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

Friday, May 31, 2013


Songs of Innocence was originally printed by Blake in 1789, the first of his illuminated texts following his experiments in 1788 with combining text and images in All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion. Blake issued five other illuminated books before producing in 1794 the companion to Songs of Innocence: Songs of Experience. The title page of the combined book was the subject of a previous post. Today we look at the frontispieces of the two books as a means of beginning to compare various plates in 'Innocence' and 'Experience.' The British Museum Copy A , which was once owned by Britain's prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, will provide the images.
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Copy A
British Museum
Songs of Innocence
Copy A

Blake has created similar images for the two plates to lead us to noting the meaning of  both similarities and differences we observe. Perhaps most obvious of the similarities is that the central figures are both 'setting forth' as are the figures on the frontispieces of Milton and of Jerusalem. As usual Blake invites us to undertake a spiritual journey as we enter an unfamiliar world which has the potential for transforming our thinking.

The differences in the two images may best be addressed by asking questions:
Why is the child airborne in a cloud or sitting on the man's head?
Why is the landscape enclosed or open?
Why does one man gaze at the child, one at the reader?
Why does one man carry a musical instrument? 

We are looking for our own answers in the pictures and in the poetry. Blake intended to open the minds of his readers into the world of imagination not to introduce him to a rigid system for interpreting life.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


What does Blake announce in his title and subtitle for his best known poetry? He tells us elsewhere that:

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
"Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit
place: the terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific
parts--the mild & gentle, for the mild & gentle parts, and the
prosaic, for inferior parts: all are necessary to each other. 
Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race!" 
His title is carefully selected:


    Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul"

British Museum
Combined Title Page 

  Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Copy B, Plate 1

The first word 'Songs' tells us that we will be reading poetry not prose. He will not speak to the reasoning mind but to the mind that processes emotion, images, and suggestions of meaning dispersed throughout a body of work. The subject of this little volume of poetry is twofold: Innocence and Experience. We may have mental definitions of these two words, but he intends to expand our understanding by showing us concretely how these concepts are revealed in outer expressions.

He selects additional words - 'Contrary', 'States', 'Human', and 'Soul' - for his subtitle. He will begin to attach meaning to these words in these songs, and will continue to expand the meaning as he continues to write prophecies, epics and prose. Of the word 'Contrary' he says in Milton:

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 142) 
"There is a Negation, & there is a Contrary The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries 
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man 
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal 
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway 
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination."

In Jerusalem we see examples of how Blake uses the terms 'States', 'Human', and 'Soul.'

Jerusalem, Plate 25, (E 170) 
"Descend O Lamb of God & take away the imputation of Sin
By the Creation of States & the deliverance of Individuals Evermore Amen"

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."

Jerusalem, Plate 41 [46], (E 188)
"Thou art in Error Albion, the Land of Ulro:               
One Error not remov'd, will destroy a human Soul
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."

At the bottom of the plate are images of Adam and Eve, male and female, active and passive. Their loins are covered with leaves following their expulsion from the garden of Eden whose gates are now guarded by fire.  

Monday, May 27, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Book of Urizen
Copy A, Plate 4
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Percival feels that Blake reenacted the reconciliation of his own disparate psychological divisions in his myth of division and reunion. Because he overcame a fractured psyche, he had insight to share on repairing the broken unity.  

Here is a quote from Page 96 of William Blake's Circle of Destiny  by Milton O Percival:
"Blake's private and personal experience had bred him to his task. The strife that he depicts in the myth of an historical and cosmic stage had often been enacted on the microscopic stage within himself. A born mystic, he was haunted by the demon of rationalism. A hater of systems, he could not rest without one of his own. He was now Los, the inspired Prophet, and now Urizen, the doubting Spectre. One set of voices said: 'Follow the gleam.' Another set urged: 'Paint like Rembrandt. Engrave like Bartolozzi. Win recognition at any cost.' Nor did his struggle end with artistic indecisions. There were other on less severe contentions between his inner principle, energetic and masculine, and his outer principle, passive and feminine. The delusive beauty of outward nature and the delusive pleasure of intellectual revery often threatened the integrity of his mind. Psychological dissociation was an ever present danger. Hence the reality, the comprehension, the marvelous fairness, in the depiction of the contending figures. The personages of his cosmic myth were familiar denizens of his own breast. His own triumphant struggle against disorganization within himself gave him the insight to depict a disorganized but finally triumphant world."

Milton, Plate 22 [24], (E 116)
"Tho driven away with the Seven Starry Ones into the Ulro
Yet the Divine Vision remains Every-where For-ever. Amen.
And Ololon lamented for Milton with a great lamentation.

While Los heard indistinct in fear, what time I bound my sandals
On; to walk forward thro' Eternity, Los descended to me:         
And Los behind me stood; a terrible flaming Sun: just close
Behind my back; I turned round in terror, and behold.
Los stood in that fierce glowing fire; & he also  stoop'd down
And bound my sandals on in Udan-Adan; trembling I stood
Exceedingly with fear & terror, standing in the Vale             
Of Lambeth: but he kissed me and wishd me health.
And I became One  Man  with  him  arising in my strength:
Twas too late now to recede. Los had enterd into my soul:
His terrors now posses'd me whole! I arose in fury & strength."

