William Blake

The First Book of Urizen

Preludium to the Book of Urizen

   Of the primeval Priest’s assum’d power,
When Eternals spurn’d back his Religion;
And gave him a place in the North,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.

  Eternals I hear your call gladly,
Dictate swift winged words, & fear not
To unfold your dark visions of torment.


1. Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! unknown, unprolific?
Self-clos’d, all-repelling; What Demon
Hath form’d this abominable void
This soul-shudd’ring Vacuum? Some said       
“It is Urizen.” But unknown, abstracted,
Brooding secret, the dark power hid.
2. Times on times he divided, & measur’d
Space by space in his ninefold darkness
Unseen, unknown; changes appeard     
Like desolate mountains, rifted furious
By the black winds of perturbation.

3. For he strove in battles dire
In unseen conflictions with Shapes
Bred from his forsaken wilderness,      
Of beast, bird, fish, serpent, & element,
Combustion, blast, vapour, and cloud.

4. Dark revolving in silent activity:
Unseen in tormenting passions;
An Activity unknown and horrible;        
A self-contemplating Shadow,
In enormous labours occupied.

5. But Eternals beheld his vast forests.
Ages on ages he lay, clos’d, unknown,
Brooding shut in the deep; all avoid       
The petrific abominable Chaos.
6. His cold horrors silent, dark Urizen
Prepar’d; his ten thousands of thunders
Rang’d in gloom’d array, stretch out across
The dread world, & the rolling of wheels,       
As of swelling seas, sound in his clouds
In his hills of stor’d snows, in his mountains
Of hail & ice; voices of terror,
Are heard, like thunders of autumn,
When the cloud blazes over the harvests.


1. Earth was not: nor globes of attraction
The will of the Immortal expanded
Or contracted his all-flexible senses.
Death was not, but Eternal life sprung.
2. The sound of a trumpet the heavens        
Awoke & vast clouds of blood roll’d
Round the dim rocks of Urizen, so nam’d
That solitary one in Immensity.

3. Shrill the trumpet! & myriads of Eternity
Muster around the bleak desarts
Now fill’d with clouds, darkness & waters
That roll’d perplex’d labring & utter’d
Words articulate, bursting in thunders
That roll’d on the tops of his mountains.
4. “From the depths of dark solitude, From        
The eternal abode in my Holiness,
Hidden, set apart, in my stern counsels
Reserv’d for the days of futurity,
I have sought for a joy without pain,
For a solid without fluctuation.       
Why will you die O Eternals?
Why live in unquenchable burnings?
5. “First I fought with the fire; consum’d
Inwards, into a deep world within:
A Void immense, wild, dark and deep,      
Where nothing was: Nature’s wide womb
And self-balanc’d stretch’d o’er the void,
I alone, even I! the winds merciless
Bound; but condensing, in torrents
They fall & fall; strong, I repell’d  
The vast waves, & arose on the waters
A wide world of solid obstruction.

6. “Here alone I in books form’d of metals
Have written the secrets of wisdom
The secrets of dark contemplation 
By fightings and conflicts dire.
With terrible monsters Sin-bred:
Which the bosoms of all inhabit;
Seven deadly Sins of the soul.

7. “Lo! I unfold my darkness; and on       
This rock, place with strong hand, the Book
Of eternal brass, written in my solitude.

8. “Laws of peace, of love, of unity;
Of pity, compassion, forgiveness.
Let each chuse one habitation;    
His ancient infinite mansion:
One command, one joy, one desire,
One curse, one weight, one measure
One King, one God, one Law.”


1. The voice ended, they saw his pale visage      
Emerge from the darkness; his hand
On the rock of Eternity unclasping
The Book of brass. Rage seiz’d the strong.
2. Rage, fury, intense indignation
In cataracts of fire blood & gall      
In whirlwinds of sulphurous smoke:
And enormous forms of energy;
In living creations appear’d
In the flames of eternal fury,

3. Sund’ring, dark’ning, thund’ring!     
Rent away with a terrible crash
Eternity roll’d wide apart
Wide asunder rolling
Mountainous all around
Departing, departing, departing:   
Leaving ruinous fragments of life
Hanging, frowning cliffs & all between
An Ocean of voidness unfathomable.
4. The roaring fires ran o’er the heav’ns
In whirlwinds & cataracts of blood     
And o’er the dark desarts of Urizen
Fires pour thro’ the void, on all sides,
On Urizen’s self-begotten armies.

5. But no light from the fires, all was darkness
In the flames of Eternal fury.
6. In fierce anguish and quenchless flames
To the desarts and rocks He ran raging
To hide, but He could not; combining
He dug mountains & hills in vast strength
He piled them in incessant labour,      
In howlings & pangs & fierce madness
Long periods in burning fires labouring
Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,
In despair and the shadows of death.

