Friday, August 31, 2012

LIFE'S WORK V


National Gallery of Art
Rosenwald Collection
The Pastorals of Virgil, 1821
Proof sheet printed by Blake
Here is a quote about Blake's illustrations to Thornton's Virgil (1821-21) from William Blake, by Martin Butlin, published by the Blake Trust:

"The impact of these exquisite designs is best expressed in the words of Samuel Palmer: 'I sat down with Mr. Blake's Thornton's Virgil woodcuts before me, thinking to give their merits my feeble testimony. I happened to think first of their sentiment. They are visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise; models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry. I thought of their light and shade, and looking upon them found no word to describe them. Intense depth, solemnity, and vivid brilliancy only coldly and partially describe it. There is in all such a mystic and dreamy glimmer as penetrates and kindles the innermost soul, and gives complete and unreserved delight, unlike the gaudy daylight of this world. They are like all that wonderful artist's works the drawing aside of the earthly curtain, and the glimpse which all the most holy, studious saints and sages have enjoyed, that rest which remaineth to the people of God.' The designs had an over-whelming impact on Palmer's visionary works of the Shoreham period and also on the engravings of Edward Calvert." Page 138

It seems to have been impossible for Blake to be half-hearted about any project in which he engaged or to please any who were not inclined to respect his visionary art.  When John Linnell arranged for Blake to produce some illustrations for Dr Thornton's reprint of his Pastorals of Virgil, Blake learned the technique to woodcutting instead of using his usual engraving technique. We can follow the production process from the original watercolor sketches, through at least one conventional engraving, to the blocks of the woodcuttings, to the proof sheets, and to the prints in the book. Thornton was not satisfied with the original woodcuts but became reconciled to using them when he learned how highly they were respected by other artists. Thornton introduced Blake illustrations with faint praise.

The curator of the British Museum writes:
"Introducing Blake's illustrations to Philips's eclogue Thornton writes that they 'display less of art than genius', although he also boasts that they are by 'the famous Blake'. Certainly, Blake's wood engravings were extremely unconventional: they were also clearly more artistically ambitious than the numerous other illustrations in 'Pastorals of Virgil'".

Dr Thornton would have done well to read from Blake's Descriptive Catalogue to learn that the visionary artist is representing realities unseen by the 'mortal perishing organ of sight' which sees only 'a cloudy vapour or a nothing'. To the artist the imagination is the visionary eye through which spiritual existence is made known. The image he produces conveys the lineaments of the object represented, not the superficial appearance. Unless the viewer sees through his imagination to the underlying spirit which is animated, the picture is nothing but a misrepresentation of nature.

Descriptive Catalogue , (E 541)

"The connoisseurs and artists who have made objections to
Mr. B.'s mode of representing spirits with real bodies, would do
well to consider that the Venus, the Minerva, the Jupiter, the
Apollo, which they admire in Greek statues, are all of them
representations of spiritual existences of God's immortal, to
the mortal perishing organ of sight; and yet they are embodied
and organized in solid marble.  Mr. B. requires the same latitude
and all is well.  The Prophets describe what they saw in Vision
as real and existing men whom they saw with their imaginative and
immortal organs; the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the
more distinct the object.  A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the 
modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour or a
nothing: they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all
that the mortal and perishing nature can produce.  He who does
not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger
and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see does not
imagine at all.  The painter of this work asserts that all his
imaginations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more
minutely organized than any thing seen by his
mortal eye.  Spirits are organized men: Moderns wish to 
draw figures without lines, and with great and heavy shadows; 
are not shadows more unmeaning than lines, and more heavy? O 
who can doubt this!"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

God VIII


[Epilogue] to The Gates of Paradise (For the Sexes)
To The Accuser Who is
The God of This World
Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce
And dost not know the Garment from the Man
Every Harlot was a Virgin once
Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan
Tho thou art Worshipd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus & Jehovah thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Nights decline
The lost Travellers Dream under the Hill 

Who is the God of this World? He is the God of those whose life is based upon the
physical senses and centered in material existence, in this world. They provide for
themselves now because there is no Other. They use law and power for their own 
advantage at the expense of others and consider that to be the nature of reality. These
are the worshippers of the God of this World. In the end nothing could be more authentically biblical.

Once he began to focus upon the God of this World, Blake found in the Bible much 
positive information: he masquerades as an angel of light; he tempts; he accuses: 
"We do not find anywhere that Satan is accused of sin. He is only accused of Unbelief and thereby drawing man into sin that he may accuse him." 

Satan is particularly attached to the rulers of the world--economic, political, and 
ecclesiastical--and they to him. He is "Worshipped as God by the Mighty Ones of the 
Earth" (Jerusalem 29:18). They naturally regard him as God because their faithfulness to 
his values and methods has led them to great prosperity.

But in Satan's kingdom more basic than oppressive power is fear and timidity.Northrup 
Frye explains: "The morally good man tries to obey an external God instead of bringing 
out the God in himself. The external God [is] only the shadow of Caesar." Tyranny is
only possible because men are willing victims. That's why the flaming rebel has such an important place in the renewal of life .

Interpreters have greatly misunderstood the role of Satan in Blake's structure of thought 
because he used the image of the devil to represent two different things. The Satan of
'Paradise Lost' was a flaming rebel against a ridiculous God, and in MHH Blake 
ironically identified himself with this devil and even claimed that Milton belonged to the devil's party without knowing it. 

But the God of this World is an altogether sinister image. The devils of MHH represent 
fiery creativity. The God of this World opposes creativity of every sort in favor of rigid 
obedience to the powers that be. They are his powers. A lineal descendant of Urizen, he 
claims everything he can touch for Eternal Death

Blake's reversal of symbols is admittedly confusing. But then everyone has or should 
take the freedom to change his values and symbols as he goes through life. Actually in 
the course of his development as a poet and thinker Blake used 'Satan' with a variety of 
meanings. The God of this World is a less ambiguous term. It connotes Deceiver,
Tempter, Perverter, Accuser, Killer. The God of this World is the God of Eternal Death. 

The third temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was to fall down and worship the God of 
this World. Had he succumbed, the Jews would have had their political messiah, and the 
spiritual history of the world would have been different. The story of this temptation is a 
critical element in Blake's system of thought. He doesn't apply it to the historical Jesus so much; he applies it to the members of Christ. 

