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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Minna Doskov's has written a useful guide to the complexities of reading Jerusalem in her book William Blake's Jerusalem. The four chapters of Jerusalem are addressed to the Public, the Jews, the Deists and the Christians. Doskow explains that each is directed to:
"a particular group that in Blake's view typifies the error exposed in the chapter. These groups, however, refer to states of consciousness, rather than historical entities. Just as sleep, passage, and awakening are metaphors for for a particular state of Albion's consciousness, so are Jews, Deists, and Christians (the dedicatory groups of chapters 2, 3, and 4 respectively)." (Page 20)
"The first two lines of chapter 1 contain the action of the whole; the prologue and epilogue display it graphically. The first confrontation between Albion and the Savior outlines all other confrontations. The first chapter's frontispiece and dedication embraces the chapter as well as the whole poem. Each subsequent chapter's dedication takes one piece of the whole and explores it, summarizing the content of the entire chapter." (Page 21)

Jerusalem, Plate 4
Library of Congress

Jerusalem, PLATE 4, (E 146)
"Chap: I

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

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

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

In all the dark Atlantic vale down from the hills of Surrey
A black water accumulates, return Albion! return!
Thy brethren call thee, and thy fathers, and thy sons,
Thy nurses and thy mothers, thy sisters and thy daughters
Weep at thy souls disease, and the Divine Vision is darkend:
Thy Emanation that was wont to play before thy face,
Beaming forth with her daughters into the Divine bosom
Where hast thou hidden thy Emanation lovely Jerusalem
>From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one?
I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!

But the perturbed Man away turns down the valleys dark;
[Saying. We are not One: we are Many, thou most
Phantom of the over heated brain! shadow of immortality!
Seeking to keep my soul a victim to thy Love! which binds
Man the enemy of man into deceitful friendships:
Jerusalem is not! her daughters are indefinite:
By demonstration, man alone can live, and not by faith.
My mountains are my own, and I will keep them to myself!

The Malvern and the Cheviot, the Wolds Plinlimmon & Snowdon
Are mine. here will I build my Laws of Moral Virtue!
Humanity shall be no more: but war & princedom & victory!

So spoke Albion in jealous fears, hiding his Emanation
Upon the Thames and Medway, rivers of Beulah: dissembling
His jealousy before the throne divine, darkening, cold!"

Doskow subtitles her book Structure and Meaning in Poetry and Picture. She gives the graphic content as well as the written material careful attention.

"'In his first speech, Albion demonstrates all three basic components of his fall, his religious, rational and affective errors that are all investigated in this chapter and then in detail separately in the three following chapters of the poem."
[The Savior presents the] "opposing alternatives" [which are] "equally available for Albion's consciousness as the illustration indicates (pl. 4), for it pictures both fallen Albion controlled by error and unfallen Albion soaring freely. The network of lines in the right lower margin of this plate exemplifies the same opposing alternatives, for what it represents depends upon the beholder's consciousness. Looked at in Albion's fallen terms, it represents the deceitful bonds he mentions and the net that Vala so often uses to ensare mankind. Regarded, however in the Savior's imaginative terms, it becomes those fibers of love he mentions which establish the divine brotherhood of man." (Page 45)
"The cowled figure resembles the fallen female spirit who controls the merely natural world...she is only partially successful in Jerusalem... Grasping the head of one naked male figure, fallen Albion, who is seated on the rocky shore, she controls his intellect and vision. The other naked male figure, unfallen Albion, eludes her grasp and turns his attention and praying hands to the soaring figures rising in a parabola from him. Here are Albion's ongoing alternatives graphically represented...The exploration of these choices forms the substance of the poem graphically as well as poetically, for each choice is unfolded in subsequent illustrations." (Page 19)

Blake brings all the powers of his imagination together to impress on men's psyches the stark choices which lie before each individual and each nation.

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