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
# 54, The Bard

Disintegration precedes integration; destruction precedes reconstruction. The new world which Blake wished to see made manifest, would be built from the remnants of the world which it replaced. In America Blake introduced Orc as revolution, or the violent removal of the established constraints whose power controlled the lives of men. Avoiding direct accusations against the King and the British Government, Blake used the term Guardian for the political forces who opposed Orc. Urizen was introduced as the controlling force who made it possible for the oppression of the many by the few to be sustained.

America, Plate 14, (E 56)
"Then had America been lost, o'erwhelm'd by the Atlantic,
And Earth had lost another portion of the infinite,
But all rush together in the night in wrath and raging fire
The red fires rag'd! the plagues recoil'd! then rolld they back with fury 
Plate 15
On Albions Angels; then the Pestilence began in streaks of red
Across the limbs of Albions Guardian, the spotted plague smote Bristols
And the Leprosy Londons Spirit, sickening all their bands:
The millions sent up a howl of anguish and threw off their hammerd mail,
And cast their swords & spears to earth, & stood a naked multitude.      
Albions Guardian writhed in torment on the eastern sky
Pale quivring toward the brain his glimmering eyes, teeth chattering
Howling & shuddering his legs quivering; convuls'd each muscle & sinew
Sick'ning lay Londons Guardian, and the ancient miter'd York
Their heads on snowy hills, their ensigns sick'ning in the sky   

The plagues creep on the burning winds driven by flames of Orc,
And by the fierce Americans rushing together in the night
Driven o'er the Guardians of Ireland and Scotland and Wales
They spotted with plagues forsook the frontiers & their banners seard
With fires of hell, deform their ancient heavens with shame & woe.       
Hid in his eaves the Bard of Albion felt the enormous plagues.
And a cowl of flesh grew o'er his head & scales on his back & ribs;
And rough with black scales all his Angels fright their ancient heavens
The doors of marriage are open, and the Priests in rustling scales
Rush into reptile coverts, hiding from the fires of Orc,         
That play around the golden roofs in wreaths of fierce desire,
Leaving the females naked and glowing with the lusts of youth

For the female spirits of the dead pining in bonds of religion;
Run from their fetters reddening, & in long drawn arches sitting:
They feel the nerves of youth renew, and desires of ancient times,      
Over their pale limbs as a vine when the tender grape appears

Over the hills, the vales, the cities, rage the red flames fierce;
The Heavens melted from north to south; and Urizen who sat
Above all heavens in thunders wrap'd, emerg'd his leprous head
From out his holy shrine, his tears in deluge piteous
Falling into the deep sublime! flag'd with grey-brow'd snows     
And thunderous visages, his jealous wings wav'd over the deep;
Weeping in dismal howling woe he dark descended howling
Around the smitten bands, clothed in tears & trembling shudd'ring cold.
His stored snows he poured forth, and his icy magazines
He open'd on the deep, and on the Atlantic sea white shiv'ring.  
Leprous his limbs, all over white, and hoary was his visage.
Weeping in dismal howlings before the stern Americans
Hiding the Demon red with clouds &  cold mists from the earth;
Till Angels & weak men twelve years should govern o'er the strong:
And then their end should come, when France reciev'd the Demons light.

Stiff shudderings shook the heav'nly thrones! France Spain & Italy,
In terror view'd the bands of Albion, and the ancient Guardians
Fainting upon the elements, smitten with their own plagues 

They slow advance to shut the five gates of their law-built heaven
Filled with blasting fancies and with mildews of despair         
With fierce disease and lust, unable to stem the fires of Orc;
But the five gates were consum'd, & their bolts and hinges melted
And the fierce flames burnt round the heavens, & round the abodes of men


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Book of Urizen
Plate 7, Copy C
Blake understood that a vortex is capable of drawing into itself whatever came within the perimeter of its control. It sucks matter into the ever increasing rotational motion under its dominion. As the rotation tightens, the movement becomes downward, into the depths from which escape seems impossible.

Blake found this an appropriate image of the situation endured by Urizen. Having attempted unsuccessfully to acquire the functionality of Urthona, Urizen had lost the integrating and relational skills which would have allowed him to function. Around him had formed a body of assumptions and expectations which served his unrealistic self-image. He was trapped in thought patterns which drew him inward and downward away from any corrective measures which would have allowed him to escape.

