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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Kathleen Raine's segment in the book Jungian Literary Criticism edited by Richard P. Sugg, was written as she looked back on a long and productive life of studying and writing. She acknowledges that her study of Blake was enhanced by the insights developed by Jung's psychology. Her chapter, beginning on Page 167, points out several similarities between the thought of Blake and Jung. As a Blake scholar she titles her article: C. G. Jung: A Debt Acknowledged.

Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
"In  retrospect I realize that the shortcoming of my own work on Blake - the tracing of the many sources within the excluded tradition which I have called "the learning of the Imagination" - was that which is inherent in all modern scholarship I did not experience and explore that world imaginatively, as Blake did, and as Jung did, but in terms of academic 'history of ideas' and 'sources' and 'influences': in exploring the writings of Jakob Boehme, the Neoplatonists, alchemists, and the rest, I didn't enter those regions of the imagination as these were inhabited and explored by cabbalists, mystics, and visionaries themselves. True, I wrote of these with the assumption that their view of reality was really the truth itself, not an old cosmology superseded by modern science. These were regions of knowledge likely to be rediscovered with the change of premises now taking place in the West, belatedly and uneasily awakening from three centuries of domination by materialist ideologies. I was even impassioned in my advocacy of the universe of thought opening before me with every volume I studied in those happy days in the North Library, but I made little effort to live my thought. Certainly I made interesting and useful discoveries of some of Blake's sources - mainly Neoplatonic - and insofar a I did, uncovered affinities with regions of experience - I will not say 'schools of thought,' for the affinities are of a deeper and a different kind from what is comprised under the term 'history of ideas' - neglected by orthodoxy.
In such inner explorations I was only intermittently and superficially engaged. But Jung understood 'knowledge' - as Boehme and Blake and all mystics, cabbalists, Gnostics, holy men, and indeed true poets and musicians, and all who enter into the realms of the imagination - as the thing itself and not book-learning about those living regions. Jung placed in our hands the key that leads into Blake's 'bosom of God, the Human Imagination.' But many continue to read books and to write them about these realities rather than confronting them and themselves venturing into those regions that Jung, like Blake, invites us to explore. My own work on 'sources' and affinities, whatever its value to students, was no more than a signpost to those seeking that reality itself.
The transforming influence on Western Civilization of Christendom has been wonderful indeed, and the flowering of the arts that accompanied the Christian vision testifies to the reality of the vision itself. But being myself in my eightieth year, neither 'art or 'religion' any longer concerns me as ends in themselves but, like the images of dreams, I see them as traces of the passage of the sacred reality itself - of 'Thought's eternal flight.' [Shelley]
Page 176

Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 147)
"Trembling I sit day and night, my friends are astonish'd at me.
Yet they forgive my wanderings, I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination        
O Saviour pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness & love:
Annihilate the Selfhood in me, be thou all my life!
Guide thou my hand which trembles exceedingly upon the rock of ages,
While I write of the building of Golgonooza, & of the terrors of Entuthon:
Of Hand & Hyle & Coban, of Kwantok, Peachey, Brereton, Slayd & Hutton:
Of the terrible sons & daughters of Albion. and their Generations."
Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 258)
"every Word & Every Character
Was Human according to the Expansion or Contraction, the Translucence or
Opakeness of Nervous fibres such was the variation of Time & Space
Which vary according as the Organs of Perception vary & they walked
To & fro in Eternity as One Man reflecting each in each & clearly seen
And seeing: according to fitness & order. And I heard Jehovah speak 
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah."
Vision of Last Judgment,(E 560)
"If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow or
into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of one of these
Images of wonder which always intreats him to leave mortal things
as he must know then would he arise from his Grave then would he
meet the Lord in the Air & then he would be happy" 
With Illustrations to Gray's Poems, (E 483)  
"To Mrs Ann Flaxman                    
A little Flower grew in a lonely Vale
Its form was lovely but its colours. pale
One standing in the Porches of the Sun
When his Meridian Glories were begun
Leapd from the steps of fire & on the grass      
Alighted where this little flower was
With hands divine he movd the gentle Sod
And took the Flower up in its native Clod
Then planting it upon a Mountains brow
'Tis your own fault if you dont flourish now     

                           WILLIAM BLAKE"  

