures toward something absent or repressed by the present words; the
entire statement prior to the period functions as the Newtonian text as
pattern by its centering, organizational focus; while the words follow-
ing the period act as anti-Newtonian or Four Zoas text as flight by retroac-
tively interfering with (virtually ruling out) the prior narrative assump-
tions concerning origin and identity and as text as pattern by implement-
ing a new subversive process model of origin and identity.
Blake takes a calculated risk in opening the narrative proper this way,
however, because the Newtonian temptations that he invokes to create the


illusion of an authentic beginning to the poem threaten to override the
anti-Newtonian strategies he marshall to subvert them. By first playing
off the role of line 4:6 as an arbitrary beginning in media res against its role
as an absolute (generative) origin and then subverting both of these read-
ings through intrusive punctuation, deleted copula, participial adjectives,
etc., Blake leaves open the possibility-even the likelihood-that the
reader will ignore the subversive role of the period following "power"
and, in order to cling to Newtonian presuppositions, persist in treating
"Tharmas" as a substantive origin/identity who just happens to be "dark-
ning in the West" at the moment the narrator begins telling the tale. In other
words, Blake has made it possible for the Newtonian reader to revert to
the more comfortable initial assumption that the poem's beginning is
arbitrary and thus that the primordial origin in itself remains beyond the
scope of the text, exempt from process and revision.
In order to draw the reader's attention to the intrusive period in the
middle of line 4:6, Blake omits a crucial punctuation mark in the middle of
the next line (4:7) and replaces it with an extra void space in the text
("Emanations Enion"). This absence of conventional punctuation is
crucial to Blake's strategy here, for it exploits the spatial possibilities of
writing at exactly the point at which the poem moves into written drama-
tic speech for the first time. The first words of this line-"Lost! Lost!
Lost!"-apparently revert to the categories of Newtonian consciousness
by repetitively (compulsively) referring to an event which seems to have
occurred prior to (and thus is presupposed by) the beginning of the text. In
order to affirm that this event of loss is primordial (i.e., that it occurred
prior to the text), the reader must affirm a rupture between lines 4:6 and
4:7 and repress the possibility that what has been "Lost" could be the light
that was vanishing in 4:6. That is, because line 4:6 introduced "Thar-
mas" into the poem as both the primordial beginner (or narrative
generator) and a process of vanishing light, line 4:7 with its repeated
declaration of total loss, suggests that the evanescent process of "dark-
ning" has suddenly been completed-as if all light had disappeared and
along with it the identity-affirming (western) horizon itself. As soon as
(and if) this possibility becomes conscious, the Newtonian reader can
re-establish control over the first third of this line only by presuming a
continuity rather than a rupture between lines 4:6 and 4:7: now there seems
to be no problem concerning what has been "Lost!"--it is the western
light (sun setting) itself; but what the Newtonian reader is forced to lose by
this interpretive move is the presumption that the loss being lamented by
the speaker is primordial (prior to the text) for it occurred precisely in the
gap between lines 4:6 and 4:7. Among other things, then, what has been
"Lost" is the reader's firm rooting in a pre-existent primordial event.
The next three words of 4:7, however, force the first three words to lose
even their revised stable reference: "are my Emanations ". At first
glance, it seems as though the Newtonian reader can gain control over
these words by reading the syntax as simply having been inverted: the

The textual coincidence
of the beginning of the
narrative proper and the
naming of"Tharmas"

Spatial punctuation

The "primordial" loss is
not an event that has
occurred prior to the
reading of The Four

The reader's loss


It could be that the nar-
rator has lost his Emana-
tions in the process of
attempting to begin the

The reader loses control
of the object of "Lost."

Line 4:7 is divided into
three segments with
three elements in each

speaker (presumably Tharmas) is declaring that his "Emanations" are
unequivocally "Lost!" In order to retain a fixed identity to the text at this
point, the Newtonian reader is faced with a conflict of interest: should the
continuity between 4:6 and 4:7 be preserved by equating the disappearance
of Emanations with the disappearance of light,4 an event that occurred in
the text itself between lines 4:6 and 4:7? Or should the privileged status ofa
primordial event existing prior to the text overrule the drive for the con-
tinuous identity of the text and be preserved by interpreting the disappear-
ance of Emanations as an entirely different event from the vanishing of
light, a privileged event that occurred prior to the beginning of the narra-
tion? This dilemma reflects back on the first third of the line itself: sud-
denly it seems crucial that it is the reader who is in the process of losing
control over the object of "Lost!" at exactly that point where the ostensi-
ble object (Emanations) manifests itself in line 4:7. More important,
however, is the way Blake has segmented the line so that both "Lost! Lost!
Lost!" and "are my Emanations" form separate units-"Lost! Lost! Lost!"
by virtue of its repeated words and its repeated punctuation, which both
separate the words and bind them together, and "are my Emanations"
by virtue of its being a complete syntactic unit, a question (with punctua-
tion deleted) which could be rephrased as "Do my Emanations exist?" or
"Do my Emanations have being?" Because of this line's spatial/syntactic
arrangement, what first appears to be a statement defining or naming the
object of loss turns back on the reader and questions the very existence of
the presumed lost object. The declarative meaning is, ironically enough,
not "lost" by the emergence of the interrogative, but rather the latter is
superimposed over the former, co-existing with it, asserting its
immediate commonsense identity in the face of the potentially disinte-
grating interrogative.
Far beyond their overt simplicity, the final three words of line 4:7-
"Enion O Enion"--relentlessly undermine the Newtonian reader's drive
to reduce the line's preceding conflicting meanings to a unity. Because the
line is segmented into thirds, it seems likely, despite the absent punctua-
tion and additional empty space between "Emanations" and "Enion," that
the speaker is addressing "Enion"; if this is the case, then this new character
Enion is distinct from "Emanations," since they are presumably what has
been "Lost." The layout of the line does not rule out the possibility that
Enion is the name of the aggregate of the "Emanations" whom the speaker
is addressing in absentia by the name of Enion. Thus, in one reading Enion
is a being with an identity separate from the Emanations, and in a second
Enion is a consolidated form of the Emanations. Blake's visual layout of
the line leaves open other possibilities, however, perhaps the most
identity-disintegrating of which syntactically links the second and third,
rather than the first and second, portions of 4:7: instead of "Lost! Lost!
Lost! are my Emanations" read "are my Emanations Enion[?]" While
this is ostensibly a question concerning the identity of (Tharmas'?) Ema-
nations, it is actually a question the text is asking of itself: which of its


multiple possibilities is the single, true, correct reading? That is, Blake has
made the text ask if it has an identity in the Newtonian sense under the
guise of asking a Newtonian question concerning ostensible external
independent beings, Emanations and Enion. In the process, the Newto-
nian reader is drawn into this set of conflicts-identity/origin, declaration/
interrogation, subject/object, primordial/immanent origin-in such a
way that as the text surreptitiously loses its identity in the face of Blake's
astonishingly efficient verbal/visual strategies in this line, this reader is
initiated into a state of anxiety that disintegrates the very identity that is
supposedly processing the information in the line.
Each of these variant readings enacts an aspect of the speaker's (presum-
ably Tharmas') attempt to come to grips with the centripetal dispersion of
his words that constitutes his loss of identity or self-coincidence. Under
this pretext, Blake has demonstrated that a character is not a character, a
text is not a text, and the reader is not a self-identical reader. In attempting
to retain control over the act of reading, the Newtonian reader tries to
isolate the variant readings as though they were separable, distinct mean-
ings; if this reader can sustain such an assumption, then the reader can
retain his/her identity; but if this reader is able to acknowledge that the
text is losing its identity in the process of being read, then the reader is
experiencing the need to affirm his/her own identity. At this point, the
reader may realize that in trying to affirm his/her identity through the act
of reading, he/she is searching for his/her own "Emanation" in the text,
which isjust what both the speaker and the reader have lost. For the reader,
however, this loss occurs in the act of reading the line itself, while the
speaker acts as if the loss had already occurred prior to his utterance. It is
precisely this decoy presumption of prior loss that lowers the reader's
defenses and makes it possible for the reader to acknowledge his/her own
lost identity/Emanation in the text. This desubstantializing process that
undermines the fixed identities of the reader and the text while subverting
a privileged primal origin is the Four Zoas narrative itself, emerging into
existence as an agent of ontological revision.
Like these two lines, which open the narrative proper and divide the
speech of characters from that of the narrator, the structure of Night I as a
whole seems at first glance to affirm Newtonian ontology. Underlying the
reader's direct experience of the narrative in Night I is a complex network
of embedded structures that seem to contain the nucleus of the entire
poem. Taken in themselves, these structures are fixed and unrevisable by
the agency of the narrative: indeed, in themselves, they are the supervening
framework that constrains or bounds the narrative. As with the two open-
ing lines of the poem proper, however, where Blake invokes Newtonian
impulses only to subvert them, the embedded structures of Night I are
designed specifically to rule out the possibility of 1) a privileged origin,
beyond the text, of the poem's narrative world, and 2) consistent fixed
identities of characters and events. With respect to origin, the two "pri-
mary" structures of Night I, the "Tharmas/Enion" plot and the "Eternity"

The text interrogates its
own identity by having
the voice question the
name ofthe Emanations.

Though initially ungen-
dered, "Tharmas" will
henceforth be consi-
dered male, in anticipa-
tion of his sexually
divided state which
comes into being
through his speaking.

Assignment of male
gender to the speaker
circumvents the
androgynous being of
this act of speaking.

The text calls into ques-
tion the reader's fixed
gender as an aspect of
identity and otherness

Dismantling origin and

Night l's embedded
structures re-enact the
dispersion of origin and


The two primary brac-
kets mutually invert the
causal priority of war-
fare and sexual division.

"Perspective" emerges
as an unconscious pro-
duct of narrative pro-

The primary brackets of
Night I

plot, ontologically and narratively invert one another. In "Tharmas/En-
ion" war is narratively generated from sexual division; in "Eternity" sexual
division is narratively generated from war. In elaborating this inver-
sion, these competing primary structures cancel out the priority of one
origin over the other, for the fiction of origin is in each case constituted by
the perspective in which it is embedded. At the same time, with respect to
identity, this mutual inversion makes possible dislocations and discon-
tinuities among textual details so radical that not one character or event in
Night I retains even an approximately consistent identity.5 Because these
embedded structures exist only to render possible the disappearance of
Newtonian origin and identity, they are dimensions of the narrative's
identity as continual origination and not ontologically reifiable patterns
that inhibit the narrative's subversive operations.

Embedded Structures in Night I

In order to grasp the interplay between local microscopic details and
supervening patterns in Night I's narrative, it is useful to begin by con-
structing a model of the dominant embedded structures that facilitate the
mutual interconstitution of reader and text in Night I. The first step in
developing a model of these embedded structures is to bracket the two

"Eternity groand"(18:9)

(4:6) (18:8)
9 1"



Fig. A.1


conflicting yet interconnected perspectives of Night I-the "Tharmas/
Enion" plot and the "Eternity" plot, which constitute ontologically com-
peting narrative fields. The division between these two primary brackets
of Night I occurs at line 18:9, "Eternity grand and was troubled at the
image of Eternal Death." From this point on, the action shifts from the
Tharmas/Enion plot to the Eternity plot whose defining characters
behave as if they were providential overseers, radically disconnected and
exempt from the events of the Tharmas/Enion plot. These most abstract
brackets of Night I are diagrammed in Fig. A.1.
Within the first primary bracket (at line 12:4) Blake inserted another
version of 18:9, Night I's central dividing line: "Eternity grand & was
troubled at the Image of Eternal Death." Since both of these lines affirm a
direct relation between the two primary brackets (Eternity's response to
the Tharmas/Enion plot associated with Eternal Death), they bear tre-
mendous ontological weight in Night I: both times they signal a radical
shift in narrative relations. On page 12 the line marks the point at which
the characters' speeches and the world of the narrative proper overlap: at
precisely that point four characters-Luvah, Vala, the (variously named)
Man, and Urizen-suddenly break into the narrative proper out of the
interpolated visions of Los and Enitharmon. On page 18 the line actually
divides the Night in two. Because this near-repeated line is about "Eter-
nity" and its response to the events of the Tharmas/Enion plot, it reveals
that the second primary bracket, constituted by "those in Great Eternity"
(21:1), is already an aspect of the first primary bracket. Similarly, when
Blake establishes in the Eternity bracket itself the preconditions of the
events of the Tharmas/Enion bracket, he interconnects these two primary
brackets in the very act of separating them.
Within the first primary bracket, two further instances of near-repeated
lines mark the opening and closing of embedded structures. The
emergence of the first embedded structure of Night I-the genesis of the
Los/Enitharmon plot out of the Tharmas/Enion plot-is signalled by the
line "Behold two little Infants wept upon the desolate wind" (8:2). As
these infants develop narratively they ontologically re-enact and trans-
form the initial Tharmas/Enion plot in which their actions are structur-
ally embedded. Los and Enitharmon persist in this role until Blake marks
the closing of this embedded structure by the line, "Enion blind & age-
bent wept upon the desolate wind" (17:1). Because Enion is now the
subject of the repeated verb phrase, she marks the re-emergence of the
Tharmas/Enion bracket. Immediately following Enion's lamentation,
beginning with line 18:9, the narrative shifts to the second primary brack-
et, "Eternity," whose presence has only obliquely intersected the first
primary bracket. Another near-repetition ("Los & Enitharmon sat in dis-
content & scorn" [13:19 and 16:18]) brackets the most deeply embedded
structure of Night I, the "Nuptial Song" at the Feast of Los and Enithar-
mon. Recognition of these repetitions allows us to fill in more details of
the Tharmas/Enion bracket (see Fig. A.2).

Textual problems per-
vade the ordering of seg-
ments and boundaries of
Night I, complicating
this inquiry into Night
I's structuring. See Note

The "Eternity" and
"Tharmas/Enion" brac-
kets simultaneously pre-
suppose and interfere
with each other.

Repetition as a marker
for embedded sub-

"Eternity grand"



' wept upon the
desolate wind"

Luvah, Vala,
the Man, and
Urizen enter
the narrative

FEAST (12:36)
"Los 8 Enitharmon
sat in discontent
& scorn" (13:19)

"Eternity grand"



FEAST (16:20)

Los & Enitharmon
sat in discontent
8 scorn" (16:18)

"wept upon the
desolate wind"
(17 .1) I

Fig. A.2


Inclusion or omission of
Vala and ofLuvah's
robes of blood marks the
causal inversion of the
two primary brackets.

