Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DESIGNS 8,9,10

Images from the British Museum

Eight of the images in the Small Book of Designs were discovered in a Railway Timetable sold in a lot of used books in the 1970's. The images had been separated from the set and disappeared from sight for about a century and a quarter. They now belong to the Tate Gallery and are shown here by the BBC.

Page 8
From
Book of Urizen
Plate 24

No Inscription

Milton , Plate 15 [17], (E 109)
"First Milton saw Albion upon the Rock of Ages,
Deadly pale outstretchd and snowy cold, storm coverd;
A Giant form of perfect beauty outstretchd on the rock
In solemn death: the Sea of Time & Space thunderd aloud
Against the rock, which was inwrapped with the weeds of death
Hovering over the cold bosom, in its vortex Milton bent down
To the bosom of death, what was underneath soon seemd above.
A cloudy heaven mingled with stormy seas in loudest ruin;
But as a wintry globe descends precipitant thro' Beulah bursting,
With thunders loud and terrible: so Miltons shadow fell
Precipitant loud thundring into the Sea of Time & Space."

Four Zoas. Page 51, (E 334)
"Tharmas before Los stood & thus the Voice of Tharmas rolld

Now all comes into the power of Tharmas. Urizen is falln
And Luvah hidden in the Elemental forms of Life & Death
Urthona is My Son O Los thou art Urthona & Tharmas
Is God. The Eternal Man is seald never to be deliverd
I roll my floods over his body my billows & waves pass over him
The Sea encompasses him & monsters of the deep are his companions
Dreamer of furious oceans cold sleeper of weeds & shells
Thy Eternal form shall never renew my uncertain prevails against thee
Yet tho I rage God over all. A portion of my Life
That in Eternal fields in comfort wanderd with my flocks
At noon & laid her head upon my wearied bosom at night
She is divided She is vanishd even like Luvah & Vala
O why did foul ambition sieze thee Urizen Prince of Light"

For more on this image read Wartry Tharmas or Air, Water, Earth & Fire.

Page 9
From Book of Urizen
Plate 3

"Oh! Flames of Furious Desire"

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
"Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of heaven,
And of that God from whom [all books are given,]
Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave
To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave,
Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!
Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:
Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear.
Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:
Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony

Of the Measure, in which
the following Poem is written"

Jerusalem, Plate 66, (E 219)
"And as their eye & ear shrunk, the heavens shrunk away
The Divine Vision became First a burning flame, then a column
Of fire, then an awful fiery wheel surrounding earth & heaven:
And then a globe of blood wandering distant in all unknown night:"

Jerusalem, Plate 68, (E 222)
"Once Man was occupied in intellectual pleasures & energies
But now my soul is harrowd with grief & fear & love & desire
And now I hate & now I love & Intellect is no more:
There is no time for any thing but the torments of love & desire"

Page 10
From Thel
Plate 2

No Inscription

Thel, Plate 1, (E 3)
"Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud.
Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water.
Like dreams of infants. like a smile upon an infants face,
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air;
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head.
And gentle sleep the sleep of death. and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time."

For more on this image read Thel II.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blake's Bible

This is a repost of an earlier post:

Northrup Frye referred to Blake as a Bible soaked Protestant. He was certainly that-- and much more. He read the Bible like no other scholar I've come across. He read it very freely.

In his last years Frye published two large volumes with subtitles: The Bible and Literature. He had started out as a young minister, but made the fatal mistake of studying Blake, after which he became a literary critic-- a real change for the better IMO.

Working on his thesis (called Fearful Symmetry) he had discovered that Blake read the Bible very freely; so he became, yes a Bible soaked Protestant but not (NO, NO!) a bibliolater. He read it more freely than any conforming establishmentarian would dare to do.

In his visions he talked to Isaiah and Ezekiel. Re the cherub God put before the Gate of Eden with a flaming sword Blake had this to say:

"For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy where as it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment." (MHH, Plate 14)

'Sensual enjoyment' does not mean here what the 'flower children' took it to mean: not just enjoyment of sex, but enjoyment of EVERYTHING.

Just poetry! you might say. Yes, but a fountain of life to non-authoritarians, free spirits who don't feel bound by the inerrancy-of-the-bible crowd. Blake sought Meaning in the Bible, not Law. Bible students divide along that line between free spirits and authoritarian types. Blake belonged to the first category, and so do I, and (hopefully) so do you. Let me know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

DESIGNS 5,6,7

Images from the British Museum

The Small Book of Designs was produced by Blake for Ozias Humphery in 1794. In an 1809 letter to Dawson Turner, Blake writes:


Letters, Number 67, (E 771)
"Those I Printed for Mr Humphry are a selection from the
different Books of such as could be Printed without the Writing
tho to the Loss of some of the best things For they when Printed
perfect accompany Poetical Personifications & Acts without which
Poems they never could have been Executed"


Page 5
From
Plate 14
Marriage of Heaven & Hell


"A Flaming Sword/Revolving every way"

Marriage of Heaven & Hell , PLATE 14, (E 39)
"The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire
at the end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to
leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole
creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas
it now appears finite & corrupt."

For more on this image read Consumed in Fire.

Plate 6
From
Plate 20
Marriage of Heaven & Hell

"O revolving serpent/O the ocean of Time & Space"

Marriage of Heaven & 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."

For more on this image read True Friendship.

Page 7
From
Plate 23
Book of Urizen

"Fearless tho in pain/I travel on"

Book of Urizen, Plate 21, 23,(E 81)
"1. Urizen explor'd his dens
Mountain, moor, & wilderness,
With a globe of fire lighting his journey
A fearful journey, annoy'd
By cruel enormities: forms
PLATE 23
2. And his world teemd vast enormities
Frightning; faithless; fawning
Portions of life; similitudes
Of a foot, or a hand, or a head
Or a heart, or an eye, they swam mischevous
Dread terrors! delighting in blood

3. Most Urizen sicken'd to see
His eternal creations appear
Sons & daughters of sorrow on mountains
Weeping! wailing! first Thiriel appear'd
Astonish'd at his own existence
Like a man from a cloud born, & Utha
From the waters emerging, laments!
Grodna rent the deep earth howling
Amaz'd! his heavens immense cracks
Like the ground parch'd with heat; then Fuzon
Flam'd out! first begotten, last born.
All his eternal sons in like manner
His daughters from green herbs & cattle
From monsters, & worms of the pit.

