WILLIAM BLAKE: GOLDEN STRING

Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

OPENING A CENTER

First posted Aug 2011. 

I came across this review of Fearful Symmetry which had been written in 1947 the year the book was published. My surprise was in learning that the review had been written by a man who was our friend from 1988 to 2007. Larry has written of Alfred in the post titled Severe Contentions of Friendship. It does my heart good to make a connection among Blake, Frey and Friend Alfred Ames.
Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947
Review by Alfred C. Ames

“The whole purpose of this book . . . is to establish Blake as a typical poet and his thinking as typically poetic thinking” [426], says Professor Frye at the end of Fearful Symmetry.
In the past twenty years, there have been many other expositions of Blake’s visions, succeeding Foster Damon’s pioneering specific commentary and annotation. . . . None of these other books should be permitted to jostle Fearful Symmetry aside. Frye, as no other before him, develops Blake as a “typical poet”; he intends his book to be not only a vade mecum for the students of Blake, but for the larger body of the students of poetry.
 

Frye conducts his ambitious study with unflagging energy, great enthusiasm, and immense
erudition. Random dipping into the volume would be frightening, and passages quoted out of context might well appear cabalistic. Read straight through in sequence, however, Fearful symmetry is a lucid if exacting book.
 

The typical poet, Frye believes, as he becomes wiser becomes less lyrical and more didactic, progressively rejecting the “cloven fictions” that delight and instruction are separable objectives and that subject and object of experience are discrete entities. The poet becomes a visionary, perceiving and pointing out an archetypal vision of creation, fall, redemption, and apocalypse. The business of the visionary is “to proclaim the Word of God to society under the domination of Satan” [336]. What the Word of God is according to Blake, Frye asserts, is what the Word of God is according to Job, the Hebrew prophets, the framers of Greek or Icelandic myth, Spenser, Milton, Keats, or other great authentic poets. In escaping selfhood and attaining vision, we readers of poetry will “become what we behold, for the image of God is the form of human life, and the reality of ourselves” [401].
 

Blake differs from Shakespeare, for example, not in the profundities, which are common in
both, but on the surface. “Homer and Shakespeare are not superficial, but they do possess a surface, and reward superficial reading more than it deserves” [421]. The lack of “surface” in Blake’s prophetic books prohibits superficial reading. Blake created his own system, as precise utterance of his vision required. He despised empirical logic rooted in sense perceptions, but his own system has the rigor and generality prized by logicians. The difficulty is in the fact that his allegorical symbols are unfamiliar. Either they have a meaning defined largely by their places in the system, or they are meaningless. Thus Blake compels his reader to learn the grammar of his visions.
 

Frye in this book achieves substantial stature as student and teacher of the grammar of large-scale poetic vision. The vision, embracing the pre-Adamic fall (in which the whole natural universe is involved) and an apocalypse beyond history, is not to be had within the cave of shadows, but is vouchsafed only to “the man with an opened center” [349]. The careful and sympathetic reader of Fearful Symmetry will have great openings."
Wikimedia Commons
Watercolor Illustration to Young's 
Night Thoughts

Milton, PLATE 28 [30], (E 126)
"The Sons of Ozoth within the Optic Nerve stand fiery glowing
And the number of his Sons is eight millions & eight.
They give delights to the man unknown; artificial riches
They give to scorn, & their posessors to trouble & sorrow & care,
Shutting the sun. & moon. & stars. & trees. & clouds. & waters.
And hills. out from the Optic Nerve & hardening it into a bone
Opake. and like the black pebble on the enraged beach.
While the poor indigent is like the diamond which tho cloth'd
In rugged covering in the mine, is open all within
And in his hallowd center holds the heavens of bright eternity
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Severe Contentions of Friendship

First posted May 2010. 
Milton, Plate 41 [48], (E 142)  
"These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.
Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair
Is this our Feminine Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro." 

And from Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought.
He who would see the Divinity must see him in his Children
One first, in friendship & love; then a Divine Family, & in the midst
Jesus will appear;" 

Alfred Ames, son of a Congregational minister in Kansas, found a better faith (for himself) in a college in Illinois when he became a Quaker. He was a man of principle and a flaming liberal, one of his principles being an abhorrence of violence; in the early forties he was spared 'conscientious objection' by a medical diagnosis of flat feet.