"Eternity" as a narrative
fiction susceptible to the
laws of perspective

Within the second primary bracket (Eternity) further embedded struc-
tures occur, but these structures are not marked by repeated lines. The
Eternity bracket divides into two sub-phases-a long speech delivered by
"messengers from Beulah" and an account by the narrator proper of the
actions of the Daughters of Beulah. The messengers' account reverses the
order in which information was generated in the Tharmas/Enion bracket:
in the messengers' account, the primary conflict occurs between Urizen
and Luvah (who functioned as derivative characters in the Tharmas/Enion
plot); in the messengers' account the conference and combat between
Urizen and Luvah is ontologically and narratively primary and generates
the sexual division of Tharmas and Enion; at the same time, however, the
messengers' report inadvertently presupposes that division. In addition,
the absence from the messengers' account of the character Vala and the key
image of"Luvahs robes of blood," whether through ignorance or suppres-
sion, accompanies an inversion of the narrative/ontological field. At least
at one stage of the text's evolution, Blake specifically revised the first part
of Night I by deleting an extended conversation between Enion and the
Spectre regarding Enion's slaying of Emanations.6 Therefore, at the one
point where the two primary brackets of Night I could intersect or overlap
(at Enitharmon's causal relationship to Tharmas and Enion [22:22-23]),
the reader is confronted with an inversion of narrative "facts." The narra-
tor's account in the first bracket of Night I is incommensurate with the
messengers' narration in the second bracket because the elements of expla-
nation are no longer ontologically the same, even though they bear the
same names. The second sub-phase of the "Eternity" bracket features the re-
turn of the characters named the "Daughters of Beulah" and thus reintro-
duces as the primary generative force the sexual plot which the messengers
have just treated as secondary; like the messengers' account, however,
the Daughters' segment also omits reference to Vala or Luvah's robes.
The information generated from the perspective of Eternity and the
information located textually prior to it and generated directly from the
narrator in the Tharmas/Enion bracket invert one another. Because both
phases of the Eternity bracket repress Vala and the key image of"Luvahs
robes," however, this second primary bracket cannot be a source of
unequivocally true or context-free information, obeying Blake's narrative
ontology that dialectically conditions information so that it is primarily
constituted by context. The gap between the Tharmas/Enion and Eternity
perspectives derives from a radical ontological shift that totally reor-
ganizes the narrative field and alters the meaning of characters and events.
The disjunctive narrative fields of the first and second primary brackets of
Night I thus subvert (by their mutual inversion) the possibility of an
underlying stable world that is being distorted and rearranged by the
surface text.
Had Blake reversed the narrative order of the two primary brackets and
given "Eternity" linear priority, it would have drastically altered the expe-
riential (and thus ontological) status of these two segments. By directly


exposing the embedded structures of the Tharmas/Enion plot and then
shifting to the Eternity perspective, Blake severely limits the narrative
authority of the latter perspective. Their order in the poem forces the
reader first to live through the intricate interwoven details of the Tharmas/
Enion plot only to have them turned inside out by the events disclosed
through the perspective of Eternity. As if to mediate between these
conflicting primary brackets, Blake inserts (by revision) into the Tharmas/
Enion segment references to "Eternity," "The Lamb of God," "The
Divine Vision," the "One Man," and "Beulah," all of which seem as if they
should be elements of the Eternity bracket. Blake inserts these elements,
which otherwise might appear to be unambiguous or unproblematic, at
points where they function to increase narrative tension rather than oper-
ate as authentic and satisfactory evidence of knowledgeable and effective
providential influence. These fragments of Eternity seem randomly
inserted, even inappropriate on a first reading, but on closer inspection,
these intrusions appear precisely at points of transition from one mode of
perspective analysis to another.
Because local details, which are the ground of perspective analysis,
rapidly become overwhelming and disorienting, it is useful at this point to
subdivide the narrative further by isolating the "interpolated visions" in
Night I. The division between the narrative proper (information recounted
by the fluctuating narrator) and interpolated information (speeches, dreams,
songs, visions, etc., uttered by the characters) persists throughout the
entire poem. This distinction pervades both primary brackets of Night I:
indeed, the revised version of Night I decisively subordinates and virtu-
ally overwhelms the narrative proper with interpolated information
whose apparent random insertion into the poem is misleading. Night I
contains four interpolated visions: three are embedded in the Tharmas/
Enion plot and a fourth in the Eternity plot. The first interpolated vision,
Enitharmon's "Song of Vala," introduces four new names into the poem
(The Fallen Man, Urizen, Luvah, and Vala). The second interpolated
vision, Los's response to Enitharmon's Song, structurally rearranges the
significance of the same four character names. These visions occur at a
crisis in the Los/Enitharmon plot, which, as the first embedded structure,
functions to act out in the narrative proper implications that behave as if
they had pre-existed but had been suppressed in the Tharmas/Enion plot.
These two interpolated visions thus serve to analyze the relation between
the Los/Enitharmon and Tharmas/Enion plots. The third interpolated
vision, the lengthy "Song" at the Feast of Los and Enitharmon divides
almost insensibly into two parts: the first half is sung by the "thousand
thousand spirits," while the second half is sung by the "Demons of the
Deep." This statement by musicians of the upper world (elemental vegeta-
tion) and response by those of the lower world (sea and caves) opens up a
wide vista of action and yokes together characters from both the narrative
proper and previous interpolated visions. During the Song at the Feast an
important new character, the "Spectre of Urthona," emerges to link

Intrusions of ostensibly
providential figures
intensifies the incom-
mensurability of the two
primary brackets.

The narrative proper
versus interpolated vis-

Structural roles of inter-
polated visions in Night I




* .

Fallen Man


Wandering Man

'U ri zen





Most Deeply


War Between
Urizen and
Luvah is
Sexual Division
Generated Out
Of Mole
Power Struggle
(Vo/c Absent)



Fig. A.3


The irreducibility of
Night I to competing
versions of the war plot

"Spectre," a term from the first primary bracket, with "Urthona," an
alternate name for Los in the pseudo-invocation (3:11-4:1). The final
interpolated vision of Night I, the account of the messengers from Beulah,
appears within the Eternity bracket and contains references to all the
characters in both the narrative proper and the interpolated visions of the
Tharmas/Enion bracket, with the key exception of Vala: this omission
accompanies an inversion of the narrative/ontological field that con-
stituted the first primary bracket. The more complex structure of Night I,
then, takes on a form like that of Fig. A.3.
Night I concludes with an ironic coda that reductively recapitulates the
two competing and incommensurable primary structures of Night I. This
coda reverses the linear order of narration: the "Wars of Eternal life"
(apparently referring to the Eternity bracket) and "wars of Eternal Death"
(referring to the Tharmas/Enion bracket). This coda is ironic in that it is
only from the perspective of Eternity, mediated by the messengers from
Beulah, that the events of the Tharmas/Enion bracket are called "Wars of
Death Eternal" (21:15); in the Tharmas/Enion plot itself, "Eternal Death"
is primarily a condition of sexual division. There is, furthermore, no
narrative basis in either bracket for "Wars of Eternal life"; for upon learn-
ing of the wars of Eternal Death the "Family Divine" (one projected form
of "those in Great Eternity") summarily encloses the Messengers (and
syntactically itself) and withdraws from warfare.

The First Primary Bracket: Tharmas/Enion

Hiding/searching as the
narrative origin of divi-
sion as well as of inter-

The Tharmas/Enion conversation, out of which the embedded and
sub-embedded structures of the First Primary Bracket will generate,
employs confession, accusation, and interrogation to enact through
speech the dialectical division between, and the interconstitution of, hid-
ing and the search for that which is hidden. Blake uses this hiding/search-
ing dialectic as the narrative origin of division because hiding creates the
presupposition of another separate being (or mode of consciousness) from
whom one can hide,just as searching creates a presupposed separate other
who can be examined. The hiding/searching dialectic is also an ingenious
narrative origin of interconstitution because hiding exists only by virtue of
the fear of being examined, and examination exists only by virtue of the
suspicion that something has been hidden. Secrecy, or the fiction of
separate, opaque identities whose interiors are hidden from external gaze,
therefore becomes possible only within this circular interplay between
concealment and scrutinizing. What Tharmas and Enion are evading by
consciously focusing each other's attention on the problems of conceal-
ment and exposure, however, is that they are treating what is happening in
the narrative present of their dialogue as if it had already happened before
the poem began.
What is actually being hidden by their conversation, then, is how their


intense focus on the act of hiding forces the reader to search for pre-
existent desires, events, etc., which their dialogue seems to hide. The
verbal organization of their dialogue thus creates in the reader an anxious
need to probe the gaps and discontinuities in their speeches, looking for
the underlying identity of the text as if it were somehow itself hiding
beneath the disjunctive words of Tharmas and Enion. Blake's strategy in
the Tharmas/Enion dialogue is therefore to incorporate the Newtonian
reader into the compulsive hiding/searching dialectic by tempting this
reader to perform unconsciously on the text the same dangerously self-
divisive perceptual acts which Tharmas and Enion so painfully acknowl-
edge but which they nevertheless play out in their conversation.
By thus absorbing the reader into the dialogical enactment of the hiding/
searching dialectic, Blake brings into narrative existence the specific
form of repression/suppression that is a fundamental precondition of nar-
rative embedding. This repression/suppression is ontological-in addi-
tion to psychological or perceptual -in that it is the fictional ground of the
possibility that the narrative world to which Tharmas and Enion are appar-
ently referring (and which they are ostensibly repressing) in their oblique
dialogue exists ontologically prior to the text. The hiding/searching
dialectic initiated in the Tharmas/Enion dialogue brings into narrative
existence the possibility of Newtonian perspective (or "Single vision")-
the invisible force in ordinary existence whose power to reify privileged
regions of being derives from repressing other regions, the supervening
force in ordinary perception that produces the pervasive hypnotic sugges-
tion of"one-sidedness" by "canceling out," "eliminating," and "exclud-
ing" the rest of the perceptual/ontological field,7 and thus the oppressive
anti-imaginative force that the Four Zoas narrative continually strives to
dismantle by invoking and radicalizing the categories of perspective itself.
To this end, the hiding/searching conference between Tharmas and
Enion is immediately re-enacted through a series of "perspective
analyses," subversive processes of the Four Zoas narrative field, which
re-present the initial verbal gestures as concrete corporeal actions-most
immediately as Enion's weaving and sexual ravishing. As anti-Newtonian
strategies, these alternate re-enactments of the hiding/searching dialogue
generate two complementary complications simultaneously. First, the
bodily events that subsequently enter the narrative proper as perspective
analyses of the Tharmas/Enion dialogue seem to have been already pre-
sent, but unarticulated, hidden, in the gaps within and between the utter-
ances of their initial conversation-discrepancies which seem to imply
that bodily events which they are unwilling or unable to verbalize are
happening as they speak. Tharmas and Enion's behavior thus suggests
that, in speaking, they are disguising bodily gestures that are so disturbing
to them that they compulsively conceal and avoid those gestures that
simultaneously yearn so strongly to express themselves that they eventu-
ally force their way into the narrative proper.
This partially accurate but misleading interpretation suggests that a

Hiding/searching as a
condition of ordinary

"Perspective analysis":
an unconscious dimen-
sion of The Four Zoas

Perspective analysis of
the Tharmas/Enion con-


The inadequacy of the
return of the repressed

Textual gaps open up
narrative possibilities.

psychological repression model of the narrative and text could adequately
account for the minute particulars ofEnion's weaving and sexual ravishing
that subsequently enter the narrative proper: these events cannot, however,
be fully explained as sequential revelations or manifestations of informa-
tion previously hidden or repressed by the Tharmas/Enion dialogue. If
such a repression model were fully sufficient to account for the minute
particulars of these subsequent narrative events, the conversation between
Tharmas and Enion would substantially affirm the existence of a world/
situation (independent of or prior to the text) from whose features Thar-
mas and Enion select, through a process of psychological exclusion or
repression, rather than (as is the case for The Four Zoas) a world/situation
in the state of coming-into-existence by virtue of-in the region of-
precisely those textual gaps that take on significance in the poem as dis-
crepancies within the narrative field. That is, rather than signifying the
closing off of awareness (repression), these textual gaps serve to open up
regions of possibility in which subsequent perspective analyses can find
room to engage in (often perverse) free-play.
Once Newtonian repression has explicitly entered the narrative proper
by the agency of the Tharmas/Enion dialogue, however, it becomes a
primary and necessary feature of the Four Zoas narrative field, taking on
ontological significance as Blake uses it to draw the reader into perform-
ing the same processes that the characters are enacting, to tempt the reader
to repress not only numerous local details but even the Tharmas/Enion
conversation itself.
The second complication of this process of perspective analysis by re-
enactment forces into the open the incompleteness and erroneousness of
the initial impression that a psychological repression model is adequate to
Blake's text: the alternate re-presentations of the originating conversation
introduce elements into the narrative proper that conflict with and even
contradict the prior verbal interchange between Tharmas and Enion. Per-
vasive textual lures tempt the reader to assume that the details that follow
the conversation between Tharmas and Enion are narratively related to
one another as a simple causal sequence: the conversation causes the weav-
ing which causes the ravishing. Sustaining a causal reading of this linear
textual sequence, however, demands the repression, by the reader, of
significant local details that persistently interfere with, but do not obliter-
ate, the possibility of causal dependence between the emerging sequential
narrative events. Interpreting these discrepant details as signs of prior
repression by Tharmas and Enion leads to the partially misleading conclu-
sion that Enion's weaving and sexual ravishing were somehowgoing on at
the same time as the conversation, that these subsequent events were the
bodily gestures Tharmas and Enion were repressing in their evasive
dialogue. This reading is certainly more accurate than the causal interpre-
tation, but nevertheless still clings to the supposition of a pre-existent
narrative world.
Only the consistent details support a reading of the text as a causal


sequence, while selected discrepant details suggest a reading of the text as
operating according to a psychoanalytic repression model. The most radi-
cally discrepant details, however, call attention to their role as elements of
perspective analyses of the initial verbal confrontation rather than as pieces
fitting into a causaljigsaw puzzle or fodder for a psychoanalytic diagnosis.
In general, details overlap from one re-enactment to another, leaving gaps
within each account which other re-enactments partially fill and with
which they partially conflict. Each subsequent perspective analysis of the
initial conversation thus plays a triple role-thrusting the narrative
linearly forward (causal model), establishing the concrete or active
grounds for the conference (repression model), and retroactively under-
mining the possibility of the conference itself (Four Zoas model).