4. He in darkness clos'd, view'd all his race,
And his soul sicken'd! he curs'd
Both sons & daughters; for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

George Cumberland


George Cumberland was an affluent artist and friend of Blake's. Here are some of his creations.

This man helped Blake in many ways, but perhaps his greatest gift was to suggest to another friend, John Linnell, that he pay a visit to William Blake. The consequence of this friendly suggestion led to the comfort and peace of Blake in his last days as well as considerable financial support.

"Writer, art commentator, watercolour painter, geologist and long time friend of William Blake, Cumberland attended the Royal Academy Schools and endured as an insurance company clerk until an inheritance in 1784 allowed him to travel and live in Florence and Rome. His interest in neoclassicism and the art of ancient Greece led to his treatise Thoughts on outline (1796), and his collaboration with Blake for the engraved plates. Cumberland assisted Blake in many ways, purchasing his work, advocating with booksellers on his behalf and assisting with obtaining commissions. In 1807, he moved to Bristol and became involved not only with geological research and fossil collection but also with local artists whom he assisted. It was from Bristol in 1818, through the agency of his son George Cumberland Jr. that he arranged the introduction of John Linnell to William Blake. In addition to Cumberland 's published work, the Bentley Collection contains a substantial number of his literary manuscripts, including correspondence, commonplace books and sketches." (This from The Bentley Collection at Victoria University.)

Cumberland appears in Blake's Letters 2,3,4,6,10,45,64,89,91 and in
Plates 15 and 71 of Jerusalem;
Excerpts from Letter 2 "

[To] G[eorge] Cumberland Esqr, Bishopsgate
near Egham, Surrey
Lambeth, 6 Decembr 1795 [Postmark: 10 December]
Dear Sir
I congratulate you not on any atchievement. because I
know. that the Genius that produces. these Designs can execute
them in any manner. notwithstanding the pretended Philosophy
which teaches that Execution is the power of One & Invention of
Another--Locke says it i[s the] same faculty that
Invents Judges, & I say he who can Invent can Execute.

Letter 3 [To George Cumberland]
Lambeth 23 Decembr 1796

A Merry Christmas

Dear Cumberland
I have lately had some pricks of conscience on account of
not acknowledging your friendship to me [before]
immediately on the reciet of your. beautiful book. I have
likewise had by me all the summer 6 Plates which you desired me
to get made for you. they have laid on my shelf. without speaking
to tell me whose they were or that they were [there] at
all & it was some time (when I found them) before I could divine
whence they came or whither they were bound or whether they were
to lie there to eternity. I have now sent them to you to be
transmuted, thou real Alchymist!

Letter 4 "To The Revd Dr Trusler
Hercules Build* Lambeth Aug* 16. 1799
Revd Sir
I find more & more that my Style of Designing is a Species
by itself. & in this which I send you have been compelld by my
Genius or Angel to follow where he led if I were to act otherwise
it would not fulfill the purpose for which alone I live. which is
in conjunction with such men as my friend Cumberland to renew the
lost Art of the Greeks
I attempted every morning for a fortnight together to follow
your Dictate. but when I found my attempts were in vain. resolvd
to shew an independence which I know will please an Author better
than slavishly following the track of another however admirable
that track may be At any rate my Excuse must be: I could not do
otherwise, it was out of my power!

Letter 6
"[To] Mr [George] Cumberland, Bishopsgate,
Windsor Great Park
Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. Augst 26. 1799
Dear Cumberland
I ought long ago to have written to you to thank you for
your kind recommendation to Dr Trusler which tho it has faild of
success is not the less to be rememberd by me with Gratitude--
I have made him a Drawing in my best manner he has sent it
back with a Letter full of Criticisms in which he says it accords
not with his Intentions which are to Reject all Fancy from his
Work.

Letter 10
"[To] Mr [George] Cumberland, Bishopsgate,
Windsor Great Park

13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, 2 July 1800
Dear Cumberland
I have to congratulate you on your plan for a National
Gallery being put into Execution. All your wishes shall in due
time be fulfilled the immense flood of Grecian light & glory
which is coming on Europe will more than realize our warmest
wishes. Your honours will be unbounded when your plan shall be
carried into Execution as it must be if England continues a
Nation. I hear that it is now in the hands of Ministers That the
King shews it great Countenance & Encouragement, that it will
soon be up before Parliament & that it must be extended
& enlarged to take in Originals both of Painting & Sculpture by
considering Every valuable original that is brought into England
or can be purchasd Abroad as its objects of Acquisition. Such is
the Plan as I am told & such must be the plan if England wishes
to continue at all worth notice as you have yourself observd only
now we must possess Originals as well as France or be Nothing
Excuse I intreat you my not returning Thanks at the proper
moment for your kind present. No perswasion could make my
stupid bead believe that it was proper for me to trouble you with
a letter of meer Compliment & Expression of thanks. I begin to
Emerge from a Deep pit of Melancholy, Melancholy without any real
reason for it, a Disease which God keep you from & all good men."
Our artists of all ranks praise your outlines & wish for more.


Cumberland was also mentioned in Recent

Conjectural Attributions on Erdman 785:

Friday, August 26, 2011

DESIGNS 2,3,4

Images from the British Museum

Keri Davies has suggested that the Small Book of Designs with the inscription which appear in Copy B resembles an Emblem Book. Blake produced one Emblem Book, Gates of Paradise; he may have intended the Small Book of Designs as another. With the inscriptions we are led to view the series of pictures as a unit rather than as individual examples of his earlier work.

Page 1 "Which Way"

Page 2
From Plate 11
Marriage of Heaven and Hell
"Death & Hell/Teem with Life"

Marriage of Heaven and Hell. PLATE 11, (E 38)
"The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or
Geniuses calling them by the names and adorning them with the
properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations,
and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve.
And particularly they studied the genius of each city &
country. placing it under its mental deity.
Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of &
enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the
mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood.
Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
And at length they pronounced that the Gods had orderd such things.
Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast."

