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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Watercolour illustration for
Robert Blair's The Grave
Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"The Spectres of the Dead cry out from the deeps beneath
Upon the hills of Albion; Oxford groans in his iron furnace
Winchester in his den & cavern; they lament against
Albion: they curse their human kindness & affection              
They rage like wild beasts in the forests of affliction
In the dreams of Ulro they repent of their human kindness."

In reading of the efforts of Los and Enitharmon to provide bodies for the Spectres of the Dead, I am reminded of the movie Wings of Desire in which there are spirits, (angels), who are sent to watch over the world but not interfere or interact with the human beings. The plot of the movie involves the spirits developing 'desire' which may make them choose to abandon their role as angels and descend to the material world where they would have physical bodies and emotions which they were capable of expressing. Some of the unembodied angels relinquish their flexible senses, their perception of the unity with the One Spirit, and their membership in the brotherhood of angels. They take on mortality and sexuality and descend into physical bodies.

Blake postulates a world in which there are spirits (refugees from the wars of Great Eternity), in a limbo which does not allow a return to the unity of all things. The alternative of gaining experience through the 'joy and woe' of living in the material is not open to them. The solution to the problem of the 'wandering fragments of spirits' (Damon) is to provide them bodies so that they can have a physical life in the material world: the world of time and space - of Los and Enitharmon. In Milton Ololon volunteers to descend to 'This World beneath, unseen before: this refuge from the wars Of Great Eternity!' To this refuge were sent the Spectres. By creating bodies for the wandering Spectres of the Dead Los and Enitharmon created our world: the world where we may experience imagination, intellect, and emotions within bodies of flesh and blood in this World beneath.

Four Zoas, Night VIIA, Page 87, (E 369)
"Urthonas Spectre terrified beheld the Spectres of the Dead
Each Male formd without a counterpart without a concentering vision
The Spectre of Urthona wept before Los Saying I am the cause
That this dire state commences I began the dreadful state
Of Separation & on my dark head the curse & punishment
Must fall unless a way be found to Ransom & Redeem 

But I have thee my [Counterpart Vegetating] miraculous
These Spectres have no [Counter(parts)] therefore they ravin
Without the food of life Let us Create them Coun[terparts]
For without a Created body the Spectre is Eternal Death

Los trembling answerd Now I feel the weight of stern repentance
Tremble not so my Enitharmon at the awful gates    
Of thy poor broken Heart I see thee like a shadow withering
As on the outside of Existence but look! behold! take comfort!
Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God
Clothed in Luvahs robes of blood descending to redeem
O Spectre of Urthona take comfort O Enitharmon   
Couldst thou but cease from terror & trembling & affright
When I appear before thee in forgiveness of ancient injuries 
Why shouldst thou remember & be afraid. I surely have died in pain
Often enough to convince thy jealousy & fear & terror
Come hither be patient let us converse together because  
I also tremble at myself & at all my former life

Enitharmon answerd I behold the Lamb of God descending
To Meet these Spectres of the Dead I therefore fear that he
Will give us to Eternal Death fit punishment for such
Hideous offenders Uttermost extinction in eternal pain    
An ever dying life of stifling & obstruction shut out
Of existence to be a sign & terror to all who behold
Lest any should in futurity do as we have done in heaven
Such is our state nor will the Son of God redeem us but destroy

PAGE 98 [90] 
So Enitharmon spoke trembling & in torrents of tears

Los sat in Golgonooza in the Gate of Luban where   
He had erected many porches where branchd the Mysterious Tree
Where the Spectrous dead wail & sighing thus he spoke to Enitharmon

Lovely delight of Men Enitharmon shady refuge from furious war
Thy bosom translucent is a soft repose for the weeping souls
Of those piteous victims of battle there they sleep in happy obscurity
They feed upon our life we are their victims. Stern desire
I feel to fabricate embodied semblances in which the dead
May live before us in our palaces & in our gardens of labour 
Which now opend within the Center we behold spread abroad
To form a world of Sacrifice of brothers & sons & daughters  
To comfort Orc in his dire sufferings[;] look[!] my fires enlume afresh
Before my face ascending with delight as in ancient times

Enitharmon spread her beaming locks upon the wind & said   
O Lovely terrible Los wonder of Eternity O Los my defence & guide
Thy works are all my joy. & in thy fires my soul delights
If mild they burn in just proportion & in secret night
And silence build their day in shadow of soft clouds & dews
Then I can sigh forth on the winds of Golgonooza piteous forms  
That vanish again into my bosom   but if thou my Los
Wilt in sweet moderated fury. fabricate forms sublime 
Such as the piteous spectres may assimilate themselves into
They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live

So Enitharmon spoke & Los his hands divine inspired began
To modulate his fires studious the loud roaring flames
He vanquishd with the strength of Art bending their iron points
And drawing them forth delighted upon the winds of Golgonooza
From out the ranks of Urizens war & from the fiery lake
Of Orc bending down as the binder of the Sheaves follows   
The reaper in both arms embracing the furious raging flames
Los drew them forth out of the deeps planting his right foot firm
Upon the Iron crag of Urizen thence springing up aloft
Into the heavens of Enitharmon in a mighty circle

And first he drew a line upon the walls of shining heaven    
And Enitharmon tincturd it with beams of blushing love 
It remaind permanent a lovely form inspird divinely human
Dividing into just proportions Los unwearied labourd
The immortal lines upon the heavens till with sighs of love
Sweet Enitharmon mild Entrancd breathd forth upon the wind   
The spectrous dead Weeping the Spectres viewd the immortal works
Of Los Assimilating to those forms Embodied & Lovely
In youth & beauty in the arms of Enitharmon mild reposing"

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 103, (E 376)
"Enitharmon wove in tears Singing Songs of Lamentations
And pitying comfort as she sighd forth on the wind the spectres
And wove them bodies calling them her belovd sons & daughters
Employing the daughters in her looms & Los employd the Sons 
In Golgonoozas Furnaces among the Anvils of time & space
Thus forming a Vast family wondrous in beauty & love
And they appeard a Universal female form created
From those who were dead in Ulro from the Spectres of the dead"

Monday, February 25, 2013


British Museum
Small Book of Designs
'Is the Female death/Become new Life'
There is a counterpart or contrary to the furnaces of Los. These are the looms of Enitharmon. The inner work of the furnaces is supplemented by the outer work of the looms for the unformed Spectres require bodies in order to enter the generated world. What is being woven is the 'clothing for the soul divine.'

