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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Yale Center for British Art
Plate 47

This image shows as clearly as any the divisions in the one man Albion. These are words we find in the text:

'tore forth'
'break forth'
'enslaved and tormented'
'bound in vengeance & enmity'


Jerusalem , PLATE 47, (E 196)
"[When Albion utterd his last words Hope is banishd from me]
From Camberwell to Highgate where the mighty Thames shudders along,
Where Los's Furnaces stand, where Jerusalem & Vala howl:
Luvah tore forth from Albions Loins, in fibrous veins, in rivers
Of blood over Europe: a Vegetating Root in grinding pain.
Animating the Dragon Temples, soon to become that Holy Fiend
The Wicker Man of Scandinavia in which cruelly consumed
The Captives reard to heaven howl in flames among the stars
Loud the cries of War on the Rhine & Danube, with Albions Sons,
Away from Beulahs hills & vales break forth the Souls of the Dead,
With cymbal, trumpet, clarion; & the scythed chariots of Britain.

And the Veil of Vala, is composed of the Spectres of the Dead

Hark! the mingling cries of Luvah with the Sons of Albion
Hark! & Record the terrible wonder! that the Punisher
Mingles with his Victims Spectre, enslaved and tormented
To him whom he has murderd, bound in vengeance & enmity
Shudder not, but Write, & the hand of God will assist you!
Therefore I write Albions last words. Hope is banish'd from me.

The words of the text speak of the one man being violently divided and yet being unable to be split apart in complete separation. The picture shows three figures linked as if in a chain. They can be seen as one figure, Albion, being torn apart into Luvah, Vala and Jerusalem. Jerusalem would be the central figure under the feet of Vala yet reaching up to heaven with one hand and down to earth with the other. Vala and Luvah exhibit the arm position of despair and being locked off from any influx of enlightenment.

The paradox of the psyche is unity in diversity. It is a whole which may be expressed as parts. The parts cannot exist independently although they may attempt to. Luvah apart from Albion tears Jerusalem from her position and creates Vala as a tormented slave. The bonds of love within the psyche become bonds of 'vengeance & enmity.'

War is the image of this psychological condition. War results from individual nations attempting to establish separate, dominant positions. When nations do not acknowledge their inclusion in the unity and interdependence of the whole, they become hostile to nations who exhibit different values. Projection ensues and each nation perceives threat from others. The recognition of Brotherhood breaks down projection because the enemy seen as brother is no longer a threat. But if the victim cannot see the punisher as his brother his own Selfhood will unite with the punisher and he will become slave to his Selfhood.

Blake recognises that error is not apparent until the consequences become unbearable. At which point the 'wheels of war' can be exchanged fro the 'wings of cherubim' through forgiveness.

Jerusalem , Plate 22,(E 168)
"Why should Punishment Weave the Veil with Iron Wheels of War
When Forgiveness might it Weave with Wings of Cherubim"

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Milton published a speech addressed to the Parliament in 1644 in the midst of the Civil War addressing the threat of censorship of the print media. Blake and Milton shared an intense concern that lively distribution of ideas in print not be restricted. Northrop Frye recognises that Areopagitica became an important link to Milton for Blake:

"It is in Areopagitica that Milton is nearest to Blake and Areopagitica supplies for the student of Blake not only a guide to most of Blake's leading ideas but an illustration of many of his symbols. It was undoubtedly a major influence in forming Blake's doctrine that the Christian Church cannot exist outside the arts because the secondary Word of God which unites us to the primary Word or Person of Christ is a book and not a ceremony. ..
The greatness of Areopagitica is that it speaks for liberty not tolerance: it is not a plea of nervous intellectual who hopes that a brutal majority will at least leave him alone, but a demand for the release of creative power and vision of an imaginative culture in which the genius is not an intelllectual as much as a prophet and seer. The release of creative genius is the only social problem that matters, for such a release is not the granting of extra privileges to a small class, but the unbinding of the Titan in man who will soon begin to tear down the sun and moon and enter paradise. The creative impulse in man is God in man." Frye, Fearful Symmetry, (Page 159)

Blake's high regard for the printed or written word as a gift from God is acknowledged at the beginning of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of heaven,
And of that God from whom [all books are given,]
Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave
To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave,
Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!
Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:
Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear.
Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:
Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony

Of the Measure, in which
the following Poem is written"

Blake chose to become his own printer and publisher in order to combine the two art forms which in conjunction could express his ideas to his audience.