During the war his Quaker Meeting was dominated by a man with contrary principles: his son was a Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps. This dominating 'Quaker' tired of Alfred's youthful fulminations against violence, asked Alfred to cease, and failing that, not to come to the Meeting. But this did not deter Alfred from faithful attendance. At that point the older Friend told the younger one that if he continued he would dissolve the meeting and reassemble in some location unknown to Alfred; however that ploy didn't work.

Wikimedia Commons
Illustration to Young's Night Thoughts
Alfred was well on his way to becoming a professional controversialist (he called himself that in later years). In due course he got his PhD in English Lit and began to teach. However somehow he found his way onto the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune (a notoriously conservative newspaper), and eventually in charge of the editorial page, something that mystified anyone who came to know him. He served there for 30 years, much to the consternation of his many liberal friends.

Although apparently not well acquainted with Blake, Ames was a true Blakean in this sense: he enjoyed the severe contentions of friendship; as a consequence his friends among the Friends were rare, but hearty.
  
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Like Alfred Ames, Blake's friendships were few, but hearty. He also counted two kinds of friendship: corporeal and spiritual: corporeal friends want you to do well in their thought-world, their tribe. Blake had a fair number of (what we call 'fair-weather') friends who wanted him to go along with the Arts estalishment.

Chief of these was a affluent poetaster named William Hayley: "With genuine good intentions Hayley tried to cure Blake of his unprofitable and unseemly enthusiasms and secured him commissions for safely genteel projects - painting ladies' fans, for example" (from http://www.answers.com/topic/william-blake). Blake might have said, I can deal with my enemies, but God protect me from my friends; or better he might have quoted scripture as usual; as Jesus said, "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household". Hayley was supporting Blake, but Blake gave up that relationship, and began to write the sublime poetry of his later years.

Spiritual friends were another matter for Blake; he had several, but Captain Butts was the most outstanding. To him we owe the Illustrations to the Book of Job, celebrated by Christians and psychologists alike. A spiritual friend values you for who you are, recognizes your gifts and became an enabler. When the role is called up yonder, they are the ones we find closest to us.
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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Blake's Style

Throughout the 19th Century the works of William Blake suffered almost total neglect. His message simply surpassed contemporary currents of thought. A voracious reader, Blake mastered (and used) the symbology of the Bible, Plato, the Neoplatonists, Greek mythology, Paracelsus, Boehme, and who knows what else.

During the 20th century his reputation as a poet and thinker steadily grew. His most popular collection of poems, 'Songs of Innocence and Experience', has won general recognition as a classic.

Blake's three largest works, called the major prophecies, still offer technical difficulties that may defeat the casual reader. Once they were thought to represent the eccentric vagaries of an unbalanced mind; many people considered Blake insane. Intensive Blake scholarship over the past eighty years has slowly deciphered the cryptograms and clarified (at least some of) the mysteries.

What had seemed the most insane passages often proved on closer examination to be the most rational and meaningful. A growing body of translation and interpretation has made the major prophecies accessible and rewarding to the reader willing to take reasonable pains with them. They are now about as accessible to the general reader as is the Bible. Those who share Blake's values (spiritual, psychological, political, religious, etc.) will certainly find it easier to enjoy than the generality of the population.

A systematic acquaintance with Blake's literary peculiarities will enhance the reader's enjoyment of his poetry. This chapter introduces a few guiding principles of his thought processes and literary and artistic style. First of all we should note that Blake combined word and picture in a unique synthesis.

Although he wrote unadorned poems and painted wordless pictures, his primary mode of expression was the illuminated manuscript, an intimate blend of graphic and verbal art. To provide a full exposition of this unique double form is beyond the modest goal of this work; the illuminated form is simply mentioned as a most distinctive facet of Blake's art.

One simple clue to reading Blake concerns his use of dialogue; he spoke with many voices. He exercised this freedom especially with the larger prophecies, the three major works. These on first reading may seem to present insuperable difficulties, but the reader who pays close attention to the identity of the speaker at each point may thereby break down the forest into manageable groves of trees. In his three long poems Blake gave titles to various elements or speeches; they became units, landmarks or guideposts, casting light on what at first seemed general confusion.

