Tag Archive: Orc

The Female Touch

     Enitharmon, who it has been notioned to represent Marie Antoinette, is the embodiment of both the Womens’ force, while at the same time indicating that such a force is not a conducive one.  It is a rarity to have a woman in power, in any context, during this era; however, through Blake’s work, we see an antipode of such a parameter taking place. Her paradoxical/unfamiliar stance was a call-to-action to generate a revolution during a time when Christian ruling via the monarchy was the the status quo.  

    As noted in Blake’s Poetry and Designs, this obscurely written call-to-action, titled Europe: A Prophecy (1794) was a “prophecy for a revolutionary era because it demonstrates how much there is to rebel against and how sorely this languorous, effeminate society is in need of a cataclysmic awakening” (96).  While the term effeminate can exhibit a negative connotation, it supports the storyline Blake uses to counterpart what is going on during this time; thus, Enitharmon symbolizes that effeminate governing.

    When Enitharmon slept: “She slept in a middle of a nightly song/ Eighteen hundred years: a female dream!” (lines 4,5. P. 101).  This metaphor of a slumber translates to the lull in revolutionary progress. Before we understand what this means, we must approach this as a feminist critique so as to not necessarily decode the poem, but to ask ourselves why Blake chose to use the female (woman) motif to deliver this history lesson.  

     The use of the woman motif is used in several ways; we see this at the opening of “Preludium”: “The nameless shadowy female rose from out the breast of Orc: Her snaky hair brandishing in the winds of Enitharmon/and thus her voice arose” (98). The figure goes on to express her dissatisfaction with the current conditions she is enduring. This could possibly be the woman figure that represents a more humble and nurturing one -the one that France is in need of versus the one that seems to be more fixed on handling political matters in an aggressive way. And since Orc represents the French Revolution, this could be his inner being calling out for help, explaining: “I wrap my turban of thick clouds around my lab’ring head/ And fold the sheety waters as a mantle round my limbs/ Yet the red sun and moon/ And all the overflowing stars rain down prolific pains” (99).  What this could possibly translate to is that the female shadowy figure also represents loyalty to her mother country, but there has not been any reciprocity in that action.

     Being that with Enitharmon is a correlation with Marie Antoinette and Antoinette had a bad reputation known as running the country into the ground financially, as well as playing a part in great political decisions, we can assume then that Enitharmon’s slumber indicates the halt in social development and justice: “During her sleep, time is collapsed so that to her the birth of Christ, making the beginning of the European calendar, is the same event as the birth of revolution eighteen hundred years later” (Blake’s Poetry and Designs, 96).

   Hence, the use of the feminine (woman) is being used to symbolize a stunt in growth.  It is only until Orc resists against his mother that the revolution occurs. Thus, the woman motif, in this case, eludes to the notion of power, but at the same time disorganized power.

-Marcy Martinez



There’s people who like to talk about sex, others are having it, like “Terrible Orc […] beheld,” (Blake 106), pictured in William Blake’s Europe A Prophecy Plate 18 with a Romantic backdrop, “vineyards” in France, accompanied by neoclassical descriptions of war, “golden chariot raging” which carries double entendre, “furious terrors flew around” has sexually explicit undertones. Orc swings down ceremoniously in his chariot, either for a wedding or for a battle (our editor mentions nuptials in A Blake Dictionary), and “groans” surmount with descriptions of passionate love-making.  In the form of allegory and authorized through the conceit of sexuality, Blake’s language undermines French monarchy while versifying on representations of authority.

Los and Orc prepare for an epic battle, and this alludes to the living, historical moment of Blake’s time likened by Blake to the well-known history about Queen Elizabeth’s Protestantism and distancing from the Catholic Church. Blake is seeing this relevancy, in the imminent years of Napoleon’s overthrowing the French monarchs. His universal envisioning of allegorical characters to express historical and social ideas generates a satirical currency which mocks and depicts human preoccupation with revolution. Enitharmon is not to be perceived as a human woman, slumbering or fantasizing about sex. Rather, Enitharmon is metonymically rendered as Blake’s embodiment of Queen Elizabeth, who’s face is implied as carrying shame and/or grief; she “cries in anguish and dismay” (106) as a consequence of her son, Orc’s rebellion. Where Blake ensnares readers in the propaganda of his time is not simply through Orc’s described realm of war-like rebellion, but rather, through the juxtaposing of Enitharmon with facial expressions, in allusion to Elizabeth I- whom during her reign in the 16th century, was dismayed herself by contestations of power. Blake links Elizabeth I’s resistance of French threats of overthrow that favored transition-of-power to Mary, Queen of Scott. French Revolution is viewed by the figurative, Enitharmon. Her anguished countenance is an expression against the very position in which Blake will align Elizabethan nostalgia (colloquially, back when England stood up against the Church) with pro-Revolution propaganda. via sexuality, war metaphors and allegorical heroes like Enitharmon and her hybrid son. Grandiose evocations of classical imagery like chariots and the cosmic, juxtapose against hyper-surrealistic facial expressions, “nature felt through all her pores,” (106) to sublimely reinterpret English history; and yet, sexuality comes to be seen as one of the more significant currencies in deconstructing Blake’s notion of liberality, female empowerment, etc. The people/reptiles/children of Los described as engaged in sex acts are fulfilling political roles in a pre-Napoleon dictatorship. Blake parallels these reprehensible, human behaviors to the mischievous French, whom a century before had attempted to pervade Protestant English monarchy. Orc’s battle signifies a prophetic vision of Europe insofar as Enitharmon’s dream can be rendered Elizabethan for invoking a satirical nostalgia which consumes an English nationalism alongside embellished objectifications of female sexual dichotomies committed to political gratification and guised as the best mode of representation.

