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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 12, (E 265) 
"12 Does thy God O Priest take such vengeance as this?" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 3, (E 268) 
"12 And in depths of my Dungeons Closed the Father & the Sons"
Plate 12 shows the inside of a dungeon in which are imprisoned a man and four young people. The expressions of the five people reflect emotions of fear, anger, depression, resignation and confusion. We are encouraged to see the individuals as a group through the touching of each by others.

An image similar to this one was used by Blake in four different contexts. The story of the Ugolino family told in Dante's Divine Comedy became an image Blake used to link imprisonment, vengeance, suffering, and punishment of the children for the infractions of the father.
In the caption on the plate Blake asks if this imprisonment is the vengeance of God as taught by the religious establishment. Blake's answer would be negative since he did not believe that God resides in a distant abode and metes out punishment to disobedient children. He had a different view of the prison in which he admits that man finds himself. The prison is not imposed by God but constructed internally by man when he misapprehends the truth of his own identity. When man views the physical life in a physical world as the totality - ignoring the infinite, eternal nature within himself - he begins to build his own dungeon.
In the Key Blake asks us to view the situation from another perspective. The Key to Plate 12 is a continuation of the Key to Plate 11. The same impulse to clip the wings of the new life pursuing the vision that dimly appears in the distance, now attempts to confine confine the thoughts and actions of the man in behaviors that are tried, tested and approved by society.
"11   Holy & cold I clipd the Wings 
     Of all Sublunary Things
12   And in depths of my Dungeons
     Closed the Father & the Sons"      
Whatever mechanism which is operating to prevent the continuation of the journey through the Gates leading to Paradise, we have been warned to determine the nature of the prison we inhabit.  
Milton, Plate 18 [20], (E 111)
"And thus the Shadowy Female howls in articulate howlings

I will lament over Milton in the lamentations of the afflicted   
My Garments shall be woven of sighs & heart broken lamentations
The misery of unhappy Families shall be drawn out into its border
Wrought with the needle with dire sufferings poverty pain & woe
Along the rocky Island & thence throughout the whole Earth
There shall be the sick Father & his starving Family! there      
The Prisoner in the stone Dungeon & the Slave at the Mill
I will have Writings written all over it in Human Words
That every Infant that is born upon the Earth shall read
And get by rote as a hard task of a life of sixty years"

Jerusalem, Plate 60, (E 211)
"Babel mocks saying, there is no God nor Son of God
That thou O Human Imagination, O Divine Body art all
A delusion. but I know thee O Lord when thou arisest upon
My weary eyes even in this dungeon & this iron mill.
The Stars of Albion cruel rise; thou bindest to sweet influences:
For thou also sufferest with me altho I behold thee not;
And altho I sin & blaspheme thy holy name, thou pitiest me;
Because thou knowest I am deluded by the turning mills.
And by these visions of pity & love because of Albions death.

Thus spake Jerusalem, & thus the Divine Voice replied.          

Mild Shade of Man, pitiest thou these Visions of terror & woe!
Give forth thy pity & love. fear not! lo I am with thee always.
Only believe in me that I have power to raise from death
Thy Brother who Sleepeth in Albion: fear not trembling Shade"

America, Plate 6, (E 53)
"Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years;
Rise and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open.     
And let his wife and children return from the opressors scourge;
They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream."

No comments:

Post a Comment