|Homer Bearing the Sword |
Illustrations to Dante, design 7
Hell, Canto 4
Original in National Gallery of Victoria, Melborne
Courtesy of Wikimedia
Blake's words are in blue.
Klonskys comments are in gray.
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 Jerusalem.
Jerusalem , 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!"