Tharmas/Enion Phase I: Verbal Interchange
Following the dislocating pseudo-invocation that disperses the narra-
tor's identity (3:1-4:5), the narrative proper suddenly shifts to an oblique
and difficult verbal confrontation between Tharmas and Enion, intro-
duced by the command, "Begin with Tharmas Parent power, darkning in
the West" (4:6), which seems to be addressed to the "Daughter of Beulah"
of the preceding pseudo-invocation (4:3), but is equally directed toward
the narrator, the reader, and the text itself. This line invokes a narrative
nucleus or "Parent power" only to undermine it by immersing Tharmas or
the beginning in a process of disappearing into a closing boundary (sun
setting). The image "darkning in the West" itself functions, however, as a
narrative nucleus for other characters and events by binding Tharmas to
the sun (and thus to Los who is "bright" and whose name easily converts
to "Sol") and to the sky and the horizon (and thus to the character "Uri-
zen" soon to appear) and to dawn, the polar opposite of sunset (and thus to
"Enitharmon," "Luvah," "Vala," and the "Man," also soon to enter the
narrative obliquely or directly connected with a [false] dawn), because
"darkning in the West" situates Tharmas at one boundary of the cycle of
"Days & nights" just announced in the pseudo-invocation (3:11) and thus
immediately opens up the possibility of morning following this western
darkening. None of these associations is firm and stable, however; in fact,
before Night I has ended, Tharmas will no longer be associated with the
sunset image.
Blake opens the Tharmas/Enion conversation itself with a cry of
anguish uttered by Tharmas (4:7-16), but only by default, since his voice
seems to emerge out of a lost identity: "Trembling & pale sat Tharmas
weeping in his clouds" (4:28) is the only evidence throughout the conver-
sation that he is the other speaker; only as he disappears into the sea,
separating from his Spectre, do we get a relatively unambiguous assurance
that the utterance "Return O Wanderer when the Day of Clouds is oer"
(5:12) is spoken by Tharmas. Enion's voice, on the other hand, is always
unambiguously the origin of her words: "Enion said" (4:17 and 5:5), "So

Conflicting models of

Returning to the bound-
ary line at the beginning
of the narrative proper

FOUR ZOAS I / 4:6-5:6

Speech and writing at
the boundary of the nar-
rative proper

Tharmas' speech as a
catalogue of grammati-
cal types

How the fiction of
separate characters
becomes possible in The
Four Zoas narrative field

Revisions and deletions
to these lines call atten-
tion to the difficulty of
the narratological/
ontological problem
being confronted.

saying" (5:6). The suddenness of Tharmas' opening cry of anguish (4:7)
and the initial indeterminateness of the speaker's identity are crucial to its
significance: this cry enacts in its temporal unfolding the process of
"darkning" announced immediately preceding it. By beginning his text
with an act of speech, Blake calls attention to this cry as lying on the
boundary between speech and writing: because Tharmas' speech is spa-
tially encoded in a text and not literally vocalized, Blake is able to organize
the syntax of this speech (through spatial layout, punctuation, etc.) with
an almost maddening openness to competing constructions by the reader
which allows Blake to challenge the identity of both the reader and the
Through this textual cry, Blake invokes already existent grammatical
categories (subjects, verbs, modifiers, etc.) in order to bring those
categories into narrative existence as ontological strategies in the poem at
precisely the moment he undermines them. The opening words of each
line of Tharmas' first speech, for example, constitute a catalogue of utter-
ance types, of tense and mood shifts: "are my... We are become... I have
hidden ... I will build... Why hast thou ... Let her Lay... It is not... She hath
taken ... The Men have recieved" (4:7-15). The organization of Tharmas'
syntax itself mirrors his sexually dividing being: an element that functions
as a subject in one reading becomes an object in another; some readings are
more obvious and less anxiety-inducing than others, but Blake makes it
impossible to accept any single syntactic construction as authoritative and
final. The layers of overlapping syntax which the reader struggles to
isolate from one another (or repress) are analogous to the overlapping yet
differentiating and repressing being ofTharmas' "darkning" sexual divi-
The precise syntactic structure of the hiding/searching dialectic which
informs the Tharmas/Enion conversation not only allows the two charac-
ters to alternate between and participate in each other's roles but also
makes it possible for these characters to exist as separate beings in a
potentially fully interconnected narrative field. The hiding/searching
structure of the conversation is thus Blake's solution to the poetic and
ontological problem he is facing here-how to embody a character who is
in the process of dividing by means of the fiction that the character is already
divided. The speech gestures of the two fictionally already separate (though
ontologically dividing) characters overlap and disjoin in such a way that
each character can presume the separateness of the other character while
enacting the other's role and even accusing the other of the action he
himself (or she herself) is performing. The speech acts which Tharmas and
Enion-and indeed, the reader-initially experience as diametrically
opposed utterances by discrete characters progressively interconstitute
one another to such an extent that they become the same action: it is thus at
the moment they physically separate (5:5) that they are most fully revealed
to be the same character.
Since this conversation enacts through language the dissolution of


Newtonian identity, it is appropriate that the cry that begins the conversa-
tion is not immediately attributed to Tharmas, but seems to emerge as a
division in the narrator's voice itself:
Lost! Lost! Lost! are my Emanations Enion O Enion
We are become a Victim to the Living We hide in secret
I have hidden Jerusalem in Silent Contrition

The visual juxtaposition of the term "Emanation" and the name "Enion"
with no intervening punctuation (only extra empty space) both identifies
Enion with and separates Enion from Emanations. Is the speaker (to
whom we can refer as Tharmas, though technically he comes into exis-
tence as a separate character in the process of speaking) calling to his lost
Emanations by the name of Enion? Or is he addressing Enion directly,
informing this separate but present character of his loss? If Tharmas is
directly addressing Enion, which the subsequent context seems to
demand, then in so doing he is refusing to acknowledge the alternative
syntactic possibility that Enion is the name of the Emanations he perceives
to be "Lost." When in line 4:7 he characterizes these Emanations as
unequivocally possessed by him ("my Emanations"), it is almost as if his
ability to recognize them as belonging to him or a part of him is an aspect
of their disappearance.
The lines that follow 4:7 continue to dissolve syntactic and personal
identity and undermine the possibility of a fixed origin of the situation in
which the hiding/searching conversation is occurring. In these lines,
Tharmas attempts to retain his identity by subdividing the female other he
is addressing or referring to, a complex gesture that eventually divides
"Love" from "Pity." In one construction of the syntax in line 4:8, Tharmas
yokes himself syntactically with Enion twice-"We are become a Victim
... We hide...." The shift from "my" to "We" reifies the gap between
Enion (who is treated as present) and the Emanations (who are presumed
absent). The first half of the line, "We are become a Victim," seems to
presuppose the existence of a unified, singular "We" prior to the conversa-
tion. "We hide in secret," however, acknowledges the division already
implicit in "my," while it simultaneously undermines the illusion that
there ever was an unconditioned interconnected "We," since the "We"
itself is singular only in its role as "Victim" and has come into existence as
a reflex to the crisis of loss. Blake places no punctuation in line 4:8,
allowing the reader to construct two alternative versions of this reading:
"We are become a Victim to the Living [.] We hide in secret" and "We are
become a Victim to the Living figures() or being(s) whom] We hide in
secrett" This latter reading is consistent with the next line, "I have hidden
Jerusalem"; in this sense "Jerusalem" becomes the specified name of the
otherwise ambiguous "Living," of whom Tharmas and Enion are a Vic-
tim. (Blake's late substitution of "Jerusalem" for the original text "thee
Enion" calls attention to this possibility.)8

Anatomizing Tharmas'

Tharmas: as "male"
speaker addressing a
"female" other: not yet
granted by the text: the
speaker is not yet
explicitly named Thar-
mas and retains female
characteristics ("Soft
recess..."); a fragment
not incorporated into
the poem reveals the
androgynous nature of
Tharmas/Enion more
directly: "From Enion
pours the seed of life &
death in all her limbs /
Frozen in the womb of
Tharmas rush the rivers
of Enions pain / Trem-
bling he lay swelld with
the deluge stifling in
anguish" (page 142,
E764, 846).

FOUR ZOAS I / 4:8-12

Revisions to line 4:8
confirm the text as
undergoing the division
it describes.

"Her": first emergence
of gender difference in
the narrative proper.

In another construction of line 4:8, however, even these tenuous holds
on the separate identities of characters are undermined. Because of the
absence of punctuation, the following reading is also possible: "Enion O
Enion / We are [.] become a Victim to the Living We [.] hide in secret." In
this reading,9 Tharmas' anguish derives from the assertion of separateness
-"We are" rather than "I am" (as Blake's original text read). 0 The speaker
is then commanding Enion to become a Victim of this state of separate
existence, and is identifying this victimization with hiding in secret. In
this construction, the grammatical divisions of the previous readings
break down. Even though all these possibilities are vying for dominance
in the reader's experience, no reader can consciously entertain them all
simultaneously, since each demands a crucial revision of the syntactic
status of the words in the alternative readings. The text thus thwarts the
reader's desire to find a unified identity reflected in the text itself.
In line 4:9, "Jerusalem" is either (most obviously) the object of Thar-
mas' hiding or (less obviously) the character he is addressing: "I have
hidden [,]Jerusalem [,] in Silent Contrition." In the former reading Thar-
mas claims to have hidden a separate character; in the latter he claims to
have hidden himself ("Silent Contrition" seems as much a place as an
emotion). These opposed readings serve to split Tharmas further in two at
precisely the point at which a separate "I" emerges accompanied by a
shift from the present to the past perfect tense (enacting a temporal divi-
sion). The term "Jerusalem" thus exhibits characteristics of both "We" and
"the Living" of the previous line: this apparently separate character is an
external projection of the hiding process itself while being a product of
In a desperate attempt to sustain his identity, Tharmas is forced to
undergo radical changes as he speaks:
I have hidden Jerusalem in Silent Contrition O Pity Me
I will build thee a Labyrinth also O pity me O Enion
Why hast thou taken sweet Jerusalem from my inmost Soul
Let her Lay secret in the Soft recess of darkness & silence

A crucial gap exists between Tharmas' admission that he has hidden
either Jerusalem or himself and his offer to build a "Labyrinth also" for
Enion. By using "also" Tharmas acts as if Enion already knows that the
form of "Silent Contrition" in which he has hidden Jerusalem or himself is
a form of "Labyrinth." (In the earlier text, this gap does not exist: "thee
Enion" which "Jerusalem" replaces both cancels out the syntactic multiva-
lence and implies that Tharmas is offering Enion a "Labyrinth" in addition
to hiding her, rather than as a fonn of hiding her.) As the primary image of
the possibility of hiding at this point in the poem, the "Labyrinth"
reflexively refers to the immediate tangle of complexities in the text itself.
To call attention to the "Labyrinth" as a self-conscious aspect of the text,
Blake brackets Tharmas' offer of a "Labyrinth" with "O Pity Me" and "O


pity me." The two utterances of "pity" are radically different gestures,
however; in the former, he asks her to pity him because he has confessed to
hiding Jerusalem or himself; in the latter, he asks her to pity him because
he is unable to refrain from offering to build Enion a "Labyrinth" also and
thus compulsively repeat what he recoils from as his former error.
In the most obvious construction of 4:11, Tharmas' utterance implies
that Enion actually takes Jerusalem from his "inmost Soul" as he speaks."
The possibility that Tharmas could be referring in line 4:11 to an event that
occurred before Tharmas started to speak is diminished by the (revised)
narrative sequence: it is only after he offers to build Enion a "Labyrinth"
that he becomes aware of Enion's having taken Jerusalem from his "inmost
Soul" (or "Labyrinth," as hinted at by the "Soft recess of darkness &
silence"); up to that point he believes Jerusalem is "hidden." Tharmas'
offer of a second hiding place thus engenders Enion's discovery of the first,
and her implicit nonverbal action to which Tharmas alludes analyzes their
relationship and at the same time supplants the initial conditions for his
calling, "Lost! Lost! Lost!" Jerusalem, rather than the Emanations, is now
what is lost to Tharmas (though, again, the visual clues in the text by no
means rule out the possibility that Jerusalem is actually a name for Thar-
mas' Emanations, thus enacting in the text the event of loss that Tharmas
seems to be presupposing).
As soon as Tharmas acknowledges the removal ofJerusalem from his
inmost soul, a new character suddenly appears to fill the void created by
her absence, a character, according to Tharmas, whom he is not voluntar-
ily harboring, as he was Jerusalem: "It is not Love I bear to Enitharmon It
is Pity / She hath taken refuge in my bosom & I cannot cast her out"
(4:13-14).12 Enion's nonverbal act of removing Jerusalem from Tharmas'
"inmost Soul" as he was speaking thus has not eliminated the problem of
hiding and searching, but rather has served to generate another subdivi-
sion of the externalized female. The name "Enitharmon," which replaces
Jerusalem in the action (ironically reversing Blake's own act of substitut-
ing Jerusalem for Enitharmon in revising line 4:11), spatially embeds the
name Tharmas in the name Enion and immediately suggests that this
character is the pre-sexual unified being out of whom Tharmas and Enion
are dividing. Instead, the emergence of Enitharmon switches the roles of
Tharmas and Enion temporarily, further undermining the characters as
separate identities: now it is Tharmas who pities, who before asked to be
pitied. His excuse for Enitharmon's presence in his bosom is divisive, not
unifying, however, for it presumes that "Pity" and "Love" cannot coexist
-the presence of "Pity" being sufficient to guarantee the absence of
"Love." In this defensive move, Tharmas inadvertently reveals that in
asking Enion to pity him (4:9-10) he was implicitly denying his desire for
her to love him. By emphasizing his inability to cast out Enitharmon,
Tharmas opens up a distance between his motives and Enitharmon's,
creating a breach or void within his own identity: it is she who has actively
"taken refuge" in his "bosom," entered him almost as if by (sexual) viola-

Residual feminine
characteristics of Thar-

Line 4:13: manuscript
reads "Enitharmon"
though Erdman mends
this to [Jerusalem]; see
note 12.

