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

Thursday, September 20, 2012


In his manuscript notes accompanying his watercolors Blake singles out these verses from Milton for his fifth illustration to L'Allegro:
Descriptions of Illustrations to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso (E 682)  

"Then to the Spicy Nut brown Ale 
With Stories told of many a 
Treat How Fairy Mab the junkets eat 
She was pinchd & pulld she said 
And he by Friars Lantern led 
Tells how the drudging Goblin sweat 
To earn his Cream Bowl duly set 
When in one Night e'er glimpse of 
Morn His shadowy Flail had threshd the Corn
That ten day labourers could not end
Then crop-full out of door he flings 
E'er the first Cock his Matin rings" 

Blake states:
"The Goblin crop full flings out of doors from his Laborious task dropping his Flail & Cream bowl. yawning & stretching vanishes into the Sky. In which is seen Queen Mab Eating the Junkets. The Sports of the Fairies are seen thro the Cottage where "She" lays in Bed "pinchd & pulld" by Fairies as they dance on the Bed the Cieling & the Floor & a Ghost pulls the Bed Clothes at her Feet. "He" is seen following the Friars Lantern towards the Convent"

Apparently Milton and Blake were not averse to communicating with fairies, goblins and other occupants to the spirit world of nature. Blake gives this account of his receiving Europe a Prophesy by dictation by a fairy. But apparently Fairies, Nymphs, Gnomes & Genii do not belong to the Eternal world but to the world of generation. They interact with humans but unlike humans are not capable of regeneration. Each of the Zoas is associated with a class of Elemental Spirit: Luvah with genii, Urizen with fairies, Tharmas with nymphs, Urthona with gnomes (Damon, Page 277). Goblins are another class of spirits who are noted for being both mischievous and helpful.

Europe, Plate iii, (E 60)
"Five windows light the cavern'd Man; thro' one he breathes the air;
Thro' one, hears music of the spheres; thro' one, the eternal vine
Flourishes, that he may recieve the grapes; thro' one can look.
And see small portions of the eternal world that ever groweth;
Thro' one, himself pass out what time he please, but he will not;
For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant.

So sang a Fairy mocking as he sat on a streak'd Tulip,
Thinking none saw him: when he ceas'd I started from the trees!
And caught him in my hat as boys knock down a butterfly.
How know you this said I small Sir? where did you learn this song?  
Seeing himself in my possession thus he answered me:
My master, I am yours. command me, for I must obey.

Then tell me, what is the material world, and is it dead?
He laughing answer'd: I will write a book on leaves of flowers,
If you will feed me on love-thoughts, & give me now and then    
A cup of sparkling poetic fancies; so when I am tipsie,
I'll sing to you to this soft lute; and shew you all alive
The world, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.

I took him home in my warm bosom: as we went along
Wild flowers I gatherd; & he shew'd me each eternal flower:      
He laugh'd aloud to see them whimper because they were pluck'd.
They hover'd round me like a cloud of incense: when I came
Into my parlour and sat down, and took my pen to write:
My Fairy sat upon the table, and dictated EUROPE."

Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"And all the Living Creatures of the Four Elements, wail'd
With bitter wailing: these in the aggregate are named Satan
And Rahab: they know not of Regeneration, but only of Generation
The Fairies, Nymphs, Gnomes & Genii of the Four Elements         
Unforgiving & unalterable: these cannot be Regenerated
But must be Created, for they know only of Generation
These are the Gods of the Kingdoms of the Earth: in contrarious
And cruel opposition: Element against Element, opposed in War
Not Mental, as the Wars of Eternity, but a Corporeal Strife"    

Jerusalem, Plate 32 [36], (E 178)
"And the Four Zoa's who are the Four Eternal Senses of Man
Became Four Elements separating from the Limbs of Albion
These are their names in the Vegetative Generation
[West Weighing East & North dividing Generation South bounding]
And Accident & Chance were found hidden in Length Bredth & Highth
And they divided into Four ravening deathlike Forms
Fairies & Genii & Nymphs & Gnomes of the Elements.
These are States Permanently Fixed by the Divine Power"

Songs and Ballads, (E 481)
[A Separate Manuscript]
"A fairy skipd upon my knee                   
Singing & dancing merrily
I said Thou thing of patches rings
Pins Necklaces & such like things
Disguiser of the Female Form                   
Thou paltry gilded poisnous worm
Weeping he fell upon my thigh

And thus in tears did soft reply
Knowest thou not O Fairies Lord
How much by us Contemnd Abhorrd                               
Whatever hides the Female form
That cannot bear the Mental storm
Therefore in Pity still we give
Our lives to make the Female live
And what would turn into disease                           
We turn to what will joy & please"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 535)
"By way of illustration, I instance Shakspeare's Witches in
Macbeth.  Those who dress [P 17] them for the stage, consider
them as wretched old women, and not as Shakspeare intended, the
Goddesses of Destiny; this shews how Chaucer has been
misunderstood in his sublime work.  Shakspeare's Fairies also 
are the rulers of the vegetable world, and so are Chaucer's; 
let them be so considered, and then the poet will be understood, 
and not else."

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