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

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment