Thursday, June 30, 2011

Declining Years II

For twenty years Blake had suffered from a failure of his Visions from Heaven. But in 1800, at the age of 43 they returned. 'Purity of Heart is to will one thing', but under the influence of the Main Chance (the need to find a respectable place in the world, to better himself financially, to eat meat instead of beans) he had become double-minded. Divided from the will of God he had failed financially as well as spiritually.

Then he was "Surprised by Joy" and rescued from the Main Chance (a story that has been amply if not exhaustively treated in this blog). The Visions returned and he happily 'lived in Heaven', to use his wife's plaintive term for it.

Then, with increasing age and deteriorating health, he was 'surprised by joy' again; he found everything that he had lost in the past: friends, and an income that allowed him to 'put bread on the table'.

Perhaps every person with some age has glowing memories of some event in their past: perhaps just a day, perhaps a month or a year. That's what Shoreham meant to Samuel Palmer and the other Ancients, and to Blake at the end of his life.

London was a vast polluted mire of men: the miry clay indeed (Psalm 42), of which the country side was a refuge. All Londoners were aware of this, particularly the young men who made up the Ancients. Thomas Palmer's father was a conforming Christian, a Baptist. Perhaps about 1820 he was called as a lay preacher to a chapel in the environs of the village of Shoreham. The upshot was that he moved his family there.

Meanwhile George Cumberland, a long time friend of Blake brought John Linnell, an affluent painter, to see him. Linnell fell in love with Blake and with what he represented. He supported the old man for the rest of his life. He also brought many of his friends to see Blake and his lovely pictures. They adopted Blake, much like the sixties flower children had adopted him.

For the flower children it may have been mostly about sex, but Linnell's friends liked Blake in more general and thorough ways. Particularly they loved his religion, his spirit, his values. Youthful individualists, they were religious boys, living a life of joy and piety.

These were young man who had become a loose-knit community which they called The Shoreham Ancients. They frequently visited Blake and brought him to Shoreham where he found himself a very honored guest. All this made Blake's last days a fulfillment of extravagant degree. In 1828 he died heartily mourned by his young friends. Everyone knew it was but a temporary separation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ILLUSTRATING DANTE

Blake was conflicted in regard to illustrating Dante's Divine Comedy. Although he admired Dante's genius, he deplored much in Dante's theology. Notice that Blake mentioned Dante among various luminaries in a positive role in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem , Plate 73, (E 228)
"And all the Kings & Nobles of the Earth & all their Glories
These are Created by Rahab & Tirzah in Ulro: but around

These, to preserve them from Eternal Death Los Creates
Adam Noah Abraham Moses Samuel David Ezekiel
[Pythagoras Socrates Euripedes Virgil Dante Milton]
Dissipating the rocky forms of Death, by his thunderous Hammer
As the Pilgrim passes while the Country permanent remains
So Men pass on: but States remain permanent for ever"

The line on Plate 73 of Jerusalem mentioning Dante was deleted by Blake after further consideration. Blake had included geniuses of Greek and European literature along with the most influential Old Testament characters, as individuals created by Los to preserve imagination. Apparently Blake later decided that he could not put all of these men in the same category.
When late in life Blake was commissioned to illustrate the Divine Comedy, he went about the task with enthusiasm but skepticism. A particular illustration in which the giant Antaeus transports Virgil and Dante to a lower circle of hell as per their request, gave Blake an opportunity to show a benevolent giant gently placing the two pilgrims on the ledge below. If Blake was making a bit of a joke by picturing an acrobatic giant clinging to the cliftside with an expression of loving concern on his face, some think that Dante too was making a joke with Virgil's negotiations with Antaeus.

Blake produced other pictures contrasting the size of giants with ordinary humans. The Angel of Revelation pictures a vision being recorded by John of Patmos as he sits between the feet of the gigantic angel who commanded him to prophesy. Plate 62 of Jerusalem pictures the agonized giant Albion standing above the diminutive Los, the One who stood forth to warn Albion. The Eternal Zoas were giants too although we don't see them pictured with ordinary humans. In the illustrations to Night Thoughts there is occasionally a contrast between giant figures and ordinary sized ones. Much as Blake in his poetry used words to describe various levels of existence, he used size in images to portray different orders of reality. Becoming conscious of the Gigantic forms represents a mental awakening.

It appears that Blake used the image of Antaeus, Virgil and Dante as a reminder that powerful forces may offer unexpected assistance.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Declining Years

By 1804 Blake finished Milton and Jerusalem, a magnificent achievement but without financial remuneration. He and Catherine lapsed into an increasing level of poverty; there was no income.

Always starkly plain-speaking he had managed to lose the friends and sponsors of the 18th Century:

Blake became friends with John Flaxman, Thomas Stothard and George Cumberland during his first year at the Royal Academy. They shared radical views.

John Flaxman, a distinguished artist, had been generous to Blake in various ways. He introduced Blake to Henry Fuseli, a Swiss artist had much in common with Blake. He introduced him to Hayley, who supported Blake and Catherine for three years at Felpham. Expressing his gratitude in 1800 Blake wrote these lines:

"To My Dearest Friend John Flaxman these lines
I bless thee O Father of Heaven & Earth that ever I saw Flaxmans face.
Angels stand round my Spirit in Heaven. the blessed of Heaven are my friends upon Earth.
When Flaxman was taken to Italy Fuseli was giv'n to me for a season
And now Flaxman hath given me Hayley his friend"
(Erdman 707).

But "as poverty, neglect, and the utter failure of an 1809 exhibition caused him mounting frustration, Blake picked bitter arguments with his erstwhile supporters. He turned on Flaxman with accusations of hypocrisy; he successfully alienated the peaceable Stothard and, by 1810, had managed to fall out with ....the benevolent Butts. There were no more commissions forthcoming.
'I found them blind and taught them how to see
and now they know neither themselves or me' (E508)." (Mysterious Wisdom, page 64) written by Rachel Campbell-Johnston)

But we're told that he accused Flaxman of hypocrisy and also alienated Stothard (a long term friend who was given a commission after it was promised to Blake).

Eventually the Blakes were one step from the workhouse. But help was to come. In 1818 one remaining friend, George Cumberland, introduced him to John Linnell, a prosperous artist. It introduced a chain of events that led to a larger acquaintance that could only help William and Catherine Blake; in fact it served to glorify Blake's last decade.

"Linnell was one of the best friends and kindest patrons of William Blake. He gave him the two largest commissions he ever received for single series of designs—£150 for drawings and engravings of The Inventions to the Book of Job, and a like sum for those illustrative of Dante Aligheri." (From John Linnell (painter)

Monday, June 27, 2011

IS ALL JOY FORBIDDEN


Written on a sketch by Blake in the British Museum is the legend 'is all joy forbidden.' The image catches the sorrow of being closed off from all sources of joy. John Middleton Murry, author of William Blake, directs us to the causes of man's deepest sorrow in this fallen world:

"Man is already punished in that they 'know naught of sweet eternity'. To take from them the possibility of that knowledge is a crime against the Manhood.
In the Christianity we know, and which we have inherited, it was not so. Once let Eternity become a condition into which men enter after death, and Christianity may not merely condone War, as it does, but it may employ War, as it did. The life of the body is indifferent: the immortal soul fares on, unhindered to its appointed place. But if Eternity is here and now, the case is altered. The soul fares as the body, and to kill a body is to kill a soul.
Such was Blake's doctrine, and such was the doctrine of Jesus before him. Eternity is here and now. And for Blake the cause of the corruption of the true Religion is, first of all, to have told the Human Race that Woman's love is Sin, and, second , to have told it

'That an Eternal life awaits the worm of sixty winters
In an allegorical abode where existence has never come'

These illusions propagated by false Religion are not separate from one another. The Moral Law which 'Forbids all Joy' in life, and forbids most vehemently the deepest joy of all, must needs offer its victims the promise of happiness to come. But happiness is here and now, like Eternity. And Eternity is happiness in the here and now; nor is there any other." (Page 313)

In this account the fall of Albion leads to his forgetting his origin until 'Nought he knew Of sweet Eternity.'

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 83, (E 358)
"Among the Flowers of Beulah walkd the Eternal Man & Saw
Vala the lilly of the desart. melting in high noon
Upon her bosom in sweet bliss he fainted Wonder siezd
All heaven they saw him dark. they built a golden wall
Round Beulah There he reveld in delight among the Flowers
Vala was pregnant & brought forth Urizen Prince of Light
First born of Generation. Then behold a wonder to the Eyes
Of the now fallen Man a double form Vala appeard. A Male
And female shuddring pale the Fallen Man recoild
From the Enormity & calld them Luvah & Vala. turning down
The vales to find his way back into Heaven but found none
For his frail eyes were faded & his ears heavy & dull

Urizen grew up in the plains of Beulah Many Sons
And many daughters flourishd round the holy Tent of Man
Till he forgot Eternity delighted in his sweet joy
Among his family his flocks & herds & tents & pastures

But Luvah close conferrd with Urizen in darksom night
To bind the father & enslave the brethren Nought he knew
Of sweet Eternity"

The ideas that ' Womans love is Sin' and that Eternal life is only experienced after death are associated in this passage with the forbidding of joy.

Europe, PLATE 5, (E 62)
"Now comes the night of Enitharmons joy!
Who shall I call? Who shall I send?
That Woman, lovely Woman! may have dominion?
Arise O Rintrah thee I call! & Palamabron thee!
Go! tell the human race that Womans love is Sin!
That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters
In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come:
Forbid all joy, & from her childhood shall the little female
Spread nets in every secret path.

My weary eyelids draw towards the evening, my bliss is yet but new."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blake's Values

Although Blake's poetry is most often opaque and mystifying, to share the following values gives one a leg up on understanding.

Non material: no, anti materialistic: 'when you die, you die.' Blake would have laughed at that materialistic viewpoint: there are several kinds of death, and life, we die to live ((except a gain of seed fall into the ground (and die as a seed) it yields nothing.))

Anti-clerical: The Established Church in Blake's day was shot through with corruption. To go to the Established Church was to stamp your approval on social preference.
But Blake saw much to disapprove in the Dissenters churches. He saw that any church is an institution, with all the flaws of any institution: favoritism, privilege, 'politics', everything but brotherhood.

Anti-war: No peacenik of our generation has anything over Blake. He associated war with the State, the ultimate constriction of human freedom.

Political: a rabid democrat. He gloried in the American Revolution and felt the same toward the French Revolution until the guillotine came to the fore.

The bounding line:
"The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this: That the more distinct, sharp, [P 64] and wirey the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art; and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism, and bungling. Great inventors, in all ages, knew this: Protogenes and Apelles knew each other by this line. Rafael and Michael Angelo, and Albert Durer, are known by this and this alone. The want of this determinate and bounding form evidences the want of idea in the artist's mind, and the pretence of the plagiary in all its branches." (Descriptive Catalogue, E 550)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

BLAKE & ANGER

In 1933 John Middleton Murry wrote his study titled William Blake. His stated aim was to 'elucidate the doctrine of William Blake, using only his written works as evidence.' His book evokes the man William Blake and his thought as well as any.

Murry uses this short quote from Auguries of Innocence to apply Blake's concept of 'states' to man's common experience of being angry.

Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
"To be in a Passion you good may do;
But no good if a Passion is in you."

"The passion of Anger is a state; for the man who knows that it is a State, and keeps the Eternal Individual undisturbed and uncontaminated by it, Anger is a necessary instrument of life - a weapon against the enemies of life, and a means of purging the bosom of perilous stuff. Such anger is clean; one enters and leaves it as an alien thing; a flamelike visitation. But the anger that is in us, smolders and does not flame; it is a grudging resentment of a thwarted Selfhood, a state in which, because we do not know that it is a State, the Eternal Individual is lost.

From such an anger comes war. Forgiveness being the condition of the Eternal Individual, opposes its absolute veto to the corruption of pure wrath into corperal war. It refuses to allow righteous wrath to become the disguise of the appetite of the Selfhood for envy and hatred and vengeance." (Page 323)




At a critical point in the Four Zoas Los threatens to use the instrument of his anger against Urizen unless he repent and be redeemed from error's power. Los' anger against Urizen's error leads him to weep and seek to resume his human form.




Image
Europe a Prophecy
Plate 13


Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 120, (E 390)
"My anger against thee is greater than against this Luvah
For war is energy Enslavd but thy religion
The first author of this war & the distracting of honest minds
Into confused perturbation & strife & honour & pride
Is a deceit so detestable that I will cast thee out
If thou repentest not & leave thee as a rotten branch to be burnd
With Mystery the Harlot & with Satan for Ever & Ever
Error can never be redeemd in all Eternity
But Sin Even Rahab is redeemd in blood & fury & jealousy
That line of blood that stretchd across the windows of the morning
Redeemd from Errors power. Wake thou dragon of the Deeps

PAGE 121
Urizen wept in the dark deep anxious his Scaly form
To reassume the human & he wept in the dark deep"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

JOB & SATAN

Blake's Illustrations to the Book of Job
S
atan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job's Charity
Butts Set

There is a lot to be seen in this illustration to the book of Job. Job and his wife are conforming to the standards of their religion by giving alms to the poor represented by a man who is old, blind and crippled, led by his faithful dog. Angels to the right and left give their approval. But Satan is descending with God's permission to pour his woes on the head of Job.

God in the picture is hidden from Job in clouds. He is the God afar off in the sky with his book of law and scroll of the elect. You might say that he is the God whom Job has created in his own image sitting on the same sort of stone platform. His relationship to Job is equivalent to Job's relationship to the beggar: distant but proper, involved at a superficial level.

To the left of Job is a trilithon which to Blake represented the Druid religion of sacrifice or Natural Religion. As Damon writes in A Blake Dictionary:
"Blake objected to the deist God, remote, and inaccessible, as he believed that God exists actively in our bosoms. He objected to the deistic nature worship, with its idea that the world of three dimensions is all, and that it operates by cause and effect." (Page 101)

In this passage Blake equates the Religion of Satan, Deism, Natural Religion, Natural Philosophy, Natural Morality and Self-Righteousness.

Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201)
"Man must & will have Some Religion; if he has not the Religion
of Jesus, he will have the Religion of Satan, & will erect the
Synagogue of Satan. calling the Prince of this World, God; and
destroying all who do not worship Satan under the Name of God.
Will any one say: Where are those who worship Satan under the
Name of God! Where are they? Listen! Every Religion that Preaches
Vengeance for Sins the Religion of the Enemy & Avenger; and not
the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine
Name Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God
of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and
Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or
Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart.
This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus. Deism
is the same & ends in the same."

Blake suggests that although Job originally worships the God of this world who goes by the name Satan, his error is made known to him by bitter experience. He comes to know the ever present God who has the power to reveal the Eternal World to man.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

TRUE FRIENDSHIP

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 20, (E 42)
"So the Angel said: thy phantasy has imposed upon me & thou
oughtest to be ashamed.
I answerd: we impose on one another, & it is but lost time
to converse with you whose works are only Analytics.

Opposition is true Friendship."
[Barely visible in the waves below Leviathan]

Compare copies of the plate in the Blake Archive



The climax of Jerusalem occurs as Albion (mankind) is reunited to Brittannia his connection to Eternity. In the 'wrathful rebuke' which accompanied their reunion, Erdman sees Blake's wrath which had impelled him to write his prophetic poems as vindicated. Action and Passion, Joy and Wrath are both awake and alive in one body.














David V Erdman, in Prophet Against Empire gives us this perspective on events as Jerusalem is reaching its resolution:

"Her (Britannia's) waking exclamations reanimated the 'stony members' of Albion-Adam, who, 'when he saw England,' rose up first in anger, full of the "wrath of God' and speaking 'in direful Revolutions of Action and Passion.' But these revolutions swiftly compelled his dislocated Zoas to resume their proper places as 'Sons of Eden.' Whereupon 'England who is Britannia entered Albion's Bosom rejoicing, Rejoicing in his indignation! adoring his wrathful rebuke' (J. 94-95).
After this visionary preview, the rest is easy. Blake knows that the prophetic wrath he has had difficulty trying to control will be fully vindicated when Albion learns to express it adequately and generously in Action and Passion. Vox populi, vox dei. [Voice of man, voice of God] The wrath in his bosom has really come from the Divine Humanity in his bosom, as he now discovers when Jesus appears, ready to converse 'as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity And the Divine Appearance [is] the likeness and similitude of Los.' Albion is quickly given to understand that the angry prophet has been his true friend all along, dying for him continually - for 'every kindness to another is a little Death In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood' (J. 96)."
(Page 485)

Jerusalem , Plate 95, (E 254)
Her [Brittannia's] voice pierc'd Albions clay cold ear. he moved upon the Rock
The Breath Divine went forth upon the morning hills, Albion mov'd

Upon the Rock, he opend his eyelids in pain; in pain he mov'd
His stony members, he saw England. Ah! shall the Dead live again

The Breath Divine went forth over the morning hills Albion rose
In anger: the wrath of God breaking bright flaming on all sides around
His awful limbs: into the Heavens he walked clothed in flames
Loud thundring, with broad flashes of flaming lightning & pillars
Of fire, speaking the Words of Eternity in Human Forms, in direful
Revolutions of Action & Passion, thro the Four Elements on all sides
Surrounding his awful Members. Thou seest the Sun in heavy clouds
Struggling to rise above the Mountains. in his burning hand
He takes his Bow, then chooses out his arrows of flaming gold
Murmuring the Bowstring breathes with ardor! clouds roll around the
Horns of the wide Bow, loud sounding winds sport on the mountain brows
Compelling Urizen to his Furrow; & Tharmas to his Sheepfold;
And Luvah to his Loom: Urthona he beheld mighty labouring at
His Anvil, in the Great Spectre Los unwearied labouring & weeping
Therefore the Sons of Eden praise Urthonas Spectre in songs
Because he kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blake's Church II

While the Church Fathers congregated in Rome, Gnosticism had its center in Alexandria, a marketplace of competing religious and philosophical ideas. There in the third century a man named Plotinus gave birth to Neo-platonism, an amalgam of the best of Greek thought with the ethical teachings of Christ. Extremely eclectic, drawing on currents of thought from Rome to India, Plotinus's teachings became the religion of some of the later Roman Emperors. Blake read widely and drew on Gnosticism and Neo-platonism.

During the fourth century the religion of Neo-platonism disappeared as a rival of the Church. However it deeply influenced the shape of Christian theology, most notably through the mind of St. Augustine. Augustine in his spiritual journey passed through a Neo-platonic stage, which left its mark upon his Christian life and writing. Augustine occupies an anomalous position in the history of the Church: he is both a Church Father of impeccable reputation and the spiritual forebear of many theologians whose Neo-platonic bent put them on the fringe of orthodoxy:

Erigena, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Meister Eckhart are a few of these Neo-platonic Christians. Some of these thinkers succeeded in remaining within the umbrella of the authorized tradition; some were partially or totally cast out. Among them they preserved to theology a breadth and a poetic dimension that burst open the priestly cocoon with the 15th Century Renaissance and the 16th Century Reformation.

Blake had definite gnostic leanings:
"To understand what is being said in such poems as "THE GARDEN OF LOVE" and "The Little Vagabond" one must consider the poet's religious, or shall I say spiritual, position. William Blake considered himself to be a monistic Gnostic. He believed what saved a person's soul was not faith but knowledge. Faith, he felt, was a term that was abused by those who thought spending every Sunday in a church would grant them eternal salvation regardless of what actions they might exhibit outside the walls of the church. Church ceremonies were also dry, emotionless and meaningless, according to Blake."

Blake expressed many times that the church was a spiritual obstacle.

His "The Little Vagabond" portrays the "loveless morality of the churches" (Raine 148). The church, the clerics of the church and the church ceremony altogether is cold and distant. "Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold" ("The Little Vagabond ln i) is the opening line of the poem. It is obvious that the young child is distraught with his church because it is not quenching his spiritual thirst. However, he offers a remedy:

"But if at the Church they would give us some Ale,
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
We'd sing and we'd pray all the live-long day,
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray."

"These lines plainly, but clearly, express Blake's religious stance. The church is a cold place that has kept a distance between its members and itself. Therefore, the meanings of the gospels have been delivered in a way that has no meaning or effectiveness. The word of God has been marginalized when it should in fact be communicated in a kind loving manner. The preacher is God and the members of the church are God as well. Instead, the preacher is a merciless intruder that is penetrating the word into the congregation's heads not alloying thought, but perpetuating cold disciplined faith. This poem is used by Blake as a way to communicate his belief that the church was suffering from cold militant preaching rather than warm intoxicating love."

Friday, June 17, 2011

FIVE WINDOWS

We have often remarked on the restricting of the eternal senses as a consequence and symptom of the fallen state of man. Oothoon experienced the closing of her senses when she felt cut off from the divine vision. However when she perceived that everything that lives is holy her senses no longer enclosed her infinite brain.

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E47)
"Because the night is gone that clos'd me in its deadly black.
They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle,"





After the first publication on Europe Blake added a plate to the beginning in which his imagination ranged freely in exuberance. As windows, the five senses are experienced as gift rather than as limitation.









Europe a Prophec
y. Plate iii, (E 60)
"Five windows light the cavern'd Man; thro' one he breathes the air;
Thro' one, hears music of the spheres; thro' one, the eternal vine
Flourishes, that he may recieve the grapes; thro' one can look.
And see small portions of the eternal world that ever groweth;
Thro' one, himself pass out what time he please, but he will not;
For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant.

So sang a Fairy mocking as he sat on a streak'd Tulip,
Thinking none saw him: when he ceas'd I started from the trees!
And caught him in my hat as boys knock down a butterfly.
How know you this said I small Sir? where did you learn this song?
Seeing himself in my possession thus he answered me:
My master, I am yours. command me, for I must obey.

Then tell me, what is the material world, and is it dead?
He laughing answer'd: I will write a book on leaves of flowers,
If you will feed me on love-thoughts, & give me now and then
A cup of sparkling poetic fancies; so when I am tipsie,
I'll sing to you to this soft lute; and shew you all alive
The world, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.

I took him home in my warm bosom: as we went along
Wild flowers I gatherd; & he shew'd me each eternal flower:
He laugh'd aloud to see them whimper because they were pluck'd.
They hover'd round me like a cloud of incense: when I came
Into my parlour and sat down, and took my pen to write:
My Fairy sat upon the table, and dictated EUROPE."

In this poem we get a intimation of the eternal senses that can not only see and hear fairies but can catch them and learn their secrets.

Blake's question to the fairy was not about the eternal world for he knew and understood that world intimately and spent much of his time there. Blake asks if the material world is dead. To the fairy the material world is not a dead world but one in which 'every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.' He is aware that the material not only gives its life to man but receives life from man as well. The limited senses we rely on each moment are of the material world, but the eternal senses are available to us in the material also - like a 'cloud of incense' hovering around us.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews felt some of the same exuberance that Blake felt when he spoke of being 'compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses' and coming to 'an innumerable company of angels.'

Hebrews 12
[1] Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
..
[22] But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
[23] To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Wild Beast

Readers familiar with numerous posts on the Spectre may recognize "the Wild Beast".
(My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way;)

Many of Blake's metaphors are involved in the same concept: the Selfhood, this World ('this vale of tears', Ulro, Woe, the Tyger, Errors (rather than Sin), and others; they all connote the dark side of life; we might call it the 'Devil Within'; Blake called it the Main Chance.

"I cannot love my enemy for my enemy is not man but beast & devil if I have any. I can love him as a beast & wish to beat him." (Annotations to Lavater; E 589)
(This quote certainly relates to the Spectre poem.)

"The Beast & the Whore rule without controls" (Annotations to Watson; E 611)

"Bacon supposes that the Dragon Beast & Harlot are worthy of a Place in the New Jerusalem" (Scornfully); Annotations to Bacon; E 627)

"Then wrath burst round the Eternal Man was wrath again he cried
Arise O stony form of death O dragon of the Deeps
Lie down before my feet O Dragon

He calld[;] the deep buried his voice & answer none returnd
Then wrath burst round the Eternal Man was wrath again he cried
Arise O stony form of death O dragon of the Deeps
Lie down before my feet O Dragon let Urizen arise
O how couldst thou deform those beautiful proportions
Of life & person for as the Person so is his life proportiond......
if thou darest obstinate refuse my stern behest
Thy crown & scepter I will sieze & regulate all my members
In stern severity & cast thee out into the indefinite
Where nothing lives, there to wander. & if thou returnst weary
w
eeping at the threshold of Existence I will steel my heart
Against thee to Eternity & never recieve thee more
Thy self-destroying beast formd Science shall be thy eternal lot"
(Four Zoas; Night Nine; E389)
(This certainly relates to the annihilation of the Specter (Selfhood, Satan).)

Among Blake's sources the Beast of the Bible ranks first.

The apocalyptic words and pic in Revelation:
Revelation 12

Revelation 12

1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:

9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him..........

Revelation 13:

1And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

2And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

4And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

(If you want fuller understanding, read Rev 12 and 13 en toto. These two chapters meant a great deal to Blake and strongly affected many of his works.)

Pilgrims Progress also has a Beast as I recall. And Blake reminds us that Nebuchadnezzar became a beast and ate grass. The Lord's Prayer is largely positive, but we're to pray for deliverance from Evil.

Nebu's tiger doesn't appear very threatening; from which we might suppose Blake portrayed it after he had dealt creatively with the 'Main Chance'.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PRINTING HOUSE II

A previous post reduced the imagery of Plate 15 of Marriage of Heaven & Hell to prosaic terms describing Blake creating his illuminated books from copper, gravers, acid, inks, paper and paints. A more esoteric process can also be seen in the chambers of the printing house.

'
clearing away the rubbish' The first chamber is the dark cavern of the unconscious. It is a typical starting point in any movement of psychological development. The Cosmic egg must be cracked, the cultural rut must be breached, the bottom must be reached or the need for change must be acknowledged. This prepares the surface of the copper (or the hardened rituals and routines) to receive the images which will modify and transform it.

'folding round the rock & the cave, and others adorning it' The second chamber in which the design is executed allows the rational mind to have its say. A plan is made and transferred to the surface. The plate is not the image itself but the means by which the image may come forth. The plate is incised, reversed, manipulated. It is a material object or state but it is only a transient stage in the evolutionary process.

'caused the inside of the cave to be infinite' The Eagle of Imagination occupies the third chamber where the acid bath removes copper which has not been protected by waxed applications. This is the stage which is not controlled by the artist but by the action of the acid which acts as the agent of the imagination. The furnaces of Los are forever engaged in this process of removing what can and must be discarded.

'melting the metals into living fluids' In the fourth chamber the inks are prepared using fire and fluids. They are applied to the surfaces which stand elevated as mountains above the valleys of etched copper. 'cast the metals into the expanse' All that went before this step was preparation, The sixth chamber sees the inked plates meet the expanse of paper which are ready to receive them and prove that the process has brought forth the product of imagination first conceived.

'took the forms of books' In the sixth chamber the artists prepare to release their 'children' to go into the world. What had been internal has become external, what had been eternal has become temporal, what had been a seed has come to fruition. The cocoon has released the butterfly.

'This is all for the purpose of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.'
In this our world of generation this is the method through which Blake can transmit his knowledge to the generations which come after. But unless the printed pages open the minds of men to the 'perception of the infinite', we remain in the first chamber amidst our clutter.

Milton, Plate 28 (30), (E 126)
"But others of the Sons of Los build Moments & Minutes & Hours
And Days & Months & Years & Ages & Periods; wondrous buildings
And every Moment has a Couch of gold for soft repose,
(A Moment equals a pulsation of the artery)    ,
And between every two Moments stands a Daughter of Beulah
To feed the Sleepers on their Couches with maternal care.
And every Minute has an azure Tent with silken Veils.  
And every Hour has a bright golden Gate carved with skill.
And every Day & Night, has Walls of brass & Gates of adamant,
Shining like precious stones & ornamented with appropriate signs:

And every Month, a silver paved Terrace builded high:
And every Year, invulnerable Barriers with high Towers.
And every Age is Moated deep with Bridges of silver & gold.
And every Seven Ages is Incircled with a Flaming Fire.
Now Seven Ages is amounting to Two Hundred Years
Each has its Guard. each Moment Minute Hour Day Month & Year.
All are the work of Fairy hands of the Four Elements      
The Guard are Angels of Providence on duty evermore
Every Time less than a pulsation of the artery
Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.
PLATE 29 [31]
For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Inner War

Speaking in general life is made up of a war between Jesus and
Satan. You can read one skirmish in the story of Jesus in the
Wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Luke gave us a pattern for the story
of our lives.

Reading Blake's poetry it becomes evident that Blake's inner
life was turbulent and often violent; the inner war fills the pages
of his poetry. He described that best with these words, often
found in this blog. It's a dialogue between Blake's higher and lower
nature:

Blake:
"My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way.

My Emanation far within

Weeps incessantly for my Sin


A Fathomless & boundless deep

There we wander there we weep

On the hungry craving wind

My Spectre follows thee behind


An observer:

He scents thy footsteps in the snow
Wheresoever thou dost go
Thro the wintry hail & rain

When wilt thou return again


Blake:
Dost thou not in Pride & scorn

Fill with tempests all my morn

And with jealousies & fears

Fill my pleasant nights with tears


Seven of my sweet loves thy knife

Has bereaved of their life

Their marble tombs I built with tears

And with cold & shuddering fears


Seven more loves weep night & day

Round the tombs where my loves lay
And seven more loves attend each night
Around my couch with torches bright


And seven more Loves in my bed

Crown with wine my mournful head

Pitying & forgiving all

my transgressions great & small


When wilt thou return & view

My loves & them to life renew

When wilt thou return & live

When wilt thou pity as I forgive


The Spectre

Never Never I return

Still for Victory I burn

Living thee alone Ill have

And when dead Ill be thy Grave


Blake:

Thro the Heavn & Earth & Hell

Thou shalt never never quell

I will fly & thou pursue

Night & Morn the flight renew


Till I turn from Female Love

And root up the Infernal Grove
I shall never worthy be
To Step into Eternity


And to end thy cruel mocks

Annihilate thee on the rocks

And another form create

To be subservient to my Fate


Let us agree to give up Love

And root up the infernal grove

Then shall we return & see

The worlds of happy Eternity


& Throughout all Eternity

I forgive you you forgive me

As our dear Redeemer said

This the Wine & this the Bread
".

*********************************
Blake had read and certainly appreciated Romans 7,
where Paul described the war within him:

"19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"


So there we have Blake's war and Paul's war; neither is a corporeal war. They are both inner wars, written perhaps by both authors as a pattern for the shape of the life of everyman. Blake, Paul, and the rest of us have this same war within. Blake's solution was to annihilate the Spectre-- not a person, but our Selfhood. We might with well do likewise.

A good way to end this post might be to show something of the war of Jesus within: his temptation in the wilderness, described for us by three of the Evangelists (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-13, and Luke 4:1-13). Here's Matthews version:

Matthew 4
"1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

"11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."

Monday, June 13, 2011

PRINTING HOUSE

Blake described the Printing house in Hell on Plate 15 of Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Going through the five chambers we arrive at the sixth where books are arranged in libraries. This is all for the purpose of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell , Plate 15, (E 39)
"I was in a Printing house in Hell & saw the method in which
knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the
rubbish from a caves mouth; within, a number of Dragons were
hollowing the cave,
In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock & the
cave, and others adorning it with gold silver and precious stones.
In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air,
he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite, around were
numbers of Eagle like men, who built palaces in the immense cliffs.
In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire raging around
& melting the metals into living fluids.
In the fifth chamber were Unnam'd forms, which cast the metals
into the expanse.
There they were reciev'd by Men who occupied the sixth
chamber, and took the forms of books & were the arranged in libraries.



Joseph Viscomi takes us through the process in which the Blakes engaged while making the illuminated books using the chambers of the Printing House of Hell.





Chamber 1: preparing the plate
Chamber 2: executing the design
Chamber 3: etching with acid
Chamber 4: inking the plate
Chamber 5: printing and coloring
Chamber 6: prints into books






Viscomi's article is available on the Blake Archive. Enjoy the detailed run through of producing Illuminated Books. (Click on Engraving or any chapter heading.)

Read more in Inquiry into Blake's Method of Color Printing by Robert N. Essick and Joseph Viscomi.

See Blake's methods demonstrated by Michael Phillips.


Printing House II sees the process differently.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

War and Hunting

Read the Preface to Milton:

                                  MILTON       

a Poem in 2 Books

The Author & Printer W Blake 1804

To justify the Ways of God to Men

PLATE 1 [i]

Preface.

The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall
become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were
both curbd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek
& Latin slaves of the Sword.

Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for
ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War. Painters! on you I
call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fash[i]onable Fools
to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for
contemptible works or the expensive advertizing boasts that they
make of such works; believe Christ & his Apostles that there is a
Class of Men whose whole delight is in Destroying. We do not
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord.

[And here he proceeded to invite us to MENTAL WAR.]:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Would to God that all the Lords people were Prophets.
Numbers XI. ch 29 v.

*********************************

Milton plate 35:
And Ololon looked down into the Heavens of Ulro in fear
They said. How are the Wars of Man which in Great Eternity

- 134 -

Appear around, in the External Spheres of Visionary Life
Here renderd Deadly within the Life & Interior Vision
How are the Beasts & Birds & Fishes, & Plants & Minerals
Here fixd into a frozen bulk subject to decay & death[?]
Those Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge

PLATE 35 [39]
Are here frozen to unexpansive deadly destroying terrors[.]
And War & Hunting: the Two Fountains of the River of Life
Are become Fountains of bitter Death & of corroding Hell
Till Brotherhood is changd into a Curse & a Flattery"
- 135 -
******************************************
We find a similar passage in Jerusalem plate 38 (Erdman 184-85):
Then Los grew furious raging: Why stand we here trembling around
Calling on God for help; and not ourselves in whom God dwells
Stretching a hand to save the falling Man: are we not Four
Beholding Albion upon the Precipice ready to fall into Non-Entity:
Seeing these Heavens & Hells conglobing in the Void. Heavens over Hells
Brooding in holy hypocritic lust, drinking the cries of pain

- 184 -

From howling victims of Law: building Heavens Twenty-seven-fold.
Swelld & bloated General Forms, repugnant to the Divine-
Humanity, who is the Only General and Universal Form
To which all Lineaments tend & seek with love & sympathy
All broad & general principles belong to benevolence
Who protects minute particulars, every one in their own identity.
But here the affectionate touch of the tongue is closd in by
deadly teeth
And the soft smile of friendship & the open dawn of benevolence
Become a net & a trap, & every energy renderd cruel,
Till the existence of friendship & benevolence is denied:
The wine of the Spirit & the vineyards of the Holy-One.
Here: turn into poisonous stupor & deadly intoxication:
That they may be condemnd by Law & the Lamb of God be slain!
And the two Sources of Life in Eternity[,] Hunting and War,
Are become the Sources of dark & bitter Death & of corroding
Hell:

185


Proceeding a little further in Milton and Jerusalem we find these two paralell passages:
Milton, 41.32; E143:
"Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair
Is this our Femin[in]e Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro."

(Blake's 'human power' is the inner life, the Eternal;
Our 'sexual power' is the outer, the materialistic.)

Now in Jerusalem we read (Jerusalem, 91; E251):
"I have tried to make friends by corporeal gifts but have only
Made enemies: I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought.
"

Mental fight is the stuff of life; it can also be called creative conversation.

There is more on this subject that may appear in a later post.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

BEGUN IN ETERNITY

As a continuation of the study of Blake's accounts of the fall we look to the Bard's Song as the first segment of Milton is called. James Rieger calls the Bard's song 'a prophet's account of the fall of prophecy itself.' (Blake's Sublime Allegory, Page 271) Those familiar with Milton know of the account of the dispute between Palamabron and Satan which resulted in a hearing before the Great Solemn Assembly. Unexpectedly, it was Rintrah against whom the judgment went.

Why the Innocent should be condemn'd for the Guilty is asked before the Assembly. We might say that Blake took the rest of the poem answering that question. But first we learn that to avoid condemning the guilty to eternal death, one must die for another throughout all Eternity. (We are reminded here of Blake's lines 'Throughout all Eternity I forgive you, you forgive me.')

Milton , Plate 11 [12], (E 1O4)
"And it was enquir'd: Why in a Great Solemn Assembly
The Innocent should be condemn'd for the Guilty? Then an Eternal rose

Saying. If the Guilty should be condemn'd, he must be an Eternal Death
And one must die for another throughout all Eternity.
Satan is fall'n from his station & never can be redeem'd
But must be new created continually moment by moment
And therefore the Class of Satan shall be calld the Elect, & those
Of Rintrah. the Reprobate, & those of Palamabron the Redeem'd
For he is redeem'd from Satans Law, the wrath falling on Rintrah,
And therefore Palamabron dared not to call a solemn Assembly
Till Satan had assum'd Rintrahs wrath in the day of mourning
In a feminine delusion of false pride self-deciev'd.

So spake the Eternal and confirm'd it with a thunderous oath

But when Leutha (a Daughter of Beulah) beheld Satans condemnation
She down descended into the midst of the Great Solemn Assembly
Offering herself a Ransom for Satan, taking on her, his Sin.

Mark well my words. they are of your eternal salvation!"

A process is begun through which the guilty may avoid eternal death. It begins with the creation of states through which man passes to gain experience. ' Palamabron dared not to call a solemn Assembly' and interrupt the process which had been initiated. Two steps involved in the process are Satan's assuming a false wrath and a false pride. In the state of Satan man will undergo experiences which convince him of the error of 'Rintrah's wrath' and the 'feminine delusion of false pride'. Leutha appears on the scene offering to take on the sin of Satan. Leutha recounts a tale of how through tempting Palamabaron she is able to 'unloose the flaming steeds' which Satan is unable to control:

Milton, Plate 12 [13], (E 105)
"At length standing upon the golden floor of Palamabron
She spake: I am the Author of this Sin! by my suggestion
My Parent power Satan has committed this transgression.
...
"Like sweet perfumes I stupified the masculine perceptions
And kept only the feminine awake, hence rose his soft
Delusory love to Palamabron: admiration join'd with envy
Cupidity unconquerable! my fault, when at noon of day
The Horses of Palamabron call'd for rest and pleasant death:
I sprang out of the breast of Satan, over the Harrow beaming
In all my beauty! that I might unloose the flaming steeds"
Plate 12 (13), (E 106)
"Day sunk and Palamabron return'd, trembling I hid myself
In Satans inmost Palace of his nervous fine wrought Brain:
For Elynittria met Satan with all her singing women.
Terrific in their joy & pouring wine of wildest power
They gave Satan their wine: indignant at the burning wrath.
Wild with prophetic fury his former life became like a dream
Cloth'd in the Serpents folds, in selfish holiness demanding purity
Being Most impure, self-condemn'd to eternal tears, he drove
Me from his inmost Brain & the doors clos'd with thunders sound
O Divine Vision who didst create the Female: to repose
The Sleepers of Beulah: pity the repentant Leutha. My
PLATE 13 [14]
Sick Couch bears the dark shades of Eternal Death infolding
The Spectre of Satan. he furious refuses to repose in sleep
I humbly bow in all my Sin before the Throne Divine.
Not so the Sick-one; Alas what shall be done him to restore?
Who calls the Individual Law, Holy: and despises the Saviour.
Glorying to involve Albions Body in fires of eternal War--

Now Leutha ceas'd: tears flow'd: but the Divine Pity), supported her.

All is my fault! We are the Spectre of Luvah the murderer.
Of Albion: O Vala! O Luvah! O Albion! O lovely Jerusalem

The Sin was begun in Eternity, and will not rest to Eternity
Till two Eternitys meet together, Ah! lost! lost! lost! for ever!

So Leutha spoke. But when she saw that Enitharmon had
Created a New Space to protect Satan from punishment;
She fled to Enitharmons Tent & hid herself. Loud raging
Thundered the Assembly dark & clouded, and they ratify'd
The kind decision of Enitharmon & gave a Time to the Space,
Even Six Thousand years; and sent Lucifer for its Guard."





Image: Satan, Sin & Death
Milton's Paradise Lost




Thus began the Seven Eyes of God, the seven periods of human history which are prepared to return man through the mortal world to Eden.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

As everyone knows, the Lord's Prayer ends with "for thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory". For years I went through that ritual without any real understanding of what it meant. Then I looked to Blake for help:

1. Blake's Kingdom: In 1927 a man named Dr. Thornton published a book called The Lord's Prayer, Newly Translated. In a devastating critique (Annotations ...)
Blake expressed his contempt (on pages 667-70 in Erdman) expressly addressing the Kingdom,the Power and the Glory. Addressing the title page 'The Lord's Prayer, Newly Translated' Blake wrote:
" I look upon this as a Most Malignant & Artful attack upon the Kingdom of Jesus By the Classical Learned thro the Instrumentality of Dr Thornton The Greek & Roman Classics is the Antichrist I say Is & not Are as most expressive & correct too".

In Annotations to Bacon's Essays Moral, Economical and Political he replies to Bacon's statement about the kingdom of Heaven as follows:
Bacon: "
"The Kingdom of heaven is compared, not to any great Kernal or nut but,
to a grain of mustard seed; which is one of the least grains, but hath
in it a property and spirit hastily to get up and spread."
Blake's response:
"The Kingdom of Heaven is the direct Negation of Earthly domination" (I wonder if Bacon would have agreed with that.)

Blake, like many of us today, found the idea of kingdom distasteful. It flies in the face of 'democracy'. In an earlier post you may read:
" Jesus directed his followers to pray 'thy kingdom come'.In general Blake had negative feelings about kingdoms. In America he emphatically affirmed the American Revolt against King George."

And in contrast Blake often spoke of the 'kingdom of Satan' or the 'kingdom of this world':

"Good Advice for Satans Kingdom" (Annotations to Bacon....; Erdman 620)

In Letter 21, to Flaxman Blake wrote:
"The Kingdoms of this World are now become the Kingdoms of God & his Christ, & we shall reign with him for ever & ever." (In Erdman 717)

In Plate 3 of Jerusalem (Blake's prose introduction) he wrote:

"The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who waits to be righteous before he enters into the Saviours kingdom, the Divine Body; will never enter there. I am perhaps the most sinful of men! I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love, to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to have an interest in the Friend of Sinners. Therefore [Dear] Reader, [forgive] what you do not approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my talent."

In all Blake referred to 'kingdom' 34 times.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

ARTS OF LIFE

When the Blakes returned to London in 1803 after three years in the rural setting in Sussex they found the city absorbed in preparations for war. The uneasy peace with France had been fractured and Blake now found London to be an arms arsenal and engaging in the manufacture of the weapons of war.

America a Prophecy

Plate 3
David V Erdman, author of Prophet Against Empire, speaking of the Blakes' situation in London quotes from one of Blake's letters and continues with a few words about the ambiance in the city:

"Here is the 'other' meaning of 'My wife continues poorly' and 'Everybody complains,' the sadness of an unemployed artist 'almost 50 Years of Age.' But these lines scarcely hint at what the experience is in 1803. They give no indication that London is fortified against invasion, that the Thames is filling with captured French ships, that the Tower and numerous workshops are busy turning out small arms night and day. Yet Blake did observe this daily cast of brazen cannon and hear ambassador and king call for war almost before the drying of signatures for peace. These woes are in his prophecies." (Page 395)

Jerusalem
, Plate 65, (E 216)
"The sun was black & the moon rolld a useless globe thro Britain!

Then left the Sons of Urizen the plow & harrow, the loom
The hammer & the chisel, & the rule & compasses; from London fleeing
They forg'd the sword on Cheviot, the chariot of war & the battle-ax,
The trumpet fitted to mortal battle, & the flute of summer in Annandale
And all the Arts of Life. they changd into the Arts of Death in Albion.
The hour-glass contemnd because its simple workmanship.
Was like the workmanship of the plowman, & the water wheel,
That raises water into cisterns: broken & burnd with fire:
Because its workmanship. was like the workmanship of the shepherd.
And in their stead, intricate wheels invented, wheel without wheel:
To perplex youth in their outgoings, & to bind to labours in Albion
Of day & night the myriads of eternity that they may grind
And polish brass & iron hour after hour laborious task!
Kept ignorant of its use, that they might spend the days of wisdom
In sorrowful drudgery, to obtain a scanty pittance of bread:
In ignorance to view a small portion & think that All,
And call it Demonstration: blind to all the simple rules of life.

Now: now the battle rages round thy tender limbs O Vala
Now smile among thy bitter tears: now put on all thy beauty
Is not the wound of the sword sweet! & the broken bone delightful?"
Wilt thou now smile among the scythes when the wounded groan in the field[?]
We were carried away in thousands from London; & in tens
Of thousands from Westminster & Marybone in ships closd up:

Chaind hand & foot, compelld to fight under the iron whips
Of our captains; fearing our officers more than the enemy."

Blake saw the enemy not in France but in war itself which changed the arts of life (the productive arts of the imagination) to the arts of death (the destructive arts of taking life.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Blake's Valleys

In Blake's poetry valleys most often connote dire and awesome events like "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23).
Blake used that image in Plates 6 and 7 of Jerusalem like this:

"For as his Emanation divided, his Spectre also divided
In terror of those starry wheels: and the Spectre stood over Los

Howling in pain: a blackning Shadow, blackning dark & opake

Cursing the terrible Los: bitterly cursing him for his friendship

To Albion, suggesting murderous thoughts against Albion.

Los rag'd and stamp'd the earth in his might & terrible wrath!

He stood and stampd the earth! then he threw down his hammer in
rage &
In fury: then he sat down and wept, terrified! Then arose

And chaunted his song, labouring with the tongs and hammer:

But still the Spectre divided, and still his pain increas'd!


In pain the Spectre divided: in pain of hunger and thirst:

To devour Los's Human Perfection, but when he saw that Los


Was living: panting like a frighted wolf, and howling

He stood over the Immortal, in the solitude and darkness:

Upon the darkning Thames, across the whole Island westward.

A horrible
Shadow of Death, among the Furnaces: beneath
The pillar of folding smoke; and he sought by other means,

To lure Los: by tears, by arguments of science & by terrors:

Terrors in every Nerve, by spasms & extended pains:
"

What might he mean? Los=Blake created with his furnace, like the alchemist does with his crucible; he tried to keep his mind on the heavenly visions, but the spectre (read Satan) constantly intervened, distracting him from 'Heaven' to the purely material: to jealousy, to enmity, to hate, to worldly ambition (it happens to me, too; we pass through the valley of the shadow of death pretty much every day). (It's an image of Blake's everyday life, and of ours.)

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." (Joel 3)
Jeremiah 7 verses 31-32 "And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire;
which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place."

Now look at Jerusalem Plate 15 (Erdman 159):
"I see Albion sitting upon his Rock in the first Winter
And thence I see the Chaos of Satan & the World of Adam
When the Divine Hand went forth on Albion in the mid Winter
And at the place of Death when Albion sat in Eternal Death
Among the Furnaces of Los in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom"

And in Plate 22 we read:
"Albion thy fear has made me tremble; thy terrors have surrounded me
Thy Sons have naild me on the Gates piercing my hands & feet:
Till Skofields Nimrod the mighty Huntsman Jehovah came,
With Cush his Son & took me down.
He in a golden Ark,Bears me before his Armies tho my shadow hovers here
The flesh of multitudes fed & nouris[h]d me in my childhood
My morn & evening food were prepard in Battles of Men
Great is the cry of the Hounds of Nimrod along the Valley
Of Vision, they scent the odor of War in the Valley of Vision.
All Love is lost! terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love
And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty"

IMO Blake is saying that the present generation is giving their sons a fiery future. The furnace is the cauldron of misery in this vale of tears that with our indolence, ignorance and political stupidity we're preparing for our children. (Do you agree?)