When a pilgrim sets out to pursue the narrow path, his primary problem remains the 
temptation to worship the God of this World. With great interest Blake watched the
careers of his fellow men as they met and responded to that moment. 'The Four Zoas', as 
its biblical superscription suggests, is largely devoted to wrestling against the rulers of the darkness of this world. 

In CHAPTER ONE we saw how Blake's life may be interpreted in terms of this fundamental psychic and spiritual event.

The Felpham Moment represented the ultimate level of the problem posed to him. Blake knew that Hayley was his friend and wished him well. But at Felpham he came to
realize that life offers us two kinds of friends. "Corporeal friends are spiritual enemies.
A corporeal friend may offer you the world and take your soul. Hayley was Blake's 
corporeal friend; he wanted for him the best that he knew; he wanted to help him make his way in the world!
Hayley was a worldling; he knew nothing of the Realms of day. His corporeal friendship 
was eternally dangerous to his protege. As a matter of fact he had sponsored
Godwin, before that spiritually oriented poet went crazy. It took Blake a while to work 
all this out, but when he did, the whole problem of God became clear. The God of this
World was clarified, named, cast into the lake, and soon thereafter the Divine Vision 
came to him with power. We have already quoted Blake's eloquent poetic description of
the event:
"Each man is in his Spectre's power
Until the arrival of that Hour
When his Humanity awake
And cast his Spectre into the lake."
(To find the source of this quatrain go to Jerusalem Plate 41 and put it before a mirror.)

In the circumstances of the Felpham visit Hayley incarnated to Blake the Spectre, the 
God of this World--not Hayley the man, but Hayley the spiritual principle who had acted 
upon Blake at his point of weakness to take his soul. Hayley the man was simply a 
fellow sufferer whom Blake continued to encourage through the years ahead, but what he 
had represented in Blake's mind, the smiling worldling, no longer had influence upon 
Blake's life. The Spectre was cast into the lake. 

The Spectre is the individual internal form of Satan or the God of this World. Another 
name for him is the Selfhood. He is the internal egocentric principle that causes a man
to see himself over against the rest of humanity. In his poem, 'Milton', Blake makes this 
identity clear with the words of Milton at the conclusion of the "Bard's Song", which has 
been devoted to an elaborate description of how Satan arises and acts in human life: 
"I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!/ He is my Spectre!"

The Job series shows more eloquently than any words could how the conventional idea 
of God, a part of a man's psyche, eventually proves to be satanic. Job, a ruler of the
\world, comes to recognize that his God is satanic, passes through a spiritual death, and 
is reborn with a clarified vision. That's Job's story and Blake's story and everyman's
story.

The gospel truth reveals that the satanic God of this World, our Spectre, our Selfhood, 
will die, and the Divine Image in us will rise to meet the true God in the Realms of day.
The theology here is a composite of Job and Revelation. Blake's life and work both attest 
that the way in which the satanic God dies is through our becoming aware of him.

Blake strove to do this consciously as an artist through what he called "building 
Golgonooza", but the Moment of Grace for him as always was not something that he
did, but something that happened to him when he had made himself ready.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LIFE'S WORK IV

National Gallery of Art
Rosenwald Collection

The Pastorals of Virgil, 1821
Proof sheet printed by Blake
Samuel Palmer was only 19 years old when he was introduced to William Blake in 1824 by John Linnell. He remained under the influence of Blake 31 years later when he wrote this letter to Alexander Gilchrist for inclusion in his biography The Life of William Blake. Palmer along with the other 'Ancients' admired Blake's woodcuts for Thornton's publication of The Pastorals of Virgil.

From Samuel Palmer to Alexander Gilchrist:

"Kensington, Aug. 23d, 1855. My Dear Sir,
I regret that the lapse of time has made it difficult to recall many interesting particulars respecting Mr. Blake, of whom I can give you no connected account; nothing more, in fact, than the fragments of memory; but the general impression of what is great remains with us, although its details may be confused; and Blake, once known, could never be forgotten.
His knowledge was various and extensive, and his conversation so nervous and brilliant, that, if recorded at the time, it would now have thrown much light upon his character, and in no way lessened him in the estimation of those who know him only by his works.
In him you saw at once the Maker, the Inventor; one of the
few in any age: a fitting companion for Dante. He was energy itself, and shed around him a kindling influence; an atmosphere of life, full of the ideal. To walk with him in the country was to perceive the soul of beauty through the forms of matter; and the high gloomy buildings between which, from his study window, a glimpse was caught of the Thames and the Surrey shore, assumed a kind grandeur from the man dwelling near them. Those may laugh at this who never knew such an one as Blake; but of him it is the simple truth.
He was a man without a mask; his aim single, his path straightforwards, and his wants few; so he was free, noble, and happy.
His voice and manner were quiet, yet all awake with intellect. Above the tricks of littleness, or the least taint of affectation, with a natural dignity which few would have dared to affront, he was gentle and affectionate, loving to be with little children, and to talk about them. "That is heaven," he said to a friend, leading him to the window, and pointing to a group of them at play.
Declining, like Socrates, whom in many respects he resembled, the common objects of ambition, and pitying the scuffle to obtain them, he thought that no one could be truly great who had not humbled himself " even as a little child." This was a subject he loved to dwell upon, and to illustrate.
His eye was the finest I ever saw: brilliant, but not roving, clear and intent, yet susceptible; it flashed with genius, or melted in tenderness. It could also be terrible. Cunning and falsehood quailed under it, but it was never busy with them. It pierced them, and turned away. Nor was the mouth less expressive; the lips flexible and quivering with feeling. I can yet recal it when, on one occasion, dwelling upon the exquisite beauty of the parable of the Prodigal, he began to repeat a part of it; but at the words, "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him," could go no further; his voice faltered, and he was in tears.
I can never forget the evening when Mr. Linnell took me to Blake's house, nor the quiet hours passed with him in the examination of antique gems, choice pictures, and Italian prints of the sixteenth century. Those who may have read some strange passages in his Catalogue, written in irritation, and probably in haste, will be surprised to hear, that in conversation he was anything but sectarian or exclusive, finding sources of delight throughout the whole range of art; while, as a critic, he was judicious and discriminating.
No man more admired Albert Diirer; yet, after looking over a number of his designs, he would become a little angry with some of the draperies, as not governed by the forms of the limbs, nor assisting to express their action; contrasting them in this respect with the draped antique, in which it was hard to tell whether he was more delighted with the general design, or with the exquisite finish and the depth of the chiselling; in works of the highest class, no mere adjuncts, but the last development of the design itself.
He united freedom of judgment with reverence for all that is great. He did not look out for the works of the purest ages, but for the purest works of every age and country—Athens or Rhodes, Tuscany or Britain; but no authority or popular consent could influence him against his deliberate judgment. Thus he thought with Fuseli and Flaxman that the Elgin Theseus, however full of antique savour, could not, as ideal form, rank with the very finest relics of antiquity. Nor, on the other hand, did the universal neglect of Fuseli in any degree lessen his admiration of his best works.
He fervently loved the early Christian art, and dwelt with peculiar affection on the memory of Fra Angelico, often speaking of him as an inspired inventor and as a saint; but when he approached Michael Angelo, the Last Supper of Da Vinci, the Torso Belvidere, and some of the inventions preserved in the Antique Gems, all his powers were concentrated in admiration.
When looking at the heads of the apostles in the copy of the Last Supper at the Royal Academy, he remarked of all but Judas,' Every one looks as if he had conquered the natural man.' He was equally ready to admire a contemporary and a rival. Fuseli's picture of Satan building the Bridge over Chaos he ranked with the grandest efforts of imaginative art, and said that we were two centuries behind the civilization which would enable us to estimate his /Egisthus.
He was fond of the works of St. Theresa, and often quoted them with other writers on the interior life. Among his eccentricities will, no doubt, be numbered his preference for ecclesiastical governments. He used to ask how it was that we heard so much of priestcraft, and so little of soldiercraft and lawyercraft.
The Bible, he said, was the book of liberty and Christianity the sole regenerator of nations. In politics a Platonist, he put no trust in demagogues. His ideal home was with Fra Angelico: a little later he might have been a reformer, but after the fashion of Savonarola.
He loved to speak of the years spent by Michael Angelo, without earthly reward, and solely for the love of God, in the building of St. Peter's, and of the wondrous architects of our cathedrals. In Westminster Abbey were his earliest and most sacred recollections. I asked him how he would like to paint on glass, for the great west window, his "Sons of God shouting for Joy," from his designs in the Job. He said, after a pause, "I could do it!" kindling at the thought.
Centuries could not separate him in spirit from the artists who went about our land, pitching their tents by the morass or the forest side, to build those sanctuaries that now lie ruined amidst the fertility which they called into being.
His mind was large enough to contain, along with these things, stores of classic imagery. He delighted in Ovid, and, as a labour of love, had executed a finished picture from the Metamorphoses, after Giulio Romano. This design hung in his room, and, close by his engraving table, Albert Diirer's Melancholy the Mother of Invention, memorable as probably having been seen by Milton, and used in his Penseroso. There are living a few artists, then boys, who may remember the smile of welcome with which he used to rise from that table to receive them.
His poems were variously estimated. They tested rather severely the imaginative capacity of their readers. Flaxman said they were as grand as his designs, and Wordsworth delighted in his Songs 0/ Innocence. To the multitude they were unintelligible. In many parts full of pastoral sweetness, and often flashing with noble thoughts or terrible imagery, we must regret that he should sometimes have suffered fancy to trespass within sacred precincts.
Thrown early among the authors who resorted to Johnson, the book-seller, he rebuked the profanity of Paine, and was no disciple of Priestley; but, too undisciplined and cast upon times and circumstances which yielded him neither guidance nor sympathy, he wanted that balance of the faculties which might have assisted him in matters extraneous to his profession. He saw everything through art, and, in matters beyond its range, exalted it from a witness into a judge.
He had great powers of argument, and on general subjects was a very patient and good-tempered disputant; but materialism was his abhorrence: and if some unhappy man called in question the world of spirits, he would answer him "according to his folly," by putting forth his own views in their most extravagant and startling aspect. This might amuse those who were in the secret, but it left his opponent angry and bewildered.
Such was Blake, as I remember him. He was one of the few to be met with in our passage through life, who are not, in some way or other, "double minded " and inconsistent with themselves; one of the very few who cannot be depressed by neglect, and to whose name rank and station could add no lustre. Moving apart, in a sphere above the attraction of worldly honours, he did not accept greatness, but confer it. He ennobled poverty, and, by his conversation and the influence of his genius, made two small rooms in Fountain Court more attractive than the threshold of princes.
I remain, my dear Sir,
Yours very faithfully,
Samuel Palmer. To Alexander Gilchrist, Esq."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

God VII


Humanism

With idols no longer possible what's left to worship? The answer depends
 upon your experience. With all the idols gone the true God remains, for those who can
meet him. For others the highest possible is the Human Form, and here Blake settled
before he came to see Jesus as God. He began by worshipping the Human Form, the
Highest and Best Imaginable, and in 1800 he recognized this Highest and Best in Jesus.
In terms of conventional theology Blake was a humanist before he became a commited
Christian. In "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' he loudly proclaimed his humanism:
"God only Acts and Is, in existing beings or Men". And a few pages later:
The worship of God is: Honouring his gifts in other men, each according to his genius,
and loving the greatest men best: those who envy or calumniate great men hate God; for
there is no other God.

According to Kathleen Raine it was "the central doctrine of the Swedenborgian New
Church that God can only be known in human form". Blake illustrated this with his
quatrain at the end of "Auguries of Innocence":

"God Appears and God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day."

Finally in his "Annotations to Berkeley's Siris", which he read about 1820, he wrote
"God is Man and exists in us and we in him" (E664). He was still a humanist, but his
humanism had gained a strong Christian dimension. Blake's argument against the
conventional images of God, from beginning to end, hinged upon their sub-human
nature. The biblical writers frequently ascribed to their God attitudes and behaviour
beneath the moral level of any self respecting human. God cannot be less than man;
therefore the appropriate response to such an image is derision, especially in the face of
the common credulous awe.

The spiritually open person, free of the common credulous awe and capable of a clear
eyed gaze at the Bible, no longer finds it possible to view all the biblical images as
portraying a God worthy of worship. Furthermore when one looks freely at the actions
of political and religious leaders of Christendom of the past 2000 years, it becomes
clear that they were often worshipping something other than the true God. Finally the
actions and attitudes of our contemporaries and even our own point to domination by a
vision that is something less than the Highest and Best. In his poetry Blake documents
these three observations with voluminous detail. They led to his ultimate evaluation of
the universal false God. The name he settled upon is refreshingly biblical and authentic:

"To the Accuser, who is
The God of this World
...
Tho' thou art Worship'd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus and Jehovah, thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Night's decline,
The Lost Traveller's Dream under the Hill."
(Epilogue to For the Sexes Gates of Paradise, Erdman 269)

Jesus had said it a long time before: "Why call ye me Lord, Lord...."