Page 3

From Plate 17

Book of Urizen
"Vegetating in fibres of Blood"

Book of Urizen , Plate 16, 18, (E 78)
"So the expanding eyes of Immortals
Beheld the dark visions of Los,
And the globe of life blood trembling

PLATE 18
8. The globe of life blood trembled
Branching out into roots;
Fib'rous, writhing upon the winds;
Fibres of blood, milk and tears;
In pangs, eternity on eternity.
At length in tears & cries imbodied
A female form trembling and pale
Waves before his deathy face

9. All Eternity shudderd at sight
Of the first female now separate
Pale as a cloud of snow
Waving before the face of Los"

Page 4
From Plate 16
Marriage of Heaven and Hell
"Who shall set/the Prisoners free"

Marriage of Heaven and Hell , PLATE 16, (E 40)
"The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence
and now seem to live in it in chains; are in truth. the causes
of its life & the sources of all activity, but the chains are,
the cunning of weak and tame minds. which have power to resist
energy. according to the proverb, the weak in courage is strong
in cunning.
Thus one portion of being, is the Prolific. the other, the
Devouring: to the devourer it seems as if the producer was in
his chains, but it is not so, he only takes portions of existence
and fancies that the whole."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Four Classes of People

If you majored in Blake Studies, your advanced project might well be Jerusalem. Few
Blake scholars have more than a superficial understanding of Jerusalem. Blake had an
inborn hostility of systematizing his work, but with Jerusalem he unbended to the
point of structuring it into four chapters.

This post attempts to interpret the addresses and meanings of the four chapters of
Jerusalem.

1. Chapter One: To the Public
Blake had little to offer the man in the street. He wasn't any 'man in the street', and the general public largely considered him mad. What he wrote, what he said meant zilch to most of them. That was true in Blake's day and in ours. Believe it or not, that is considered to be the vulgar understanding.

Erdman 145:
" Jerusalem

Chap: I

Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.

This theme calls me in sleep night after night, & ev'ry morn
Awakes me at sun-rise, then I see the Saviour over me
Spreading his beams of love, & dictating the words of this mild
song.

Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine:
Fibres of love from man to man thro Albions pleasant land."

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

2. In the second Chapter of Jerusalem Blake addressed the Jews. Jerusalem of course was their home, and his magnificent poem bore that name. He was actually writing about the New Jerusalem. (Look at Ezekiel 40-48 and Revelation 21)

Erdman 171:
"PLATE 27

To the Jews.

Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion! Can it be? Is it a
Truth that the Learned have explored? Was Britain the Primitive
Seat of the Patriarchal Religion? If it is true: my title-page is
also True, that Jerusalem was & is the Emanation of the Giant
Albion. It is True, and cannot be controverted. Ye are united O
ye Inhabitants of Earth in One Religion. The Religion of Jesus:
the most Ancient, the Eternal: & the Everlasting Gospel--The
Wicked will turn it to Wickedness,
the Righteous to Righteousness. Amen! Huzza! Selah!
"All things Begin & End in Albions Ancient Druid Rocky Shore."

Your Ancestors derived their origin from Abraham, Heber, Shem,
and Noah, who were Druids: as the Druid Temples (which are the
Patriarchal Pillars & Oak Groves) over the whole Earth witness to
this day.

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

3. In Chapter Three he addressed the Deists. Deism was espoused by literate people in England; it was probably the religious viewpoint of the majority upper class people. Deism implies that the supreme being does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe. Blake answered that assertion with one of his first poems:

"THERE is NO NATURAL RELIGION
The Author & Printer W Blake
[a]

The Argument Man has no notion of moral fitness but from
Education. Naturally he is only a natural organ subject to
Sense.
I Man cannot naturally Percieve, but through his natural or
bodily organs
II Man by his reasoning power. can only compare & judge of
what he has already perciev'd.
III From a perception of only 3 senses or 3 elements none
could deduce a fourth or fifth
IV None could have other than natural or organic thoughts if
he had none but organic perceptions
V Mans desires are limited by his perceptions. none can desire
what he has not perciev'd
VI The desires & perceptions of man untaught by any thing but
organs of sense, must be limited to objects of sense.

THERE is NO NATURAL RELIGION
[b]

I Mans perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception. he
percieves more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover.
II Reason or the ratio of all we have already known. is not
the same that it shall be when we know more.
[III lacking]
IV The bounded is loathed by its possessor. The same dull
round even of a univer[s]e would soon become a mill with
complicated wheels.
V If the many become the same as the few, when possess'd,
More! More! is the cry of a mistaken soul, less than All cannot
satisfy Man.
VI If any could desire what he is incapable of possessing,
despair must be his eternal lot.

VII The desire of Man being Infinite the possession is Infinite
& himself Infinite
Conclusion, If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic
character. the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the
ratio of all things & stand still, unable to do other than repeat
the same dull round over again
Application. He who sees the Infinite in all things sees
God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.

Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is"
(Erdman 2-3) See also from Wikipedia: "St Irenaeus explained this doctrine in Against Heresies, Book 5, in the Preface, "the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself."

Erdman 200:
" End of Chap. 2d.

PLATE 52
|The Spiritual States of
|the Soul are all Eternal
Rahab is an | To the Deists. |Distinguish between the
Eternal State | |Man, & his present State

He never can be a Friend to the Human Race who is the Preacher
of Natural Morality or Natural Religion. he is a flatterer who
means to betray, to perpetuate Tyrant Pride & the Laws of that
Babylon which he foresees shall shortly be destroyed, with the
Spiritual and not the Natural Sword: He is in the State named
Rahab: which State must be put off before he can be the Friend of
Man.
You O Deists profess yourselves the Enemies of Christianity:
and you are so: you are also the Enemies of the Human Race & of
Universal Nature. Man is born a Spectre or Satan & is altogether
an Evil, & requires a New Selfhood continually & must continually
be changed into his direct Contrary. But your Greek Philosophy
(which is a remnant of Druidism) teaches that Man is Righteous in
his Vegetated Spectre: an Opinion of fatal & accursed consequence
to Man"

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

4. The Christians: here Blake meant real Christians,
the reprobates and the redeemed. A Deist was by no stretch of Blake's imagination a Christian, in the sense he uses it here. He made a fine distinction:

(Milton; Plate 6-7; Erdman 99)
"The Web of Life is woven: & the tender sinews of life created
And the Three Classes of Men regulated by Los's hammer.
The first, The Elect from before the foundation of the World:
The second, The Redeem'd. The Third, The Reprobate & form'd
To destruction from the mothers womb: follow with me my plow!

Of the first class was Satan: with incomparable mildness;"

Blake's Elect of course are those who faithfully follow the "Prince
of this World"; the second and third classes were those whom Blake
chose to call Christians.

