Tag Archive: Asia

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. <https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140328-noah-animals-ark-movies-hollywood/&gt;

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


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

Here’s a brief explanation of the Arab Spring, which we discussed briefly in class:

When a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire to protest government corruption, he started a widespread series of uprisings.
http://www.WatchMojo.com tracks the inception and rise of the Arab Spring movement from Tunisia, to Libya, Egypt and beyond.

This video introduction to the Arab Spring helps contextualize the prophetic revolution Blake calls for in Asia in The Song of Los. Blake’s use of polysemic language allows his prophecy to be read for the future, our 21st Century. In the case of the Arab Spring, Orc’s revolution begins in an act of self-annihilation: the Tunisian street vender who burns himself alive as an act of protest against political oppression and capitalist exploitation. Orc’s fires are raging today in North Africa and the Middle East…Blake’s prophetic vision is now here, we are now entering the Last Judgment. Creepy? Strange? Absurd? What do you think?

Greater Implications of Urizen’s Weeping

Blake seems to deviate from a truly anti-reason standpoint in this piece, incorporating contraries that posit doubt as to whether he holds reason strictly in a negative light. In “Asia,” Blake writes: “the darkness was startled/ At the thick-flaming, thought-creating fires of Orc” (6:5-6:6). The adjective “thought-creating” calls to mind an almost Urizenic image–of course, this reading is one in which “thought” is translated to “logic/reason” as opposed to “imagination.” However, I find that my first definition seems to hold some water due to the paradoxical content Blake strings together. While he seems to negate generational boundaries of time and existence through his conflation of Adam and Noah (two biblical characters who were not, in fact, contemporaries), his “Song of Los” follows a cyclical pattern. Yes, his model of revelation is not Euro-centric, but it follows a cadence: Africa to America to Europe to Asia. This pattern is a clockwise navigation of the world from right to left and back to the right again. This lends a systematic aspect to his tale, which may indicate the intrusion, presumably an unconscious inclusion,  of Urizenic thought and martial law. Considering this interpretation, the conclusion to “Asia” fosters even greater significance. When “The Song of Los” is ended, Urizen’s deceptive intrusion is combatted–his influence ceases. Urizen’s act of weeping suggests his ultimate failure to continue coercion on a subconscious, if not first-person, level. Urizen’s weeping signals hope for humanity, or at least the form of humanity that Blake approves of.