Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
A book of essays on Blake's three major epics, The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem, published in 1971, has contributed enormously to our understanding of Blake's meaning. Today I quote from Jerome J. McGann's essay, The Air of Blake's Prophecies, contained in Blake's Sublime Allegory, edited by Currran, and Wittreich.
"All Three of Blake's surviving epics are explicit attempts to recover the Divine Vision for, in, and through the world. He does not compose his poetry for himself but for the 'Divine Humanity,' the brotherhood of all men. Thus he will say: 'I will not cease from Mental Fight...Till we have built Jerusalem' (M1:95). That is, 'I' (Blake) struggle that 'we' (Man) may together, in vision, recover our emanation Jerusalem, who is the image of every man's infinite desire. Blake is not simply being modest here. The lyric states the literal fact of his belief, that the original state of blessedness is recovered only when every man lives in vision, that is, when every man beholds the universe in his own active imagination. An 'external world' is a delusion just as any 'generalized' conception of reality is a shadow. To find the world must find oneself.
For all are Men in Eternity. Rivers Mountains Cities Villages, All are Human & when you enter into their Bosoms you walk In Heavens & Earths; as in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is but a Shadow. (J 71:15-19)"Milton and Vala carry the same message. Since imagination 'is the Human Existence itself' (M 32:32), to be without imagination is to be inhuman, dead." (Page 6)
Jerusalem, Plate 54, (E 203) "In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives forth or Emanates Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine Vision And the Light is his Garment This is Jerusalem in every Man A Tent & Tabernacle of Mutual Forgiveness Male & Female Clothings. And Jerusalem is called Liberty among the Children of Albion"
Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173) "He witherd up the Human Form, By laws of sacrifice for sin: Till it became a Mortal Worm: But O! translucent all within. The Divine Vision still was seen Still was the Human Form, Divine Weeping in weak & mortal clay O Jesus still the Form was thine."