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

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Blake became acquainted with Henry Crabb Robinson though John Linnell. Blake was invited to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Aders with Linnell and met there the journalist and lawyer Robinson, whose hobby was interviewing the Romantic poets among others. The records of conversations Robinson held with Blake late in his life, show Blake to be a feisty and alert man with little tolerance for being misunderstood by someone without spiritual discernment. In spite of his interest in Romanticism, Robinson admitted that the parts of 'Wordworth's ode which he [Blake] most enjoyed were the most obscure and those I the least like and comprehend.' His comprehension of Blake's remarks also was limited which he attributed to Blake's repetition.

Henry Crabb Robinson wrote in February 1826:

"I spoke again of the form of the persons who appear to him. Asked why he did not draw them, 'It is not worth while. There are so many, the labour would be too great. Besides there would be no use. As to Shakespeare, he is exactly like the old engraving—which is called a bad one. I think it very good.'

I enquired about his writings. 'I have written more than Voltaire or Rousseau—six or seven epic poems as long as Homer, and 20 tragedies as long as Macbeth.' He showed me his Vision (for so it may be called) of Genesis—'as understood by a Christian Visionary,' in which in a style resembling the Bible the spirit is given. He read a passage at random. It was striking. He will not print any more. 'I write,' he says, 'when commanded by the spirits, and the moment I have written I see the words fly about the room in all directions. It is then published, and the spirits can read. My MSS. of no further use. I have been tempted to burn my MSS., but my wife won't let me.' She is right, said I—and you have written these, not from yourself, but by a higher order. The MSS. are theirs and your property. You cannot tell what purpose they may answer unforeseen to you. He liked this, and said he would not destroy them. His philosophy he repeated—denying causation, asserting everything to be the work of God or the Devil—that there is a constant falling off from God—angels becoming devils. Every man has a devil in him, and the conflict is eternal between a man's self and God, etc. etc. etc. He told me my copy of his songs would be 5 guineas, and was pleased by my manner of receiving this information. He spoke of his horror of money—of his turning pale when money had been offered him, etc. etc. etc."

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Robinson and Blake were at cross purposes in their conversations: as usual Blake wanted to open the mind of his acquaintance to the perception of the infinite; Robinson, as the type of the natural man, attempted to reduce the higher dimension to something which could be grasped by the lower.

When Jesus spoke of the necessity of being born again, he was addressing a similar situation. Unless a man experiences a transformation of his ability to perceive, he is unable to recognize the dimension of the spirit. The natural man is blinded to the spirit by habitually trusting only in his senses and limited reasoning power of his circumscribed brain. The breaking down of the pattern of denying the messages that well up in his own heart and soul, is an expression the death that precedes rebirth. If we like Blake would like: 
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour", 
Auguries of Innocence, (E 490),

we must seek to be born to the higher consciousness of Infinity and Eternity. 
John 3
[1] Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode'mus, a ruler of the Jews.
[2] This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him."
[3] Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
[4] Nicode'mus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
[5] Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
[7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.'
[8] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit." 

Friday, June 27, 2014


British Museum
Plate 100, Copy A

In 1893 William Butler Yeats published along with Edwin John Ellis The works of William Blake; poetic, symbolic, and critical. They included in their book 'the illustrated Prophetic books, and a memoir and interpretation.' Kathleen Raine wrote in Defending Ancient Springs, published in 1967, a chapter named Yeats's Debt to William Blake. Raine states that Blake 'remained an inexhaustible source' to Yeats 'into his poetic maturity.' On Page 74, Raine tells us of challenges poets face in creating the myths on which their work depends.

"In antiquity no poet invented his own myths; Yates, living, as Blake had already lived, in a society which has, as a whole, broken with tradition, knew how impossible it is to build up, from a series of intuitive flashes, that wholeness of context which great poetry requires. Is not the peculiar relevance of Blake to our own situation the way in which he set about the resolution of this problem? In his early studies of Blake Yeats had already realized that 'even the "Little Black Boy" cannot be understood unless it is taken as part of the general mystical manifesto that run through all the work'. Later we find in his own poetry, as we do in any poem of Blake's, or in any single episode of Dante's Commedia, the whole order of the cosmos implicit. Neither Yeats, Blake, Shelly, nor any other poet of like stature, is at one time writing in symbolic terms and at another descriptive; for as Yeats wrote in another essay, 'True art is expressive and symbolic, and make every form, every sound, a signature of some unanalysable imaginative essence.' Blake too wrote that 'to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself'.


