William Blake Month: Prophecy concluded, or, this is the way the world ends

William Blake Month ends today (unless I change my mind), and I’d promised that America: A Prophecy would be continued, so here are excerpts from the rising action and “Finis.”


The terror like a comet,
or more like the planet red
That once inclos’d the terrible wandering
comets in its sphere.
Then Mars thou wast our center,
& the planets three flew round
Thy crimson disk; so e’er the Sun
was rent from thy red sphere;
The Spectre glowd his horrid length
staining the temple long
With beams of blood; &
thus a voice came forth, and shook the temple


That stony law I stamp to dust:
and scatter religion abroad
To the four winds as a torn book,
& none shall gather the leaves;
But they shall rot on desert sands,
& consume in bottomless deeps;
To make the deserts blossom,
& the deeps shrink to their fountains,
And to renew the fiery joy,
and burst the stony roof.


That pale religious lechery,
seeking Virginity,
May find it in a harlot,
and in coarse-clad honesty
The undefil’d tho’ ravish’d
in her cradle night and morn:
For every thing that lives is holy,
life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight
can never be defil’d.
Fires inwrap the earthly globe,
yet man is not consumd;


“Laura” by Ryan McGinley, 2010.

Sound! sound! my loud war-trumpets
& alarm my Thirteen Angels!
Loud howls the eternal Wolf!
the eternal Lion lashes his tail!
America is darkned;
and my punishing Demons terrified
Crouch howling before their caverns
deep like skins dry’d in the wind.

They cannot smite the wheat,
nor quench the fatness of the earth.
They cannot smite with sorrows,
nor subdue the plow and spade.
They cannot wall the city,
nor moat round the castle of princes.
They cannot bring the stubbed oak
to overgrow the hills.


“Wrath” by culcha on the d.a.

Who commanded this?
what God? what Angel!
To keep the gen’rous from experience
till the ungenerous
Are unrestraind performers
of the energies of nature;
Till pity is become a trade,
and generosity a science,
That men get rich by,
& the sandy desert is giv’n to the strong

What God is he, writes laws of peace,
& clothes him in a tempest
What pitying Angel lusts for tears,
and fans himself with sighs
What crawling villain preaches abstinence
& wraps himself
In fat of lambs? no more I follow,
no more obedience pay.


“Blood falls” by Ryan McGinley.

And the flame folded roaring fierce
within the pitchy night
Before the Demon red,
who burnt towards America,
In black smoke thunders
& loud winds rejoicing in its terror
Breaking in smoky wreaths from the wild deep,
& gath’ring thick
In flames as of a furnace
on the land from North to South


I think this is the Tacoma Narrows.*

His plagues obedient to his voice
flew forth out of their clouds
Falling upon America,
as a storm to cut them off
Dark is the heaven above, & cold
& hard the earth beneath;
And as a plague wind fill’d with insects
cuts off man & beast;
And as a sea o’erwhelms a land
in the day of an earthquake;


“Extranas formas aerodinamica” by profundorosso on the flickr.

Fury! rage! madness! in a wind
swept through America
And the red flames of Orc
that folded roaring fierce around
The angry shores,
and the fierce rushing of th’inhabitants together:

The citizens of New-York
close their books & lock their chests;
The mariners of Boston
drop their anchors and unlade;
The scribe of Pensylvania
casts his pen upon the earth;
The builder of Virginia
throws his hammer down in fear.


Then had America been lost,
o’erwhelm’d by the Atlantic,
And Earth had lost another portion
of the infinite,
But all rush together in the night
in wrath and raging fire
The red fires rag’d! the plagues recoil’d!
then rolld they back with fury.

(William Blake, excerpts from America: A Prophecy.)

*Along with the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was still a gruesomely hot topic in the overheard adult conversations of my early childhood in the Sound. I didn’t fully understand what happened in either case but my morbid imagination obsessed over the half-described tragic events and I was terrified of taking the car over the spans from island to island. I used to fold my little hands over my eyes as I sat on the couch in our trailer waiting for my dad to come home and pray he would take his car up on the ferry instead of driving over the bridge, and any loud noises from trucks going over the shabbily paved nearby highway were certainly the rumblings of another volcanic eruption which would bury us all in ash. I guess what I’m saying is I’ve always had an acute overawareness and fear of cataclysmic death. I have no idea why.

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