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

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Yale center for British Art America
Title Plate
Looking at the lives of William Blake and Thomas Paine we find many similarities. Both were born into dissenting families; Blake into Moravians, Paine into Quakers. Both boys had exceptional intellectual abilities which would have set them apart from their milieu. Their fathers were both in trade; Blake's father sold hosiery, Paine's father manufactured stays for corsets. Blake's schooling consisted of a few years of drawing school and apprenticeship to an engraver; Paine went to Grammar school for five years. Each was between the age of thirty and forty before he found the work which would define his life. Both men developed technological skills as well as engaging in intellectual pursuits. Both were childless.

Paine was twenty years Blake's senior. He had influenced the course of the American Revolution with his book Common Sense before his path crossed that of Blake at Joseph Johnson's printing shop. The two men were joined by their desire to change the world. Each had at his command a mighty pen, but Paine had the ear of his contemporaries whereas Blake did not. As it turns out their gifts were complementary; Paine's writing was an intensely burning fire which quickly did its work, Blake's work burns like the embers in a well stoked furnace - releasing its heat and light over a long period. 

Northrup Frye in Fearful Symmetry on pages 66-67 sheds light on the differences between the two men:

"He [Blake] met and liked Tom Paine and respected his honesty as a thinker. Yet Paine could write in his Age of Reason:

'I had some turn, and I believe some talent for poetry; but this I rather repressed than encouraged, as leading too much into the field of imagination.'

The attitude of life implied by such a remark can have no permanent revolutionary vigor, for underlying it is the weary materialism which asserts that the deader a thing is the more trustworthy it is; that a rock is a solid reality and that the vital spirit of a living man is a rarefied and diaphanous ghost. It is no accident that Paine said in the same book that God can be revealed only in mechanics, and that a mill is a microcosm of the universe. A revolution based on such ideas is not an awakening of the spirit of man: if it kills the tyrant it can only replace him with another... 

Revolution is always an attempt to smash the structure of tyranny and create a better world, even when the revolutionaries do not understand what creation implies of what a better world is.

...all we need to say just now is that for Blake the central problem of social and political liberty is the release of the imagination."

Songs and Ballads, Pickering Manuscript, (E 486)
     The Grey Monk               
"I die I die the Mother said
My Children die for lack of Bread 
What more has the merciless Tyrant said
The Monk sat down on the Stony Bed

The blood red ran from the Grey Monks side 
His hands & feet were wounded wide
His Body bent his arms & knees
Like to the roots of ancient trees

His eye was dry no tear could flow
A hollow groan first spoke his woe 
He trembled & shudderd upon the Bed
At length with a feeble cry he said

When God commanded this hand to write
In the studious hours of deep midnight
He told me the writing I wrote should prove 
The Bane of all that on Earth I lovd        

My Brother starvd between two Walls
His Childrens Cry my Soul appalls
I mockd at the wrack & griding chain        
My bent body mocks their torturing pain     

Thy Father drew his sword in the North
With his thousands strong he marched forth  
Thy Brother has armd himself in Steel       
To avenge the wrongs thy Children feel      

But vain the Sword & vain the Bow 
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows tear
Alone can free the World from fear

For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing         
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King 
And the bitter groan of the Martyrs woe     
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed         
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead" 

Friday, November 28, 2014


British Museum America
Plate 4, Copy H
In Blake's illuminated book America he mentions Paine along with other luminaries of the American Revolution: Washington, Franklin, Warren, Gates, Hancock & Green. America was engraved by Blake in 1794 when Paine was imprisoned in France and writing Age of Reason in his cell. Paine had lived in London in 1774 and become acquainted with Benjamin Franklin who financed his passage to Pennsylvania where his writings were crucial to the success of the American Revolution. He spent time in England as well as in France between 1787 and 1793. Rights of Man was published in England in 1791 and soon aroused opposition from the government. To avoid arrest after the publication of Part II of Rights of Man, Paine escaped to France but was tried and convicted in absentia for seditious libel in England. During his time in London Paine frequented Joseph Johnson's publishing establishment in St. Paul's Churchyard which attracted anti-establishment writers including William Blake. Alexander Gilchrist's biography of Blake indicates that it was Blake's sense of the imminent threat to Paine which facilitated his escape.

On Page 97 of The Life of William Blake By Alexander Gilchrist we read:
"One day in this same month [September 1792], Paine was giving at Johnson's an idea of the inflammatory eloquence he had poured forth at a public meeting of the previous night. Blake, who was present, silently inferred from the tenor of his report that those in power, now eager to lay hold of noxious persons, would certainly not let slip such an opportunity. On Paine's rising to leave, Blake laid his hands on the orator's shoulder, saying, " You must not go home, or you are a dead man!" and hurried him off on his way to France, whither he was now, in any case bound, to take his seat as French legislator. By the time Paine was at Dover, the officers were in his house, or, as his biographer Mr. Cheetham designates it, his " lurking hole in the purlieus of London "; and some twenty minutes after the Custom House officials at Dover had turned over his slender baggage with, as he thought, extra malice, and he had set sail for Calais, an order was received from the Home Office to detain him. England never saw Tom Paine again."

America, Plate 3, (E 52)
                               A PROPHECY
"The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent,
Sullen fires across the Atlantic glow to America's shore:
Piercing the souls of warlike men, who rise in silent night,
Washington, Franklin, Paine & Warren, Gates, Hancock & Green;
Meet on the coast glowing with blood from Albions fiery Prince.  