7. And a roof vast petrific around,        
On all sides he fram’d: like a womb;
Where thousands of rivers, in veins
Of blood pour down the mountains to cool
The eternal fires beating without
From Eternals; & like a black globe
View’d by sons of Eternity, standing
On the shore of the infinite ocean
Like a human heart, struggling & beating
The vast world of Urizen appear’d.

8. And Los round the dark globe of Urizen,       
Kept watch for Eternals to confine
The obscure separation alone;
For Eternity stood wide apart,
As the stars are apart from the earth.
9. Los wept howling around the dark Demon:       
And cursing his lot for in anguish,
Urizen was rent from his side:
And a fathomless Void for his feet:
And intense fires for his dwelling.

10. But Urizen laid in a stony sleep        
Unorganiz’d, rent from Eternity.

11. The Eternals said: “What is this? Death.
Urizen is a clod of clay.”

12. Los howl’d in a dismal stupor,
Groaning! gnashing! groaning!      
Till the wrenching apart was healed.
13. But the wrenching of Urizen heal’d not
Cold, featureless, flesh or clay
Rifted with direful changes
He lay in a dreamless night
14. Till Los rous’d his fires affrighted
At the formless, unmeasurable Death.


1. Los smitten with astonishment
Frighten’d at the hurtling bones

2. And at the surging sulphureous        
Perturbed Immortal mad raging

3. In whirlwinds & pitch & nitre
Round the furious limbs of Los.

4. And Los formed nets & gins
And threw the nets round about.
5. He watch’d in shuddring fear
The dark change & bound every change
With rivets of iron & brass.
6. And these were the changes of Urizen.


1. Ages on ages roll’d over him!   
In stony sleep ages roll’d over him!
Like a dark waste stretching chang’able,
By earthquakes riv’n, belching sullen fires.
On ages roll’d, ages in ghastly
Sick torment; around him in whirlwinds        
Of darkness the eternal Prophet howl’d
Beating still on his rivets of iron
Pouring solder of iron; dividing
The horrible night into watches.
2. And Urizen (so his eternal name)      
His prolific delight obscur’d more & more
In dark secrecy, hiding in surgeing
Sulphureous fluid his phantasies.
The Eternal Prophet heav’d the dark bellows.
And turn’d restless the tongs; and the hammer        
Incessant beat; forging chains new & new
Numb’ring with links, hours days & years.

3. The eternal mind, bounded, began to roll
Eddies of wrath ceaseless round & round
And the sulphureous foam surgeing thick      
Settled, a lake, bright & shining clear:
White as the snow on the mountains cold.
4. Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity!
In chains of the mind lockd up,
Like fetters of ice shrinking together,       
Disorganiz’d, rent from Eternity,
Los beat on his fetters of iron:
And heated his furnaces & pour’d
Iron soder and soder of brass.

5. Restless turn’d the immortal inchain’d       
Heaving dolorous! anguish’d! unbearable
Till a roof shaggy wild inclos’d
In an orb, his fountain of thought.

6. In a horrible dreamful slumber;
Like the linked infernal chain;      
A vast Spine writh’d in torment
Upon the winds; shooting pain’d
Ribs, like a bending cavern
And bones of solidness froze
Over all his nerves of joy.  
And a first Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe.

7. From the caverns of his jointed Spine
Down sunk with fright a red
Round Globe hot burning deep      
Deep down into the Abyss;
Panting: conglobing, Trembling
Shooting out ten thousand branches
Around his solid bones.
And a second Age passed over,        
And a state of dismal woe.

8. In harrowing fear rolling round;
His nervous Brain shot branches
Round the branches of his heart.
On high into two little orbs  
And fixed in two little caves
Hiding carefully from the wind,
His Eyes beheld the deep,
And a third Age passed over;
And a state of dismal woe.
9. The pangs of hope began,
In heavy pain striving, struggling.
Two Ears in close volutions,
From beneath his orbs of vision
Shot spiring out, and petrified       
As they grew. And a fourth Age passed
And a state of dismal woe.

10. In ghastly torment sick;
Hanging upon the wind;

Two Nostrils bent down to the deep, 
And a fifth Age passed over;
And a state of dismal woe.

11. In ghastly torment sick;
Within his ribs bloated round,
A craving Hungry Cavern:  
Thence arose his channeld Throat,
And, like a red flame a Tongue
Of thirst and of hunger appeard.
And a sixth Age passed over:
And a state of dismal woe.