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Imagination in the mental realm, and art in the physical realm occupied the pinnacle of human aspiration in the view of Blake. He felt that the finest minds should be devoted to producing works which elevate humanity to achieving the maximum of his potential development. It disturbed Blake that some of the artists and authors who had received the greatest gifts for expressing themselves, had devoted their talents to lesser enterprises. Blake undoubtedly admired Homer but he missed in Homer the ability to be a vehicle through whom God spoke as he spoke through Old and New Testament prophets.
The substance for Blake was the dynamic of bringing together of portions of the psyche which had been divided. War is not only outward conflict, but also the unresolved divisions within the mind. If the Greeks elevated war as the appropriate way to resolve conflicting interests, they led mankind to a lower level of consciousness. The higher consciousness draws man into a vision of completeness within himself and with his brother who appears to be different. 
Blake showed in the Arlington Tempera the teaching of Homer which was most compatible to his own thinking. It shows how mankind progresses by going through a cycle of falling asleep as he forgets higher truth, and awakening after having learned through experiencing the world of matter. Progress is not made by defeating an enemy but by finding within oneself the ability to incorporate the not-self into the self.

Wikimedia Commons
This freestanding plate was engraved in 1822 the year after Blake painted the Arlington Tempera. Blake withheld unqualified admiration from Homer and Virgil because they did not reject aspects of their cultures which perpetrated war and empire.
"Every Poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homers is
peculiarly so, I cannot tell: he has told the story of
Bellerophon & omitted the judgment of Paris which is not only a
part, but a principal part of Homers subject
  But when a Work has Unity it is as much in a Part as in the
Whole. the Torso is as much a Unity as the Laocoon
  As Unity is the cloke of folly so Goodness is the cloke of
knavery  Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out
with a Moral like a sting in the tail: Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do
with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are
Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree
still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is
its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.
  It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral Goodness
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil.
  The Classics, it is the Classics! & not Goths nor Monks, that
Desolate Europe with Wars.                                                            

ON VIRGIL                                      
Sacred Truth has pronounced that Greece & Rome as Babylon &
Egypt: so far from being parents of Arts & Sciences as they
pretend: were destroyers of all Art.  Homer Virgil & Ovid confirm
this opinion & make us reverence The Word of God, the only light
of antiquity that remains unperverted by War.  Virgil in the
Eneid Book VI. line 848 says Let others study Art: Rome has
somewhat better to do, namely War & Dominion
  Rome & Greece swept Art into their maw & destroyd it     a
Warlike State never can produce Art.  It will Rob & Plunder &
accumulate into one place, & Translate & Copy & Buy & Sell &
Criticise, but not Make.
  Mathematic Form is Eternal in the Reasoning Memory.  Living
Form is Eternal Existence.
  Grecian is Mathematic Form
  Gothic is Living Form" 
Our blog has 23 posts labeled Arlington Tempera. Here is one which may shed some light. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Blake's attitude toward Greek and Roman literature and culture was ambivalent. Kathleen Raine tells us in Blake and Antiquity:
"The first evidence of Blake's reading of Porphyry appears in the Book of Thel, written in 1787, thirty -two years before he painted the Arlington Tempera... But once Blake had set his soul to study in a learned school, with Thomas Taylor and the Platonic philosophers, he quickly became master of a coherent symbolic system which he handled with ever-increasing scope and freedom.
Not only did neo-Platonism give him a vocabulary and grammar of symbolic terms; it placed him in the mainstream of European poetic and pictorial symbolism. From his reading of Porphyry and Plotinus he came to recognize in the works of poets already known to him the same symbols, endlessly recreated and re-clothed in beautiful forms. Thus he was able to extend his field of allusion and to introduce themes and images taken from many sources, without destroying the unity of his symbolic structure." (Page 17)
Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Christian and Hopeful Escape Giant Despair

In 1809, describing his large painting of the Ancient Britons which was included his Exhibition at his brother's shop, Blake indicates that his three principle figures are recreations of characters portrayed by the ancients. Although the painting to which Blake referred is lost, we can see how Blake portrayed Apollo, Hercules and the Dancing Fawn by looking at images from antiquity. He referred back to portrayals of Greek gods with which he was familiar and later he projected forward when illustrating authors whom he admired.