Jerusalem, Plate 59, (E 209)
"And in the North Gate, in the West of the North. toward Beulah
Cathedrons Looms are builded. and Los's Furnaces in the South
A wondrous golden Building immense with ornaments sublime
Is bright Cathedrons golden Hall, its Courts Towers & Pinnacles  

And one Daughter of Los sat at the fiery Reel & another
Sat at the shining Loom with her Sisters attending round
Terrible their distress & their sorrow cannot be utterd
And another Daughter of Los sat at the Spinning Wheel
Endless their labour, with bitter food. void of sleep,           
Tho hungry they labour: they rouze themselves anxious
Hour after hour labouring at the whirling Wheel
Many Wheels & as many lovely Daughters sit weeping

Yet the intoxicating delight that they take in their work
Obliterates every other evil; none pities their tears            
Yet they regard not pity & they expect no one to pity
For they labour for life & love, regardless of any one
But the poor Spectres that they work for, always incessantly"

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Is an individual capable of exercising control over what goes on in his mind? Some would argue that he is not; that his thoughts are simply reactions to his memories or to external activity. Others observe an ability to decide what response is made by the psyche to the ever changing panorama of sensation and thought to which one is subject. Blake fell into the second category. Blake had developed his image of the furnaces as a means of gaining the ability to alter the 'mind forged manacles.' The difficulty in altering the way the mind perceives is that the mind is subject to the very strictures which it projects onto the outside world. In his four chapters of Jerusalem Blake explores both the outward and inward manifestations of a mind which has lost its unity and its ability to view ultimate reality. 

The final reference in Jerusalem to the furnaces of Los is on plate 91. Here the furnaces succeeded in amalgamating the nations into one because Los had succeeded in in altering his Spectre. The Spectre was no longer able to take control of Los' mind. Los no longer saw his Spectre as good or evil, he could now serve Los as intellect because Los no longer expects him to make him holy.  

The work of the furnaces, the inner work, was over but the final achievement of the Los' furnaces had begun a chain reaction of reassembling Albion. The process of disintegration was reversed. Reintegration took place in multiple stages involving Los, Enitharmon, Britannia, Albion, Jesus and Jerusalem. The final appearance of a furnace was the 'Furnace of Affliction' into which Albion threw himself as an 'Offering of Self for Another'. By this act there was a transformation of the furnaces into 'Fountains of Living Waters' which initiated the final universal awakening. 
Yale Center for British Art 
Plate 97  
Yale Center for British Art 
Plate 73
 Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"Thus Los alterd his Spectre & every Ratio of his Reason      
He alterd time after time, with dire pain & many tears
Till he had completely divided him into a separate space.

Terrified Los sat to behold trembling & weeping & howling
I care not whether a Man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise Man or a Fool. Go! put off Holiness    
And put on Intellect: or my thundrous Hammer shall drive thee
To wrath which thou condemnest: till thou obey my voice

So Los terrified cries: trembling & weeping & howling! Beholding                                         
What do I see? The Briton Saxon Roman Norman amalgamating
In my Furnaces into One Nation the English: & taking refuge
In the Loins of Albion. The Canaanite united with the fugitive
Hebrew, whom she divided into Twelve, & sold into Egypt
Then scatterd the Egyptian & Hebrew to the four Winds!       
This sinful Nation Created in our Furnaces & Looms is Albion

So Los spoke. Enitharmon answerd in great terror in Lambeths Vale

The Poets Song draws to its period & Enitharmon is no more."

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 256)
"Albion replyd. Cannot Man exist without Mysterious          
Offering of Self for Another, is this Friendship & Brotherhood
I see thee in the likeness & similitude of Los my Friend

Jesus said. Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee or ever die for one who had not died for thee
And if God dieth not for Man & giveth not himself           
Eternally for Man Man could not exist. for Man is Love:
As God is Love: every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood

So saying. the Cloud overshadowing divided them asunder
Albion stood in terror: not for himself but for his Friend     
Divine, & Self was lost in the contemplation of faith
And wonder at the Divine Mercy & at Los's sublime honour

Do I sleep amidst danger to Friends! O my Cities & Counties
Do you sleep! rouze up! rouze up. Eternal Death is abroad

So Albion spoke & threw himself into the Furnaces of affliction 
All was a Vision, all a Dream: the Furnaces became
Fountains of Living Waters Flowing from the Humanity Divine
And all the Cities of Albion rose from their Slumbers, and All
The Sons & Daughters of Albion on soft clouds Waking from Sleep
Soon all around remote the Heavens burnt with flaming fires    
And Urizen & Luvah & Tharmas & Urthona arose into
Albions Bosom: Then Albion stood before Jesus in the Clouds
Of Heaven Fourfold among the Visions of God in Eternity
Awake! Awake Jerusalem! O lovely Emanation of Albion
Awake and overspread all Nations as in Ancient Time
For lo! the Night of Death is past and the Eternal Day
Appears upon our Hills: Awake Jerusalem, and come away"

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Blake's Water-Colours for the
Poems of Thomas Gray
Design 93

The first product of Los' furnaces (Damon) was Erin. Like Enitharmon she was Space. Since Los had compelled his Spectre to join him in operating the furnaces, the outcome was not optimum; first because Erin was partially the work of the Spectre and second because the Spectre was compelled. With Erin came all the Daughters of Beulah but not in their eternal form.