 Four Zoas, Night VI, Page 71, (E 348)
"But still his books he bore in his strong hands & his iron pen   
For when he died they lay beside his grave & when he rose  
He siezd them with a gloomy smile for wrapd in his death clothes        
He hid them when he slept in death when he revivd the clothes
Were rotted by the winds the books remaind still unconsumd
Still to be written & interleavd with brass & iron & gold 
Time after time for such a journey none but iron pens           
Can write And adamantine leaves recieve nor can the man who goes
PAGE 72 
The journey obstinate refuse to write time after time

Endless had been his travel but the Divine hand him led 
For infinite the distance & obscurd by Combustions dire
By rocky masses frowning in the abysses revolving erratic
Round Lakes of fire in the dark deep the ruins of Urizens world  
Oft would he sit in a dark rift & regulate his books
Or sleep such sleep as spirits eternal wearied in his dark
Tearful & sorrowful state. then rise look out & ponder
His dismal voyage eyeing the next sphere tho far remote
Then darting into the Abyss of night his venturous limbs         
Thro lightnings thunders earthquakes & concussions fires & floods
Stemming his downward fall labouring up against futurity
Creating many a Vortex fixing many a Science in the deep
And thence throwing his venturous limbs into the Vast unknown
Swift Swift from Chaos to chaos from void to void a road immense 

For when he came to where a Vortex ceasd to operate
Nor down nor up remaind then if he turnd & lookd back
From whence he came twas upward all. & if he turnd and viewd
The unpassd void upward was still his mighty wandring
The midst between an Equilibrium grey of air serene            
Where he might live in peace & where his life might meet repose

But Urizen said Can I not leave this world of Cumbrous wheels
Circle oer Circle nor on high attain a void
Where self sustaining I may view all things beneath my feet
Or sinking thro these Elemental wonders swift to fall           
I thought perhaps to find an End a world beneath of voidness
Whence I might travel round the outside of this Dark confusion
When I bend downward bending my head downward into the deep
Tis upward all which way soever I my course begin
But when A Vortex formd on high by labour & sorrow & care        
And weariness begins on all my limbs then sleep revives
My wearied spirits waking then tis downward all which way
So ever I my spirits turn no end I find of all
O what a world is here unlike those climes of bliss
Where my sons gatherd round my knees   O thou poor ruind world   
Thou horrible ruin once like me thou wast all glorious
And now like me partaking desolate thy masters lot
Art thou O ruin the once glorious heaven are these thy rocks
Where joy sang in the trees & pleasure sported on the rivers

Page 73
And if Eternal falling I repose on the dark bosom              
Of winds & waters or thence fall into a Void where air
Is not down falling thro immensity ever & ever
I lose my powers weakend every revolution till a death
Shuts up my powers then a seed in the vast womb of darkness
I dwell in dim oblivion." 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Milton, Plate 15 [17], (E 109) 
"But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night.

Onwards his Shadow kept its course among the Spectres; call'd
Satan, but swift as lightning passing them, startled the shades
Of Hell beheld him in a trail of light as of a comet
That travels into Chaos: so Milton went guarded within.          

The nature of infinity is this: That every thing has its
Own Vortex; and when once a traveller thro Eternity.
Has passd that Vortex, he percieves it roll backward behind
His path, into a globe itself infolding; like a sun:
Or like a moon, or like a universe of starry majesty,            
While he keeps onwards in his wondrous journey on the earth
Or like a human form, a friend with whom he livd benevolent.
As the eye of man views both the east & west encompassing
Its vortex; and the north & south, with all their starry host;
Also the rising sun & setting moon he views surrounding    
His corn-fields and his valleys of five hundred acres square.
Thus is the earth one infinite plane, and not as apparent
To the weak traveller confin'd beneath the moony shade.
Thus is the heaven a vortex passd already, and the earth
A vortex not yet pass'd by the traveller thro' Eternity."         
Kay Parke Easson and Roger Easson view Blake's Milton as a paradigm for engaging in a spiritual journey. On Plate 15 Blake uses the terms infinity and eternity to introduce the idea of spiritual travel. Blake then presents the image of the vortex which he will be using to modify his readers perspectives as they consider their journeys through experience. The Eassons assist us in recognizing the visual forms in which Blake presents the vortex. Quoting from Page 151 of Milton A Poem by William Blake:    

"Blake's image of spiritual Travel is the vortex. Since Blake insists that 'every thing has its / Own Vortex,' his poetry and designs abound with a variety of figures which invoke the vortex. The essential image beneath these figures is the tunnel, [Plate 8] and given the position from which the tunnel is seen, it may seem to assume all these parallel figures. When the observer is standing within the vortex looking directly into its whirling center, it assumes a circular appearance as if it were a broad disc...[Plate 16]...When the vortex is delivering the traveler into the chaos, then it is dark, and we see only a whirling cloud...[Frontispiece]...standing slightly to the side...the vortex as the new or old moon is seen...[Jerusalem Plate 8]...If the vortex is dark, and light is seen only in points, then it assumes the appearance of a constellation in a starry universe...[Plate 4]...If the observer is outside the vortex and observing its passage, it may look like a comet, [Plate 29] its fiery tail indicating the path of the traveler. If the vortex contains a man, it may take the appearance of a five pointed star [Plate 33], one point marking each of the man' appendages...wedges of streaming light [Plate 1] (mark) the cone of the vortex."

