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

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Homer Bearing the Sword
Illustrations to Dante, design 7
Hell, Canto 4
Original in National Gallery of Victoria, Melborne
Courtesy of Wikimedia
Erdman's words are in green.
Blake's words are in
Klonskys comments are in
Ellie's notes are in black.

On a few of Blake's Illustrations to Dante he wore text to clarify his intentions. Design number seven includes more text than the others. The illustration of Dante's passage occupies only the upper left corner of the picture and Blake uses the rest of the picture to express his attitude toward Dante's ideas.

Inscriptions, Illustrations to Dante,  (E 689)

On design No 7, "HELL Canto 4", figure with sword
and laurel crown, in center of diagram of celestial Universe:
labeled "Homer" above his crown and "Satan" between his head and
his sword

[Spheres from outer to inner] 

Vacuum   Starry Heaven  Saturn  Jupiter   Mars   Sun   Venus   Mercury   Moon  

Limbo of Weak Shadows

[upper right - above and below and within the circle]

Terrestrial Paradise     It is an Island in Limbo      Purgatory

[written within the second circle surrounding Homer]

Every thing in Dantes Comedia shews That for Tyrannical
Purposes he has made This World the Foundation of All & the
Goddess Nature & not the Holy Ghost   as Poor Churchill said
Nature thou art my Goddess

. . . & the Goddess Nature   & not  the Holy
Ghost. . . .           
     Round Purgatory is Paradise & round Paradise is Vacuum or
Limbo. so that Homer is the Center of All   I mean the Poetry of
the Heathen Stolen & Perverted from the Bible not by Chance but
by design by the Kings of Persia and their Generals   The Greek
Heroes & lastly by The Romans
[written within the third circle]

    Swedenborg does the same in saying that in this World is the
Ultimate of Heaven
     This is the most damnable Falshood of Satan & his Antichrist

Here are comments from Blake's Dante by Milton Klonsky, Page 138.
Klonsky calls the main body of this illustration a "schematic outline, and a condemnation, of the system of Dante's Divine Comedy."

"Occupying the center of the picture are eight circles numbered diagonally from the left. Homer, his name inscribed above his head, is standing within the ninth circle, which is unnumbered, so that all nine correspond to the circles of the Inferno."  

This image conveys Blake's conviction that Dante is infected with the same misapprehension of the organisation of the cosmos as was Homer. The center of the Spheres is not for Blake, purgatory, a terrestrial paradise or an island in limbo. Central to Blake is the Holy Ghost. The poetry (mythology) of the Greeks and Romans (represented by Homer), although it developed out of the earlier poetry (prophecy, mythology) recorded in the Bible, had led to a society dedicated to tyranny and  war. Notice that Homer carries a sword and wears a crown.

It is easy to imagine that Blake, as he illustrated Dante's Divine Comedy, felt as Los felt in his opposition to Hand in this passage from

, Plate 8, (E 151-2)

"Hand has absorbd all his Brethren in his might
All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Plate 9
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:                   
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion     
By war and stratagem to win the labour of the husbandman:
Awkwardness arm'd in steel: folly in a helmet of gold:
Weakness with horns & talons: ignorance with a rav'ning beak!
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:          
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified; I took the sighs & tears, & bitter groans:
I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart: I drew forth the pang
Of sorrow red hot: I workd it on my resolute anvil:              
I heated it in the flames of Hand, & Hyle, & Coban
Nine times; Gwendolen & Cambel & Gwineverra
Are melted into the gold, the silver, the liquid ruby,
The crysolite, the topaz, the jacinth, & every precious stone,
Loud roar my Furnaces and loud my hammer is heard:               
I labour day and night, I behold the soft affections
Condense beneath my hammer into forms of cruelty
But still I labour in hope, tho' still my tears flow down.
That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelld to defend
A Lie: that he may be snared and caught and snared and taken     
That Enthusiasm and Life may not cease: arise Spectre arise!" 

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