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

Friday, October 31, 2014


British Museum
Plate 8, Copy D
Blake first printed the eighteen plates of Europe in 1794. In the previous year King Louis XIV and Queen Marie Antoinette of France had been executed. It is estimated that about forty thousand people lost their lives to the Guillotine during the 'reign of terror' in 1793 and 1794. Among the causes of the French Revolution were food shortages among the poor, and disparities between the peasants and the privileged classes. Food shortages in Great Britain were a recurring problem as well, leading to periodic bread riots.
Michael T Davis writes about the severe conditions which existed when Blake was writing Europe. The year after Blake published Europe bread riots broke out because the country was in a state of near-famine.
This passage is from Michael T. Davis's article Bread riots, Britain, 1795:  
"The bread riots of 1795 were a series of extensive disorders in Britain over the scarcity and high price of provisions, especially wheat and bread. Traditionally, food riots tended to be localized and transient in nature, but the bread riots of 1795 and into 1796 were more prolonged and outbreaks occurred in most regions of Britain. Palmer (1988 : 141) counts some 74 disturbances in the period 1795–6, which the most significant set of disturbances since the 1760s and 1770s. During the course of the eighteenth century, the diet of most Britons changed toward a greater dependency on wheat-based foodstuffs rather than products derived from oats or barley. In 1795, wheat yields were extremely low as an unfortunate alignment of bad weather and war brought Britain to the brink of famine. The previous year witnessed a poor harvest due to a hot, dry summer and the winter of 1794–5 was extremely cold, affecting crop production and preventing farmers from undertaking field work. The spring of 1795 was equally unfavorable to agricultural production, with bad weather further reducing market supply. At the same time, the war against revolutionary France disrupted European trade and the market balance derived from importing grain when necessary was impeded. As supply was shortened, prices began to rise quickly and sharply. Britain entered crisis mode."

The threat of famine in the wake of uprisings, drought, blight, war, and government policies, represented a cause of fear in France, Britain and throughout a Europe in turmoil. But the uneven impact of food shortages, falling most heavily on the poor, was among Blake's concerns. Blake pictures two women in Europe, Plate 8, to call attention to the fact that the privileged class escapes the hardships which the poor suffer. The wealthy woman is oblivious to the bereavement of the woman who has lost her child.

There are inscriptions above and below the image on Plate 8. The word 'Famine' serves as a title. A pencil inscription states, "Preparing to dress the Child." At the bottom is a quote from John Dryden's The Indian Emperour which has been located under the subject of Famine in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry:
"Famine so fierce that whats denied mans use
Even deadly Plants and herbs of pois'nous juice
Will Hunger Eat— and to prolong our breath
We greedily devour our certain Death.

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34, (E 324)
"Thus Enion wails from the dark deep, the golden heavens tremble 

I am made to sow the thistle for wheat; the nettle for a nourishing dainty
I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a poison tree
I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog 
For a schoolmaster to my children
I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale    
And I have caused the earth worm to beg from door to door
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night 

What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain

It is an easy thing to triumph in the summers sun
And in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer

PAGE 36 
To listen to the hungry ravens cry in wintry season
When the red blood is filld with wine & with the marrow of lambs

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan
To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast           
To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies house
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children
While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children bring fruits & flowers

Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave grinding at the mill
And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field
When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity
Thus could I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


British Museum
Plate 7, Copy D
The inscription at the top of this plate is the word, "War."

At the bottom is a quote from William Shakespeare's Henry VI as identified in the Blake Archive:
"O war! thou Son of Hell,
Whom angry heavens do make their minister!"

On Plate 7 of Europe it is Enitharmon who is gaining expression in the natural world. The prevailing system will be hers, not Urizen's or Los's. This paradigm of order began, according to Blake at the beginning of the Christian centuries. The two underlying characteristics of it are:

"Womans love is Sin! 

That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters
In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come:"

First, womans love, that which joins the essential man to his emanation (his outer expression) is labeled sinful.

Second that there is no access to Eternity in earthly life. Heaven is postponed until after death and becomes an allegory of life on earth.

The image on Plate 7 presents striking contrasts. The muscular male wears a crown, carries a sword and is clothed in armor or protected by scales. The two winged females wear gowns and their faces present pleased expressions. The main statement made by their visages reflects the characteristics of Enitharmon's blissful world. That womans love is sin is expressed by the woman covering her breasts; that Eternal life awaits in an allegorical abode is express by the second woman's hands positioned for prayer. Blake's thesis is that the attitudes of the women induce men to engage in war.

Europe, Plate 5, (E 62)
"Now comes the night of Enitharmons joy!                          
Who shall I call? Who shall I send?
That Woman, lovely Woman! may have dominion?
Arise O Rintrah thee I call! & Palamabron thee!
Go! tell the human race that Womans love is Sin!                 
That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters
In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come:
Forbid all joy, & from her childhood shall the little female
Spread nets in every secret path.

