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.

Monday, September 24, 2018

GREATEST HITS 5

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 7, (E 35)
 "How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"
Wikimedia Commons 
Illustration to Poems of Thomas Gray
Ode to Spring
The phrase in context:
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 6 & 7, (E 35)
 "A Memorable Fancy.                        

   As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the 
enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and
insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs: thinking that as
the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs
of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any
description of buildings or garments.
   When I came home; on the abyss of the five senses, where a
flat  sided steep frowns over the present world. I saw a mighty
Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock,
with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now
percieved by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.   

   How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"
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Sunday, September 23, 2018

GREATEST HITS 4

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 50)
"Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!"  
Wikipedia Commons  
Illustrations to Blair's The Grave
The phrase in context: 
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7 & 8, (E 50)
"Oothoon shall view his dear delight, nor e'er with jealous cloud
Come in the heaven of generous love; nor selfish blightings bring.

Does the sun walk in glorious raiment. on the secret floor  
Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop
On his stone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings
Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself
Beside the ox to thy hard furrow?  does not that mild beam blot
The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night.      
The sea fowl takes the wintry blast. for a cov'ring to her limbs:
And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold.
And trees. & birds. & beasts. & men. behold their eternal joy.
Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!"
 
Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34, (323)
"At the first Sound the Golden sun arises from the Deep
And shakes his awful hair
The Eccho wakes the moon to unbind her silver locks              
The golden sun bears on my song
And nine bright spheres of harmony rise round the fiery King

The joy of woman is the Death of her most best beloved
Who dies for Love of her
In torments of fierce jealousy & pangs of adoration.             
The Lovers night bears on my song
And the nine Spheres rejoice beneath my powerful controll

They sing unceasing to the notes of my immortal hand
The solemn silent moon
Reverberates the living harmony upon my limbs                   
The birds & beasts rejoice & play
And every one seeks for his mate to prove his inmost joy

Furious & terrible they sport & rend the nether deeps
The deep lifts up his rugged head
And lost in infinite humming wings vanishes with a cry         
The fading cry is ever dying
The living voice is ever living in its inmost joy

Arise you little glancing wings & sing your infant joy
Arise & drink your bliss
For every thing that lives is holy for the source of life        
Descends to be a weeping babe
For the Earthworm renews the moisture of the sandy plain

Now my left hand I stretch to earth beneath
And strike the terrible string
I wake sweet joy in dens of sorrow & I plant a smile             
In forests of affliction
And wake the bubbling springs of life in regions of dark death"

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

GREATEST HITS 3

INTRODUCTION 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 7, (E 35) 
"Eternity is in love with the productions of time."
   

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 
 

Friday, September 21, 2018

GREATEST HITS 2

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 14 (E 39) 
 "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." 
Wikipedia Commons
Large Book of Designs 
Albion Rose

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

GREATEST HITS 1

There are various short passages in Blake (as there are in the Bible, in Shakespeare, in Dickens and in other favorite pieces of literature) which lodge in our memories and are recalled at appropriated times to lead us, to strengthen us or to reinforce our resolve. I've chosen some of these statement and added an image to each to further reinforce their power to be a part of the intuitive resources which influence our living.
 Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
Built in Jerusalems wall."
 
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
 
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Monday, September 17, 2018

JOY & SORROW

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
It is impossible to avoid adversity. In every life rain falls, pain is experienced, struggles are encountered, disappointments threaten to overwhelm. If something can't be avoided, it must be assimilated and integrated.

The fabric of life is woven from multiple threads which come from diverse sources. It is not ours to select the threads which form the warp and woof providing the texture of the fabric. The woof is the basic ingredients which are given as the individual's inherited circumstances. The warp is the path that the individual travels as he moves along through life. From these threads we weave those outward appearances from which our self-perception is formed. We present this to the world as our persona but it is only a covering for the essential being which is the Eternal Soul. 
Letters, To William Hayley, October 7. 1803 (E 736)
"Yet I laugh & sing for if on Earth neglected I am in
heaven a Prince among Princes & even on Earth beloved by the Good
as a Good Man   this I should be perfectly contented with but at
certain periods a blaze of reputation arises round me in which I
am considerd as one distinguishd by some mental perfection but
the flame 
soon dies again & I am left stupified & astonishd   O that I
could live as others do in a regular succession of Employment
this wish I fear is not to be accomplishd to me--Forgive this
Dirge-like lamentation over a dead horse & now I have lamented
over the dead horse let me laugh & be merry with my friends till
Christmas for as Man liveth not by bread alone I shall live altho
I should want bread--nothing is necessary to me but to do my Duty
& to rejoice in the exceeding joy that is always poured out on my
Spirit. to pray that my friends & you above the rest may be made
partakers of the joy that the world cannot conceive that you may
still be replenishd with the same & be as you always have been a
glorious & triumphant Dweller in immortality.  Please to pay for
me my best thanks to Miss Poole tell her that I wish her a
continued Excess of Happiness--some say that Happiness is not
Good for Mortals & they ought to be answerd that Sorrow is not
fit for Immortals & is utterly useless to any one a blight never
does good to a tree & if a blight kill not a tree but it still
bear fruit let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the
blight."

Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)
"It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine 
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands 
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight"
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Friday, September 14, 2018

PLOT OF JERUSALEM


Library of Congress
Jerusalem
Plate 81
If we find ourselves getting bogged down in details reading Blake's complex poetry it is helpful to find a passage which presents a larger picture from which we visualize an overall concept of Blake's intention. In Discussions of William Blake, Edited by John E Grant, the chapter Intellectual Symbolism in Blake's later Prophetic Writings, by Karl Kiralis, presents such an outline:

"The meaning of some of the symbols, Los and Albion for example, is obvious with only a cursory reading. Los (cf Sol) is the poet, the creative man, and . Albion is both the universal and individual man, the most extraordinary average man of English literature. The sons of Albion represent civilization and all its cruelties; the daughters, its female principles. 

These definitions and the ones that follow might mean to the uninitiated reader of Jerusalem if he knew its basic 'plot,' which is revealed through the interactions of the symbolic characters. Very simply, man (or Albion) is dead to eternity because he has accepted certain delusions as reality. Two of his basic false beliefs are in moral virtue or a strict moral code (Rahab), and in reason alone (the spectre) as the guide to his life. The overall delusion is Vala, who represents earthly standards of truth and beauty as opposed to the eternal ones of Jerusalem. Vala constantly struggles to preserve her illusion of reality to keep Jerusalem subjugated. It is the self-imposed and difficult task of the poet (Los) to help man to eternity by ridding him of delusion throughout the course of mankind's history, to free him from the errors present in Judaism, deism, and even Christianity. Man gradually becomes aware of his various misconceptions by recognizing Vala-Rahab for what she is. Then once he has learned the lessons of liberty and forgiveness (Jerusalem), and of the primal innocence and beauty of the body and love (Erin), he becomes balanced fourfold (with reason in its proper place) and lives in eternity." (Page 104)
...
"The female will also acts through her component parts, the twelve daughters of Albion, especially Tirzah and Gwendolen." (Page 106) 

Plate 81 of Jerusalem focuses attention on the type of deception and delusion which Kiralis associated with Vala in his description.
Jerusalem, Plate 81, (E 238)  
[Gwendolen speaks]
"I have mockd those who refused cruelty & I have admired 
The cruel Warrior. I have refused to give love to Merlin the piteous.
He brings to me the Images of his Love & I reject in chastity
And turn them out into the streets for Harlots to be food
To the stern Warrior. I am become perfect in beauty over my Warrior  
For Men are caught by Love: Woman is caught by Pride
That Love may only be obtaind in the passages of Death.
[Reversed writing] 
In Heaven the only Art of Living 
Is Forgetting & Forgiving 
Especially to the Female 
But if you on Earth Forgive
You shall not find where to Live 
Let us look! let us examine! is the Cruel become an Infant
Or is he still a cruel Warrior? look Sisters, look! O piteous
I have destroyd Wandring Reuben who strove to bind my Will     
I have stripd off Josephs beautiful integument for my Beloved,
The Cruel-one of Albion: to clothe him in gems of my Zone
I have Named him Jehovah of Hosts. Humanity is become
A weeping Infant in ruind lovely Jerusalems folding Cloud: 
In Heaven Love begets Love! but Fear is the Parent of Earthly Love!    
And he who will not bend to Love must be subdud by Fear,"

Jerusalem, Plate 82, (E 239)
"The Twelve Daughters of Albion attentive listen in secret shades 
On Cambridge and Oxford beaming soft uniting with Rahabs cloud
While Gwendolen spoke to Cambel turning soft the spinning reel:
Or throwing the wingd shuttle; or drawing the cords with softest songs
The golden cords of the Looms animate beneath their touches soft,
Along the Island white, among the Druid Temples, while Gwendolen 
Spoke to the Daughters of Albion standing on Skiddaws top.

So saying she took a Falshood & hid it in her left hand:
To entice her Sisters away to Babylon on Euphrates.
And thus she closed her left hand and utterd her Falshood:
Forgetting that Falshood is prophetic, she hid her hand behind her,   
Upon her back behind her loins & thus utterd her Deceit."
 From The Illuminated Blake, David V Erdman, Page 60.
"The point of course is the falsehood we come to expect from worldly wisdom, is only the truth turned inside out. It consists of the second half of Gwendolen's quatrain in mirror writing, 'But if you on Earth Forgive, You shall not find where to Live.' The true message? If you want to live in heaven, then start 'Forgetting & Forgiving,' which 'In Heaven [is] the only Art of Living' - the first half of the quatrain."