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

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.


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