My weary eyelids draw towards the evening, my bliss is yet but new."    

Jerusalem, Plate 68, (E 222)
"Why trembles the Warriors limbs when he beholds thy beauty
Spotted with Victims blood: by the fires of thy secret tabernacle
And thy ark & holy place: at thy frowns: at thy dire revenge    
Smitten as Uzzah of old: his armour is softend; his spear
And sword faint in his hand, from Albion across Great Tartary
O beautiful Daughter of Albion: cruelty is thy delight
O Virgin of terrible eyes, who dwellest by Valleys of springs
Beneath the Mountains of Lebanon, in the City of Rehob in Hamath
Taught to touch the harp: to dance in the Circle of Warriors
Before the Kings of Canaan: to cut the flesh from the Victim
To roast the flesh in fire: to examine the Infants limbs
In cruelties of holiness: to refuse the joys of love: to bring
The Spies from Egypt, to raise jealousy in the bosoms of the Twelve         
Kings of Canaan: then to let the Spies depart to Meribah Kadesh
To the place of the Amalekite; I am drunk with unsatiated love
I must rush again to War: for the Virgin has frownd & refusd
Sometimes I curse & sometimes bless thy fascinating beauty
Once Man was occupied in intellectual pleasures & energies   
But now my soul is harrowd with grief & fear & love & desire
And now I hate & now I love & Intellect is no more:
There is no time for any thing but the torments of love & desire
The Feminine & Masculine Shadows soft, mild & ever varying
In beauty: are Shadows now no more, but Rocks in Horeb"

These words on Plate 7:
  "Who shall I call? Who shall I send?"
direct our attention to Isaiah 6 when the Lord asks Isaiah whom he shall send and Isaiah replies, "send me." Blake is intimating that there is a lack of understanding and distortion concerning the message of Jesus. The error will continue until the land is laid waste and the direction is changed.

Isaiah 6
[6] Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
[7] And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
[8] Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
[9] And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
[10] Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
[11] Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 

Monday, October 27, 2014


British Museum
Plate 6, Copy D
To Blake Spirits are substantial, matter is ephemeral. Blake is aware of the interplay between matter and Spirit and brings it to our attention. On Plate 6 of Europe the sons of Urizen who have existence in matter are engaged in binding the spirits of life to the Earth. The joys of Eternity cannot be realized on Earth except through spiritual sensation, but Urizen will make an attempt to drink Los's 'sparkling wine.' As a result Orc is awakened in his dark cavern by Enitharmon who assumes some of his power and energy.

You may remember that Orc is the first son of Los and Enitharmon. However, Los who has so many sterling characteristics with which we are familiar, becomes jealous of Orc. It is from the chaining of Orc by Los that he is released on the occasion of Urthona relinquishing power to Urizen. We see in the picture Enitharmon lifting the covering from Orc whose fiery nature is exhibited in his flaming hair.

Europe, Plate 4, (E 62)                 
"The shrill winds wake                                            
Till all the sons of Urizen look out and envy Los:
Sieze all the spirits of life and bind
Their warbling joys to our loud strings                          

Bind all the nourishing sweets of earth                          
To give us bliss, that we may drink the sparkling wine of Los
And let us laugh at war,
Despising toil and care,
Because the days and nights of joy, in lucky hours renew.

Arise O Orc from thy deep den,                                   
First born of Enitharmon rise!
And we will crown thy head with garlands of the ruddy vine;
For now thou art bound;
And I may see thee in the hour of bliss, my eldest born.

The horrent Demon rose, surrounded with red stars of fire,
Whirling about in furious circles round the immortal fiend.

Then Enitharmon down descended into his red light,
And thus her voice rose to her children, the distant heavens

The hand written quotes below the picture which were selected from Edward Bysshe's The Art of English Poetry are related to the interface between the substantial things of Eternity and the shadowy things of the material world. From the Blake Archive we learn that the quotes are from Dryden's translations of Virgil and Ovid.

"Forms without body and impassive air"

"Thin shades the sports of winds are toss't
O'er dreary Plains, or tread the burning coast."

Saturday, October 25, 2014


There is enormous impact to this plate if it can be experienced in its entirety. On the previous plate the Shadowy Female stated:

"I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames."

and then she:

"rolld her shady clouds
Into the secret place" 

British Museum
Plate 5, Copy D

We can see the large winged figure as the immortal Shadowy Female as she is being transitioned to functioning on earth. Here she becomes involved in the sexual union which will bring forth a child:

"Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house:
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:"

Enitharmon's crystal house is her womb, and Los's pearly clouds are his semen.

The comet is appropriately presented as the moment when the the male and female lose their distinctions for the mutuality of impregnation.  An entity from beyond the planetary sphere makes its sudden appearance with fiery portent. Blake makes it possible to look at this fiery being as either Orc, Christ or Urizen.