Washington spoke; Friends of America look over the Atlantic sea;
A bended bow is lifted in heaven, & a heavy iron chain
Descends link by link from Albions cliffs across the sea to bind
Brothers & sons of America, till our faces pale and yellow;
Heads deprest, voices weak, eyes downcast, hands work-bruis'd, 
Feet bleeding on the sultry sands, and the furrows of the whip 
Descend to generations that in future times forget.----

The strong voice ceas'd; for a terrible blast swept over the heaving sea;
The eastern cloud rent; on his cliffs stood Albions wrathful Prince 
A dragon form clashing his scales at midnight he arose,          
And flam'd red meteors round the land of Albion beneath[.]  
His voice, his locks, his awful shoulders, and his glowing eyes," 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Library of Congress
section of Plate 21
Europe, Copy E
An aspect of understanding Europe which we have not yet touched on is what Blake's psycho/social status may have been when he was writing his prophetic books. J. Bronowski, in William Blake and the Age of Revolution, asks us to think about the author and the circumstances around him as he wrote. Blake was responding to the circumscriptions of his horizons as an artist and as a citizen. There were threats to himself, his friends, and his fellow artists which induced him to travel a fine line between being outspoken and saving his skin. 
Bronowski states on page 86:
"It is not enough to think of Blake's prophetic books without Blake. Neither is it enough to think of them without Blake's world. That world was wider than its censorship. But it was a world of censorship. It was a world of the acts against Seditious Writings, against Seditious Meetings, against Seditious Societies, against Treasonable Practices. It was the world of prosecutions for blasphemy, and the laws against cheap newspapers. It was the world of the Militia Bills and of the Combination Laws. It was Pitt's world. That world did not make Blake but it baffled him, and it cowed him. Blake remained free all his life. But he was once tried for sedition."


Is it any wonder that Blake wrote Europe in such a way that it would not be easily understood if it fell into the hands of the censors where it may land him behind bars?    

Europe, Plate 12, (E 64)
"Every house a den, every man bound; the shadows are filld
With spectres, and the windows wove over with curses of iron:
Over the doors Thou shalt not; & over the chimneys Fear is written:
With bands of iron round their necks fasten'd into the walls
The citizens: in leaden gyves the inhabitants of suburbs" 

Here is an oversimplified analysis of the complex book which is Blake's Europe:

Framework - Christian centuries
Setting - Revolutionary times

Characters - Enitharmon
Action - Sleep & awakening

Purpose - Change of perspective
Influences - Prophetic milieu
                     Political situation
                     Transition to influence of Newton
                     Tensions between male and female dominance.


Monday, November 24, 2014


The University of Glasgow is fortunate to have Copy B (1794) of Europe in their library. In 2007 to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of Blake's birth they created an online exhibit of the book. We are given the opportunity to see Europe in a form in which the flow of development in text and pictures can be viewed together.

British Museum Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
There are two copies of Europe in the British Museum: Copies a (proofs) and D. Copy D which has inscriptions attributed to Blake's friend George Cumberland is the copy whose images were used in the recent series of posts on Europe.
The search in the British Museum collection for 'Europe Copy D' produced these results. Extraneous images are included. To locate some of the actual images of Copy D (1794) it is necessary to view the reverse side of some plates since Blake used both sides of the pages. Copy D is the only copy which includes the inscriptions relating Blake's work to that of other poets.

Not included in Copy D or the Glasgow Library copy is a prefix which was added to two late copies of Europe. In it Blake attributes the writing of Europe to the instigation of a fairy, a force which is active in this world but has no existence in Eternity. The fairy is one of the Four Elemental Forces which influence the natural world: the fairy - air; the gnome - earth; the nymph - water; and the genii - energy (fire).

Blake seems to be telling his audience that Europe is about:
"Element against Element, opposed in War Not Mental, as the Wars of Eternity, but a Corporeal Strife"
Europe is an account of the world as seen and created by the mental process which arose when Albion underwent separating into the Four Zoas. The undivided man came under the spacial (length, breadth and height) dimensions which are the province of Enitharmon.

Europe, PLATE iii, (E 60)
"Five windows light the cavern'd Man; thro' one he breathes the air;
Thro' one, hears music of the spheres; thro' one, the eternal vine
Flourishes, that he may recieve the grapes; thro' one can look.
And see small portions of the eternal world that ever groweth;
Thro' one, himself pass out what time he please, but he will not;
For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant.

So sang a Fairy mocking as he sat on a streak'd Tulip,
Thinking none saw him: when he ceas'd I started from the trees!
And caught him in my hat as boys knock down a butterfly.
How know you this said I small Sir? where did you learn this song?  
Seeing himself in my possession thus he answered me:
My master, I am yours. command me, for I must obey.

Then tell me, what is the material world, and is it dead?
He laughing answer'd: I will write a book on leaves of flowers,
If you will feed me on love-thoughts, & give me now and then    
A cup of sparkling poetic fancies; so when I am tipsie,
I'll sing to you to this soft lute; and shew you all alive
The world, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.

I took him home in my warm bosom: as we went along
Wild flowers I gatherd; & he shew'd me each eternal flower:      
He laugh'd aloud to see them whimper because they were pluck'd.
They hover'd round me like a cloud of incense: when I came
Into my parlour and sat down, and took my pen to write:
My Fairy sat upon the table, and dictated EUROPE."

Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"And all the Living Creatures of the Four Elements, wail'd
With bitter wailing: these in the aggregate are named Satan
And Rahab: they know not of Regeneration, but only of Generation
The Fairies, Nymphs, Gnomes & Genii of the Four Elements         
Unforgiving & unalterable: these cannot be Regenerated
But must be Created, for they know only of Generation
These are the Gods of the Kingdoms of the Earth: in contrarious
And cruel opposition: Element against Element, opposed in War
Not Mental, as the Wars of Eternity, but a Corporeal Strife"  

Jerusalem, Plate 32 [36], (E 178)
"And the Four Zoa's who are the Four Eternal Senses of Man
Became Four Elements separating from the Limbs of Albion
These are their names in the Vegetative Generation
[West Weighing East & North dividing Generation South bounding]   
And Accident & Chance were found hidden in Length Bredth & Highth
And they divided into Four ravening deathlike Forms
Fairies & Genii & Nymphs & Gnomes of the Elements.
These are States Permanently Fixed by the Divine Power"

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Wikimedia Commons
from Plate 17, Copy K
Kathleen Raine in her biography William Blake says this of the prophetic books written by Blake at Lambeth: "Perhaps he was trying to persuade himself that the political violence of the time was a shortcut to spiritual liberation." (Page 64) The dual political and spiritual themes of the Lambeth books led her to state:

"Blake's admirers are divided into those who see him as a political protagonist who regrettably strayed away from direct engagement in the issues of his day into incomprehensible mysticism; and those for whom he was a mystic and visionary who discerned, as did the Hebrew Prophets, the spiritual causes behind history. According to David Erdman and J. Bronowski, Blake's prophetic allegories  were a disguise he was forced to adopt by the danger of speaking openly on political issues at the time of the French Revolution (especially after this country had declared war on France. To others, Blake's spiritual vision seems clearer than his politics.
For Blake, the outward events and circumstances were the expressions of states of mind, ideologies, mentalities, and not, as the determinist-materialist ideologies of the modern world, the cause. 
Blake gradually renounced politics for something more radical: not religion, in the sense of a system of beliefs and observances, but a transformation of the inner life, a rebirth of 'the true man'. Politics and religion alike came to seem to him an evasion of the 'one thing needful'.

This is not to say that Blake's 'prophetic' poems no longer related to current history; rather, that he saw history from within; in the succession of the Prophets of Israel, he addressed the English nation to the levels of spiritual causes, not of day-to-day policy. 'Every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not A Natural; for a Natural Cause only seems.'"
(Page 71)

Just as Blake combined his political and spiritual messages in such a way in his poetry that an individual can focus primarily on a single viewpoint ignoring the other, one can see in the images simultaneously separate spiritual and political implications.The political message of this image is the destructiveness of revolution; the endangerment of women and children in the aftermath of revolutionary outbreaks. The city in flames is a consequence of war wherever and whenever it occurs. The spiritual message begins with the nude male who is not of this world. As Los, he is the activity of imagination who is the 'Vehicular form of strong Urthona', the Zoa whom Frye identifies with 'creative fertility'. He functions here to rescue victims from the transforming fire and lead their ascent to higher ground. That the two females are clothed implies that they are of the temporal not the eternal world. The woman may be seen as Enitharmon whose eighteen hundred years of domination have ended, the child as the reborn female reaching for the eagle of imagination and the acorn of regeneration.
Jerusalem, Plate 53, (E 202) 
"But Los, who is the Vehicular Form of strong Urthona
Wept vehemently over Albion where Thames currents spring
From the rivers of Beulah; pleasant river! soft, mild, parent stream
And the roots of Albions Tree enterd the Soul of Los
As he sat before his Furnaces clothed in sackcloth of hair       
In gnawing pain dividing him from his Emanation;
Inclosing all the Children of Los time after time.
Their Giant forms condensing into Nations & Peoples & Tongues 
Translucent the Furnaces, of Beryll & Emerald immortal:
And Seven-fold each within other: incomprehensible               
To the Vegetated Mortal Eye's perverted & single vision"


Original in Whitworth Art Gallery
Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Illustration 3, "The Old Dragon"
John Middleton Murry's biography and commentary is named simply William Blake. It is written less as a scholarly text than a personal encounter. In his chapter The Female Dream, Murry begins by saying that in Europe many of the same events occur as in America. In Europe he sees the 'subordination of the mundane events to spiritual happenings.' In seeing Europe as an outline of the 'inward revolution' the initial appearance of Jesus as the 'secret child' sets the theme for the poem. The eighteen hundred years of error represented by Enitharmon's dream will come to an end when the original message of Jesus, 'That Eternity is here and now,' is freed from the 'dominion of the Law, the dominion of Religion, the dominion of Sin, the dominion of Woman.' 

Murry, by identifying Jesus with Orc, opens the reader to an enhanced perception of each:   

"We have noticed that beyond and including all the dream happenings of the poem is the moment which is interrupted by the dream. This moment, though divided by eighteen hundred years of history, is continuous. It is the nativity of Christ, continued in the emergence of Orc in the vineyards of France. The clue, for reasons that will be obvious, is fairly well hidden; but once detected it is unmistakable. The prophecy opens:

"The deep of winter came;                                    
What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:"

But it ends, two hundred lines after, with a strophe beginning thus: 

"But terrible Orc, when he beheld the morning in the east,
Shot from the heights of Enitharmon;            
And in the vineyards of red France appear'd the light of his fury."

The nativity of Christ and the emergence of Orc are thus the same event: one continuous and eternal moment interrupted by a dream. Los evokes Orc and his other sons at the beginning; Los is calling his sons to follow Orc at the end. Why, it may be asked, does Los summon Orc at the moment of the Nativity? The answer is that Orc and Jesus are one: the eternal rebel of The Marriage. Therefore, it is really Los who evokes Jesus also. Jesus is, in fact, the Poetic  Genius in rebellion; as Orc is and Blake is. But Blake, as the vehicle of the Imagination that understands the essential identity of Jesus and Orc, is by this fact beyond them both. And this is  Los in his supreme character as the 'vehicular form of strong Urthona'.   

The actual occasion of Enitharmon's dream is this emergence of Jesus-Orc. As he arises by the imaginative power of Los, Enitharmon descends into his place. The female sinks into rebellion. This is an act in the eternal Imagination of which Blake is the vehicle. Translated, it means that in the moment that Blake understands the unity of Orc and Jesus, he understands also that  the fatal doctrine that Woman's Love is Sin has been the cause  of the eighteen hundred years of error and illusion, and that this a corruption of the integral message of Jesus. When Jesus-Orc arises, Enitharmon rebels into a false doctrine of Sex and a false doctrine of Eternity."
(Page 106-7)


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


British Museum
Plate 17, Copy D
Blake lived in turbulent times. No one who had been involved in the storming by a mob of the Newgate Prison would be likely to forget the fury of the uncontrollable violence. Perhaps this is what occupied Blake's mind as he engraved the words and image on Plate 17 of Europe. It had been 14 years since the young Blake had been swept up in the rioting which went on for six days and resulted in property damage, release of prisoners, shootings and hangings of rioters. The results as well as the causes of the Gordon Riots were ambiguous. Blake intimates the same ambiguity as he brings Europe to a conclusion.

Considering the turmoil in England and on the continent of Europe in 1794 and in the previous years since Blake's birth in 1757, cries of 'anguish and dismay' could be expected to continue. Would the agony of war and disintegration continue or would it be resolved in a new birth of consciousness? The final note of Europe is the arrival of the visionary Los to play an active, assertive role in reordering a chaotic situation. Signs of apprehension and signs of hope intermingle as Blake seeks solutions to the tumult in the cauldron of his mind or his outer world.

Europe, Plate 15, (E 66)
"Shot from the heights of Enitharmon;         
And in the vineyards of red France appear'd the light of his fury.

The sun glow'd fiery red!
The furious terrors flew around!
On golden chariots raging, with red wheels dropping with blood;  
The Lions lash their wrathful tails!
The Tigers couch upon the prey & suck the ruddy tide:
And Enitharmon groans & cries in anguish and dismay.

Then Los arose his head he reard in snaky thunders clad:
And with a cry that shook all nature to the utmost pole,         
Call'd all his sons to the strife of blood.
Harold Bloom in Blake's Apocalypse commenting on Plates 57 and 58 of Jerusalem makes a statement apropos to understanding Europe:

"The struggle is continuous, and always indecisive, but throughout this dark war for the future the daughters of Los remain at their wheels of life, generating the substance of the human." (Page 407)
The inscription written by Cumberland above this picture is the word "Fire". Below the image is a passage from Sir Richard Blackmore's Prince Arthur as quoted in Edward Bysshe's The Art of English Poetry:

"Th'impetuous flames with lawless powr advance,
On ruddy wings the bright destruction flies,
follow'd with ruin and distressful cries,
The flaky Plague spreads swiftly with the wind
And gastly desolation howls behind."

Blake's use of the symbol Fire in his poetry can be pursued in these posts:

Four Elements

The Element Fire


Consumed by Fire

Fires of Orc

Sunday, November 16, 2014


British Museum
Plate 16, Copy D
Enitharmon had awakened from her sleep and been empowered by the dominance of Newton's thought which was replacing traditional religious interpretations and inhibitions. The form that Enitharmon's new freedom took was a degrading of sexual activity under her doctrine of chastity.
There are four couples named on this plate each of which, Damon in A Blake Dictionary tells us, is a further repression of the ideal sexual experience which is: "Cominglings: from the Head even to the Feet; And not a pompous High Priest entering by a Secret Place."
These are the are the four couples:
& Manathu-Vorcyon
Leutha & Antamon
Oothoon & Theotormon
Sotha & Thiralatha.
Damon's understanding (Page 124) is that Blake is saying that when sex is not seen as holy, it first becomes a purely physical experience, then becomes identified as sinful, following that men and women are frustrated by abstinence. The final stage is preoccupation with the erotic dream and transferal of sexual energy to the aggression of war.
This plate presents the Night of Enitharmon's Joy to the extreme; it is she who "felt thro' all her pores the enormous revelry." But she wept at morning's light when Orc made his presence known.
Europe, PLATE 14, (E 65)
"Ethinthus queen of waters, how thou shinest in the sky:
My daughter how do I rejoice! for thy children flock around
Like the gay fishes on the wave, when the cold moon drinks the dew.
Ethinthus! thou art sweet as comforts to my fainting soul:
For now thy waters warble round the feet of Enitharmon.          

Manathu-Vorcyon! I behold thee flaming in my halls,
Light of thy mothers soul! I see thy lovely eagles round;
Thy golden wings are my delight, & thy flames of soft delusion.

Where is my lureing bird of Eden! Leutha silent love!
Leutha, the many colourd bow delights upon thy wings:            
Soft soul of flowers Leutha!
Sweet smiling pestilence! I see thy blushing light:
Thy daughters many changing,
Revolve like sweet perfumes ascending O Leutha silken queen!

Where is the youthful Antamon. prince of the pearly dew,
O Antamon, why wilt thou leave thy mother Enitharmon?
Alone I see thee crystal form,
Floting upon the bosomd air:
With lineaments of gratified desire.
My Antamon the seven churches of Leutha seek thy love.  

I hear the soft Oothoon in Enitharmons tents:
Why wilt thou give up womans secrecy my melancholy child?
Between two moments bliss is ripe:
O Theotormon robb'd of joy, I see thy salt tears flow
Down the steps of my crystal house.                              

Sotha & Thiralatha, secret dwellers of dreamful caves,
Arise and please the horrent fiend with your melodious songs.
Still all your thunders golden hoofd, & bind your horses black.
Orc! smile upon my children!
Smile son of my afflictions.                                     
Arise O Orc and give our mountains joy of thy red light.

She ceas'd, for All were forth at sport beneath the solemn moon 
Waking the stars of Urizen with their immortal songs,
That nature felt thro' all her pores the enormous revelry,
Till morning ope'd the eastern gate.                             
Then every one fled to his station, & Enitharmon wept.