Photo Mar 14, 2 34 10 AM

(Plate 102) The Virgin Mary holding a mirror before Dante; this is similar to the evocation of the virginal Queen Elizabeth I in Enitharmon’s dream. Blake’s European prophecy is mediated by revered, female representations.

Photo Mar 14, 2 56 34 AM

(Plate 92) The whore of Babylon… suggests the Corruption of the Church; Blake is repeating dichotomies on female objectifications intended to embolden English nationalism while mocking outside, Catholic virtue.

-Bradley Christian

William Blake’s Europe a Prophecy ends with an epic war in which Los and Orc prepare to fight:

But terrible Orc, when he beheld the morning in the east
Shot from the heights of Enitharmon;
And in the vineyards of red France appear’d the light of his fury

Orc is the embodiment of rebellion as opposed to Urizen who is the symbol of tradition, therefore it makes sense that Orc would prepare for epic war along with Los (who is the creative imagination) . Los is also the father of Orc (and Enitharmon is his mother). Therefore, when Orc is born to Enitharmon in the beginning of the work, he is called the “horrent Demon” (100) to illustrate his deviation from tradition, and (perhaps away from what is considered religious because tradition and religion are part of the government in Britain). However, the symbolism or Orc and Los working together after Los becomes Urizen’s slave and partner, is immense because it marks the corruption of organized religions. Enitharmon’s 800 year old sleep is also a symbol of the repressed female figure that gave birth to rebellion.
The significance of this epic battle in relation to Blake’s prophetic version of Britain is that Blake is looking at Britain and examining the ways that Europe is repressive like Urizen, and its  failure of enlightenment is causing it to be the polar opposite of America (or what Orc is symbolizing) the energy of revolution and change. However, like Orc, America could be repressed and limited in a way, similarly to how Enitharmon was holding Orc back, even while she was pushing him to be a rebellious figure.
The “vineyards” of red France create an allusion to the French revolution that at this time is seeing the light of Orc (or revolution). The color symbolism of a “red France” is indicative of the immense blood shed that will take place. It is also foreshadowed in the birth of Orc: “And we will crown thy head with garlands of the ruddy vine”,”red stars of fire”, and “the sparkling wine of Los” (101). The poetic imagination then has to be marked with death and destruction because its mission is to destroy Urizen. However, this bloodshed would go on longer than William Blake or anybody would have expected.
-Beyanira Bautista

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?

The Epic War

Los and Orc serve to be an interesting combination for Blake’s prophecy. Los being a representation of the Creative Poetic Genius and Orc serving as Revolution in the Material World work together to spread the spirit of revolution, eternalized by the Poetic Genius, throughout the “vineyards of red France” (106). It is Blake’s, taking the form of the Blacksmith Los, to have revolution continue and not be constrained as Orc has been bound by Enitharmon–his mother–for most of the work.

Orc–the son–serves to be a means for Los–the father–so that people can access the Poetic Genius. For Blake’s ideal revolution, one that does not merely deteriorate as it progresses and is then restrained by a new and corruptible system, Los and Orc must be together. The pair represent Blake’s hope of an ideal revolution in his work, or at least how he hopes the revolution will play out. Their portrayal as warriors fighting an epic battle is Blake’s effort to symbolically demonstrate what he is doing in his work–waging war with the corrupted system.

Blake wishes to overturn the corrupted system in France with the spirit of revolution, Orc, and wishes to diminish any chance of the system returning through the Poetic Genius, Los. However, one issue comes to mind: Europe was published right in the beginning of the French Revolution–1794–so Blake obviously sees the potential of the Revolution; my question though: is it possible that Blake could foresee the imminent deterioration of the Revolution in favor of a new system? Or was he fully on board with the French Revolution being the spiritual revolution that he hoped for? The reason I ask is that Blake ends his prophecy with the beginning of the war cry of Los, but does not seek to go further. This is why I ask if Blake is having second thoughts–any thoughts on the matter?

Blake Dictionary p.246: LOS is Poetry, the expression in this world of the Creative Imagination.

Blake Dictionary p.309: ORC is Revolution in the material world.

The father-son relationship of Los and Orc symbolizes an important causation. Los is Poetry and imagination, which is the Poetic Genius. By experiencing and expressing Poetic Genius, people will see beyond the contraries and recognize the need of a revolution in the material world. Thus, just like the father-son relationship, poetry and imagination are forms to achieve Revolution.

However, Los also has to prepare for the epic war because the revolution brought by Orc is not enough. Los, the father, symbolizes the progression beyond Orc. The revolution brought by Orc is represented as the French Revolution: “But terrible Orc, when he beheld the morning in the east, Shot from the heights of Enitharmon; And in the vineyards of red France appear’d the light of his fury” (106). The French Revolution, though achieved a substantial amount of overthrowing, is never radical enough for Blake. It was still bounded by reason and did not free the human race ultimately. Los represents the revolution brought by Poetic Genius, which leads to infinite and the New Jerusalem. So the battle between Los and Orc is necessary. This cosmic battle will result in the victory of Los and the apocalypse, the coming of Christ and the New Jerusalem.