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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

IX. Blake

§ 12. The Four Zoas

In this spirit he took up Vala and, renaming it The Four Zoas, attempted to bring it into harmony with his new vision by grafting additions, and rewriting the whole or considerable parts of various “Nights.” But the basis of Vala, like that of the other Lambeth books, is purely necessitarian: the eternals stand apart from mundane life, having neither sympathy with it, nor foreknowledge of its end. Mortal existence is totally evil, and is not in any way connected with man’s regeneration, which is conceived as coming through mere rebellion, and consisting in a return to anarchy. It was to this crude stock that Blake sought to join an unusually vivid faith in a divine providence, apparent, to visionary sight, either as God or Jesus, in whom the eternals were united in a divine family watching over the life of man, to lead it to ultimate salvation through the mediation of such spiritual agencies as the daughters of Beulah, or Los and Enitharmon. These latter, as time and space, embody Blake’s new valuation of mortal life. The former criticism of the phenomenon of absolute physical reality, as being a delusion due to reason and sense-perception, is still maintained; but Blake now finds an ulterior significance in mundane forms, as the symbols of spiritual ideas revealed to the inspired man by divine mercy. This higher revelation is mediate through Los and Enitharmon, who give it expression fitted to the enfeebled powers of man. They are also associated with a corresponding change in the estimate of the mortal body. As Blake states the matter, spirits at the fall become “spectres,” “insane, brutish, deformed,” “ravening devouring lust”; but Los and Enitharmon create for them “forms” or “counterparts,” “inspir’d, divinely human,” and apparently indicating an endowment of visionary inspiration. Thus equipped, man passes through this world, subject to the temptations of metaphysical and moral error in the forms of Satan, or the feminine powers, Rahab, Tirzah, or Vala.