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

Monday, August 22, 2011


The Grave Personified
Illustration for Robert Blair's The Grave

The connotation of the 'Caverns of the Grave' is the depths of the unconscious including depression and despair. Ahania and Enion are in the vicinity of the Caverns of the Grave when they wander near the borders of non-entity. Ironically despair and hope are both seen is this world of darkness. There is an implication that confrontations take place in 'Caverns of the Grave' which result in rebirth. Twice Blake juxtapositions 'Caverns of the Grave' with 'places of Human Seed' which must represent a deep level of the ability to recreate at the human or imaginative level.

Four Zoas , Page 43, 44, (E 329)
"Down from the dismal North the Prince in thunders & thick clouds
As when the thunderbolt down falleth on the appointed place
Fell down down rushing ruining thundering shuddering
Into the Caverns of the Grave & places of Human Seed
Where the impressions of Despair & Hope enroot forever
A world of Darkness. Ahania fell far into Non Entity"

Four Zoas, Page 90, 91, SECOND PORTION) (E 363)
"The Prester Serpent ceasd the War song sounded loud & strong
Thro all the heavens Urizens Web vibrated torment on torment
Thus in the Caverns of the Grave & Places of human seed
The nameless shadowy Vortex stood before the face of Orc
The Shadow reard her dismal head over the flaming youth
With sighs & howling & deep sobs that he might lose his rage
And with it lose himself in meekness she embracd his fire
As when the Earthquake rouzes from his den his shoulders huge
Appear above the crumb[l]ing Mountain. Silence waits around him
A moment then astounding horror belches from the Center
The fiery dogs arise the shoulders huge appear
So Orc rolld round his clouds upon the deeps of dark Urthona
Knowing the arts of Urizen were Pity & Meek affection
And that by these arts the Serpent form exuded from his limbs
Silent as despairing love & strong as Jealousy"

Four Zoas
, PAGE 122 [108], (E 383)
"Tharmas on high rode furious thro the afflicted worlds
Pursuing the Vain Shadow of Hope fleeing from identity
In abstract false Expanses that he may not hear the Voice
Of Ahania wailing on the winds in vain he flies for still
The voice incessant calls on all the children of Men
For she spoke of all in heaven & all upon the Earth
Saw not as yet the Divine vision her Eyes are Toward Urizen
And thus Ahania cries aloud to the Caverns of the Grave

Will you keep a flock of wolves & lead them will you take the wintry blast
For a covering to your limbs or the summer pestilence for a tent to abide in
Will you erect a lasting habitation in the mouldering Church yard
Or a pillar & palace of Eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave
Will you seek pleasure from the festering wound or marry for a Wife
The ancient Leprosy that the King & Priest may still feast on your decay
And the grave mock & laugh at the plowd field saying
I am the nourisher thou the destroyer in my bosom is milk & wine
And a fountain from my breasts to me come all multitudes
To my breath they obey they worship me I am a goddess & queen
But listen to Ahania O ye sons of the Murderd one"

Four Zoas
, Page 113 [109], (E 384)
"These are the Visions of My Eyes the Visions of Ahania
Thus cries Ahania Enion replies from the Caverns of the Grave"

Rahab reaches a point of transformation when she hears 'Ahania weeping on the Void', and 'Enions voice sound from the 'caverns of the Grave'. Rahab, as Mystery, is burned with fire but her subsequent form, Deism, is raised from the ashes.

Four Zoas, PAGE 115 [111], (E 385)
"Rahab triumphs over all she took Jerusalem
Captive A Willing Captive by delusive arts impelld
To worship Urizens Dragon form to offer her own Children
Upon the bloody Altar. John Saw these things Reveald in Heaven
On Patmos Isle & heard the Souls cry out to be deliverd
He saw the Harlot of the Kings of Earth & saw her Cup
Of fornication food of Orc & Satan pressd from the fruit of Mystery
But when she saw the form of Ahania weeping on the Void
And heard Enions voice sound from the caverns of the Grave
No more spirit remained in her She secretly left the Synagogue of Satan
She commund with Orc in secret She hid him with the flax
That Enitharmon had numberd away from the Heavens
She gatherd it together to consume her Harlot Robes
In bitterest Contrition sometimes Self condemning repentant
And Sometimes kissing her Robes & jewels & weeping over them
Sometimes returning to the Synagogue of Satan in Pride
And Sometimes weeping before Orc in humility & trembling
The Synagogue of Satan therefore uniting against Mystery
Satan divided against Satan resolvd in open Sanhedrim
To burn Mystery with fire & form another from her ashes
For God put it into their heart to fulfill all his will

