Michael Davis wrote in William Blake: A New Kind of Man on page 151:
"In December 1821 Byron published his sensationally bold drama Cain: A Mystery. Parsons preached against it from Kentish Town to Pisa and Blake challenged Byron's pessimism in a terse, seventy-five line poetic drama complete with stage-directions, The Ghost of Abel: 'A Revelation In the Visions of Jehovah seen by William Blake'. The prelude, addressed to LORD BYRON in the Wilderness' of error, asks 'Can a Poet doubt the Visions of Jehovah?' and concludes 'Imagination is Eternity': although mortal life is unreal, true life is everlasting. When grief-stricken Eve, with Adam, has seen and heard the ghost of Abel, 'the Accuser & Avenger Of Blood', she asks 'were it not better to believe Vision With all our might & strength, tho' we are fallen & lost?' and Adam concurs. They kneel before Jehovah, who declares 'I have given you a Lamb for an atonement instead Of the Transgressor.' Abel's vengeful Spectre sinks into the grave, from which Satan then arises, armed, to demand human blood on Calvary. Jehovah banishes him to annihilation of self in the Abyss, for only when error is cast out can regeneration begin. Angels sing of Jehovah's forgiveness: peace, brotherhood and love are eternal reality. So the brilliantly drama ends.
This work, dated 1822, is Blake's last in relief etching."
The Ghost of Abel, (E 270) PLATE 1 "THE GHOST of ABEL A Revelation In the Visions of Jehovah Seen by William Blake To LORD BYRON in the Wilderness What doest thou here Elijah? Can a Poet doubt the Visions of Jehovah? Nature has no Outline: but Imagination has. Nature has no Tune: but Imagination has! Nature has no Supernatural & dissolves: Imagination is Eternity Scene. A rocky Country. Eve fainted over the dead body of Abel which lays near a Grave. Adam kneels by her Jehovah stands above Jehovah-- Adam! Adam-- I will not hear thee more thou Spiritual Voice Is this Death? Jehovah-- Adam! Adam-- It is in vain: I will not hear thee Henceforth! Is this thy Promise that the Womans Seed Should bruise the Serpents head: Is this the Serpent? Ah! Seven times, O Eve thou hast fainted over the Dead Ah! Ah! Eve revives Eve-- Is this the Promise of Jehovah! O it is all a vain delusion This Death & this Life & this Jehovah! Jehovah-- Woman! lift thine eyes A Voice is heard coming on Voice-- O Earth cover not thou my Blood! cover not thou my Blood Enter the Ghost of Abel Eve-- Thou Visionary Phantasm thou art not the real Abel. Abel- Among the Elohim a Human Victim I wander I am their House Prince of the Air & our dimensions compass Zenith & Nadir Vain is thy Covenant O Jehovah I am the Accuser & Avenger Of Blood O Earth Cover not thou the Blood of Abel Jehovah-- What Vengeance dost thou require Abel-- Life for Life! Life for Life! Jehovah-- He who shall take Cains life must also Die O Abel
And who is he? Adam wilt thou, or Eve thou do this Adam-- It is all a Vain delusion of the all creative Imagination Eve come away & let us not believe these vain delusions Abel is dead & Cain slew him! We shall also Die a Death And then! what then? be as poor Abel a Thought: or as This! O what shall I call thee Form Divine! Father of Mercies That appearest to my Spiritual Vision: Eve seest thou also. Eve-- I see him plainly with my Minds Eye. I see also Abel living: Tho terribly afflicted as We also are. yet Jehovah sees him PLATE 2 Alive & not Dead: were it not better to believe Vision With all our might & strength tho we are fallen & lost Adam-- Eve thou hast spoken truly. let us kneel before his feet. They Kneel before Jehovah Abel-- Are these the Sacrifices of Eternity O Jehovah, a Broken Spirit And a Contrite Heart. O I cannot Forgive! the Accuser hath Enterd into Me as into his House & I loathe thy Tabernacles As thou hast said so is it come to pass: My desire is unto Cain And He doth rule over Me: therefore My Soul in fumes of Blood Cries for Vengeance: Sacrifice on Sacrifice Blood on Blood Jehovah-- Lo I have given you a Lamb for an Atonement instead Of the Transgres[s]or, or no Flesh or Spirit could ever Live Abel-- Compelled I cry O Earth cover not the Blood of Abel Abel sinks down into the Grave. from which arises Satan Armed in glittering scales with a Crown & a Spear Satan-- I will have Human Blood & not the blood of Bulls or Goats And no Atonement O Jehovah the Elohim live on Sacrifice Of Men: hence I am God of Men: Thou Human O Jehovah. By the Rock & Oak of the Druid creeping Mistletoe & Thorn Cains City built with Human Blood, not Blood of Bulls & Goats Thou shalt Thyself be Sacrificed to Me thy God on Calvary Jehovah-- Such is My Will. Thunders that Thou Thyself go to Eternal Death In Self Annihilation even till Satan Self-subdud Put off Satan Into the Bottomless Abyss whose torment arises for ever & ever. On each side a Chorus of Angels entering Sing the following The Elohim of the Heathen Swore Vengeance for Sin! Then Thou stoodst Forth O Elohim Jehovah! in the midst of the darkness of the Oath! All Clothed In Thy Covenant of the Forgiveness of Sins: Death O Holy! Is this Brotherhood The Elohim saw their Oath Eternal Fire; they rolled apart trembling over The Mercy Seat: each in his station fixt in the Firmament by Peace Brotherhood and Love. The Curtain falls The Voice of Abels Blood 1822 W Blakes Original Stereotype was 1788"We have seen that Blake was misunderstood and became an object of rejection because of his placing higher value on his visionary exercises than his associates could affirm. However, when we realize the use Blake put to his Vision, we can stand in awe.
Blake's response to the publication of Lord Byron's Cain: A Mystery was a visionary experience of his own which he presented in The Ghost of Abel.
Blake wrote The Ghost of Abel as a mini-drama so that it would be experienced in a time frame. The evolution of consciousness was being revealed as a process which each character was undergoing. Blake indicated in the preliminary statement that he would address, not natural events, but Eternal events. The framework of The Ghost of Abel, and the reaction of readers to it would hold something which was much larger than its container.
What Blake attempts to communicate in his visual/verbal imagery is the compete panoply of man's mutual relationship to God. The Ghost of Abel is a summary of the modifications in man and in God which occur through confronting experiences of death, guilt, vengeance, forgiveness, sacrifice and self-annihilation.
The Ghost of Abel
Detail, Page 2