|Yale Center for British Art|
for the Poems of Thomas Gray
In the second letter we have from Blake to Thomas Butts he enclosed a poem rejoicing in the new setting in which he found himself. He wrote of 'My first Vision of Light', of 'each particle' seen as 'a Man'. He identified himself with the 'Ram hornd with gold' awakening 'from sleep' and being introduced to the Fold by the visionary voice.
There is no doubt that Blake was reporting a true and immediate experience in his poem. He introduces it by saying: "verses such as Felpham produces by me tho not such as she produces by her Eldest Son." That is to say the verses are by his true identity, his imagination, and not by his reasoning powers: the Elder Brother who was conformed to this world and not to the eternal.
Blake may have identified the experience described in the poem to Butts as turning toward God and the beginning of a new life lived in God's kingdom. However there would be pitfalls and turning points to come because he would be tried by 'the Devil' as are many who are young in Christ. Jesus himself encountered Satan after he consented to baptism by John in the Jordan. For a detailed account of the attempts of 'Our Father Below' to subvert the newly committed Christian's attempts to alter his priorities and behavior, read C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.
Letters, (E 713) [To] Mr [Thomas] Butts, Great Marlborough Street Felpham Octr 2d 1800 ... I have not got any forwarder with the three Marys or with any other of your commissions but hope, now I have commenced a new life of industry to do credit to that new life by Improved Works: Recieve from me a return of verses such as Felpham produces by me tho not such as she produces by her Eldest Son. however such as they are. I cannot resist the temptation to send them to you To my Friend Butts I write My first Vision of Light On the yellow sands sitting The Sun was Emitting His Glorious beams From Heavens high Streams Over Sea over Land My Eyes did Expand Into regions of air Away from all Care Into regions of fire Remote from Desire ... Saying. Each grain of Sand Every Stone on the Land Each rock & each hill Each fountain & rill Each herb & each tree Mountain hill Earth & Sea Cloud Meteor & Star Are Men Seen Afar ... My Eyes more & more Like a Sea without shore Continue Expanding The Heavens commanding Till the jewels of Light Heavenly Men beaming bright Appeard as One Man Who Complacent began My limbs to infold In his beams of bright gold Like dross purgd away All my mire & my clay Soft consumd in delight In his bosom sun bright I remaind. Soft he smild And I heard his voice Mild Saying This is My Fold O thou Ram hornd with gold Who awakest from sleep"
In Blake's letters and poetry written over the next few years we can follow some of the
roadblocks he encountered and some of the breakthroughs he achieved. We hear echoes of his poem in the letter to Butts in Milton and Jerusalem
Milton, Plate 22 , (E 116)"While Los heard indistinct in fear, what time I bound my sandals
On; to walk forward thro' Eternity, Los descended to me:
And Los behind me stood; a terrible flaming Sun: just close
Behind my back; I turned round in terror, and behold.
Los stood in that fierce glowing fire; & he also stoop'd down
And bound my sandals on in Udan-Adan; trembling I stood
Exceedingly with fear & terror, standing in the Vale
Of Lambeth: but he kissed me and wishd me health.
And I became One Man with him arising in my strength:
Twas too late now to recede. Los had enterd into my soul:
His terrors now posses'd me whole! I arose in fury & strength."
Jerusalem, Plate 99, (E 257)
"All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. all
Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied
Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing
And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality.
And I heard the Name of their Emanations they are named Jerusalem
The End of The Song