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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Blake's image of the Elohim creating Adam is well known. An equally striking image of the creation of mankind is rarely seen. The opportunity to illustrate a new edition of Young's Night Thoughts impelled Blake to paint 537 watercolor images for the book. However only 43 were published before the project was suspended. The complete set of illustrations resides in the British Museum and is available to be viewed online.

The particular image that recently caught my attention shows Jesus in the role of the creator breathing  the Breath of Life into the newly formed body of man still clothed in the red clay from which he was formed. The hands of the creator rest on the head of the new being and on the earth from which he came as they do in the more famous image, however the positions are reversed.

The 'breath of the Almighty', 'Human Hands & Feet & Breath', and 'the Breath Divine', are terms which Blake used to designate the indwelling spirit which gives life to man. Biblical terminology includes 'the breath of life', 'the breath of the Almighty', and 'the Holy Spirit.' 

Milton, Plate 30 [33], (E 129)
"Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing
To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides.
But Beulah to its Inhabitants appears within each district       
As the beloved infant in his mothers bosom round incircled
With arms of love & pity & sweet compassion. 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"          

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
 "The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
  Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine.      

  And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
  Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death"

Jerusalem, Plate 93, (E 254) 
"Over them the famishd Eagle screams on boney Wings and around   
Them howls the Wolf of famine deep heaves the Ocean black thundering
Around the wormy Garments of Albion: then pausing in deathlike silence

Time was Finished! The Breath Divine Breathed over Albion
Beneath the Furnaces & starry Wheels and in the Immortal Tomb
And England who is Brittannia awoke from Death on Albions bosom 
She awoke pale & cold she fainted seven times on the Body of Albion" 

Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 254)
"Her voice pierc'd Albions clay cold ear. he moved upon the Rock
The Breath Divine went forth upon the morning hills, Albion mov'd 
Upon the Rock, he opend his eyelids in pain; in pain he mov'd
His stony members, he saw England. Ah! shall the Dead live again

The Breath Divine went forth over the morning hills Albion rose 
In anger: the wrath of God breaking bright flaming on all sides around
His awful limbs: into the Heavens he walked clothed in flames
Loud thundring, with broad flashes of flaming lightning & pillars
Of fire, speaking the Words of Eternity in Human Forms, in direful
Revolutions of Action & Passion, thro the Four Elements on all sides  
Surrounding his awful Members."

[1] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
[2] And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.
[3] So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
[4] These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
[5] when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up -- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;
[6] but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground --
[7] then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Job 32
[8] But it is the spirit in a man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
[9] It is not the old that are wise,
nor the aged that understand what is right.

Job 33
[4] The spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

John 20
[21] Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
[22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit..."

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