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Plate 95

[Note: In this exceptional instance, the words or letters given within square brackets are not in the usual sense conjectural: they are not visible on Plate 95 at all but are borrowed from the identical text on Plate 94 in order to indicate just where the words or letters that are here legible occur on the page. Explanation follows.]

  • <[Albion cold lays on his Rock storms & snows beat round] him
  • [Beneath the Furnaces & the starry Wheels & the Im]m[ortal] To[mb]
  • [How]ling winds cover him [roaring seas dash fur]ious [ag]ai[nst him]
  • [In the] d[e]ep dar[kness] broad li[ghtnings glar]e l[on]g th[unders] r[oll]
  • [The we]ed[s] of [Death inwrap his] han[ds & fe]et [bl]o[wn inc]ess[an]t [5]
  • [And wa]shd [in]cessant [by the f]or-ever rest[less] se[a-waves foaming abroad]
  • [U]pon t[he] white Rock of [En]gland a Female [S]hado[w as d]ea[dly] dam[ps]
  • [Of] the M[in]es of [Cornwall &] Derbyshire la[ys upon his bosom h]ea[vy]
  • [M]ov[ed by the] wind [in volumes of] thick cloud [returning fold]ing [roun]d
  • [His loins] & bos[om unremovable] by [swelling storms & l]ou[d rending] [10]
  • [Of enr]ag[ed thunders. Around t]hem [the St]arr[y Wheels of their Giant Son]s
  • [Revolve] & over the[m the Furnaces of L]os [& the Immortal Tomb around]
  • [Erin sitting] in the [Tomb, to watch them unceas]ing [night and day]

  • 34

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  • [And t]he body of [Alb]io[n was closed apart from] all [Nations.]
  • [Over them the] fa[mishd Eagle screams on boney Wings and around] [15]
  • Them ho[w]ls [the] Wolf [of fam]ine de[ep heaves the] Oce[an black thundering]
  • [Arou]nd [the wor]my [Garments of Albion then pau]sing in [deathlike silence]
  • [Ti]me [was Fini]shed [The Bre]ath [Divine Br]eath[ed over Albion]
  • [Be]ne[ath t]he Fur[naces & Starry Wheels and in the Immortal Tomb]
  • [And England who is Brittannia] awo[ke from Death on Al]bions [bosom] [20]
  • [She aw]oke [pale &] col[d she] fainted [seven times on the Body of Albion]
  • O pitious [Slee]p [O] pitious Dream [O God O] God aw[ake I] ha[ve] sl[ain]
  • [In Dreams of] Chasti[ty & Moral Law I have Murdered Albion Ah]
  • [I]n S[tone-h]en[ge] & on [Lond]on Sto[ne & in the Oak Groves of M]ald[en]
  • [I hav]e slain h[im] in my [Sleep with the Knife of the Druid O E]ngl[and] [25]
  • [O all] ye [Na]tio[ns] o[f the] E[arth] b[eh]old [ye the J]ealo[us Wife]
  • [ ? ]>

A few traces of the text transcribed above can be detected in any copy, closely examined. But none of the usual techniques of magnification or photography yielded anything more than a half word or so (in the dark lines below the arm of the large drawing of Albion that fills this area), until I noticed that the open spaces that were white in the photostatic positive (enlarged) were not solidly dark in the enlarged negative but filled with shadowy images of words, quite legible in the right light. "Derbyshire" was a word that quickly led to conjecture that the text was related to the Cornwall & Derbyshire passage on Plate 94. Comparison of the two pages, line by line, yielded the evidence presented above. The legible words or letters are in relatively the same positions on Plate 95 as on 94, though not an exact retracing. For example, on 95 the first s of "restless" is above the final e of "Female" in the next line and the final e of "Derbyshire" in the next; on 94 the s is above the m of "Female" though still above the final e of "Derbyshire". In Plate 94 a paragraphic space is inserted between lines 4 and 5 which was not present in Plate 95; and so on.

In all the fairly well recovered lines it is evident that the slight variations


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in position are accounted for by variations in spacing, not changes in text. The fit is so nearly exact throughout that the probability of unfound variants in the larger unrecovered portions is almost completely ruled out, except for the possibility that line 27 is new on Plate 94. There is room for it on 95 but no visible trace. In meaning it is parenthetical; it may well have been written when the passage was moved.

Below the canceled text is a canceled illustration which is practically identical to the lower two-thirds of the bottom picture on Plate 94. The new picture, of young Albion rising in anger with wrath "bright flaming on all sides around", is etched on top of the old, his flames and left leg and right foot being drawn on top of the original lines representing "Brittannia" lying upon the bosom of aged Albion, asleep or dead. Only traces of Brittannia remain, remnants of her legs above the man's; but the legs of aged Albion were only slightly cut into when Blake cut the row of flames on the right side. On the left side he scraped away most of the man's head but left three fragments, including part of an eye, now serving as crevices in a pile of rocks (consolidated into one in the colored copy). From the condition of the plate, as revealed in the posthumous copies, it is easy to suppose that Blake did not expect his earlier picture to show at all. In the British Museum copy grey wash disguises legs and feet. In the Harvard copy he added lines to increase the rock-pile effect and efface the head; in none of the uncolored copies are there positive indications that the remnant calves of Brittannia and calves and feet of old Albion are meant to be taken as part of the picture. Yet perhaps (though his text does not directly suggest it) Blake did mean to have us see what the compilers of the Census discern: "flames, which appear to be consuming a body of which only the legs and feet are seen on the right and the head, vaguely, on the left" (p. 110). For in the colored (Mellon) copy, where he might have covered all, Blake has resurrected the aged corpse (while covering the remnants of Brittannia) and given it a good head and legs: young Albion firmly elevates himself with one foot on the thigh of the old. Furthermore Blake has painted out the heavy lines on the plate which separated the young man's buttocks from the flames between his legs and has changed the flames into a sort of triple tail or threefold fleshy garment extending downward as part of the young man's back.

Also in the colored copy is added, with india ink and spots of white, what the Census describes as "a worm at the lower margin." But there is only one state of the plate.

If, as seems likely, Blake was dealing with an already finished plate (possibly the right side of the plate from the wrong side of which Plate 56 was printed: see comment above), he must have had to apply a ground to the whole plate, letting it fully cover the lower half (which he wished to retain) while he cut and etched his new picture in the top half, on top of the old picture and the text he was removing. It must then be supposed that he etched the whites so deeply that he could almost completely avoid


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inking the remnants of text in the hollows of his picture — or, it may be that the shadowy letters brought out by photography represent impressions made in the paper by the acid-reduced and un-inked letters which still retained relative elevation. This explanation would account for the appearance of the lines of the body of old Albion and of some letters in the thick lines of flame or body not touched by the second etching.[33]