America: A Prophecy

by William Blake

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

America: A Prophecy is an epic-style poem by English writer William Blake. Blake wrote America in 1793 as a reflection on the American Revolution. As Blake was an accomplished illustrator and engraver, the original piece had eighteen full-color images, but only four of these full-color versions survive. America: A Prophecy is the first of Blake's continental prophecies and is followed by Europe and The Song of Los. The poem is divided into two parts, the brief "Preludium" and the lengthier "A Prophecy."

In "Preludium," Blake describes the Daughter of Urthona bringing Orc food in a dark cavern. Urthona is described as a blacksmith god; Orc is a fallen, rebellious god. Urthona and Orc are figures in Blake's complex mythology, and each appears in several of his works.

In the opening of "A Prophecy," George Washington addresses America by pointing out the chains which bind the country to England. Washington, Franklin, Paine, Warren, Gates, Hancock, and Greene look across the sea to England, whose the landscape and personages are described in epic fashion. England is soaked with the blood of its prince, who is described as a dragon with glowing eyes.

The Angel of Albion, a personification of England, summons his Thirteen Angels to fight against America. These Angels, however, have come over to the side of America and so do not answer Albion's trumpet call. The Angel of Boston speaks out in protest of Albion's injustices. Albion then resorts to sending plagues over the Atlantic to America. However, Orc, a "lover of wild rebellion," sends these plagues back to Albion. Urizen, the stern god of law and reason in Blake's pantheon, is roused by the fighting and emerges from his shrine to pour snow and ice on the continent. At the poem's close, France, Spain, and Italy watch as Albion is smitten by plagues and flames.

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