The appearance of the spaces of Erin provided a field in which the problems of Albion and Jerusalem could be addressed but solutions still were unclear by the end of chapter 2. Erin had provided the space in which Golgonooza might be built; the work continued.
Jerusalem, Plate 9, (E 152)
"Thus they contended among the Furnaces with groans & tears;
Groaning the Spectre heavd the bellows, obeying Los's frowns;
Till the Spaces of Erin were perfected in the furnaces
Of affliction, and Los drew them forth, compelling the harsh Spectre.         
Plate 10
Into the Furnaces & into the valleys of the Anvils of Death
And into the mountains of the Anvils & of the heavy Hammers
Till he should bring the Sons & Daughters of Jerusalem to be
The Sons & Daughters of Los that he might protect them from
Albions dread Spectres; storming, loud, thunderous & mighty      
The Bellows & the Hammers move compell'd by Los's hand."

Jerusalem, Plate 11, (E 154)
"Then Erin came forth from the Furnaces, & all the Daughters of Beulah
Came from the Furnaces, by Los's mighty power for Jerusalems
Sake: walking up and down among the Spaces of Erin:              
And the Sons and Daughters of Los came forth in perfection lovely!
And the Spaces of Erin reach'd from the starry heighth, to the starry depth.

Los wept with exceeding joy & all wept with joy together!
They feard they never more should see their Father, who
Was built in from Eternity, in the Cliffs of Albion.             

But when the joy of meeting was exhausted in loving embrace;
Again they lament. O what shall we do for lovely Jerusalem?
To protect the Emanations of Albions mighty ones from cruelty?
Sabrina & Ignoge begin to sharpen their beamy spears
Of light and love: their little children stand with arrows of gold:   
Ragan is wholly cruel Scofield is bound ill iron armour!
He shoots beneath Jerusalems walls to undermine her foundations!
A shadow animated by thy tears O mournful Jerusalem!"      

Jerusalem, Plate 12, (E 155)
"Why wilt thou give to her a Body whose life is but a Shade?.
Her joy and love, a shade: a shade of sweet repose:
But animated and vegetated, she is a devouring worm:
What shall we do for thee O lovely mild Jerusalem?

And Los said. I behold the finger of God in terrors!           
Albion is dead! his Emanation is divided from him!
But I am living! yet I feel my Emanation also dividing
Such thing was never known! O pity me, thou all-piteous-one!
What shall I do! or how exist, divided from Enitharmon?
Yet why despair! I saw the finger of God go forth                
Upon my Furnaces, from within the Wheels of Albions Sons:
Fixing their Systems, permanent: by mathematic power
Giving a body to Falshood that it may be cast off for ever.
With Demonstrative Science piercing Apollyon with his own bow!
God is within, & without! he is even in the depths of Hell!      

Such were the lamentations of the Labourers in the Furnaces!

And they appeard within & without incircling on both sides
The Starry Wheels of Albions Sons, with Spaces for Jerusalem:
And for Vala the shadow of Jerusalem: the ever mourning shade:
On both sides, within & without beaming gloriously!              

Terrified at the sublime Wonder, Los stood before his Furnaces.
And they stood around, terrified with admiration at Erins Spaces
For the Spaces reachd from the starry heighth, to the starry depth;
And they builded Golgonooza: terrible eternal labour!"

In the final section of chapter 2 (To The Jews) Erin reappeared as the spokesperson for reviewing the situation which existed because of the religious errors existing in Blake's time as the result of the long history of belief in a God of vengeance and moral law. Blake spent chapter 2 enumerating the errors which result from man's misconceptions of God with the hope of revealing error that it may be recognized and annihilated. 
Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 197) 
"And thus Erin spoke to the Daughters of Beulah, in soft tears" 

Jerusalem, Plate 50, (E 199)
"The Atlantic Mountains where Giants dwelt in Intellect;
Now given to stony Druids, and Allegoric Generation
To the Twelve Gods of Asia, the Spectres of those who Sleep:
Sway'd by a Providence oppos'd to the Divine Lord Jesus:
A murderous Providence! A Creation that groans, living on Death. 
Where Fish & Bird & Beast & Man & Tree & Metal & Stone
Live by Devouring, going into Eternal Death continually:
Albion is now possess'd by the War of Blood! the Sacrifice
Of envy Albion is become, and his Emanation cast out:

Come Lord Jesus, Lamb of God descend! for if; O Lord!            
If thou hadst been here, our brother Albion had not died.
Arise sisters! Go ye & meet the Lord, while I remain--
Behold the foggy mornings of the Dead on Albions cliffs!
Ye know that if the Emanation remains in them:
She will become an Eternal Death, an Avenger of Sin              
A Self-righteousness: the proud Virgin-Harlot! Mother of War!
And we also & all Beulah, consume beneath Albions curse.