The Ashes of Mystery began to animate they calld it Deism
And Natural Religion as of old so now anew began
Babylon again in Infancy Calld Natural Religion"

In the late stages of the Four Zoas, as grief is being transformed to joy, the 'caverns of the Grave' is once more a symbol of the rebirth for 'those risen again from death '.

Four Zoas, Page 135, 136, (E 404)
"All round the heavenly arches & the Odors rose singing this song
O terrible wine presses of Luvah O caverns of the Grave
How lovely the delights of those risen again from death
O trembling joy excess of joy is like Excess of grief
So sang the Human Odors round the wine presses of Luvah "

Sunday, August 21, 2011


One of the most deflating episodes of Blake's life involved the publication of Robert Blaire's The Grave for which Cromek had engaged him to make illustrations. Blake produced the drawings for the book at little cost to Crmoek who awarded the lucrative engraving of the plates to Schiavonetti instead of to Blake. Both anger and depression were among the reactions Blake experienced as the result of the loss of badly needed financial support, and the rejection of his work by a man he considered to be a friend.

The book was published with Blake's images executed in the more refined and popular style of Schiavonetti. For the book Blake produced a poem in which he dedicated his illustrations to the Queen.

Songs and Ballads, (E 480)
[Dedication to Blake's Illustrations to Blair's Grave, printed 1808]


The Door of Death is made of Gold,
That Mortal Eyes cannot behold;
But, when the Mortal Eyes are clos'd,
And cold and pale the Limbs repos'd,
The Soul awakes; and, wond'ring, sees
In her mild Hand the golden Keys:
The Grave is Heaven's golden Gate,
And rich and poor around it wait;
O Shepherdess of England's Fold,
Behold this Gate of Pearl and Gold!

To dedicate to England's Queen
The Visions that my Soul has seen,
And, by Her kind permission, bring
What I have borne on solemn Wing,
From the vast regions of the Grave,
Before Her Throne my Wings I wave;
Bowing before my Sov'reign's Feet,
"The Grave produc'd these Blossoms sweet
"In mild repose from Earthly strife;
"The Blossoms of Eternal Life!" "


There is more than a polite dedication to the Queen in Blake's poem. He is likely saying something also about his personal experience in the disappointment of not being able to display his own engraving skills in a book which may reach a broad public. The 'door of death' is the pain and discouragement he felt in the rejection. The 'Grave' is the opportunity to see into his own psyche as a result of being forced to endure the death of his hopes. The Grave has become 'heaven's gate' to him because through it there are 'Visions that my Soul has seen'.

To the Queen as the 'Shepherdess of England's Fold,' he presents the product of his experience of the Grave: 'repose from Earthly strife' through experience of the Eternal dimension.

In Blake's notebook is an unnamed poem in which he states that what he revealed to the Queen was his experience of the 'Caverns of the Grave'. For the Countess of Egremont he was designing an image of the Last Judgment for which he would also supply an explanation. Blake acknowledges that the way the world reacts to his art does not affect it. His designs are in response to the vision of the Eternal which has guided his work from the beginning. The depths of the 'Caverns of the Grave' and the heights of the 'Great Atlantic Mountains' are seen form his 'Golden House'.