The first lines of Blake's text echo early lines of Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.
Milton, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav'n-born-childe,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;

But Blake soon transitions from the morning of birth to the night when the 'thunders of the deep' are released by the abdication of the rule of Urthona (spirit) to Urizen (reason). What will follow is Blake's explanation of the failure of Christianity to follow the revolutionary path initiated by the entry of Christ into history. Europe is a Prophecy because Blake attempts to show his audience the way Christianity deviated form the message of Christ, and how the conditions we experience are the consequences.

Europe, Plate 3, (E 61)
                    "A PROPHECY

     The deep of winter came;                                    
     What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:
War ceas'd, & all the troops like shadows fled to their abodes.

Then Enitharmon saw her sons & daughters rise around.            
Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house:
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:
Thus speaking while his num'rous sons shook their bright fiery wings

Again the night is come 
That strong Urthona takes his rest,                              
And Urizen unloos'd from chains                                  
Glows like a meteor in the distant north
Stretch forth your hands and strike the elemental strings!
Awake the thunders of the deep."

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 59, (E 340) 
"Where is Sweet Vala gloomy prophet where the lovely form
That drew the body of Man from heaven into this dark Abyss� fields
Shew thy soul Vala shew thy bow & quiver of secret fires

Draw thy bow Vala from the depths of hell thy black bow draw 
And twang the bow string to our howlings let thine arrows black
Sing in the Sky as once they sang upon the hills of Light
When dark Urthona wept in torment of the secret pain

He wept & he divided & he laid his gloomy head
Down on the Rock of Eternity on darkness of the deep             
Torn by black storms & ceaseless torrents of consuming fire
Within his breast his fiery sons chaind down & filld with cursings

And breathing terrible blood & vengeance gnashing his teeth with pain
Let loose the Enormous Spirit in the darkness of the deep
And his dark wife that once fair crystal form divinely clear     
Within his ribs producing serpents whose souls are flames of fire

But now the times return upon thee Enitharmons womb
Now holds thee soon to issue forth. Sound Clarions of war
Call Vala from her close recess in all her dark deceit
Then rage on rage shall fierce redound out of her crystal quiver 

So sung the Demons round red Orc & round faint Enitharmon 
Sweat & blood stood on the limbs of Los in globes. his fiery Eyelids
Faded. he rouzd he siezd the wonder in his hands & went
Shuddring & weeping thro the Gloom & down into the deeps

Enitharmon nursd her fiery child in the dark deeps              
Sitting in darkness. over her Los mournd in anguish fierce
Coverd with gloom. the fiery boy grew fed by the milk
Of Enitharmon. Los around her builded pillars of iron"
These are the inscriptions which were chosen from Edward Bysshe's The Art of English Poetry. All are directed toward understanding events alluded to in the text and images as parallel to the cataclysmic entry of a comet as sign of change to come.

A Comet

Right margin:
Like some malignant
Planet that lowrs
upon the world.

These three quotes appear at the bottom of the plate:
He, like a Comet, burnd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge
In th' Arctick Skye; and from his horrid hair
Shakes Pestilence and war. ___

As the Red Comet from Saturnius sent
To fright the nations with a dire portent
With sweeping Glories glides along in air
And shakes the sparkles from his blazing hair.

Comets imparting change to times and states
Brandish your golden tresses in the Skies.

The Blake Archive gives further information on the source of the quotes:
"This pen and ink inscription appears in the margin to the right of the image. The lines are condensed from Nicholas Rowe, The Fair Penitent (1703), Act 3, Scene 1, lines 6-8. These lines are printed in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry, under the heading "Planet."
"This pen and ink inscription appears below the image. The first four lines are quoted from John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), Book 2, lines 708-10. The next four lines are quoted from Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad (1715-20), Book 4, lines 1-3, 104, 107, 108. The final two lines are adapted from William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part I (1598), Act I, Scene 1, lines 2-3. All three passages are printed in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry, under the heading 'Comet.'"  


Thursday, October 23, 2014


British Museum
Plate 4, Copy D
Plate 4 of Copy D of Europe is considered to be a continuation of the Preludium. It contains inscriptions added by Cumberland perhaps under the supervision of Blake, as do Plates 2 and 3. The transcription of the inscriptions and identification of their authors is provided by the Blake Archive. The added text can be found in The Art of English Poetry by Edward Bysshe. The lines at the top of the plate are from Samuel Garth, The Dispensary and those on the bottom from Sir Richard Blackmore, Prince Arthur (1695).

Upper Quote:
          "Storms, Tempests. &c
He views with horror next the noisy cave
Where with hoarse din imprisond tempests rave
Where clam'rous Hurricanes attempt their flight
Or whirling in tumultuous Eddies fight."

Lower quote:
 "This orbs wide frame with the convulsion shakes,
Oft opens in the Storm, and often cracks,
Horror, Amazement, and Despair appear,
In all the hideous forms that Mortals fear."