Monday, August 27, 2012

LIFE'S WORK III

Library of Congress
Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 10, Copy D


T. S. Eliot captures much of Blake's character and independent nature in this passage. Blake's lack of formal education under the tutelage of orthodox authorities contributed to the confidence he had in his own ability to create his own system based on his own experience. F
rom the chapter Twentieth-Century Criticism, (T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays) in Blake's Poetry and Designs, edited by Mary Lynn Johnson and John E Grant, we read:

"It is important that the artist should be highly educated in his own art; but his education is one that is hindered rather than helped by the ordinary processes of society which constitute education for the ordinary man. For these processes consist largely in the acquisition of impersonal ideas which obscure what we really are and feel, what we really want, and what excites our interest. It is of course not the actual information acquired, but the conformity which the accumulation of knowledge is apt to impose, that is harmful. Tennyson is a very fair example of a poet almost wholly encrusted with opinion, which wholly merged with his environment. Blake, on the other hand, knew what interested him, and he therefore presents only the essential, only, in fact, what can be presented and need not be explained. And because he was not distracted, or frightened, or occupied in anything but exact statements, he understood. He was naked, he saw man naked, and from the centre of his own crystal. To him there was no more reason why Swedenborg should be absurd than Locke. He accepted Swedenborg, and eventually rejected him, for reasons of his own. He approached everything with a mind unclouded by current opinions. There was nothing of the superior person about him. This makes him terrifying."
(Page 508)

Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 139)
"In the Eastern porch of Satans Universe Milton stood & said
...
Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches
Is to impress on men the fear of death; to teach
Trembling & fear, terror, constriction; abject selfishness
Mine is to teach Men to despise death & to go on
In fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn
Thy Laws & terrors, shaking down thy Synagogues as webs
I come to discover before Heavn & Hell the Self righteousness
In all its Hypocritic turpitude, opening to every eye
These wonders of Satans holiness shewing to the Earth
The Idol Virtues of the Natural Heart, & Satans Seat
Explore in all its Selfish Natural Virtue & put off
In Self annihilation all that is not of God alone:
To put off Self & all I have ever & ever Amen"

Sunday, August 26, 2012

God VI


With the conception of Urizen Blake began the most serious stage of his war with the
conventional God. In fact his battle with God provided the creative energy for the 
development of his entire mythology, particularly the series of poems known as the
Lambeth books and the first major attempt at an epic, 'The Four Zoas'. 'Milton' and 
'Jerusalem' were written after the battle was won. 

The 'Book of Urizen' is at one level a brutal burlesque of the Creation story found in 
Genesis. More properly it offers an alternative to the biblical story, based upon Neo- 
platonic metaphysics. Blake took the Gnostic demiurge, something much less than the 
Supreme Being, and merged it with the Old Testament God into a diabolic parody.

Tremendous meaning may doubtless be found in this book, the Genesis of Blake's Bible  
of Hell. Some knowledgeable interpreters see in it a superwise man offering supersubtle  
insight to the devotees and adepts who have pursued his truth. But a plain man's view
suggests that B.U. comes from the pen of an angry young man. Most of us have shut 
out youthful anger. We pass our days having closed off our consciousness from the
horror of life that surrounds us. In that way we can sleep at night and forget that we live 
in a filthy world, a place where ten year old children hang for trivial crimes and five 
year olds learn to climb the insides of tall back chimneys. Comparable things are
happening in our town today, but we simply don't dwell on those sorts of things; we
learn to be positive thinkers.

But men like Blake and Vincent van Gogh couldn't shut those images out. Van Gogh
died in an insane asylum. Blake had a more creative solution; he wrote the 'Book of
 Urizen'. Someone is finally and ultimately responsible for the horror of the world. He 
blamed God or rather the image of God projected by his fellow men. Anyone gifted 
with a real relationship with God has had similar feelings.

At the deepest level B.U. comes through as a cry of pain: the God who made this black
world in which we live in chains has to be a monster. And Blake offers some very
 imaginative ideas as to how he got that way. He fell from Eternity; he fell before
Creation; and then he created an awful mess. Then he gave us laws to live by that 
shrink us up more and more from what we might be. William Blake is noted for the 
Divine Vision. But B.U. is the diabolic vision, the Bible of Hell. Before ecstasy there is 
agony. In B.U. Blake poignantly articulates the darkness before the dawn. 

The really exciting thing about 'The Four Zoas' is the long incubation and eventual
 birth of Blake's new, positive image of God concurrent with the thorough and definite
 laying to rest of the old one. These realities become vivid once the reader gains
 sufficient familiarity with the material to see the underlying currents of spiritual
movement. If you like poetry, 4Z contains many beautiful lines interspersed throughout 
the nine Nights amidst long, bleak desert passages describing fallenness. The beautiful 
passages mark stirrings of the Spirit. (It has great similarity in fact to the style of Isaiah,  
who wrote the most beautiful parts of the O.T. surrounded by unrelieved darkness.)

Follow the speeches of Enion, the primeval mother of Los and Enitharmon. In Night i
 her children's increasing depravity and her maternal love lead her down into the abyss
of Non-entity, in her case an abyss of consciousness. She becomes a disembodied voice
 sounding a note of reality over the general fallenness as it progressively develops. Her
 comments throughout the action preserve the feeling of human oneness that will break
forth at the darkest hour. In Enion Blake found a new voice expressing a passionate
love that laments but doesn't excoriate, and a faith, evolved through suffering, that the
Divine Image will come to redeem. These of course are the most creative themes of the
Old Testament, slowly evolving out of its generally primitive theology. Enion's
speeches at the conclusion of Nights i, ii, and viii are too long to quote here, but they
contain some of the most sublime poetry Blake wrote and portend the emergence of the
new God of compassion.

In 4Z Blake elaborated and analyzed the God, Urizen, in the fullest detail; this version
contains less heat and more light than we found in B.U. Urizen symbolizes man's
thinking faculty; in the primary myth of the Fall he became estranged from his feelings.
This story is told at least six times in 4Z. Blake devoted Night ii to Urizen's creation of
a rocky, hard, opaque world of mathematical certainty and calculation. Anyone who has
spent time on a college campus has met people highly developed intellectually and
infantile emotionally. They lack the capacity to express any value more intense than
"very interesting". Many of course have denied that value has any meaning. Imagine
what kind of world they create, what spiritual climate they live in; there you have
Urizen.