The links to plates from Milton are all from Copy C in the New York Public Library. Plate 8 from Jerusalem is from Copy E in the Yale Center for British Art courtesy of wikimedia. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013


Illustration to Poems of Thomas Gray
The unity which may be achieved by attaining brotherhood on earth is a reflection of the Universal Brotherhood of Eden or Eternity. The multitude of Eternity can think and feel and act as one while maintaining infinite individualities. Perspective determines appearances: what seems to be multitude when seen from afar is beheld as one in greater proximity. This a reversal of earthly perspective which views things in its proximity as made of many parts, and distant things as without differentiation. What appears as the Brotherhood in Eden appears as Jesus to the individual man.

The Universal Brotherhood of Eden is both a Perfect Unity and a multitude. It exits through offering self to others. It, though multitude, takes on the appearance of a Man in Jesus. Our existence depends on this Universal Brotherhood which gives itself in love for Man. The work of Ololon, Los and Jesus are examples of the descent of the Brotherhood to redeem man.

Milton, Plate 23 [25], (E 119)
We were plac'd here by the Universal Brotherhood & Mercy
With powers fitted to circumscribe this dark Satanic death
And that the Seven Eyes of God may have space for Redemption.

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 300) 
"a Perfect Unity    
Cannot Exist. but from the Universal                             
Brotherhood of Eden    
The Universal Man. To Whom be
Glory Evermore Amen" 

Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 135)
"O how the Starry Eight rejoic'd to see Ololon descended!
And now that a wide road was open to Eternity,                   

By Ololons descent thro Beulah to Los & Enitharmon,

For mighty were the multitudes of Ololon, vast the extent
Of their great sway, reaching from Ulro to Eternity"

Jerusalem, Plate 31 [35], (E 177)
And the Divine voice came from the Furnaces, as multitudes without
Number! the voices of the innumerable multitudes of Eternity.
And the appearance of a Man was seen in the Furnaces;            
Saving those who have sinned from the punishment of the Law,
(In pity of the punisher whose state is eternal death,)
And keeping them from Sin by the mild counsels of his love.

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 110 [106], (E 380)
"He answerd her with tenderness & love not uninspird      
Los sat upon his anvil stock they sat beside the forge 
Los wipd the sweat from his red brow & thus began
To the delusive female forms shining among his furnaces

I am that shadowy Prophet who six thousand years ago
Fell from my station in the Eternal bosom. I divided
To multitude & my multitudes are children of Care & Labour 
O Rahab I behold thee I was once like thee a Son
Of Pride and I also have piercd the Lamb of God in pride & wrath
Hear me repeat my Generations that thou mayst also repent"

Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 712)
    "Each grain of Sand
     Every Stone on the Land
     Each rock & each hill
     Each fountain & rill
     Each herb & each tree
     Mountain hill Earth & Sea
     Cloud Meteor & Star
     Are Men Seen Afar"

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 21, (E 310) 
"Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Senses
They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man  
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them            
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime"

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"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"

Matthew 12
[49] And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
[50] For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Painting for Blair's The Grave
In C S Lewis' The Four Loves he makes this statement about friendship which is close to what Blake means by brotherhood:

"within those limits we possess each friend not less, but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious "nearness by resemblance" to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah's vision are crying "Holy, Holy, Holy" to one another (Isaiah vi,3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have."

The brotherhood of which Blake speaks is not the kinship of being born to the same earthly parents but of recognizing one's kinship to the heavenly family. When we join one another in brotherhood we relinquish some of our self-interest and elevate the interests of others. We affirm the 'brother and friend' within our bosoms and perceive our Souls mingling in the joy of community.

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, (E 28)
A Little BOY Lost                 

"Nought loves another as itself
Nor venerates another so.
Nor is it possible to Thought
A greater than itself to know:

And Father, how can I love you,   
Or any of my brothers more?       
I love you like the little bird   
That picks up crumbs around the door."

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations 
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity
How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this

Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!      
Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!"

Letters, (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"

Jesus in John 17 prays that the unity which results form dwelling in the Father and knowing that spirit of God within may be revealed to his readers.  

[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Romans 5 
[3] And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
[4] And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
[5] And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

JB Phillips Translation
Romans 5
3-5 - This doesn't mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys - we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.

New York Public Library
Plate 44
The journey to the spiritual leads through experience. Tribulation is characteristic of the journey we undertake, but tribulation with a purpose. Consciousness is developed through difficulties and challenges. The wisdom of learning the difference between what can be changed and what should be accepted will supply courage and serenity. Far from being vengeance or punishment, our sorrows and trials stimulate growth in our essential being. 

Enion tells us that the price of experience is everything that we have, Jesus asks that we sell all that we have and follow him. Blake reports the 'dismal torments' of failing to follow the 'dictates of our Angels.'

When Los battles with his Spectre, he is gaining experience that will allow him to cast off error and annihilate his Spectre. It is through his encounter with his Spectre that Los experiences his internal opposition as negation. When the Spectre is so reveled Los refuses to give him 'organized' existence and gains the experience to be freed from his power.   

