Vala and The Four Zoas

  • Brenda S. Webster


Vala, later The Four Zoas, is perhaps the single most important work for those interested in Blake’s development. Blake’s work on the 132-page manuscript spanned the crucial years (1796–1807) of his troubles with Hayley and his experience of enlightenment or, possibly, conversion. It was neither finished nor definitively abandoned, but continued to grow by a process of accretion, moving from a mythic-dramatic core in the early Nights to a more abstract conclusion that is marked by a proliferation of Christian imagery. Margo-liouth and Bentley have worked to disentangle early layers of text from later additions and critics have subsequently been more careful in distinguishing between the early negative view of man’s condition and the later redemptive one.1 I think it is possible, however, to be much more specific about the subjective components of both Blake’s negative and positive attitudes toward the human condition.2


Female Nature Early Night Primal Scene Oedipal Conflict Poetic Voice 
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  1. 5.
    which the reader can find reproduced in G. E. Bentley’s Vala; or, The Four Zoas: A Facsimile of the MS, a Transcript of the Poem, and a Study of its Growth and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).Google Scholar
  2. 42.
    Originally scholars thought that Night VIIb came first, but Margoliouth, Bentley and, more recently, John Kilgore — ‘The Order of Nights VIIa and VIIb in Blake’s The Four Zoas’, Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, 12 (Fall 1978) pp. 107–15 — have convincingly argued against this.Google Scholar
  3. 46.
    See Silvano Arieti, Interpretation of Schizophrenia (New York: Basic Books, 1974) pp. 146–75, for some interesting clinical parallels to Urizen’s disorder: John, for example, whose fear of committing terrible crimes inhibited every movement and who ‘saw himself solidifying, assuming statuesque positions’, like Urizen’s stone form (p. 157).Google Scholar

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© Brenda S. Webster 1983

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  • Brenda S. Webster

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