The first axis ofdialogi-
cal contradiction: pity
and love

FOUR ZOAS I / 4:15-25

Following one strand
through the labyrinth

The second axis of
dialogical contradiction:
love/hate; liberty/duty

tion, while it was Tharmas who had voluntarily hidden Jerusalem (or
himself) in his own "inmost Soul."
In the final phase of his initiatory speech, Tharmas projects his own
internal sexual division outward onto the separation of multiple Emana-
tions from multiple "Men"--ostensibly imported from the "Brother-
hood" of "The Universal Man" mentioned in the opening lines of the
poem (3:5-6) but structurally Tharmas' way of visualizing his own
divided identity: "The Men have received their death wounds & their
Emanations are fled / To me for refuge & I cannot turn them out for Pitys
sake" (4:15-16). This projection, however, completely inverts the initial
situation in which Tharmas' own Emanations were lost. This gesture also
retroactively revises the significance of Enitharmon, whose emergence
now reveals itself to have functioned as the turning point in Tharmas'
relation to the Emanations: contrary to the opening of his speech where he
called out for his lost Emanations, Tharmas now claims to have been
invaded by the Emanations of unnamed other "Men" (who, by virtue of
receiving "death wounds" share the fate but not the name of Los in the
poem's invocation [4:5]) and blames his inability to cast them out on the
"Pity" he asked for in 4:9-10.
The words spoken by Enion following this elliptical speech do not
function as a response to Tharmas' words; rather they establish an alterna-
tive situation to which Tharmas was responding. Enion emphasizes the
breach between a presumed former state (which now seems to exist only
in her memory) and the present state of existence and locates the origin of
this rupture in what she perceives to be a radical change in Tharmas:

All Love is lost Terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love
And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty.
Once thou wast to Me the loveliest son of heaven-But now
Why art thou Terrible

What Tharmas characterized as a conflict between similar passions, Pity
and Love, Enion perceives as a drastic substitution of opposites-Love by
Hate and Liberty by Duty. In focusing on Tharmas' responsibility for the
situation, Enion not only turns attention away from her own involvement
(which Tharmas emphasized) but reveals, calls into narrative existence,
features totally unavailable through his utterance-Tharmas' fear and his
terrifying appearance. These features retroactively give an alternative
explanation for Tharmas' desire to hide Enion or to conceal himself from
her gaze. Yet as she proceeds to request what Tharmas seems already to
have offered her in his speech, their presumed separate identities begin to
overlap as syntactic categories again break down:
and yet I love thee in thy terror till
I am almost Extinct & soon shall be a Shadow in Oblivion
Unless some way can be found that I may look upon thee & live
Hide me some Shadowy semblance. secret whispring in my Ear


In secret of soft wings. in mazes of delusive beauty
I have looked into the secret soul of him I lovd
And in the Dark recesses found Sin & cannot return

In one construction of his speech, Tharmas had offered to hide Enion in a
"Labyrinth," as he had hidden Jerusalem; now Enion uses similar imagery
in asking that he hide himself from her, disguise himself, so that she "may
look upon [him] and live" (4:23). The context of this utterance-that she
wants to find a way to behold Tharmas and live-at first seems to dictate
that the "Shadowy semblance" is a disguised form of the terrifying Thar-
mas; yet she has just said that she will soon be "a Shadow in Oblivion"
(4:22) if she cannot behold him; thus "some Shadowy semblance" could
function as an appositive to Enion herself. Also, the clause, "Unless some
way can be found that I may look upon thee & live" (4:23) may syntacti-
cally conclude line 4:22 ("soon shall be a Shadow in Oblivion / Unless
..."), or it may introduce line 4:24 ("Unless some way can be found... /
Hide me..."). Depending on the syntactic link made here, the function of
hiding is radically altered: in the former reading, the act of hiding is a way
to prevent her diminishing into a Shadow; in the latter reading, the act of
hiding is a substitute for an authentic way for her to behold Tharmas and
It is in the context of this syntactic indeterminacy concerning the act of
hiding that Blake incorporates lines 4:24 and 4:25 into the text. These lines
seem, no matter how they are read, to have something crucial missing, as
if something is being hidden, not only from the reader, but from Tharmas
and perhaps Enion as well. These lines syntactically enact in the reader
Enion's divisive gaze upon Tharmas' interiors under the guise of her
request to be protected from gazing on him: "Hide me some Shadowy
semblance, secret whispring in my Ear / In secret of soft wings. in mazes
of delusive beauty." The repetition of "in" involutes the secrecy Enion is
attempting to invoke, while the intrusive periods segregate the phases of
secrecy from one another: the mazes of delusive beauty most immediately
refer to the textual complexities with which Blake is tempting the reader
at this point. By making it seem that Enion herself is in fact not gazing but
requesting to be exempt from gazing on Tharmas, Blake lures the reader
into feeling exempt from Enion's act of looking that retroactively pro-
duces the double form of terror (Tharmas' fear and horrible appearance to
her) from which she initially recoiled. The process is circular: her desire
for secrecy creates the need to look, and the need to look creates the desire
for secrecy. This circular dialectic of concealing and seeking manifests
itself to Enion as the terrifying yet impotent form ofTharmas whom she is
addressing as if he is separate from her. When, immediately following
these lines, Enion confesses to having made the decisive, apparently
irreversible gaze on Tharmas' interiors, she acts as if it happened before
she started to speak, when in fact, as with Tharmas, what she treats as
distant past has just been performed in the present.

The labyrinth: syntactic
indeterminacy in En-
ion's response

Enion's self-reflexive

FOUR ZOAS I / 4:26-5:18

The interconstitution of
Tharmas and Enion

Although her visualization of his soul precisely recreates the Labyrinth,
complete with "Dark recesses," just as Tharmas had offered, her refusal or
inability to utter specific character names transforms the nature of their
confrontation. Enion places "Sin," instead ofJerusalem or Enitharmon, in
his secret soul, but is Enion herself closed in the recesses or closed
out? (Can she not return from the recesses or to them?) If it is she who is
closed in his soul, then she herself inhabits the role of Jerusalem/
Enitharmon/Emanation toward whom Tharmas implied she bore such
jealousy. This tacit identification could lie behind her inability to utter the
names of the other female characters whose role she virtually inhabits
here. (The revisions imply the same thing: "Jerusalem" was initially a
substitution by Blake for "thee Enion.") Blake climaxes his interfusing
of the two voices as one voice dividing by making explicit the extent to
which they presuppose each other: the decisive fact is that Tharmas and
Enion accuse each other of what they themselves are doing. The events are
interlocked aspects of each other and not simply independent events
whose partial aspects are grasped by Tharmas and Enion. Enion, for
example, accuses Tharmas of exhibiting a horrible appearance which she
perceives to derive from "Sin" in his "secret soul." Yet without her search-
ing there would be no secret; it is her looking that produced the secret.
Again, when Tharmas immediately accuses Enion of anatomizing him, he
is declaring that it is in fact her way of"Examin[ing] every little fibre of
my soul / Spreading them out before the Sun like Stalks of flax to dry"
(4:29-30) that creates the need for his secrecy. Her anatomization of Thar-
mas turns the "infant joy" -here initially a metaphor, but one which will
soon directly manifest itself in the narrative proper as the infant Los and
Enitharmon-into a vision "Horrible Ghast & Deadly," precisely the hor-
rible appearance she accused Tharmas of in her opening speech. As he
continues accusing her, saying she will "go mad" if she examines "Every
moment of my secret hours" (4:34-35), his gesture suddenly turns back on
him: now he is the one examining in a way that leads to his own madness
and suicide:

I know
That I have sinnd & that my Emanations are become harlots
I am already distracted at their deeds & if I look
Upon them more Despair will bring self murder on my soul

In the process of accusing Enion, Tharmas himself becomes self-accused.
His accusation of Enion equals his own examination of his Emanations.
The final irony ofTharmas'speech makes explicit how the internal dialec-
tic reveals the conversation as emerging from one voice in the process of
Tharmas expresses the crisis of his internal being in terms of the con-
trast between what he perceives as Enion's temporal organic transforma-
(4:41-44) tion ("root," "flower," "fruit") and his own static atom/Nothing identity.


As he confronts this contrast, the agony of his internal division becomes so
intolerable that for relief his voice suddenly undergoes transformation'3 as
he radically shifts the scene to "Eden," another realm entirely. He invokes
this "Eden" (which Blake revised from "Beulah") as a fictional, wished-
for male dominated realm to which he can flee in the guise of memory; it
significantly shares none of the properties of the "Eden" described in the
poem's pseudo-invocation. Tharmas' defensive shift to a version of Eden
that is designed to deflect his immediate distress retroactively calls into
question the grounds of the preceding conversation and brings into exis-
tence the conditions for the next phase of action, the weaving of the Circle
of Destiny from the anatomized threads of that conversation.

Phase II: Re-enactments and transitions
Two competing metaphors -weaving and bodily union-immediately
re-enact and transform the primary Tharmas/Enion conversation. Be-
tween these re-enactments, Blake inserts (by revision) transitions that
exploit pseudo-propositional syntax to introduce new information as if it
were decontextualized fact. These transitions are themselves alternative
enactments or interpretations of sexual division that significantly invert
and interfere with each other-a male patriarchal vision of Eden and a
feminine realm of Beulah. In the first transition, beginning "In Eden
Females sleep the winter...," Tharmas defines Eden as a world that exists
for the sake of males, where subservient "females" weave veils to "hide"
themselves, and from whose deaths "Males" are renewed. This speech,
which is generated from the contrast between organic Enion and atomic
Tharmas, introduces the image of weaving as a mediation between (and
precondition of) female sleep, death, and seasonal rebirth. As the conver-
sation suddenly takes on the characteristics of a pseudo-propositional
interruption, the weaving metaphor unobtrusively assimilates and virtu-
ally replaces the anatomization metaphor.
Enion interprets Tharmas' shift to the language of Eden as an implicit
accusation of her failure to renew him by her death, for she replies,
"Farewell I die I hide from thy searching eyes": in this gesture Enion
reverses the initial poles of accusation in their conversation. Throughout
his utterance Tharmas has become increasingly aware that his hiding from
Enion's scrutiny is itself a form of examining or anatomizing the Emana-
tions that he initially perceived as being "Lost." Now this process of
dialogical self-revelation completely inverts the initial situation in which
Enion examined Tharmas' soul. Rather than searching him, she accuses
him of examining her with his "searching eyes": her act of anatomizing
Tharmas by examination is simultaneously a state of being anatomized by
Tharmas. Thus when Enion begins to weave, it is not Tharmas' fibrous
anatomy she uses but "Sinewy threads" "From her bosom"(5:6). After Thar-
mas "Turn[s] round [the first appearance of] the circle of Destiny" and
sinks into the sea (5:11-13), these fibres become those of Tharmas'
anatomized Spectre (5:14-18).

The voice in 5:1-4 could
be an unacknowledged
intrusion by the nar-

First transition: the shift
to "Eden"


Enion is explicitly
identified as female at
this point of intersection

FOUR ZOAS I / 4:45-5:25

Semantic mirror phase
of the text is situated at
the boundary between
conversation and re-

Jerusalem's conflicting
relations to Tharmas and

First re-enactment:

Blake subliminally underscores this mutual interconstitution through
division by overlapping the transitional language of Tharmas and the
language of re-enactment that follows it: a barely noticeable semantic
mirroring emerges at the point in the text where the conversation under-
goes transformation into its first metaphoric re-enactment. At 5:3, a
period conveniently follows the phrase "female deaths." Reading selec-
tively backward and ahead from this period we find an approximate and
subliminal semantic (though not syntactic) mirroring that functions to
overlap the two phases and to transfer the plot from one phase to the next.
The correspondences are as follows:
line line
5:3 "female deaths" / "they die" 5:4
5:3 renewed / "revive" 5:4
5:2 "darksom grave" / "I die" 5:5
5:2 "hide them" / "I hide" 5:5
5:2 "Woven" / "weaving" 5:6
4:45 "groan" / grandn" 5:8
4:45 "weep" / "Weeping" 5:9
4:45 "feel" / "tears & bitter sighs" 5:11
4:45 "wish" / "Return 0 Wanderer..." 5:12
This semantic mirroring is partially obscured by the varying syntactic
functions of the word units themselves and by the presence of other syn-
tactic devices that interfere with an immediate perception of the inverted
order of words and phrases. Nevertheless, this subliminal mirror imagery
stands decisively at the threshold of the key transformation between the
Tharmas/Enion dialogue and the first re-enactment of that conversation
in Enion's weaving of the Circle of Destiny.
The hiding place Enion begins to weave for herself (5:5) from her own
anatomy (the Sinewy threads of her bosom) becomes "A tabernacle for
Jerusalem" (5:7).14 This inadvertent consequence of Enion's attempt to
hide herself reverses what Tharmas had previously perceived as her
removal ofJerusalem from her hiding place: this action reveals explicitly
the extent to which Jerusalem is intimately connected with Enion's own
fate. Because Enion's weaving is accompanied by her "Singing her lamen-
tation" (5:8), this moment at the outset of her weaving intersects Enion's
later lamentation around the wedding feast (17:2-18:7).
As the first re-enactment of the conversation proceeds, Enion weaves
her hiding place from the anatomy of Tharmas:
In torment he sunk down & flowd among her filmy Woof
His Spectre issuing from his feet in flames of fire
In gnawing pain drawn out by her lovd fingers every nerve
She counted. every vein & lacteal threading them among
Her woof of terror.
Thus the anatomizing which Tharmas previously felt as a searching for
and discovery ofJerusalem (the hidden secrets of his inmost soul) is now


precisely the opposite-the process that hides Jerusalem. Blake prefaces
this radical redistribution of narrative elements by a key event: Tharmas
bends from his Clouds and "Turn[s] round the circle of Destiny" (5:9-11),
an act that presupposes that the "circle of Destiny" is an already existent
feature of the poem's world. Yet it is only after Tharmas turns round the
"circle" and dies (what Enion said she would do [5:5]) by sinking into the
sea, that Enion actually brings the "Circle of Destiny" into existence by
weaving it out of the sunken anatomized fibres of Tharmas (which were
initially her own): "So saying he sunk down into the sea a pale white corse /
His Spectre issuing from his feet... drawn out by her lovd fingers every
nerve / She counted. every vein & lacteal threading them among / Her
woofofterror... on the tenth trembling morn the Circle of Destiny Com-
plete / Round rolld..." (5:13-25).
Though Enion begins to weave before Tharmas turns round the "circle,"
the "Circle" is explicitly woven out of the physically anatomized Tharmas
who emerges into the narrative only after Tharmas has turned round the
"circle" and sunk into the sea (which occasions the Spectre's fibrous sep-
aration). Tharmas' turning ofthe "circle" becomes a version ofhis original
act of hiding Jerusalem, just as Enion's weaving the "Circle" explicitly
constitutes her act of hiding Jerusalem. Since the Circle is now literally
woven out of the anatomized fibres of Tharmas, it incorporates the accus-
ing, searching pole ofthe conversation; and because Enion's woof is one of
"terror," this action implicates her even more deeply in creating the
schizophrenic state of terror she originally projected onto Tharmas: All
Love is lost Terror succeeds... yet I love thee in thy terror" (4:18, 21). Now
it is her own woof that forms and is constituted by "terror."
This temporal overlapping (as well as the mirror-image reflected dic-
tion) reveals that the conversation and the weaving are spoken and bodily
versions of an action that comes into existence only through the poem's
narrative sequence, however much it may seem to be presupposed by the
events of the poem. Blake progressively undermines the possibility that
the Tharmas/Enion conference occurred between two separate characters:
rather, these narratively constituted beings emerge as two aspects of a state
of consciousness divided against itself in such a way that each aspect
represses his/her involvement in the other's responsibility for their condi-
tion. Theyjointly constitute the possibility of avoiding that responsibility.
The first transitional phase, which occurred as a problematic shift
within Tharmas' voice, displaced the present narrative action into "Eden."
The second transitional phase occurs within the narrative voice and con-
sciously shifts to the feminine "Beulah" rather than the male "Eden" and
introduces Blake's quite original and unorthodox "Lamb of God" into the
poem. This transition excludes direct reference to weaving and seasonal
rebirth, emphasizing instead "Eternity," "vegetation," "the Spectre," and
the possibility of sleepers who "sleep / Eternally." It occurs immediately
following Enion's completion of the "Circle of Destiny" (woven from
Tharmas' Spectrous fibres) and immediately before Tharmas and Enion

The causal circularity of
the emergence of the
Circle of Destiny

The fiction that Thar-
mas and Enion are
separate characters is
undermined by sub-
sequent narrative events.