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 35, (E 325)
"What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain"

Letters,(E 724)
[To] Mr Butts, Great Marlborough Street,
Oxford Street, London
Felpham Jany 10. 180[3] 
"But if we fear to do the dictates of our
Angels & tremble at the Tasks set before us. if we refuse to do
Spiritual Acts. because of Natural Fears or Natural Desires!  Who
can describe the dismal torments of such a state!--I too well
remember the Threats I heard!--If you who are organized by Divine
Providence for Spiritual communion.  Refuse & bury your Talent in
the Earth even tho you should want Natural Bread. Sorrow &
pursues you thro life! & after death shame & confusion of face to
eternity--Every one in Eternity will leave you aghast at the Man
who was crownd with glory & honour by his brethren & betrayd
their cause to their enemies." 
Jerusalem, Plate 17, (E 161)
"For Los said: Tho my Spectre is divided: as I am a Living Man
I must compell him to obey me wholly: that Enitharmon may not
Be lost: & lest he should devour Enitharmon: Ah me!
Piteous image of my soft desires & loves: O Enitharmon!
I will compell my Spectre to obey: I will restore to thee thy Children. 
No one bruises or starves himself to make himself fit for labour!
Tormented with sweet desire for these beauties of Albion
They would never love my power if they did not seek to destroy
Enitharmon: Vala would never have sought & loved Albion
If she had not sought to destroy Jerusalem; such is that false   
And Generating Love: a pretence of love to destroy love: 
Cruel hipocrisy unlike the lovely delusions of Beulah:
And cruel forms, unlike the merciful  forms of Beulahs Night

They know not why they love nor wherefore they sicken & die
Calling that Holy Love: which is Envy Revenge & Cruelty          
Which separated the stars from the mountains: the mountains from Man
And left Man, a little grovelling Root, outside of Himself.
Negations are not Contraries: Contraries mutually Exist:
But Negations Exist Not: Exceptions & Objections & Unbeliefs
Exist not: nor shall they ever be Organized for ever & ever:     
If thou separate from me, thou art a Negation: a meer
Reasoning & Derogation from Me, an Objecting & cruel Spite
And Malice & Envy: but my Emanation, Alas! will become
My Contrary: O thou Negation, I will continually compell
Thee to be invisible to any but whom I please, & when            
And where & how I please, and never! never! shalt thou be Organized
But as a distorted & reversed Reflexion in the Darkness
And in the Non Entity: nor shall that which is above
Ever descend into thee: but thou shalt be a Non Entity for ever
And if any enter into thee, thou shalt be an Unquenchable Fire
And he shall be a never dying Worm, mutually tormented by
Those that thou tormentest, a Hell & Despair for ever & ever.

So Los in secret with himself communed & Enitharmon heard"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 562)
"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" 

“Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”
by C.S. Lewis

Monday, May 13, 2013


British Museum
Illustration to Young's Night Thoughts
On page 331 of A Blake Dictionary, Damon points out the quotation of a phrase from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in Blake's Milton. Both men speak of the work of the poet as giving form to the 'airy nothing' which enters the imagination. Blake extends the image beyond the creation of poetry to providing bodies to the Spectres who stand on the threshold of death.
Blake pays homage to Shakespeare in this passage by manipulating the words and ideas from Shakespeare and weaving them into his own passage to demonstrate the process of giving shape and habitation to thought, or bodies to Spectres. Blake includes the word 'inspiration' in his passage as indication that the spirit is the active mover in the creation of form. In his annotations to Watson, Blake uses the word 'inspiration' to indicate the difference between writing which purports to be history and 'a poem of probable impossibilities' which is the work of the imagination. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Act V, Scene 1
[Theseus speaks]

"The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!"

Milton, Plate 28 [30], (E 125)
"Some Sons of Los surround the Passions with porches of iron & silver
Creating form & beauty around the dark regions of sorrow,
Giving to airy nothing a name and a habitation
Delightful! with bounds to the Infinite putting off the Indefinite
Into most holy forms of Thought: (such is the power of inspiration)
They labour incessant; with many tears & afflictions:
Creating the beautiful House for the piteous sufferer.

Others; Cabinets richly fabricate of gold & ivory;
For Doubts & fears unform'd & wretched & melancholy
The little weeping Spectre stands on the threshold of Death      
Eternal; and sometimes two Spectres like lamps quivering
And often malignant they combat (heart-breaking sorrowful & piteous)
Antamon takes them into his beautiful flexible hands,
As the Sower takes the seed, or as the Artist his clay
Or fine wax, to mould artful a model for golden ornaments,      
The soft hands of Antamon draw the indelible line:
Form immortal with golden pen; such as the Spectre admiring
Puts on the sweet form;" 
Annotations to Watson, (E 616)
 "He who writes things for true which none could write. but
the actor. such are most of the acts of Moses. must either be the
actor or a fable writer or a liar.  If Moses did not write the
history of his acts, it takes away the authority altogether it
ceases to be history & becomes a Poem of probable impossibilities
fabricated for pleasure as moderns say but I say by Inspiration."

