The Mental Traveller
"But she comes to the man she loves,
If young or old, or rich or poor;
They soon drive out the aged host,
A beggar at another’s door."
This young lady will not remain on her own; neither will she put her fate in someone else's hands. The fiery life which is within her will be bestowed upon the male of her choice. The host who made possible her explosion into life must go elsewhere to seek a companion.
A gift of great importance from the feminine to the masculine is providing matter so that the intellect may be materialized in creative endeavor. The female reserves the right of refusal in bestowing the body through which mind may be expressed. Love determines the choice, not outer characteristics such as wealth or age.
Time and space (the measure of matter) are the father and mother of change. Change replaces the old with the new; they cannot coexist. Although the man who fed the beggar becomes a beggar himself, he can seek sustenance elsewhere.
"He wanders weeping far away
Until some other take him in;
Oft blind and age-bent, sore distressed,
Until he can a maiden win."
We return to the wandering metaphor which was introduced in the first verse with, " As cold earth wanderers never knew."
The wandering, weeping and distance are part of the aging syndrome - loss of purpose, sadness and disconnection. If this aged entity is a civilization (as Raine indicates he may be) he may hope to be incorporated into a newborn or a younger civilization which may find the remnants of the depleted civilization of value. How many times has the mature Greek culture been 'taken in' by a culture in its formative stage?
If he is a mature psyche, the products of his experience may be passed on the innocents who are beginning the process of development.
Oedipus, with his daughter Antigone, wandered in his aged blindness seeking to pass on the lessons of his bitter experience. Edward Edinger has this to say about the aged Oedipus, "After his long wanderings, Oedipus came at last to a sacred spot close to Athens. He was now a sage and holy man, a precious sacred entity....The life of Oedipus, as it is revealed in these two plays, parallels the alchemical process. Like the prima materia with which the alchemists began their work. Oedipus is subjected to fiery ordeals and sufferings until he is transformed into a holy object that benefits all who touch him. Here is the theophany which redeems the suffering of the first play."
Oedipus at Colonus (written when Sophocles was 90)
Translated by C. John Holcombe, page 41
"And to allay his freezing age
The poor man takes her in his arms:
The cottage fades before his sight,
The garden and its lovely charms;"
The depleted spirituality has reached the point at which it is solidified into ritualistic, formalistic and legalistic behavior. Blake uses rigidity in relationship to Urizen's mind, which is also ritualistic and legalistic. The man resorts to embracing materialism. He had maintained his own separate identity until he 'embraced' the maiden whom Blake uses to symbolize materiality. This is the cause of his losing sight of eternity.
With this his intellect (cottage) and emotion (garden) lose their vitality and are withdrawn from his sight (perception.) The cottage in which we all tend to dwell is the intellect - our minds; sensation provides us with raw unprocessed data. Sense based, literalistic thinking is the residue with which the man is now left.
Contemplation, (E 442)
"I answered, 'Heavenly
goddess! I am wrapped in mortality, my flesh is a prison, my
bones the bars of death, Misery builds over our cottage roofs,
and Discontent runs like a brook.'"
We soon leave the young lady who arrived with such fanfare as we go back to following the man who had grown old and been pushed out of his home. Spirituality which had aged and become depleted has been pushed from its position of respect and value. A new movement focused on mastering the workings of matter has entered.