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William Blake (1757-1827)

Europe: A Prophecy
Preludium

(excerpt)


              1The nameless shadowy female rose from out the breast of Orc,
              2Her snaky hair brandishing in the winds of Enitharmon;
              3And thus her voice arose:

              4"O mother Enitharmon, wilt thou bring forth other sons?
              5To cause my name to vanish, that my place may not be found,
              6For I am faint with travail,
              7Like the dark cloud disburden'd in the day of dismal thunder.

              8My roots are brandish'd in the heavens, my fruits in earth beneath
              9Surge, foam and labour into life, first born and first consum'd!
            10Consumed and consuming!
            11Then why shouldst thou, accursed mother, bring me into life?

            12I wrap my turban of thick clouds around my lab'ring head,
            13And fold the sheety waters as a mantle round my limbs;
            14Yet the red sun and moon
            15And all the overflowing stars rain down prolific pains.

            16Unwilling I look up to heaven, unwilling count the stars:
            17Sitting in fathomless abyss of my immortal shrine
            18I seize their burning power
            19And bring forth howling terrors, all devouring fiery kings,

            20Devouring and devouréd, roaming on dark and desolate mountains,
            21In forests of eternal death, shrieking in hollow trees.
            22Ah mother Enitharmon!
            23Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.

            24I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames,
            25And thou dost stamp them with a signet; then they roam abroad
            26And leave me void as death.
            27Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe and visionary joy.

            28And who shall bind the infinite with an eternal band?
            29To compass it with swaddling bands? and who shall cherish it
            30With milk and honey?
            31I see it smile, and I roll inward, and my voice is past."

            32      She ceased, and roll'd her shady clouds
            33      Into the secret place.

Notes

1] Europe, A Prophecy, was first engraved in 1794, in eighteen plates. Its theme is the history of Europe from the birth of Christ to the French Revolution.
shadowy female. Nature in the sense of the non-human basis of European society; the land of Europe, corresponding to the "Daughter of Urthona" in America.

2] Enitharmon: the spirit of abstract space (from Greek enarithmios, numbered), represented by the sky, which inspires the worship of tyrannical star-gods.

19] kings. The gods and nature-spirits of pre-Christian religions are here symbolized as falling stars, given imaginative form by the human mind.

28] infinite: Christ, whose approaching Incarnation terrifies the speaker.

29] swaddling bands: cf. Luke 2: 12.

30] milk and honey: cf. Isa. 7:15 and Josh. 5:6.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Blake, Europe, A Prophecy (1794).
First publication date: 1794
RPO poem editor: Northrop Frye
RP edition: 3RP 2.291.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/14*1:2003/7/30

Form note: unrhymed


Other poems by William Blake