Prospectus, (E 692)
"TO THE PUBLIC October 10, 1793.
The Labours of the Artist, the Poet, the Musician, have been
proverbially attended by poverty and obscurity; this was never
the fault of the Public, but was owing to a neglect of means to
propagate such works as have wholly absorbed the Man of Genius.
Even Milton and Shakespeare could not publish their own works.
This difficulty has been obviated by the Author of the
following productions now presented to the Public; who has
invented a method of Printing both Letter-press and Engraving in
a style more ornamental, uniform, and grand, than any before
discovered, while it produces works at less than one fourth of the expense.
If a method of Printing which combines the Painter and the
Poet is a phenomenon worthy of public attention, provided that it
exceeds in elegance all former methods, the Author is sure of his reward.
Mr. Blake's powers of invention very early engaged the
attention of many persons of eminence and fortune; by whose means
he has been regularly enabled to bring before the Public works
(he is not afraid to say) of equal magnitude and consequence with
the productions of any age or country: among which are two large
highly finished engravings (and two more are nearly ready) which
will commence a Series of subjects from the Bible, and another
from the History of England."

Blake, like Milton, aims to set right in the New Age the errors which prevent us from being 'just & true to our own Imaginations.' The means that what they both need for the task are printed pages uncensored by 'Daughters of Memory' and 'slaves of the Sword.'

Milton, Plate i, (E 95)
"To justify the Ways of God to Men
The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall
become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were
both curbd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek
& Latin slaves of the Sword.
Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for
ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War. Painters! on you I
call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fash[i]onable Fools
to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for
contemptible works or the expensive advertizing boasts that they
make of such works; believe Christ & his Apostles that there is a
Class of Men whose whole delight is in Destroying. We do not
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord."

Without the freedom to express ideas openly society becomes entrapped in a downward spiral of self destruction.

Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43], (E 185)
"And the soft smile of friendship & the open dawn of benevolence
Become a net & a trap, & every energy renderd cruel,
Till the existence of friendship & benevolence is denied:
The wine of the Spirit & the vineyards of the Holy-One.
Here: turn into poisonous stupor & deadly intoxication:
That they may be condemnd by Law & the Lamb of God be slain!
And the two Sources of Life in Eternity[,] Hunting and War,
Are become the Sources of dark & bitter Death & of corroding Hell:
The open heart is shut up in integuments of frozen silence
That the spear that lights it forth may shatter the ribs & bosom
A pretence of Art, to destroy Art: a pretence of Liberty
To destroy Liberty. a pretence of Religion to destroy Religion
Oshea and Caleb fight: they contend in the valleys of Peor
In the terrible Family Contentions of those who love each other:
The Armies of Balaam weep---no women come to the field
Dead corses lay before them, & not as in Wars of old.
For the Soldier who fights for Truth, calls his enemy his brother:
They fight & contend for life, & not for eternal death!"

Frey says that: "... to release liberty is to kindle a flame which can never be extinguished until it is merged in the final consummation of all things." Page 160

Friday, February 24, 2012


Milton wrote Paradise Lost late in his life having lived through the English Civil War, the Commonwealth, Cromwell's rule, and the restoration of monarchy. Although Paradise Lost is an epic on a biblical theme it is, as well, Milton's political message for the nation following the turmoil it had endured.

Anna Beer's recent biography, Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot comments on the form which Milton chose in order to make his voice heard.

"His response to his nation's crisis was in blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter, yet another sign of his opposition to current literary fashion...Milton's chosen meter is the closest to to the natural rhythms of English speech, and remains familiar now since it is the dominant mode of Shakespeare's plays. Milton's choice suggests not only his vision of epic as a kind of drama, not only, perhaps, as a nostalgia for the rhythms of the drama of his youth, but, more importantly, the use of blank verse is a further indication that the author intended his epic to do political work. Milton made this point explicitly in the note on the 'measure' added in 1668. To use blank verse, he writes, is to restore ancient liberty to the 'Heroic Poem from the troublesome and modern bondage to Rhyming. Even the choice of the meter is an attempt to to free the English people from bondage. Milton's epic was designed in both structure and content to minister to a nation in distress." (Page 344)

Blake remarks on his desire to further free poetry from 'bondage' as Milton himself had done, by using 'variety in every line, both of cadences & number of syllables.'