The Lamb of God as a
narrative operator, not a
conventional literary or
religious trope

FOUR ZOAS I / 5:29-37

This deleted conversa-
tion was possibly
reinstated by Blake. See
note 15.

The second re-
enactment: vegetative
bodily union

The Lamb of God as nar-
rative precondition for
the sexual union of the
Spectre and Enion

Second transition: the
shift to "Beulah"

re-enact their division as a violent physical union. This bodily union
brings into narrative existence the secret cause of (the avoided event
retroactively presupposed by) their primal hiding/searching dialectic.
This second Beulah-oriented transitional section is an even greater inter-
ruption, both experientially for the reader and compositionally for Blake,
who inserted it in the midst of the action and deleted a long verbal inter-
change between Ehion and the Spectre.'5
In the first narrative re-enactment, Blake introduced a new phase of
analysis by superimposing imagery of dismemberment (from the Thar-
mas/Enion conversation) over the imagery of weaving (from the first
transition). In the second re-enactment a similar complex superimposition
occurs. The loom on which Enion weaves the Spectre ofTharmas does not
become a loom of "vegetation" until after the second transition, which
reintroduces the Daughters of Beulah, this time in the role of giving a
"form of vegetation" to the Spectre; as females ofBeulah and not of Eden,
they make no reference to weaving. The Lamb of God's creation of Beulah
as a "Universe feminine" therefore becomes deeply implicated in the
physical ravishing of Enion by the Spectre that is about to take place in the
narrative as the final re-enactment of the Tharmas/Enion conversation.
The transition between the first and second re-enactment of the initial
Tharmas/Enion conversation (that is, between the emergence of the Cir-
cle of Destiny and the bodily union of Enion and the Spectre) is not the
relaxing interlude from the horrors ofdivisiveness and pain it seems to be.
Rather, it establishes two central relationships between the perspective
analyses and the transitional material itself. First, tonally, this transitional
section is polarized from the narrative, as was Tharmas' transitional utter-
ance beginning, "In Eden...." Second, just as that transition was
immediately absorbed into the narrative action, so the information in this
second transitional phase calls into existence the sexual basis of both the
spoken confrontation and the bodily Circle of Destiny.
The transition begins:

There is from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant rest
Namd Beulah a Soft Moony Universe feminine lovely
Pure mild & Gentle given in Mercy to those who sleep
Eternally. Created by the Lamb of God around
On all sides within & without the Universal Man


Since the opening conversation explored acts of avoidance, the sudden
emergence of this soothing narrative voice seems itself to be a form of
evading the immediately surrounding narrative events. The repetition of
"mild" and the use of words like "pure" and "pleasant" appear almost
bizarre in this horrific context of dismemberment and psychic division.
"Great Eternity" is suddenly inserted into the poem as a region from
which "rest" is a merciful relief, and Beulah is defined as such a place of
rest "from" (either derived from, away from, or temporally extended


from) this indeterminate "Great Eternity." The benign appearance ofBeu-
lah is subverted, however, if entering Beulah means sleeping "Eternally."
At first glance this information about Beulah seems to confirm and expand
Tharmas' description of"Eden," but Blake specifically deleted the word
"Beulah" in Tharmas' statement and replaced it with "Eden" in order to
emphasize the conflict between these female and male visions of sleep and
death. In "Eden" Females sleep in the winter and revive for the sake of
males; in the Lamb of God's "feminine" world sleepers "sleep / Eternally."
Although Blake places a period between "Eternally" and "Created," it is
possible to read past the intrusive period and assume that Beulah is "Eter-
nally Created" by the Lamb. The period holds open the option, however,
that Beulah is created by the Lamb specifically for "those who sleep /
Eternally." The possibility that "sleep / Eternally" signifies "sleep in an
Eternal manner" rather than "sleep endlessly" or "sleep forever" only
increases the tensions in this seemingly innocuous transition, for if this is
the case, how can this place be a rest "from Great Eternity"? These
conflicts introduce a problematic, even sinister aspect to this creation of
Beulah by the Lamb.
The contention between Tharmas and Enion centered on sexual divi-
sion, which the Lamb creates by separating a "Universe feminine" "On all
sides within & without the Universal Man" (5:33): in this sense Eden and
the possibility of female sleep seem to presuppose and to contradict Beulah
and its sexual structure. In addition, just as the Lamb creates Beulah, the
Daughters of Beulah create "Spaces," lest "they" (most likely the "sleep-
ers" though possibly the Daughters or even "Dreams") "fall into Eternal
Death." It is significant that Blake first introduces "Eternal Death" into the
poem in the context of the Lamb's creation of Beulah. As a rest "from
Great Eternity" Beulah is the realm wherein sleepers become possible; if
there were no sleepers Eternal Death would have no meaning as a state or
place into which sleepers could fall.
The Daughters act upon the completed Circle of Destiny exactly as if it
were simply another "sleeper" in need of protection and give to it a space
named "Ulro." In giving a space to the Circle of Destiny they make
Eternal Death possible: Blake reveals this irony when the Daughters
speak, avoiding all reference to sleep or the Circle, emphasizing instead
previously unarticulated aspects of the "Spectre." The emergence of the
Spectre into the context of Beulah is a direct consequence of the
Daughters' presence and voice; the narrator, in describing Beulah and the
Daughters' actions, makes no mention whatsoever of the Spectre. Like the
narrator, the Daughters also adopt a pseudo-propositional (and therefore
transitional) voice: "The Spectre is in every man insane & most /
Deformd" (5:38-39). Unlike Tharmas, who saw females in Eden renew-
ing males by female deaths, from the point of view of the Daughters of
Beulah, the Spectre necessarily inhabits "every man" (presumably,
though not necessarily, male). They are constrained to meet this generic
Spectre and "give / To it a form of vegetation" (5:40-41). They make

The multivalence of
"sleep / Eternally"

The Lamb and the origin
of Eternal Death

Conflicts between the
narrator's and the
Daughters' voices gen-
erate incommensurable
accounts of the
Daughters' functions.

The Spectre also is pre-
sumably, but not neces-
sarily, male.

FOUR ZOAS I / 5:41-8:2

Eternal Death insinuates
itselfinto the narrative in
various roles by attach-
ing itself to different
names and events.

Textual indeterminacy:
see note 16.

Second perspective
analysis of the first re-
enactment (weaving)

The Spectre's appear-
ance assumes both
male and female

On page 142 of the man-
uscript, a similar bodily
union is even more
explicitly sexual:

absolutely no reference in their speech to their primary task, assigned to
them by the narrator, of protecting sleepers from falling into Eternal
Death. Instead, they focus on the "Spectre ofTharmas / [who] Is Eternal
Death" (5:41-42), because this particular Spectre is so radically different
from the Spectres to whom they can give a form of vegetation that its
emergence ruptures their weaving process.
The narrator's information thus significantly conflicts with that pro-
vided by the Daughters. In the narrative proper, Enion has just woven the
Circle of Destiny out of the Spectre of Tharmas; now, according to the
narrator, the Daughters give the Circle a space exactly as if it were like
other "sleepers." Yet from the Daughters' perspective the Spectre ofThar-
mas is Eternal Death, something they view with fear as utterly different
from the Spectres they are able to vegetate. These two overlapping fields of
information imply that the Daughters have actually created a space for
Eternal Death itself rather than acted to protect sleepers from falling into
Eternal Death. In order to evade the implications of this perspective
conflict, the Daughters call on "God" and close the "Gate of the Tongue,"
retroactively revealing how the conditions for Tharmas and Enion's ina-
bility to communicate verbally in their initial conversation follow directly
from the Lamb of God's creation of Beulah.
Blake incorporates this transitional material concerning the Spectre,
Eternal Death, and Vegetation into the immediately following section
(6:1-8:2), which constitutes the final phase of this narrative analysis. Now
Enion's loom, as if feeling the reflex of the Daughters' speech, becomes
one of "Vegetation," which it had not been before. The intervention of the
"Beulah" transition allows the sexual nature of the Spectre threading
through Enion's loom to become explicit. In 5:16-17, the Spectre was
"drawn out by her lovd fingers every nerve / She counted...." Now, fol-
lowing the Beulah transition,'1 this event is re-enacted and analyzed again:
"She drew the Spectre forth from Tharmas in her shining loom / Of
Vegetation weeping in wayward infancy & sullen youth" (6:1-2). In the
previous analysis, Enion's woof itself had begun to "animate," "having a
will / Of its own perverse & wayward" (5:21-22). Now it is the warp, the
Spectre threading through, which is "wayward," but nevertheless absorb-
ing the metaphor that associated "infancy" with Tharmas' state ("The
infant joy is beautiful but its anatomy / Horrible..." [4:31-32]). This sec-
ond narrative analysis of Enion's weaving of the Spectre avoids reference
to the Circle of Destiny and replaces it with a violent sexual union depicted
as an inorganic form ravaging the organic-recalling the atom/flower
dichotomy in Tharmas' earlier speech. The Spectre partially assumes the
shape Enion had earlier desired in order to "look upon [Tharmas] & live":
he is "A shadowy human form winged" (6:6). He fuses light and darkness,
knowledge and obscuring vision: "in his depths / The dazzling as of gems
shone clear" (6:6-7); yet when his "rocks" are open there is "horrible
darkness" (7:2). Enion and the Spectre of Tharmas unite in physical (and
oblique, though in the context of Beulah, unmistakable, sexual) union
which is also a version of the weaving:


they join in burning anguish
Mingling his horrible darkness with her tender limbs then high she
Shrieking above the ocean: a bright wonder that nature shudderd at
Half Woman & half Spectre" all his darkly waving colours mix
With her fair crystal clearness in her lips & cheeks his metals rose
In blushes like the morning & his rocky features softning
A wonder lovely in the heavens or wandering on the earth
With female voice warbling upon the hollow vales
Beauty all blushing with desire a self enjoying wonder
(7:1-9) (E299-300, 846)

This action transforms the initial two figures ("they") into one by means of
a shift from a wonder "nature shudderd at" through a "wonder lovely" to
"a self enjoying wonder" and traces the increasing mutual involvement of
the two figures, who become equally transformed in the process. What
begins as a violent external joining modulates into a "softning" of the
rocky inorganic form of the Spectre and a deepening of color in the
"crystal clear" Enion and ends in a near-total union. This movement from
divided to united form reverses Tharmas' original cry for his "Lost" Ema-
nations. This near-total physical/sexual interfusion is the deeply hidden
secret that retroactively makes possible the mutual accusations of the
Tharmas/Enion confrontation.
The narrator's implication in the process of repression and revelation
climaxes when two infants are born from the union of Enion and the
Spectre. In the most interesting state of the text's revision,'8 the narrator
shifts his focus from the evolving beauty of the union of the Spectre and
Enion to an entirely different orientation on this event:

For Enion brooded groaning loud the rough seas vegetate.
Golden rocks rise from the [vortex] vast
And thus her voice. Glory, delight: & sweet enjoyment born
To mild Eternity shut in a threefold shape delightful
To wander in sweet solitude enrapturd at every wind
Till with fierce pain she brought forth on the rocks her sorrow & woe
Behold two little Infants wept upon the desolate wind.

A critical gap appears between Enion's voice and the voice of the narrator.
These lines construct another loop in time: now it is Enion who groans
instead of Tharmas; the gold rocks rising transform the Spectre, who first
appeared as he "Reard up a form of gold & stood upon the glittering rock"
(6:5); the vegetating sea recreates Tharmas' sinking into the sea and
flowing among Enion's loom of vegetation. The narrator characterizes
this event as one of great pain, but Enion's voice sings of her delight
"enrapturd at every wind." The narrator emphasizes the infants' weeping
"upon the desolate wind" and suppresses any sense of what this "mild"
(Beulah-like) delight of Enion's might be. The narrator reports that the
"wayward infancy" of the Spectre now constitutes the emergent "Infants"
who appear out of the pressure between the narrative voice and Enion's.19

"the struggling copu-
lation, in fell writhing
pangs/They lie in twist-
ing agonies" (E764,

See note 17: the text
given here is a composite
reconstruction based on
the most interesting ver-
sions of these lines. This
is the only occasion that
such a textual liberty is
taken in Narrative

At the outset oftheir
mingling, the Spectre
and Enion are unam-
biguously male and
female; at the end they
become a singular
"female voice."

See note 18: this reading
is based on Erdman's
pre-1982 editorial logic.

This gap exists only if
the revisions on page 143
of the manuscript are
incorporated, as above.
See Note 18.

The "wind" operates in
conflicting roles at the
birth of the infants.

FOUR ZOAS I / 8:1-9:18

Los and Enitharmon
enter the narrative
proper sexually divided,
a "boy & girl," to enact
a perspective analysis of
the Tharmas/Enion

See Note 18: the narra-
tive strategy described
here attaches only to one
stage of the poem's

The condensation of the
embedded structures

"Structurally": textually
disconnected moments
issue in covertly parallel
narrative events.

Most important, this line-"Behold two little Infants wept upon the
desolate wind" -marks the boundary of the first embedded structure of
the Night. It will eventually signal the re-surfacing of the Tharmas/Enion
bracket following the enigmatic Nuptial Feast; at that point Blake recon-
structs this key line as, "Enion blind & age-bent wept upon the desolate
wind" (17:1).

