TL;DR

A being who is part of William Blake and all people, Tharmas, takes in the wives/significant others and creations of other self-components. Tharmas’s own wife/SO Enion becomes jealous and kills them (at least, so we’re told later). Tharmas disintegrates and Enion tried to weave a covering for her sins, but a part of Tharmas called the Spectre is woven into her cloth, which takes on a life of its own. It joins with her in some monstrous way and she gives birth to Los and Enitharmon, another self-component and his soon-to-be wife. The children steal their mother’s vitality, get in a fight, and get married. A third self-component, Urizen, wants Los to treat a fourth, Luvah, harshly. The wedding feast is splendid but terrible. People in a more heavenly universe, Beulah, go to the universal brotherhood of man for help, and they create seven savior figures, the seventh of whom is Jesus. If this piques your curiosity rather than making you say WTF, or even if it does both, you would do well to read on. Long quotations and more detailed summary follow. The third Blake post will offer commentary….

For starters, in the big picture, The Four Zoas tells how Albion (England, Blake himself, and/or the Universal Man, though that can also be Jesus) disintegrates, and four named components of him (and of all people, Blake suggests) struggle with dissolution, chaos, and each other, and eventually through divine grace are reintegrated. And so we begin:

Sing
His fall into Division & his Resurrection to Unity
His fall into the Generation of Decay & Death & his Regeneration
by the Resurrection from the dead

(Confusingly, the he in this passage seems to refer not to Albion but to Los, one of the four self-components; I’m not up on all my Blake commentary, nor do I really want to be, so this is a stray speculation, but perhaps this is because Blake also identifies with Los in particular as a prophet and artist and Blake refers to himself as distinct from other people as opposed to all people, though his thoughts elsewhere seem to refer to all people; I also wouldn’t be surprised if a certain amount of Blake’s writing is very inconsistent because produced by both psychotic/visionary states, automatic writing (he edited a lot but perhaps he left a lot too), and/or deep, complex, and idiosyncratic personal thinking that we will never be able to access fully from the text alone.)

Then a different one of the self-components, “Tharmas Parent power,” rescues the emanations (sometimes all the creations of a given power, sometimes their female counterparts) of other powers who have fled, especially Albion’s own emanation Jerusalem, but Tharmas’ emanation, Enion, extracts them from him in jealous terror and accuses him of adultery.

Then….

Enion said—Thy fear has made me tremble thy terrors have surrounded me
All Love is lost Terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love
And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty.

Once thou wast to Me the loveliest son of heaven—But now
Why art thou Terrible and yet I love thee in thy terror till

I am almost Extinct & soon shall be a Shadow in Oblivion

Unless some way can be found that I may look upon thee & live
Hide me some Shadowy semblance. secret whispering in my Ear
In secret of soft wings. in mazes of delusive beauty
I have lookd into the secret sul of him I lovd
And in the Dark recesses found Sin & cannot return

Trembling & pale sat Tharmas weeping in his clouds
Why wilt thou Examine every little fibre of my soul
Spreading them out before the Sun like Stalks of flax to dry
The infant joy is beautiful but its anatomy
Horrible Ghast & Deadly nought shalt thou find in it
But Death Despair & Everlasting brooding Melancholy

Thou wilt go mad with horror if thou dost Examine thus
Every moment of my secret hours Yea I know
That I have sinnd & that my Emanations are become harlots
I am already distracted at their deeds & if I look
Upon them more Despair will bring self murder on my soul
O Enion thou art thyself a root growing in hell
Tho thus heavely beautiful to draw me to destruction

Sometimes I think thou art a flower expanding
Sometimes I think thou art fruit breaking from its bud
In dreadful dolor & pain & I am like an atom
A Nothing left in darkness yet I am an identity
I wish & feel & weep & grown Ah terrible terrible

In Eden Females sleep the winter in soft silken veils
Woven by their own hands to hide them in the darksom grave
But Males immortal live renewd by female deaths. in soft
Delight they die & they revive in spring with music & songs
Enion said Farewell I die I hide from thy searching eyes

So saying he sunk down into the sea a pale white corse
In torment he sunk down & flowd among her filmy Woof
His Spectre issuing from his feet in flames of fire
In gnawing pain drawn out by her lovd fingers every nerve
She counted. every vein & lacteal threading them among
Her woof of terror. Terrified & drinking taers of woe
Shuddrng she wove—nine days & nights Sleepless her food was tears
Wondring she saw her woof begin to animate. & not
As Garments woven subservient to her hands but having a will
Of its own perverse & wayward Enion lovd & wept

Nine days she labourd at her work. & nine dark sleepless nights
But on the tenth trembling morn the Circle of Destiny Complete
Round rolld the Sea Englobing in a watry Globe self balanced
A Frowning continent appeard Where Enion in the Desart
Terrified in her own Creation viewing her woven shadow
Sat in a dread intoxication of Repentance & Contrition

There is from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant rest
Namd Beulah a Soft Moony Universe feminine lovely
Pure mild & Gentle iven in Mercy to those who sleep
Eterally. Created by the Lamb of God around
On all sides within & without the Universal Man
The Daughters of Beulah follow sleepers in all their Dreams
Creating Spaces lest they fall into Eternal Death
The Circle of Destiny complete they gave to it a Space
And namd the Space Ulro & brooded over it in care & love

They said The Specter is in every man insane & most
Deformd Thro the three heavens descending in fury & fire
We meet it with our Sons & loving blandishments & give
To it a form of vegetation But this Spectre of Tharmas
Is Eternal Death What shall we do O God pity & help
So spoke they & closd the Gate of the Tongue in trembling fear

What have I done! Said Enion accursed wretch! What deed.
Is this a deed of Love I know what I have done. I know
Too late now to repent. Love is changd to deadly Hate
All life is blotted out & I alone remain possessd with Fears
In darkness & solitude forming Seas of Doubt & rocks of Repentance
Within my Soul has lost its splendor & a brooding Fear
Shadows me oer & drives me outward to a world of woe
So waild she trembling before her own Created Phantasm

She drew the Spectre forth from Tharmas in her shining loom
Of Vegetation weeping in wayward infancy & sullen youth
Listning to her soft lamentations soon his tongue began
To Lisp out words & soon in masculine strength augmenting he
Reard up a form of old & stood upon the glittering rock
A shadowy human form winged & in his depths
The dazzlings as of gems shone clear, rapturous in fury
Glorying in his own eyes Exalted in terrific Pride
The Spectre thus spoke. Who art thou Diminutive husk & shell
If thou hast sinnd & art polluted know that I am pure
And unpolluted & will brin to rigid strict account
All thy past deeds So hear what I tell thee! mark it well! Remember!
This world is Thine in which thou dwellest that within thy soul
That dark & dismal infinite where Thought roams up & down
Is Mine & there thou goest when with one Sting of my tongue
Envenomd thou rollst inwards to the place whence I emergd

She trembling answerd Wherefore was I born & what am It
I thought to weave a Covering for my Sins from wrath of Tharmas

I thought Tharmas a Sinner & I murderd his Emanations
His secret loves & Graces Ah me wretched What have I done
For now I find that all those Emanations were my Childrens Souls
And I have murderd them with Cruelty above atonement
Those that remain have fled from my cruelty into the desarts
And thou the delusive tempter to these deeds sittest before me
In this thy world not mine tho dark I feel my world withint
Mingling his horrible brightness with her tender limbs then high she soardt
Above the ocean; a bright wonder that Nature shudder’d at
Half Woman & half Spectre, all his lovely changing colours mixt
With her fair crystal clearness; in her lips & cheeks his poisons roset
In blushes like the morning, and his scaly armour softening
A monster lovely in the heavens or wandering on the earth,

Till with fierce pain she brought forth on the rocks her sorrow & woe
Behold two little Infants wept upon the desolate wind.

These two children cause her to age, taking from her the life force (or something like that) of the Spectre, and run away from her and repel her “Into Non Entity revolving round in dark despair.”

The Eno, a daughter of Beulah, expands “a Moment of Time” and “an atom of space” into seven thousand years and infinity, with “windows into Eden” every year. The two children, Los and Enitharmon (the one of the four creatures associated with prophecy and his emanation, also probably stand-ins for Blake and his wife) wander the lovely place Eno has made for them, but they are….not nice, though “A male & female naked & ruddy as the pride of summer/ Alternate Love & Hate his breast; hers Scorn & Jealousy/ In embryon passions”; though they never have a sexual encounter, each drives all members of their sex away from the other (where did all these males and females come from? Blake’s myth has many virtues, but making strict linear sense is not one of them). Enitharmon sings for Los a “Song of Death” that I find extremely confusing but which, according to Harold Bloom, explains some of the context of Tharmas and Enion’s problems. It tells a story about Luvah (the one of the four beings associated with sexual love) and Vala, his emanation, in which Luvah takes a chariot into the sky like Phaeton, as well as a story reminiscent of the Christian story of the Fall.

Los hits Enitharmon and she falls unconscious; when she revives, he says he does not die and then prophesies unfortunate and unclear fates that she is likely to meet. Among the lines of his reply are the words (which I like a great deal).

…I see the swords & spears of futurity
Tho in the Brain of Man we live & in his circling Nerves.
Tho this bright world of all our joy is in the Human Brain.

Enitharmon becomes angry and calls down the fourth and least likable of the four beings, Urizen, who is probably, among other things, the force of reason and law. Urizen offers Los power over Luvah, Los seems to refuse angrily, to which Urizen offers an angry retort, and then the three of them for reasons that are unclear to me sit down to a wedding feast for Los and Enitharmon. This wedding feast is, like the interaction between Enion and Tharmas’ Spectre, described with a startling conjunction of beauty and horror. They listen to “Elemental Harps & Sphery Son,” the feast is “golden” but the wine is “the wine of anguish” and the song sung is one of beating ploughshares into swords.

In the meantime, Luvah and Vala are in the sky in an orb of blood, and they see a vision of Christ in Luvah’s robes, and there are now “green fields among/ The varying clouds, like paradises stretch’d in the expanse/ With towns & villages and temples, tents sheep-folds and pastures/ Where dwell the children of the elemental worlds in harmony,” although the children tend to get drawn into both Enitharmon’s feast and Enion’s exile, which continues:

Enion blind & age-bent wept upon the desolate wind

Why does the Raven cry aloud and no eye pities her?
Why fall the Sparrow & the Robin in the foodless winter?
Faint! shivering they sit on leafless bush, or frozen stone

Wearied with seeking food across the snowy waste; the little
Heart, cold; and the little tongue consum’d, that once in thoughtless joy
Gave songs of gratitude to waving corn fields round their nest…

The song continues lamenting the cruelty of nature. In the meantime, “the Council of God,” which is a great many men (men only, I suspect, unfortunately) that become one man, meets, and messengers from Beulah give another almost incomprehensible account of everything that has gone wrong, finishing with this plea: “gird on thy sword O thou most mighty in glory & majesty/ Destroy these opressors of Jerusalem & those who ruin Shiloh.” They choose seven men, the seventh of whom is Jesus, to follow the Man (possibly Albion, possibly everyone) and help him, while the Daughters of Beulah try to get Enitharmon to have sex with Los (…if I understand the last part correctly….).

At last,

Terrific ragd the Eternal Wheels of intellect terrific ragd
The living creatures of the wheels in the Wars of Eternal life
But perverse rolld the wheels of Urizen & Luvah back reversd
Downwards & outwards consuming in the wars of Eternal Death.