Songs and Ballads, (E 481)
[From Blake's Notebook]

"The Caverns of the Grave Ive seen
And these I shewd to Englands Queen
But now the Caves of Hell I view
Who shall I dare to shew them to
What mighty Soul in Beautys form
Shall dauntless View the Infernal Storm
Egremonts Countess can controll
The flames of Hell that round me roll
If she refuse I still go on
Till the Heavens & Earth are gone
Still admird by Noble minds
Followd by Envy on the winds
Reengravd Time after Time
Ever in their Youthful prime
My Designs unchangd remain
Time may rage but rage in vain
For above Times troubled Fountains
On the Great Atlantic Mountains
In my Golden House on high
There they Shine Eternally"


Thursday, August 18, 2011


Plate 9 [10] of the book of Urizen shows a muscular man who appears to be struggling to free himself form the confines of of a tight enclosure. It seems that the weight of a heavy rock must be lifted to release him from his oppressive cavern. The text suggests that the opposite process is underway; the cavern in closing around Urizen squeezing him into a space which limits his movement.

On plate 8 we are told of the frightening change in the natural world taking places around Los as the result of the emergence of Urizen into a material form.

Urizen, Plate 8 (E 74)
"1: Los smitten with astonishment
Frightend at the hurtling bones

2: And at the surging sulphureous
Perturbed Immortal mad raging

3: In whirlwinds & pitch & nitre
Round the furious limbs of Los

4: And Los formed nets & gins
And threw the nets round about

5: He watch'd in shuddring fear
The dark changes & bound every change
With rivets of iron & brass;

6. And these were the changes of Urizen."

On plate 10 we watch with Los as Urizen is progressively losing the consciousness of the Eternal world and the powers which were his when Eternity was his home.

Urizen , Plate 10, (E 74)
"1. Ages on ages roll'd over him!
In stony sleep ages roll'd over him!
Like a dark waste stretching chang'able
By earthquakes riv'n, belching sullen fires
On ages roll'd ages in ghastly

Sick torment; around him in whirlwinds
Of darkness the eternal Prophet howl'd
Beating still on his rivets of iron
Pouring sodor of iron; dividing
The horrible night into watches.

2. And Urizen (so his eternal name)
His prolific delight obscurd more & more
In dark secresy hiding in surgeing
Sulphureous fluid his phantasies.
The Eternal Prophet heavd the dark bellows,
And turn'd restless the tongs; and the hammer
Incessant beat; forging chains new & new
Numb'ring with links. hours, days & years

3. The eternal mind bounded began to roll
Eddies of wrath ceaseless round & round,
And the sulphureous foam surgeing thick
Settled, a lake, bright, & shining clear:
White as the snow on the mountains cold.

4. Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity!
In chains of the mind locked up,
Like fetters of ice shrinking together
Disorganiz'd, rent from Eternity,
Los beat on his fetters of iron;
And heated his furnaces & pour'd
Iron sodor and sodor of brass

5. Restless turnd the immortal inchain'd
Heaving dolorous! anguish'd! unbearable
Till a roof shaggy wild inclos'd
In an orb, his fountain of thought.

6. In a horrible dreamful slumber;
Like the linked infernal chain;
A vast Spine writh'd in torment
Upon the winds; shooting pain'd
Ribs, like a bending cavern
And bones of solidness, froze
Over all his nerves of joy.
And a first Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe."

When Blake was producing Urizen, he exposed himself to the forces of the unconscious world just as Jung did when he was producing the Red Book. The images which Blake produced during the period when the he was most aware of the darkness of his unconscious have a power and immediacy rare in his later work.

Martin Butlin writes of the distinctive characteristics of Blake's methods and illustrations during this period.

William Blake , Published by Tate Gallery, Compiler Martin Butlin, (Page 48)

"At the same time [c 1794] Blake drastically altered the method by which he coloured the illustrations to his books. Up to and including the first copy of Europe to be coloured, the colouring was done in watercolour, but in Urizen and in other early copies of Europe he turned to a form of colour printing... The new technique was also used for the copies Blake printed about this time of some of his earlier books, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Songs of Experience.
The colour printing seems to have been done by applying thick, tacky pigments to the engraved plates from which the text and outlines had already been printed and then taking an impression. The colours seem to have mixed with carpenter's glue creating a very rich, textured heavy effect similar to his later tempera paintings; he sometimes called this medium 'fresco'. The designs were normally tidied up with pen and watercolour. The impact of the colour-printed illustrations in Urizen is unparalled in Blake's books. It is no coincidence that they accompany Blake's most negatively pessimistic expression of his views on man's predicament... Urizen concentrates on the Creation as a definition of material reality in its most horrific and negative form. The material opacity of the illustrations could not be better attuned to this theme."