He is a God devoid of true feeling; he has feelings, but they're all false. He continually
weeps, like the Old Testament God who wept as he punished people. He builds a world
of law, devoid of feeling, devoid of compassion, devoid of humanity. His world is
based upon fear of the future, and he attempts to secure himself against it at all costs.
Fear defines his character and his actions until the very end of the fallen world. In Night
viii Urizen is still fighting life and light. He sets out...to pervert all the faculties of
sense Into their own destruction, if perhaps he might avert His own despair even at the
cost of everything that breathes.

There you find a preview of the God of the superpowers. Their fear has become the
guiding principle leading them toward the destruction of "everything that breathes".
Urizen's initial downfall comes in Night iii. His emanation (in this case wife), Ahania,
 has followed Enion, the Earth Mother, into the abyss of consciousness. She tries to
share with Urizen a level of truth that he finds so unpleasant that he casts her out, and
promptly falls himself like Humpty Dumpty. In Ahania's vision we have a
psychologically acute and penetrating description of the incipience of a false God. It
ranks with the Bible's eloquent pre-psychological denunciations of idolatry, as found
for example in Isaiah 40. Blake re-used this passage in 'Jerusalem', attesting its
authenticity even on the illumined side of the Divine Vision:

"Then Man ascended mourning into the splendors of his palace,
Above him rose a Shadow from his wearied intellect
Of living gold, pure, perfect, holy; in white linen he hover'd,
A sweet entrancing self delusion, a wat'ry vision of Man
Soft exulting in existence, all the Man absorbing.
Man fell upon his face prostrate before the wat'ry shadow,
Saying, "O Lord, whence is this change? thou knowest I am nothing." ...
Idolatrous to his own Shadow, words of Eternity uttering:
"O I am nothing when I enter in judgment with thee.
"If thou withdraw thy breath I die and vanish into Hades;
"If thou dost lay thine hand upon me, behold I am silent;
"If thou withhold thine hand I perish like a fallen leaf.
"O I am nothing, and to nothing must return again.
"If thou withdraw thy breath, behold I am oblivion."

In this parody of the Psalmist Blake shows us a fundamental truth about man's image of
the transcendental God. He doesn't deny the reality of a transcendental God as some of
 his interpreters have concluded. He denies the truth of man's image of the
transcendental God, an entirely different matter.

He opposes the ascribing of qualities to the Wholly Other. According to Blake when
 that is done the result is something less than man. Worshipping this sub-human God
the worshipper becomes something less than man himself. He represses a portion of his
humanity, which Blake here calls Luvah, and that repressed portion falls upon him and
afflicts him with boils from head to toe. The penalty for idolatry is brokenness and
suffering, consciousness of sin, guilt, division, finitude, envy, the torments of love and
jealousy, the whole bit of man's unfortunate fallen circumstances. It's all caused by the
false God that man has chosen.

Isaiah understood a part of this; he recognized some of the idols of others but not his
 own. Thomas Altizer, in his book on Blake, rightly took this passage as a critical
revelation of the "death of God".

Man worships a shadow of his wearied intellect. No higher God is possible without the
wholeness that Christ brings. Worship of a shadow of our wearied intellect leads to all
the false and fatal evils that we visit upon one another from simple vanity to war.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

LIFE'S WORK II

This sketch was inscribed by John Linnell , 'at Hamstead Drawn by Mr Blake from the life. Intended as the Portrait of J. Linnell'.
For a better view of the picture: right click on image, select open in new window, click to enlarge.


National Gallery of Art, Washington
Rosenwald Collection
1825

Among the younger men who became Blake's friends later in his life, John Linnell (1792-1882) stands out. He was introduced to Blake in 1818 by a son of Blake's good long term friend George Cumberland. The two men, both artists, found that they enjoyed one another's company in spite of the difference of 35 years in their ages. One evidence of the regard they felt for each other is revealed in the copy of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell which Blake produced for Linnell in 1821. According to a statement in the Blake Archive, Blake took particular time and care in coloring and detailing a copy which he had printed thirty years previously. The effort Blake put into it was not reflected in the discount price at which the copy was sold to Linnell. Copy H of Marriage of Heaven & Hell can best be viewed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

It was to Linnell that Blake entrusted the manuscript of Four Zoas. Blake had worked on the manuscript for about ten years and developed much of his system of thought through writing it. Although Blake discontinued work on the Four Zoas in about 1808, he wanted to see it preserved not lost. Linnell and his descendants fulfilled their obligation and the manuscript resides in the British Library.
  

Letters, (E 778)
"To John Linnell Esqre, N 6 Cirencester Place,
Fitzroy Square
[Postmark: 2 July 1826]
My dearest Friend
     This sudden cold weather has cut up all my hopes by the
roots.  Everyone who knows of our intended flight into your
delightful Country concur in saying: "Do not Venture till summer
appears again".  I also feel Myself weaker than I was aware,
being not able as yet to sit up longer than six hours at a
time. & also feel the Cold too much to dare venture beyond my
present precincts.  My heartiest Thanks for your care in my
accomodation & the trouble you will yet have with me.  But I get
better & stronger every day, tho weaker in muscle & bone than I
supposed. As to pleasantness of Prospect it is All pleasant
Prospect at North End.  Mrs Hurd's I should like as well as
any--But think of the Expense & how it may be spared & never mind
appearances
     I intend to bring with me besides our necessary change of
apparel Only My Book of Drawings from Dante & one Plate shut up
in the Book.  All will go very well in the Coach. which at
present would be a rumble I fear I could not go thro.  So that
I conclude another Week must pass before I dare Venture upon what
I ardently desire--the seeing you with your happy Family once
again & that for a longer Period than I had ever hoped in my
health full hours
I am dear Sir
Yours most gratefully
WILLIAM BLAKE"


Friday, August 24, 2012

God V


When it comes to worship, commitment, ultimate allegiance, a person has basically two
choices. He may trust himself to whatever external authority has most forcibly grasped 
his mind. Or he may put his trust more fundamentally in his own conscience. The first 
choice, taken by the vast majority of mankind, has been called 'other directed'. "Pastor, 
tell us what we believe;" that phrase aptly reflects the theological stance of most of the 
devout. The second choice is largely confined to the prophet, the poet, the creative 
genius who shapes the thoughts of the rest of us. It's called 'inner directed'. Few men 
have been more inner directed than Blake. Though he had little impact upon the 
thoughts of the 18th Century, he may well shape those of the 21st.