Jerusalem, Plate 3,(E 145)
"When this Verse was first dictated to me I consider'd a
Monotonous Cadence like that used by Milton & Shakspeare & all
writers of English Blank Verse, derived from the modern bondage
of Rhyming; to be a necessary and indispensible part of Verse.
But I soon found that
in the mouth of a true Orator such monotony was not only awkward,
but as much a bondage as rhyme itself. I therefore have produced
a variety in every line, both of cadences & number of syllables.
Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit
place: the terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific
parts--the mild & gentle, for the mild & gentle parts, and the
prosaic, for inferior parts: all are necessary to each other.
Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race! Nations are Destroy'd,
or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry Painting and Music,
are Destroy'd or Flourish! The Primeval State of Man, was Wisdom,
Art, and Science."

We are given a view of circumstances under which Milton worked by Beer, and from Milton's own words how he was dependant on nightly visits of inspiration to compose his epic.

"Paradise Lost was a great achievement in itself but an even more remarkable one for an elderly, blind man living in a world of persecution and plague. According to Milton's nephew, the epic was composed in his uncle's mind, often in the early hours of the morning, and then, the day begun, the new lines were dictated to anyone who could write the words." (Page 305)

Paradise Lost, Book IX
"If answerable style I can obtaine [ 20 ]
Of my Celestial Patroness, who deignes
Her nightly visitation unimplor'd,
And dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires
Easie my unpremeditated Verse:"

Blake too claims not to be the author of his verse but to receive it in the night to be set down in the morn.

Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.

This theme calls me in sleep night after night, & ev'ry morn
Awakes me at sun-rise, then I see the Saviour over me
Spreading his beams of love, & dictating the words of this mild song."

Blake became a collaborator with Milton by illustrating Il Penseroso and L'Allegro which portray the two moods of passivity and activity. These two illustrations might represent the night in which the mind receives inspiration, and the morn in which the inspiration is productive of results.

Il Penseroso

"I woo to hear thy eeven-Song ;
And missing thee, I walk unseen [ 65 ]
On the dry smooth-shaven Green,
To behold the wandring Moon,
Riding neer her highest noon,
Like one that had bin led astray
Through the Heav'ns wide pathles way"


"Som time walking not unseen
By Hedge-row Elms, on Hillocks green,
Right against the Eastern gate,
Wher the great Sun begins his state, [ 60 ]
Rob'd in flames, and Amber light,
The clouds in thousand Liveries dight.
While the Plowman neer at hand,
Whistles ore the Furrow'd Land,
And the Milkmaid singeth blithe, [ 65 ]
And the Mower whets his sithe,
And every Shepherd tells his tale
Under the Hawthorn in the dale."

Read Milton's poetry at this Dartmouth website.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Original in Manchester Galleries
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Portrait of John Milton painted by William Blake for William Hayley's library in his home near Felpham

That Blake was an admirer of Milton is undisputed. Blake was born 63 years after Milton's death, 70 years after the first publication of Paradise Lost. Blake was a solitary learner and Milton was his teacher from childhood on. At a spiritual level Blake felt a bond of love with Milton; of knowing and being known by him.

Letters, 11, To Flaxman, (E 708)
"Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face
Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand
Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me."

Blake shared with Milton common experiences in the outer as well as the inner world. Both men lived through turbulent times in which their country underwent hardships and threats of the breakdown of order. They shared a commitment to non-conformist religion which recognised each man's personal involvement with God. Both placed his loyalty on the side of republicanism and against monarchy. Milton and Blake pursued the life of the intellect as the structure which defined their activities. Seeing themselves as prophets to their nation they selected poetry as the vehicle to present their ideas and educate men in the value and costs of liberty.

On the back of the title page of Blake's annoted copy of Reynolds' Discourse III, Blake wrote a quote from Milton's The Reason of Church Government:

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 646)
"A Work of Genius is a Work 'Not to be obtaind by the
Invocation of Memory & her Syren Daughters. but by Devout prayer
to that Eternal Spirit. who can enrich with all utterance &
knowledge & sends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his
Altar to touch & purify the lips of whom he pleases.' Milton"

In a letter to a less than supportive potential patron, Blake states explicitly that he shares Milton's receiving of illumination from outside of his own creative control.

Letters, To Truxler, (E 701)
"But I
hope that none of my Designs will be destitute of Infinite
Particulars which will present themselves to the Contemplator.
And tho I call them Mine I know that they are not Mine being of
the same opinion with Milton when he says That the Muse visits
his Slumbers & awakes & governs his Song when Morn purples The
East. & being also in the predicament of that prophet who says I
cannot go beyond the command of the Lord to speak good or bad"

Monday, February 20, 2012


We are told that above the Ark of the Covenant are the Mercy Seat and the Cherubim. The law of Moses is enclosed in the Ark representing the Justice of God. God's mercy is represented by the Cherubim and Mercy Seat.