In Night I of The Four Zoas for example we find Enitharmon's Song of Death, the "Nuptial Song" of the "demons of the deep", and the message of the Daughters of Beulah, which they call the "Wars of Death Eternal". These three songs comprise three of the many selves of the human psyche; needless to say their ideas and attitudes vary immensely. They all describe the same event, but they see it, oh, so differently. They use the same words with different meanings. For example consider that what the daughters call "Death Eternal" the demons call marriage. In this way Blake challenges the reader and stretches his mind and immensely rewards whoever will accept the challenge. He gives us the end of a golden string.

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 13, (E 308)
"And Los & Enitharmon sat in discontent & scorn
The Nuptial Song arose from all the thousand thousand spirits  
Over the joyful Earth & Sea, and ascended into the Heavens
For Elemental Gods their thunderous Organs blew; creating
Delicious Viands. Demons of Waves their watry Eccho's woke!
Bright Souls of vegetative life, budding and blossoming    
Page 14
Stretch their immortal hands to smite the gold & silver Wires
And with immortal Voice soft warbling fill all Earth & Heaven.
With doubling Voices & loud Horns wound round sounding
Cavernous dwellers fill'd the enormous Revelry, Responsing!
And Spirits of Flaming fire on high, govern'd the mighty Song.   

And This the Song! sung at The Feast of Los & Enitharmon"
---------------------------------


In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (the 2nd Memorable Fancy) Blake placed in the mouth of Ezekiel a statement of his own primary purpose as an artist and as a man, "the desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite". That basic aim pervades Blake's art; he was supremely interested in what he called the infinite or the eternal, and he believed that every man has access to it through his imagination.





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Friday, July 13, 2018

Blake's Urizen

First posted Feb 2011.
Wikimedia Commons
America
Plate 10

 

Blake's Urizen!


Yes, Blake had one-- the Urizen within; we all have one: the thinking component of our psyche. We can only begin to understand Blake when we realize that his IQ had to be frightening. You and I might have a sudden thought; Blake had an Explosion-- of Urizen or Luvah, either one and sometimes all together. The average person wants nothing to do with such an individual (that means of course that if you read this, you are Not average.


Blake's mind was infinitely expansible-- and contractable, as in Plate 55 of Jerusalem (E205):
"Let the Human Organs be kept in their perfect Integrity
At will Contracting into Worms, or
Expanding into Gods
.........
"Such are these Ulro Visions, for tho we sit down within
The plowed furrow, listning to the weeping clods till we
Contract or Expand Space at will: or if we raise ourselves
Upon the chariots of the morning. Contracting or Expanding Time!
Every one knows, we are One Family! One Man blessed for ever"

(But the Heavenly Visions know nothing of time or space; those are artifacts of the World.)

"Damn braces Bless relaxes." (MHH plate 9; Erdman 37)
 

In MHH Blake's Energy and Creativity ran away with him; he despised restraints: turn out all the stops; put the volume pedal on the floor. MHH is shocking in the Nth degree, frightening! All his life his problem was self-control (the last of the Gifts of the Spirit). He had no desire for Self-control.

Galations (Phillips Translation)
5:22-25 - The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control - and no law exists against any of them.
 
Lucky for Blake he had a wife, a good and faithful wife: indulgent, but she had a limit. (If Nietzsche and Van Gogh had achieved a successful marriage, they might have flamed out so early.)

So as we see Blake had a Urizen within. Urizen believed in Control; he gave the Law, and Blake fought him. He also had a Luvah within. Blake fought the first battle with the struggle between Urizen and Luvah; it was a power struggle between the two inner 'gods', and eventually they made
a deal: Urizen, the Light Bearer, gave the Sun to Luvah (Luvah took over the South, while Urizen moved to the North (For a while Blake seemed free from the Law and gave himself up to Feeling).
"When man lives by Urizen's 'beast-formed science' he is in nonexistence. The change from nonexistence to existence - the change from Satan to Christ" (William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Percival, Page 231) 
It was a fragile arrangement; Luvah, like Icarus, got too close to the Sun and crashed. Meanwhile Urizen continued his (false) Creation. He went from bad to worse. In his rocky creation he look ahead; Futurity terrified him, took all his ego and left him a quivering failure. Los came in and subdued him (which seems to represent Blake's Imagination getting the best of his fears).

Once Los had won the battle he found his hatred of Urizen melting away; he found he loved him; he rehabilitated him, so that Urizen was now able to recognize and accept a New Lord.

In Jerusalem 98 Blake told of the final reconciliation of Urizen, Luvah, Urthona, and Tharmas. It is the Apocalypse, the End of Eternal Death leading to Eternal Life, when we graduate from Mortal Life, all is United into the One Man (
as in John 17:21).
 
Jerusalem, Plate 97,
 "So spake the Vision of Albion & in him so spake in my hearing   
The Universal Father. Then Albion stretchd his hand into Infinitude.
And took his Bow. Fourfold the Vision for bright beaming Urizen
Layd his hand on the South & took a breathing Bow of carved Gold
Luvah his hand stretch'd to the East & bore a Silver Bow bright shining
Tharmas Westward a Bow of Brass pure flaming richly wrought   
Urthona Northward in thick storms a Bow of Iron terrible thundering.
And the Bow is a Male & Female & the Quiver of the Arrows of Love,
Are the Children of this Bow: a Bow of Mercy & Loving-kindness:  laying
Open the hidden Heart in Wars of mutual Benevolence Wars of Love
And the Hand of Man grasps firm between the Male & Female Loves  
And he Clothed himself in Bow & Arrows in awful state Fourfold"
Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257) 
"The Four Living Creatures Chariots of Humanity Divine Incomprehensible
In beautiful Paradises expand These are the Four Rivers of Paradise 
And the Four Faces of Humanity fronting the Four Cardinal Points
Of Heaven going forward forward irresistible from Eternity to Eternity

And they conversed together in Visionary forms dramatic which bright
Redounded from their Tongues in thunderous majesty, in Visions
In new Expanses, creating exemplars of Memory and of Intellect  
Creating Space, Creating Time according to the wonders Divine
Of Human Imagination,"
 
John 17
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 
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Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Turning Point



First Posted July 2010.
The Moment of Grace

Life is made up of turning points, but if you're fortunate, somewhere along life's crooked path you may take a most significant turning point to the right:

The parable of the prodigal son is archetypal; we can focus on similar occurrences since Jesus spoke those words.

Wikimedia Commons

Songs of Innocence and of Experience 

Plate 45

Luke 15
 

[17]
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my
father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
[18] I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
[19] And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
[20]
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way
off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his
neck, and kissed him.





That Moment in our poet's life has for me an endless fascination. Blake might have been a famous man, teacher to the Royal Family, world renowned artist; he might have dedicated his life to the Main Chance, but he found a better way. The critical Moment (the darkness before the dawn) came after Hayley had given William and Catherine a comfortable cottage and a comfortable care free life as a miniaturist, but "he came to himself". He returned to London, penniless, but free. Thereafter the main chance ceased to be a temptation. Blake celebrated that decisive Moment in letter 16 to his true (spiritual) friend, Captain Butts.


Letters, Letter 16, (E 713)

"To my Friend Butts I write
     My first Vision of Light
     On the yellow sands sitting
     The Sun was Emitting
     His Glorious beams
     From Heavens high Streams
     Over Sea over Land
     My Eyes did Expand
     Into regions of air
     Away from all Care
     Into regions of fire
     Remote from Desire
     The Light of the Morning
     Heavens Mountains adorning
     In particles bright
     The jewels of Light
     Distinct shone & clear--
     Amazd & in fear
     I each particle gazed
     Astonishd Amazed
     For each was a Man
     Human formd...

     These are guards of My Fold
     O thou Ram hornd with gold"

He also mentioned it in another letter to William Hayley....


Letters, Letter 51, (E 756)
"I have entirely reduced that spectrous Fiend to his station, whose annoyance has been the ruin of my labours for the last passed twenty years of my life. He is the enemy of conjugal love and is the Jupiter of the Greeks, an iron-hearted tyrant, the ruiner of ancient Greece.......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."

The imprint of that Moment fills the pages of his poetry:
In the 9th Night of The Four Zoas you may read of the regeneration and awakening of Vala, the "sinless soul", the incorrigible female. (This passage owes a lot to the Greek myth, Cupid and Psyche.)


Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 128, (E 397)
"So spoke the Sinless Soul & laid her head on the downy fleece 
Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day

Then Luvah passed by & saw the sinless Soul
And said   Let a pleasant house arise to be the dwelling place
Of this immortal Spirit growing in lower Paradise" 

After the Moment of Grace annihilation of the Selfhood became a primary theme for Blake. In Milton he put these words in the mouth of the hero returned from Heaven, addressed to Ololon, his emanation:

Milton Plate 40 [46], (E 142)

"But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton Replied. 

Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated
That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery
There is a Negation, & there is a Contrary
The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
Plate 41 [48]:
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration"
 
Milton is a difficult poem, but Blake must have written it shortly after his Moment of Grace.

Blake celebrated the (miraculous?) turning point of Odysseus (my, your, Albion's, Everyman's) with his famous Arlington Tempera, called the Circle of Destiny.

In Blake's poetry, which is above all autobiographical, he marked the moment of truth for Los and all the rest of his characters who made up various elements of his psyche, of mine, yours or Albion's.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Symbolism

First posted Sep 2011.

A most significant key to Blake's symbolism came to light only in 1947 when Arlington Court was bequeathed to the British National Trust. Among the furnishings there was a large tempera by Blake, called alternatively The Sea of Time and Space or The Cave of the Nymphs. This treasure had been hidden from public eyes for a century.

(Most of us are unlikely to see the original, but Blake and Antiquity by Kathleen Raine offers several glimpses of the picture with a detailed account of the symbols it contains. There is no better way to begin an understanding of Blake at the deeper level than to read carefully and study this small and accessible book.)
 
The picture contains the essential symbolism of Blake's myth; the theme goes back to Homer, then to Plato and Porphyry. (To understand Blake's myth one would be well advised to study this link with care--at least the first part of Taylor's article.)

 Blake and Taylor were approximately the same age and as young men close friends. Many people think that Taylor introduced Blake to the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions. It seems certain that Taylor's On the Homeric Cave of the Nymphs deeply influenced the painting of the Arlington Tempera. It also introduced a great number of the most common symbols used in Blake's myth; they were used over and over throughout Blake's work.   
University of Adilaide
Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Plate 4

Another good introduction to Blake's myth is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. It comes from an angry young man pouring his scorn on the conventions that cripple us; the language is pungent, the words are pointed, provocative, and outrageous.
  
 A conventional person will find this whole work offensive and repulsive, but the young person at the stage of life where he's ready to kick over the traces, is quickly attracted -- if he has enough wit to understand irony and not take everything at face value.
  
We might call it an ironic satire. In 1789 Blake was 32, at the height of his physical (though perhaps not mental) powers. He had experienced the Divine Vision.
 
 He knew it was meant for mankind, although so far limited to Jesus and a few others. But with the advent of the French Revolution he foresaw its spread throughout the world. (Of course in that he was soon doomed to disappointment-- with the appearance of Madame Guillotine.) Nevertheless with a peak of spiritual exuberance he proceeded to announce the coming New Age:
    "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.... If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. (Plate 14 of MHH)
       For this gem Blake drew upon Genesis and Plato.   Blake knew that the Divine Vision depended upon your ability to avert your eyes and attention from the material and to focus upon the Spiritual, the Eternal, which can only dwell in the Imagination (for Blake the Imagination was everything!). The society of Blake's day uniformly failed to do that, as does ours! Blake desperately, emphatically, and continuously endeavoured to awaken us to a spiritual consciousness, to break the 'mind forg'd manacles'.
  
Pursuant to this aim:
    "How do you know but every bird that cuts the air Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?" (MHH, Plate 7, (E 35))
And look at Plate 13:
    "I then asked Ezekiel. why he eat dung, and lay so long on his right and left side? he answered, "the desire of raising other men into a perception of the Infinite". (E 39|
       Back in 1788 with There is No Natural Religion he had disposed of a sense-based consciousness as any kind of arbiter of the meaning of life:
    "Man's perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception. He percieves more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover." (There Is No Natural Religion, (E 2))
       Look at Section VII of NNR. Reason or the ratio are his terms for confining one's mental activity to the senses. And he thought less and less of it as he grew older. In notes on Vision of the Last Judgment he wrote:
       "I assert for myself that I do not behold the Outward Creation and that to me it is hindrance and not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me.
       What it will be Question'd When the Sun rises do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea? O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty." (Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)

 On MHH (Plate 16) Blake tells us about the prolific (prophetic types, creative people who grasp the Eternal) and the devouring (those who worship the created good). Of course he counted himself among the prolific. John Middleton Murry has pointed out that in this moment of the everlasting 'good-and-evil' in which we live Blake may have projected the 'evil' upon the public who had uniformly ignored him. Murry suggested that it was a necessary "moment in his life".
   
If that be true, we have the record of the moment when Blake "came to himself" to the point where he confessed that his Selfhood continued to dominate him. He eventually came to realize that one cannot operate in the Sea of Time and Space without the Selfhood; thus he faced the necessity to continually annihilate and regenerate it with his alternation between Heaven and this vale of tears in which we live. (As Christians understand, the selfhood is brought into subjection and becomes the servant of the Self (Christ)).
   
 In Plate 24 he promised to the world the Bible of Hell. John Middleton Murry described it as follows:
The first book of these, The Book of Urizen is to a large degree a parody of Genesis. The Book of Ahania corresponds precisely to Exodus. The third book is The Book of Los (1795).

MHH was prior to Blake's myth proper, like a preamble or preface. It defines ideas and terms that are to be understood as the myth evolves, a special language you have to learn to get into the major works - The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem.

(This is a portion of Chapter Ten of the Blake Primer.)
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Clod of Clay

First posted March 2010.

Blake's myth posits our pre-existence, like Thel in the pastoral Vale of Har; we all choose material, temporal life. That's why we're here-- for a time! Eventually we will return--whether we will or not.

But like Thel the choice was ours; we chose life; she declined.

Why do those in the 'above' choose mortal life? Who can say? Some do; some don't.

Thel explored the option. She found the end of mortal life fearsome. With a screech she forsook the world and presumably returned to Har.

--------------------------------------
For Blake everything is a man: rocks, clouds, all creatures, the whole Creation"
"Cities are Men....and Rivers & Mountains are also Men; everything is Human, mighty! sublime!" (Jerusalem, Plate 34 [38], E 180)

Also lilies, clouds, worms, a Clod of Clay.


Wikimedia Commons
Book of Thel
Plate 6
In Thel we meet the Lilly, the Cloud, the Worm, the Clod of Clay. The last one had this to say:
Book of Thel, Plate 4, (E 5)
"...on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes;
'O beauty of the vales of Har, we live not for ourselves.
Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed:
My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark,
But he that loves the lowly pours his oil upon my head,
And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,
And says: "Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee,
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away."
But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
I ponder, and I cannot ponder, yet I live and love.'

Such a beautiful passage! the 'Clod of Clay' is the mother of God's children, 'he that loves the lowly'. God promises to redeem the entire Creation. ("the whole Creation groans in travail ......waiting for the Redemption" (Romans 22).
------------------------------------
"Cities are Men, fathers of multitudes, and Rivers & Mount[a]ins Are also Men; every thing is Human, mighty! sublime! (Jerusalem, Plate 34, E 180)

And from Milton, Plate 22, (E 117):

"Six Thousand Years
Are finishd. I return! both Time & Space obey my will.
I in Six Thousand Years walk up and down: for not one
Moment Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent.
But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years
Remains permanent: tho' on the Earth where Satan
Fell, and was cut off all things vanish & are seen no more
They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last.
The generations of men run on in the tide of Time
But leave their destind lineaments permanent for ever & ever."

You could construct an elaborate and beautiful cosmology out of that idea:

Jerusalem Plate 99, (E 258):

"All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. all
Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied
Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality."

When we've completely annihilated our Selfhood, our journey is complete:
"When once I did descry the immortal man who cannot die Through evening shades I haste away to close the labors of my day." Gates of Paradise, (E 269)
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