Object 32 of The Four Zoas (BB.209) posed a number of curious problems. This was the first experience that Anna, Miles and I had with a Four Zoas object (actually, all Anna and I had tagged before this was a receipt), and so it was quite overwhelming. In this post, I want to focus on the word between “Urizen” and “Power”.

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(“Thus was the Mundane shell builded by Urizen’s … power.”(E 321, l.15.)

The line is written in pencil, one of the intermittent hand shifts that occur in the page. I read the word as “stray”, but Bentley, Edman and Keynes all transcribe it as “strong”.

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The possible evidence for their choice might be that fact that the letters after ‘r’ are clustered together less distinctly, and the last letter can either be a ‘g’ or a ‘y’.  If the word is strong, then the single stroke after ‘r’ is an ‘o’. Yet, in the very next word, we see how rounded Blake’s ‘o’ is. I’m wondering whether the “Urizen” and “Power”exert a “strong” influence on the word sandwiched in between. On the other hand, Blake’s ‘a’s tend to be less rounded, as in the following words:

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This tilts the balance a little towards “stray”.Finally, even if it’s true that Blake leaves both ‘y’s and ‘g’s open ended if it suits him, the top of the ‘g’s do not usually look exactly like a ‘y’.

I brought it to the table at the next BAND meeting, and those present agreed that the word might be changed. In any case, “stray” power feels much more satisfying to me, but since I can’t make any decisions based on that feeling of satisfaction, I decided to use it for my first blog post.