Saturday, May 11, 2013


British Museum
Illustration to Young's Night Thoughts
"Touch that heals the soul"
In A Blake Dictionary, S. Foster Damon, in his commentary on Poetry, relates Blake's purpose in life to making man understandable to man. (Page 331)
"His 'great task' was to explore and record the mysteries of the human psyche, 'To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought' (J 5: 18); and thought animated by passion, is the substance of his verse. Not until man understands the workings of his mind can peace and liberty be accomplished. Thus Blake became one of the great psychologists, anticipating many of the discoveries of later scientists.
He was not interested in illustrating moral precepts but in the analysis and cure of evil, which are very different matters."

Damon continues with this quote:

Annotations to Boyd, (E 634)
   "the grandest Poetry is Immoral the Grandest characters
Wicked.  Very Satan.  Capanius    Othello a murderer. 
Prometheus.  Jupiter.  Jehovah, Jesus a wine bibber
     Cunning & Morality are not Poetry but Philosophy the Poet is
Independent & Wicked the Philosopher is Dependent & Good
     Poetry is to excuse Vice & show its reason & necessary

Genesis 1
[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

It is because man is created in the image of God his potential can never be discounted. The evidence of his failure and brokenness is not cause to despair. Blake believed that the imprint of God within man could be reached and renewed. Through the 'Poetic Inspiration' the 'Universe' could be rebuilt. The 'Universe' is the reunified Albion, the image of one man as including all that is, in a living body and mind as the revelation of God. 

Milton, Plate 30 [33],(E 129)
"But to
The Sons of Eden the moony habitations of Beulah,
Are from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant Rest.

And it is thus Created. Lo the Eternal Great Humanity            
To whom be Glory & Dominion Evermore Amen
Walks among all his awful Family seen in every face
As the breath of the Almighty. such are the words of man to man
In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating"          

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E 131)
"And thus the Seven Angels instructed him & thus they converse.

We are not Individuals but States: Combinations of Individuals   
We were Angels of the Divine Presence: & were Druids in Annandale
Compelld to combine into Form by Satan, the Spectre of Albion,
Who made himself a God &, destroyed the Human Form Divine.
But the Divine Humanity & Mercy gave us a Human     [Hebrew text]
     Form                                           as multitudes
Because we were combind in Freedom & holy             Vox Populi 

While those combind by Satans Tyranny first in the blood of War
And Sacrifice &, next, in Chains of imprisonment: are Shapeless Rocks
Retaining only Satans Mathematic Holiness, Length: Bredth & Highth
Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision & Fruition
In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against      
Its own Qualities, which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods or Lords[.]
Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43], (E 184)
"From howling victims of Law: building Heavens Twenty-seven-fold.
Swelld & bloated General Forms, repugnant to the Divine-
Humanity, who is the Only General and Universal Form         
To which all Lineaments tend & seek with love & sympathy
All broad & general principles belong to benevolence
Who protects minute particulars, every one in their own identity."

Jerusalem, Plate 79, (E 236)
"O Vala! Humanity is far above
Sexual organization; & the Visions of the Night of Beulah
Where Sexes wander in dreams of bliss among the Emanations    
Where the Masculine & Feminine are nurs'd into Youth & Maiden
By the tears & smiles of Beulahs Daughters till the time of Sleep is past.
Wherefore then do you realize these nets of beauty & delusion
In open day to draw the souls of the Dead into the light.
Till Albion is shut out from every Nation under Heaven." 
Blake agreed with Paul in Corinthians that by beholding the glory of the Lord man is changed into the same image as the Lord by the Lord's Spirit. 

2 Corinthians, Chapter 3 
[11] For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. 
[12] Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 
[13] And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 
[14] But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.  
[15] But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 
[16] Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 
[17] Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.   
[18] But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
America. A Prophecy
Plate 14, Copy M
Doubt for Blake meant closing oneself to the eternal truth which provides light to illumine all of life. When Blake tells us us that:

"For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." (Marriage of Heaven & Hell)

he is remarking on our failure to realize that there is more to 'sense' beyond the material world which provides information to our five senses. To limit oneself to what the world of time and space shows us, is to live in a world of doubt. We deny the best part of being human when we turn away from the soul to the natural world as the source of meaning.

Doubt like darkness is a void, an absence. When we sleep the mind closes itself to external stimuli. Doubt is closing the mind to spiritual consciousness. We know that in a wakeful state we can focus our minds as we choose. Focusing the mind in the direction of consciousness of the truths which bind us into one humanity eliminates doubt. Focusing the mind egocentrically, as the Selfhood directs us to do, sends us into a sleep which deprives us of the liberty to affirm ourselves or our brothers.

