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 him of the struggle under way on “my American plains.”
The main section of the poem, “A Prophecy,” concerns the struggle between the Angel of Albion (England) and a number of characters and deities associated with the American colonies. George Washington early makes an...
(The entire section is 667 words.)