Exodus 25
[16] And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
[17] And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
[18] And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
[19] And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
[20] And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.
[21] And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
[22] And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

Justice and mercy are meant to be twin attributes of God. Pleas for mercy abound in the Old Testament, but the law dominates the practice of the priests. In the New Testament, Jesus points out that 'judgment, mercy and faith' are the weightier matters of the law.

Matthew 23
[23] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay
tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier
matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have
done, and not to leave the other undone.

Jesus emphasises forgiveness. It is through God's mercy and love not through adhering to the law in good works that salvation is received.

Titus 3
[5] Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Ephesians 2

[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
[5] Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
[6] And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
[7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
[9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Blake's Albion speaks his last words; there is nothing more he can do. But the tender mercies of Jesus hold and protect him until his awakening.

Jerusalem, Plate 47, (E 196)
"Therefore I write Albions last words. Hope is banish'd from me.
Plate 48
These were his last words, and the merciful Saviour in his arms
Reciev'd him, in the arms of tender mercy and repos'd
The pale limbs of his Eternal Individuality
Upon the Rock of Ages. Then, surrounded with a Cloud:
In silence the Divine Lord builded with immortal labour,
Of gold & jewels a sublime Ornament, a Couch of repose,
With Sixteen pillars: canopied with emblems & written verse.
Spiritual Verse, order'd & measur'd, from whence, time shall reveal."

Justice, the operation of the law, is said to be one of the 'iron pillars of Satans throne.'

Milton, PLATE 29 [31], (E 128)
"Then Los conducts the Spirits to be Vegetated, into
Great Golgonooza, free from the four iron pillars of Satans Throne
(Temperance, Prudence, justice, Fortitude, the four pillars of
That Satans Watch-Fiends touch them not before they Vegetate."

Here we find that Albion has turned from the courts of Jerusalem including the 'Cherubim of Tender-mercy' into the 'Wastes of Moral Law.' But the work of redemption through mercy will be accomplished with forgiveness and patience.

erusalem, Plate 24, (E 169)

[Albion speaks]
"O what is Life & what is Man. O what is Death? Wherefore
Are you my Children, natives in the Grave to where I go
Or are you born to feed the hungry ravenings of Destruction
To be the sport of Accident! to waste in Wrath & Love, a weary
Life, in brooding cares & anxious labours, that prove but chaff.
O Jerusalem Jerusalem I have forsaken thy Courts
Thy Pillars of ivory & gold: thy Curtains of silk & fine
Linen: thy Pavements of precious stones: thy Walls of pearl
And gold, thy Gates of Thanksgiving thy Windows of Praise:
Thy Clouds of Blessing; thy Cherubims of Tender-mercy
Stretching their Wings sublime over the Little-ones of Albion
O Human Imagination O Divine Body I have Crucified
I have turned my back upon thee into the Wastes of Moral Law:
There Babylon is builded in the Waste, founded in Human desolation."
Jerusalem, Plate 13, (E 157)
(But whatever is visible to the Generated Man,
Is a Creation of mercy & love, from the Satanic Void.)

Milton, PLATE 23 [25], (E 119)
"Remember how Calvin and Luther in fury premature
Sow'd War and stern division between Papists & Protestants
Let it not be so now! O go not forth in Martyrdoms & Wars
We were plac'd here by the Universal Brotherhood & Mercy
With powers fitted to circumscribe this dark Satanic death
And that the Seven Eyes of God may have space for Redemption.
But how this is as yet we know not, and we cannot know;
Till Albion is arisen; then patient wait a little while,"

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 247)
"The blow of his Hammer is Justice. the swing of his Hammer: Mercy.
The force of Los's Hammer is eternal Forgiveness; but
His rage or his mildness were vain, she [Enitharmon] scatterd his love on the wind
Eastward into her own Center, creating the Female Womb
In mild Jerusalem around the Lamb of God."

British Museum
Watercolor 1795-97
Illustration to Edward Young's Night Thoughts

Saturday, February 18, 2012


An earlier post focused on the ark of Noah. Blake's mention of an ark refers more often to the Ark of the Covenant which originally held the tablets of law written by Moses at God's instruction. Stationed at the center of the temple, covered by the cherubim and the mercy seat, secluded by curtains, it occupied the 'holy of holies'.

Exodus 25
[10] And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
[14] And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.
[15] The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.
[16] And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
[21] And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
[22] And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

Northrop Frye sees the original vision of God which was memorialised by the ark, as having been abandoned and forgotten. The ark became an empty shell as a symbol used for magic and mystery by a fallen people.