When Blake reproduced the image from Plate 10 of Urizen as a plate in the Small Book of Deigns he added the inscription:

"Does the soul labour thus/In caverns of the grave."

Small Book of Designs
British Museum

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Blake's Watercolours for the Poems of Thomas Gray

The Bard. A Pindaric Ode
Design Number 63

Blake gives to the Bard a central role in Milton for it is he who inspires Milton to undertake his redemptive role through the 'underworld' of Beulah, Generation and Ulro after he has spent one hundred years in Eternity. Among the Eternals (including Milton) at eternal tables the Bard responds to the call to relate the cause of Milton's withdrawal form Eternity to reenter time.

Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
Book the First

"Daughters of Beulah! Muses who inspire the Poets Song
Record the journey of immortal Milton thro' your Realms"
"Say first! what mov'd Milton, who walkd about in Eternity
One hundred years, pondring the intricate mazes of Providence
Unhappy tho in heav'n, he obey'd, he murmur'd not. he was silent
Viewing his Sixfold Emanation scatter'd thro' the deep
In torment! To go into the deep her to redeem & himself perish?
What cause at length mov'd Milton to this unexampled deed[?]
A Bards prophetic Song! for sitting at eternal tables,
Terrific among the Sons of Albion in chorus solemn & loud
A Bard broke forth! all sat attentive to the awful man."

For the next fourteen plates the Bard sings his song of the three classes of men and how they interact in the characters of Palamabron, Rintrah and Satan. When the song ends there is some confusion and dissatisfaction about his song but the Bard claims inspiration for the source of his song. The turmoil over his song sends the Bard into the bosom of Milton who acts decisively to return to life in order to deal with his Selfhood which he identifies with Satan.

PLATE 13 [14], (E 107)
"The Bard ceas'd. All consider'd and a loud resounding murmur
Continu'd round the Halls; and much they question'd the immortal
Loud voicd Bard. and many condemn'd the high tone'd Song
Saying Pity and Love are too venerable for the imputation
Of Guilt. Others said. It it is true! if the acts have been perform'd
Let the Bard himself witness. Where hadst thou this terrible Song

The Bard replied. I am Inspired! I know it is Truth! for I Sing
PLATE 14 [15]
According to the inspiration of the Poetic Genius
Who is the eternal all-protecting Divine Humanity
To whom be Glory & Power & Dominion Evermore Amen

Then there was great murmuring in the Heavens of Albion
Concerning Generation & the Vegetative power & concerning
The Lamb the Saviour: Albion trembled to Italy Greece & Egypt
To Tartary & Hindostan & China & to Great America
Shaking the roots & fast foundations of the Earth in doubtfulness
The loud voic'd Bard terrify'd took refuge in Miltons bosom

Then Milton rose up from the heavens of Albion ardorous!
The whole Assembly wept prophetic, seeing in Miltons face
And in his lineaments divine the shades of Death & Ulro
He took off the robe of the promise, & ungirded himself from the oath of God

And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death!"

In the second half of Milton we follow as Milton in his travels is united with Blake and Los in exploring the dilemmas inherent in the the role of the prophet.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Blake's Watercolours for the Poems of Thomas Gray
Design Number 65
The Bard. a Pindaric Ode

Blake's Introduction to Songs of Experience invites us to attend to the voice of the Bard who announces the prospect of th
e dawning of a new day.

SONGS of EXPERIENCE, Song 30, (E 17)
"Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk'd among the ancient trees.

Calling the lapsed Soul
And weeping in the evening dew:
That might controll,
The starry pole;
And fallen fallen light renew!

O Earth O Earth return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass,

Turn away no more:
Why wilt thou turn away
The starry floor
The watry shore
Is giv'n thee till the break of day."

In the Voice of the Ancient Bard, the opening morn as an image of truth is offered by the Ancient Bard to the youth, but with a warning of the maze of darkness left by previous generations of misguided teachers.

Songs of Experience , Song 54, (E 31)
"The Voice of the Ancient Bard.

Youth of delight come hither:
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason.
Dark disputes & artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,

How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead,
And feel they know not what but care
And wish to lead others, when they should be led."

The Bard in America takes on an even darker aspect as he speaks of the terrors of Eternal Death which he says have been long foretold.

America, PLATE 2, (E 51)

"Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy,
The hairy shoulders rend the links, free are the wrists of fire;
Round the terrific loins he siez'd the panting struggling womb;
It joy'd: she put aside her clouds & smiled her first-born smile;
As when a black cloud shews its lightnings to the silent deep.

Soon as she saw the terrible boy then burst the virgin cry.

I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go;
Thou art the image of God who dwells in darkness of Africa;
And thou art fall'n to give me life in regions of dark death.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions
Endur'd by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.
O what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & my frost
Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightnings rent;
This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold."

Lines which were removed in some copies of America record an enraged Bard ashamed of his own song. The Bard himself destroys his instrument and turns away to lament the vision about which he has sung.

"[ The stern Bard ceas'd, asham'd of his own song; enrag'd he swung
His harp aloft sounding, then dash'd its shining frame against
A ruin'd pillar in glittring fragments; silent he turn'd away,
And wander'd down the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings.]"

Blake's Bard bears a closer resemblance to the Old Testament prophets than to a medieval bard who sang the praises of his patron. The Bard fits the description of the visionary as proclaimed by Northrop Frey in Fearful Symmetry: "the business of the visionary [is] to proclaim the Word of God to a society under the domination of Satan; and ... the visionary's social position is typically that of an isolated voice crying in the wilderness against the injustice and hypocrisy of the society from which he sprung." (Page 336)

Friday, August 12, 2011


America, Plate 7

This post follows Air, Water, Earth & Fire.

Here is another quote from William Blake's Circle of Destiny by Milton O Percival.

"The psychological struggle, set forth as a war of the elements for dominion over Albion, is Blake's war of the Gods. Its scale is commensurate. The Zoas are giant figures whose impulses and activities are reflected in every portion of the cosmos. Moreover their war, like the contention of the elements, is never-ending. As the psychological components of man in his struggle toward the light they know the frustration of ages; but, like man, they cannot be extinguished. Vanquished in the struggle, they die only to be born again for renewed cycles of searching and strife.

"It is in his presentation of the Zoas that much of the power of Blake's myth lies. They are not the bloodless abstractions common to allegory. Blake believed in them. They are in consequence, realities of the imagination, with power to terrify us as they terrified their creator. No other poet has given us so profound a sense of the helplessness of man before the primal forces of life; and no other poet, so passionate a denial of that helplessness. He fears these forces, because he see them as demonic, with power over him; but he takes hope from the fact that these forces are in him - that they are himself. When man shall have brought them again into harmony, they will become once more his willing servants." (Page 20)

Milton, PLATE 32 [35], (E 131)
"But the Divine Humanity & Mercy gave us a Human      [Hebrew text]

Form as multitudes
Because we were combind in Freedom & holy Vox Populi

While those combind by Satans Tyranny first in the blood of War
And Sacrifice &, next, in Chains of imprisonment: are Shapeless Rocks
Retaining only Satans Mathematic Holiness, Length: Bredth & Highth
Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision & Fruition
In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against
Its own Qualities, which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods or Lords[.]
Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease:
You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die."

Four Zoas, Night ix, Page 126, (E 395)
"Luvah & Vala henceforth you are Servants obey & live
You shall forget your former state return O Love in peace
Into your place the place of seed not in the brain or heart
If Gods combine against Man Setting their Dominion above
The Human form Divine. Thrown down from their high Station
In the Eternal heavens of Human Imagination: buried beneath
In dark Oblivion with incessant pangs ages on ages
In Enmity & war first weakend then in stern repentance
They must renew their brightness & their disorganizd functions
Again reorganize till they resume the image of the human
Cooperating in the bliss of Man obeying his Will
Servants to the infinite & Eternal of the Human form"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


William Blake Poet and Mystic by Pierre Berger can be read online as a Google book. Berger has this advice to us as we seek to understand our 'mystic poet':

"As one reads his books, one sees his theories becoming gradually clearer and more complete. Different works explain each other. None of them is complete in itself: all must be known and borne in mind if any one is to be read properly. Even when he wrote the first, Blake had dimly in his mind the ideas which were to fill his latest books. His theories do not seem to have changed as he grew older. They undergo development: they are expressed in different terms; but at bottom they remain the same. Just as a seed contains all the germs from which the plant will receive its shape, the flowers their colours, and the fruit its flavour, so it is with Blake and with the development of his genius." (Page 65)

On Page 351 Berger provides these clues to discriminating between the characters Rahab and Tirzah in Jerusalem.

"True religion, which, as we have seen, meant for Blake universal love and the accomplishment of all man's desires, is, according to him, always in conflict with two great philosophical systems : on the one hand all the orthodox religions and moral codes which restrain desire, and write the " Thou shalt not " of the Decalogue ; and, on the other, the religions founded on science and reason, which deny revelation and concentrate all man's aspirations upon himself. Judaism is a type of the first, and Deism of the second ; and Blake represents the one by Rahab, the religion of the Law, of sin and punishment, and the other by Tirzah, the religion of nature and materialism. Jerusalem, therefore, treats principally of the growth of these two kinds of religion, after the fall of man, their final destruction, and man's regeneration through Liberty."

Two of the chapters in Jerusalem are addressed to the Jews and to the Deists. Blake developed the two characters Rahab and Tirzah as representative of the two types of error he addressed in these two chapters. Here are passages which clarify the symbolic meaning of Rehab, representative of the religion of moral virtue or a religion emphasising legalism; and Tirzah, representative of Deism or the natural religion of materiality without spirituality.

Jerusalem, Plate 25, (E 171)
"Thus wept they in Beulah over the Four Regions of Albion
But many doubted & despaird & imputed Sin & Righteousness
To Individuals & not to States, and these Slept in Ulro."

Jerusalem, Plate 35 [39], (E 181)
"In the Fourth region of Humanity, Urthona namd[,]
Mortality begins to roll the billows of Eternal Death
Before the Gate of Los. Urthona here is named Los.
And here begins the System of Moral Virtue, named Rahab."

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
"No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War
Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw"

Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 223)
"And now the Spectres of the Dead awake in Beulah: all
The Jealousies become Murderous: uniting together in Rahab
A Religion of Chastity, forming a Commerce to sell Loves
With Moral Law, an Equal Balance, not going down with decision
Therefore the Male severe & cruel filld with stern Revenge:
Mutual Hate returns & mutual Deceit & mutual Fear."
Jerusalem, Plate 69, Yale Center for British Art

Songs of Experience, 52, (E 30)
"To Tirzah

Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free,
Then what have I to do with thee?

[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]"

Monday, August 8, 2011


Blake names the Four Elements in the Book of Urizen but they are later personified as the Four Zoas with more familiar names:
Thiriel - Air - Urizen
Utha - Water - Tharmas
Gorda - Earth - Urthona
Fuzon - Fire - Luvah

Book of Urizen, Plate 24
Morgan Library

Book of Urizen, Plate 23, (E 81)
"3. Most Urizen sicken'd to see
His eternal creations appear
Sons & daughters of sorrow on mountains
Weeping! wailing! first Thiriel appear'd
Astonish'd at his own existence
Like a man from a cloud born, & Utha
From the waters emerging, laments!
Grodna rent the deep earth howling
Amaz'd! his heavens immense cracks
Like the ground parch'd with heat; then Fuzon
Flam'd out! first begotten, last born.
All his eternal sons in like manner
His daughters from green herbs & cattle
From monsters, & worms of the pit."