PLATE 96 of Jerusalem (Erdman 254):
"As the Sun & Moon lead forward the Visions of Heaven & Earth
England who is Brittannia entered Albions bosom rejoicing

Then Jesus appeared standing by Albion as the Good Shepherd
By the lost Sheep that he hath found & Albion knew that it
Was the Lord the Universal Humanity, & Albion saw his Form
A Man. & they conversed as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness & similitude of Los

Albion said. O Lord what can I do! my Selfhood cruel
Marches against thee deceitful from Sinai & from Edom
Into the Wilderness of Judah to meet thee in his pride
I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years
Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones &
gold
I know it is my Self. O my Divine Creator & Redeemer

Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not"

Erdman 231:
"PLATE 77

To the Christians.

Devils are I give you the end of a golden string,
False Religions Only wind it into a ball:
"Saul Saul" It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
"Why persecutest thou me." Built in Jerusalems wall.

We are told to abstain from fleshly desires that we may lose no
time from the Work of the Lord. Every moment lost, is a moment
that cannot be redeemed every pleasure that intermingles with the
duty of our station is a folly unredeemable & is planted like the
seed of a wild flower among our wheat. All the tortures of
repentance. are tortures of self-reproach on account of our
leaving the Divine Harvest to the Enemy, the struggles of
intanglement with incoherent roots. I know of no other
Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body
& mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.
Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable
Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our
Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies
are no more. The Apostles knew of no other Gospel. What were
all their spiritual gifts? What is the Divine Spirit? is the Holy
Ghost any other than an Intellectual Fountain? What is the
Harvest of the Gospel & its Labours? What is that Talent which it
is a curse to hide? What are the Treasures of Heaven which we are
to lay up for ourselves, are they any other than Mental Studies &
Performances? What are all the Gifts. of the Gospel, are they not
all Mental Gifts? Is God a Spirit who must be worshipped in
Spirit & in Truth and are not the Gifts of the Spirit Every-thing
to Man?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WHICH WAY

In the British Museum is the one complete copy of Blake's Small Book of Designs which includes 23 Plates. It is designated Copy A because pages from a second copy (B) are scattered among various owners. There is not a complete second set, but duplicates of 16 plates have been located. Many of the images from the second copy bear inscriptions.

The British Museum has recently released its collection
of non-copyright protected material for non-commercial educational use. The images of the Small Book of Designs are distributed among the 1697 items found in a search of the database for William Blake. With appreciation to the British Museum, I display Page 1 of the Small Book of Designs which reproduces the Title page of the Book of Urizen. From the duplicate in Copy B, we learn the inscription for the page:

Title Page
The First Book of Urizen

"Which is the Way/The Right or the Left"

David Erdman in The Illuminated Blake describes the picture: Urizen holds in his left hand a quill for writing in his book (law); in his left he holds a brush of engraver for illustrating it (imagination). "He is writing secrets and commandments, but his copy book is enrooting; the closed books in which he is transcribing may be seen as a single coffin lid; the Mosaic tablets at his back (where the proverb-communicating Devil of Marriage 10 has living wings) suggest a double tombstone: are both Testaments stony to Urizen?" (Page 183)

Urizen, Plate 2, (E 70)
"Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;
And gave him a place in the north,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary."

Urizen, Plate 4, (E 72)
"7. Lo! I unfold my darkness: and on
This rock, place with strong hand the Book
Of eternal brass, written in my solitude.

8. Laws of peace, of love, of unity:
Of pity, compassion, forgiveness.
Let each chuse one habitation:
His ancient infinite mansion:
One command, one joy, one desire,
One curse, one weight, one measure
One King, one God, one Law.

Chap: III.

1. The voice ended, they saw his pale visage
Emerge from the darkness; his hand
On the rock of eternity unclasping
The Book of brass. Rage siez'd the strong

2. Rage, fury, intense indignation
In cataracts of fire blood & gall
In whirlwinds of sulphurous smoke:
And enormous forms of energy;
All the seven deadly sins of the soul

PLATE 5
In living creations appear'd
In the flames of eternal fury."

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 80, (E 355)
"And Urizen Read in his book of brass in sounding tones

Listen O Daughters to my voice Listen to the Words of Wisdom
So shall [ye] govern over all let Moral Duty tune your tongue
But be your hearts harder than the nether millstone
To bring the shadow of Enitharmon beneath our wondrous tree
That Los may Evaporate like smoke & be no more
Draw down Enitharmon to the Spectre of Urthona
And let him have dominion over Los the terrible shade

Compell the poor to live upon a Crust of bread by soft mild arts
Smile when they frown frown when they smile & when a man looks pale
With labour & abstinence say he looks healthy & happy
And when his children Sicken let them die there are enough
Born even too many & our Earth will be overrun
Without these arts If you would make the poor live with temper
With pomp give every crust of bread you give with gracious cunning
Magnify small gifts reduce the man to want a gift & then give with pomp
Say he smiles if you hear him sigh If pale say he is ruddy
Preach temperance say he is overgorgd & drowns his wit
In strong drink tho you know that bread & water are all
He can afford Flatter his wife pity his children till we can

Reduce all to our will as spaniels are taught with art"

The alternative way to Urizen's Book of Brass is not offered in these passages but can be constructed from the poetry.

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
"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."

Jerusalem, Plate 22, (E 168)
"Jerusalem then stretchd her hand toward the Moon & spoke

Why should Punishment Weave the Veil with Iron Wheels of War
When Forgiveness might it Weave with Wings of Cherubim"

The Book of Brass is the attempt to "Create a Heaven in which all shall be pure & holy In their Own Selfhoods" to claim for ones own reasoning power and self perception of moral virtue what God has freely given to us. His is the 'kingdom, the power and the glory.'

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 199)
"Striving to Create a Heaven in which all shall be pure & holy
In their Own Selfhoods, in Natural Selfish Chastity to banish Pity
And dear Mutual Forgiveness; & to become One Great Satan
Inslavd to the most powerful Selfhood: to murder the Divine Humanity
In whose sight all are as the dust & who chargeth his Angels with folly!
"

Romans 6

[23] For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Phillipians 2
[5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
[6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
[7] But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
[8] And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
[9] Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blake's Annotations

Although there are many of Blake's Annotations in the "Big Book" (Erdman 583-667) , they're likely to be neglected by the general reader or student; that's unfortunate! With his Annotations Blake gave us lots of direct looks at his values.