"At this point it may be of interest to notice what Yeats might well have borrowed from Blake but did not. To most readers Blake's pantheon is more striking than the formal structure of his myth. If myth be dynamic symbol, symbol in transformation, myths must be considered as wholes of which the symbolic and elements are parts. A myth is no more constructed from the elements than a living body from its component organs. Mythological thought is therefore the highest and most complete form of symbolic imagination; as it is also the rarest. Neither Milton, Spencer, Shelley, nor Coleridge equal Blake in the completeness, complexity, and energy of his mythological figures and configurations. Yeats, though he attempted the evocation, by magic and ritual, of such living symbols, is not the equal, in this respect of any of the poets named; he handles single symbols of single figures rather than those complex embodiments of uncurbed energy in which Blake's writings and paintings abound. Whereas Blake's mind was essentially dynamic, and all his myth alive with energy, action, transformation, Yeats tends toward Platonic ideal forms, a sculptural stillness, 'a marble or bronze repose. Yet in his search for a pantheon he did at one time seek to evoke the Zoas, whose life seems independent of their creator, as both poets believed; he tells of Orc appearing as 'a wolf in armour', or his face black instead of burning. Yet he never introduced these figures into his own poetry, feeling perhaps a temperamental difference between himself and his volcanic master; or perhaps simply discovering that he did not possess the gift of visionary imagination to the same degree. For of Blake's myth he wrote (in the essay 'On the Necessity of Symbolism' already quoted),
'The surface is perpetually as it were giving way before me, and revealing another surface below it, and that again dissolves when we try to study it. The making of religions melts into the making of the earth, and that fades away into some allegory of the rising and setting of the sun. It is like a great cloud full of stars and shapes through which the eye seeks a boundary in vain. When we seem to have explored the remotest division some new spirit floats by muttering wisdom.'"

William Butler Yeats, The Statues
"Empty eyeballs knew
That knowledge increases unreality, that
Mirror on mirror mirrored is all the show."

Letters, (E 702)
[To] Revd Dr Trusler, Englefield Green, Egham, Surrey

13 Hercules Buildings,.Lambeth, August 23, 1799
[Postmark: 28 August]
"Some See
Nature all Ridicule & Deformity & by these I shall not regulate
my proportions, & Some Scarce see Nature at all But to the Eyes
of the Man of Imagination Nature is Imagination itself.  As a man
is So he Sees.  As the Eye is formed such are its Powers You
certainly Mistake when you say that the Visions of Fancy are not
be found in This World." 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations for Poems of Thomas Gray
The Fatal Sisters

Students of William Blake are familiar with Northrop Frye whose book Fearful Symmetry captures the mind of Blake and reveals it to eager readers. A few years after the publication of Fearful Symmetry Frye edited a compendium of Blake's work titled Selected Poetry and Prose of William Blake for which he wrote an introduction. The concluding paragraphs of that introduction summarize much of Blake's seminal ideas. 

From Selected Poetry and Prose of William Blake,
Northrop Frye,
Introduction, Page xxvii:

"There are thus four Levels of human existence. There is the savage and lonely world of unworked nature, Blake's Ulro or hell, where life is, in Hobbes's phrase, nasty, brutish and short. This world of 'single vision and Newton's sleep' has retreated to the stars, is still watching us, and waiting its chance to return. Above this is ordinary life trying to struggle out of savagery, which Blake calls Generation or experience. Above this again is the life of expanded and released desire which we have glimpses of in inspired moments, but which is most commonly the world of children or lovers. Blake calls this state Beulah or innocence. Finally, there is the 'fourfold vision' of a life in which creation dominates reason, the life of 'Wisdom, Art and Science' which Blake called Eden."

We cannot, by ourselves, get outside nature. However splendid our natural cities and gardens, they will only be little hollowings on the surface of the earth. But suppose we could think away the external or nonhuman world: what would the shape of things be then? Clearly the whole universe would have the shape of a single human body. Everything that we call 'real' in nature would be inside the body and mind of the human being, just as in the dream of the world of suppressed desire is all inside the mind of the dreamer. there would no longer be any difference, except one of perspective, between the group and the individual, as all individuals would be members of one human body. Everything in the world, including the sun, moon and the stars, would be part of this human body, and everything would be identical with everything else. This does not mean that all things would be separate and similar like peas in a pod or 'identical' twins: it means identical in the sense that a grown man feels identical with himself at the age of seven, though he is identifying himself with another human being, quite different in time, space, matter, form and personality.

For Blake, Christianity is the religion which teaches that this is in fact the real shape of things, that the only God is universal and perfect Man, the risen Jesus. It is man, not of course natural man, but man as a creator, struggling to achieve his real human form, that God is interested in. The Bible speaks of an apocalypse or revelation of a world transformed into an infinite city, garden, and human body, as the state from which man fell, and to which he will again be restored. The Bible calls this redeemed man Adam or Israel; Blake, being an Englishman, calls him Albion. What Albion is looking for is Jerusalem, 'a City, yet a woman, ' the human form that is at once his bride and his own home. The world of the apocalypse is not a future ideal, like the natural stars, always out of reach. It is a real presence, the authentic form of what exists here and now, and is not something to be promised to the dead, but something to be manifested to the living.