Fearful Symmetry , Page 368
"The image of God carried by the Hebrews was an 'ark.' The true ark of God is the human body, as Jesus implied when he identified his body with the temple. But as the Israelite culture declined, the term 'ark' became attached to a tabooed object, jealously guarded by priests, causing plagues and death to those who touched it, heavily curtained, and used as a palladium in war. What the Hebrews really had was an image of the female will or Vala, who later got control of the Jewish temple and the Christian church in the same way. When the Hebrews finally took Jerusalem, made it their capital, and brought the ark into it, Jerusalem thereby became the fallen Jerusalem on the level with Egypt and Babylon."

The symbol was given new life by Jesus who removed the secrecy which hid a religion of rules and rituals.

[1] Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
[2] For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
[3] And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
[4] Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
[5] And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
[23] It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
[24] For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

Acts 7
[48] Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
[49] Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?

Second Corinthians 5
[1] For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Fearful Symmetry, Page 381
"...The curtains of the ark and the veil in the temple which concealed the nothingness of the Pharisees' God and which was rent by Jesus, need no further explanation."

Milton, Plate 41 [48], (E 142)
"These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration."

Design of the last Judgment, (E 553)
"To Ozias Humphry Esqre

Behind the Seat & Throne of Christ appears
the Tabernacle with its Veil opened the Candlestick
on the right the Table with the Shew bread on the left in
midst is the Cross in place of the Ark Cherubim bowing over it
On the Right hand of the Throne of Christ is Baptism On
the left is the Lords Supper the two introducers into Eternal Life
Women with Infants approach the Figure of an aged Apostle which represents
Baptism & on the left hand
the Lords Supper is administerd by
Angels from the hands of another Apostle these
kneel on each side of the Throne which is surrounded by a Glory
many Infants appear in the Glory
representing the Eternal Creation flowing from the Divine
Humanity in Jesus who opens the Scroll of Judgment upon his knees
before the Living & the Dead
Such is the Design which you my Dear Sir have been the cause
of my producing & which but for you might have slept till the
Last Judgment


Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 562)
"Over the Head of the Saviour & Redeemer The Holy
Spirit like a Dove is surrounded by a blue Heaven in which are
the two Cherubim that bowd over the Ark for here the temple is
opend in Heaven & the Ark of the Covenant is as a Dove of Peace
The Curtains are drawn apart Christ having rent the Veil The
Candlestick & the Table of Shew bread appear on Each side a
Glorification of Angels with Harps surrou[n]d the Dove"

Annotations to Lavater, (E 596)
"man is the ark of God the mercy seat is above upon the ark
cherubims guard it on either side & in the midst is the holy law.
man is either the ark of God or a phantom of the earth & of the

The Vision of the Last Judgement

Pen and watercolour,
510 x 395 mm


Petworth House, Sussex, National Trust

Thursday, February 16, 2012


A symbol is not what it symbolises. It is serious error to confuse the reality with the symbol which communicates or mediates it. Blake was cautious about allowing symbols to replace the reality they stood for.

The ark of the temple is a case in point. As a primary symbol for the Jews of the presence of God, it became an object of worship itself. Furthermore the worshippers were kept at a distance from the ark which was hidden within veils. Above the arc were positioned two golden cherubim who covered it with their wings. The symbolic meaning of the ark and the cherubim involved the law of God and his mercy as the physical manifestation of his spiritual presence. The physical artifacts became a covering for the numinous. But could the presence of God be localised in these objects which became central to the practice of Hebrew religion?

So we have in the book of Ezekiel, the covering cherub becoming a symbol for the unrighteousness which claims the position of God. Because the prince of Tyrus, blessed with wisdom, wealth and power, claims to be God he is brought down to the depths. He is called the 'covering cherub' as one who, selected by God, covers the Divine presence with his own Selfhood.

Ezekiel 28
[1] The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
[2] Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God:
[13] Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
[14] Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
[15] Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
[16] By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

In Milton the Covering Cherub, the Spectre of Albion, sinking down into the Death of Rome, Babylon and Tyre descends into Generation as Satan or Urizen.

Milton, Plate 9, (E 103)
"Rintrah rear'd up walls of rocks and pourd rivers & moats
Of fire round the walls: columns of fire guard around
Between Satan and Palamabron in the terrible darkness.