Of all the great men and others whose books Blake annotated The
Annotations to Berkeley's Siris, may well represent the man whose values Blake resembled most.
George (Bishop) Berkeley (1685-1753) was born in County Kilkenny and< educated at Kilkenny College and Trinity College in Dublini. His wife was a daughter of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He had a large income in Dublin, but in 1728 he went to America, landing at Newport Rhode Island; he bought a plantation there; it was called Whitehall. After four years he returned to the Old World and lived in London. He promoted and founded the Foundling Hospital in 1739. In 1734 he had been appointed the Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland. Read about Bishop Berkeley and you may be struck by the fact (like I was) that like Blake he was very much of an individual. Both of them were 'their own man' (as you and l likely are). He moved around the world, as Blake, with the means, might well have done. Blake of course had to do his traveling in his mind, with his reading. Berkeley like Blake was an idealist, not only philosophically, but in the vulgar sense as well: he founded hospitals; in the interest of doing something for the poor slaves in Jamaica he moved to America, etc, etc. He lived an interesting life. The Annotations that follow here are made up of quotations, preceded by a p number and followed by Blake's own word, preceded by the : "Annotations to Berkeley's Siris Dublin, 1744

[P 203] God knoweth all things, as pure mind or intellect, but
nothing by sense, nor in nor through a sensory. Therefore to
suppose a sensory of any kind, whether space or any other, in God
would be very wrong, and lead us into false conceptions of his
nature.magination or the HumanI Eternal Body in Every Man

[P 204] But in respect of a perfect spirit, there is nothing
hard or impenetrable: there is no resistance to the deity. Nor
hath he any Body: Nor is the supreme being united to the world,
as the soul of an animal is to its body, which necessarily
implieth defect, both as an instrument and as a constant weight
and impediment. Imagination or the Divine Body in Every Man

P 205] Natural phaenomena are only natural appearances. . .
. They and the phantomes that result from those appearances,
the children: of imagination grafted upon sense, such
for example as pure space, are thought by many the very first in
existence and stability, and to embrace and comprehend all
beings.The All in Man The Divine Image or Imagination
The Four Senses are the Four Faces of Man & the Four Rivers
of the Water of Life

[P 212] Plato and Aristotle considered God as abstracted or
distinct from the natural world. But the Aegyptians considered
God and nature as making one whole, or all things together as
making one universe.
They also considerd God as abstracted or distinct from the
Imaginative World but Jesus as also Abraham & David considerd God
as a Man in the Spiritual or Imaginative Vision
Jesus considerd Imagination to be the Real Man & says I will
not leave you Orphanned and I will manifest myself to you he
says also the Spiritual Body or Angel as little Children always
behold the Face of the Heavenly Father

[P 213] The perceptions of sense are gross: but even in the
senses there is a difference. Though harmony and proportion are
not objects of sense, yet the eye and the ear are organs, which
offer to the mind such materials, by means whereof she may
apprehend both the one and the other.
Harmony [&] Proportion are Qualities & Not Things The
Harmony & Proportion of a Horse are not the same with those of a
Bull Every Thing has its own Harmony & Proportion Two Inferior Qualities in it For its
Reality is Its Imaginative Form

[P 214] By experiments of sense we become acquainted with
the lower faculties of the soul; and from them, whether by a
gradual evolution or ascent, we arrive at the highest. These
become subjects for fancy to work upon. Reason considers and
judges of the imaginations. And these acts of reason become new
objects to the understanding.
Knowledge is not by deduction but Immediate by Perception or
Sense at once Christ addresses himself to the Man not to his
Reason Plato did not bring Life & Immortality to Light Jesus
only did this

[P 215] There is according to Plato properly no knowledge,
but only opinion concerning things sensible and perishing, not
because they are naturally abstruse and involved in darkness: but
because their nature and existence is uncertain, ever fleeting
and changing.
Jesus supposes every Thing to be Evident to the Child & to
the Poor & Unlearned Such is the Gospel
The Whole Bible is filld with Imaginations & Visions from
End to End & not with Moral virtues that is the baseness of Plato
& the Greeks & all Warriors The Moral Virtues are continual
Accusers of Sin & promote Eternal Wars & Domineering over others

[P 217] Aristotle maketh a threefold distinction of objects
according to the three speculative sciences. Physics he
supposeth to be conversant about such things as have a principle
of motion in themselves, mathematics about things permanent but
not abstracted, and theology about being abstracted and
immoveable, which distinction may be seen in the ninth book of
his metaphysics.
God is not a Mathematical Diagram

[P 218] It is a maxim of the Platonic philosophy, that the
soul of man was originally furnished with native inbred notions,
and stands in need of sensible occasions, not absolutely for
producing them, but only for awakening, rousing or exciting, into
act what was already preexistent, dormant, and latent in the
soul.
The Natural Body is an Obstruction to the Soul or Spiritual
Body

[P 219] . . . Whence, according to Themistius, . . . it may
be inferred that all beings are in the soul. For, saith he, the
forms are the beings. By the form every thing is what it is.
And, he adds, it is the soul that imparteth forms to matter, . .
. This is my Opinion but Forms must be apprehended by Sense or
the Eye of Imagination
Man is All Imagination God is Man & exists in us & we in him

PAGE 241 What Jesus came to Remove was the Heathen or Platonic
Philosophy which blinds the Eye of Imagination The Real Man
(Erdman 663-4)

Monday, August 22, 2011

CAVERNS OF THE GRAVE III

The Grave Personified
Illustration for Robert Blair's The Grave

 






















The connotation of the 'Caverns of the Grave' is the depths of the unconscious including depression and despair. Ahania and Enion are in the vicinity of the Caverns of the Grave when they wander near the borders of non-entity. Ironically despair and hope are both seen in this world of darkness. There is an implication that confrontations take place in 'Caverns of the Grave' which result in rebirth. Twice Blake juxtapositions 'Caverns of the Grave' with 'places of Human Seed' which must represent a deep level of the ability to recreate at the human or imaginative level.


Four Zoas , Page 43, 44, (E 329)
"Down from the dismal North the Prince in thunders & thick clouds
As when the thunderbolt down falleth on the appointed place
Fell down down rushing ruining thundering shuddering
Into the Caverns of the Grave & places of Human Seed
Where the impressions of Despair & Hope enroot forever
A world of Darkness. Ahania fell far into Non Entity"

Four Zoas, Page 90, 91, SECOND PORTION) (E 363)
"The Prester Serpent ceasd the War song sounded loud & strong
Thro all the heavens Urizens Web vibrated torment on torment
Thus in the Caverns of the Grave & Places of human seed
The nameless shadowy Vortex stood before the face of Orc
The Shadow reard her dismal head over the flaming youth
With sighs & howling & deep sobs that he might lose his rage
And with it lose himself in meekness she embracd his fire
As when the Earthquake rouzes from his den his shoulders huge
Appear above the crumb[l]ing Mountain. Silence waits around him
A moment then astounding horror belches from the Center
The fiery dogs arise the shoulders huge appear
So Orc rolld round his clouds upon the deeps of dark Urthona
Knowing the arts of Urizen were Pity & Meek affection
And that by these arts the Serpent form exuded from his limbs
Silent as despairing love & strong as Jealousy"

Four Zoas
, PAGE 122 [108], (E 383)
"Tharmas on high rode furious thro the afflicted worlds
Pursuing the Vain Shadow of Hope fleeing from identity
In abstract false Expanses that he may not hear the Voice
Of Ahania wailing on the winds in vain he flies for still
The voice incessant calls on all the children of Men
For she spoke of all in heaven & all upon the Earth
Saw not as yet the Divine vision her Eyes are Toward Urizen
And thus Ahania cries aloud to the Caverns of the Grave

Will you keep a flock of wolves & lead them will you take the wintry blast
For a covering to your limbs or the summer pestilence for a tent to abide in
Will you erect a lasting habitation in the mouldering Church yard
Or a pillar & palace of Eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave
Will you seek pleasure from the festering wound or marry for a Wife
The ancient Leprosy that the King & Priest may still feast on your decay
And the grave mock & laugh at the plowd field saying
I am the nourisher thou the destroyer in my bosom is milk & wine
And a fountain from my breasts to me come all multitudes
To my breath they obey they worship me I am a goddess & queen
But listen to Ahania O ye sons of the Murderd one"

Four Zoas
, Page 113 [109], (E 384)
"These are the Visions of My Eyes the Visions of Ahania
Thus cries Ahania Enion replies from the Caverns of the Grave"

Rahab reaches a point of transformation when she hears 'Ahania weeping on the Void', and 'Enions voice sound from the 'caverns of the Grave'. Rahab, as Mystery, is burned with fire but her subsequent form, Deism, is raised from the ashes.

Four Zoas, PAGE 115 [111], (E 385)
"Rahab triumphs over all she took Jerusalem
Captive A Willing Captive by delusive arts impelld
To worship Urizens Dragon form to offer her own Children
Upon the bloody Altar. John Saw these things Reveald in Heaven
On Patmos Isle & heard the Souls cry out to be deliverd
He saw the Harlot of the Kings of Earth & saw her Cup
Of fornication food of Orc & Satan pressd from the fruit of Mystery
But when she saw the form of Ahania weeping on the Void
And heard Enions voice sound from the caverns of the Grave
No more spirit remained in her She secretly left the Synagogue of Satan
She commund with Orc in secret She hid him with the flax
That Enitharmon had numberd away from the Heavens
She gatherd it together to consume her Harlot Robes
In bitterest Contrition sometimes Self condemning repentant
And Sometimes kissing her Robes & jewels & weeping over them
Sometimes returning to the Synagogue of Satan in Pride
And Sometimes weeping before Orc in humility & trembling
The Synagogue of Satan therefore uniting against Mystery
Satan divided against Satan resolvd in open Sanhedrim
To burn Mystery with fire & form another from her ashes
For God put it into their heart to fulfill all his will

The Ashes of Mystery began to animate they calld it Deism
And Natural Religion as of old so now anew began
Babylon again in Infancy Calld Natural Religion"

In the late stages of the Four Zoas, as grief is being transformed to joy, the 'caverns of the Grave' is once more a symbol of the rebirth for 'those risen again from death '.

Four Zoas, Page 135, 136, (E 404)
"All round the heavenly arches & the Odors rose singing this song

O terrible wine presses of Luvah O caverns of the Grave
How lovely the delights of those risen again from death
O trembling joy excess of joy is like Excess of grief

So sang the Human Odors round the wine presses of Luvah "

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Contraries


The fruit of the Knowledge of God and Evil led to the Contraries:
Creation:  "In the beginning God created the Heavens and  the Earth: in the biblical myth this is the first (Blakean) contrary, but in Blake's myth Creation came after the Fall.  In this respect Blake was in accord with Gnostic and other religious systems.

Here are some of the Contraries:
Heaven and  Earth (Eternal and Mortal)
Good and Evil, which Blake found in Genesis 2.
 Night and Day
Unity and Duality
Male and Female
War and Peace
Thought and Action
Spirit and Flesh (Pauline: Romans 7 and 8  and Galatians 5)
A 'Bible soaked Protestant' Blake thought long and often about this as well as the other dichotomies.

Experience and Innocence:  (Innocence has a double meaning; in general it refers to babyhood, but there is an experienced innocence, sometimes called 'the blood of the lamb'.)
And many other Dualities

 This dichotomy concerns everyone. It underlays  Blake's 'System', and perhaps Everyone's.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was an effort Blake made to deal with it:  for young William Blake Mortal Life was pretty close to Hell (Ulro, he called it).

To Tirzah  (Songs of Innocence and Experience; Erdman 30):

"Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free,
Then what have I to do with thee?"

(A post could well be written in the attempt to interpret that little song.  We might begin by interpreting "Thou Mother of my Mortal part".  It might lead to exploration of what Blake meant by 'female love'.