Everything that Blake means by 'art' is the attempt of the trained and disciplined human mind to present this concrete, simple outrageously anthropomorphic view of reality. 'Jesus & his Apostles & Disciples were all Artists,' Blake says. Such a statement may seem nonsense as long a we think of art in conventional terms, according to which Reynolds and Blake were eighteenth-century English painters. Blake means that reason alone, no matter how rarefied a way it may be conceived, cannot comprehend the human shape of reality, for reason sooner of later will come to terms with persisting presence of subhuman nature, and start suppressing desire. The desire which rebels against reason cannot comprehend it either, as, whether it take the form of a lusting individual or a revolutionary society, it is looking for something in the external world to gratify it. Only the effort of a mind which intelligence and love are equally awake, a mind in the creative state that Blake calls imagination, can know what it means to

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 146)
"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! Nations are Destroy'd,
or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry Painting and Music,
are Destroy'd or Flourish! The Primeval State of Man, was Wisdom,
Art, and Science." 
Songs and Ballads, (E 490)
"    Auguries of Innocence            
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour"

Laocoon, (E 273)
"The whole Business of Man Is The Arts & All Things Common

Christianity is Art & not Money 
Money is its Curse

The Old & New Testaments are the Great Code of Art

Jesus & his Apostles & Disciples were all Artists
Their Works were destroyd by the Seven Angels of the Seven
    Churches in Asia.  Antichrist Science

SCIENCE is the Tree of DEATH
ART is the Tree of LIFE GOD is JESUS" 

Monday, June 23, 2014


To fully appreciate the impact of the four paintings which Blake painted for Thomas Butts in 1810 we would need to be in Butts' home and see them hanging together on a wall. Although many of Blake's pictures are small, these are large with dimensions of approximately 30 inches by 25 inches . They were executed in a tempera technique on fine linen. Blake inscribed them with the date, his name and the word 'Fresco', his term for tempera. The paintings now reside in three museums, the Adam and Eve images in the Glasgow Museum, the Virgin and Child in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Christ image in the Fogg Museum   

The four images are shown together here to compare and contrast. The unifying style signifies that the group is to be interpreted as a whole. The details of the focus of the eyes, the positions of the hands, the representative trees, and the backgrounds distinguish characteristics of each stage of development.


Harvard Art Museums
Fogg Museum
Christ Blessing


Blake executed these images during the period of his life in which he was most interested in reaching the public through exhibiting his watercolor work (including tempera or fresco) at the Royal Academy, and promoting the use of art in his native land.

Advertisement of Exhibition, (E 527)
 "Fresco Painting, as it is now practised, is like
most other things, the contrary of what it pretends to be.
  The execution of my Designs, being all in Water-colours,
(that is in Fresco) are regularly refused to be exhibited by the
Royal Academy, and the British Institution has, 
this year, followed its example, and has effectually excluded me 
by this Resolution; I therefore invite those Noblemen and 
Gentlem[e]n, who are its Subscribers, to inspect what they have 
excluded: and those who have been told that my Works are
but an unscientific and irregular Eccentricity, a Madman's
Scrawls, I demand of them to do me the justice to examine before
they decide.
  There cannot be more than two or three great Painters or
Poets in any Age or Country; and these, in a corrupt state of
Society, are easily excluded, but not so easily obstructed.  They
have ex[c]luded Watercolours; it is therefore become necessary
that I should exhibit to the Public, in an Exhibition of my own,
my Designs, Painted in Watercolours.  If Italy is enriched and
made great by RAPHAEL, if MICHAEL ANGELO is its supreme glory, if
Art is the glory of a Nation, if Genius and Inspiration are the
great Origin and Bond of Society, the distinction my Works have
obtained from those who best understand such things, calls for my
Exhibition as the greatest of Duties to my Country.  
                                             WILLIAM BLAKE"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 531)
"All Frescos are as high finished as miniatures or enamels,
and they are known to be unchangeable; but oil being a body
itself, will drink or absorb very little colour, and changing
yellow, and at length brown, destroys every colour it is mixed
with, especially every delicate colour.  It turns every permanent
white to a yellow and brown putty, and has compelled the use of
that destroyer of colour, white lead; which, when its protecting
oil is evaporated, will become lead again.  This is an awful
things to say to oil Painters; they may call it madness, but it
is true.  All the genuine old little Pictures, called Cabinet
Pictures, are in fresco and not in oil, Oil was not used except
by blundering ignorance, till after Vandyke's time, but the art
of fresco painting [P 7] being lost, oil became a fetter to
genius, and a dungeon to art.  But one convincing proof among
many others, that these assertions are true is, that real gold
and silver cannot be used with oil, as they are in all the old
pictures and in Mr. B.'s frescos."

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Harvard Art Museums
Fogg Museum

Christ Blessing
The four images which Blake painted for Thomas Butts in 1810 are not meant to be portraits, or illustrations, but symbolic representations of the stages through which men or civilizations pass as they develop toward fruition. Creation was represented as Adam, the Fall was represented as Eve, Generation was represented by Mary and her child, Regeneration was represented by Christ. The details in each picture reinforce the symbolic meaning. The four trees are the oak, the apple, the palm and the olive. The hand gestures are meant to be read as expressing attitudes characteristic of the period of development being represented.

The final image known as Christ Blessing symbolizes the reunification and reorientation of the psyche of man. The regenerated man will live in God, the one body in which all things 'live and move and have their being'. Conversely God will dwell in every breast, his thoughts will fill every mind, every body will express his will, and every imagination will be filled with the Divine Vision.

