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 , (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