Blake sees the characters who people myths as archetypal. His aim is to represent the same archetypal truth which the masters of antiquity displayed. When he places images from the pictorial vocabulary of Greece in his illustrations to Milton's Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity, illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress or to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, he connects his reader/viewer to a more complete context. However Blake's attitudes to the values demonstrated by the Greek gods and heroes changed over time: his Dancing Fawn (as Puck) doesn't resemble the Ugly Man he described in his Catalogue; his Hercules (as the Giant Despair) is not the Strong Man of his earlier description.

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 544)
 "His opinions, who does not see spiritual agency, is
not worth any man's reading; he who rejects a fact because it is
improbable, must reject all History and retain doubts only.
  It has been said to the Artist, take the Apollo for the
model of your beautiful Man and the Hercules for your strong Man,
and the Dancing Fawn for your Ugly Man.  Now he comes to his
trial.  He knows that what he does is not inferior to the
grandest Antiques.  Superior they cannot be, for human power
cannot go beyond either what he does, or what they have done, it
is the gift of God, it is inspiration and vision.  He had
resolved to emulate those precious remains of antiquity,
he has done so and the result you behold; his ideas of strength
and beauty have not been greatly different.  Poetry as it exists
now on earth, in the various remains of ancient authors, Music as
it exists in old tunes or melodies, Painting and Sculpture as it
exists in the remains of Antiquity and in the works of more
modern genius, is Inspiration, and cannot be surpassed; it is
perfect and eternal.  Milton, Shakspeare, Michael Angelo, Rafael,
the finest specimens of Ancient Sculpture and Painting, and
Architecture, Gothic, Grecian, Hindoo and Egyptian, are the
extent of the human mind.  The human mind cannot go beyond the
gift of God, the Holy Ghost.  To suppose that Art can go beyond
the finest specimens of Art that are now in the world, is not
knowing what Art is; it is being blind to the gifts of the
  It will be necessary for the Painter to say
something concerning his ideas of Beauty, Strength and Ugliness.
  The Beauty that is annexed and appended to folly, is a
lamentable accident and error of the mortal and perishing life;
it does but seldom happen; but with this unnatural mixture the
sublime Artist can have nothing to do; it is fit for the
burlesque.  The Beauty proper for sublime art, is lineaments, or
forms and features that are capable of being the receptacles of
intellect; accordingly the Painter has given in his beautiful
man, his own idea of intellectual Beauty.  The face and limbs
that deviates or alters least, from infancy to old age, is the
face and limbs of greatest Beauty and perfection.
  The Ugly likewise, when accompanied and annexed to
imbecility and disease, is a subject for burlesque and not for
historical grandeur; the Artist has imagined his Ugly man; one 
approaching to the
beast in features and form, his forehead small, without frontals; 
his jaws large; his nose high on the ridge, and narrow; his chest 
and the stamina of his make, comparatively little, and his joints 
and his extremities large; his eyes with scarce any whites, 
narrow and cunning, and every thing tending toward what is truly 
Ugly; the incapability of intellect.
  The Artist has considered his strong Man as a receptacle of
Wisdom, a sublime energizer; his features and limbs do not
spindle out into length, without strength, nor are they too large
and unwieldy for his brain and bosom.  Strength consists in
accumulation of power to the principal seat, and from thence a
regular gradation and subordination; strength is compactness, not
extent nor bulk.
  The strong Man acts from conscious superiority, and marches
on in fearless dependance on the divine decrees, raging with the
inspirations of a prophetic mind.  The Beautiful Man acts
from duty, and anxious solicitude for the fates of those for whom
he combats.  The Ugly Man acts from love of carnage, and delight
in the savage barbarities of war, rushing with sportive 
precipitation into the very teeth of the affrighted enemy.
  The Roman Soldiers rolled together in a heap before them:
"Like the rolling thing before the whirlwind;" each shew a
different character, and a different expression of fear, or
revenge, or envy, or blank horror, or amazement, or devout wonder
and unresisting awe.
  The dead and the dying, Britons naked, mingled with armed
Romans, strew the field beneath.  Among these, the last of the
Bards who were capable of attending warlike deeds, is seen
falling, outstretched among the dead and the dying; singing to
his harp in the pains of death."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Recently we heard a friend sing How Beautiful are the Feet from Handel's Messiah. The text is drawn from Isaiah 52 and Romans 10. Handel's text is: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"

Isaiah 52
[1] Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
[2] Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
[3] For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.
[4] For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
[5] Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.
[6] Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.
[7] How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
[8] Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
[9] Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

Romans 10
[14] How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
[15] And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
[16] But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
[17] So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

British Museum
  Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Plate 2, Copy A

These biblical passages would have carried great significance for Blake as he developed the themes which are prominent in them in his own poetry. Notice that Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem as a city and a woman just as Blake does. Blake seems to have associated the feet mentioned in these passages with the good tidings themselves and with the word of God which became known through the gospel of peace.