12. Enraged & stifled with torment
He threw his right Arm to the north
His left Arm to the South
Shooting out in anguish deep,
And his Feet stampd the nether Abyss     
In trembling & howling & dismay.
And a seventh Age passed over;
And a state of dismal woe.


1. In terrors Los shrunk from his task;
His great hammer fell from his hand.       
His fires beheld, and sickening,
Hid their strong limbs in smoke.
For with noises, ruinous, loud;
With hurtlings & clashings & groans
The Immortal endur’d his chains,      
Tho’ bound in a deadly sleep.

2. All the myriads of Eternity;
All the wisdom & joy of life:
Roll like a sea around him.
Except what his little orb       
Of sight by degrees unfold.

3. And now his Eternal life
Like a dream, was obliterated.
4. Shudd’ring, the Eternal Prophet smote
With a stroke, from his north to south region.       
The bellows & hammer are silent now
A nerveless silence, his prophetic voice
Seiz’d; a cold solitude & dark void
The Eternal Prophet & Urizen clos’d.

5. Ages on ages roll’d over them,        
Cut off from life and light, frozen
Into horrible forms of deformity,
Los suffer’d his fires to decay
Then he look’d back with anxious desire,
But the space undivided by existence 
Struck horror into his soul.

6. Los wept obscur’d with mourning:
His bosom earthquak’d with sighs;
He saw Urizen deadly black,
In his chains bound, and Pity began.
7. In anguish dividing & dividing
For Pity divides the soul
In pangs eternity on eternity
Life in cataracts pour’d down his cliffs.
The void shrunk the lymph into Nerves       
Wand’ring wide on the bosom of night
And left a round globe of blood
Trembling upon the Void.

Thus the Eternal Prophet was divided
Before the death image of Urizen;      
For in changeable clouds and darkness,
In a winterly night beneath,
The Abyss of Los stretch’d immense;
And now seen, now obscur’d, to the eyes
Of Eternals the visions remote   
Of the dark separation appear’d:
As glasses discover Worlds
In the endless Abyss of space,
So the expanding eyes of Immortals
Beheld the dark visions of Los,       
And the globe of life-blood trembling.

8. The globe of life-blood trembled
Branching out into roots:
Fib’rous, writhing upon the winds:
Fibres of blood, milk and tears:       
In pangs, eternity on eternity.
At length in tears & cries imbodied,
A female form trembling and pale
Waves before his deathy face.

9. All Eternity shudder’d at sight     
Of the first Female now separate
Pale as a cloud of snow
Waving before the face of Los.

10. Wonder, awe, fear, astonishment
Petrify the eternal myriads;       
At the first female form now separate

They call’d her Pity, and fled.

11. “Spread a Tent with strong curtains around them!
Let cords & stakes bind in the Void
That Eternals may no more behold them.”
12. They began to weave curtains of darkness.
They erected large pillars round the Void
With golden hooks fasten’d in the pillars
With infinite labour the Eternals
A woof wove, and called it Science.


1. But Los saw the Female & pitied:
He embrac’d her; she wept, she refus’d
In perverse and cruel delight
She fled from his arms, yet he follow’d.

2. Eternity shudder’d when they saw      
Man begetting his likeness
On his own Divided Image.

3. A time passed over, the Eternals
Began to erect the tent;
When Enitharmon sick,    
Felt a Worm within her womb.

4. Yet helpless it lay like a Worm
In the trembling womb
To be moulded into existence.
5. All day the worm lay on her bosom      
All night within her womb
The Worm lay till it grew to a serpent
With dolorous hissings & poisons
Round Enitharmon’s loins folding.

6. Coild within Enitharmon’s 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.

7. The Eternals their tent finished
Alarm’d with these gloomy visions
When Enitharmon groaning       
Produc’d a man Child to the light.

8. A shriek ran thro’ Eternity:
And a paralytic stroke;
At the birth of the Human shadow.

9. Delving earth in his resistless way;      
Howling, the Child with fierce flames
Issu’d from Enitharmon.

10. The Eternals closed the tent
They beat down the stakes, the cords.
Stretch’d for a work of Eternity—        
No more Los beheld Eternity!

11. In his hands he seiz’d the infant,
He bathed him in springs of sorrow,
He gave him to Enitharmon.


1. They named the child Orc, he grew      
Fed with milk of Enitharmon.

2. Los awoke her; O sorrow & pain!
A tight’ning girdle grew
Around his bosom. In sobbings
He burst the girdle in twain,      
But still another girdle
Oppress’d his bosom. In sobbings
Again he burst it. Again
Another girdle succeeds
The girdle was form’d by day;       
By night was burst in twain.

3. These falling down on the Rock
Into an iron Chain
In each other link by link lock’d.

4. They took Orc to the top of a mountain.        
O how Enitharmon wept!
They chain’d his young limbs to the rock
With the Chain of Jealousy
Beneath Urizen’s deathful shadow.
5. The dead heard the voice of the child    
And began to awake from sleep
All things heard the voice of the child
And began to awake to life.
6. And Urizen craving with hunger
Stung with the odours of Nature      
Explored his dens around.

7. He form’d a line & a plummet
To divide the Abyss beneath.
He form’d a dividing rule:

8. He formed scales to weigh;      
He formed massy weights;
He formed a brazen quadrant:
He formed golden compasses
And began to explore the Abyss
And he planted a garden of fruits.
9. But Los encircled Enitharmon
With fires of Prophecy
From the sight of Urizen & Orc.

10. And she bore an enormous race.


1. Urizen explor’d his dens      
Mountain, moor, & wilderness,
With a globe of fire lighting his journey
A fearful journey, annoy’d
By cruel enormities; forms

Of life on his forsaken mountains.

2. And his World teemd vast enormities
Frightning: faithless: fawning
Portions of life; similitudes
Of a foot, or a hand, or a head
Or a heart, or an eye; they swam mischievous   
Dread terrors! delighting in blood!
3. Most Urizen sicken’d to see
His eternal creations appear,
Sons & daughters of sorrow, on mountains
Weeping! wailing! First Thiriel appear’d     
Astonish’d at his own existence
Like a man from a cloud born &Utha
From the waters emerging, laments!
Grodna rent the deep earth, howling
Amaz’d! his heavens immense crack   
Like the ground parch’d with heat; then Fuzon
Flam’d out! first begotten, last born.
All his Eternal sons in like manner
His daughters, from green herbs & cattle
From monsters, & worms of the pit.
4. He in darkness clos’d, view’d all his race
And his soul sicken’d! He curs’d
Both sons & daughters; for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment.
5. For he saw that Life liv’d upon death

The Ox in the slaughter house moans
The Dog at the wintry door
And he wept, & he called it Pity
And his tears flowed down on the winds.
6. Cold he wander’d on high, over their cities
In weeping & pain and woe!
And where ever he wander’d in sorrows
Upon the aged heavens
A cold shadow follow’d behind him     
Like a spider’s web, moist, cold, & dim
Drawing out from his sorrowing soul
The dungeon-like heaven dividing,
Wherever the footsteps of Urizen
Walk’d over the cities in sorrow;

7. Till a Web dark & cold, throughout all
The tormented element stretch’d
From the sorrows of Urizen’s soul.
And the Web is a Female in embryo;
None could break the Web, no wings of fire,
8. So twisted the cords, & so knotted
The meshes; twisted like to the human brain

9. And all call’d it the Net of Religion.


1. Then the Inhabitants of those Cities:
Felt their Nerves change into Marrow      
And hardening Bones began
In swift diseases and torments,
In throbbings & shootings & grindings
Thro’ all the coasts; till weaken’d
The Senses inward rush’d shrinking,    
Beneath the dark net of infection.

2. Till the shrunken eyes clouded over
Discern’d not the woven hypocrisy
But the streaky slime in their heavens
Brought together by narrowing perceptions       
Appeard transparent air; for their eyes
Grew small like the eyes of a man
And in reptile forms shrinking together
Of seven feet stature they remain’d.

3. Six days they shrunk up from existence   
And on the seventh day they rested.
And they bless’d the seventh day, in sick hope:
And forgot their eternal life.

4. And their thirty cities divided
In form of a human heart      
No more could they rise at will
In the infinite Void, but bound down
To earth by their narrowing perceptions
They lived a period of years

Then left a noisom body        
To the jaws of devouring darkness.

5. And their children wept, & built
Tombs in the desolate places,
And form’d laws of prudence, and call’d them
The eternal laws of God.
6. And the thirty cities remaind
Surrounded by salt floods, now call’d
Africa: its name was then Egypt.

7. The remaining sons of Urizen
Beheld their brethren shrink together        
Beneath the Net of Urizen.
Persuasion was in vain;

For the ears of the inhabitants
Were wither’d, & deafen’d & cold,
And their eyes could not discern,        
Their brethren of other cities.

8. So Fuzon call’d all together
The remaining children of Urizen:
And they left the pendulous earth:
They called it Egypt, & left it.
9. And the salt Ocean rolled englob’d.

     The End of the book of Urizen.

Jeffrey Trescott
George McRae
David Juda
Linsay Rousseau
Joan Grant
Shelley Johnson
Jeffrey Trescott
Heather Liston
Susannah Wood