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

Saturday, January 12, 2013


John 20
[1] The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
[2] Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
[3] Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
[4] So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
[5] And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
[6] Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
[7] And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
[8] Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
[9] For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
[10] Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
[11] But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
[12] And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
[13] And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
[14] And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
[15] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
[16] Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
[17] Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Fogg Art MuseumHarvard University
The way in which Blake uses the Bible is distinctive. Blake wrote and created images out of his own imagination through which he had access to archetypal realities. He linked his thoughts to the rich field of archetypal images he was familiar with in the Bible. His own characters are expanded by associating them with Biblical characters. But there is not a static shift in which a Biblical character is simply renamed in Blake's poetry. When an incident in the Bible will enrich the understanding Blake wants to convey he inserts names, places, or events to encourage his readers to see a larger context for his words than is overtly expressed.

Mary Madelene plays a large role in the Gospel story. It is she who avoids stoning for the sin of adultery through the intervention of Jesus; she who washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and dries them with her hair; she who is first able to see him in his resurrected body. Blake's character Jerusalem resembles Magdalen but he inserts Mary the mother of Jesus into the narrative as well. In fact he insert the entire maternal line of Jesus into a passage in which Jesus calls himself the 'Resurrection & the Life.'

Blake's image of the resurrection is not however what Mary Magdalen saw or what Peter and the 'beloved disciple' saw because they did not see Christ ascending to the Father. Blake's image originated in his own imagination as he contemplated the Resurrection as it spoke directly to him.

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"Mary leaned her side against Jerusalem, Jerusalem recieved
The Infant into her hands in the Visions of Jehovah. Times passed on
Jerusalem fainted over the Cross & Sepulcher She heard the voice
Wilt thou make Rome thy Patriarch Druid & the Kings of Europe his
Horsemen? Man in the Resurrection changes his Sexual Garments at will
Every Harlot was once a Virgin: every Criminal an Infant Love!

Plate 62
Repose on me till the morning of the Grave. I am thy life.

Jerusalem replied. I am an outcast: Albion is dead!
I am left to the trampling foot & the spurning heel!
A Harlot I am calld. I am sold from street to street!
I am defaced with blows & with the dirt of the Prison!        

And wilt thou become my Husband O my Lord & Saviour?
Shall Vala bring thee forth! shall the Chaste be ashamed also?
I see the Maternal Line, I behold the Seed of the Woman!
Cainah, & Ada & Zillah & Naamah Wife of Noah.
Shuahs daughter & Tamar & Rahab the Canaanites:                  
Ruth the Moabite & Bathsheba of the daughters of Heth
Naamah the Ammonite, Zibeah the Philistine, & Mary
These are the Daughters of Vala, Mother of the Body of death
But I thy Magdalen behold thy Spiritual Risen Body
Shall Albion arise? I know he shall arise at the Last Day!
I know that in my flesh I shall see God: but Emanations
Are weak. they know not whence they are, nor whither tend.
Jesus replied. I am the Resurrection & the Life.
I Die & pass the limits of possibility, as it appears
To individual perception."

Everlasting Gospel, NOTEBOOK PAGE 120, (E 877)
     "Was Jesus Born of a Virgin Pure
     With narrow Soul & looks demure
     If he intended to take on Sin
     The Mother should an Harlot been
     Just such a one as Magdalen
     With seven devils in her Pen"
Reading Blake's phrase 'Seed of the Woman' and the list of Old Testament women from whom Jesus descended, brought to mind contemporary science's discovery of mitochondrial DNA. There is an element which is passed on through the maternal line to the human race which is distinct from what can be passed on through the male DNA. To Blake the female side was the 'Mother of the Body of death' or the physical nature of man but that aspect of the total man was as indispensable as the spiritual nature in comprising the complete human.    

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