Doc Yoder's Notes
Direct Link to America in Blake Archive
America a Prophecy by William Blake (1793)
- Full page image; winged giant sits, face down, arms chained, in the breach of a wall; a nude woman clutches a child in her lap, with another child standing beside her with its head obscured in her lap; clouds in the sky.
Plates 1-2: Preludium
- In clouds between "AMERICA" and "PROPHECY": facing left, a woman and child reading, with a second child sitting with its back to the woman; facing right, an old (?) man reading (?), with one male (?) youth at his back pointing to "AMERICA" and a nude female in front of him flying away
- At the bottom of the plate, a woman kisses the body of a slain man, with other corpses under them
- Gothic scene in which the "shadowy daughter of Urthona" brings to food to Orc who is in chains; she cannot speak "till that dread day when Orc assay'd his fierce embrace"
- Orc addresses her, identifying himself as an eagle, a lion, a whale, and a serpent
- Orc breaks free and seizes the "panting struggling womb"; she joys and smiles "her first-born smile"
- The heretofore shadowy female speaks, associating Orc with Christ and herself with the "American plains"; she associates the animals with which Orc had identified with various parts of the Americas, and describes the revolution as "eternal death" and the "torment long foretold"
- Intro the Guardian Prince of Albion
- Intro the American heroes who see a bended bow and iron chain in the sky binding them; Washington speaks
- Albion's Prince appears as a dragon over the sea, seen from America
- Wheels of blood and red clouds as a "Wonder" (Orc) rises over the Atlantic to face Albion's Prince
- The King of England trembles
Plate 6 (a kind of interlude in the developing battle)
- Albion's Prince and "the terror" (Orc) face off; Orc is compared to a comet or to the planet Mars, with the remnant of undeveloped mythology about the sun's being "rent from [Mars's] red sphere"
- The "spectre" (Orc or the Prince?) glows, staining the temple, and a voice (Orc's?) is introduced that shakes the temple
- The voice speaks, with images of rebirth and Christ's resurrection (ll. 37-41)
- The images of resurrection are followed by images of the liberation of slaves, the opening of dungeons, as if awakening from a dream of bondage
- The voice quotes the singing of the freed slaves, about a "fresher morning" and the "clear and cloudless night; / For empire is no more"
- Albion's Prince accuses Orc, identifying him as the red dragon of Revelation, as "blasphemous demon, Antichrist, hater of dignities, / Lover of wild rebellion and transgressor of God's law"
- Orc identifies himself, and associates himself with Satan in the serpent
- He comes to bring the new morning, to return the "fiery joy" that "Urizen perverted to ten commands"; he comes to "stamp to dust" the "stony law" and "scatter religion abroad . . . as a torn book"
- Attack on sexual repression, "pale religious lechery"
- He asserts that "every thing that lives is holy . . . the soul of sweet delight can never be defiled"
- Orc recalls Daniel, and identifies the revolution with the fiery furnace and the furnace with "lustful fires"
- Albion's Angel speaks, but is not identified until after the speech; in Blake's illuminated plates, no marks (except the plate shift) differentiate between Orc's speech and that of Albion's Angel
- Albion's Angel issues a call to arms; his punishing demons are powerless in the face of Washington, Paine, and Warren
- Albion's Angel calls on his "thirteen Angels" for help
- Albion's Angel sees "a vision from afar" of an "abhorred birth," a "terrible birth"; he thinks it is revenge upon the "Devourer of thy parent" (Orc?, the revolutionaries?)
- The baby is depicted with "parched lips drop[ping] with fresh gore" and the Angel seems to suggest that the child is devouring its mother
- One last call to arms to the 13 angels
Plate 11 (cf. Jerusalem 38)
- Opens by identifying the voice on Pl. 9 as the Angel's weeping
- No trumpets answer the Angel's call from across the Atlantic
- The 13 Angels (now "perturbed") sit in Atlantis to guard America
- The 13 Angels of America rise in the air in the flames of Orc
- Boston's Angel "cries" asking why the gentle and generous tremble while before tyranny of the ungenerous, idle and pestilent, "Till pity is become a trade, and generosity a science / That men get rich by"; he questions the authority a God who "writes laws of peace and clothes him in the tempest"; ends, "No more will follow, no more obedience pay!"
- This is Blake's imagined version of the revolutionary town meetings in the colonies
- The 13 Angels, led by Boston, throw down their sceptre's on America and descend in flames
- They stand by the American heroes and all are wrapped in the flames (of Orc?, the "demon red"), "rejoicing in its terror"; the flames are explicitly compared to a furnace (cf. the fiery furnace of Daniel)
- The thirteen Governors meet and shake their "mental chains" (cf."London": "mind-forged manacles"), but still "grovel and writhe"
- The British soldiers throw down their weapons and run from the flames and vision of Orc
- Albion's Angel, enraged, burns across the sky, surveys his "numerous hosts" (40 million) on the Atlantic mountains, armed with diseases
- The American heroes hear the battle cry of Albion's Angel
- Albion's plagues attack America like a tidal wave (cf. the ten plagues of Moses in Egypt)
- America is about to be overwhelmed ("and earth had lost another portion of the infinite" ), but the colonies rush together, and with the flames of Orc, force the plagues to recoil onto Albion
- Bristol and London explicitly are mentioned as victims of the recoiling plague
- As Albion sickens with disease, the English "millions" disarm, Albion's Guardian convulses, and even Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are infected by Orc's "fires of hell" (192)
- The Bard of Albion is infected with the plague, and grows scales
- The doors of marriage and the scaly priests run for cover
- When the females are left alone and naked, freed from their fetters, their ancient desires renew (this part is represented in the illumination)
- As the frozen heavens begin to melt in the fires of Orc, Urizen himself emerges "his leprous head / From out his holy shrine"
- Urizen descends weeping and howling, and pours forth his snows on the scene, hiding Orc with clouds and cold mists, freezing the scene, for 12 years till "France receive[s] the demon's light"
- Seeing what has happened to Albion's bands ("smitten with their own plagues"), France, Spain, and Italy try to "shut the five gates of their law-built heaven," but Orc is too strong, and the gates and the very hinges are consumed in his flames
Return to Doc Yoder's Literature Notes
Doc Yoder's Home