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Wisdom and Revolutions

William Blake’s “The Song of Los” is about processes. Blake deviates from Biblical accounts in making Adam and Noah contemporaries in efforts to tether historical moments to reveal patterns of revolutions. But Blake is thinking beyond religion and time. In addition to thinking about Adam and Noah as contemporaries, Blake also includes Brama, “the supreme God of post-Vedic Hundu Religion” (Damon 58). Blake moves us away from thinking about one religion and plugs characters into a larger narrative about human revolutions, physical and ideological revolutions.

Blake is thinking beyond a single time. Rather he is connecting multiple truths to reveal a larger process that see “The human race beg[in] to wither, for healthy built/Secluded places, fearing the joys of Love,” (plate 3). “The Song of Los” can be useful for thinking about contemporary revolutions and oppression. “To cut off the bread from the city,/That the remnant may lean to obey,” (plate 7). This sounds like something we read about in our history books about World War 2, but also when we go to our smartphones to read about leaders, entities with too much power.


-Israel Alonso


In William Blake’s “The Tyger” from Songs of Innocence and Experience is the essence of opposing energies of anything deemed guiltless.  In further analysing its twin poem “The Lamb,” we see this notion of opposition even more; the moral that is to be taken from having engaged in both texts, is that humanity possesses both sides: innocent and sinfilled.  

The “Tyger,” therefore, symbolizes not only the sin, and/or darker point of view of the world, but it represents the truest aftermath of a world that is full of injustice, inequality, and oppression.  It is the response to the push back of a society that are oppressed and marginalized -positioned in such a way because of the unabating greed of a higher power.

Hence, in the line “The Tigers couch upon the prey & such the ruddy tide” (Europe 18/15:17), we can conclude that the Tiger is responding to the 1800 years of dark times, when none of the political and/or societal issues were being resolved in France -the poorer were becoming poorer, and the rich were becoming richer; specifically, the monarchy. . The Tiger was essentially released from those shackles that represent oppression; full of rage and hunger; having an insatiable appetite for that of revolution.  This is a counterpart, really, of the apocalypse found in Revelations in the bible. In this manner, we see that the “prey,” therefore, are the very people who were greedily living out their lives, at the cost of the loss of everyone else. The blood is what has been spilt by the mass chaos taking place from the outbreak of the revolution -those from both sides.

The Tiger, furthermore, deviates from simply being seen as the darkness of the world; but, instead, transform into a victor.

Image result for tyger william blake

-Marcy Martinez

Blake created the characters of Urizen and Los as born rivals and with this, one of the two will triumph. The way “The Song of Los” is set up is similar to a debate. The beginning of “Africa” says,

I will sing you a song of Los, the Eternal Prophet:
He sung it to four harps at the tables of Eternity.
In heart-formed Africa.
Urizen faded! Ariston shuddered!

We see that “Urizen faded!” like he knew his defeat was nearing as Los begins his song. It is essential to point out that Los has a song and Urizen does not because if we take a song with the idea that the song represents fiction and creativity and apply it to Urizen, he then becomes a member of Los. Urizen, based on his own moral standards of living, cannot combat Los leading to his downfall. Urizen’s weeping in “Africa” is told by Los as a story in the past to prove Urizen’s weakness and incapability of leading the world with his ideals. He “gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke” not as an act of passing on the baton, but as an act of surrendering due to the sheer amount of chaos that he could not handle (Line 17). Everything that Newton and Locke has taught today was the result of this. This means that Urizen lives on through disciple-like figures and not through himself directly. Urizen’s weeping in “Asia” takes place in the present and we know this because it occurs after “The SONG of LOS is Ended” (Line 41). This is not even the weep of guilt for leading the world to destruction.

What one might question, then, is what type of tears does Urizen cry? Tears often trigger an emotional response from the audience and the audience sympathize in return. A fool would fall for this trick because his tears fall for reasons that are sinister. He weeps at the resurrection of humankind. This tells us that he want the world to end, but fortunately, humankind opposes him.

