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

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.  

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