Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 389

William Blake's America: a Prophecy is a mythologized version of the founding of America as a country. Blake creatively—and vividly, as the original work featured eighteen illustrations of its mythological subjects—portrays a battle between the rebellious America and the domineering Britain. The story is an allegory for the triumph of creativity and novelty over reason and tradition.

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Blake's America should be viewed in its context as first of a series of three poems. The next was the similarly structured "Europe: a Prophecy" (which describes the foundation of Europe followed by its infestation by war, rebellion, and sin) and and the last was "The Book of Los" (which recounts the fall of Blake's mythical zoa—an incarnation of primordial man—Urthona into the degenerate human form, Los). Los is depicted as a smithy god who works with a hammer, and he is the father of Orc (who appears in "America, a Prophecy"). Los thus represents creativity, and Orc represents restlessness in the form of fiery rebellion (Blake's mythology is very similar to other religious pantheons in the sense that deities are personifications of abstract forces and emotions).

"America: a Prophecy," like the other works in Blake's continental prophecies, are is heavily politicized. It tells the story of the American Revolution by adducing historical figures such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, but also mythological beings such as Orc (a fiery spirit of rebellion) and his counterpart Urizen (a deity who appears as a leprous old man representing reason and law).

The Angel of Albion (a personification of England) tries to summon his Thirteen Angels with his trumpet, but these angels abandon Albion in favor of America. The Angel of Boston in particular rouses his cohort against obeying their former master, Albion. Left without his Thirteen Angels (who represent the colonies), Albion sends a plague to America, which Orc repels with fire and sends back to England. As a result, all of England (Bristol, York, and London) is overtaken by sickness. Urizen (the spirit of reason) emerges from his shrine as an old man, crying in pity for his beloved Europe (and Urizen can be interpreted more broadly as the spirit of the Enlightenment).

By showing Orc victorious and Urizen, the Thirteen Angels, and Albion thus defeated, Blake suggests the triumph of rebellion and creativity over law and reason.

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 667

America: A Prophecy is a narrative poem consisting of two parts, a 37-line section titled “Preludium” and a longer, 226-line section entitled “A Prophecy.” It is written in long, unrhymed lines that seem to have been inspired in their shape both by the epic meter of Homer and by the iambic pentameter of John Milton, but that conform to neither.

The poem takes the American Revolution as its inspiration, but, even though George Washington and other founding fathers appear in it, the poem is by no means an attempt to write a history of the event. Rather, this poem is an attempt to create an extended metaphor glorifying the spirit of the revolution.

In America , William Blake is developing a cosmology of deities, some of whom had appeared in his earlier poems and many of whom were to appear in later ones, such as the poem “The Four Zoas.” When the poem begins, Orc, a deity associated with fire and rebellion, based very much on the myth of Prometheus, has been chained by Urthona, who is a blacksmith and associated with the earth. He is being fed by the virgin daughter of Urthona, a sympathetic spirit also associated with the earth. Inspired by her presence, Orc breaks free of his chains to embrace her; she, in turn, is inspired to speak for the first time, and, at the end of this prelude, tells...

(The entire section contains 1509 words.)

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