Blake often uses hands and feet to symbolize conditions which would exist if man were able to see the Divine Vision and place himself in service to the Lord. Like the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul, he sees the feet as instruments which allow man to enact in the world the compassionate love which he may feel in his heart, know in his mind and experience as a presence.

It would be difficult not to notice that Blake uses feet as visual symbols as well. Rarely does he picture shoes even when his figures are wearing other garments. We get the impression that the Human Form Divine requires the inclusion of naked feet to represent it: feet on which to travel; feet on which man, like his Lord, may walk for a while touching this earth.    
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 10, (E 37)
"The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the
     hands & feet Proportion." 

Milton, Plate 1, (E 96)
"We do not 
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord.

     And did those feet in ancient time,
     Walk upon Englands mountains green:
     And was the holy Lamb of God,
     On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

     And did the Countenance Divine,             
     Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
     And was Jerusalem builded here,
     Among these dark Satanic Mills?

     Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
     Bring me my Arrows of desire:                      
     Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
     Bring me my Chariot of fire!

     I will not cease from Mental Fight,
     Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
     Till we have built Jerusalem,                     
     In Englands green & pleasant Land."

Jerusalem, Plate 24, (E 170)
"Yet thou wast lovely as the summer cloud upon my hills
When Jerusalem was thy hearts desire in times of youth & love.
Thy Sons came to Jerusalem with gifts, she sent them away
With blessings on their hands & on their feet, blessings of gold,
And pearl & diamond: thy Daughters sang in her Courts:           
They came up to Jerusalem; they walked before Albion
In the Exchanges of London every Nation walkd
And London walkd in every Nation mutual in love & harmony
Albion coverd the whole Earth, England encompassd the Nations,
Mutual each within others bosom in Visions of Regeneration;      
Jerusalem coverd the Atlantic Mountains & the Erythrean,
From bright Japan & China to Hesperia France & England.
Mount Zion lifted his head in every Nation under heaven:
And the Mount of Olives was beheld over the whole Earth:
The footsteps of the Lamb of God were there: but now no more     
No more shall I behold him, he is closd in Luvahs Sepulcher."

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
"O Jesus still the Form was thine.      

  And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
  Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death"

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Found on Internet Philoctetes and Neoptolemus at Lemnos
Philoctetes had been abandoned on the desolate island of Lemnos by Ulysses on his way to the war against Troy. Philoctetes was useless as a warrior because of a festering, stinking sore on his leg as a result of a snake bite. Ten years later with the war still in progress Ulysses was warned that the Trojan War would not end without the bow of Heracles which was the possession of of Philoctetes. To retrieve the bow Ulysses took Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, to Lemnos to negotiate with Philoctetes for the use of the bow to bring the Trojan War to a close.

The details of the situation were dramatized by Sophocles in his play Philoctetes. Blake's choose to illustrate the dilemma posed by the difficulties of obtaining the instrument which Ulysses believed could put an end to the slaughter which had been going on for a decade.

In The Judgement of Paris discord had been introduced by Eris. The Greeks attributed the course of human events to be under the direction of their panoply of Gods and Goddesses. The situation in Philoctetes and Neoptolemus at Lemnos is resolved by the intervention of Heracles to whom the bow had belonged when he enjoyed an earthly life. The reconciliation brought about at Lemnos can be seen as symbolic of the efforts necessary to end not only the Trojan War but all wars.

If wars were begun and ended by the intervention of Gods, man would be absolved of responsibility. But if the Gods do not decree wars, perhaps they could be avoided by not allowing ourselves to be drawn into dissension and conflict as were the Greeks and Trojans over who should possess the Golden Apple. And perhaps wars could be ended by self-sacrifice, forgiveness, unselfishness and reconciliation, if vengeance were not sought. In the drama of Sophocles, the bow of Heracles was sought not to win the war but to end the war.   

