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

Friday, April 5, 2013


Library of Congress
Plate 3, Copy E
This picture from Europe seems a perfect illustration for the following passage from Milton.
Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (E 142)  "To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,  But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin  Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;  Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge; whose Science is Despair  Whose pretence to knowledge is Envy, whose whole Science is  To destroy the wisdom of ages to gratify ravenous Envy;  That rages round him like a Wolf day & night without rest" 

The traveller setting forth expecting a safe and productive journey is not alone. He is observed by a sinister figure who will impede his travels in whatever way possible. Blake's thesis is that the hostile figure is not hidden a cave but is within our own minds. When we begin to see reality not as the creation of our own mental imaging but as the exterior world, a spit has occurred. The first separation is seen as the Emanation, the second as the Spectre. The first as the emotions having an independent existence. The second as reason forgoing the role of supporting the producer of images (the imagination) for the sake of producing a world that he alone will structure and control.

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E 131)
"I have turned my back upon these Heavens builded on cruelty
My Spectre still wandering thro' them follows my Emanation
He hunts her footsteps thro' the snow & the wintry hail & rain   
The idiot Reasoner laughs at the Man of Imagination
And from laughter proceeds to murder by undervaluing calumny"

The Spectre is Blake's chief formulation for the opposition to Art & Science, the work of the imagination. In these two quotes Blake impolitely refers to him as an 'Idiot Questioner' or an 'idiot Reasoner.' Blake knew his Spectre well for he often felt pursued by him. Blake is not reluctant to let us see the anger he feels toward his Specter. 
Songs and Ballads, (E 475)                                             
"My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way
My Emanation far within   
Weeps incessantly for my Sin 
A Fathomless & boundless deep     
There we wander there we weep
On the hungry craving wind
My Spectre follows thee behind" 
 Read more in these two posts by Larry based on the whole poem from which the first two verses are printed. 

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