On Plate 4 Blake continues the speech begun by the Shadowy Female on Plate 3. The Shadowy Female is an immortal to whom the potentiality for destructive turmoil is visible. She desires that the storms which open the cracks which let out the tumult not be released to the world of matter. But Enitharmon allows the energy which has been contained to be unleashed . The Shadowy Female retreats as her energy is transferred to Enitharmon to be bound to matter.

Europe, Plate 2, (E 61)
"Unwilling I look up to heaven! unwilling count the stars!
Sitting in fathomless abyss of my immortal shrine.
I sieze their burning power
And bring forth howling terrors, all devouring fiery kings.

Devouring & devoured roaming on dark and desolate mountains      
In forests of eternal death, shrieking in hollow trees.
Ah mother Enitharmon!
Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.

I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames.
And thou dost stamp them with a signet, then they roam abroad    
And leave me void as death:
Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy.

And who shall bind the infinite with an eternal band?
To compass it with swaddling bands? and who shall cherish it
With milk and honey?                                             
I see it smile & I roll inward & my voice is past.

She ceast & rolld her shady clouds
Into the secret place."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


British Museum
Plate 3, Copy D

The pilgrim who begins his journey in the Preludium is other than he seems. He is being sent on his travels by Enitharmon the mother of all things as Orc and his emanation (the shadowy female), beg not to be brought into life. The innocent pilgrim is prepared to set forth, ignorant of the assassin ready to attack.

The Preludium is the interval of preparation for the action to come. It is unconnected to the events which are to follow except that Enitharmon will be commissioned to take charge of the 18 Christian centuries.

The only inscription on this plate is the words 'The Assasin' at the top of the image, reminding us of the poem inscribed on the reverse of Plate 2.


Europe, Plate 1, (E 60)
"The nameless shadowy female rose from out 

the breast of Orc:
Her snaky hair brandishing in the winds of Enitharmon,
And thus her voice arose.

O mother Enitharmon wilt thou bring forth other sons?
To cause my name to vanish, that my place may not be found.      
For I am faint with travel!      
Like the dark cloud disburdend in the day of dismal thunder.

My roots are brandish'd in the heavens. my fruits in earth beneath
Surge, foam, and labour into life, first born & first consum'd!
Consumed and consuming!                                          
Then why shouldst thou accursed mother bring me into life?

I wrap my turban of thick clouds around my lab'ring head; 
And fold the sheety waters as a mantle round my limbs.
Yet the red sun and moon,
And all the overflowing stars rain down prolific pains."

Milton, Plate 3, (E 97)
"First Orc was Born then the Shadowy Female: then All Los's Family
At last Enitharmon brought forth Satan Refusing Form, in vain
The Miller of Eternity made subservient to the Great Harvest
That he may go to his own Place Prince of the Starry Wheels"

Milton, Plate 10 [11], (E 104)
"Then Los & Enitharmon knew that Satan is Urizen
Drawn down by Orc & the Shadowy Female into Generation
Oft Enitharmon enterd weeping into the Space, there appearing
An aged Woman raving along the Streets (the Space is named
Canaan) then she returnd to Los weary frighted as from dreams   

The nature of a Female Space is this: it shrinks the Organs
Of Life till they become Finite & Itself seems Infinite."

Jerusalem, Plate 13, (E 157)
"And all that has existed in the space of six thousand years:
Permanent, & not lost not lost nor vanishd, & every little act, 

Word, work, & wish, that has existed, all remaining still
In those Churches ever consuming & ever building by the Spectres
Of all the inhabitants of Earth wailing to be Created:
Shadowy to those who dwell not in them, meer possibilities:
But to those who enter into them they seem the only substances   
For every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear,
Plate 14
One hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away."

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Wikipedia Commons
original in British Museum
Plate 2, Copy D
The Title Page of Europe presents a menacing serpent which can be seen as the energy of Orc poised to release revolution. The previous image on the Frontispiece represented Urizen as the creator god who circumscribed the limits. Urizen struggles to preserve order by restraining energy.
To Orc the only way the removal of the accumulation of the restrictions which imprison man in the manacles he himself forges can be accomplished, is by the release of his energy. The energy released in the French Revolution revealed the chaos which is so precariously controlled by Urizen.   

Opposed aspects of the serpent as he manifests in progressive stages of development is presented by Northrup Frye in Fearful Symmetry:

"Orc or human imagination trying to burst out of the body, is often described as a serpent bound on the tree of mystery, dependent upon it, yet struggling to get free.
... The energy of Orc which broke away from Egypt was perverted into the Sinaitic moral code, and this is symbolized by the nailing of Orc in the form of a serpent to a tree.
It is this serpent, man's Selfhood or desire to assert rather than create that stands between man and Paradise: the cherub with the flaming sword who guards the tree of life therefore is the demonic 'serpent'.
The fallen serpent is a worm 'seventy inches long,' lasting for 'sixty winters'; the demonic serpent or Covering Cherub is a dragon. The former is the helplessness of the victim; the latter the ferocity of the tyrant. But the dragon, in the Bible and elsewhere, is a symbol for something far worse than Satan, the 'Limit of Opacity': he is a symbol of the chaos which underlies it, waiting to burst in and overwhelm the entire cosmos...The creation of  the fallen world is an 'act of Mercy' because the stability and permanence of the dead organic world forms a barrier between our weak struggling lives and the total annihilation of all beings in chaos." (Page 136-8)

Europe,  Plate 10, (E 63)
"The ever-varying spiral ascents to the heavens of heavens
Were bended downward; and the nostrils golden gates shut
Turn'd outward, barr'd and petrify'd against the infinite.       

Thought chang'd the infinite to a serpent; that which pitieth:   
To a devouring flame; and man fled from its face and hid
In forests of night; then all the eternal forests were divided
Into earths rolling in circles of space, that like an ocean rush'd
And overwhelmed all except this finite wall of flesh.            
Then was the serpent temple form'd, image of infinite
Shut up in finite revolutions, and man became an Angel;
Heaven a mighty circle turning; God a tyrant crown'd."    
British Museum

Plate 2, Copy D
On the reverse side of Plate 2 is an inscription from the same source as was noted in the post Europe Plate 1. The poem inscribed on the plate is from the novel The Mysteries of Udolpho published in 1794. The poem, The Pilgrim, by Ann Radcliff the novel's author, is apropos for directing our attention to Plate 3, the Preludium, and setting the scene for a journey into unknown territory.  

 Slow o'er the Apennine, with bleeding feet,
A patient Pilgrim wound his lonely way,
To deck the Lady of Loretto's seat
With all the little wealth his zeal could pay.
From mountain-tops cold died the ev'ning ray,
And, stretch'd in twilight, slept the vale below;
And now the last, last purple streaks of day
Along the melancholy West fade slow.
High o'er his head, the restless pines complain,
As on their summit rolls the breeze of night;
Beneath, the hoarse stream chides the rocks in vain:
The Pilgrim pauses on the dizzy height.
Then to the vale his cautious step he prest,
For there a hermit's cross was dimly seen,
Cresting the rock, and there his limbs might rest,
Cheer'd in the good man's cave, by faggot's sheen,
On leafy beds, nor guile his sleep molest.
Unhappy Luke! he trusts a treacherous clue!
Behind the cliff the lurking robber stood;
No friendly moon his giant shadow threw
Athwart the road, to save the Pilgrim's blood;
On as he went a vesper-hymn he sang,
The hymn, that nightly sooth'd him to repose.
Fierce on his harmless prey the ruffian sprang!
The Pilgrim bleeds to death, his eye-lids close,
Yet his meek spirit knew no vengeful care,
But, dying, for his murd'rer breath'd---a sainted pray'r!" 

Friday, October 17, 2014


British Museum
Europe, Plate 1
Frontispiece with inscription
David Erdman on page 220 of Prophet Against Empire gives information on the inscriptions found on Copy D of Europe, a Prophecy which is in the British Museum. This copy was owned by Blake's friend Ozias Humphery, but the inscription are thought to have been written by another of Blake's friends and fellow artists, George Cumberland. Erdman states, "Either because he understood Europe very well, or because he was coached by Blake himself, his friend George Cumberland added explanatory glosses to a copy now in the British Museum, mostly in the form of quotations from Blake's household volume, Bysshe's anthology."

We are acquainted with 'Bysshe's anthology' as noted in the post Enjoyment.

Written on the Frontispiece are words from Paradise Lost. Here is a longer section of Milton's poem with the inscription in bold.

Paradise Lost, Book VII

"On heav’nly ground they stood, and from the shore
They view’d the vast immeasurable Abyss
Outrageous as a Sea, dark, wasteful, wilde,
Up from the bottom turn’d by furious windes
And surging waves, as Mountains to assault
Heav’ns highth, and with the Center mix the Pole.

Silence, ye troubl’d waves, and thou Deep, peace,
Said then th’ Omnific Word, your discord end:

Nor staid, but on the Wings of Cherubim
Uplifted, in Paternal Glorie rode
Farr into Chaos, and the World unborn;
For Chaos heard his voice: him all his Traine
Follow’d in bright procession to behold
Creation, and the wonders of his might.
Then staid the fervid Wheeles, and in his hand
He took the golden Compasses, prepar’d
In Gods Eternal store, to circumscribe
This Universe, and all created things:
One foot he center’d, and the other turn’d
Round through the vast profunditie obscure,
And said, thus farr extend, thus farr thy bounds,
This be thy just Circumference, O World."

John Milton

In his chapter in Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic, Michael J Tolley comments on the Frontispiece to Europe:

"Rich in allusion, simple in outline, grand in sublime tradition of painting, the frontispiece, envisioning the creator as a windswept old man who kneels in a sun that breaks through clouds to set his compasses on the void beneath, expresses a fundamental protest against the theodicy of Blake's time. While the design stands independent of Europe in conception, it is fittingly placed to introduce this poem, and may even have germinated its basic idea. To the right of the pencil sketch on page 96 of the Notebook are the words 'who shall bind / the Infinite,' a crucial phrase in the Europe Preludium. This Notebook sketch is in close association with others used in Europe; it is dated by Keynes as pre-1793. Whether or not Blake had Europe already in mind when he drew the sketch, his application to it of a key question from the poem shows how ironically he viewed the creator's attempted circumscription of the unbounded abyss.
Blake's way of showing men that the Miltonic-Newtonic creator their reason accepts as God is only a projection of their guilty fears[,] was to labor with loving care [on] a definitive image of this creator as Urizen. Once clearly seen, he believed, this image must be rejected as blasphemous error." 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


During the time that Blake was most reproachful  about the treatment he has received at the hands of Cromek for cheating him out of the earnings he should have received for engraving his designs of Blair's The Grave, he made a unique entry into his notebook.

British Museum
Blake's Notebook
Page 88

British Museum
Blake's Notebook
Page 89

 Miscellaneous Prose, Memoranda from Notebook,  PAGE 88, (E 696)
          "South Molton Street
     Sunday August . 18O7  My Wife was told by a Spirit to look
for her fortune by opening by chance a book which she had in her
hand it was Bysshes Art of Poetry.  She opend the following
          I saw 'em kindle with Desire
          While with soft sighs they blew the fire
          Saw the approaches of their joy
          He growing more fierce & she less coy
          Saw how they mingled melting rays
          Exchanging Love a thousand ways
          Kind was the force on every side      
          Her new desire she could not hide
          Nor would the shepherd be denied
          The blessed minute he pursud
          Till she transported in his arms
          Yields to the Conqueror all her charms
          His panting breast to hers now joind
          They feast on raptures unconfind
          Vast & luxuriant such as prove
          The immortality of Love
          For who but a Divinity
          Could mingle souls to that degree 
          And melt them into Extasy
          Now like the Phoenix both expire 
          While from the ashes of their fire 
          Spring up a new & soft desire 
          Like charmers thrice they did invoke 
          The God & thrice new Vigor took

I was so well pleased with her Luck that I thought I would try my
Own & opend the following
          As when the winds their airy quarrel try
          Justling from every quarter of the Sky
          This way & that the Mountain oak they bear    
          His boughs they shatter & his branches tear
          With leaves & falling mast they spread the Ground
          The hollow Valleys Eccho [the] to the Sound
          Unmovd the royal plant their fury mocks
          Or shaken clings more closely to the rocks
          For as he shoots his lowring head on high     
          So deep in earth his fixd foundations lie
                                             DRYDENS VIRGIL" 
The book in which they found these verses which affirmed and comforted them was a popular work by Edward Bysshe which was first published in 1702 and revised several times. The Art of English Poetry contains sections on writing poetry, quotes from numerous poets arranged by themes, and a rhyming dictionary.

In this electronic copy of the 1737 edition you can locate the passage Catherine selected: Vol i, Page 139. William's selection is included on Page 9 in Vol ii of the 1762 edition.

This is the poem Blake wrote in the notebook following the poetry he copied from The Art of English Poetry.

British Museum
Blake's Notebook
Page 4
Songs & Ballads, From Notebook, (E 481)
"I rose up at the dawn of day
Get thee away get thee away
Prayst thou for Riches away away
This is the Throne of Mammon grey

Said I this sure is very odd                                     
I took it to be the Throne of God
For every Thing besides I have
It is only for Riches that I can crave

I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth          
Ive a Wife I love & that loves me
Ive all But Riches Bodily
I am in Gods presence night & day           
And he never turns his face away
The accuser of sins by my side does stand                      
And he holds my money bag in his hand

For my worldly things God makes him pay     
And hed pay for more if to him I would pray
And so you may do the worst you can do
Be assurd Mr Devil I wont pray to you                         
Then If for Riches I must not Pray
God knows I little of Prayers need say
So as a Church is known by its Steeple      
If I pray it must be for other People   

He says if I do not worship him for a God                     
I shall eat coarser food & go worse shod
So as I dont value such things as these
You must do Mr Devil just as God please"

Monday, October 13, 2014


Yale Center for British Art Europe a Prophecy
Plague, Plate 13
Yale Center for British Art Europe a Prophecy
Famine, Plate 8
Yale Center for British Art Europe a Prophecy
Terror, Plate 17
Yale Center for British Art Europe a Prophecy
Blight, Plate 10
Yale Center for British Art Europe a Prophecy
Imprisonment, Plate 15
These five plates from Europe do not illustrate the text but reveal "a litany of the miseries of the Fallen world and, in historical terms, of the Ancien Regime: Plague, Famine, Terror, Blight, and Imprisonment," as stated by David Bindman on Page 106 in William Blake: His Art and Times

You can learn here more about conditions during the Ancien Regime which preceded the French Revolution. Resistance to the regime became too widespread to avoid revolution: 

Kropotkin, P. (1927). The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793 (N. F. Dryhurst, Trans.) New York: Vanguard Printings. (Original work published 1909)
"If there had been only their few attempts at resistance France might have waited many years for the overthrow of royal despotism. Fortunately a thousand circumstances impelled the masses to revolt. And in spite of the fact that after every outbreak there were summary hangings, wholesale arrests and even torture for those arrested, the people did revolt, pressed on one side by their desperate misery' and spurred on the other by those vague hopes of which the old woman spoke to Arthur Young. They rose in numbers against the governors of provinces, tax-collectors, salt-tax agents and even against the troops, and by so doing completely disorganised the governmental machine. From 1788 the peasant risings became so general that it was impossible to provide for the expenses of the State, and Louis XVI., after having refused for fourteen years to convoke the representatives of the nation, lest his kingly authority should suffer, at last found himself compelled to convoke, first the two Assemblies of Notables, and finally the States-General."

by William Blake, (E 385)
                 FRENCH REVOLUTION.  
                      A POEM,
                  IN SEVEN BOOKS.

                  BOOK THE FIRST.

           LONDON: Printed for J. Johnson, No 72,
              St Paul's Church-yard. MDCCXCI.
                 (Price One Shilling.)
"From my window I see the old mountains of France, like aged men, fading away.

Troubled, leaning on Necker, descends the King, to his chamber of council; shady mountains
In fear utter voices of thunder; the woods of France embosom the sound;
Clouds of wisdom prophetic reply, and roll over the palace roof heavy,
Forty men: each conversing with woes in the infinite shadows of his soul,
Like our ancient fathers in regions of twilight, walk, gathering round the King;
Again the loud voice of France cries to the morning, the morning prophecies to its clouds."

Saturday, October 11, 2014


British Museum
Large Book of Designs
excerpted from "Visions of the Daughters of Albion"

"Man is at once the stage and the protagonist in the drama 
with which Blake is concerned, the Fourfold Man, called sym- 
bolically by the name of Albion, " our ancestor, in whose sleep or 
Chaos creation began,"; and his state depends on the union and 
agreement of the four elements that are met in him. Beside the 
Humanity, or central personality of the individual, stand the Spectre, 
the reasoning power, and the Emanation (a word sometimes abridged 
into Eon,) the emotional and imaginative life, with the Shadow, 
which seems to be desire, restrained and become passive, " till it is 
only the shadow of desire." When these are united, and especially 
when the Spectre and the Emanation, contraries in whose inter- 
action all other contraries are involved, are balanced and at peace, 
Man is in the state of salvation, which Boehme called temperature ; 
when Spectre and Emanation have parted, Man is in a fallen state, 
and can only be redeemed by their reconciliation. This fall into 
divison, and resurrection into unity, is the main subject of "Jeru- 
salem " and indeed of most of the Prophetical books ; for the part- 


ing of Reason and Imagination is the great tragedy, through which 
the Spectre becomes cold and the Emanation weak, the Shadow 
turns cruel, and the Humanity is overcome by deadly sleep (15, 6). 
A sleep, too, full of dreams, in which Man wavers between evil 
and good, drawn alternately by the male Spectre and the female 
Emanation, and so called by Blake hermaphroditic: a sleep from 
which only Christ, the Divine Imagination, can save the fallen 
Man, by reuniting him with Jerusalem, his Emanation, and saving 
him from the dominion of his Spectre, the great selfhood, called 

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 11, (E 825) 
[deleted lines]
"Refusing to behold the Divine image which all behold
          And live thereby. he is sunk down into a deadly sleep
          But we immortal in our own strength survive by stern debate
          Till we have drawn the Lamb of God into a mortal form
          And that he must be born is certain for One must be All

          And comprehend within himself all things both small & great
          We therefore for whose sake all things aspire to be & live
          Will so recieve the Divine Image that amongst the Reprobate
          He may be devoted to Destruction from his mothers womb" 

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Library of Congress Jerusalem
Plate 54, Copy I
Blake rarely speaks in his own voice. On Plate 25 of Jerusalem, speaking in the first person, he allows us to directly share his 'awful vision.' Albion is divided fourfold: into his Humanity, his Emanation, his Spectre and his Shadow. This is the nature of Albion's sleep: that his Humanity allows his Emanation, Spectre and Shadow to run rampant devastating the nation in 'terrors and scourges', in tyrannic works, in 'deadly fear.' 
Blake endures the 'awful vision' until it is resolved beyond the chaos. Albion will sleep; he will remain in his status of internal contentions, and outward turmoil until the Divine Hand provides the denouement by sending an infant into the manger at Bethlehem. 

Jerusalem, plate 25, (E 158)
"such is my awful Vision.   

I see the Four-fold Man. The Humanity in deadly sleep
And its fallen Emanation. The Spectre & its cruel Shadow.
I see the Past, Present & Future, existing all at once
Before me; O Divine Spirit sustain me on thy wings!
That I may awake Albion from His long & cold repose.             
For Bacon & Newton sheathd in dismal steel, their terrors hang
Like iron scourges over Albion, Reasonings like vast Serpents
Infold around my limbs, bruising my minute articulations

I turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of Europe
And there behold the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages dire  
Washd by the Water-wheels of Newton. black the cloth
In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel Works
Of many Wheels I View, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden: which
Wheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace. 

I see in deadly fear in London Los raging round his Anvil
Of death: forming an Ax of gold: the Four Sons of Los
Stand round him cutting the Fibres from Albions hills
That Albions Sons may roll apart over the Nations
While Reuben enroots his brethren in the narrow Canaanite    
From the Limit Noah to the Limit Abram in whose Loins
Reuben in his Twelve-fold majesty & beauty shall take refuge
As Abraham flees from Chaldea shaking his goary locks
But first Albion must sleep, divided from the Nations

I see Albion sitting upon his Rock in the first Winter           
And thence I see the Chaos of Satan & the World of Adam
When the Divine Hand went forth on Albion in the mid Winter
And at the place of Death when Albion sat in Eternal Death
Among the Furnaces of Los in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 
In order to emphasize some of the Essential Teachings of Blake which may have been skipped in my haphazard way of blogging, I wrote a series of seventeen posts which incorporate many of the most important of Blake's ideas.

  These are transformative ideas. It is the opportunity of the individual's essential identity to undergo experience in order for the seed within him to germinate and grow into a tree. Blake has discerned aspects of the process which man goes through as he strives toward psychological wholeness and spiritual enlightenment. Blake gives us the benefit of his intense struggles along his journey in order that we may be willing to contemplate our own potential for altering our ability to perceive.
Vision of Last Judgment,(E 559)
"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."
Kay and Roger Easson, in Milton: A Poem by William Blake, emphasize Blake's role as a teacher:

"To read William Blake's illuminated books is to participate in a spiritual education. To read Blake's Milton is to discover the nature of that spiritual education concurrently with the education itself. Although Milton is incredibly beautiful in its combination of word and illustration and although its complexity stimulates intellectual scrutiny, it is a prophecy and like all prophecy, it provides spiritual instruction. William Blake is a spiritual teacher, a prophet who, having 'discover'd the infinite in every thing' is committed to 'raising other men into a perception of the infinite' (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). And, Milton is the book in which Blake teaches how 'all the Lord's people' can become prophets. In Milton Blake defines the spiritual journey which renews prophecy in every moment of  human time." (Page 135)
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 16, (E 42)
"The man
who never alters his opinion is like standing water, & breeds
reptiles of the mind." 
Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"Los beheld undaunted furious

His heavd Hammer; he swung it round & at one blow,
In unpitying ruin driving down the pyramids of pride
Smiting the Spectre on his Anvil & the integuments of his Eye
And Ear unbinding in dire pain, with many blows,            
Of strict severity self-subduing, & with many tears labouring.

Then he sent forth the Spectre all his pyramids were grains
Of sand & his pillars: dust on the flys wing: & his starry
Heavens; a moth of gold & silver mocking his anxious grasp
Thus Los alterd his Spectre & every Ratio of his Reason       
He alterd time after time, with dire pain & many tears
Till he had completely divided him into a separate space.

Terrified Los sat to behold trembling & weeping & howling
I care not whether a Man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise Man or a Fool. Go! put off Holiness    
And put on Intellect: or my thundrous Hammer shall drive thee
To wrath which thou condemnest: till thou obey my voice

So Los terrified cries: trembling & weeping & howling! Beholding"

Four Zoas, Page 49, (E 333)
"The Spectre of Urthona seeing Enitharmon writhd    
His cloudy form in jealous fear & muttering thunders hoarse      
And casting round thick glooms. thus utterd his fierce pangs of heart

Tharmas I know thee. how are we alterd our beauty decayd
But still I know thee tho in this horrible ruin whelmd
Thou once the mildest son of heaven art now become a Rage
A terror to all living things. think not that I am ignorant      
That thou art risen from the dead or that my power forgot"

Songs & Ballads, (E 485)
The Mental Traveller 
"And to Allay his freezing Age
The Poor Man takes her in his arms
The Cottage fades before his Sight
The Garden & its lovely Charms    

The Guests are scatterd thro' the land
For the Eye altering alters all
The Senses roll themselves in fear
And the flat Earth becomes a Ball

The Stars Sun Moon all shrink away  
A desart vast without a bound
And nothing left to eat or drink
And a dark desart all around"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 532)
"Of Chaucer's characters, as described in his Canterbury
Tales, some of the names or titles are altered by time, but the
characters themselves for ever remain unaltered, and 
consequently they are the

physiognomies or lineaments of universal human life, beyond which
Nature never steps.  Names alter, things never alter.I have
known multitudes of those who would have been monks in the age of
monkery, who in this deistical age are deists.  As Newton
numbered the stars, and as Linneus numbered the plants, so
Chaucer numbered the classes of men."