This is the resolution of the tensions over the possession of Heracles' bow and arrows in the play by Sophocles:
Perseus Digital Library
Sophocles, Philoctetes
Robert Torrance, Ed
"Not yet, until you have heard the words
which I will speak to you, son of Poeas.
Be certain that you are hearing the voice
and beholding the presence of Heracles.
For your sake I have departed from
my heavenly home,
to tell you the counsels of Zeus on high,
and now it is ordained for you as well
to build from suffering a noble life.
First you will travel with this man to Troy
and there will find release from your disease;
and then, foremost among the ranks in courage,
you will slay Paris with that bow of mine,
Paris, who was the cause of all these hardships,
and conquer Troy, and choose the prize of valor
You too, son of Achilles,
must listen: for without him you cannot
take Troy, nor he apart from you.
... chorus
Come let us go now all together,
and pray to the nymphs of the sea
to grant us a prosperous voyage."

Blake's awareness of the depravations of war is evident in this passage. Blake's answer to this alarming situation is the birth of Los and Enitharmon, through whom regeneration will gain a foothold.

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 14, (E 309)
"The Cities send to one another saying My sons are Mad
With wine of cruelty. Let us plat a Scourge O Sister City 
Children are nourishd for the Slaughter; once the Child was fed
With Milk; but wherefore now are Children fed with blood  
PAGE 15 
The Horse is of more value than the Man. The Tyger fierce
Laughs at the Human form. the Lion mocks & thirsts for blood
They cry O Spider spread thy web! Enlarge thy bones & fill'd
With marrow. sinews & flesh Exalt thyself attain a voice

Call to thy dark armd hosts, for all the sons of Men muster together       
To desolate their cities! Man shall be no more! Awake O Hosts
The bow string sang upon the hills! Luvah & Vala ride
Triumphant in the bloody sky. & the Human form is no more   

The listning Stars heard, & the first beam of the morning started back
He cried out to his Father, depart! depart! but sudden Siez'd 
And clad in steel. & his Horse proudly neighd; he smelt the battle    
Afar off, Rushing back, reddning with rage the Mighty Father

Siezd his bright Sheephook studded with gems & gold, he Swung it round
His head shrill sounding in the sky, down rushd the Sun with noise
Of war, The Mountains fled away they sought a place beneath      
Vala remaind in desarts of dark solitude. nor Sun nor Moon

By night nor day to comfort her, she labourd in thick smoke 
Tharmas endurd not, he fled howling. then a barren waste sunk
Conglobing in the dark confusion, Mean time Los was born
And Thou O Enitharmon! Hark I hear the hammers of Los"

In this book, Sophocles II: Ajax, The Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes, The Trackers edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, is this comment summarizing some of the virtues of the play Philoctests, all of which would have made it attractive to Blake:

"Less musical and less full of action than many Greek tragedies, Philoctests none the less engages its audience deeply in problems of ethics, politics, loyalty, and male ideals of virtue and achievement, as well as in the possibility of redemption, forgiveness, and healing miraculously granted after years of unmerited suffering." 


Friday, March 20, 2015


Blake had come too close to war in his own times to glorify it by making it the subject of his poetry. Warriors and Kings were not his heroes. That role was reserved for Artists and Prophets and mental revolutionaries. To him the suitable war in which men may engage was an intellectual war through which ideas may form, grow into systems, mature, and engender new ideas which would replace them. Blake chose the Greeks to symbolize a culture which had lost its soul by engaging in and glorifying physical not mental wars.
The Trojan War developed out of rivalries, jealousies, possessiveness, abduction and bitterness. Cities, families, armies, navies and cultures were destroyed as a result of the manipulation of individuals by the Gods on whom they projected their psyches.

In 1811-12 Blake painted for Butts two images drawing on the Trojan War: one to represent the origin of the war, the other showing the turning point which led to its resolution. A post from 2010 titled GREEK INFLUENCE commented on Blake's Judgement of Paris which shows the incident which began the trouble.

British Museum
Judgement of Paris
Milton, Plate i, (E 95)
"                                 Preface.
The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall
become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were
both curbd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek
& Latin slaves of the Sword.

     Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for
ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War. Painters! on you I
call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fash[i]onable Fools
to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for
contemptible works or the expensive advertizing boasts that they
make of such works; believe Christ & his Apostles that there is a
Class of Men whose whole delight is in Destroying. We do not 
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord."

Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 151)
"All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Plate 9
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:                   
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion     
By war and stratagem to win the labour of the husbandman:
Awkwardness arm'd in steel: folly in a helmet of gold:
Weakness with horns & talons: ignorance with a rav'ning beak!
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:          
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


When Larry and I participated in the William Blake Yahoo Group several years ago we enjoyed the comments, advice, and encouragement of a fellow participant Clint Stevens. I would like to call to your attention Clint's publications which you may have access to on the internet. Clint's dissertation which earned him his Ph.D is available through ProQuest which may be provided by your academic institution.

Clint Stevens was awarded his Ph,D by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. His dissertation is titled Blake's buildings: Poetry and the reshaping of epistemology. The abstract of his paper reads:

"This study situates Blake within the epistemological crisis that signaled the end of the Enlightenment. During this time, a number of thinkers in Germany and England realized that an adequate theory of representation needed to include reflexivity: awareness of how our thinking shapes the objects perceived. Reflexivity in turn led to the argument that reality doesn't stand ready-made waiting for its interpreter. Instead, reality is composed by a dialogic interchange between multiple perceivers and their objects. Thus one of my main arguments is that Blake contrasts two modes of conceiving thought. The first sees thought standing before an independent and ultimately inscrutable reality that it strives to interpret. The second, represented by the figure of Jerusalem, represents thought as an activity that transforms the shape of reality by its performance---sending forth arrows of intellect and love to enlighten and transform the dim chaos on all sides around. By developing this and other related ways of representing thought, I demonstrate an emerging pluralism in Blake and that the nemesis of Blake's project is not false belief but self-righteousness---the belief that we have (or can have) access to the one true form of reality, which legitimates our desire to destroy or silence other worldviews in the name of truth. Blake's ideal is humane discourse, not truth. In this way, Blake can be read as a forerunner of a number of pragmatic and pluralistic writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James and, more recently, Richard Rorty."

Clint Steven's article titled William Blake's Golgonooza and Jerusalem: a conversation in visionary forms dramatic appeared in European Romantic Review. (Vol. 20, No. 3, July 2009, 289307)

British Museum
Small Book of Designs
from Book of Urizen
Caption "Teach These Souls to Fly"
Stevens is demonstrating the alteration in consciousness which Blake advocated by studying the exchanges involving Jerusalem, the emanation of Albion, and Blake's spiritual fourfold London, Golgonooza. The figures of Golgonnoza as a object in space, and of Jerusalem as an activity which transforms thought by bringing forth love and forgiveness, are presented as two alternate ways of perceiving reality.

Stevens states:
"He wants to convince us to stop thinking that reality is something that exists apart from of our thinking it, something that exists out there, that we should strive to get right. In place of this kind of knowledge Blake advocates Jerusalem. There is nothing inscrutable about Jerusalem “not because of some essential quality it possesses“ but because Jerusalem is the activity that removes the inscrutable. Like a sculptor's work, Jerusalem isn't about discovering what's human in the inhuman, it's about giving the inhuman a human shape, awaking it to life."

In one of his early Illuminated Books, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake presented the problem of discerning the source of the thoughts which occupy man. Theotormon, attempting to resolve his fears, resentments and insecurity, struggled with questions about the thoughts he couldn't control. He seemd to know that it is how things appeared to him that locked him into isolation and despair. He knew that he could not return to the 'joys of old', for he had not experienced Jerusalem which would transform his mind with the activities of love and forgiveness.

Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 3, (E 47)
"Then Theotormon broke his silence. and he answered.

Tell me what is the night or day to one o'erflowd with woe?
Tell me what is a thought? & of what substance is it made?
Tell me what is a joy? & in what gardens do joys grow?
And in what rivers swim the sorrows? and upon what mountains
Wave shadows of discontent? and in what houses dwell the wretched
Drunken with woe forgotten. and shut up from cold despair.

Tell me where dwell the thoughts forgotten till thou call them forth
Tell me where dwell the joys of old! & where the ancient loves?
And when will they renew again & the night of oblivion past? 

