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

Thursday, July 21, 2011


In the post THROUGH ETERNAL DEATH we dealt with Doskow's introduction to the first of the four chapters of Jerusalem, the one addressed 'To the Public'. The introduction to the second chapter, 'To the Jews', claims our attention now.

Doscow ( William Blake's Jerusalem) makes clear that the second chapter is addressed to the level of consciousness represented by 'The Jews' and not by a historical group of people. In this chapter Albion is to experience the consequences of the religious error of practicing a religion based "codes of moral law that define sin and punishment, and second on the idea of an absent, invisible exiled God who dwells in chaos." Albion will be shown the alternation to this error: the possibility of assimilating a religion based on "codes of love, mutuality and acceptance and God as 'The Human Form Divine.'" (Page 72)

Each chapter of Jerusalem begins with a full page plate which gives in symbolic pictorial language an introduction to the content of the chapter. Following the illustrative plate is a plate which addresses a particular group whose errors Blake wishes to explore. Next is the first page of the chapter which states in words and pictures the problem he is treating and its potential solution.

Image is from Yale Collection
Additional image from
Library of Congress
Click LC picture to enlarge

Now lets see what Doskow has to say about Jerusalem, Plate 28, which is the third plate of chapter 2:

"While the poetic text of the plate concentrates on the male expression of Albion's religious error in Albion and his sons, the illustration depicts the same error in terms of Albion's female parts as Vala dominates Jerusalem. Two naked females in the illustration embrace face to face before a golden net...Furthermore both figures sit on a huge lily, symbol of Vala..., surrounded by the watery world of time and space." (Page 76)

"Man's self-reduction to the merely natural state that results from his religious error and is expressed in Vala's domination also appears in the figure Ruben. In him we see the further limitations of Albion' sensuality, the reduction of his other four senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing) in addition to touch (sexuality) limited by Vala."

Jerusalem , PLATE 28, (E 174)
Chap: 2.

"Every ornament of perfection, and every labour of love,
In all the Garden of Eden, & in all the golden mountains
Was become an envied horror, and a remembrance of jealousy:
And every Act a Crime, and Albion the punisher & judge.

And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said

All these ornaments are crimes, they are made by the labours
Of loves: of unnatural consanguinities and friendships
Horrid to think of when enquired deeply into; and all
These hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin
I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!
A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:
That Man be separate from Man, & here I plant my seat.

Cold snows drifted around him: ice coverd his loins around
He sat by Tyburns brook, and underneath his heel, shot up!
A deadly Tree, he nam'd it Moral Virtue, and the Law
Of God who dwells in Chaos hidden from the human sight.

The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groand)
They bent down, they felt the earth and again enrooting
Shot into many a Tree! an endless labyrinth of woe!

From willing sacrifice of Self, to sacrifice of (miscall'd) Enemies
For Atonement: Albion began to erect twelve Altars,
Of rough unhewn rocks, before the Potters Furnace
He nam'd them Justice, and Truth. And Albions Sons
Must have become the first Victims, being the first transgressors
But they fled to the mountains to seek ransom: building A Strong
Fortification against the Divine Humanity and Mercy,
In Shame & Jealousy to annihilate Jerusalem!"

When the reading of the body of the text gets confusing, it may be helpful to return to the first three plates of a chapter to reorient oneself by the use of these three pages of 'maps' which Blake provides to help his reader through bewildering territory. Read online Minna Doskow's William Blake's Jerusalem: structure and meaning in poetry and picture for an in depth commentary on Jerusalem and a facsimile of Blake's complete book.

From the Library of Congress website you may download a PDF of the entire 100 plates of Jerusalem. This won't be the color copy, but you will be able to get an overview, select specific pages, zoom in for detail, and enjoy reading your own copy of Jerusalem.

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