But terrible Orc, when he beheld the morning in the east,"

Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 223)
"Mutual Hate returns & mutual Deceit & mutual Fear.

Hence the Infernal Veil grows in the disobedient Female:
Which Jesus rends & the whole Druid Law removes away
From the Inner Sanctuary: a False Holiness hid within the Center,
For the Sanctuary of Eden. is in the Camp: in the Outline,
In the Circumference: & every Minute Particular is Holy:
Embraces are Cominglings: from the Head even to the Feet;
And not a pompous High Priest entering by a Secret Place."  
You may be curious about the illustration on this plate with its proliferation of growing, blooming, crawling and flying forms of life. This too is an aspect of Enitharmon who, as mother nature, has innumerable children including the three serpents at the bottom of the page. 

Friday, November 14, 2014


British Museum
Plate 15, Copy D

The theme of imprisonment on Plate 14 of Europe is continued on Plate 15. The inscription by Cumberland above the image is the word 'Imprisonment'. Below the picture is a quote from a play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher: The Two Noble Kinsmen, which is a retelling of The Knight's Tale from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  Imprisoned together, the two main characters are in conversation about their plight.
"This is all our world __ we shall nothing know
Nothing hear, but the Clock that tells our woes,
The vine shall grow, but we shall never see it,
Summer shall come, and with her all delights,
But dead cold winter still inhabit here."

 In the image we see a shackled prisoner appearing to be warding off some impending threat, and a scaly jailer hurriedly mounting the staircase. The image may portray pictorially the idea that the punisher becomes a victim of punishment. The doom which threatens the prisoner awaits the jailer as well.  

The text of Plate 15 portrays events of climax. The Trump of Doom is blown not by revolutionary or reactionary forces but by Newton who introduces the new age of empirical science. Enitharmon's dream is over. She calls forth her daughter Ethinthus whom Damon calls 'the mortal flesh.'  She degrades sexual experience to mere physicality, as is appropriate for the new materialistic philosophy of Bacon and Newton.  

Europe, Plate 13, (E 65) 
"The red limb'd Angel siez'd, in horror and torment;
The Trump of the last doom; but he could not blow the iron tube!
Thrice he assay'd presumptuous to awake the dead to Judgment.

A mighty Spirit leap'd from the land of Albion,
Nam'd Newton; he siez'd the Trump, & blow'd the enormous blast!  
Yellow as leaves of Autumn the myriads of Angelic hosts,
Fell thro' the wintry skies seeking their graves;
Rattling their hollow bones in howling and lamentation.

    Then Enitharmon woke, nor knew that she had slept
And eighteen hundred years were fled                             
As if they had not been
She calld her sons & daughters
To the sports of night,
Within her crystal house;
And thus her song proceeds.                                      

Arise Ethinthus! tho' the earth-worm call;
Let him call in vain;
Till the night of holy shadows
And human solitude is past!"
Here is a longer quote from the play cited by Cumberland in the inscription:

The Two Noble Kinsmen, ACT 2. SC. 2
William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
"Like proud Seas under us: our good Swords now
(Better the red-eyd god of war nev'r wore)
Ravishd our sides, like age must run to rust,
And decke the Temples of those gods that hate us:
These hands shall never draw'em out like lightning,
To blast whole Armies more.
No, Palamon,
Those hopes are Prisoners with us; here we are
And here the graces of our youthes must wither
Like a too-timely Spring; here age must finde us,
And, which is heaviest, Palamon, unmarried;
The sweete embraces of a loving wife,
Loden with kisses, armd with thousand Cupids
Shall never claspe our neckes, no issue know us,
No figures of our selves shall we ev'r see,
To glad our age, and like young Eagles teach 'em
Boldly to gaze against bright armes, and say:
'Remember what your fathers were, and conquer.'
The faire-eyd Maides, shall weepe our Banishments,
And in their Songs, curse ever-blinded fortune,
Till shee for shame see what a wrong she has done
To youth and nature.  This is all our world;
We shall know nothing here but one another,
Heare nothing but the Clocke that tels our woes.
The Vine shall grow, but we shall never see it:
Sommer shall come, and with her all delights;
But dead-cold winter must inhabite here still."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


British Museum
Plate 14, Copy D
Perhaps we should take our first clue as to the meaning of Plate 14 of Europe from the inscriptions. What Blake intends to describe can be symbolized by being imprisoned in a dungeon. The images on the of webs and spiders, insects flying and crawling everywhere, give the impression of a dark, damp dungeon. Doubly trapped is the woman enclosed in a net asking for help from above. Above the image is the word "Dungeon." Below the image Cumberland has written lines from Dryden's opera libretto King Arthur. The passage can be found in Bysshe's The art of English Poetry.
"Them to a Dungeons depth I sent, fast bound, Where stow'd with snakes and adders now they lodge, 
The rats brush oer their faces with their tails, And croaking Paddocks [frogs or toads] crawl upon thier limbs. 

With the help of David Erdman's Blake: Prophet Against Empire, the imagery of Plate 14 becomes clearer. Much of this information is found in Chapter 9, Seeking the Trump of Doom, particularly pages 212-218.

On Plate 14 Blake has used historical data to provide the framework for his commentary on the human condition. A proclamation was issued by England's George III in cooperation with his prime minister William Pitt in 1792 against 'divers wicked and seditious writings.' Pitt was able to force the Chancellor Thurlow from his position because of his mild criticism of this proclamation. 

Blake both concealed and revealed his reaction to the Proclamation on Plate 14 of Europe. Erdman tells us that when Blake wrote the following lines he was referring to the dismissal of Chancellor Thurlow by Pitt from his position which included Keeper of the Seal and Guardian of the King's Conscience.

"Above the rest the howl was heard from Westminster louder & louder:
The Guardian of the secret codes forsook his ancient mansion,"  
Blake also is referring to Thurlow when he mentions 'furr'd robes & false locks' which were removed before 'he fled Groveling along Great George Street thro' the Park gate.'

Erdman tells us that, "Historians agree with Blake that this Proclamation began England's 'black era of reaction and coercion'" (Page 216). The Proclamation was issued a second time in 1794 linking it to a formal calling out of the militia . Blake's allusion to these circumstances is contained in these words:

"The youth of England hid in gloom curse the paind heavens; compell'd         
Into the deadly night to see the form of Albions Angel
Their parents brought them forth & aged ignorance preaches canting,
On a vast rock, perciev'd by those senses that are clos'd from thought:"
Blake considered that the combination of suppression of speech, and the dedication of troops and weaponry to an undeclared war, represented the intention of the government to restrict liberty and confine England in an unpleasant dungeon not of her choosing.     

The restrictions and deprivations which the people endured were reflected back upon the government which decreed them. The king was caught between the false rationality of Urizen's fearfulness and the demand for change from fiery Orc. His refuge was retreat into the despair of his own periodic mental illness.

Europe, Plate 12, (E 64)
"And the clouds & fires pale rolld round in the night of Enitharmon
Round Albions cliffs & Londons walls; still Enitharmon slept!
Rolling volumes of grey mist involve Churches, Palaces, Towers:
For Urizen unclaspd his Book: feeding his soul with pity
The youth of England hid in gloom curse the paind heavens; compell'd         
Into the deadly night to see the form of Albions Angel
Their parents brought them forth & aged ignorance preaches canting,
On a vast rock, perciev'd by those senses that are clos'd from thought:
Bleak, dark, abrupt, it stands & overshadows London city
They saw his boney feet on the rock, the flesh consum'd in flames:        
They saw the Serpent temple lifted above, shadowing the Island white:
They heard the voice of Albions Angel howling in flames of Orc,
Seeking the trump of the last doom

Above the rest the howl was heard from Westminster louder & louder:
The Guardian of the secret codes forsook his ancient mansion,    
Driven out by the flames of Orc; his furr'd robes & false locks
Adhered and grew one with his flesh, and nerves & veins shot thro' them
With dismal torment sick hanging upon the wind: he fled
Groveling along Great George Street thro' the Park gate; all the soldiers
Fled from his sight; he drag'd his torments to the wilderness.   

Thus was the howl thro Europe!
For Orc rejoic'd to hear the howling shadows
But Palamabron shot his lightnings trenching down his wide back
And Rintrah hung with all his legions in the nether deep

Enitharmon laugh'd in her sleep to see (O womans triumph)        
Every house a den, every man bound; the shadows are filld
With spectres, and the windows wove over with curses of iron:
Over the doors Thou shalt not; & over the chimneys Fear is written:
With bands of iron round their necks fasten'd into the walls
The citizens: in leaden gyves the inhabitants of suburbs         
Walk heavy: soft and bent are the bones of villagers

Between the clouds of Urizen the flames of Orc roll heavy
Around the limbs of Albions Guardian, his flesh consuming.
Howlings & hissings, shrieks & groans, & voices of despair
Arise around him in the cloudy   
Heavens of Albion, Furious"
Blake returnd to the incident of Thurlow's dismissal in Milton:

Milton, Plate 8, (E 102)
"Michael contended against Satan in the rolling thunder
Thulloh the friend of Satan also reprovd him; faint their reproof.

But Rintrah who is of the reprobate: of those form'd to destruction
In indignation. for Satans soft dissimulation of friendship!  
Flam'd above all the plowed furrows, angry red and furious,
Till Michael sat down in the furrow weary  dissolv'd in tears
Satan who drave the team beside him, stood angry & red
He smote Thulloh & slew him, & he stood terrible over Michael
Urging him to arise: he wept! Enitharmon saw his tears         
But Los hid Thulloh from her sight, lest she should die of grief
She wept: she trembled! she kissed Satan; she wept over Michael
She form'd a Space for Satan & Michael & for the poor infected[.]
Trembling she wept over the Space, & clos'd it with a tender Moon

Los secret buried Thulloh, weeping disconsolate over the moony Space     

But Palamabron called down a Great Solemn Assembly,
That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelled to
Defend a Lie, that he may be snared & caught & taken"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The inscription added by Cumberland reads:

"Papal [or Pagan], Superstition"

British Museum
Plate 13, Copy D
The image on Plate 13 of Copy D of Europe may strike you as amusing, shocking or mystifying. The figure on the throne bears the likeness of George III who was head of both church and state during his reign (1760-1820). Blake has created a parody of the leader to show the failures of the state and religion to meet the needs of the people whom it was their charge to protect and guide. The king has accepted the false assumptions of the prevailing culture which resisted the possibility of developing an honest, just, creative and inclusive society. The false reasoning of Urizen's book of accusation, judgement and punishment was replicated and executed unmercifully. Man suffered under the influence of the rigid, unforgiving, self-righteous attitudes epitomized in the hardness and darkness of the Stone of Night.    
Apparently the two winged figures are not what they masquerade as. In Copy K in the Fitzwilliam Museum their serpent forms emerge from the bottom of their gowns. It is most obvious in Copy K, too, that the wings of the 'angelic' beings (the Elect) support the flawed ruler of church and state, and that he rises out of the cloud of their thought.

Europe, Plate 11, (E 64)
"Albions Angel rose upon the Stone of Night.                  
He saw Urizen on the Atlantic;
And his brazen Book,
That Kings & Priests had copied on Earth
Expanded from North to South." 
Blake has much more to say about the damage done by the unholy alliance between church and state, the flavor of which can be found in these passages:

Song of Los, Plate 6, (E 68)
"The Kings of Asia heard
The howl rise up from Europe!
And each ran out from his Web;
From his ancient woven Den;
For the darkness of Asia was startled                  
At the thick-flaming, thought-creating fires of Orc.

And the Kings of Asia stood
And cried in bitterness of soul.

Shall not the King call for Famine from the heath?
Nor the Priest, for Pestilence from the fen?            
To restrain! to dismay! to thin!
The inhabitants of mountain and plain;
In the day, of full-feeding prosperity;
And the night of delicious songs.

Shall not the Councellor throw his curb               
Of Poverty on the laborious?
To fix the price of labour;
To invent allegoric riches:

And the privy admonishers of men
Call for fires in the City                           
For heaps of smoking ruins,
In the night of prosperity & wantonness
To turn man from his path,
To restrain the child from the womb,"
Annotations to Watson, (E 615)
  "The Bible or Peculiar Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience
or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the
Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may
converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house" 

Annotations to Bacon, (E 620) 
"Is it True or is it False that the Wisdom of this World is
Foolishness with God
     This is Certain   If what Bacon says Is True what Christ
says Is False   If Caesar is Right Christ is Wrong both in
Politics & Religion since they will divide them in Two"

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 25, (E 45)
" Let the Priests of the Raven of dawn, no longer in deadly
black, with hoarse note curse the sons of joy.  Nor his accepted
brethren whom, tyrant, he calls free; lay the bound or build the
roof.  Nor pale religious letchery call that virginity, that
wishes but acts not!
  For every thing that lives is Holy"

Saturday, November 8, 2014


British Museum
Plate 12, Copy D
In losing sight of the infinite, mankind follows the serpent out of paradise into a world which is finite and temporal. The unbounded becomes circumscribed by limits. Although everything has been altered there is no memory of another state of being. Our challenge is to find an exit from the prison of our own minds which is represented by the serpent which encloses the infinite in the finite.

If the serpent is seen as the trap which operates internally, the Stone of Night may be seen as solidified external world which traps man in a natural world which he struggles futilely to control. In the Night of man's journey through time he encounters many stones: the stone tablets, the stone sealing Jesus's tomb, Albion's couch of death, the cornerstone which secures the foundation, the stone altar of sacrifice, and the stone of stumbling, among others.

As the Covering Cherub consolidates all the error which originates in the serpent, the Stone of Night consolidates the obstructions which result from the closing of the man's ability to use his organs of Spiritual Perception.

Annotations to Berkley, (E 664)
"The Natural Body is an Obstruction to the Soul or Spiritual Body"
Europe, Plate 10, (E 63) 
"In thoughts perturb'd, they rose from the bright ruins silent following     
The fiery King, who sought his ancient temple serpent-form'd
That stretches out its shady length along the Island white.
Round him roll'd his clouds of war; silent the Angel went,
Along the infinite shores of Thames to golden Verulam.           
There stand the venerable porches that high-towering rear
Their oak-surrounded pillars, form'd of massy stones, uncut
With tool; stones precious; such eternal in the heavens,
Of colours twelve, few known on earth, give light in the opake,
Plac'd in the order of the stars, when the five senses whelm'd   
In deluge o'er the earth-born man; then turn'd the fluxile eyes
Into two stationary orbs, concentrating all things.
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.

Now arriv'd the ancient Guardian at the southern porch,
That planted thick with trees of blackest leaf, & in a vale

Obscure, inclos'd the Stone of Night; oblique it stood, o'erhung
With purple flowers and berries red; image of that sweet south,
Once open to the heavens and elevated on the human neck,
Now overgrown with hair and coverd with a stony roof,
Downward 'tis sunk beneath th' attractive north, that round the feet        
A raging whirlpool draws the dizzy enquirer to his grave:"
Harold Bloom's Blake's Apocalypse enlightens us on implications of the fall of man as delineated on Plate 12 of Europe.  

"If man falls, then his four principal relationships fall with him. These relationships are to his world, to his body, to other men, and to his own past and future. The thought of fallen man alters his space and time even as it has confined his apprehensions and marred his sense of brotherhood with other men. Unfallen, according to Blake, we are our bodies, fallen we have them, and finally we are possessed and imprisoned by them. The world is human until we fall, but then becomes the hostile 'forest of the night' in which the Bard of Experience encountered his Tyger. The pre-reflective time of Eternity, like the pre-reflective space of Infinity, becomes the Druid Serpent of fallen nature. Reflection turns the Prolific, 'that which pitieth' in unfallen human brotherhood, into the devouring flame of Angelic charity, the pity dependent on making someone poorer and less happy than ourselves. The final result is the phenomenal perspective that leads to Deism; man in a 'finite wall of flesh' rolling on a little earth 'in circles of Space,' and doomed to be 'shut up in finite revolutions,' this last word being used ironically, for Blake already understands the cyclic nature of political revolutions. The final consequence is the culmination of error; we are left with Angels (in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell sense), with Heaven as a recurrent circle of destiny, and with God as Urizen." (Page 156)  

These passages from the Book of Urizen and from Milton further explain implications of the fall:

Book of Urizen, Plate 4, (E 92)
"6: The Immortal revolving; indignant
First in wrath threw his limbs, like the babe
New born into our world: wrath subsided
And contemplative thoughts first arose                          
Then aloft his head rear'd in the Abyss
And his downward-borne fall. chang'd oblique

7: Many ages of groans: till there grew
Branchy forms. organizing the Human
Into finite inflexible organs.                                   

8: Till in process from falling he bore
Sidelong on the purple air, wafting
The weak breeze in efforts oerwearied

9: Incessant the falling Mind labour'd
Organizing itself: till the Vacuum                               
Became element, pliant to rise,
Or to fall, or to swim, or to fly:
With ease searching the dire vacuity"

Milton, Plate 10 [11], (E 104)
"The nature of a Female Space is this: it shrinks the Organs
Of Life till they become Finite & Itself seems Infinite.

And Satan vibrated in the immensity of the Space! Limited
To those without but Infinite to those within: it fell down and
Became Canaan: closing Los from Eternity in Albions Cliffs     
A mighty Fiend against the Divine Humanity mustring to War"

Thursday, November 6, 2014


British Museum
Plate 11, Copy D
Cumberland's inscription on Plate 11 of Europe, Copy D:  
"Mildews blighting ears of Corn."
The dream world is not the real world. Our minds create the dream world out of scraps of experiences, memories, emotions, and unresolved agendas. Enitharmon's world, although it may seem real to her, is constructed of such fragments to create an illusion. Blake's point is that there is a real world which is other the Enitharmon's dream.
To Blake the events of history occupy this shadowy world of illusion from which he would like to disassociate himself as he indicates in these exerts from his statement known as the Public Address:
Public Address, (E 579)  "PAGE 18  I am really sorry to see my Countrymen trouble themselves about Politics. If Men were Wise the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them If they are not Wise the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny. Princes appear to me to be Fools Houses of Commons & Houses of Lords appear to me to be fools they seem to me to be something Else besides Human Life" 
Public Address, (E 580)
"PAGE 20
     The wretched state of the Arts in this Country & in Europe
originating in the Wretched State of Political Science which is
the Science of Sciences Demands a firm & determinate conduct on
the part of Artists to Resist the Contemptible Counter Arts
Established by Such contemptible
Politicians as Louis XIV & originally set on foot
by Venetian Picture traders Music traders & Rhime traders to the
destruction of all true art as it is this Day.  To recover Art
has been the business of my life to the Florentine Original & if
possible to go beyond that Original  this I thought the only
pursuit worthy of a Man."
The blight pictured on Plate 11 of copy D of Europe, is set into motion by fairies blowing into serpentine trumpets. We are reminded by Erdman in The Illuminated Blake, that the scale of the picture is determined by the grains of wheat or barley. The suggestion is that contributing to the woes of man, are elemental forces in nature which begin chains of actions which lead to disasters. 
Blake's irony on this plate is that he pictures fairies spreading blight, and writes of the politics of war in 18th century England. It is the readers job to determine a connection between the two. What we see will be determined by our Perceptive Organs.
Jerusalem, Plate 30 [34], (E 177)
"Los rolled, his Eyes into two narrow circles, then sent him
Over Jordan; all terrified fled: they became what they beheld.

If Perceptive Organs vary: Objects of Perception seem to vary:  
If the Perceptive Organs close: their Objects seem to close also:" 

Europe, Plate 9, (E 63)
"Enitharmon slept,                                                
Eighteen hundred years: Man was a Dream!
The night of Nature and their harps unstrung:
She slept in middle of her nightly song,
Eighteen hundred years, a female dream!

Shadows of men in fleeting bands upon the winds:  
Divide the heavens of Europe:
Till Albions Angel smitten with his own plagues fled with his bands
The cloud bears hard on Albions shore:                           
Fill'd with immortal demons of futurity:
In council gather the smitten Angels of Albion
The cloud bears hard upon the council house; down rushing
On the heads of Albions Angels.

One hour they lay buried beneath the ruins of that hall;
But as the stars rise from the salt lake they arise in pain,     
In troubled mists o'erclouded by the terrors of strugling times."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


British Museum
Plate 10, Copy D
Orc, as revolution, can be analyzed into four segments: Palamabron (pity for the victims), Rintrah (just wrath), Bromion (impulse) and Theotormon (conformity). The violent destructiveness of revolution would fall into the province of Rintrah.

The text of Plate 10 of Europe addresses the role that Rintrah is asked to play as revolution develops in response the multiple infractions of the interests of the populace. Rintrah can assemble his forces to present a formidable army of destruction. The inscription added by Cumberland emphasizes the unintended consequences of allowing war to erupt.

The positive change which may be brought about by revolution is resisted by those interested in preserving the status quo. The picture presents the desire to prevent the outbreak of violence by those under threat, and by the forces of order which are committed to preserving the rule of law. The bearded man may represent any of various characters who resist change but one of them is Urizen, the perpetual conservative.   

Europe, Plate 8, (E 62) 
"Arise O Rintrah eldest born: second to none but Orc:
O lion Rintrah raise thy fury from thy forests black:
Bring Palamabron horned priest, skipping upon the mountains:
And silent Elynittria the silver bowed queen:
Rintrah where hast thou hid thy bride!                           
Weeps she in desart shades?
Alas my Rintrah! bring the lovely jealous Ocalythron.

Arise my son! bring all thy brethren O thou king of fire.
Prince of the sun I see thee with thy innumerable race:
Thick as the summer stars:                                       
But each ramping his golden mane shakes,
And thine eyes rejoice because of strength O Rintrah furious king."

Cumberland's inscription is quoted from Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry. The passage is from Virgil's The Aeneid translated by John Dryden.

"Thus Deluges descending on the Plains
Sweep o'er the yellow year &c,

The Aeneid of Virgil: Book II
[Aeneas observing Troy]
"Fear broke my slumbers; I no longer stay,
But mount the terrace, thence the town survey,
And hearken what the frightful sounds convey.
Thus, when a flood of fire by wind is borne,
Crackling it rolls, and mows the standing corn;
Or deluges, descending on the plains,
Sweep o'er the yellow year, destroy the pains
Of lab'ring oxen and the peasant's gains;
Unroot the forest oaks, and bear away
Flocks, folds, and trees, and undistinguish'd prey:
The shepherd climbs the cliff, and sees from far
The wasteful ravage of the wat'ry war."