In theology the concept of inner direction bears such names as the Living Word, the 
protestant principle, the inner light or New Light, and in the mystical tradition 
the Everlasting Gospel. In his pre-Christian days Blake referred to it as the Poetic 
Genius. His poetic genius appeared at age four with the face in the window, and more 
happily with the tree full of angels . Thereafter Blake's poetic genius drew him apart 
from the general theological views of mankind, dominated as they were by the 
materialism of the deists and the crass exploitation of the religious establishment. 
Henceforth he felt a fundamental distrust of convention and a correspondingly intense 
communion with the inner light.

The Poetic Genius provides the immediate vision which overthrows or supersedes the 
existing version of Truth. We have for example the accounts of the burning bush, the 
"Lord high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6), the fiery chariot with the strange wheels (Ezekiel). 
We have Stephen's vision of heaven as he was stoned, Paul's experience in the third 
heaven, John's visions on Patmos. We have the celestial cities of Augustine and 
Bunyan...and Blake's face in the window. All these immediate visions reformed or 
recreated or at the least significantly added to man's collective vision of God.

The poetic genius had little trouble disposing of the king's God. Blake's picture of 
George sitting in his papal dignity expresses such an immediate and elementary truth 
that it still does service on dormitory walls where sophomores cope with deans and 
presidents. The King's God represents the existing version of Truth; Blake's poetic 
genius will replace it with his own original visions, culminating in the first Vision of 
Light with Jesus, the Forgiveness.

Early Images of God:
       'Songs of Innocence' and 'Thel', both composed shortly before MHH, contain 
perhaps the most exquisite images of a benevolent God to be found in modern 
literature. Written by a man of 34, they vividly evoke the faith of a child like mind 
unsullied by the world. Writing them Blake performed the imaginative feat of a 
supreme artist able in vision to project his psyche back to the days before the Fall. 
Actually at this stage of his life Blake already had a keen awareness of the Fall, a mind 
deeply shadowed by it; but no trace of the shadows appears in these exquisite sacrifices 
of praise. It's as if with prescience that his art will shortly be submerged in visions of
fallen man and a fallen God, he paused for one preliminary glimpse of the Golden Age.

That pause brought a precious gift to mankind. The faith of the Clod can hardly be 
improved upon. The God in "The Little Black Boy", not so much in the imagined father 
as in the spirit of the child, has been a candle in the life of many a hard pressed pilgrim 
tempted to curse the darkness.

After 'Songs of Innocence' begin the curses. It may be worthwhile to curse the darkness 
if thereby we make someone aware of it. This was Blake's aim, like that of most social 
prophets. Dickens rubs our noses in the darkness over and over, and we're better men 
for having read him. Like Dicken's novels Blake's poems are full of darkness. From 
1790 to 1800 he directed our thoughts to the fallen God whom we worship, who 
promotes the darkness and calls it light.

Few or no specimens of humanity would stoop so low as to consign a fellow man to 
everlasting torment; any Being imagined to do such a thing must be at best subhuman. 
The worship of such a being is devil worship. In a poem on the French Revolution 
Blake descended to the crudest vulgarity in trying to put such a theological notion in its 
rightful place:
in Europe

"The King awoke on his couch of gold
As soon as he heard these tidings told
Then he swore a great and solemn Oath:
"To kill the people I am loth,
"But if they rebel, they must go to hell:
"They shall have a Priest and a passing bell."
Then old Nobodaddy aloft
Farted and belch'd and cough'd,
And said, "I love hanging and drawing and quartering
"Every bit as well as war and slaughtering.

"Damn praying and singing
"Unless they will bring in
"The blood of ten thousand by fighting or swinging
."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LIFE'S WORK

British Museum
Catherine Blake
1762 - 1831
by Frederick Tatham, Septr. 1828


Because Blake was convinced of the value of his work as a record of his visionary experience, he was careful to provide for its preservation. The quantity of his work which survives is testimony to his success. Often in his lifetime his work was sold to people who recognised the spiritual nature of his work and its value to posterity. Much of his work was maintained in his possession and passed to his wife Catherine on his death in August 1827. She continued to sell items during her lifetime but only if she thought her husband would have approved. Frederick Tatham received much of the residue of William's work on Catherine's death. 

Here is a letter by Tatham included in Discussions of William Blake edited by John E. Grant:

"To Francis Harvey, [dealer]
June 8, 1864

Dear Sir,
The MS  you purchased of me was part of the possessions into which I came by legacy from Mrs. Blake, the widow of that extraordinary and excellent man, William Blake, Visionary, Poet and Painter, who had a consummate knowledge of the great writers in all languages...His knowledge was immense, his industry beyond parallel, and his life innocent, simple and laborious, far beyond that of other men. Childlike, indomitable, proud, and humble, he carried out a sort of purpose in his life which seemed only to produce what was invisible to the natural eye, to the despising of things which are seen: he therefore became wild and his theories wanted solidity; but he was the most delightful and interesting man that ever an intellectual lover of art could spend a day with; and he died as he lived. He was much associated with many of the great men of the age in which he lived, and was meek and companionable with them...
Very faithfully yours,
Frederick Tatham "

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God IV


The conventional understanding of God is that he will get you and put you in a dark hot
place forever if you don't do exactly as you are told, by his priest of course. In 1741, 
sixteen years before Blake's birth, a New England divine named Jonathan Edwards
wrote and delivered a sermon which he named, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry 
God"; historians tell us that it scared literally thousands of people into the Christian 
church. A similiar vision of God has haunted multitudes before and after Blake even 
own to the present day. Besides the superstitious fear it has aroused, this understanding 
of God has contributed to oceans of blood shed by well meaning Christians through the 
ages.

Relating this conventional understanding to one of Blake's earliest experiences, his 
brief career in school yields a distinctive image of God as a Transcendental 
Schoolmaster. As soon as Blake reached the age of reason, he rejected such a God as
radically and uniquivocally as he had rejected the flesh and blood schoolmaster. He saw
such an image of God standing at the apex of a pyramid of human unhappiness, of 
exploitation, oppression, misery and hatred. He saw the divine right of kings and all 
those who derive their authority from the Crown. He saw their lackey priests extorting 
tithes from the people, collected by the 18th century equivalent of the IRS, and often 
giving little in return.