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 122, (E 391)
"Then bright Ahania shall awake from death
A glorious Vision to thine Eyes a Self renewing Vision 
The spring. the summer to be thine then Sleep the wintry days
In silken garments spun by her own hands against her funeral
The winter thou shalt plow & lay thy stores into thy barns       
Expecting to recieve Ahania in the spring with joy
Immortal thou. Regenerate She & all the lovely Sex
From her shall learn obedience & prepare for a wintry grave
That spring may see them rise in tenfold joy & sweet delight
Thus shall the male & female live the life of Eternity           
Because the Lamb of God Creates himself a bride & wife
That we his Children evermore may live in Jerusalem
Which now descendeth out of heaven a City yet a Woman
Mother of myriads redeemd & born in her spiritual palaces
By a New Spiritual birth Regenerated from Death"  

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 138, (E 406)
"The Sun has left his blackness & has found a fresher morning     
And the mild moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night   
And Man walks forth from midst of the fires the evil is all consumd
His eyes behold the Angelic spheres arising night & day
The stars consumd like a lamp blown out & in their stead behold
The Expanding Eyes of Man behold the depths of wondrous worlds
One Earth one sea beneath nor Erring Globes wander but Stars
Of fire rise up nightly from the Ocean & one Sun
Each morning like a New born Man issues with songs & Joy
Calling the Plowman to his Labour & the Shepherd to his rest
He walks upon the Eternal Mountains raising his heavenly voice   
Conversing with the Animal forms of wisdom night & day
That risen from the Sea of fire renewd walk oer the Earth"
Acts 17
[24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man,
[25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.
[26] And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation,
[27] that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us,
[28] for `In him we live and move and have our being';
as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The third of the group of four paintings Blake created for Thomas Butts in 1810 is called Virgin and Child in Egypt. In Blake's system the third stage is Generation: participation in the sexual world in which man lives in Time and Space and has a physical body. The mother and child represent procreation, the characteristic of the natural world which, along with death, typifies the stage of generation. The other prominent features of the picture are the symbols of the location in Egypt: the palm tree, the pyramids and the palace. For the Hebrews the significance of Egypt is the bondage from which they were released under the leadership of Moses. Blake is suggesting that the stage of generation is a bondage from which man seeks release.

Christians consider that the ministry of Jesus represented a second Exodus providing release from the bondage to sin and death. Jesus came to introduce the stage of development where each man knows his own spiritual nature and learns to give expression to the God within his own heart, and mind, and soul, and body. 

Songs of Innocence and of Experience
, Plate 52, (E 30)

"To Tirzah   
Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart. 
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free, 
Then what have I to do with thee?

[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]

Milton, Plate 24 [26], (E 120)
"And Palamabron thou rememberest when Joseph an infant;
Stolen from his nurses cradle wrapd in needle-work
Of emblematic texture, was sold to the Amalekite,
Who carried him down into Egypt where Ephraim & Menassheh        
Gatherd my Sons together in the Sands of Midian
And if you also flee away and leave your Fathers side,
Following Milton into Ulro, altho your power is great
Surely you also shall become poor mortal vegetations
Beneath the Moon of Ulro: pity then your Fathers tears"   

[1] Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to Abim'elech king of the Philistines.
[2] And the LORD appeared to him, and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.
[3] Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfil the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
[4] I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give to your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves:
[5] because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws."
[6] So Isaac dwelt in Gerar.

Genesis 37
[23] So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore;
[24] and they took him and cast him into a pit. The pit was empty, there was no water in it.
[25] Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ish'maelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
[26] Then Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood?
[27] Come, let us sell him to the Ish'maelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh." And his brothers heeded him.
[28] Then Mid'ianite traders passed by; and they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ish'maelites for twenty shekels of silver; and they took Joseph to Egypt.

Exodus 29
[45] And I will dwell among the people of Israel, and will be their God.
[46] And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.

Matthew 2
[12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
[13] Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
[14] And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt,
[15] and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


In 1810 Blake painted a series of four pictures for Thomas Butts. The first of the group was shown in the post Giving Names. While the first picture showed Adam naming the animals, the second is said to be Eve naming the birds. However there is no Biblical precedent for Eve naming the birds. Blake was using Eve and the birds to point us in the direction of separation of the female from the male which initiated the sexuality of Generation. 
Eve is the figure who transitions Eden to generation. Kathleen Raine, on page 41 of Blake and Antiquity, tells us that the birds with Eve are the 'lureing birds of love.' 

We can see in Adam the undivided man whose straightforward gaze engages our own gaze, or he looks past us to the infinite, eternal world beyond. Eve's eyes are focused not on the viewer, or on heaven above, or on eternity, but on something in her own world which has attracted her attention. If in this set of pictures Blake used Adam as a symbol for Creation he used Eve as a symbol for the Fall. 

Book of Urizen, Plate 18, (E 78)
"9. All Eternity shudderd at sight
Of the first female now separate                       
Pale as a cloud of snow
Waving before the face of Los

10. Wonder, awe, fear, astonishment,
Petrify the eternal myriads;
At the first female form now separate                  

Plate 19
They call'd her Pity, and fled"

Jerusalem, Plate 86, (E 245)
"And Enitharmon like a faint rainbow waved before him         
Filling with Fibres from his loins which reddend with desire
Into a Globe of blood beneath his bosom trembling in darkness
Of Albions clouds. he fed it, with his tears & bitter groans
Hiding his Spectre in invisibility from the timorous Shade
Till it became a separated cloud of beauty grace & love       
Among the darkness of his Furnaces dividing asunder till
She separated stood before him a lovely Female weeping
Even Enitharmon separated outside, & his Loins closed
And heal'd after the separation: his pains he soon forgot:
Lured by her beauty outside of himself in shadowy grief.      
Two Wills they had; Two Intellects: & not as in times of old.

Silent they wanderd hand in hand like two Infants wandring
From Enion in the desarts, terrified at each others beauty
Envying each other yet desiring, in all devouring Love,"
The primary characteristic of the fall of man to Blake was not disobedience or sin but the loss of the awareness of Eternity with its attendant inability to perceive that one is known by God and knows God intuitively. Paul's book of Romans says something of the same when he speaks of man losing the power of seeing the 'invisible nature' of the created world, and worshiping the images rather than the creator. 

Romans 1
[19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
[20] Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
[21] for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.
[22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
[23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
[24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
[25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Genesis 2

[18]Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
[19] So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
[20] The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.

Peter Ackroyd, on page 300 of Blake: A Biography, says of this picture:
"We can arise and meet the gaze of the primordial Adam, then, and see in that blessed moment the very origin and meaning of the Divine Vision by which all things are known and named. Boehme's words are appropriate here, in his descriptions of the luminous primordial man 'who knew the language of God and the angels ...And Adam knew that he was within every creature, and he gave to each its appropriate name.'"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 560)
 "If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow or
into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of one of these
Images of wonder which always intreats him to leave mortal things
as he must know then would he arise from his Grave then would he
meet the Lord in the Air & then he would be happy   General
Knowledge is Remote Knowledge it is in Particulars that Wisdom
consists & Happiness too.  Both in Art & in Life General Masses
are as Much Art as a Pasteboard Man is Human Every Man has Eyes
Nose & Mouth this Every Idiot knows but he who enters into &
discriminates most minutely the Manners & Intentions the
[Expression] Characters in all their branches is the
alone Wise or Sensible Man & on this discrimination All Art is
founded.  I intreat then that the Spectator will attend to the
Hands & Feet to the Lineaments of the Countenances they are all
descriptive of Character & not a line is drawn without intention
& that most discriminate & particular as Poetry admits not a
Letter that is Insignificant so Painting admits not a Grain of
Sand or a Blade of Grass Insignificant much less an
Insignificant Blur or Mark" 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


The Bard's Song in Milton presents the dilemma which faces the writer who intends to write prophetic poetry. How will he free himself from the patterns imposed upon him by history and culture; how will his vision find expression in ways which are accessible to the audience for whom it its intended; how will the wrath which he feels toward the oppressors be contained and directed? 
The second part of the Book I of Milton is directed to the question freeing oneself from the cultural milieu and the wrath one feels toward it: the answer is forgiving.

Book II in which Ololon enters the soul answers the question of the expression to his vision: the answer is accepting forgiveness.

New York Public Library
Plate 46, Copy C
The mind is altered by perceiving the results of behaviors in the exterior world. Seeing how women were treated in his world and the resulting hostility of women toward men it produced, showed Blake that the feminine aspect of his mind could and would cooperate if he valued it and recognized its contribution. Attitudes expressed in Milton's Paradise Lost showed that Milton did not acknowledge the equality of women with men. Blake had Ololon descend in Milton's path to show what could be accomplished when the feminine accepted her involvement in the estrangement between the divine and the human and tried to correct it. Blake demonstrated that the male and female share responsibility and share the redemptive process.

To integrate the emanation involves reversing the organizational pattern of hierarchy. When the feminine is seen as the completion of the unified man, the distant God on a throne in heaven loses its validity. When God is discerned as the interior God who unifies all things in himself, it modifies perception so that everything that lives is holy and the doors of perception are cleansed revealing the infinite.

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
"Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.   
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
Become in their Femin[in]e portions the causes & promoters       
Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem  
Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation.
Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 135)
"And Ololon examined all the Couches of the Dead.
Even of Los & Enitharmon & all the Sons of Albion
And his Four Zoas terrified & on the verge of Death
In midst of these was Miltons Couch, & when they saw Eight
Immortal Starry-Ones, guarding the Couch in flaming fires        
They thunderous utterd all a universal groan falling down
Prostrate before the Starry Eight asking with tears forgiveness
Confessing their crime with humiliation and sorrow.

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,"

Monday, June 9, 2014


New York Public Library
Plate 30, Copy C

                  Mirror Writing

        "How wide the Gulf & 
Unpassable! between Simplicity and   Insipidity

           Contraries are Positives
        A Negation is not a Contrary"

As a continuation of the exploration of the Bard's Song in Milton, we find in Kay Parkhurst Easson and Roger Easson's book, Milton: A Poem by William Blake, an explanation of the difference between dualism and contraries. Embodying contraries within a single form results when each willingly sacrifices self for the whole.

Here is some commentary by the Eassons:


Page 160
"In dualism there if no progression; there is merely a fluctuation between opposite poles. The eternal Milton's journey in Book I And Ololon's journey in Book II parallel each other and create the union of the contraries of male and female, creator and emanation, human and divine.

Blake felt that Milton had written Paradise Lost in a state of selfhood, with his tyrannical, dualistic attitudes deriving from that selfhood, causing him to separate from his emanation, with that 'Sixfold Emanation scatt'd thro' the deep / In torment.' To Blake Paradise Lost contained the history of desire 'being restrained' or, as we might interpret, the history of the emanation's torment. Milton's Messiah was the 'Governor of Reason' who enforced the chain of dualistic tyranny, denying the possibility of contrariety.
To redeem John Milton's dualism, Blake, therefore, structured Milton in two books, with Book I being the male journey and Book II, the female Journey.
Page 166
Since Milton has identified himself with Satan in the Bard's Song, and since Milton represents the state of annihilation or death, Ololon's journey transform both the condemnation of Satan and the presentation of Sin and Death in Paradise Lost.
Page 167
Through love Milton and Ololon, masculine and feminine, wrath and pity, unite in Jesus, the 'One Man,' who embodies all contraries but who asks no obedience. Jesus asks only that the pilgrim undertake a spiritual education modeled upon his own life." 

Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
"Say first! what mov'd Milton, who walkd about in Eternity
One hundred years, pondring the intricate mazes of Providence
Unhappy tho in heav'n, he obey'd, he murmur'd not. he was silent
Viewing his Sixfold Emanation scatter'd thro' the deep
In torment! To go into the deep her to redeem & himself perish?  
What cause at length mov'd Milton to this unexampled deed[?]
A Bards prophetic Song!"

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Reposted from March 09, 2012.

The stated intention of Satan in the Bard's Song was to exchange places with his brother Palamabron; to take over the more difficult job of ploughing or harrowing, which was Palamabron's daily task, in exchange for Satan's job of operating the mill.

Library of Congress, Rosenwald Collection
Milton, Plate 10
Palamabron, Rintrah & Satan

Now if Blake were addressing the period of time in which Milton lived, he might be talking about an exchange which was made in the political system which did not turn out according to expectations either. A rebel army removed the King from power (beheaded him). Their general, Cromwell, became the head of the government. His intention were 'mild' as were Satan's. But as the Chairman of the Council of State of the Commonwealth, he was unable to control the Parliament, the army or other factions of the nation. Palamabron's horses of the harrow went wild in the hands of Satan, the gnomes of the mill became drunk and disorderly under Palamabron.

Satan (Cromwell) appealed to the Council of the Eternals (the will of the people), whose judgement fell upon Rintrah (the army). Palamabron (Parliament), whose weakness or misjudgement allowed this to happen, was also unable to function in the role of governing to which he was not suited. Satan's assigned task was the operation of the mill which in this analogy would be the operation of government which sometimes came to a standstill when Parliament tried to take control. Rintrah (the army) could control militarily but couldn't create the conditions that would bring about peaceful cooperation which was sorely needed during the interregnum .

Now where does John Milton fit into this. He believed in revolution as the way to end political tyranny and end the enforcement of a state controlled religion. His skills in Latin (which was the language of diplomacy in that day) earned him a job in the revolutionary government. Besides functioning in the diplomatic relations of the state, he served as a spokesman (propagandist) for the policies of government. Military operations did not end with the monarchy; war was the rule not the exception. Milton saw from the inside the accumulation of mistakes which doomed the experiment in republicanism, but he hadn't the power to slow down the forces which were in motion. Until he died Cromwell had Milton's support but Milton's reservations increased as did tyranny within the government.

Blake had favored revolution as a young man but had come to realize that the removal of tyranny by violence would create more violence and more tyranny. He learned primarily from the American and French Revolutions but from the English Civil Wars also. He had come to believe that the chief fault with Greek culture was its devotion to war which was glorified in its poetry. He wanted to give his hero Milton another opportunity to look at his life and writings in the light of where the Prophetic Voice was leading them both. Milton and Blake agreed that liberty of conscience and complete separation of church and state were essentials of good government.

Why does Blake postulate that Milton was so moved by the Bard's Prophetic Song that he undertook a pilgrimage to the underworld? Might it be that Blake recognised that Milton had lived through the expectations, disappointments, reversals and inconsistencies during his association with Cromwell's government. As Blake travelled his journey through life and tried to master the challenges it presented, there would be more that he might learn from Milton and more that he might like to teach him. Blake sets up a scenario in which the two of them together might re-examine the possibilities of preparing for the New Age when all men are prophets.

Milton, Plate 1, (E 95)

"The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall
become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were
both curbd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek
& Latin slaves of the Sword.

Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for
ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War."

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Although it is possible to interpret readily some of what Blake is saying about his relationship with Milton by looking at the 'minute particulars' as I did in my last post about the Classes of Men, it is more difficult to discern what Blake thought to be his fundamental differences with Milton. We know of Blake's admiration for Milton and of the similarities of the goals and orientations of the two men, but we need to track down what Blake had learned and he would have liked to teach Milton.
I have found some answers in Northrop Frye in Conversation by Northrop Frye, David Cayley.

Here is the conversation beginning on page 100:
"Cayley: How did Blake deal with Milton?

Frye: He dealt with Milton as a person inhibited by the sense of an objective God. In Paradise Lost Milton still had the old stinker in the sky. Paradise Lost to some extent rationalizes the creation as it stands, whereas for Blake creation was a bungle, and things start with man recreating a ruined universe.

Cayley: You're with Blake?

Frye: Oh, yes.

Cayley: But Blake also says that Milton was of the devil's party without knowing it.

Frye: There he is using angel and devil in a very specific context. The angels are the conservatives and the devils are the radicals.

Cayley: What is the order which Milton rationalizes and Blake rejects?

Frye: The traditional structure is that theologically there are four levels. There is, first of all, the presence of God, which is always associated with metaphors of 'up there,' even though they're known to be nothing but metaphors. Then there is the state that God intended for man to live in, that is, the Garden of Eden, the Golden Age, Paradise. Then there is, third, the fallen world, the world man fell into with the sin of Adam and Eve. Then there is, forth, the demonic world, the world below the order of nature. On that scheme, there are two levels to the order of nature, the one that God designed and the one that we're living in now. The destiny of man is to climb out of the fallen world as nearly as he can to the state that was originally designed for him. He does this under a structure of authority: the sacraments of religion, the practice of morality, education and so forth.

Cayley: And what role does poetry play when such an order is intact?

Frye: Poetry  begins with two strikes against it because God made the world and made it better than poets can make poems. Sir Thomas Browne says that nature is the art of God, and that means that man just sweeps up the shavings, so to speak. But just after 1750 it can to be clearer that these four levels were the facade of a structure of authority. With the romantic movement you get the whole cosmology turned upside down.

Cayley: Why at that date did it come to be clear?

Frye: Because of the American, the French, and the Industrial revolutions.

Cayley: What about the scientific revolution? What role did it play?

Frye: That of course knocked out all the 'up there' metaphors. After Newton's time you couldn't regard the stars as a world of quintessence, as all that was left of the unfallen world. That's why in his poetry Blake gives Isaac Newton the job of blowing the last trumpet.

Cayley: What was the alternative view that Blake began?
Frye: For Blake, you have to think of God as at the bottom of creation, trying to rebuild it, and as working through man to that effect.

Cayley: The four levels are still there?

Frye: They're still there, but they're upside down. The world 'up there' is the world of science fiction, of outer space. It's a symbol of alienation. There is nothing there except infinite sources for killing you. Then below that comes the very unfair world of ordinary experience, where the predators are the aristocrats. Below that is the world of frustrated sexual and social desires, the world of Marx's proletariat, of Freud's repressed consciousness. And below that again is the creative power of God, which works only through man as a conscious being.
Frye: He [Wallace Stevens] says 'in the new world all men are priests,' and I think that he had a sense of man assigned to recreate the universe, just as Blake had. (Page 109) 

There is no Natural Religion, (E 3)
  "VII The desire of Man being Infinite the possession is Infinite
& himself Infinite

    Conclusion,   If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic
character. the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the
ratio of all things & stand still, unable to do other than repeat
the same dull round over again      
Wikipedia Commons
There is no Natural Religion
Plate 11

He who sees the In
finite in all things 
sees God. He who 
sees the Ratio only 
sees himself only. 

Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is" 

John 1
[12] But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;
[13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  

1ST John 3
[1] Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
[2] Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Wikimedia Commons
Sketch for Illustrations to the Book of Job
Page 16
In following the Bard's Song in Blake's Milton we have looked at the roles played in the prophetic character by Satan, Palamabron and Rintrah. The structure was provided by Satan, the vision was maintained by Palamabron, and Rintrah provided the energy to protect and express the vision. Satan, Palamabron and Rintrah are embodiments of the functions Blake discerned in his analysis of the implementation of prophecy.   
Blake developed his understanding of the aspects of the functioning of prophecy by reflecting on his own experience. Blake knew himself to be one who was capable of receiving vision and expressing it in his art and poetry. He knew also that the established order of society was averse to his expressions of rivals to orthodox statements. When Blake tapped the energy to speak forcefully in opposition to whatever conventional organization which was in control, he suffered the consequences of society's repudiation.  

Orthodox religion designated three positions which man may have in relation to God. The Elect were those were accepted by God because they were obedient to his Laws. The Redeemed were those who may be saved if they repented of their wrongdoing and believed. The Transgressors had broken the Law and were condemned to eternal punishment.

Blake redefined the three types. The Elect to him were the conventional law-abiders like the pharisees who prevented the entry of the spirit. The Redeemed were oppressed by the Elect because they were led by the spirit and not the law. The Transgressors or Reprobate were willing to break the law or move outside of the orthodox structure for the sake of the oppressed.
In this way Blake's category of the Elect was linked to Satan, the Redeemed was linked to Palamabron, and the Reprobate to Rintrah.

Milton, Plate 20 [22], (E 114) 
"So spoke they as in one voice! Silent Milton stood before
The darkend Urizen; as the sculptor silent stands before
His forming image; he walks round it patient labouring.
Thus Milton stood forming bright Urizen, while his Mortal part   
Sat frozen in the rock of Horeb: and his Redeemed portion,
Thus form'd the Clay of Urizen; but within that portion
His real Human walkd above in power and majesty
Tho darkend; and the Seven Angels of the Presence attended him.

O how can I with my gross tongue that cleaveth to the dust,      
Tell of the Four-fold Man, in starry numbers fitly orderd
Or how can I with my cold hand of clay! But thou O Lord
Do with me as thou wilt! for I am nothing, and vanity.
If thou chuse to elect a worm, it shall remove the mountains.
For that portion namd the Elect: the Spectrous body of Milton:   
Redounding from my left foot into Los's Mundane space,
Brooded over his Body in Horeb against the Resurrection
Preparing it for the Great Consummation; red the Cherub on Sinai
Glow'd; but in terrors folded round his clouds of blood.

Now Albions sleeping Humanity began to turn upon his Couch;      
Feeling the electric flame of Miltons awful precipitate descent."

Monday, June 2, 2014


Blake introduces us to Rintrah at the beginning of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell. Rintrah is the observer while the just man, the villain and the serpent are brought together to work through the contraries of man's experience. The just man assumes the rage of Rintrah when he leaves the path of ease and encounters the villain.
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 2, (E 33)
             "The Argument.
Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdend air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep

Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along 
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow.
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted:
And a river, and a spring
On every cliff and tomb;
And on the bleached bones
Red clay brought forth.

Till the villain left the paths of ease,
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility.
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdend air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep."
Rintrah is not a trouble maker but he enters into troubled situations. When he does, he brings things to a head usually involving violence. In the Bard's Song in Blake's Milton, Rintrah becomes involved in the dispute between Satan and Palamabron.

Milton, Plate 8, (E 101)
"Then Los took off his left sandal placing it on his head,
Signal of solemn mourning: when the servants of the Mills
Beheld the signal they in silence stood, tho' drunk with wine.
Los wept! But Rintrah also came, and Enitharmon on
His arm lean'd tremblingly observing all these things 

And Los said. Ye Genii of the Mills! the Sun is on high
Your labours call you! Palamabron is also in sad dilemma;
His horses are mad! his Harrow confounded! his companions enrag'd.
Mine is the fault! I should have remember'd that pity divides the soul
And man, unmans: follow with me my Plow. this mournful day    
Must be a blank in Nature: follow with me, and tomorrow again
Resume your labours, & this day shall be a mournful day

Wildly they follow'd Los and Rintrah, & the Mills were silent
They mourn'd all day this mournful day of Satan & Palamabron:
And all the Elect & all the Redeem'd mourn'd one toward another  
Upon the mountains of Albion among the cliffs of the Dead.
But Rintrah who is of the reprobate: of those form'd to destruction
In indignation. for Satans soft dissimulation of friendship!  
Flam'd above all the plowed furrows, angry red and furious,
Then rose the Two Witnesses, Rintrah & Palamabron:
And Palamabron appeal'd to all Eden, and recievd
Judgment: and Lo! it fell on Rintrah and his rage:           
Which now flam'd high & furious in Satan against Palamabron
Till it became a proverb in Eden. Satan is among the Reprobate."

Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Young's Night thoughts
Rintrah is of the Class of Men which Blake calls the Reprobate. He is society's outsider, not because he is against society but because society is against him. By observing the failures of society and by listening to a voice from another source, he becomes a witness against the establishment.

Harold Bloom in the commentary of The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake states on page 896, "Rintrah is an angry Elijah or John the Baptist; a prophetic spirit who prepares a way for a redeemer."  

In the Bard's Song it is Rintrah who is assigned guilt by the Eternals. He was strong enough and had enough faith to bear the guilt for others. Blake could include Jesus in his Class of Reprobate because Jesus refused obedience to the letter of the Law of Moses and was executed as a criminal.

Milton, Plate 13 [14], (E 107)
"For then the Body of Death was perfected in hypocritic holiness, 

Around the Lamb, a Female Tabernacle woven in Cathedrons Looms
He died as a Reprobate. he was Punish'd as a Transgressor!
Glory! Glory! Glory! to the Holy Lamb of God
I touch the heavens as an instrument to glorify the Lord!

The Elect shall meet the Redeem'd. on Albions rocks they shall meet      
Astonish'd at the Transgressor, in him beholding the Saviour.
And the Elect shall say to the Redeemd. We behold it is of Divine
Mercy alone! of Free Gift and Election that we live.
Our Virtues & Cruel Goodnesses, have deserv'd Eternal Death.
Thus they weep upon the fatal Brook of Albions River."           

Quoting from Damon's A Blake Dictionary, Page 452:
"Wrath is Revolution. It is the explosive which wrecks the oppressive past of Experience. When things have been too bad for too long, the human being reacts in a blind outburst, which springs from a deeper wisdom than the tame horses of instruction."
"Rintrah (wrath at the state of things) and his brother Palamabron (pity for its victims) usually work together...One should of course distinguish between different types of Wrath. The wrath of the Lion is the protection of the flocks; the wrath of the Tyger is the blind, impersonal rage of revolution, the wrath of Urizen is the satanic desire to murder opposition."