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

Monday, September 9, 2013


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Samson Bringing Down the Temple
The book of Blake's early poems which was published by his friends with the title Poetical Sketches contains an interpretation of the story of Samson from the Biblical book named Judges. The young Blake was seeing the mythopoeic dimension of the Biblical account as an example of the energy which entered the world to initiate change. Blake would develop his character Orc as an example of the forces which destroy the old order under the influence of the sinister female.

Blake's final illustration to Blair's Night Thoughts vividly portrays the destruction on Dagon's temple by the fury of Samson's wrath. 

This is the quote from Young which Blake was illustrating with his image:
"Awake, then; thy Philander calls: awake!
Thou, who shalt wake, when the creation sleeps;
When, like a taper, all these suns expire;
When Time, like him of Gaza in his wrath,
Plucking the pillars that support the world,
In Nature’s ample ruins lies entomb’d;
And Midnight, universal Midnight! reigns."

Poetical Sketches, ( E 443)  

"Samson, the strongest of the children of men, I sing; how he was
foiled by woman's arts, by a false wife brought to the gates of
death!  O Truth, that shinest with propitious beams, turning our
earthly night to heavenly day, from presence of the Almighty
Father! thou visitest our darkling world with blessed feet,
bringing good news of Sin and Death destroyed!  O white-robed
Angel, guide my timorous hand to write as on a lofty rock with
iron pens the words of truth, that all who pass may read.--Now
Night, noon-tide of damned spirits, over the silent earth spreads
her pavilion, while in dark council sat Philista's lords; and
where strength failed, black thoughts in ambush lay.  Their
helmed youth and aged warriors in dust together ly, and
Desolation spreads his wings over the land of Palestine; from
side to side the land groans, her prowess lost, and seeks to hide
lier bruised head under the mists of night, breeding dark plots,
For Dalila's fair arts have long been tried in vain; in vain she
wept in many a treacherous tear.  "Go on, fair traitress; do thy
guileful work; ere once again the changing moon her circuit hath
performed, thou shalt overcome, and conquer him by force
unconquerable, and wrest his secret from him.  Call thine
alluring arts and honest-seeming brow, the holy kiss of love, and
the transparent tear; put on fair linen, that with the lily vies,
purple and silver; neglect thy hair, to seem more lovely in thy
loose attire; put on thy country's pride, deceit; and eyes of
love decked in mild sorrow, and sell thy Lord for gold."--For
now, upon her sumptuous couch reclined, in gorgeous pride, she
still intreats, and still she grasps his vigorous knees with her
fair arms.--"Thou lov'st me not! thou'rt war, thou art not love!
O foolish Dalila! O weak woman! it is death cloathed in flesh
thou lovest, and thou hast been incircled in his arms!--Alas, my
Lord, what am I calling thee?  Thou art my God!  To thee I pour
my tears for sacrifice morning and evening: My days are covered
with sorrow!  Shut up; darkened: By night I am deceived! Who says
that thou wast born Of mortal kind?  Destruction was thy father,
a lioness suckled thee, thy young hands tore human limbs, and
gorged human flesh! Come hither, Death; art thou not Samson's
servant?  'Tis Dalila that calls; thy master's wife; no, stay,
and let thy master do the deed: one blow of that strong arm would
ease my pain; then should I lay at quiet, and have rest.  Pity
forsook thee at thy birth!  O Dagon furious, and all ye gods of
Palestine, withdraw your hand! I am but a weak woman.  Alas, I am
wedded to your enemy!  I will go mad, and tear my crisped hair;
I'll run about, and pierce the ears o'th' gods!  O Samson, hold
me not; thou lovest me not!  Look not upon me with those deathful
eyes!  Thou wouldst my death, and death approaches fast."--Thus,
in false tears, she bath'd his feet, and thus she day by day
oppressed his soul: he seemed a mountain, his brow among the
clouds; she seemed a silver stream, his feet embracing.  Dark
thoughts rolled to and fro in his mind, like thunder
clouds, troubling the sky; his visage was troubled; his soul was
distressed.--"Though I should tell her all my heart, what can I
fear?  Though I should tell this secret of my birth, the utmost
may be warded off as well when told as now." She saw him moved,
and thus resumes her wiles.--"Samson, I'm thine; do with me what
thou wilt; my friends are enemies; my life is death; I am a
traitor to my nation, and despised; my joy is given into the
hands of him who hates me, using deceit to the wife of his bosom.
Thrice hast thou mocked me, and grieved my soul.  Didst thou not
tell me with green withs to bind thy nervous arms, and after
that, when I had found thy falshood, with new ropes to bind thee
fast?  I knew thou didst but mock me.  Alas, when in thy sleep I
bound thee with them to try thy truth, I cried, The Philistines
be upon thee, Samson!  Then did suspicion wake thee; how didst
thou rend the feeble ties!  Thou fearest nought, what shouldst
thou fear?  Thy power is more than mortal, none can hurt thee;
thy bones are brass, thy sinews are iron!  Ten thousand spears
are like the summer grass; an army of mighty men are as flocks in
the vallies; what canst thou fear?  I drink my tears like water;
I live upon sorrow!  O worse than wolves and tygers, what canst
thou give when such a trifle is denied me?  But O at last thou
mockest me to shame my over-fond inquiry!  Thou toldest me to
weave thee to the beam by thy strong hair; I did even that to try
thy truth: but when I cried, The Philistines be upon thee, then
didst thou leave me to bewail that Samson loved me not."--He sat,
and inward griev'd, he saw and lov'd the beauteous suppliant, nor
could conceal aught that might appease ber; then, leaning on her
bosom, thus he spoke: "Hear, O Dalila! doubt no more of Samson's
love; for that fair breast was made the ivory palace of my inmost
heart, where it shall lie at rest; for sorrow is the lot of all
of woman born: for care was I brought forth, and labour is my
lot: not matchless might, nor wisdom, nor every gift enjoyed, can
from the heart of man hide sorrow.--Twice was my birth foretold
from heaven, and twice a sacred vow enjoined me that I should
drink no wine, nor eat of any unclean thing, for holy unto
Israel's God I am, a Nazarite even from my mother's womb.  Twice
was it told, that it might not be broken, Grant me a son, kind
Heaven, Manoa cried; but Heaven refused!  Childless he mourned,
but thought his God knew best.  In solitude, though not obscure,
in Israel he lived, till venerable age came on: his flocks
increased, and plenty crowned his board: beloved, revered of man!
But God hath other joys in store.  Is burdened Israel his grief?
The son of his old age shall set it free! The venerable sweetner
of his life receives the promise first from Heaven.  She saw the
maidens play, and blessed their innocent mirth; she blessed each
new-joined pair; but from her the long-wished deliverer shall
spring.  Pensive, alone she sat within the house, when busy day
was fading, and calm evening, time for contemplation, rose from
the forsaken east, and drew the curtains of heaven; pensive she
sat, and thought on Israel's grief, 
and Silent prayed to Israel's God; when lo, an angel from the
fields of light entered the house!  His form was manhood in the
prime, and from his spacious brow shot terrors through the
evening shade!  But mild he hailed her--Hail, highly favoured!
said he; for lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son, and
Israel's strength shall be upon his shoulders, and he shall be
called Israel's Deliverer! Now therefore drink no wine, and eat
not any unclean thing, for he shall be a Nazarite to God.--Then,
as a neighbour when his evening tale is told, departs, his
blessing leaving; so seemed he to depart: she wondered with
exceeding joy, nor knew he was an angel.  Manoa left his fields
to sit in the house, and take his evening's rest from labour--the
sweetest time that God has allotted mortal man.  He sat, and
heard with joy, and praised God who Israel still doth keep.  The
time rolled on, and Israel groaned oppressed.  The sword was
bright, while the plow-share rusted, till hope grew feeble, and
was ready to give place to doubting: then prayed Manoa--O Lord,
thy flock is scattered on the hills!  The wolf teareth them,
Oppression stretches his rod over our land, our country is plowed
with swords, and reaped in blood! The echoes of slaughter reach
from hill to hill! Instead of peaceful pipe, the shepherd bears a
sword; the ox goad is turned into a spear!  O when shall our
Deliverer come? The Philistine riots on our flocks, our vintage
is gathered by hands of enemies! Stretch forth thy hand, and
save.--Thus prayed Manoa.  The aged woman walked into the field,
and lo, again the angel came!  Clad as a traveller fresh risen on
his journey, she ran and called her husband, who came and talked
with him.--O man of God, said he, thou comest from far! Let us
detain thee while I make ready a kid, that thou mayest sit and
eat, and tell us of thy name and warfare; that when thy sayings t
come to pass, we may honour thee.  The Angel answered, My name is
wonderful; enquire not after it, seeing it is a secret: but, if
thou wilt, offer an offering unto the Lord."

                              THE END."

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