He saw the emerging divine right of industrialists to work seven year old children 
fourteen hours a day at hard labor and reward them with a pittance. This image of God 
was most horrendously embodied in the judges and executioners who disposed of the 
child criminals. He saw the press gangs with royal authority to capture and drug anyone 
lacking upper class credentials; their poor victims woke up aboard ship in a state of 
virtual slavery, and following the brave Roman tradition they learned to fear their 
officers more than the enemy. Blake felt an intense mystic union with the suffering 
masses and even the suffering masters: he knew that a prison officer has to be just as 
sick as the men he guards.

All these social programs were devised to teach poor devils to do what they were told, 
and behind them all stood the grim Transcendental Schoolmaster with the god sized 
birch rod. How could a self respecting person with any human sensitivity be other than 
an atheist! But Blake was never an atheist. Somehow he had to come to terms with God. 
If the above were a true representation of God, then he would rebel against God with 
his last breath. The young Blake identified with Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost: such a 
God is a sneaking serpent, and Blake would spend his life as "the just man raging in the 
wilds". Schizophrenia might be the normal reaction to certain social conditions.

The August Schoolmaster exists to enforce good and to prohibit or punish evil. The 
trouble with good and evil is that in this fallen world they are always defined by the 
man with the biggest stick. He of course sees himself as the likeness of God, God's 
earthly representative. So the most oppressive tyrant, the most colossal mass murderer, 
the most authentic Caesar becomes the Son of Heaven. The list is long and gruesome, 
and Blake knew his history.

Although he wouldn't dream of worshipping such a deity, Blake had no hesitancy about 
calling him God; he simply refused to call him a good God. Wide reading in Oriental, 
Greek, and Norse mythology had led him to an acquaintance with any number of 
malevolent gods. In his poetry he used these pagan images to flesh out the God of 
Wrath whom he found in the Old Testament. For perhaps fifteen years Blake's creative 
energies were largely expended in a conscious and deliberate overt rebellion against the 
conventional image of the Old Testament God. During those years he subjected that 
image to a searching and unique psychological analysis; it fills the pages of the Blake 
reader.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

JESUS THE IMAGINATION


The Ascension, c.1805-6


From Kathleen Raine's book, Golgonooza, City of Imagination, we can learn more of what Blake meant by 'Jesus the Imagination' and about the function of states in the journey through mortal life. Page 154-6

"But for Blake Jesus is something more specific: he is 'Jesus, the Imagination, the 'supreme state' of humanity which transcends, and releases from, all the states of good and evil through which human souls pass. The presence of Jesus the Imagination is with every man at all times present, born with every birth, accompanying every soul throughout life as the 'saviour' who releases the man from his present state. It is Satan, the Selfhood, who identifies the man with his present state; and who therefore is the Accuser who condemns; the Divine Humanity, Jesus the Imagination, is the ever-present way of release from the states. Imagination is called the 'savior' because the Person of the Divine Humanity is also able to:

'take away the imputation of Sin
By the Creation of States & the deliverance of Individuals
     Evermore Amen
 ...
But many doubted & despaird & imputed Sin & Righteousness       
To Individuals & not to States'
Jerusalem, Plate 25, (E 170)

'The Imagination is not a State: it is the Human Existence itself'
Milton Plate 33 [36],(E 132)

Both the heavens and the hells Blake saw as alike remote from this state, the heavens of the self-righteous condemning in in 'cruel holiness' the hells of the sinners; and he goes on to write:

'Yet they are blameless & Iniquity must be imputed only           
To the State they are enterd into that they may be deliverd:
Satan is the State of Death, & not a Human existence:
But Luvah is named Satan, because he has enterd that State.
A World where Man is by Nature the enemy of Man
Because the Evil is Created into a State. that Men               
May be deliverd time after time evermore.'

- and the passage concludes:

'Learn therefore O Sisters to distinguish the Eternal Human
That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe
Alternate! from those States or Worlds in which the Spirit travels:
This is the only means to Forgiveness of Enemies'  
Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 199) 
 
Human beings can be forgiven for they are not irrevocably 'evil' but can pass through many states, and the supreme state is the goal of all. ... Blake's own words best describe his vision of Jesus the Imagination as depicted in his Vision of the Last Judgement:
 
'Around the Throne Heaven is opend & the Nature of 
Eternal Things Displayd All Springing from the Divine Humanity 
All beams from him, as he himself has said, All 
dwells in him. He is the Bread & the Wine; he is the Water of 
Life.' 
Vision of Last Judgement,(E 561)"

Monday, August 20, 2012

God III


  We live in a secular age; the reality of God has been largely barred from

 the consciousness of most people. It is a significant experience for only a

 minority of the population. Of course many people understand that

 everyone has a God of some sort--his ultimate concern. But the biblical

 God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our

 Lord Jesus Christ, is not a live issue in the minds of very many people

 today. 


Our foremost modern psychologist, C.G.Jung, quite properly placed God in

 our unconscious and encouraged us to seek there for him. Jung understood

 very well Blake's statement that "all deities reside in the human breast" (end

 of Plate 11 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).


The secular currents so powerful today were already flowing strongly in

the late 18th Century in England. The prevalent deism put God back behind

 the present scene, a long way behind it. Strictly the Divine Architect,

 having made the world like a clock, he wound it up and left it to run on its

 own. He also left the deists to their own devices, and they were happy in 

this new freedom.  They felt that they had learned to control their destinies 

without divine assistance.


       Blake lived in the midst of these currents, but he opposed them

 emphatically. Unlike the deists he experienced the immediate presence and

 pervasive reality of God in his life. He completely filled his poetry and

 pictures alike with metaphysical images because his mind dwelt almost

 exclusively upon spiritual themes. The material realm interested him only

 as a shadow of the eternal. He abhored the materialism by which the deists

 lived. He might have been happier and more at home in the Middle Ages.


       But he was also a very modern man. He understood better than Jung

that an external objective God is an unknown quantity, a projection of

unsophisticated minds:


       "Mental things are alone Real....Where is the Existence Out of Mind or

 Thought? Where is it but in the mind of a Fool?" (Vision of the Last Judgment)

 (Erdman 565)

       The only God anyone can know is the image of God projected upon his

 mind or enclosed in his consciousness. Since time began, men have shared

 their visions of God with one another. All religions began in this way. The

 Bible makes most sense as an infinitely fascinating compendium of the

 visions of God shared by Moses, Isaiah, Paul and the other writers. This

 unfolding and composite vision has shaped western culture down to the

 present moment.

      Blake thoroughly surveyed this passing scene, not just the Bible, but

 every other religious document he could get his hands on, and related them

 all to his own direct and immediate visions. Over his lifetime he may have

 taken more liberties with God than any other systematic thinker ever did.

 He could do this because he so fully realized that all of these visions of God 

had come forth from human breasts like his own. Moses, Isaiah, and the

 others were his eternal brothers, and he joyously engaged with them in the

 eternal war, the intellectual war, which he called the "severe contentions of

 friendship"(J. 91:17).


       "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you"


       From the beginning Blake realized the close and intimate relationship

 between a person's image of God and his political views. The authoritarian

 image in some form finds favor with establishment types, authority figures

 and all others who perceive their welfare as dependent upon the status quo.

 These people feel threatened by unrest in the social levels below their own;

 they look to God, their primary symbol of authority, to control it. They

 impose this vision of God upon society, and they use their power to control

 and discourage alternative visions.


       Liberal types in contrast more likely entertain an image of a benevolent

 God, a God of mercy whose basic activity is not to control the lower classes

 but to lift them up, nurture the needy, provide for the poor, and protect

 them from the rapacious powerful.


       Blake found both types of men among the authors of the Bible; they

 project the two basic images of God side by side. His simplified schema of

 interpretation assigned to the two types the designations of priest and 

prophet. The priest upholds the authority of the past, the authority of

tradition. The prophet sees a burning bush and hears a new word which

 judges the authority and tradition of the priest and invokes a new scene,

new ideas, new forms, new life.


       Rather obviously Jesus belonged to the prophetic type. He had as a

 fundamental aim raising our consciousness of the benevolence of God. He

 incarnated God, and he was supremely benevolent to all but the priestly

 party. They suppressed him in the flesh, and in his resurrected body they

 have always attempted to remake him in their image. As he warned, they

 have used his name to control, suppress, and even exterminate large

 numbers of people who would not do as they were told. Blake's real

 mission in life, both before and after his Moment of Grace was to rescue

 the world's image of God from the preemption of the priestly party.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

TRANSFORMATION V

Letters, (E 722)
[To Thomas Butts, 22 November 1802],
...
"Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep"

  
In a letter to William Hayley of October 1804, Blake reports that he has suddenly been revisited by the ability to see as he had seen in his youth. Blake's familiar lines concerning fourfold vision clarify understanding about levels of vision which may operate in our minds. Actually achieving the ability to enter into the higher vision and allow it to be expressed through one's actions is more difficult. Apparently Blake came to realise his vision had become clouded by the conflicts within his mind and within his life. It was not until his eyes were opened at the Truchsessian Gallery that he knew what he had been missing in his perception and his execution.

Letters, (E756)
[To William Hayley]
[23 October 1804]
"O lovely Felpham, parent of Immortal
Friendship, to thee I am eternally indebted for my three years'
rest from perturbation and the strength I now enjoy.  Suddenly,
on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I
was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and
which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a
door and by window-shutters.  Consequently I can, with
confidence, promise you ocular demonstration of my altered state
on the plates I am now engraving after Romney, whose spiritual
aid has not a little conduced to my restoration to the light of
Art.  O the distress I have undergone, and my poor wife with me.
Incessantly labouring and incessantly spoiling what I had done
well.  Every one of my friends was astonished at my faults, and
could not assign a reason;
they knew my industry and abstinence from every pleasure for the
sake of study, and yet--and yet--and yet there wanted the proofs
of industry in my works.  I thank God with entire confidence that
it shall be so no longer--he is become my servant who domineered
over me, he is even as a brother who was my enemy.  Dear Sir,
excuse my enthusiasm or rather madness, for I am really drunk
with intellectual vision whenever I take a pencil or graver into
my hand, even as I used to be in my youth, and as I have not been
for twenty dark, but very profitable years.  I thank God that I
courageously pursued my course through darkness"
Blake's image sometimes referred to as Glad Day, sometimes as Albion Rose, represents a youth who is filled with the exuberance of allowing imagination to flow through him and to be expressed in his body, mind and spirit. When Blake engraved this image in approximately 1805 it was a copy of colored engravings from 1796 (included in the Large Book of Designs for Ozias Humphrey). But Blake dated his later engraving 'inv 1780', the year he had first made sketches of the rejoicing, spirit-filled youth. This was a signal that the image represented the return to clarity of vision he experienced before there was a closing 'as by a door and by window-shutters' of his ability to be enlightened with the light he enjoyed in his youth.

National Gallery of Art
The Dance of Albion (Glad Day) 
c. 1803/1810
Rosenwald Collection
http://www.britishmuseum.org/collectionimages/AN00015/AN00015440_001_l.jpg
British Museum
Large Book of Designs, 1796
Glad Day


Another indication that Blake associated this image with his emerging back into the light after a long period of obscured vision is the inscription on the engraving:
'Albion rose from where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc'd the dance of Eternal Death'. The contrast in in this inscription is between laboring as a slave and giving oneself freely to the Nations in this paradoxical life/death of experience.

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 134,(E 402)
"Let the slave grinding at the mill run out into the field
Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air
Let the inchaind soul shut up in darkness & in sighing           
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years
Rise & look out his chains are loose his dungeon doors are open
And let his wife & children return from the opressors scourge
They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream
Are these the Slaves that groand along the streets of Mystery    
Where are your bonds & task masters are these the prisoners

Where are your chains where are your tears why do you look around
If you are thirsty there is the river go bathe your parched limbs
The good of all the Land is before you for Mystery is no more

Then All the Slaves from every Earth in the wide Universe        
Sing a New Song drowning confusion in its happy notes
While the flail of Urizen sounded loud & the winnowing wind of Tharmas
So loud so clear in the wide heavens & the song that they sung was this
Composed by an African Black from the little Earth of Sotha

Aha Aha how came I here so soon in my sweet native land
How came I here Methinks I am as I was in my youth

PAGE 135 
When in my fathers house I sat & heard his chearing voice
Methinks I see his flocks & herds & feel my limbs renewd
And Lo my Brethren in their tents & their little ones around them

The song arose to the Golden feast the Eternal Man rejoicd"

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
"Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.   
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies"
Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 254)
"Her 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."

Letters, (E 766)
To William Hayley Esqre, Felpham
Decembr 11. 1805
...
"I speak of Spiritual Things.  Not of
Natural. of Things known only to Myself & to Spirits Good &
Evil. but Not Known to Men on Earth.  It is the passage thro
these Three Years that has brought me into my Present State. & I
know that if I had not been with You I must have
Perish'd--"