The First Embedded Structure: Los/Enitharmon

The entrance of the "two little Infants" into the narrative proper marks a
new kind of perspective re-enactment in which new (apparently separate)
characters perform the roles of Tharmas and Enion while being treated
narratively as if born from them. This secondary plot does not simply
re-enact the Tharmas/Enion plot but, like the previous analyses, acts as if
it allows details suppressed in the previous phase to surface while it actu-
ally brings the preconditions of the initial verbal confrontation into narra-
tive existence. At the same time, it alters our experience of that initial
confrontation by a complex process of feedback that partially invalidates
the reality of the prior events it makes possible. Once he has brought the
primary Tharmas/Enion bracket full circle, ending with the sexual union
that is the evaded subject of their initial conversation, Blake polarizes the
narrator's voice against the voice of Enion and projects these new charac-
ters onto the surface of the poem.

Los/Enitharmon: First Phase

The first segment of the Los/Enitharmon narrative occupies only eight-
een lines into which Blake compresses a skeletal account of all the events
in the Los/Enitharmon plot up to the end of Night III when the bounds of
(the Circle of) Destiny break. Blake condenses into these eighteen lines
Los and Enitharmon's birth, growth, and assumption of power as well as
their act of repelling Enion out of the narrative. From the very beginning
Los and Enitharmon embody elements of the Spectre, who appeared
"weeping in wayward infancy," but who soon "Reard up" in narcissistic
dazzlingg" and "Glorying in his own eyes Exalted in terrific Pride"
(6:2-8). Los and Enitharmon likewise begin "weeping." They are "Raisd
...with glories from their heads out beaming" (8:6). And, just as Enion
drew the Spectre out of Tharmas, the infants derive their power and
"pride" (9:7) from "scorning her drawing her Spectrous Life / Repelling
her away & away by a dread repulsive power / Into Non Entity revolving
round in dark despair" (9:4-6).
The point at which "Enion gave them all her spectrous life" (9:8) struc-
turally intersects the point in Night III when the bounds of the Circle of
Destiny are broken and Tharmas begins to re-emerge as a separate charac-
ter (43:27-44:22). Drawing the Spectre from Enion structurally unweaves
the Circle of Destiny because the union of Enion and the Spectre is a


perspective analysis of the Circle; the subsequent perspective analyses of
this eighteen-line sequence reveal, however, that Los and Enitharmon
cannot draw the spectrous life from Enion without detouring through
Urizen and Ahania, Luvah and Vala, and the Man, characters who come
into existence through Los and Enitharmon's subsequent conversations
and are thus excluded from this initial compressed account.

Los/Enitharmon: Transition

Following these eighteen lines, Blake inserts a transitional section that
bridges the gap between the condensed account of the Los/Enitharmon
plot preceding it and the extended perspective analyses of this eighteen-
line condensation that will occupy the next two and one-half Nights. As in
both previous transitions, the shift from the first to the second phase of the
Los/Enitharmon bracket employs pseudo-propositional syntax. As in the
second transition, this syntax is infused with a tone of softness and deli-
cacy emanating from "Beulah." The actions of all three of these transitions
seem to be occurring in another realm of being from that of the narrative
proper. In each case, however, the narrative proper immediately reacts to
the insertion of the transitional material: with each successive transition,
the transitional events become more and more directly implicated causally
in the events of the narrative proper.
In this third intrusive transition, the singular "daughter of Beulah"
named "Eno"20 performs an act akin to the multiple Daughters' creation of
salutary spaces. It astonishes Eno's "Sisters of Beulah," however, to see her
"soft affections" directed toward "Enion & her children," characters in the
narrative proper closely aligned with the "Spectre of Tharmas" whom the
Daughters fear. Eno's taking "a Moment of Time /And [drawing] it out to
Seven thousand years" (9:9-10) makes possible a spatialization of time and
thus retroactively creates the conditions for Enion's narratively prior
anatomization of Tharmas: the examination of "Every moment of [his]
secret hours" (4:35) and the "fibre[s]" of his soul (4:29). Eno's drawing out
action makes possible not only Enion's drawing the Spectre from Thar-
mas but also Los and Enitharmon's drawing the Spectre from Enion.
On the other hand, Eno's opening the center of an atom of space
(9:12-13) is in opposition to the Daughters' "closing" of the Gate of the
Tongue. If this "opening" reverses the conditions that have thus far limited
verbal interchange, it must take the form of the increasing amount of
information that appears, not in the linear narrative proper, but in the
intersecting world of spoken interpolated visions. Yet Eno's action is
independent of the mysterious "Hand Divine," which is mentioned only
to be hidden, "not yet revealed" (9:17). Thus, within her well-intentioned
action lurks an apparently benign form of the narrative proper's hiding/
searching motif. Eno's twofold action of drawing out and opening up
makes possible both the initial Tharmas/Enion conversation and the next
phase of the Los/Enitharmon plot.

The essential detour
through the characters
generated by the Los/
Enitharmon plot

The dialectical progres-
sion of the three transi-
tional phases

Eno's action makes
"windows into Eden"
(9:11), connecting Beu-
lah (feminine) with
Eden (male-dominated).

The narratively sub-
sequent and ostensibly
providential action of
Eno creates the condi-
tions for the emergence
of the Spectre's power,
yet reverses the prohibi-
tion on verbal discourse
(which exists in only one
stage of the poem's revi-
sion, see Note 16).

FOUR ZOAS I / 9:19-36

Los/Enitharmon: Second Phase

The narrative proper
itself enacts the drawing
out and opening up
action ofEno.

Los and Enitharmon re-
enact Enion's weaving.

The Lamb of God's func-
tion as the source of sex-
ual division in Beulah
infiltrates the details of
Los and Enitharmon's

The structural inversion
of Los/Enitharmon and

Next, this transitional material is superimposed over the first phase of
the Los/Enitharmon plot, thereby drawing it out linearly and opening up
aspects that retroactively function as if they had been suppressed by the
narrative forces of the poem's prior contexts. Indeed, the narrator overtly
integrates this transitional information into the narrative proper: in the
first phase of their story Los and Enitharmon "wanderd far away" (9:1) but
the space was not named; now they delight "in the Moony spaces of Eno"
(9:19). New information emerging in this phase reveals what it means for
Los and Enitharmon to draw the Spectre out of Enion by re-enacting and
transforming Enion's weaving of the Circle of Destiny that involved her
drawing the Spectre out of Tharmas. In the first re-enactment of the
original Tharmas/Enion conversation, Enion "wove-nine days & nights
Sleepless her food was tears" (5:19). Now Los and Enitharmon live out a
blissful parody of Enion's state: "Nine Times... feeding on sweet fruits /
And nine bright Spaces... weaving mazes of delight" (9:20-21), echoing,
in addition, Enion's request for Tharmas to assume a form "in mazes of
delusive beauty" (4:25). Details pour into this segment from the Tharmas/
Enion plot and the immediately preceding phase of the Los/Enitharmon
plot. Because the extended Los/Enitharmon context adds surprising new
information, its model is the Spectre's original woven form and has "a will /
Of its own perverse & wayward" (5:21-22). Los and Enitharmon first eat
fruit; then they snare goats for milk; then, suddenly, they become car-
nivorous: "they eat the flesh of Lambs" (9:22). The reference to "Lambs"
invokes a dim resonance with the "Lamb of God" who creates Beulah, the
realm that makes possible the "Moony spaces" in which Los and Eni-
tharmon wander, which in turn makes eating "the flesh of Lambs" possi-
ble. Blake immediately follows this reference to eating of the flesh of
Lambs with a restatement of the sexual division that the creation of Beulah
also makes possible: "they eat the flesh of Lambs /A male & female naked
& ruddy as the pride of summer" (9:22-23). Only if the Lambs' association
with Beulah's sexual division is repressed does this sequence appear to be
gratuitous or incidental.
Unlike Tharmas and Enion, whose features radically overlapped in the
very process of their division, Los and Enitharmon are distinctly born into
the narrative proper as "two" (8:2), and their explicit division as separate
characters precedes, rather than follows, their verbal interchange. Los and
Enitharmon's exteriorized sexual roles are explicitly compartmentalized:
he controls times (Eno's drawn out moment), while she controls spaces
(Eno's opened atom) (9:27-28). In addition, each is also divided internally
by a process of alternation which reincarnates the emotional conflicts of
Tharmas and Enion: he alternates between "Love & Hate," and she alter-
nates between "Scorn &Jealousy" (9:24). Despite these sexual feelings, the
narrative context seems to rule out the possibility of sexual union between
them for "they kiss'd not nor embrac'd for shame & fear" (9:25): it is as if
they are reacting with bodily denial to the sexual conversation between


Tharmas and Enion which focused on the terror and guilt associated with
sexual division in order to repress sexual union. The residual shame and
fear of the Tharmas/Enion plot (which Los and Enitharmon's actions are
analyzing) asserts itself in the present context to prevent the sexual activity
of which Los and Enitharmon are as ashamed and afraid as if they them-
selves had engaged in it.
Thus, because the Los/Enitharmon plot functions as if it were stripping
away a layer of concealment from the Tharmas/Enion plot, Enitharmon
has "no power to weave a Veil of covering for her Sins" (9:29). In the
Tharmas/Enion plot, Enitharmon was associated with the "Sin" that En-
ion found and from which she wanted to hide; Enion could and did,
however, weave a "tabernacle" (5:7) or covering for "Jerusalem," also
associated with "Sin." This difference between the Tharmas/Enion and
Los/Enitharmon plots forces active jealousy to the surface: "She drave the
Females all away from Los /And Los drave all the Males from her away"
(9:30-31). The sudden reference to the absence of Males and Females
(whose presence was heretofore unsuspected) by virtue of their being dri-
ven away by jealousy sexually transcribes their repulsion of the maternal
Enion in the previous phase of narrative analysis. Enitharmon's inability
to cover her sins thus manifests itself in the form of multiple sexual divi-
sions of Los and Enitharmon, whose ostensible off-stage existence threat-
ens to act out in the narrative proper the sins Enitharmon cannot hide: her
desire and inability to hide sexual sins (which are in this context equivalent
to refraining from sexual activity) brings these sins into existence.
These jealous divisions and frustrated attempts to hide constitute the
first analysis of Los and Enitharmon's power to attract and absorb the
spectrous life from Enion. They "wander" in "the Moony spaces of Eno"
until they return to the location of Night I's initial action, "upon the
margind sea," ironically fulfilling Tharmas' request, "Return O Wan-
derer" (5:12). A narrative tension between two simultaneous states of Los
and Enitharmon arises from the presence of the word "But" (9:34): they sit
and repose "upon the margind sea" while they wander "in the world of
Tharmas" (9:34), the world into which they were born. At the same time,
they are "Conversing with the visions ofBeulah in dark slumberous bliss"
(9:33),21 thus superimposing the transitional space of Beulah onto the
linear narrative action and allowing Beulah to function from this point on
as a more direct source of information. These "visions of Beulah in dark
slumberous bliss" are able to enter into the narrative because they cannot
be hidden by a woven veil, as Enion's were.
Although Los and Enitharmon simultaneously converse with Beulah
and wander in Tharmas' world, the acts of sitting and wandering, like
Beulah and the world of Tharmas, seem to be different phases of their
journey. As soon as the narrator invokes the contrast between the visions
of Beulah and the world of Tharmas, Los verbalizes it in his first speech by
contrasting their parents'state with their own. He projects the qualities of
Beulah onto Enitharmon: "thy mild voice fills all these Caverns with
sweet harmony" (9:36), thus transferring the "Songs & loving blandish-

The irony of the "mazes
of delight" in which Los
and Enitharmon wander
in chastity and shame

Weaving as an allegory
for one aspect of The
Four Zoas text becomes
more explicit in the
Los/Enitharmon re-

The labyrinthine logic
of the sudden materiali-
zation of multiple males
and females

In line 9:36, Los is also
projecting onto Enithar-
mon the repressed voice
of the

FOUR ZOAS I / 9:37-10:12

Spectre/Enion union:
"female voice warbling
upon the hollow vales."

Narrative polarization
and interconstitution of
Beulah and the world of

Enitharmon's speech
enacts a false morning.

ments" (5:40) of the Daughters into the spatial context of the "Caverns" of
Tharmas' world. Though like Los and Enitharmon, their "Parents sit,"
Los contrasts Enitharmon's song to their parents' state: sittingn] &
mourn[ing] in their silent secret bowers" (9:37). This statement presup-
poses that several narratively sequential actions must be aspects of the
present event. If we assume that Enion has already been driven into "Non
Entity," that Tharmas has sunk down into the sea, and that the Spectre has
been absorbed by Los and Enitharmon (as the linear narrative insists), then
Los's awareness of and concern over simultaneously contrasting music -
Enitharmon's "sweet harmony" as opposed to their parents' "mourning"
-comes as a surprise. If, on the other hand, Los and Enitharmon embody
a more deeply embedded level of their "Parents," then the opening conver-
sation between Tharmas and Enion is an implicit aspect of this present
verbal interchange between Los and Enitharmon. Los makes this dis-
guised reference to the poem's opening conference between Tharmas and
Enion at the same moment the poem itself returns to the mode of explicit
conversation and initiates a sub-embedding of information within the
Los/Enitharmon bracket itself.

First Sub-Embedded Structure: The Enitharmon/Los
Interpolated Visions

Within the Los/Enitharmon bracket lies an analysis of the relation be-
tween the Tharmas/Enion (primary) structure and the Los/Enitharmon
(or first embedded) structure. Although Los initiates this sub-embedding
by explicitly referring to their "Parents," the narrator has already marked
the entrance of this new perspective by mentioning the "world of Thar-
mas." This sub-embedded phase opens by inverting both Tharmas'
"darkning in the West" (4:6) at the poem's beginning and the imagery
associated with Enion's weaving and weeping: "Enitharmon answer
with a dropping tear & frowning /Dark as a dewy morning when the
crimson light appears" (10:1-2).22 Instead of answering with a mild har-
monious voice, Enitharmon's response at first imitates the mourning of
her parents: "with a dropping tear & frowning." This phrase flows over
into the next line, "frowning /Dark as a dewy morning," and what starts
out as a simile immediately constitutes both the setting and the inner form
of her speech. Her way of answering becomes a central fact of her inter-
polated vision, the complex and pervasive "false morning." Although her
speech begins as a direct response to Los, which confirms prior narrative
information, it also complicates that information: the action the narrator
reported as their drawing in of the Spectre (9:3-8) is, from Enitharmon's
perspective, an absorption of "sweet delights": "we draw in their sweet
delights while we return them scorn / On scorn to feed our discontent"
(10:4-5). At this point the food metaphor begins to take on even more
importance than it has already accumulated. At first, Enion drank and fed


on tears: then Los and Enitharmon fed on fruit, drank goat's milk, and ate
the flesh of Lambs. Now these forms of feeding are transformed into and
revealed to be a parasitic drawing out of the Spectre's life, which Enithar-
mon experiences as "sweet delights." The contrast between the narrator's
negative view of the Spectre and Enitharmon's positive view parallels the
contrast between the narrator's perception of Enion groaning while her
voice sang "Glory, delight: & sweet enjoyment" (7:12). The nearly sub-
merged food metaphor will undergo a transformation and leap into the
foreground in the imagery of the gigantic "Feast" in the next sub-
embedded phase of Night I.