Letter to Butts, Felpham, April 25: 1803, (E 728) 
  "Now I may say to you what perhaps I should not dare to say
to any one else.  That I can alone carry on my visionary studies
in London unannoyd & that I may converse with my friends in
Eternity.  See Visions, Dream Dreams, & prophecy & speak Parables
unobserv'd & at liberty from the Doubts of other Mortals. perhaps
Doubts proceeding from Kindness. but Doubts are always pernicious
Especially when we Doubt our Friends" 

Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"Can that which was of Woman born   
In the absence of the Morn
When the Soul fell into Sleep
And Archangels round it weep
Shooting out against the Light
Fibres of a deadly night        
Reasoning upon its own Dark Fiction
In Doubt which is Self Contradiction
Humility is only Doubt
And does the Sun & Moon blot out
Rooting over with thorns & stems     
The buried Soul & all its Gems
This Lifes dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye   
That was born in a night to perish in a night
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light."

Songs & Ballads, (E 492)
"A Riddle or the Crickets Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply
The Emmets Inch & Eagles Mile 
Make Lame Philosophy to smile
He who Doubts from what he sees
Will neer Believe do what you Please
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt
Theyd immediately Go out" 

Jerusalem, Plate 93, (E 253)
"In that terrible Day of Rintrahs Plow & of Satans driving the Team.  
Ah! then I heard my little ones weeping along the Valley!
Ah! then I saw my beloved ones fleeing from my Tent
Merlin was like thee Rintrah among the Giants of Albion
Judah was like Palamabron: O Simeon! O Levi! ye fled away
How can I hear my little ones weeping along the Valley       
Or how upon the distant Hills see my beloveds Tents.

Then Los again took up his speech as Enitharmon ceast

Fear not my Sons this Waking Death. he is become One with me
Behold him here! We shall not Die! we shall be united in Jesus.
Will you suffer this Satan this Body of Doubt that Seems but Is Not 
To occupy the very threshold of Eternal Life. if Bacon, Newton, Locke,
Deny a Conscience in Man & the Communion of Saints & Angels
Contemning the Divine Vision & Fruition, Worshiping the Deus
Of the Heathen, The God of This World, & the Goddess Nature
Mystery Babylon the Great, The Druid Dragon & hidden Harlot    
Is it not that Signal of the Morning which was told us in the Beginning"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


During 1793 to 1795 Blake reached a pinnacle of productivity. He mastered the art of producing illuminated books combining his poetry and etched images as integrated productions completely under his control. The images which had been germinating in his mind over an extended period of time found expression in a total of nine original books containing the nucleus of the myth of fall, struggle, redemption and apocalypse which would evolve as he continued to exercise his imagination.

1793 Visions of the Daughters of Albion
          America. A Prophecy
          For Children: The Gates of Paradise
1794 Songs of Experience
          Europe. A Prophecy               
          The [First] Book of Urizen
1795 The Song of Los
         The Book of Ahania
         The Book of Los

Yale Center for British Art
America. A Prophecy
Plate 15, Copy M

Although Blake continued to write, he did not continue to publish for several years. The Four Zoas which started out with the title Vala never went beyond the manuscript stage. Milton and Jerusalem bear the date 1804 on their title pages but work on them was extended for years after that. It is possible that Blake, after 1795, experienced a crisis of confidence which interrupted his output of poetry.

The squabble between Luvah and Urizen over the horses of light may represent the struggle which formed a roadblock preventing Blake from confidently issuing more books until he resolved the dissension in his mind between the emotional and rational needs which required attention and expression.
Four Zoas, Night I, Page 10, (E 305)
"The Fallen Man takes his repose: Urizen sleeps in the porch 
Luvah and Vala woke & flew up from the Human Heart          
Into the Brain; from thence upon the pillow Vala slumber'd.
And Luvah siez'd the Horses of Light, & rose into the Chariot of Day"

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 18, (E 311)
"The Eternal Man wept in the holy tent Our Brother in Eternity
Even Albion whom thou lovest wept in pain his family
Slept round on hills & valleys in the regions of his love
But Urizen awoke & Luvah woke & thus conferrd

Thou Luvah said the Prince of Light behold our sons & daughters  
Reposd on beds. let them sleep on. do thou alone depart
Into thy wished Kingdom where in Majesty & Power
We may erect a throne. deep in the North I place my lot
Thou in the South listen attentive. In silent of this night
I will infold the Eternal tent in clouds opake while thou       
Siezing the chariots of the morning. Go outfleeting ride
Afar into the Zenith high bending thy furious course
Southward with half the tents of men inclosd in clouds
Will lay my scepter on Jerusalem the Emanation
On all her sons & on thy sons O Luvah & on mine       
Till dawn was wont to wake them then my trumpet sounding loud
Ravishd away in night my strong command shall be obeyd
For I have placd my centinels in stations each tenth man
Is bought & sold & in dim night my Word shall be their law 
Luvah replied Dictate to thy Equals. am not I
The Prince of all the hosts of Men nor Equal know in Heaven
If I arise into the Zenith leaving thee to watch
The Emanation & her Sons the Satan & the Anak
Sihon and Og. wilt thou not rebel to my laws remain             
In darkness building thy strong throne & in my ancient night
Daring my power wilt arm my sons against me in the Atlantic 
My deep   My night which thou assuming hast assumed my Crown
I will remain as well as thou & here with hands of blood
Smite this dark sleeper in his tent then try my strength with thee 
While thus he spoke his fires reddend oer the holy tent   
Urizen cast deep darkness round him silent brooding death
Eternal death to Luvah. raging Luvah pourd
The Lances of Urizen from chariots. round the holy tent
Discord began & yells & cries shook the wide firmament"