Damon in A Blake Dictionary writes that:
"Thus the Four Elements are the inexorable forces of matter in the unending strife of Nature...
Men in their power must 'War on, slaves to the eternal Elements' (SoL 3:14). Yet it is also stated that Los can renew the 'ruin'd souls of Men thro 'Earth, Sea, Air & Fire (FZ iv:30). For the Elements, when servants, have their valuable functions." (Page 117)

Percival in William Blake's Circle of Destiny tells us:
"It is because Blake conceives of the Zoas both as rebellious forces precipitating the fall and as the chief agencies for deliverance, that he supplements the human symbolism of head, heart, and loins by a natural symbolism of earth, air, fire and water. He identifies the Zoas, in their failure to cooperate in the well being of man, with the four elements to which man is subject. With the separation of the elements from Albion, he ceases to be their master and becomes their prey. The appearance of the four elements with the fall is traditional. In the beginning there was 'one only element'; it fell into division of four. So writes Jacob Boehme and with abundant authority. 'And that is the heavy fall of Adam,' and he says further, 'that his eyes and spirit entered into the outward, into the four elements, into the palpability, viz., into death, and there they are blind to the kingdom of God.' A prey to the elements which beset him - his own powers in a state of contention - Albion is, like Adam blind to the kingdom of God." (Page 19)

Milton, PLATE 28 [30], (E 126)
"And all the Living Creatures of the Four Elements, wail'd

With bitter wailing: these in the aggregate are named Satan
And Rahab: they know not of Regeneration, but only of Generation
The Fairies, Nymphs, Gnomes & Genii of the Four Elements
Unforgiving & unalterable: these cannot be Regenerated
But must be Created, for they know only of Generation
These are the Gods of the Kingdoms of the Earth: in contrarious
And cruel opposition: Element against Element, opposed in War
Not Mental, as the Wars of Eternity, but a Corporeal Strife
In Los's Halls continual labouring in the Furnaces of Golgonooza
Orc howls on the Atlantic: Enitharmon trembles: All Beulah weeps

Jerusalem trembled seeing her Children drivn by Los's Hammer
In the visions of the dreams of Beulah on the edge of Non-Entity
Hand stood between Reuben & Merlin, as the Reasoning Spectre
Stands between the Vegetative Man & his Immortal Imagination"

Jerusalem, PLATE 32 [36], (E 178)
"And the Four Zoa's clouded rage East & West & North & South
They change their situations, in the Universal Man.
Albion groans, he sees the Elements divide before his face.
And England who is Brittannia divided into Jerusalem & Vala
And Urizen assumes the East, Luvah assumes the South
In his dark Spectre ravening from his open Sepulcher

And the Four Zoa's who are the Four Eternal Senses of Man
Became Four Elements separating from the Limbs of Albion
These are their names in the Vegetative Generation
[West Weighing East & North dividing Generation South
And Accident & Chance were found hidden in Length Bredth & Highth
And they divided into Four ravening deathlike Forms
Fairies & Genii & Nymphs & Gnomes of the Elements.
These are States Permanently Fixed by the Divine Power"

The Elements are the externalized powers which within the psyche are represented as the Zoas.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


William Blake died on August 12, 1827 at the age of 70. A few months earlier he had written to his friend George Cumberland.

Letters, Number 91, (E 783)

[To] George Cumberland Esqre, Culver Street, Bristol

N 3 Fountain Court Strand 12 April 1827
Dear Cumberland
I have been very near the Gates of Death & have returned
very weak & an Old Man feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit &
Life not in The Real Man The Imagination which Liveth for Ever.
In that I am stronger & stronger as this Foolish Body decays. I
thank you for the Pains you have taken with Poor Job. I know too
well that a great majority of Englishmen are fond of The
Indefinite which they Measure by Newtons Doctrine of the Fluxions
of an Atom. A Thing that does not Exist. These are Politicians
& think that Republican Art is Inimical to their Atom. For a
Line or Lineament is not formed by Chance a Line is a Line in its
Minutest Subdivision[s] Strait or Crooked It is Itself & Not
Intermeasurable with or by any Thing Else Such is Job but since
the French Revolution Englishmen are all Intermeasurable One by
Another Certainly a happy state of Agreement to which I for One
do not Agree. God keep me from the Divinity of Yes & No too The
Yea Nay Creeping Jesus from supposing Up & Down to be the same
Thing as all Experimentalists must suppose
You are desirous I know to dispose of some of my Works & to
make Pleasin[g], I am obliged to you & to all who do so
But having none remaining of all that I had Printed I cannot
Print more Except at a great loss for at the time I printed those
things I had a whole House to range in now I am shut up in a
Corner therefore am forced to ask a Price for them that I
scarce expect to get from a Stranger. I am now Printing a Set of
the Songs of Innocence & Experience for a Friend at Ten Guineas
which I cannot do under Six Months consistent with my other Work,
so that I have little hope of doing any more of such things. the
Last Work I produced is a Poem Entitled Jerusalem the Emanation
of the Giant Albion, but find that to Print it will Cost my Time
the amount of Twenty Guineas One I have Finishd It contains 100
Plates but it is not likely that I shall get a Customer for it
As you wish me to send you a list with the Prices of these
things they are as follows

