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

Monday, April 2, 2012


City of Bristol Museum
Vala takes the form of the Shadowy Female as the symptoms of fallen nature are exhibited in the world. Misery, suffering, imprisonment, starvation, pestilence, famine, and war are the articulations of the fallen condition of humanity. These conditions were not strangers to Blake. His London in 1799 was as close to famine as had been seen in Britain since the 14th century according to Erdman.
There is a precarious balance between the suffering of humanity represented by the Shadowy Female and explosion into the violence of revolution represented by Orc. Blake had seen two revolutions; the American colonies and the French. Revolution in England was a possibility considering existing conditions.

In this passage Blake seems to present the idea that sufferings represented by the Shadowy Female have not yet been materialized in Human Form. The descent of Milton into the lower worlds required embodiment of the Shadowy Female as Rahab and Tirzah. Orc, from experience, knew the sorrows of Revolution which became materialized. He pleaded with the Shadowy Female to refuse to assume the characteristics of the Selfhood exemplified in the System of Moral Virtue (Rahab) and in the mortal body (Tirzah).

, Plate 17 [19], (E 111)
"Los the Vehicular terror beheld him, & divine Enitharmon
Call'd all her daughters, Saying. Surely to unloose my bond
Is this Man come! Satan shall be unloosd upon Albion
Los heard in terror Enitharmons words: in fibrous strength
His limbs shot forth like roots of trees against the forward path
Of Miltons journey. Urizen beheld the immortal Man,
Plate 18 [20]
And Tharmas Demon of the Waters, & Orc, who is Luvah

The Shadowy Female seeing Milton, howl'd in her lamentation
Over the Deeps. outstretching her Twenty seven Heavens over Albion

And thus the Shadowy Female howls in articulate howlings

I will lament over Milton in the lamentations of the afflicted
My Garments shall be woven of sighs & heart broken lamentations
The misery of unhappy Families shall be drawn out into its border
Wrought with the needle with dire sufferings poverty pain & woe
Along the rocky Island & thence throughout the whole Earth
There shall be the sick Father & his starving Family! there
The Prisoner in the stone Dungeon & the Slave at the Mill
I will have Writings written all over it in Human Words
That every Infant that is born upon the Earth shall read
And get by rote as a hard task of a life of sixty years
I will have Kings inwoven upon it, & Councellors & Mighty Men
The Famine shall clasp it together with buckles & Clasps
And the Pestilence shall be its fringe & the War its girdle
To divide into Rahab & Tirzah that Milton may come to our tents
For I will put on the Human Form & take the Image of God
Even Pity & Humanity but my Clothing shall be Cruelty
And I will put on Holiness as a breastplate & as a helmet
And all my ornaments shall be of the gold of broken hearts
And the precious stones of anxiety & care & desperation & death
And repentance for sin & sorrow & punishment & fear
To defend me from thy terrors O Orc! my only beloved!

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."

The resolution at the end of Jerusalem offers the solution to the problem epitomised by Vala:

Jerusalem, Plate 92, (E 252)
"Los answerd swift as the shuttle of gold. Sexes must vanish & cease
To be, when Albion arises from his dread repose O lovely Enitharmon:
When all their Crimes, their Punishments their Accusations of Sin:
All their Jealousies Revenges. Murders. hidings of Cruelty in Deceit
Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time.
In the shadows of Possibility by Mutual Forgiveness forevermore
And in the Vision & in the Prophecy, that we may Foresee & Avoid
The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment. Beholding them
Displayd in the Emanative Visions of Canaan in Jerusalem & in Shiloh
And in the Shadows of Remembrance, & in the Chaos of the Spectre"


"Sexes must vanish & cease To be": meaning that the manhood must not be divided into inner and outer, Spectre and Emanation, male and female.

"Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time": meaning that man must learn to recognise what happens in the Sphere of Vision for what it is.

"that we may Foresee & Avoid The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment": meaning that by not giving reality to forces which are perceived as threat we may remove the harm in them.

"Beholding them Displayd in the Emanative Visions of Canaan in Jerusalem & in Shiloh And in the Shadows of Remembrance, & in the Chaos of the Spectre": meaning that we can learn to discriminate among the experiences which come to us rather than becoming their victims.

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