William Blake: The Four Zoas

(612 words)
  • David Punter (University of Bristol)

Vala, or, The Four Zoas is the name now conventionally ascribed to a long “epic” poem that Blake was engaged on writing between approximately 1795 and 1804. Divided into nine “Nights”, it never achieved final form; what we have is the manuscript record of an attempt to write a history of the world, cast in terms of Blake's unique mythology and constantly overwritten with changes, emendations, narrative excursions. Night Seven appears in two quite distinct forms; and even the ordering of pages is subject to critical doubt.

To begin to understand it requires a preliminary knowledge of the myth it represents. In this myth, the primal man Albion – a figure for man before the Fall, but also for …

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Punter, David. "The Four Zoas". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 July 2001
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=809, accessed 27 November 2015.]