Interpolated Visions: Sub-Embedded Structure I: Enitharmon's "Song
of Vala"

Blake now includes two lines of important new information that pro-
vide the substructure for the otherwise random surface details throughout
the Feast and beyond. These lines also mark the surface boundary of the
first interpolated vision: "We hear the warlike clarions we view the turning
spheres / Yet Thou in indolence reposest holding me in bonds" (10:7-8).
Though Enitharmon calmly explicates what the narrator called the "vi-
sions of Beulah" with which they "converse," the information she presents
is new since it does not seem to constitute slumberouss bliss." The auditory
half (the warlike clarions) will reappear in Enitharmon's "Song" in which
she constantly focuses on hearing while Los constantly repeats what he sees
(like the turning spheres). On its surface her Song is an attempt to rouse
Los from the "indolence" and "repose" (associated with Beulah) that hold
her "in bonds," indicating the degree of their intertwining at this point in
contrast to their prior separateness.
Enitharmon's Song suddenly compresses so much apparently new
information that it seems to be arbitrarily inserted into the poem; in fact,
however, her Song makes it possible for details which were absent from
previous perspectives to surface as transformations of prior narrative ele-
ments. Since Enitharmon sings this minutely particular Song about
"repose" to rouse Los from his repose, and since Los interprets and
responds to this vision acted out by other characters as such a direct and
personal threat to his own power, Enitharmon's "Song of Death" must
function both as an analysis of the submerged relations between Los/
Enitharmon and their parents and as a causal element in the forward
motion of the narrative. Four named characters-Tharmas, Enion, Los,
and Enitharmon -who have already appeared in the narrative proper gen-
erate four more characters in Enitharmon's interpolated vision: "The Fal-
len Man takes his repose: Urizen sleeps in the porch / Luvah and Vala woke
& flew up from the Human Heart / Into the Brain; from thence upon the
pillow Vala slumber'd" (10:10-12).
Operating as a perspective transformation, Enitharmon's utterance
fictionalizes her own present situation in the narrative proper into a para-

Accretion of the food
metaphor's significance

Horns of war and turn-
ing spheres materialize
in Enitharmon's speech
as aspects of sexual divi-

Enitharmon's song gen-
erates four new charac-
ters as analyses of prior
narrative conditions.

FOUR ZOAS I / 10:13-25

The logic of Enithar-
mon's initial contex-
tualization of new
character names

The first account of Lu-
vah's relation to the
horses of light

ble involving other character names, with Enitharmon directly associated
with "Vala," and Los with "The Fallen Man": both Los and The Fallen
Man "repose," and in the pseudo-invocation the narrator referred twice to
Los's "fall" (4:4-5). In the logic ofEnitharmon's Song every character must
have been asleep prior to the events she recounts, since the first two charac-
ters remain in a state of "repose" (like Los) or "sleep" while the other two
"woke."23 This event presupposes Beulah where sleep becomes possible.
Of all the characters in her Song only one remains awake-Luvah, who
Enitharmon says, "siez'd the Horses of Light, & rose into the Chariot of
Day" (10:13). The first primary bracket of Night I contained references to
"Sin," associated (within Tharmas) with both Enitharmon andJerusalem.
In the current phase the narrator has insisted that Enitharmon cannot
weave a veil to hide these "Sins" (9:29). Enitharmon therefore creates a
false veil by verbal deception; she substitutes the name "The Fallen Man"
for "Los" (since they both "repose" and thus share a characteristic that
permits her to substitute one name for the other) and substitutes the name
"Vala" for her own name (since both likewise sleep). Also, the Fallen Man
in Enitharmon's vision is either named "Urizen" or is simply linked indis-
solubly with Urizen's first appearance, for they emerge into the poem
together, embedded in similar syntax and states of consciousness. Enithar-
mon totally avoids use of Urizen's name throughout the rest of her vision.
This avoidance is crucial, for if he is to become the most important charac-
ter to enter the narrative proper following the conversation between Los
and Enitharmon, Urizen must be the character in both Enitharmon's Song
and Los's response who is least specified and therefore most open to dialec-
tical manipulation by them.
Enitharmon's parable functions as a transformational disguise of previ-
ously unarticulated narrative elements and relationships. By juxtaposing
syntax and overlapping details her vision simultaneously introduces new
information as it analyzes prior information:

And Luvah siez'd the Horses of Light, & rose into the Chariot of Day
Sweet laughter siezd me in my sleep! silent & close I laughd
For in the visions of Vala I walkd with the mighty Fallen One
I heard his voice among the branches, & among sweet flowers.

Enitharmon's Song draws attention away from the repetition of key words
in this passage. Although Luvah "siez'd" the Horses just as laughter
"siezd" Enitharmon, the events themselves appear to be too disparate to be
clues to parallel meanings; "Sweet" laughter is duplicated in "sweet"
flowers. As aspects of a perspective transformation these expressions con-
stitute a field of meaning: Luvah's elimination from Enitharmon's vision
as he seizes the Horses produces a reflex of laughter that seizes her in her
sleep; power passes from Luvah to Enitharmon (Vala) through this ges-
ture, and the departed Luvah is replaced by the lethargic (reposing)
"mighty Fallen One," who functions as an invisible disembodied "voice"


(10:15; 11:2) which is in turn the unconscious dream-state of the reposing
"Fallen Man." Luvah's and Urizen's vanishing from her story thrusts into
the foreground Enitharmon's relation to the Fallen One through the com-
plicating "visions of Vala" (10:16).
Enitharmon's vision within a vision is comprised of the Fallen One's
words which, though they accept female dominance, reflect discredit on
Enitharmon herself: even in her own fictional tale, the characters take on a
wayward life of their own. The Fallen One's speech expresses aspects of
Enitharmon which she tries to repress but which force themselves out
through the words of her fictional character.24 The Fallen One first asks,
"Why is the light of Enitharmon darken'd in dewy morn" (10:17). His
question identifies this moment in the vision with the immediately prior
narrative context in which Enitharmon spoke to Los "Dark as a dewy
morning when the crimson light appears" (10:2). His subsequent ques-
tions incorporate into this vision details from earlier phases: "silence,"
"darkness," "terror," "Holy," "weep." His interrogation presupposes a
perceptual paradox, a confusion of knowing, which generates his ques-
tions: "Why dost thou weep as Vala? & wet thy veil with dewy tears, / In
slumbers of my night-repose, infusing a false morning?" (10:20-21).
The Fallen One's confused questioning springs from key textual dis-
crepancies. Enitharmon has just said that she laughed in her sleep (in
visions of Vala) because she walked with the Fallen One (10:14-15), but he
perceives her to be weeping. While Enitharmon tells Los she heard the
voice among branches and flowers (a garden) the Fallen One sets the scene
in his "halls" (10:19). Also, the narrator had said that Enitharmon could
not weave a veil of covering, but the Fallen One perceives her hiding
behind a veil. This latter perception derives from Enitharmon's power to
hide (as if behind a veil) by fictionalizing her present situation through
surrogate names. Her veil/false morning enacts her power of fictional
substitution. And these interrogations feed indirectly into the narrative
action and reveal in the last two lines of his speech how Enitharmon wants
Los to relate to her:

Why dost thou weep as Vala? & wet thy veil with dewy tears,
In slumbers of my night-repose, infusing a false morning?
Driving the Female Emanations all away from Los
I have refused to look upon the Universal Vision
And wilt thou slay with death him who devotes himself to thee
Once born for the sport & amusement of Man now born to drink up
all his Powers

The mighty Fallen One prefaces the sequence of events he describes by
asking Vala/Enitharmon why her "smile" "utters" darkness in his halls,
which parallels the darkening of Enitharmon's light in the morning: both
acts constitute a false darkness entering into presupposed light. Then her
act of weeping (as opposed to her previous laughing or smiling) con-

Gaps between Enithar-
mon's account and the
Fallen One's account
which she is quoting in
her Song

Substitution as a pri-
mary source of psychic/
narrative power: a simul-
taneous induction and
reduction of differences

FOUR ZOAS I / 10:26-11:18

Incorporating the narra-
tive proper in the Fallen
One's speech

Los's verbal response is
simultaneously a physi-
cal smiting.

sciously introduces the false morning (and the false veil) into his "slum-
bers," which reinstates her initial statement that the "Fallen Man takes his
repose." It is both false dawn and true dawn; he is both asleep and awake.
The syntax and punctuation make it impossible to determine whether it is
he (by refusing to look on the "Universal Vision") or she (by infusing a
false morning) who is driving the females away from Los. The presence of
Los's name as separate from the Fallen One (who otherwise functions as a
transformational counter for Los in Enitharmon's vision) is a further exer-
cise in Enitharmon's perceptual obfuscation that sweeps Enitharmon into
its fictional vortex (as her whirlwind smile draws in the Fallen One):
Enitharmon is herself deceived. Blake repeats an event from the narrative
context immediately preceding the vision (driving the females from Los
[9:30]) in order to embed the narrative proper directly in this vision itself
and to reveal the co-presence of the Fallen One in that prior event. This act
of "Driving the Female Emanations all away..." analyzes Los/Enithar-
mon's driving away of Enion and their jealous repulsion of the opposite
sex from one another. This act of repulsion in the vision either results from
her "false morning," the Fallen One's premature awakening from his
"night-repose" (an event that he associates with being slain), or it results
from the Fallen One's refusal to look upon the "Universal Vision" (an
oblique reference to the "Universal Man" whom Beulah surrounds). The
action of drawing out and driving away, which constitutes the relation-
ship between the Tharmas/Enion and Los/Enitharmon plots, is con-
centrated into this final gesture of Enitharmon's vision, which closes with a
reference to "death" by the Fallen One, retroactively justifying this vision
as "a Song of Death."

Interpolated Visions: Sub-Embedded Structure II: Los's Response
Immediately following Enitharmon's vision, without warning, "Then
Los smote her upon the Earth twas long eer she revivd" (11:3). Although
this act of physical violence is easily dismissed as an irrational, angry reflex
that lies outside the framework of embedded structures, it is in fact a direct
consequence of Blake's narrative strategy. Los consciously gives a bodily
reinterpretation to the relationships between the terms of Enitharmon's
verbal argument. To Los, Enitharmon's Song is both a "false morning"
and a description of one: he recognizes her Song of Death as an attempt to
kill him, exactly as the Fallen One identified her "false morning" as mur-
derous and castrating. He physically smites her in the narrative properjust
as in his speech he relates a vision of "Luvah" smiting an ambiguous
figure. Los's speech is thus the act of smiting he describes. The false
morning is Enitharmon's form of mystifying both Los and the Fallen One
and is thus equivalent to her false veil. Los's violent response to Enithar-
mon derives from his perception that in her Song Enitharmon implicitly
identified Los with the Fallen One. Los refuses to accept this subversive
identification and emphasizes instead the role of Luvah, paralleling Eni-
tharmon's covert disguising of herself as Vala.


Los himself, however, begins to take on Enitharmon's characteristics as
he responds to her Song "darkning more with indignation hid in smiles"
(11:4). Los refuses to let himself be identified with the lethargic Fallen
One/Man and accepts very little of Enitharmon's identification of herself
with Vala. Vala, in fact, takes on an independent role in Los's vision: she is
a sympathetic female and functions in opposition to Enitharmon's usurp-
ing role. In rearranging the given plot elements Los reveals that he under-
stands quite well the fictional rules of transformation in the parable and
turns Enitharmon's technique against her:

I behold the Fallen Man
Seeking to comfort Vala, she will not be comforted
She rises from his throne and seeks the shadows of her garden
Weeping for Luvah lost, in the bloody beams of your false morning
The Fallen Man in Los's account is not doing what the Fallen One was
doing in Enitharmon's vision; there, her "weeping" was the precondition
for the Fallen One's ability to recognize that Enitharmon was imitating
Vala. Los reveals that the essence of Enitharmon's vision-Luvah's vanish-
ing-is designed to repress Luvah's disappearance. Los also proceeds to
identify himself implicitly with Luvah, whose appearance was obscured
by the crimson, bloody "false morning" as Luvah rose into the Chariot of
Day (10:13). In Enitharmon's vision, Luvah's usurpation of the Chariot of
Day is in turn usurped (in Los's vision) by Enitharmon's false morning. In
Los's vision, however, Luvah performs an active role as punisher after his
disappearance since he, unlike the Fallen Man, is only "lost" (hidden,
obscured) and not stricken by "the bloody beams of [Enitharmon's] false
morning," the image that lies (on the page) between the disappearance of
Luvah and the emergence of the Fallen Man's sickness. To Los, the Fallen
Man is a pathetic inactive creature, "Sickning," "his head sick his heart
faint" (11:10). The dislocation that Enitharmon reported in her parable
(Luvah and Vala flying from the heart into the brain) is now applied
specifically to the Fallen Man, whom Los carefully separates from Luvah
(whose role Los will covertly assume). Los accuses Enitharmon, as did the
Fallen One, but not in a tone of supplication and impotence. Thus the
action that Enitharmon projected initially onto Luvah and Vala is re-
projected by Los onto Enitharmon:
Sickning lies the Fallen Man his head sick his heart faint
Mighty achievement of your power! Beware the punishment"
I see, invisible descend into the Gardens of Vala
Luvah walking on the winds, I see the invisible knife
I see the shower of blood: I see the swords & spears of futurity
Tho in the Brain of Man we live, & in his circling Nerves.
Tho' this bright world of all ourjoy is in the Human Brain.
Where Urizen & all his Hosts hang their immortal lamps
Thou neer shalt leave this cold expanse where watry Tharmas mourns

A void in the text
(created by erasure)
opens up a space in Vala's
fictional identity in Los's

The complexities of
Los's reinterpretation of
Enitharmon's Song

Blake inserted, then
deleted, a passage that
would have indicated
Los's awareness of the
Lamb of God's implica-
tion in this substitu-
tionary fictionalizing.

