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

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan
  {90} CHR. But what is it that made you so afraid of this sight?
MAN. Why, I thought that the day of judgement was come, and that I was not ready for it: but this frighted me most, that the angels gathered up several, and left me behind; also the pit of hell opened her mouth just where I stood. My conscience, too, afflicted me; and, as I thought, the Judge had always his eye upon me, shewing indignation in his countenance.
{91} Then said the Interpreter to Christian, Hast thou considered all these things?
CHR. Yes, and they put me in hope and fear.  
INTER. Well, keep all things so in thy mind that they may be as a goad in thy sides, to prick thee forward in the way thou must go. Then Christian began to gird up his loins, and to address himself to his journey. Then said the Interpreter, The Comforter be always with thee, good Christian, to guide thee in the way that leads to the City. So Christian went on his way, saying--
"Here I have seen things rare and profitable; Things pleasant, dreadful, things to make me stable In what I have begun to take in hand; Then let me think on them, and understand Wherefore they showed me were, and let me be Thankful, O good Interpreter, to thee."
{92} Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. [Isa. 26:1] Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.
{93} He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
{94} Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart, "He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death." Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks." 

Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 14 Christian at the Cross
Although this incident of Pilgrim encountering the cross is not the midpoint of Bunyan's story, Blake makes it the fourteenth of his twenty-eight illustrations and the turning point of the Pilgrim's journey. Christian has received instructions from the Interpreter including an introduction to a dreaming man obsessed with a consciousness of his sinfulness. Christian still carries strapped to his back his own burden of sin from which he has not found release. The cross that Christian sees in Pilgrim's Progress appears in Blake's image as a vision of Christ Crucified. To Blake it is the experience of Christ as an inner presence whose healing power can wipe away the remembrance of sin that frees the Pilgrim from his burden.

Gerda Norvig states that this drawing is of "the experience of conversion" and that it represents "altered perception." She sees that Blake is dramatizing Christian's "shift of consciousness." 
On page 169 she states:
"Blake, however, takes the lines in the text describing Christian's attitude of wonder as a reference to the way a visionary imagination endows ephemeral
Yale center for British Art

Plate 76
objects with archetypal significance and that, of course, is by observing them with the altered eye of 'spiritual sensation' ... seeing the object's inner image...Here, then, we see that Christian sees not the apparent surface of the cross, but its personified, symbolic center. And this act of Christian vision is the vision: a resurrection of imaginative awareness conforming to the image of the risen Son of Man." 

The centrality of the cross to Blake leads him to picture Pilgrim's experience as reflective of Albion's encounter with Jesus as pictured on Plate 76 of Jerusalem. Albion's outstretched arms are a reminder that individuals participate in the crucifixion with Christ and enter a new relationship with God and their brothers. Blake pictures Christian, knowing at a deep level that he is forgiven, has had his imagination cleansed from the stain of sin and has been released to the 'supreme delight' of fourfold vision.
Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Albion said. O Lord what can I do! my Selfhood cruel
Marches against thee deceitful from Sinai & from Edom
Into the Wilderness of Judah to meet thee in his pride       
I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years
Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones & gold
I know it is my Self. O my Divine Creator & Redeemer

Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me            
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not

So Jesus spoke! the Covering Cherub coming on in darkness
Overshadowd them & Jesus said Thus do Men in Eternity
One for another to put off by forgiveness, every sin

Albion replyd. Cannot Man exist without Mysterious          
Offering of Self for Another, is this Friendship & Brotherhood
I see thee in the likeness & similitude of Los my Friend

Jesus said. Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee or ever die for one who had not died for thee
And if God dieth not for Man & giveth not himself           
Eternally for Man Man could not exist. for Man is Love:
As God is Love: every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood

So saying. the Cloud overshadowing divided them asunder
Albion stood in terror: not for himself but for his Friend     
Divine, & Self was lost in the contemplation of faith
And wonder at the Divine Mercy & at Los's sublime honour

Do I sleep amidst danger to Friends! O my Cities & Counties
Do you sleep! rouze up! rouze up. Eternal Death is abroad

So Albion spoke & threw himself into the Furnaces of affliction 
All was a Vision, all a Dream: the Furnaces became
Fountains of Living Waters flowing from the Humanity Divine"

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