-Van Vang

by Bradley Dexter Christian

William Blake in Europe A Prophecy and The Song of Los is consistently hybridizing animal presence- whether eagles’ wings, snaky thunders, or the lions and “tigers [which] couch upon the prey & suck the ruddy tide,” (Blake 106) subtended by themes and imagery of royal monarchy as it pertains to Blake’s allegorical vision of Europe. Urizen himself comes to be personified as not only in beast form, “Urizen heard them cry;/ And his shudd’ring waving wings/ Went enormous […] Drawing […] thro’ the heavens/ Of Europe,” (Blake 111) but also to be geographically mapped in the characters of biblical allusion, “[…] and he stood over Judea […] over Jerusalem […] For Adam […] And Noah,” (Blake 111) in Blake’s contemporary reference to both Noah and Adam, evocative of a militant, battle-cry tone. Blake’s “Asia” begins with an anthropomorphic metaphor, “The Kings of Asia heard/ The howl rise up from Europe!” (Blake 110). Such an exclamation is considered by Edward Said as part of the Orientalist discourse for its dominant themes in the continental socio-political, cultural, & literary trends in Europe; this is the very French Revolution clamour described by Blake as an animal-like “howl,” (110) a tale or inspirational call which enlists lesser nations in the other, non-white continents to the fables exalted by England.

Bruce Newman cites Hollywood director, Darren Aronofsky, as revising the story of Noah, for “reasons both political and practical,” (Newman 2014) in the National Geographic article, “No Real Animals Aboard Hollywood Noah’s Ark,” and further deconstructs the trend of anthropomorphized media. Film director, Ang Lee and author, Peter Laufer of No Animals Were Harmed, discuss the ego factor which dominates the actual presence of animals in media; the use of a tiger for billboard marketing for the 2009 film, The Hangover, compares to the use of a model tiger for creating the CGI tiger in Lee’s Oscar-winning, The Life of Pi. Disney director, Carroll Ballard discusses the personality of the beast to justify directorial subjectivity in choosing animal shelter wolves over the set-trained wolves, stating that, “‘Their acting was so much more natural. If you wanted them to howl, you just started howling,’” (Newman 2014). Blake too employs tigers, in both similar and dissimilar ways, explicitly in Europe for representing the universal character of Urizen, but also implicitly, in allusion to Noah in Asia. The literary-historical signifying of the biblical hero for both Blake and Aronofsky means that presence and hiddenness of the beast itself is an expression of political freedom, meaning that the howl of the beast- the symbolic gesture of the satirical and philosophical countenance which defines Blake’s allegorical character- is not merely an existential utterance of the predator or beast of man, but rather, is indicative of the humanitarian man himself being a part of the vision of Urizen and his governing sense of justice- a cry for justice which is, for Blake as unlikely as a tiger “couching” (110) in leisure and not hunting its prey. Blake varies his use of animals, utilizing both birds and mammals, tigers spelled with ‘y’ and not ‘i,’ or ‘i’ and not ‘y,’ not for mere, contentious literary assessment on archaic spelling of striped animals, but rather as a destabilizing of the well-known animal spectres exploited by monarchies in contemporary agendas for exercising political control that ignores the historical behaviors belonging to predators such as King Henry VIII, in past experience, or Napoleon Bonaparte, in the coming years. The metaphors of both Noah and the tiger, seen adjacent to Blake’s understood political, religious, and historical moments, are urgently lacking the attention of postcolonial criticisms and are needing deconstruction through the popular, filmic representations of today’s environmentally-friendly and anthropomorphically-sensitive economies; however, if Blake suggests that Noah and the tiger can be both abstracted from their original ideals, environments or settings, then Blake’s skeptical beliefs towards the possibilities and outcomes of a revolution in France are extensions of a satirical currency which sees promotion of a Christian-monarchical nostalgia as an opportunity for French conformity to Blake’s English nationalism.


Works Cited

  1. Newman, Bruce. “No Real Animals Aboard Hollywood Noah’s Ark,” March 29, 2014. National Geographic. March 20, 2018. <;

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“I will sing you a song of Los, the Eternal Prophet […] Noah failed!”

Urizen weeps twice in The Song of Los: once near the end of “Africa,” and once at the end of “Asia.” In “Africa,” Urizen weeps for his mission is nearing completion. In “Asia,” Urizen weeps for his mission is nearing failure.

In “Africa,” it is said that a new philosophy of the world is approaching. This is the Enlightenment, a period of changing mentalities, where rationalism is to rule. This new manner of engaging with the world is described,

Closing and restraining:
Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete.
Urizen wept & gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke (Blake 110).