And Satan not having the Science of Wrath, but only of Pity:
Rent them asunder, and wrath was left to wrath, & pity to pity.
He sunk down a dreadful Death, unlike the slumbers of Beulah

The Separation was terrible: the Dead was repos'd on his Couch
Beneath the Couch of Albion, on the seven mou[n]tains of Rome
In the whole place of the Covering Cherub, Rome Babylon & Tyre.
His Spectre raging furious descended into its Space
PLATE 10 [11]
Then Los & Enitharmon knew that Satan is Urizen
Drawn down by Orc & the Shadowy Female into Generation"

Milton, PLATE 37 [41], (E 138)
"All these are seen in Miltons Shadow who is the Covering Cherub
The Spectre of Albion in which the Spectre of Luvah inhabits
In the Newtonian Voids between the Substances of Creation
The Heavens are the Cherub, the Twelve Gods are Satan"

Orc begs Jerusalem not to assume the Human Form by weaving Satan for a Covering.

Milton, PLATE 18 [20], (E 111)
"Orc answerd. Take not the Human Form O loveliest. Take not
Terror upon thee! Behold how I am & tremble lest thou also
Consume in my Consummation; but thou maist take a Form
Female & lovely, that cannot consume in Mans consummation
Wherefore dost thou Create & Weave this Satan for a Covering[?]
When thou attemptest to put on the Human Form, my wrath
Burns to the top of heaven against thee in Jealousy & Fear.
Then I rend thee asunder, then I howl over thy clay & ashes
When wilt thou put on the Female Form as in times of old
With a Garment of Pity & Compassion like the Garment of God
His garments are long sufferings for the Children of Men
Jerusalem is his Garment & not thy Covering Cherub O lovely
Shadow of my delight who wanderest seeking for the prey."

Jerusalem, PLATE 89, (E 247)
"Thus was the Covering Cherub reveald majestic image
Of Selfhood, Body put off, the Antichrist accursed
Coverd with precious stones, a Human Dragon terrible
And bright, stretchd over Europe & Asia gorgeous
In three nights he devourd the rejected corse of death
His Head dark, deadly, in its Brain incloses a reflexion
Of Eden all perverted;"

Image from Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia
Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Covering Cherub is the image which absorbs all the error and false perceptions which prevent man from understanding that reentry into Eden is possible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Quotes are from S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake.

The Old Testament flood for which Noah built his ark is a pivotal development in history. Man is portrayed as ending one phase of his existence and beginning again with a clean slate. The ark made by Noah from God's instructions was the means through which humanity was preserved instead of being annihilated. An event which comes close to exterminating a population and altering a landscape made an imprint on the psyche. A complex of images developed around the story of the flood which kept the memory of it alive as a continually developing symbol.

Elements of the multifaceted symbol which developed around the 40 day rain and subsequent inundation include: the ark, the flood, the preservation of the species, the dove, the olive branch, the rainbow. As an event which incorporated negative aspects (such as punishment for sins, and destruction of the environment and its inhabitants), and positive aspects (such as saving of a remnant of the living things on the planet, and resulting in a promise that such an event of destruction would not recur), it offers itself for a symbol encompassing both destruction and reconstruction.

To focus on a single facet of the multifaceted image we look at the ark as Blake incorporated it. The ark is a safe feminine place of refuge as is Beulah.

Yale Center for British Art   Jerusalem
Plate 24
Yale Center for British Art   Jerusalem
Plate 44

Damon, Page 286
"It is the function of the female to provide a moony space of refuge and rest for the male."

Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 223)
"& not like Beulah
Where every Female delights to give her maiden to her husband
The Female searches sea & land for gratification to the
Male Genius: who in return clothes her in gems & gold
And feeds her with the food of Eden. hence all her beauty beams
She Creates at her will a little moony night & silence
With Spaces of sweet gardens & a tent of elegant beauty:
Closed in by a sandy desart & a night of stars shining.
And a little tender moon & hovering angels on the wing.
And the Male gives a Time & Revolution to her Space
Till the time of love is passed in ever varying delights
For All Things Exist in the Human Imagination
And thence in Beulah they are stolen by secret amorous theft,"

Damon, Page 300
"As all forms of water signify matter, the flood was the overwhelming of mankind with Matter, which separated them from Eternity. This is the Sea of Time and Space in which we are all submerged. ...
The Ark, which preserved Noah and his family, symbolizes Love: consequently Blake depicted it as a crescent moon."

The achievement of the flood is the separation of intellect and love that each may be differentiated and defined. A tension must develop between the two so that the roles of each may be clarified. They are not meant to be enemies but friends who will be reunited when they have learned the lessons of misguided independence. Interdependence reunites them through the incarnation.

One of the forms Ololon assumes as Blake's Milton is concluding is that of an ark.


