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

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"

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