Urizen is incredibly proud of what the Enlightenment has brought. His great project to constrain the whole world under Reason is reaching fruition, and as he hands the reins of this project to his chosen people, he weeps.

The people are not entirely happy with Urizen’s new laws. Perhaps Enlightenment ideals have guided them to revolution. Perhaps there is a revolution against Enlightenment ideals. Perhaps Urizen has sparked revolution, or perhaps revolution has been sparked against him. Urizen’s role in the era of revolution is complex, but it is simple that he is, in one way or another, involved.

As the fires of revolution rage across the world, so too do the fires of Orc.

Orc, raging in European darkness,
Arose, like a pillar of fire above the Alps,
Like a serpent of fiery flame!
The sullen Earth

Urizen, in his newfound philosophy fails to change the world in his image. Instead, the world turns to the revolutions and flames of Orc. This is a time, not of reason and logic, but of fire, death and despair. As the Apocalypse ends and the world is made anew, Urizen once more weeps. The rules of material rationality have failed him and the beings of Earth. Urizen has failed.


In William Blake’s The Song of Los: Africa, Adam and Noah are an odd combination to put as contemporaries given that Adam is about 8 or so generations away from Adam acording to the bible (Adam father of Seth, Seth father of Enos, Enos father of Kenan, Kenan father of Malalel, Malalel father of Jared, Jared father of Enoch, Enoch father of Methuselah, Methuselah father of Lamech, and Lamech father of Noah). However, Noah and Adam have more in common in this work than one would think.

In this piece Adam, Noah, Moses, Abram, and Jesus are mentioned, however, the first images we see are of Adam “standing in the garden of Eden” and Noah “on the mountains of Ararat” (109). Placing Adam and Noah in this setting shows how they can be contemporaries. Adam in the garden of Eden is the first human creation, and thus the promise of the future. Noah in the mountain of Ararat, is in the setting where the Ark was rested. These mountains also symbolize redemption and a new cycle and a promise for a better future (with the slaughter of all the ‘bad’ people on Earth).Then when they see Urizen give his oppressive laws to the Nations: “Adam shuddered! Noah faded!” (109) This illustrates how Urizen is oppressing the creativity of such characters. Noah and his sons represent music, art, and poetry “three powers in man conversing with paradise” (or Adam perhaps) (LJ, K 609). Thus, Adam’s paradise is still able to be accessed through the tradition of art, or Los, and cannot be oppressed by Urizen, even if Noah and Adam are generations apart.

However, this is only surface level comparison for Blake. Another thing that makes Adam and Noah contemporaries in their respect is their gender ambiguity.  Where Noah’s descendants all the way to Abraham would be “Female-Males, A Male within a female hid as in an Ark & curtains” (Mil 37:38-40; J 75:13-15). Similarly, Blake thinks Adam originally was of both sexes. Blake argues the sexes were not created until the creation of Eve, therefore Adam was both female and male. This ambiguity of sex relates back to Los that is more about the freedom and creative and free. The singularity of one gender then would not be a free expression, but a restrictive injustice.
-Beyanira Bautista

Reading William Blake’s, “Europe: A Prophecy,” a sense of irony in his decision to coin “eternal” and “worms” in the same sentence can be seen: “That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters” (Blake, A Prophecy). When the image and associations of worms cross one’s mind, usually death, decay, and dirt are evoked.  These earthly insects inhabit the inside of wet moist dirt. What’s more, when an organism is decomposing – or is decomposed – worms are often found dwelling and feeding off the inside these once living forms. Essentially, the worms are used as a metaphorical representation of eternal life being non-existent. In order for something to be eternal, external / biological factors must not exist: no aging, no disease, no sickness etc…. These outside factors ultimately (usually referred to as “dangers”) affect whether someone will be lucky enough to live forever. In Blake’s, A Prophecy, the worm’s and serpent’s can be seen as the external factors, dangerous, and problems life is constantly made of. The worm’s and serpent’s take away eternity from all organisms in the planet.

In “The Song of Loss,” however, Blake’s use of animal figures can be analyzed in the contrary form. For instance, Blake goes on to write, “And as they fled they shrunk / Into two narrow doleful forms: / Creeping in reptile flesh upon / The bosom of the ground” (Africa). In this poem, Blake chooses to turn two human beings into animal figures as a way to demonstrate the appreciation of human life. In comparison to humans, all animals are at the bottom of the food chamber. Due to the many abilities humans have (mentally, physically, and verbally), they’re in control of an animal’s lives. When Har and Hava, two figures who are on top of the heriarchy, are transformed into something considered “less than” to their status, goes on to support this notion of the appreciation and acceptance with the live one has. Ultimatly, both Har and Hava are left crawling at the bottom of the floor (bottom of the food chamber). While any living figure may not be eternal, William Blake wants people to be conscious of the life they live. Everyone has their own personal problems. However, the more we dwell on the stress and issues going on in our personal live, the less we’re able to enjoy the life we do have and are living.

Tears for Pride

Urizen cries because he realizes that his reign over the people has finally rid him of Los and the people are surrendering themselves to the reason being subjected to them. Blake states that “The human race began to wither, for the healthy built/ Secluded places, fearing the joys of Love, / And the disease’d only propagated” (109. 25-27). While under the influences of Los they are starting to “wither” and they “fear the joys of Love” which highlights their lack of thought through emotional turmoil. There has been a heightened method of understanding as one does not require to use their more natural side. Blake continues saying that “Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete. / Urizen wept & gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke” (110. 16-17). The “five senses” become exposed to thought and give the people a more open interpretation to thought and understanding. Reasoning starts to take over the more imaginative way of thinking as there no longer seems to have this way of being any longer. Urizen is handing on the responsibility to “Newton & Locke” as they are the ones who seem to embody the teachings that Urizen wants humanity to take along with them. It is through this tears of self-acceptance that Urizen feels like humanity has come to terms with its own salvation. The tears are a contradiction though as some people are not prepared for the changes that come with the acceptance of this new reasoning. It causes the people to drop their morality and become more focused on the. In “Asia” Urizens tears arise at the very end signaling the end as well. Blake puts it “The Song of Los is Ended. Urizen weeps”(112. 41-42). The “Song of Los” is the time where people allow themselves to become encapsulated by a more connectivity to nature and their surroundings and instead they are being controlled and told on how to think through Urizen. The tears again are of the “joy” mentioned earlier as humanity is more under control from the thoughts of a supreme thinker.

-Alexis Blanco

Adam and Noah are generally considered figures of religion and followers of God. However, in plate 3 Noah and Adam seem to be disgusted with Urizen’s actions, despite being associated to God.

“Adam shuddered! Noah faded black grew the sunny African…

Noah shrunk beneath the waters;

Abram fled in fires from Chaldea;

Moses beheld upon Mount Sinai forms of dark delusions” (109).

Blake creates multiple alternate versions of people are supposed to be religious figures, who are not supposed to be contemporaries. Adam is the first man to ever be created by God, while Noah comes at a later time when the world is about to be covered in water. While in Asia, Urizen is the one who heard all of the outcries of those who are against Urizen’s actions of assigning his laws onto the nations.

“Urizen heard them cry; And his shudd’ring waving wings Went enormous above the red flames, Drawing clouds of despair thro’ the heavens Of Europe as he went… For Adam, a mouldering skeleton Lay bleach’d on the garden of Eden: And Noah as white as snow” (111).

It seems that because of Urizen’s actions, and placing laws onto the nation, mean the ending of the genius; the ending of Los’s imagination.

Urizen is ultimately weeping about the same thing: the emergence of Los, or, revolution of the peoples through the ashes of long forgotten imaginations. His rule over the world is coming to an end, which is why in “Africa”, he “gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke” (110); “it being the ideology of reason. Urizen tasks the new scientists with the notion of rationalizing the world through reason in order to make the world an objective truth. He weeps in “Africa” because he sees that the situation is quite frankly out of his hands; he alone cannot fight to create a world that is known–not felt.

Therefore, when he cries at the end of “Asia”, he has ultimately seen the “call for fires in the city” that rebells against his tradition of rational, and is watching as the system he’s created falls (110). Though the “Song of Los is Ended”, the revolution had just begun for the people, as this poem/song is a call for resistance against the enormous wings of Urizen and his order. His system was full of misery that worked towards subjugated its peoples; it “turn[s] man from his path [and] restrain[s] the child from the womb” (111). So then, his final weep is full of despair, and he knows that the tradition he’s created is finally over.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez