|Yale Center for British Art |
Frontispiece, Copy E
The frontispiece of Blake's Jerusalem pictures
a man clothed as a night watchman entering a dark doorway. He carries the watchman's light to illuminate the 'perilous path' whose entry he steps into wearing his sandals (which he strapped on in the poem Milton). The figure is Los beginning his journey through the underworld which Persephone entered before him. Blake describes it as 'the passage through Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.' (Jerusalem, Plate 4, E 146)
Among the many roles that Los is assigned is that of watchman for which he was first chosen in the Book of Urizen. When the Eternals see the vast world of Urizen appear, Los is called upon to confine Urizen's world.
Urizen, Plate 5, (E 73)
"8. And Los round the dark globe of Urizen,
Kept watch for Eternals to confine,
The obscure separation alone;
For Eternity stood wide apart,"
In Milton Los is singled out to be the watchman and to keep the peace until Milton's redemptive act is completed. The full weight falls on Los and his sons because the other Zoas have left their stations.
Milton, Plate 23 , (E 119)
"We were plac'd here by the Universal Brotherhood & Mercy
With powers fitted to circumscribe this dark Satanic death
And that the Seven Eyes of God may have space for Redemption.
But how this is as yet we know not, and we cannot know;
Till Albion is arisen; then patient wait a little while,
Six Thousand years are passd away the end approaches fast;
This mighty one is come from Eden, he is of the Elect,
Who died from Earth & he is returnd before the Judgment. This thing
Was never known that one of the holy dead should willing return
Then patient wait a little while till the Last Vintage is over:"
Milton, Plate 24 (E 119)
"Because of Satan: & the Seven Eyes of God continually
Guard round them, but I the Fourth Zoa am also set
The Watchman of Eternity, the Three are not! & I am preserved
Still my four mighty ones are left to me in Golgonooza
Still Rintrah fierce, and Palamabron mild & piteous
Theotormon filld with care, Bromion loving Science
You O my Sons still guard round Los."
In Jerusalem, the role of watchman again falls to Los as he watches at his furnaces until Albion awakes.
Jerusalem, Plate 83, (E 242)
"It must lie in confusion till Albions time of awaking.
Place the Tribes of Llewellyn in America for a hiding place!
Till sweet Jerusalem emanates again into Eternity
The night falls thick: I go upon my watch: be attentive:
The Sons of Albion go forth; I follow from my Furnaces:
That they return no more: that a place be prepard on Euphrates
Listen to your Watchmans voice: sleep not before the Furnaces
Eternal Death stands at the door. O God pity our labours.
So Los spoke. to the Daughters of Beulah while his Emanation
Like a faint rainbow waved before him in the awful gloom
Of London City on the Thames from Surrey Hills to Highgate
While Los arose upon his Watch, and down from Golgonooza
Putting on his golden sandals to walk from mountain to mountain,
He takes his way, girding himself with gold & in his hand
Holding his iron mace: The Spectre remains attentive
Alternate they watch in night: alternate labour in day
Before the Furnaces labouring, while Los all night watches
The stars rising & setting, & the meteors & terrors of night!"
We can go back to the book America to get an intimation of the rejoicing which will take place when the watchman's duty is over.
America, PLATE 6, (E 52)
"The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry'd.
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!
Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst;"