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

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

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