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

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!" 

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