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

Saturday, October 8, 2011

BLAKE'S JOURNEY

Image is from
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection 
Young's Night Thoughts, Page 63
"This King of Terrors Is the Prince of Peace"

John Middleton Murry, whose book William Blake was published in 1933, approaches Milton not as a scholar but as a student who is learning from Blake's wisdom. He says of Milton:

Page 218
"It is in my opinion, Blake's prophetic masterpiece (if such a word can be used without a kind of sacrilege). And certainly, my love and admiration for it do not stop on this side of idolatry. It is a unique imperishable work: a ladder of angels to the real Eternity."

Murry is interested in following Blake's spiritual journey through the incidents related in the Four Zoas and Milton and in the personal tidbits revealed in his letters. Knowing the contentions Blake experienced in Felpham through the conflicted relationship he developed with Hayley, and through the accusations of Schofield, Murry looks for remnants of Blake's inner struggles in his poetry. First Murry focuses on Night VII of the Four Zoas:

Page 196
"Soon after the moment when, in Night VII, Los is united with the Spectre, 'by Divine Mercy inspired', gives him 'tasks enormous' to fulfill. The two and a half lines which tell of them are a later addition. Originally the lines ran:
[added lines inserted in bold]

Four Zoas , Night VII, Page 87 (E 368)
"But mingling together with his Spectre the Spectre of Urthona
Wondering beheld the Center opend by Divine Mercy inspired

He in his turn Gave Tasks to Los Enormous to destroy
That body he created but in vain for Los performd
Wonders of labour


They Builded Golgonooza"

"The discarding of the previous version of Night VII, and the substitution for it of the Night which this union of Spectres is the culmination, marks the point of change in Blake's total conception of the work. This point of change is marked, psychologically and spiritually, by the union of the Spectre through Los's Self-annihilation; it is marked artistically and creatively, by the building of Golgonnoza. At some time not long afterwards Blake looked back, in the light of new experience and added two lines and a half [as shown above]."

Page 164
"..the psychological meaning is, that by being reconciled to the Spectre within himself, by recognizing and receiving Urizen as a part of his own Self, Los/Blake attains a new understanding, a new synthesis (as we might call it today). Not, of course, an intellectual synthesis; but a real and decisive act of a new spiritual understanding, involving a revolution of the total man - an act of the Self-annihilation which is Imagination. Blake understands now that Urizen is not a separate, demonic power, from whose dominion Blake alone is free; he is in Blake himself, a necessary element of Blake's being."


Page 171
"...I think, in order to understand the quality of Blake's glorious humanity, we need to have known, in the stress of our own small life-experience, what it is, and how far beyond all other achievements it is, at some crucial moment when the unconscious choice lay between the security which is death and the insecurity which is life, to have 'destroyed the Negation, to redeem the contraries.'"

Milton, PLATE 40 [46], (E 142)
"There is a Negation, & there is a Contrary
The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
Plate 41 [48]
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration"

Page 218
"Milton is a re-living, a further exploring, a final deepening of precisely the same actual 'moment' which is differently and more cursorily recorded in Night VII of the Four Zoas."
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