...............L s d
America 6. 6. 0
Europe 6. 6. 0
Visions &c 5. 5. 0
Thel 3. 3. 0
Songs of Inn. & Exp. 10. 10. 0
Urizen 6. 6. 0

The Little Card I will do as soon as Possible but when you
Consider that I have been reduced to a Skeleton from which I am
slowly recovering you will I hope have Patience with me.
Flaxman is Gone & we must All soon follow every one to his
Own Eternal House Leaving the Delusive Goddess Nature & her Laws
to get into Freedom from all Law of the Members into The Mind in
which every one is King & Priest in his own House God Send it so
on Earth as it is in Heaven
I am Dear Sir Yours Affectionately

Blake captures numerous motifs from his art and poetry in this summation of life's cycle in the little calling card for Cumberland which became his final engraving.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Jerusalem, Plate 76
Yale Center for British Art

In the fourth of the full page illustrations (link to copy in the British Museum - notice the names Albion and Jesus on this copy) used as chapter heads for Blake's Jerusalem, he pictured Jesus crucified on the tree of mystery above the worshiping Albion. The image may be taken as a picture of Albion achieving recognition of the love and sacrifice of Jesus who
as the Breath Divine stirred Albion back to life. However the image also reminds us of the traditional representation of the crucified Christ of organized religion. The Jesus Blake recognized was within his heart and mind, the 'bright Preacher of Life' not the 'dark Preacher of Death'.

Blake did not think well of organized religion, including organized Christianity. He practiced the religion of Jesus, a religion which directly connects man to the Eternal Reality, the indwelling word, Christ or the Holy Spirit. Such religion requires no buildings, moral codes, ceremonies, priests or judges. Blake's argument was that the self-appointed authorities, the 'priests', had assumed leadership of Jesus' legacy of spiritual experience and teaching and had made it into a worldly, material institution. The loss of the initial revelation which had come through Jesus was accompanied by the equally damaging development of a religion of chastity, accusation of sin, and projection of the deity onto an entity distant in time and space.

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 232)
"I stood among my valleys of the south
And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel
Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went
From west to cast against the current of
Creation and devourd all things in its loud
Fury & thundering course round heaven & earth
By it the Sun was rolld into an orb:
By it the Moon faded into a globe,
Travelling thro the night: for from its dire
And restless fury, Man himself shrunk up
Into a little root a fathom long.
And I asked a Watcher & a Holy-One
Its Name? he answerd. It is the Wheel of Religion
I wept & said. Is this the law of Jesus
This terrible devouring sword turning every way
He answerd; Jesus died because he strove
Against the current of this Wheel: its Name
Is Caiaphas, the dark Preacher of Death
Of sin, of sorrow, & of punishment;
Opposing Nature! It is Natural Religion
But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life
Creating Nature from this fiery Law,
By self-denial & forgiveness of Sin.

Go therefore, cast out devils in Christs name
Heal thou the sick of spiritual disease
Pity the evil, for thou art not sent
To smite with terror & with punishments
Those that are sick, like the Pharisees
Crucifying &,encompassing sea & land
For proselytes to tyranny & wrath,
But to the Publicans & Harlots go!
Teach them True Happiness, but let no curse
Go forth out of thy mouth to blight their peace
For Hell is opend to heaven; thine eyes beheld
The dungeons burst & the Prisoners set free."

Luke 4
[16] And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
[17] And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
[18] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
[19] To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
[20] And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
[21] And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Matthew 10
[8] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Three other posts have also highlighted full page illustration at beginnings of
the chapters of Jerusalem: