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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


British Museum
Book of Urizen
Copy D, Plate 22
The 'contending forces' of which Blake wrote were no more distant to him than was the Divine Spirit from whom his visions came. The intensity with which Blake wrote derived from the intensity of his internal experience. His invitation to us is to draw into consciousness the wars which are being waged within the furnaces of our brains because the fires which erupt among contending factions throughout the world are fueled by inner conflicts. 
Although Blake's Poetry and Designs, edited by Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant, contains large portions of Blake's poetry and prose, its greatest value may be in the commentary by Blake's contemporaries and by twentieth century critics. Frye's comments, Blake's Treatment of the Archetype, is particularly cogent as can be seen in this excerpt:

"In the opening plates of Jerusalem Blake has left a poignant account of such struggle of contending forces within himself, between his creative forces and his egocentric will. He saw the Industrial Revolution and the great political and cultural changes that came with it, and he realized that something profoundly new and disquieting was coming into the world, something with unlimited possibilities for good and for evil, which it would tax all his powers to interpret. And so his natural desire to make his living as an engraver and a figure in society collided with an overwhelming impulse to tell the whole poetic truth about what he saw. The latter force won and dictated its terms accordingly. He was not allowed to worry about his audience. He revised, but was not allowed to decorate or stylize, only to say what had to be said. He was not allowed the double talk of the sophisticated poet, who can address several levels of readers at once by using familiar conceptions ambiguously. Nothing was allowed him but a terrifying concentration of his powers of utterance. 

What finally emerged, out of one of the hottest poetic crucibles of modern times, was a poetry almost entirely of archetypes." (Page 522)  

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
 "Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of
    And of that God from whom [all books are given,]
    Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave
    To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave,
    Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!                
    Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:
    Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
    Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear.
    Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:
    Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony 

            Of the Measure, in which
              the following Poem is written"

Jerusalem, Plate 82, (E 241)
"Los saw & was comforted at his Furnaces uttering thus his voice. 

I know I am Urthona keeper of the Gates of Heaven,
And that I can at will expatiate in the Gardens of bliss;
But pangs of love draw me down to my loins which are
Become a fountain of veiny pipes: O Albion! my brother!
Plate 83
Corruptibility appears upon thy limbs, and never more  
Can I arise and leave thy side, but labour here incessant
Till thy awaking! yet alas I shall forget Eternity!
Against the Patriarchal pomp and cruelty, labouring incessant
I shall become an Infant horror. Enion! Tharmas! friends      
Absorb me not in such dire grief: O Albion, my brother!
Jerusalem hungers in the desart! affection to her children!
The scorn'd and contemnd youthful girl, where shall she fly?
Sussex shuts up her Villages. Hants, Devon & Wilts
Surrounded with masses of stone in orderd forms, determine then 
A form for Vala and a form for Luvah, here on the Thames
Where the Victim nightly howls beneath the Druids knife:
A Form of Vegetation, nail them down on the stems of Mystery:
O when shall the Saxon return with the English his redeemed brother!
O when shall the Lamb of God descend among the Reprobate!" 

Four Zoas, Night II, PAGE 28,(E 318)
"These were the words of Luvah patient in afflictions
Reasoning from the loins in the unreal forms of Ulros night

And when Luvah age after age was quite melted with woe
The fires of Vala faded like a shadow cold & pale
An evanescent shadow. last she fell a heap of Ashes              
Beneath the furnaces a woful heap in living death
Then were the furnaces unscald with spades & pickaxes
Roaring let out the fluid, the molten metal ran in channels
Cut by the plow of ages held in Urizens strong hand
In many a valley, for the Bulls of Luvah dragd the Plow          

With trembling horror pale aghast the Children of Man
Stood on the infinite Earth & saw these visions in the air
In waters & in Earth beneath they cried to one another
What are we terrors to one another. Come O brethren wherefore
Was this wide Earth spread all abroad. not for wild beasts to roam           
But many stood silent & busied in their families
And many said We see no Visions in the darksom air
Measure the course of that sulphur orb that lights the darksom day
Set stations on this breeding Earth & let us buy & sell
Others arose & schools Erected forming Instruments               
To measure out the course of heaven. Stern Urizen beheld
In woe his brethren & his Sons in darkning woe lamenting
Upon the winds in clouds involvd Uttering his voice in thunders
Commanding all the work with care & power & severity

Then siezd the Lions of Urizen their work, & heated in the forge 
Roar the bright masses, thund'ring beat the hammers, many a pyramid
Is form'd & thrown down thund'ring into the deeps of Non Entity
Heated red hot they hizzing rend their way down many a league
Till resting. each his [center] finds; suspended there they stand 
Casting their sparkies dire abroad into the dismal deep          
For measurd out in orderd spaces the Sons of Urizen  
With compasses divide the deep; they the strong scales erect
Page 29 
That Luvah rent from the faint Heart of the Fallen Man
And weigh the massy Cubes, then fix them in their awful stations

And all the time in Caverns shut, the golden Looms erected
First spun, then wove the Atmospheres, there the Spider & Worm
Plied the wingd shuttle piping shrill thro' all the list'ning threads  
Beneath the Caverns roll the weights of lead & spindles of iron
The enormous warp & woof rage direful in the affrighted deep

While far into the vast unknown, the strong wing'd Eagles bend
Their venturous flight, in Human forms distinct; thro darkness deep
They bear the woven draperies; on golden hooks they hang abroad  
The universal curtains & spread out from Sun to Sun
The vehicles of light, they separate the furious particles
Into mild currents as the water mingles with the wine."

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