Damon, Page 308
"Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended...into the Fires of Intellect" (42:7-9): love and intellect combined. The Starry Eight become Jesus; Ololon's clouds are his wedding garment; and Jesus becomes one with mankind (42:19). The mystical union has been achieved, and Blake falls fainting on his garden path."

Milton, Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea.

Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a Garment dipped in blood
Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years"

In the development of the human psyche a major transition occurs when the mind attains an ability to focus on specific things rather than being immersed in an undifferentiated consciousness over which it has no control. When this happens the mind separates individual objects, events and experiences from one another. This may be described as being flooded with the world of materiality because what was experienced as a unity becomes many. A consciousness of the material, the world outside the mind, washes away the previous diffuse awareness.

Blake's ark is the safety net provided by Eternity in the time of the flood. The focused consciousness (the flood of the material) becomes the masculine side of the psyche and the unifying consciousness (of love, rest and repose) becomes the feminine side.

Four Zoas, PAGE 104 (SECOND PORTION), (E 377)
"Come Lord Jesus come quickly

So sang they in Eternity looking down into Beulah.

The war roard round Jerusalems Gates it took a hideous form
Seen in the aggregate a Vast Hermaphroditic form
Heavd like an Earthquake labring with convulsive groans
Intolerable at length an awful wonder burst
From the Hermaphroditic bosom Satan he was namd
Son of Perdition terrible his form dishumanizd monstrous
A male without a female counterpart a howling fiend
Fo[r]lorn of Eden & repugnant to the forms of life
Yet hiding the shadowy female Vala as in an ark & Curtains
Abhorrd accursed ever dying an Eternal death
Being multitudes of tyrant Men in union blasphemous
Against the divine image. Congregated Assemblies of wicked men.

"For more about masculine and feminine consciousness read Sukie Colgrave's Uniting Heaven and Earth: A Jungian and Taoist Exploration of the Masculine and Feminine in Human Consciousness.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Ezekiel, Chapter 24
[15] Also the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
[16] Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.
[17] Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men.
[18] So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.
[19] And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou doest so?
[20] Then I answered them, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
[21] Speak unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the excellency of your strength, the desire of your eyes, and that which your soul pitieth; and your sons and your daughters whom ye have left shall fall by the sword.
[22] And ye shall do as I have done: ye shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men.
[23] And your tires shall be upon your heads, and your shoes upon your feet: ye shall not mourn nor weep; but ye shall pine away for your iniquities, and mourn one toward another.
[24] Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.

British Museum
Caption, "I take away from thee the Desire of thine Eyes, [E]zekiel xxiv"
"Publishd October 27 1794 by W Blake No 13 Hercules Buildings Lambeth".

Marriage of Heaven & Hell , Plate 13, (E 39)
"I then asked Ezekiel. why he eat dung, & lay so long on his
right & left side? he answerd. the desire of raising other men
into a perception of the infinite this the North American tribes
practise. & is he honest who resists his genius or conscience.
only for the sake of present ease or gratification?"

Friday, February 10, 2012


National Gallery
Washington DC
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman clothed with the Sun


[1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
[2] And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
[3] And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
[4] And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
[5] And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
[6] And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
[7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
[8] And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
[9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

In studying Blake one is led to give increasing attention to the multitude of symbols which he uses. The visual images which delight us with overall impressions and information, contain as well, clues to more subtle meaning through symbolic gestures. Janet A. Warner, in Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic, edited by Erdman and Grant, wrote a chapter on Blake's use of gesture. We see repetitions of various postures and positions of the body in the images. Warner helps us to recognise how the gestures contribute to consolidating the symbolic language.

On page 187 Warner uses one image to demonstrate that details contribute to the overall themes conveyed in Blake's work:

"One design which uses many of the symbols which I have been discussing is the water color The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. The hovering figure is here taken to its ultimate Satanic form, encompassing bat wings, serpent tail, and outstretched arms with downturned hands. According to Revelation the dragon is 'that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.' The woman clothed in the sun and given the wings of an eagle represents the good in nature (she sits on the crescent moon) that the dragon is trying to vanquish; Blake indicates this also by her outstretched arms, her upturned hands, and her position on a stone in the sea, rather reminiscent of Urizen in America 8. The natural world of moon, stone and sea are her province, as they are his. Blake tells us how he reads the passage in Revelation, however, by the way the positions of the woman and the dragon reflect each other: these are two aspects of the same psyche, as powerful an image of the demonic and regenerative impulses of fallen man as he ever painted.

The symbolic gesture of outstretched arms, then, can be associated consistently with the main themes of Blake's work: the essential divinity of man, his capacity for regeneration, his error in turning the divine creativity into mental tyranny or selfhood. The importance of the four attitudes which repeatedly represent these ideas in Blake's art may remind us of his exclamation, 'What kind of Intellects must he have who sees only the Colours of things & not the Form of Things' [E 578]. The out stretched arms motif, perhaps the most evident of several of Blake's repeated visual images, should not, then, be ignored or dismissed as a technical weakness; it is as powerful as any verbal symbol, and essential to that union of sight and sound, that reintegration of the senses which Blake strove to achieve in all his work."

Public Address, PAGE 66, (E 578)
"The English Artist may be assured that he is doing an injury
& injustice to his Country while he studies & imitates the
Effects of Nature. England will never rival Italy while we
servilely copy. what the Wise Italians Rafael & Michael Angelo
scorned nay abhorred as Vasari tells us

Call that the Public Voice which is their Error
Like as a Monkey peeping in a Mirror
Admires all his colours brown & warm
And never once percieves his ugly form

What kind of Intellects must he have who sees only the Colours of
things & not the Forms of Things

A jockey that is any thing of a jockey will never buy a
Horse by the Colour & a Man who has got any brains will never buy
a Picture by the Colour
When I tell any Truth it is Not for the sake of Convincing
those who do not know it but for the sake of defending those who

No Man of Sense ever supposes that Copying from Nature is
the Art of Painting if the Art is no more than this it is no
better than any others Manual Labour any body may do it & the
fool often will do it best as it is a work of no Mind"

Blake drew from his imagination using a vocabulary acquired through practice to express intellectual ideas. The form was primary but in spite of Blake's de-emphasis of its importance, the color was an additional facet of his symbolism.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


British Museum
Book of Urizen
Copy D, Plate 24
 Northrop Frye on Milton and Blake , Edited by Angela Esterhammer contains a chapter Notes for a Commentary on Milton. Frye sees a structure of symbolism in Blake's Milton as based on the four levels of vision known as Fourfold Vision and consisting of Eden, Beulah, Generation and Ulro. In each of the levels Frye finds seven metaphors which delineate characteristics: the divine world, the spiritual world, the human world, the animal world, the vegetable world, the mineral world, and the chaotic world. As an example of Frye's analysis he sees the vegetable world at the level of Generation developed by Blake in the symbol of the garden; not the garden as in Eden but an unrealised promise in which man is separated from the Divine Image:

"The Garden of the ordinary world is symbolized by Blake as 'Canaan,' i.e., the land possessed by a people who have given up the real Promised Land and settled down under the Mosaic law and the Levitical priesthood. Canaan of course includes eighteenth-century Europe, its counterpart in the next cycle...We are told that the Israelites were frightened away from the Promised Land by 'giants' or 'ghosts' ('Rephaim,' M 31.57), and hence in Canaan would still have been under the domain of the same giants ... Of these giants who in the aggregate make up the Covering Cherub, the most important are Og, Sihon, and Anak. They are politically the tyrants of Canaan, such as William Pitt and Napoleon, intellectually the ideas derived from a world under the stars (M 41.50), and psychologically the moral censors who keep us from using our imaginations (M 22.35)." (Page 255)

Here are the passages in Milton which Frye cites:

Milton, PLATE 29 [31], (E 128)
"The Three Heavens of Ulro, where Tirzah & her Sisters
Weave the black Woof of Death upon Entuthon Benython
In the Vale of Surrey where Horeb terminates in Rephaim"

Milton, PLATE 37 [41], (E 138)
"For the Chaotic Voids outside of the Stars are measured by
The Stars, which are the boundaries of Kingdoms, Provinces
And Empires of Chaos invisible to the Vegetable Man
The Kingdom of Og. is in Orion: Sihon is in Ophiucus
Og has Twenty-seven Districts; Sihons Districts Twenty-one
From Star to Star, Mountains & Valleys, terrible dimension
Stretchd out, compose the Mundane Shell, a mighty Incrustation
Of Forty-eight deformed Human Wonders of the Almighty"

Milton, PLATE 20 [22], (E 114)
"Hence thou art cloth'd with human beauty O thou mortal man.
Seek not thy heavenly father then beyond the skies:
There Chaos dwells & ancient Night & Og & Anak old:
For every human heart has gates of brass & bars of adamant,
Which few dare unbar because dread Og & Anak guard the gates
Terrific! and each mortal brain is walld and moated round
Within: and Og & Anak watch here; here is the Seat
Of Satan in its Webs; for in brain and heart and loins
Gates open behind Satans Seat to the City of Golgonooza
Which is the spiritual fourfold London, in the loins of Albion"