But most appropriate  to the fundamental  dichotomy is a verse from a poem in Ellie's post:
"The Door of Death is made of Gold,
That Mortal Eyes cannot behold;
But, when the Mortal Eyes are clos'd,
And cold and pale the Limbs repos'd,
The Soul awakes; and, wond'ring, sees
In her mild Hand the golden Keys:
The Grave is Heaven's golden Gate,
And rich and poor around it wait;
O Shepherdess of England's Fold,
Behold this Gate of Pearl and Gold!"
from To the Queen (Erdman 480)
Body and Soul

In his 'notebook' (The Four Zoas), starting with Man's four functions,  dealt with various polarities.  We may read of the destructive relationship of
Urizen was the great, proud, law-maker; he was quick to order people around, a typical masculine type. He wound up by casting out his emanation, Ahania;  with the Fall came alienation; you may find it in The Fours Zoas, or better The Book of Ahania, Chapter Five:

"1: The lamenting voice of Ahania Weeping upon the void.
And round the Tree of Fuzon: Distant in solitary night
Her voice was heard, but no form Had she: but her tears from clouds Eternal fell round the Tree
2: And the voice cried: Ah Urizen! Love! Flower of morning! I weep on the verge Of Non-entity; how wide the Abyss Between Ahania and thee!
3: I lie on the verge of the deep. I see thy dark clouds ascend, I see thy black forests and floods, A horrible waste to my eyes!
: Weeping I walk over rocks Over dens & thro' valleys of death Why didst thou despise Ahania To cast me from thy bright presence Into the World of Loneness
5: I cannot touch his hand: Nor weep on his knees, nor hear His voice & bow, nor see his eyes And joy, nor hear his footsteps, and My heart leap at the lovely sound! I cannot kiss the place Whereon his bright feet have trod, But I wander on the rocks With hard necessity.
6: Where is my golden palace Where my ivory bed Where the joy of my morning hour Where the sons of eternity, singing
7: To awake bright Urizen my king! To arise to the mountain sport, To the bliss of eternal valleys:
8: To awake my king in the morn! To embrace Ahanias joy On the bredth of his open bosom: From my soft cloud of dew to fall In showers of life on his harvests.
9: When he gave my happy soul To the sons of eternal joy: When he took the daughters of life. Into my chambers of love:
10: When I found babes of bliss on my beds. And bosoms of milk in my chambers Fill'd with eternal seed O! eternal births sung round Ahania In interchange sweet of their joys.
11: Swell'd with ripeness & fat with fatness Bursting on winds my odors, My ripe figs and rich pomegranates In infant joy at thy feet O Urizen, sported and sang;
12: Then thou with thy lap full of seed With thy band full of generous fire Walked forth from the clouds of morning On the virgins of springing joy, On the human soul to cast The seed of eternal science.
13: The sweat poured down thy temples To Ahania return'd in evening The moisture awoke to birth My mothers-joys, sleeping in bliss.
14: But now alone over rocks, mountains Cast out from thy lovely bosom: Cruel jealousy! selfish fear! Self-destroying: how can delight, Renew in these chains of darkness Where bones of beasts are strown On the bleak and snowy mountains Where bones from the birth are buried Before they see the light."
(Erdman 88-90)
*********************************************************
Tharmas and Enion:
"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.
Why howl the Lion & the Wolf? why do they roam abroad?
Deluded by summers heat they sport in enormous love
And cast their young out to the hungry wilds & sandy desarts
Why is the Sheep given to the knife? the Lamb plays in the Sun
He starts! he hears the foot of Man! he says, Take thou my wool
But spare my life, but he knows not that winter cometh fast.
The Spider sits in his labourd Web, eager watching for the Fly
Presently comes a famishd Bird & takes away the Spider
His Web is left all desolate, that his little anxious heart
So careful wove; & spread it out with sighs and weariness.
This was the Lamentation of Enion round the golden Feast
Eternity groand and was troubled at the image of Eternal Death.
              (Four Zoas 1-17.2-18.9; E310) 

*******************************************************
At last these polarities were all resolved with the Great Apocalypse, the End of (Mortal Life). In the End the two fundamental contraries (Heaven and Earth) are united (made one).  Here the Bible and Blake are in accord (cf Gospel of John, chapter 17 and Jerusalem, Plate 98).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

CAVERNS OF THE GRAVE II

One of the most deflating episodes of Blake's life involved the publication of Robert Blaire's The Grave for which Cromek had engaged him to make illustrations. Blake produced the drawings for the book at little cost to Cromek who awarded the lucrative engraving of the plates to Schiavonetti instead of to Blake. Both anger and depression were among the reactions Blake experienced as the result of the loss of badly needed financial support, and the rejection of his work by a man he considered to be a friend.

The book was published with Blake's images executed in the more refined and popular style of Schiavonetti. For the book Blake produced a poem in which he dedicated his illustrations to the Queen.


Songs and Ballads, (E 480)
[Dedication to Blake's Illustrations to Blair's Grave,
printed 1808]

"TO THE QUEEN

The Door of Death is made of Gold,
That Mortal Eyes cannot behold;
But, when the Mortal Eyes are clos'd,
And cold and pale the Limbs repos'd,
The Soul awakes; and, wond'ring, sees
In her mild Hand the golden Keys:
The Grave is Heaven's golden Gate,
And rich and poor around it wait;
O Shepherdess of England's Fold,
Behold this Gate of Pearl and Gold!

To dedicate to England's Queen
The Visions that my Soul has seen,
And, by Her kind permission, bring
What I have borne on solemn Wing,
From the vast regions of the Grave,
Before Her Throne my Wings I wave;
Bowing before my Sov'reign's Feet,
"The Grave produc'd these Blossoms sweet
"In mild repose from Earthly strife;
"The Blossoms of Eternal Life!" "

[Signed] WILLIAM BLAKE

There is more than a polite dedication to the Queen in Blake's poem. He is likely saying something also about his personal experience in the disappointment of not being able to display his own engraving skills in a book which may reach a broad public. The 'door of death' is the pain and discouragement he felt in the rejection. The 'Grave' is the opportunity to see into his own psyche as a result of being forced to endure the death of his hopes. The Grave has become 'heaven's gate' to him because through it there are 'Visions that my Soul has seen'.

To the Queen as the 'Shepherdess of England's Fold,' he presents the product of his experience of the Grave: 'repose from Earthly strife' through experience of the Eternal dimension.

In Blake's notebook is an unnamed poem in which he states that what he revealed to the Queen was his experience of the 'Caverns of the Grave'. For the Countess of Egremont he was designing an image of the Last Judgment for which he would also supply an explanation. Blake acknowledges that the way the world reacts to his art does not affect it. His designs are in response to the vision of the Eternal which has guided his work from the beginning. The depths of the 'Caverns of the Grave' and the heights of the 'Great Atlantic Mountains' are seen form his 'Golden House'.

Songs and Ballads, (E 481)
[From Blake's Notebook]

"The Caverns of the Grave Ive seen
And these I shewd to Englands Queen
But now the Caves of Hell I view
Who shall I dare to shew them to
What mighty Soul in Beautys form
Shall dauntless View the Infernal Storm
Egremonts Countess can controll
The flames of Hell that round me roll
If she refuse I still go on
Till the Heavens & Earth are gone
Still admird by Noble minds
Followd by Envy on the winds
Reengravd Time after Time
Ever in their Youthful prime
My Designs unchangd remain
Time may rage but rage in vain
For above Times troubled Fountains
On the Great Atlantic Mountains
In my Golden House on high
There they Shine Eternally"

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fearful Symmetry Again

It was Northrup Frye who began to make William Blake's poetry popular and available to serious students. He was studying for the ministry at the University of Toronto, but went to Oxford for graduate work and published Fearful Symmetry, which made him famous. Although he maintained an ecclesiastic relationship, he became the epoch's foremost critic of English literature.

In a recent post Ellie cited a Quote from Fearful Symmetry:

"the business of the visionary [is] to proclaim the Word of God to a
society under the domination of Satan; and ... the visionary's
social position is typically that of an isolated voice crying in
the wilderness against the injustice and hypocrisy of the society
from which he sprung." (Page 336)


Out of his study of Blake's system, Frye generated a system of his own, delineated in the 1957 volume,

Anatomy of Criticism, to provide "a more intelligible account of...'myths we live by'."

Frye's last and greatest (two volume) work and work goes into systems and sources exhaustively; it's very enlightening for anyone serious about learning Blake's system.

Steven Marx, a professor at Cal Poly has written a thorough study of Northup Frye, starting with a thumbnail biography, and continuing with "the sources of Blake's Vision" It's embodied in a description of Frye's extensive writing:

"A lineage of mythographers including Vico, James Frazer, Carl Jung,
and Joseph Campbell all share the view that literature evolves from mythology
and that both embody a society's central values and beliefs--about the gods
and about secular matters like work, play, action, identity, family, love and
death."


(From the 'thorough study' cited above)

The 'thorough study' essentially described and interpreted Words with Power.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

CAVERNS OF THE GRAVE

Plate 9 [10] of the book of Urizen shows a muscular man who appears to be struggling to free himself form the confines of of a tight enclosure. It seems that the weight of a heavy rock must be lifted to release him from his oppressive cavern. The text suggests that the opposite process is underway; the cavern in closing around Urizen squeezing him into a space which limits his movement.

On plate 8 we are told of the frightening change in the natural world taking places around Los as the result of the emergence of Urizen into a material form.

Urizen, Plate 8 (E 74)
"1: Los smitten with astonishment
Frightend at the hurtling bones

2: And at the surging sulphureous
Perturbed Immortal mad raging

3: In whirlwinds & pitch & nitre
Round the furious limbs of Los

4: And Los formed nets & gins
And threw the nets round about

5: He watch'd in shuddring fear
The dark changes & bound every change
With rivets of iron & brass;

6. And these were the changes of Urizen."

On plate 10 we watch with Los as Urizen is progressively losing the consciousness of the Eternal world and the powers which were his when Eternity was his home.

Urizen , Plate 10, (E 74)
"1. Ages on ages roll'd over him!
In stony sleep ages roll'd over him!
Like a dark waste stretching chang'able
By earthquakes riv'n, belching sullen fires
On ages roll'd ages in ghastly

Sick torment; around him in whirlwinds
Of darkness the eternal Prophet howl'd
Beating still on his rivets of iron
Pouring sodor of iron; dividing
The horrible night into watches.

2. And Urizen (so his eternal name)
His prolific delight obscurd more & more
In dark secresy hiding in surgeing
Sulphureous fluid his phantasies.
The Eternal Prophet heavd the dark bellows,
And turn'd restless the tongs; and the hammer
Incessant beat; forging chains new & new
Numb'ring with links. hours, days & years

3. The eternal mind bounded began to roll
Eddies of wrath ceaseless round & round,
And the sulphureous foam surgeing thick
Settled, a lake, bright, & shining clear:
White as the snow on the mountains cold.

4. Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity!
In chains of the mind locked up,
Like fetters of ice shrinking together
Disorganiz'd, rent from Eternity,
Los beat on his fetters of iron;
And heated his furnaces & pour'd
Iron sodor and sodor of brass

5. Restless turnd the immortal inchain'd
Heaving dolorous! anguish'd! unbearable
Till a roof shaggy wild inclos'd
In an orb, his fountain of thought.

6. In a horrible dreamful slumber;
Like the linked infernal chain;
A vast Spine writh'd in torment
Upon the winds; shooting pain'd
Ribs, like a bending cavern
And bones of solidness, froze
Over all his nerves of joy.
And a first Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe."

When Blake was producing Urizen, he exposed himself to the forces of the unconscious world just as Jung did when he was producing the Red Book. The images which Blake produced during the period when the he was most aware of the darkness of his unconscious have a power and immediacy rare in his later work.

Martin Butlin writes of the distinctive characteristics of Blake's methods and illustrations during this period.

William Blake , Published by Tate Gallery, Compiler Martin Butlin, (Page 48)

"At the same time [c 1794] Blake drastically altered the method by which he coloured the illustrations to his books. Up to and including the first copy of Europe to be coloured, the colouring was done in watercolour, but in Urizen and in other early copies of Europe he turned to a form of colour printing... The new technique was also used for the copies Blake printed about this time of some of his earlier books, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Songs of Experience.
The colour printing seems to have been done by applying thick, tacky pigments to the engraved plates from which the text and outlines had already been printed and then taking an impression. The colours seem to have mixed with carpenter's glue creating a very rich, textured heavy effect similar to his later tempera paintings; he sometimes called this medium 'fresco'. The designs were normally tidied up with pen and watercolour. The impact of the colour-printed illustrations in Urizen is unparalled in Blake's books. It is no coincidence that they accompany Blake's most negatively pessimistic expression of his views on man's predicament... Urizen concentrates on the Creation as a definition of material reality in its most horrific and negative form. The material opacity of the illustrations could not be better attuned to this theme."

When Blake reproduced the image from Plate 10 of Urizen as a plate in the Small Book of Deigns he added the inscription:

"Does the soul labour thus/In caverns of the grave."


Small Book of Designs
British Museum