Friday, May 3, 2013


British Museum 
A Small Book of Designs
from Book of Urizen
Copy A, plate 1
Urizen's impulse to control became expressed in his books of laws which he wrote incessantly. One of the versions of the fall involves an agreement made between Urizen and Luvah to alter their functions. Luvah became suspicious of Urizen and backed out of the deal. The mistrust Urizen developed may explain his preoccupation with writing laws to control the behavior of others especially those who wanted the freedom to express emotions.
Urizen can only allay his feelings of insecurity if he can enforce uniform behavior, conformity to his rules, and homogeneity in society.  Unfortunately he is not above using techniques of cruelty, deception and domination to maintain his legal code. The irony of creating codes of morality is the absence of acceptable ways of enforcing them.

The internal Urizen goes by the name of the superego. Blake shows that unless we constantly reexamine our own superegos in the light of the highest vision of truth which we can access, we will find ourselves dominated by rigid restrictive rules, and seeking to control the behaviors of others in irrational and oppressive ways.

Book of Urizen, Plate 4, (E 72)     
"6. Here alone I in books formd of metals
Have written the secrets of wisdom                            
The secrets of dark contemplation
By fightings and conflicts dire,
With terrible monsters Sin-bred:
Which the bosoms of all inhabit;
Seven deadly Sins of the soul.  

7. Lo! I unfold my darkness: and on
This rock, place with strong hand the Book
Of eternal brass, written in my solitude.

8. Laws of peace, of love, of unity:
Of pity, compassion, forgiveness.                                
Let each chuse one habitation:
His ancient infinite mansion:
One command, one joy, one desire,
One curse, one weight, one measure
One King, one God, one Law."                            

Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 80, (E 355)
"And Urizen Read in his book of brass in sounding tones  

Listen O Daughters to my voice Listen to the Words of Wisdom
So shall [ye] govern over all let Moral Duty tune your tongue
But be your hearts harder than the nether millstone
To bring the shadow of Enitharmon beneath our wondrous tree   
That Los may Evaporate like smoke & be no more
Draw down Enitharmon to the Spectre of Urthona
And let him have dominion over Los the terrible shade

Compell the poor to live upon a Crust of bread by soft mild arts
Smile when they frown frown when they smile & when a man looks pale
With labour & abstinence say he looks healthy & happy
And when his children Sicken let them die there are enough
Born even too many & our Earth will be overrun
Without these arts If you would make the poor live with temper
With pomp give every crust of bread you give with gracious cunning 
Magnify small gifts reduce the man to want a gift & then give with pomp
Say he smiles if you hear him sigh If pale say he is ruddy
Preach temperance   say he is overgorgd & drowns his wit
In strong drink tho you know that bread & water are all
He can afford   Flatter his wife pity his children till we can   

Reduce all to our will as spaniels are taught with art"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Illustration to Poems of Thomas Gray
How might we become part of the Divine Family other than by joining the Brotherhood of Man. When we can see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves we identify ourselves as children of the Eternal Father. With this identification comes the responsibility of nurturing, watching over and encouraging the faith of 'little ones' so that windows into Eden may be opened to them.

Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
"He who mocks the Infants Faith 
Shall be mock'd in Age & Death
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out
He who respects the Infants faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death 
The Childs Toys & the Old Mans Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons
The Questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to Reply
He who replies to words of Doubt 
Doth put the Light of Knowledge out"
Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 133, (E 402)
"Not for ourselves but for the Eternal family we live
Man liveth not by Self alone but in his brothers face            
Each shall behold the Eternal Father & love & joy abound"
 Four Zoas, Night I, Page 9, (E 304)
"Then Eno a daughter of Beulah took a Moment of Time       
And drew it out to Seven thousand years with much care & affliction          
And many tears & in Every year made windows into Eden  
She also took an atom of space & opend its center
Into Infinitude & ornamented it with wondrous art
Astonishd sat her Sisters of Beulah to see her soft affections
To Enion & her children & they ponderd these things wondring     
And they Alternate kept watch over the Youthful terrors
They saw not yet the Hand Divine for it was not yet reveald
But they went on in Silent Hope & Feminine repose"

Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"Los answerd. Righteousness & justice I give thee in return
For thy righteousness! but I add mercy also, and bind            
Thee from destroying these little ones: am I to be only
Merciful to thee and cruel to all that thou hatest"

Jerusalem, Plate 45 [31], (E 195)
"heard Jerusalems voice.
Albion I cannot be thy Wife. thine own Minute Particulars,
Belong to God alone. and all thy little ones are holy            
They are of Faith & not of Demonstration"
Matthew 25
[31] When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
[32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
[33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
[34] Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
[35] For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
[36] Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
[37] Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
[38] When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
[39] Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
[40] And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.