Thought chang’d the infinite to a serpent, that which pitieth
To a devouring flame;
This is the follow-up to Blake’s America a Prophecy, a poem that provoked a kind of chilly reaction from me. This one focuses mostly on Britain and its main target is the rampant political and industrial corruption of Britain in the 1790s. Like America a Prophecy, this poem examines things in both a social and in a mythological framework. This book features a lot of characters that will be further developed soon: Los, the figure of inspiration; Orc, the figure of pure rebellion; and a couple of others. Blake’s vision of God the Father here is a dry run for Urizen, a character that Blake would soon debut; he’s a tyrant of rigid structure and harsh judgment that Blake would later tie to the Old Testament Jehovah, to the Heaven of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell and to the intellectual reason of the human personality. This one is a bit less interesting to me than America and, I’ll be honest, a bit more confusing. Still, it’s vivid and striking. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Blake takes on corruption and wealth in Britain with mixed results, but Blake introduces some of his most significant characters here. 2 ½ stars.