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

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."

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