FOUR ZOAS I / 11:12-24

"This bright world" is
situated in the text spa-
tially above "this cold

The differential entrance
into the narrative proper
of the four characters
generated in the inter-
polated visions

The retroactive dissolu-
tion of the Tharmas/
Enion narrative nucleus

Los's smiting of Enitharmon in the narrative proper is re-enacted in his
parable: Luvah descends "invisible" because he had vanished out of Eni-
tharmon's vision by her refusal to acknowledge him further; he descends
into the "Gardens of Vala," which Vala has just entered and in which
Enitharmon had staged her own confrontation with the Fallen One.
The new imagery and events emerging in Los's vision simultaneously
explain and revise prior narrative actions. The Fallen Man's sick head and
faint heart can be traced not only to Luvah and Vala's flight from the Heart
to the Brain but also to Enitharmon's deluding the Fallen One with a "false
morning," which initiates his feelings of jealousy and thus engenders a
false sexual awakening. At the end of his vision, Los persists in identifying
himself covertly with Luvah and in identifying Enitharmon with Vala,
though in a more explicit and restricted manner. According to Enithar-
mon's vision, Luvah and Vala flew up into the Brain, and that is exactly
where Los places himself and Enitharmon. Los, however, identifies the
Brain as the realm where "Urizen," the elliptical sleeper of Enitharmon's
vision, resides. This world of "Hosts" who hang "immortal lamps"
immediately recalls the starry sky of the "bright Universe" in the poem's
invocation. Los's gesture is strategically ambiguous, however, because his
two references to "this bright world" and "this cold expanse" require a
spatial, physical act of pointing and differentiation by Los that cannot be
seen by the reader. The ambiguity of this gesture both separates and
identifies these two worlds and brings back into narrative focus the point
with which Los began his complaint -Tharmas' mourning.
At the conclusion of his speech, Los suddenly reaffirms that the conten-
tion between himself and Enitharmon has all along been over their rela-
tionship to their "Parents" from whom they draw the spectrous power
that they experience as "bliss." In the process of their conversation, the
new names they invoke to engage the argument-like the narrative
metaphors and similes used earlier-acquire the potential to enter into and
constitute the narrative itself. These characters, first introduced as
argumentative fictions of Los and Enitharmon's slumberouss bliss," are
about to enter the narrative proper and assume independent existence.

Los/Enitharmon: Third Phase: Urizen/Los/Enitharmon
The interpolated visions within the Los/Enitharmon confrontation
introduce four new characters into the poem who assume functions previ-
ously or concurrently being enacted in the narrative proper. At the same
time, these characters bring new layers of information into existence
which, once they appear, behave as if they had been present but suppressed
all along. The narrative keeps fanning out from the Tharmas/Enion center
that created the Los/Enitharmon structure by the fiction of sexual parent-
age. In turn, the Los/Enitharmon bracket has generated the Fallen Man/
Urizen/Luvah/Vala cluster, not as an offspring of sexual division and
union, but as a structural network of interpolated visions, whose elements


substitute for aspects of Los and Enitharmon's relationship to each other
and to their parents. Nevertheless, these elements, like those in Enion's
weaving, begin to take on a perverse narrative independence. In this sense
Enion's weaving the Circle of Destiny is a paradigm for the way new and
unpredictable forces are simultaneously re-enactments and revisions of
prior elements.
After Los's speech, Enitharmon, who was smitten by and within the
speech, has no problem interpreting the parable Los has just told of their
existence, just as Los had no difficulty understanding the significance of
Enitharmon's Song. As Los ceases speaking, Enitharmon musters her
previous "scorn" and fuses it with Los's "indignation." "Reddning"
(11:20) like the "bloody...false morning" (11:9) or "crimson light" of
dawn (10:2), Enitharmon signals the next phase ofher contention with Los
by calling upon Urizen, the most elliptical character in her vision. Her
battle tactic is to surprise Los by placing in Urizen's hands the horses[s"
and "chariots" Luvah had supposedly "siez'd." In so doing she seizes
Urizen, the only character not claimed by either Los or Enitharmon in
their verbal combat, and makes him the instrument of punishing Los. She
specifically commands Urizen to "descend" out of her vision (as Los had
visioned Luvah descending to punish):

Descend O Urizen descend with horse & chariots
Threaten not me O visionary thine the punishment
The Human Nature shall no more remain nor Human acts
Form the rebellious Spirits of Heaven. but War & Princedom &
Victory & Blood

In calling a character out of her parable, Enitharmon enacts an irreversible
moment in the growing network of narrative relations. The interpolated
parables originally emerged as fictional arrangements of possible struc-
tural interactions and relations between characters and events already pre-
sent in the narrative proper, but at this point they begin acting as if they
refer beyond themselves, as if they have had that potential all along.
At the point of rupture, where characters emerge out of interpolated
visions, Los and Enitharmon are suddenly revealed to have been laboring
under a severe narrative restriction: if their parables are to obey the rules of
perspective transformation that preside over the previous narrative field,
Los and Enitharmon are constrained to fictionalize in clusters or constella-
tions of characters. As soon as the four interpolated characters become
fictional narrative possibilities and one (Urizen) is invoked--wrenched
out of his interpolated status -the other three characters (Luvah, Vala, and
the Man) are forced into the narrative proper as preconditions of Urizen's
entry. The unfolding narrative thus begins to make explicit a fantasized
system of characters and events which are mutually interdependent yet
perversely in conflict with one another. Blake's character names initially
seem arbitrary (like terms in a mathematical argument), but once certain

Enitharmon calls Urizen
into the narrative proper
out of his function as a
dialogical operator in
her interpolated vision.

The narrative rupture at
the entrance of four new
characters participates in
the process of narrative

FOUR ZOAS I / 12:1-5

The interlocked fictional
system of Man/

This reading assumes
incorporation of revi-
sions from manuscript
page 143.

names (clearly Blake's favorites) are launched into the narrative proper
they cannot be called back into their initial status as merely elements in an
interpolated vision. In this regard Blake's perspective ontology resembles
a complex game with high ontological stakes.
Urizen, the character Enitharmon calls out of her vision, entered the
poem bound up with the Fallen Man and with sleeping in the porch; in
Los's vision the name Urizen was associated with the Brain, with Hosts,
and with immortal lamps. In the two previous interpolated visions Urizen
functioned like a syntactic element that interlocked the parables Los and
Enitharmon uttered or like a cipher that occupies the place of an unknown
quantity in a mathematical equation. When Enitharmon suddenly calls
upon Urizen as the unclaimed term in her verbal standoff with Los, she is
unable to wrench Urizen out of his elliptical role in their interpolated
visions until the other three characters she has introduced in her vision
have entered the narrative proper as preconditions ofUrizen's descent. The
primarily sexual and bodily imagery of the visions is suddenly forced
outward into imagery of warfare as Enitharmon commands Urizen him-
self to emerge and descend. Yet Blake had already hinted that Enithar-
mon's emphasis on hearing re-enacts the "warlike clarions" (10:7) that Los
and Enitharmon heard prior to recounting their visions.
Because her stated motive is to rouse Los from his repose (by perversely
inducing sleep in him) so that together they can absorb the Spectrous life
(sweet delights) from their parents, Enitharmon's speech act brings into
the immediate narrative proper the auditory "war" that Los and Enithar-
mon previously perceived to be happening in some distant space as they
viewed the "turning spheres." As such, her act of calling for Urizen's
descent both overlaps certain previous phases and reverses others. As soon
as Enitharmon finishes speaking, new information suddenly floods to the
surface: "Night darkend as she spoke! a shuddring ran from East to West /
A Groan was heard on high. The warlike clarions ceast. the Spirits / Of
Luvah & Vala shudderd in their Orb: an orb of blood!" (12:1-3). This
sequence immediately calls attention to itself by containing an unusual
number of discrete phrases separated by two periods and two exclamation
points. These lines, with their halting forward movement, push back
Enitharmon's "false morning": the present "darkning" incorporates Los's
own emotional "darkning" (11:4) into the exterior landscape and con-
stitutes a shift away from "dewy morn" toward "Night," precisely re-
establishing sunset, the initial landscape of the Tharmas plot. As Enithar-
mon's false morning recedes, the "shuddring" which had accompanied
Enion's weaving of the Circle of Destiny (5:19) now rattles all across the
space through which the sun travels. The "Groan" re-enacts both Thar-
mas' "groaning" in the sky "among his Clouds"(5:8) and Enion's "groan-
ing" at the textual point of intersection between her physical ravishing by
the Spectre of Tharmas and her giving birth to the two Infants (7:10). The
"warlike clarions" associated with Enitharmon's false morning suddenly
cease, suggesting the disappearance of her auditory power at the precise


moment she calls forth explicit war.
With this auditory disappearance, Luvah and Vala, who were the focus
of contention in the interchange between Los and Enitharmon (indeed,
they are the characters who surreptitiously acted out the roles of Los and
Enitharmon in those visions) suddenly enter the narrative proper in the
form of "Spirits," thus inhabiting the role of "the rebellious Spirits of
Heaven" Enitharmon wished to repress by calling Urizen down
(11:23-24). At their entrance into the narrative proper in this form, Luvah
and Vala inhabit a space that condenses imagery of the Circle of Destiny
and superimposes it over that of Enitharmon's false morning: they "shud-
der" and are enclosed in an "Orb," a perspective transformation of the
"Globe" form of the Circle of Destiny; but, like the false morning, their
Orb is "an orb of blood." Since it was simultaneously a version and a
product of Enion's sexual union with the Spectre, the Circle of Destiny
was the "perverse & wayward" (5:22) form of Los and Enitharmon them-
selves. Since Luvah and Vala entered the poem covertly playing out the
roles of Los and Enitharmon, those earlier aspects of Los and Enitharmon
are now sealed up in an orb, a perspective transformation of the narratively
primary form of Enion's weaving-the Globe form of the Circle itself.
Further, Los's speech had emphasized the exceptionally bloody relation of
Luvah to Vala; thus, Los's ambiguous smiting of Enitharmon now crystal-
lizes in the narrative proper as an orb of blood (an image that is suppressed
as soon as it is registered,just as both Luvah and his knife are "invisible").
This massive compression of transformed details immediately follow-
ing the Los/Enitharmon interchange ushers in a structurally crucial line-
"Eternity grand & was troubled at the Image of Eternal Death" (12:4)-
which is repeated almost exactly at line 18:9. In the present context it
marks the boundary that the subordinate characters transgress in migra-
ting out of the interpolated visions; at 18:9 it signals the major perspective
shift of Night I from the Tharmas/Enion bracket to the Eternity bracket.
At 12:4 Eternity seems to be responding to the entrance of subordinate
characters into the narrative proper, but most directly Eternity's groan
seems to be a reflex to the image of Luvah and Vala's bloody orb, an image
soon to be connected with Eternity as "One Man" (13:4-10); at 18:9,
however, Eternity seems to be groaning in response to Enion's lamenta-
tion and its corollary "Exudation" from the Man's limbs. While it is
unclear whether Eternity's groan in 12:4 is the "Groan... heard on high"
(12:2), it is clear that this Eternal groan immediately occasions the entrance
of the Man (called "Fallen" in Enitharmon's vision, now relabelled "Wan-
dering" as he takes on that aspect of Los and Enitharmon's prior identity)
and of Urizen: "The Wandering Man bow'd his faint head and Urizen
descended" (12:5). Associated with the brain in Los's speech, Urizen
seems literally to descend out of the "Wandering Man's" faint head as he
bows it (parodying Tharmas' bending from his clouds and stooping his
innocent head as he called for the "Wanderer" to return [5:9-12]). This
event completes the transition of characters out of the interpolated visions:

The entrance of Luvah
and Vala into the narra-
tive proper superim-
poses sequential textual

The first appearance of
the line "Eternity
groand..." which stands
at crucial narrative
boundaries in Night I

The Man wanders out of
Enitharmon's song into
the narrative proper.

FOUR ZOAS I / 12:16-21

Urizen descends down
the page.

Urizen's three-fold

Urizen's "I am" val-
orizes isolated identity
and conceals his sexual

now Luvah, Vala, the (variously named) Man, and Urizen are all in the
narrative proper.
At the point of Urizen's descent Blake inserts (by revision) a line with
disturbingly indeterminate referents which, taken by itself, reverberates
against the overlapping identities of all these character names: "And the
one must have murder the other if he had not descended" (12:6). In
omitting names from this line Blake calls attention to the interconnected
narrative field itself as it struggles to isolate characters from one another as
crystallized identities at the moment of Urizen's descent. In the next line,
the focus shifts from indefinite pronoun references, however; if the syntax
overrides the line break to read, "if he had not descended / Indignant
muttering low thunders," then it is not simply thefact of Urizen's descent,
but the way he descends that could prevent the ambiguous murder. Blake
manages to end three lines in a row (12:5-7) with the verb "descended"
(descending down the page) while slightly modifying the function of that
verb each time it occurs. At first it seems closed and final; then it seems
conditional (he must descend in a certain way); then it becomes unclear
whether he actually descends in the way he must to prevent the murder or
only pretends to do so: "Urizen descended /Gloomy sounding[.]" Is he only
sounding as if he is gloomy? Or does his voice itself sound gloomy? After
he descends, Urizen speaks as though the murder has in fact taken place,
and he is in no way responsible for it (12:14). Blake is also playing with the
meaning of "sounding" which accords with Urizen's descent-the
measuring of the depths beneath. It is almost as if Urizen descends three
different times or three different ways.
The most obvious sense of Urizen's "Gloomy sounding" is his ponder-
ous declaration upon descending: "Now I am God from Eternity to Eter-
nity" (12:8). If this utterance seems outrageously pretentious, it is because
to Urizen (who has just come into existence in the narrative proper) it
seems as though all the preceding narrative events have been for the pur-
pose of allowing him to enter the narrative proper in just this heavy-
handed manner. If, considering his prior subsidiary narrative status, his
claim that he is "God" appears to be darkly humorous, his insistence-"I
am"-which contrasts with Tharmas' initial "We are" (revised from "I
am")26 is more serious, for in his initial appearance in the narrative proper
Urizen asserts his individual identity and treats himself as a totally isolated
being. As such, Urizen appears as if free of any female counterpart, unlike
Tharmas and Los. Urizen's "I am" thus seems to be self-generated, though
narratively he is a derivative product of Enitharmon's speech act. Even his
assumed role as "God" is an extension of the authority projected onto him
by Enitharmon in her indignant command for Urizen to descend.
Urizen's claim to be God "from Eternity to Eternity" purports to
explode the limits to his reign when in fact it does just the opposite. His
explicit reference to "Eternity" indicates that he is already contaminated
by the groan that accompanied his descent. Syntactically, the phrase
suggests that Urizen is "from" Eternity and will remain God only until he
returns "to" Eternity.