Illustrations for Paradise Regained
Baptism of Christ
Well before Blake wrote his poem Milton, he was interpreting Milton's works through illustrations. First Blake produced illustrations for Paradise Lost, then Comus, The Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso and finally Paradise Regained. Including multiple copies for various patrons, the work spanned the years 1801-1822. Blake is believed to have illustrated Paradise Regained in 1816-18.
Paradise Regained recounts the early life of Jesus especially the temptation incidents in the gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew, expanding them and giving Satan a leading role. A closer look at Paradise Regained sheds light on Blake's dispute with Milton which is explored in Blake's prophetic poem.
Kay Parkhurst Easson and Roger Easson's commentary on Milton focuses our attention on differences between Milton's and Blake's views on the fall and judgment.
Milton: A Poem by William Blake, Page 165
"John Milton, Blake thought, had seen people as being like sheep, appointed to their respective sheepfolds by the shepherd. Blake's view, in clear contrast is individual; judgment of an individual's merit is the individual's responsibility.
Consequently, Blake disliked the way in which Milton conceived of the fall and judgment of man in Paradise Lost, and his third thematic division of Milton counters that conception by showing that there was no fall and judgment is individual...
While the third division of Milton also concerns a fall, it is a descent made willingly by Ololon, the Eternals, not mortals, and it is a descent of the Family Divine as One Man, united with the Eternals. Thus Blake shows not a punishing, judgmental God managing a fall, but a God who in love and mercy always descends with those who enter 'Death's Door'."
In the opening lines of Paradise Regained we notice the appearance of the doctrine that paradise was lost through the disobedience of one man, and shall be recovered by the obedience of one man.
Paradise Regained, Book 1
"I, WHO erewhile the happy Garden sung
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing
Recovered Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foiled
In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed,"
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 555)
"The Last judgment is one of these Stupendous
Visions[.] I have represented it as I saw it[.]
to different People it appears differently as every
thing else does for tho on Earth things seem Permanent they are
less permanent than a Shadow as we all know too well
The Nature of Visionary Fancy or Imagination is very little
Known & the Eternal nature & permanence of its ever Existent
Images is considerd as less permanent than the things of
Vegetative & Generative Nature yet the Oak dies as well as the
Lettuce but Its Eternal Image & Individuality never dies."
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 562)
"What are all the Gifts of the
Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error &
Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual"
Judgment is not for Blake pronounced for all as the result of the acts of Adam and Eve, nor can the one man Jesus absolve the individual from the responsibility of recognizing error.
Milton, Plate 32 ,(E 132)
"Judge then of thy Own Self: thy Eternal Lineaments explore
What is Eternal & what Changeable? & what Annihilable!"