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Spiritual HistoryA Reading of William Blake's Vala or The Four Zoas$

Andrew Lincoln

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198183143

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198183143.001.0001

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(p.296) Appendix 3: The Gardens of Vala

(p.296) Appendix 3: The Gardens of Vala

Spiritual History
Oxford University Press

It is possible that erased copperplate text on pages 3–7, at the beginning of Night I, originally contained an account of Tharmas's fall from the gardens of Vala. The pastoral interlude in Night IX has more than 170 lines—far too many to be accommodated on the first four-and-a-half pages of the manuscript (page 4 originally had 19 lines of copperplate text, page 6 had 12 lines). However, two of the phrases deciphered from the copperplate text by David Erdman also appear in the pastoral interlude: ‘light of day’ and ‘the crystal sky’ (see E 819–20). An account of Tharmas's fall from Vala's gardens would necessarily involve a transition from the pastoral world to the ‘watry world of woe’ that Tharmas usually inhabits. There is a precedent for this kind of transition in Visions of the Daughters of Albion, where Oothoon takes her flight from Leutha's pastoral vale to the desolate coastline of Theotormon's reign. In Visions this transition leads to a fierce coupling with the monstrous Bromion. The erased text of pages 37 of The Four Zoas leads into the account of the tempestuous coupling of Tharmas and Enion, which survives in the text of page 7. The fragment page 141, which appears to be an attempt to revise the description of this coupling and of the events leading up to it, shows how Tharmas arises ‘beneath the veil of Vala … from dewy tears’ (see Appendix 2). This may refer to Tharmas's transition from the innocence of Vala's gardens (where he weeps ‘dewy tears’ 130: 18) to the rugged fallen world of the ‘desart wild’ and the ‘raging sea’.

It seems possible that Blake had developed a myth similar to that in the pastoral interlude by the time he was working on Thel, where Luvah is mentioned by name. There Luvah appears to be an Apollo figure (the cloud tells Thel Our steeds drink of the golden springs I Where Luvah doth renew his horses' (3: 7–8, E 4). When Blake was planning Thel he made sketches which suggest that he thought of matron Clay's house as a fine building with pillars, like Vala's bodily house.1 In the ninth Night interlude, the gradual movement from Vala's joyful relationship with Luvah towards the unstable relationship of Tharmas and Enion represents a gradual movement towards the complications of the fallen world. In Thel there is no such gradual transition, but an abrupt confrontation with the horrors of experience, described on the final plate.


(1) For a discussion of the composition of Thel see William Blake: The Early Illuminated Books, ed. M. Eaves, R. N. Essick, and J. Viscomi (London, 1993), 71–4.