English 738T, Spring 2015
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Urizen & Genesis

Posted by Sara Lyons on Thursday, April 9th, 2015 at 8:14 am

What follows will be my (as of yet) underdeveloped thoughts regarding the Book of Urizen, particularly how it compares to the Book of Genesis and what that comparison reveals. (I will further develop this later.)

I feel as though Blake forms Urizen based on Genesis in order to evoke a comparison of the two in the mind of the reader and does so to ultimately subvert that very text…

In Blake’s retelling of the Biblical book, he takes multiple characters from the original and conflates them into singular characters. A primary example of this is Urizen himself, who appears to be a conflation of God and Satan. I’ve read online that some are certain that Urizen is the fallen angel, Lucifer, but in my own reading he is more akin to God himself. At the same time, we get characters like Los and Enitharmon who clearly mirror Adam and Eve; yet, Los seems to have a creative power like that of Urizen in that Enitharmon doesn’t just come from his body, but he creates her. Furthermore, Los is called the “Eternal Prophet” which complicates his role as the creation of Urizen (if he is) because Adam was not a prophet. The “eternal” part of Los’ title comes back into a reading of him as Adam-like because he later loses his “eternity” in copulating with Enitharmon, just as Adam and Eve lose Eden (paradise) in their copulation. After the birth of their child (the serpent), the text says “Stretch’d for a work of eternity/No more Los beheld Eternity”, indicating that Los is now a mortal man (like Adam). In Urizen, then, the result of this copulation is described as a “worm” that turns into a “serpent”; this clearly alludes to the serpent that tempts Adam and Eve from the Garden: “Coild within Enitharmons womb/The serpent grew casting its scales/With sharp pangs the hissings began/To change to a grating cry/Many sorrows and dismal throes/Many forms of fish, bird & beast/Brought forth an Infant form/Where was a worm before.” Yet the fact that the intercourse causes the serpent, rather than the serpent causing the intercourse, seems suggestive of something else (though I have yet to think through this further as to what it might be suggesting).

Beyond the content of the text, I find the textual aspects implicated in this project fascinating (and relevant) as well. The Bible, especially Genesis, has many pieces by many authors that anyone could take as the authoritative text – the same goes for the many existing texts of Urizen. In textual aspects, then, too, Blake subverts the integrity of the Biblical text by following its form.

This takes more close reading and research on my part.


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