So Erin spoke to the Daughters of Beulah. Shuddering
With their wings they sat in the Furnace, in a night
Of stars, for all the Sons of Albion appeard distant stars,      
Ascending and descending into Albions sea of death.
And Erins lovely Bow enclos'd the Wheels of Albions Sons."
Evidence that error continued is spoken by the Daughters of Beulah presented in their reply to Erin's lament:

Jerusalem, Plate 50, (E 200)
 "Expanding on wing, the Daughters of Beulah replied in sweet response

Come O thou Lamb of God and take away the remembrance of Sin
To Sin & to hide the Sin in sweet deceit. is lovely!!            
To Sin in the open face of day is cruel & pitiless! But
To record the Sin for a reproach: to let the Sun go down
In a remembrance of the Sin: is a Woe & a Horror!
A brooder of an Evil Day, and a Sun rising in blood
Come then O Lamb of God and take away the remembrance of Sin"  
Minna Doskow, author of William Blake' Jerusalem, Structure and Meaning in Poetry and Pictures, states the continued errors the Daughters make:
"They do not abolish the category of sin or separate the individual from the state. They wish simply to end the recording or remembrance of of sin, Albion's religious tally sheets, which is a worthy but insufficient aim.They have achieved a half truth only. Therefore the prayer to God cannot bring about salvation nor end generation. Unlike the inhabitants of Beulah, who express the imaginative vision after chapter 1's general survey of all error and its alternatives, these Daughters of Beulah at the end of chapter 2's survey of religious error and its alternatives are still involved in it." 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem, Plate 6
Los and his Spectre
In this passage Los is not speaking to some external entity but to his Spectre, an aspect of himself. His Spectre is captive to erroneous paradigms of thought which oppose what he wishes to accomplish through his true dominant self. When divided from the integral man, the Spectre exercises a distinct will which threatens to destroy the man's work. Los has become divided because of the efforts he is making to restore Albion's consciousness of the Eternal. The cost to him has been to assume some of the brokenness of Albion. Instead of trying to force his Spectre out of existence he proposes to engage the Spectre in assisting with the work of the furnaces. The Spectre's perspective is changed; he becomes capable of seeing from outside the destruction in which he has participated.   

The Spectre (reason) commences work for Los (imagination) at his furnaces but under duress and threat of extinctiion.

To enlarge image, right click on image, choose open in new window, click on picture.

Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 151)
[Los to Spectre]
"I know thy deceit & thy revenges, and unless thou desist
I will certainly create an eternal Hell for thee. Listen!
Be attentive! be obedient! Lo the Furnaces are ready to recieve these.
I will break thee into shivers! & melt thee in the furnaces of death;       
I will cast thee into forms of abhorrence & torment if thou
Desist not from thine own will, & obey  not my stern command!
I am closd up from my children: my Emanation is dividing
And thou my Spectre art divided against me. But mark
I will compell thee to assist me in my terrible labours. To beat 
These hypocritic Selfhoods on the Anvils of bitter Death
I am inspired: I act not for myself: for Albions sake
I now am what I am: a horror and an astonishment
Shuddring the heavens to look upon me: Behold what cruelties
Are practised in Babel & Shinar, & have approachd to Zions Hill  

While Los spoke, the terrible Spectre fell shuddring before him
Watching his time with glowing eyes to leap upon his prey
Los opend the Furnaces in fear. the Spectre saw to Babel & Shinar
Across all Europe & Asia. he saw the tortures of the Victims.
He saw now from the ou[t]side what he before saw & felt from within
He saw that Los was the sole, uncontrolld Lord of the Furnaces
Groaning he kneeld before Los's iron-shod feet on London Stone,
Hungring & thirsting for Los's life yet pretending obedience.
While Los pursud his speech in threatnings loud & fierce.
Thou art my Pride & Self-righteousness: I have found thee out:   
Thou art reveald before me in all thy magnitude & power
Thy Uncircumcised pretences to Chastity must be cut in sunder!
Thy holy wrath & deep deceit cannot avail against me
Nor shalt thou ever assume the triple-form of Albions Spectre
For I am one of the living: dare not to mock my inspired fury 
If thou wast cast forth from my life! if I was dead upon the mountains
Thou mightest be pitied & lovd: but now I am living; unless
Thou abstain ravening I will create an eternal Hell for thee.
Take thou this Hammer & in patience heave the thundering Bellows
Take thou these Tongs: strike thou alternate with me: labour obedient"    

Milton O Percival explains in Circle  of Destiny how imagination is assisted by reason in creating definite form:
"Imagination, as  the existence itself, is an inclusive concept; in it all other powers are implicit. At this high level reason and imagination function together. But imagination such as this is limited to the unfallen world. In the fallen world the powers fall into separation. Cut off from imagination, reason becomes an analytic power, the instigator of doubt, a completely disintegrating force...Urizen is the great creator of the Mundane Shell period, and Los, his successor in the mortal world, has the assistance of his Spectre whom he must first subdue. Left alone, the Spectre would of course create nothing. The indefinite is the product of doubting and abstracting intellect. What is wanted is faith - faith and a vision of the future, an attitude of affirmation. These Los supplies. It would seem, therefore, that the 'intellectual measure' necessary for the achievement of definite form is provided by reason and imagination acting together in this relationship."  

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Illustrations of the Book of Job
Linnell Set
Plate 3  
Consistent with his use of the giant man Albion to represent all of humanity, Blake turns to the body to further explain the function of the furnaces as an instrument of transformation. As the 'Stomach in every individual man' Bowlahoola is a furnace within the body. The digestive tract breaks down the food it receives to provide the body with the ingredients to sustain itself. Food is not in a form which can be assimilated by the cells of the body until it is transformed into amino acids, minerals, fatty acids, glucose and other essentials for building cells and providing them with energy. So we can see the furnaces as a means of breaking down the experiences which the mind receives as raw material which must be disassembled into building blocks for new paradigms of thought.

The mental constructs are reorganized from the units which are deemed valuable, and the excess baggage is discarded. The mind has been molded but through a different process than the melting and hammering of the blacksmith. Now the furnace is metaphoric of assimilating from the mass of experience the gems and treasures necessary to fuel the next transformation.

Milton, Plate 24 [26], (E 120)
"Bowlahoola is namd Law. by mortals, Tharmas founded it:
Because of Satan, before Luban in the City of Golgonooza.
But Golgonooza is namd Art & Manufacture by mortal men.          

In Bowlahoola Los's Anvils stand & his Furnaces rage;
Thundering the Hammers beat & the Bellows blow loud
Living self moving mourning lamenting & howling incessantly
Bowlahoola thro all its porches feels tho' too fast founded
Its pillars & porticoes to tremble at the force              
Of mortal or immortal arm: and softly lilling flutes
Accordant with the horrid labours make sweet melody

The Bellows are the Animal Lungs: the hammers the Animal Heart
The Furnaces the Stomach for digestion. terrible their fury
Thousands & thousands labour. thousands play on instruments      
Stringed or fluted to ameliorate the sorrows of slavery
Loud sport the dancers in the dance of death, rejoicing in carnage
The hard dentant Hammers are lulld by the flutes['] lula lula
The bellowing Furnaces['] blare by the long sounding clarion 
The double drum drowns howls & groans, the shrill fife. shrieks & cries:     
The crooked horn mellows the hoarse raving serpent, terrible, but harmonious 
Bowlahoola is the Stomach in every individual man."

Milton, Plate 26 [28], (E 123)
"For the various Classes of Men are all markd out determinate
In Bowlahoola; & as the Spectres choose their affinities
So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because         
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

And every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not
A Natural: for a Natural Cause only seems, it is a Delusion      
Of Ulro: & a ratio of the perishing Vegetable Memory."  
Paul as well as Blake used the body as a metaphor. He chose the body to represent a group of believers in Corinth who were working together in spite of their diversity. He identified them as the body of Christ.

1st Corinthians 12
[14] For the body is not one member, but many.
[15] If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
[16] And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
[17] If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
[18] But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
[19] And if they were all one member, where were the body?
[20] But now are they many members, yet but one body.
[21] And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
[22] Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
[23] And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
[24] For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
[25] That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
[26] And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
[27] Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.


Friday, February 15, 2013


New York Public Library
bottom of Plate 16
 The work of the furnaces is internal work: the work of altering the patterns of thought that allow the mind to accept the errors upon which systems of oppression are built. Do we manifest errors which deserve extreme measures to correct? We are willing to train our young people in acts of violence so that we can send them off to war in order to commit and witness murder against other human beings. We tolerate forcing the underprivileged to work for a pittance so that the privileged can enjoy the luxuries of material affluence. We over-exploit the resources of the planet risking the consequences of disastrous collapse of the environmental systems. The symptoms appear in the outer world but the mental errors which support them exist internally. Outer abuses disappear when the mind is cleared of error; this internal work is represented by Blake as the work of the furnaces.
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)

"Error is Created 
Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up &
then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up
the Moment Men cease to behold it I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me."
Milton voluntarily descended from Eternity for the sake of correcting his errors. Realizing that Satan was his own selfhood he undertook the journey within to explore the furnace of his self-made hell.

Milton, Plate 14 [15], (E 108)
[spoken by Milton]
"What do I here before the Judgment? without my Emanation?
With the daughters of memory, & not with the daughters of inspiration[?]
I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!              
He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells
To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death.

And Milton said. I go to Eternal Death! Eternity shudder'd
For he took the outside course, among the graves of the dead
A mournful shade. Eternity shudderd at the image of eternal death

Then on the verge of Beulah he beheld his own Shadow;
A mournful form double; hermaphroditic: male & female
In one wonderful body. and he enterd into it
In direful pain for the dread shadow, twenty-seven-fold

Reachd to the depths of direst Hell, & thence to Albions land:  
Which is this earth of vegetation on which now I write,"

The mental struggle occupies Albion as the furnaces of Los are prepared for his battle.

Jerusalem, Plate 41 [46], (E 188)
[spoken by the merciful Son of Heaven]
"Thou art in Error Albion, the Land of Ulro:               
One Error not remov'd, will destroy a human Sould for his battle
Repose in Beulahs night, till the Error is remov'd
Reason not on both sides. Repose upon our bosoms
Till the Plow of Jehovah, and the Harrow of Shaddai
Have passed over the Dead, to awake the Dead to Judgment.     
But Albion turn'd away refusing comfort.

Oxford trembled while he spoke, then fainted in the arms
Of Norwich, Peterboro, Rochester, Chester awful, Worcester,
Litchfield, Saint Davids, Landaff, Asaph, Bangor, Sodor,
Bowing their heads devoted: and the Furnaces of Los         
Began to rage, thundering loud the storms began to roar
Upon the Furnaces, and loud the Furnaces rebellow beneath"

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


To appreciate Blake's use of the furnace it is helpful to have observed some process of shaping metal through the use of heat and force. Seeing a blacksmith shaping horseshoes or hardware impresses one with a process which requires considerable energy and violence. Add to this the force required in extracting ores and the heat required to change a solid metal into liquid. With this in mind, the furnaces of Blake gain a added dimension which emphasizes the extreme measures to which he alludes.   
Perhaps the earliest reference to a furnace in Blake's poetry come in his poem in Songs of Experience named The Tyger. The fourth verse states:

"What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,                    
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!"  
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 42, (E 24)

Hammer, chain, furnace, anvil: these words all direct our attention to the shaping of metal, a hard and resistant material, into some desired or useful form. That the process would induce terror if their use were suggested to be applied to a living thing is axiomatic. Yet Blake finds the furnace an appropriate metaphor for the measures which are required for altering the human brain which has through the ages produced societies which result in so much suffering and pain in their members. He returns to the symbol of the furnace often, especially in the hands of Los, as the tool to which he must resort in opposition to mental constructs which produce oppressive conditions.

The title page of The Book of Los shows Los situated in a confining enclosure surrounded on all sides by unyielding rock. This is the condition which requires the use of a refining, reshaping furnace.
Commentary introducing The Book of Los in Blake's Poetry and Design, Edited by Mary Lou Johnson and John E. Grant indicates that:
"It is evident in both [The Book of] Urizen and [The Book of] Los that the blacksmith Los is a s
killed craftsman; he has built his own tools and knows how to use them. But he is not yet the artist he is in Jerusalem or a  true prophet as he is in Milton; the product of his imaginings in Los is only the 'Human Illusion,' a conception of mankind as mind contained and confined in flesh.' (Page 169)
Book of Los, Plate 5, (E 94)
"2: Upfolding his Fibres together
To a Form of impregnable strength
Los astonish'd and terrified, built                 
Furnaces; he formed an Anvil
A  Hammer of adamant then began
The binding of Urizen day and night

3: Circling round the dark Demon, with howlings
Dismay & sharp blightings; the Prophet               
Of Eternity beat on his iron links

4: And first from those infinite fires
The light that flow'd down on the winds
lie siez'd; beating incessant, condensing
The subtil particles in an Orb.                    

5: Roaring indignant the bright sparks
Endur'd the vast Hammer; but unwearied
Los beat on the Anvil; till glorious
An immense Orb of fire be fram'd

6: Oft he quench'd it beneath in the Deeps        
Then surveyd the all bright mass. Again
Siezing fires from the terrific Orbs
He heated the round Globe, then beat[,]
While roaring his Furnaces endur'd
The chaind Orb in their infinite wombs"  
The work of the furnaces has begun and will continue until the return to Eden is accomplished.   

Monday, February 11, 2013


There are as many ways to study Blake as there are to study any complex subject. To start a study of any subject an entry point must be found through something that is familiar and relatively simple. Many  people find that Songs of Innocence & Experience offers an introduction which stimulates their interest. Another point of entry may be to become  familiar with some of Blake's succinct and striking statements which represent the thought he develops and expands throughout his lifetime.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Adam and the Beasts, Illustration from Hayley's Ballads

Words and ideas may gradually  become familiar and find a lodging place in our minds. Then they may  begin their work of altering the ingrained habits of thought that prevent us from creating that new heaven of imagination which Blake so longed for and so worked for.  

Memorable Lines 
"He who would see the Divinity must see him in his Children
One first, in friendship & love; then a Divine Family, & in the midst
Jesus will appear; so he who wishes to see a Vision; a perfect Whole        
Must see it in its Minute Particulars"

"Friendship cannot exist without Forgiveness of Sins continually"

"A Last Judgment is not for the purpose of making Bad
Men better but for the Purpose of hindering them from opressing
the Good with Poverty & Pain by means of Such Vile Arguments &

"What are all the Gifts of the
Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error &
Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual" 

"Error is
Created Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up &
then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up
the Moment Men cease to behold it"  

"I care not whether a Man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise Man or a Fool. Go! put off Holiness    
And put on Intellect:"

"Holiness is not The Price of Enterance into Heaven Those
who are cast out Are All Those who having no Passions of their
own because No Intellect.  Have spent their lives in Curbing &
Governing other Peoples by the Various arts of Poverty & Cruelty
of all kinds" 
"All Life consists of these Two Throwing off Error continually & recieving Truth Continually."

"Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age"

"These the Visions of Eternity 
But we see only as it were the hem of their garments
When with our vegetable eyes we view these wond'rous Visions"

"For God himself enters Death's Door always with those that enter 
And lays down in the Grave with them, in Visions of Eternity
Till they awake & see Jesus & the Linen Clothes lying
That the Females had Woven for them, & the Gates of their Fathers House"

"I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love,
to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to
have an interest in the Friend of Sinners." 

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Satiric Verses and Epigrams, (E 514)
"Rafael Sublime Majestic Graceful Wise
His Executive Power must I despise  
Rubens Low Vulgar Stupid Ignorant
His power of Execution I must grant"

Metropolitan Museum of Art Angel of Revelation
Signature bottom right
In his early career Blake was fond of signing his work WB inv. He recognized that the original conception of the work of art provided the essential foundation upon which the final product was built. Blake worked in various media including drawing, watercoloring, tempera, engraving, poetry and prose. Each depended on an 'Original Invention': an idea or mental image which existed only in his fertile imagination.
Blake's ability to invent was recognized by his contemporaries, but they sometimes denied his ability to execute which depended upon different skills. Blake would not concede that his ability to execute was any less than his ability to invent. 

Blake's training was as a reproductive engraver whose skill is faithfully reproducing images which have been conceived by others for printing in published form. Since his goal was to execute his own inventions, not just the inventions of others, he developed a broad set of skills encompassing disciplines which spanned visual and verbal communication. Engraving in the conventional practice became his vocation; his imaginative creations became his art which he considered to be the 'whole business of man.'
Blake's ability to execute was dependent on a two pronged method of learning: study of his predecessors and experimentation. He found in Michelangelo the finest ability to conceive and execute so he set him up as a model in art, as he did Milton in poetry. His experimentation led him into novel methods of printing, painting and writing. Learning through experiments was another facet of his inventiveness; gaining mastery of his new methods allowed him to execute his images in an individualistic manner. If his aim had been to follow current trends and appeal to popular tastes he would have applied different strategies.  
Invention and Execution became for Blake two of his contraries; two opposed but equally true expressions of the unity of his art. His work was in consolidating the inner dimension - the invention, with the outer expression - the execution. If they were not perfectly balanced, the work of art would be spoiled by failing to communicate Eternal truth.

Public Address, Page 60, (E 576)
 "No Man Can
Improve An Original Invention. [Since Hogarths time we have
had very few Efforts of Originality] but 
Drawn with a firm  
hand at once [with all its Spots & Blemishes which
are beauties & not faults] like Fuseli & Michael Angelo
Shakespeare & Milton>" 
 Public Address, PAGE 62, (E 576) 
     "I have heard many People say Give me the Ideas.  It is no
matter what Words you put them into & others say Give me the
Design it is no matter for the Execution.  These People know
Nothing Of Art.  Ideas cannot be Given
but in their minutely Appropriate Words nor Can a Design be made
without its minutely Appropriate Execution ... He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed Execution
is only the result of Invention" 
 Public Address, Page 24, (E 582)
     "I know my Execution is not like Any Body Else I do not
intend it should be so 
...I defy any Man to Cut
Cleaner Strokes than I do or rougher when I please & assert that
he who thinks he can Engrave or Paint either without being a
Master of Drawing is a Fool  Painting is Drawing
on Canvas & Engraving is Drawing on Copper & nothing Else
[Drawing is Execution & nothing Else] & he who Draws best must be
the best Artist [&] to this I subscribe" 
 Annotations to Reynolds, P iii, (E 637)
     "Invention depends Altogether upon Execution or
Organization. as that is right or wrong so is the Invention
perfect or imperfect.  Whoever is set to Undermine the Execution
of Art is set to Destroy Art   Michael Angelos Art Depends on
Michael Angelos Execution Altogether" 
 Annotations to Reynolds, p 126, (E 654) 
    "Can any Man be such a fool as to believe that Rafael &
Michael Angelo were Incapable of the meer Language of Art & That
Such Idiots as Rubens. Correggio & Titian Knew how to Execute
what they could not Think or Invent" 
 Descriptive Catalogue, (E 528)
 "If Italy is enriched and
made great by RAPHAEL, if MICHAEL ANGELO is its supreme glory, if
Art is the glory of a Nation, if Genius and Inspiration are the
great Origin and Bond of Society, the distinction my Works have
obtained from those who best understand such things, calls for my
Exhibition as the greatest of Duties to my Country." 
 Descriptive Catalogue, (E 547)
"...when the Artist took his pencil, to execute his
ideas, his power of imagination weakened so much, and darkened,
that memory of nature and of Pictures of the various
Schools possessed his mind, instead of appropriate execution,
resulting from the inventions; like walking in another man's
style, or speaking or looking in another man's style and manner,
unappropriate and repugnant to your own individual character;
tormenting the true Artist, till he leaves the Florentine, and
adopts the Venetian practice, or does as Mr. B. has done, has the
courage to suffer poverty and disgrace, till he ultimately

Thursday, February 7, 2013


The children's opera The Little Sweep was composed in 1948 by Benjamin Britten with libretto by Eric Crozier. The subject for the composition was furnished by William Blake's two poems (both named The Chimney Sweeper) from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. The plight of children in 18th and 19th century England forced into the dangerous occupation of cleaning chimneys provides the metaphor for children exploited, neglected or abused in any age and setting. Britten's opera incorporates a range of reactions to the little sweep who is mistreated  by his employer, misunderstood by the housekeeper, and sympathetically protected by the wealthy children.

Britten and Crozier do not attempt to follow the storyline of Blake's poems which focus most of the attention on the failure of religion and government to correct abuses in society by promising a compensating reward in the afterlife while enjoying the fruits of the labor of the underprivileged.

If you seek performances of The Little Sweep on youtube, you may be surprised to find that the one of the most complete ones available was produced in Vietnamese, another in Spanish. Here is a short segment from an English production with Maureen Forrester playing Miss Baggott the housekeeper.

Songs of Innocence, Song 12, (E 10)   
The Chimney Sweeper
"When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue,
Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep.              
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep,
Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head        
That curl'd like a lambs back, was shav'd, so I said.
Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.
And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight,    
That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned & Jack
Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black,

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he open'd the coffins & set them all free.
Then down a green plain leaping laughing they run      
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Tho' the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm,
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm."
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Copy T

Songs of Experience, Song 37, (E 22) 
The Chimney Sweeper   
"A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!    
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

Because I was happy upon the heath, 
And smil'd among the winter's snow:  
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery." 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


In 1965 Benjamin Britten composed a song cycle titled Songs and Proverbs of William Blake based entirely on Blake's poetry. The composition includes lines from Songs of Innocence & Experience, Marriage of Heaven & Hell and Auguries of Innocence. This performance by Benjamin Luxton, baritone, is available on youtube in two parts. The second half begins at Tyger.
Follow Blake's poetry printed below as you listen to the music.

1.Proverb I: The pride of the peacock
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 36)
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.  
2.London Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 46, (E 26) 
I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.  
And mark in every face I meet 
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man, 
In every Infants cry of fear, 
In every voice: in every ban, 
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear 
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
3.Proverb II: Prisons are built 

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 36)
Prisons are built with stones of Law, 
Brothels with bricks of Religion.

4.The Chimney-Sweeper

Songs of Experience, Song 37, (E 22) 
THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER                                    
A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!                    
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

Because I was happy upon the heath, 
And smil'd among the winter's snow: 
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery.            

5.Proverb III: The bird a nest 
Marriage of Heaven & Hell
, Plate 8, (E 36)
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. 

6.A Poison Tree
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 49, (E 28) 
A POISON TREE.                              
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.

7.Proverb IV: Think in the morning  

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9, (E 37) 
Think in the morning, Act in the noon, Eat in the evening, Sleep in the night. 

British Museum Small Book of Designs
From Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 14
8.The Tyger  
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 42, (E 24) 
THE TYGER.                                                  
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,                                     
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?                              

In what distant deeps or skies.                                
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?                                  
On what wings dare he aspire?                        
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?               
What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,                     
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!                       

When the stars threw down their spears               
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?                        
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?                  

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:                         
What immortal hand or eye,        
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? 

9.Proverb V: The tygers of wrath  
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9, (E 37)
The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction
Plate 7, (E 35)
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Plate 9 , (E 37)
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
10.The Fly 
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 40, (E 23) 
THE FLY.                                    
Little Fly
Thy summers play,                           
My thoughtless hand                          
Has brush'd away.                           
Am not I 
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing: 
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life                                
And strength & breath:
And the want                                       
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die. 
11.Proverb VI: The hours of folly  
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 7, (E 36)
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.             
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.

12.Ah! Sun-flower!
Songs of Innocence & Experience, Song 43, (E 25)
Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

13.Proverb VII: To see a World 
Songs and Ballads, (E 490)
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

14.Every Night and Every Morn

Songs and Ballads, (E 492)
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye   
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Wikipedia Commons
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing
c. 1786
Blake let his imagination roam widely as had Shakespeare before him. They both wrote about fairies as if they had a first hand acquaintance. In Midsummer Night's Dream Shakespeare takes us into the world which awakes while we sleep and dream, ruled by the king and queen of fairies. Blake pictured a joyful image of fairies dancing before their king and queen with Puck who was given the power to alter how individuals perceived one another. Blake pictured the same pair, Oberon and Titania, on Plate 5 of Song of Los resting comfortably within two adjacent lilies. Titania sleeps while Oberon holds a sceptre.

In a very early biography of Blake (Life of Blake, By Allan Cunningham) there is reported a conversation of Blake with a lady at a dinner party:
"'Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam?' he once said to a lady, who happened to sit by him in company. 'Never, sir!' was the answer. 'I have,' said Blake, 'but not before last night. I was walking alone in my garden, there was great stillness among the branches and flowers and more than common sweetness in the air; I heard a low and pleasant sound, and I knew not whence it came. At last I saw the broad leaf of a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and gray grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared. It was a fairy funeral.'"

In his Descriptive Catalogue, Blake introduces the idea that in Shakespeare and Chaucer fairies are rulers of the vegetable world, perhaps indicating that he uses them in the same way.

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 535)
"By way of illustration, I instance Shakspeare's Witches in
Macbeth.  Those who dress 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."

Blake's best known passage about a fairy introduces his prophecy Europe which he published in 1794. In Blake's system fairies are associated with the Element air, and the Zoa Urizen.

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."

The conversation of Blake about the fairy funeral which sent ripples out in the literary world may be pursued at this website about Lucy Hooper.

Friday, February 1, 2013


British Museum
Jerusalem, Plate 76
Copy A

William Blake and John Wesley were contemporaries in 18th century London. Although their paths may have crossed there is no record of a meeting between them. Wesley was a public figure whose sermons were well known. Although Blake may have been attracted to Wesley's religious zeal, the two would have found little in common in their approach to religious experience. Both men believed in a religion expressed though the heart as a result of direct personal experience. Where they differed was in the degree of spontaneous expression each valued. Blake's ideal was perfect liberty; Wesley's was the disciplined approach of using 'every means which either reason or Scripture recommends.'

Blake was willing to apply the term 'enthusiast' to himself even though some people of his day associated enthusiasm with madness. Wesley advised his followers that enthusiasm was of the world; that enthusiasm was not the mark of a Christian as holiness was.   

In John Wesley edited by Albert C Outler, Wesley's attitude to enthusiasm is explained in this way:
"When his doctrines of assurance and experience were labeled 'enthusiasm,' he carefully distinguished between 'enthusiasm proper' and that true ernestness based upon the Spirit's witness in our hearts. In these terms, he could insist, against all formalists, that until faith is deeply personal, it is not yet authentic." (Page 30)

Quotes from Wesley's sermon, The Nature Of Enthusiasm:
"such a disorder as greatly hinders the exercise of reason"
"immediately a superficial change"
"For Christians are holy; these are unholy: Christians love God; these love the world: Christians are humble; these are proud: Christians are gentle; these are passionate; Christians have the mind which was in Christ; these are at the utmost distance from it."
"imagine themselves to be influenced or directed by the Spirit when they are not"

Blake embraced the label of enthusiasm as descriptive of his heartfelt commitment to the Lord whom he knew and loved.     

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes
[no Reader will think presumptuousness or arroganc[e] when he
is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their
Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who
Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly
absorb'd in their Gods.] I also hope the Reader will
be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of
Fire] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients
look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement."

Jerusalem, Plate 9, (E 152)
"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!

Thus they contended among the Furnaces with groans & tears;
Groaning the Spectre heavd the bellows, obeying Los's frowns;
Till the Spaces of Erin were perfected in the furnaces
Of affliction, and Los drew them forth, compelling the harsh Spectre."         

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 645)
"Reynolds:But as mere enthusiasm will carry you but a little way. . .
Blake: [Damn The Fool] 
     Meer Enthusiasm is the All in All!-- Bacons Philosophy has
Ruind England " 

Annotations to Reynolds,(E 647)
"It is Evident that Reynolds Wishd none but Fools to be in
the Arts & in order to this, he calls all others Vague
Enthusiasts or Madmen"  

Letters, To Hayley, (E 705)
 "Thirteen years ago.  I lost a
brother & with his spirit I  converse daily & hourly in the
Spirit.  & See him in my remembrance in the  regions of my
Imagination.  I hear his advice & even now write from his
Dictate--Forgive me for expressing to you my Enthusiasm which I
wish all to  partake of Since it is to me a Source of Immortal
Joy even in this world by it  I am the companion of Angels."

Letters, To Butts, (E 720)
 "And now let me finish with assuring you that Tho I have been
very unhappy I am so no longer I am again Emerged into the light
of Day I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore
him who is the Express image of God but I have traveld thro
Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion I have Conquerd and shall
still Go on Conquering Nothing can withstand the fury of my
Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser My
Enthusiasm is still what it was only Enlarged and confirmd"