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

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

Christian Reading His Book
Don't go to Greda Norvig's book Dark Figures in the Desired Country looking for light reading. If you are willing to be challenged by her intellect, her vocabulary and her psychological perceptions, you will be rewarded with insights that are as astounding as they are nourishing. In this passage she is using Blake's engraving techniques to present the relationship of what 'is' and 'what seems to be.' 
Quoting from page 59 of Norvig's book on Blake's Illustrations to The Pilgrims Progress:

"But life as it is here and now can be known to be 'infinite and holy' as soon as distinctions between body and soul, medium and message, 'sensual enjoyment' and spiritual understanding, are recognized as expendable. Achieving such a visionary perspective is clearly not a matter of wresting a precept from an image. On the contrary, Blake's whole effort spent on encouraging trust in the immanent wisdom of observable form. For him, things are literally 'metaphors' of vision, designed to 'carry over' the imaginal archetypes they embody or express. One's attitude toward things, as toward the process of embodiment or ensouling, may need correction; but the problem is perceptual not ontological. So the 'infernal method' of etching on copper is intended to exemplify and to involve the participant in a process of sudden apprehension of surface truth, an apprehension that carries  the certitude of revelation and no need of 'corporeal' explication. Just the reverse of Bunyan's formal strategy of recession, it reflects a coming-forth procedure. Every encounter with Blake's acid-forged forms is meant as a mutual epiphany, a friendship through the eye on the plane of appearance, between the deep structures of the spectator's psyche and the content displayed. The pun on the word apparent, in the phrase 'melting apparent surfaces away,' tells the story. For Blake real surfaces were made apparent (visible) by the elimination of apparent (seeming) surfaces. But the images of truth do not hide as ideas behind a false appearance in his conception, nor do they exist in contradiction to 'apparent surfaces.' Rather, Blake makes his vision of the infinite lift out of the everyday by emphatically affirming their concrete substantiality. Through the 'infernal method,' his printed language of forms - visual and verbal combined - a spiritual body is literally raised. There is a concept of redemption here, both of the spirit and of the body, both of the form and of the inward meaning - the 'infernal state' - of the form."

Jerusalem, Plate 32 [36], (E 179)
 "Art & Science cannot exist but by Naked Beauty displayd

Then those in Great Eternity who contemplate on Death            
Said thus. What seems to Be: Is: To those to whom
It seems to Be, & is productive of the most dreadful
Consequences to those to whom it seems to Be: even of
Torments, Despair, Eternal Death; but the Divine Mercy
Steps beyond and Redeems Man in the Body of Jesus Amen           
And Length Bredth Highth again Obey the Divine Vision Hallelujah"

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 14, (E 39)
   "The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire
at the  end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from
   For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to 
leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole 
creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas
it now  appears finite & corrupt.
   This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
   But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his
soul, is to  be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the
infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and
medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the
infinite which was hid.
   If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite.
   For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
narrow chinks of his cavern.
Plate 15
                            A Memorable Fancy

   I was in a Printing house in Hell & saw the method in which
knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
   In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the
rubbish from a caves mouth; within, a number of Dragons were
hollowing the  cave, 
   In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock & the 
cave, and others adorning it with gold silver and precious
   In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air, 
he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite, around were
numbers  of Eagle like men, who built palaces in the immense
   In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire raging around
&  melting the metals into living fluids.
   In the fifth chamber were Unnam'd forms, which cast the metals 
into the expanse.
   There they were reciev'd by Men who occupied the sixth
chamber,  and took the forms of books & were arranged in

Post on Printing House.

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