That I might traverse times & spaces far remote and bring
Comforts into a present sorrow and a night of pain
Where goest thou O thought? to what remote land is thy flight?
If thou returnest to the present moment of affliction
Wilt thou bring comforts on thy wings. and dews and honey and balm;  
Or poison from the desart wilds, from the eyes of the envier."
On Plate 98 of Jerusalem, Stevens finds the activity of Jerusalem delineated as it expands to incorporate all that Blake's Imagination had envisioned. Jerusalem brings forth the Humanity in every living creature because "God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men." (Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 16)

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257)
"The Four Living Creatures Chariots of Humanity Divine Incomprehensible
In beautiful Paradises expand These are the Four Rivers of Paradise   
And the Four Faces of Humanity fronting the Four Cardinal Points
Of Heaven going forward forward irresistible from Eternity to Eternity

And they conversed together in Visionary forms dramatic which bright
Redounded from their Tongues in thunderous majesty, in Visions
In new Expanses, creating exemplars of Memory and of Intellect  
Creating Space, Creating Time according to the wonders Divine
Of Human Imagination, throughout all the Three Regions immense
Of Childhood, Manhood & Old Age[;] & the all tremendous unfathomable Non Ens
Of Death was seen in regenerations terrific or complacent varying  
According to the subject of discourse & every Word & Every Character
Was Human according to the Expansion or Contraction, the Translucence or
Opakeness of Nervous fibres such was the variation of Time & Space
Which vary according as the Organs of Perception vary & they walked
To & fro in Eternity as One Man reflecting each in each & clearly seen
And seeing: according to fitness & order. And I heard Jehovah speak 
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah."

Monday, March 16, 2015


Kathleen Raine became immersed in the study of William Blake when she was a student at Cambridge University. When, at the age of 85, she was interviewed by Donald Stanford, she was asked about the roots of Blake's sources which had formed the foundation of her masterwork Blake and Tradition, published in 1969, forty years after she received her masters degree from Cambridge. The following interview is available on the blog, Explorations: The Twentieth Century.

An Interview Conducted with Kathleen Raine on July 12, 1993
Donald E. Stanford

"The audio tape of the interview that follows with Kathleen Raine is housed among the Donald E. Stanford Papers in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections of the Louisiana State University Libraries, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Some of the questions that Donald Stanford posed in the interview, which took place, in London, in Kathleen Raine’s flat on July 12, 1993, were submitted by Herbert V. Fackler (January 23, 1942 – December 18, 1999) and Joseph Riehl, both members of the faculty of English at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Kathleen Raine had celebrated her 85th birthday on June 14."

"Stanford: Would you say a little more about this excluded tradition? 

Raine: We know that he had read Swedenborg and Paracelsus, because he tells us so in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The first important source I discovered was the new Platonic writings translated into English during Blake’s lifetime by Thomas Taylor the Platonist, whom Blake knew at one time. He was a friend of Blake’s friend Flaxman. Blake had certainly read many of the Neo-Platonic writings in the translations of Taylor, and Neo-Platonism is one important source. He had also read the Bhagavad-Gītī. This we know because he had made a painting, since lost, of Mr. Wilkins translating the Bhagavad-Gītī. He had read a great deal of the mythologies, all the traditions that were accessible to him. He knew the Greek myths, the Norse, a certain amount about the American Indian myths. He’d read the Koran. In fact, he was working within a tradition which holds the prime element of life to be mind and not matter, which, of course, is the normal view of the perennial philosophy throughout the world and throughout all civilizations prior to our own, which takes matter to be the basic substance within the universe. And Blake’s great contribution, his great battle cry, was to open the eyes of men into the inner worlds, into the worlds of thought. He was challenging the materialism of his time. He challenged the thought of Newton, Bacon, Locke, the whole movement of the Royal Society, and the whole Western trend which was at that time towards materialism. Blake went on affirming the primacy of mind, spirit, imagination, and in order to do so he had a great tradition to draw on. In fact, when it comes to Jung, they both had read many of the same works, which accounts to a great extent for their undoubted similarities
     Sanford: Kathleen, could you please tell us a little more about your procedures in researching your volumes of Blake and the Tradition?

Raine: Well, it was a life’s work. It was enormous fun, I must say. I started, as I have said, with Ruthven Todd and the sources that he had already pointed to, and then it was just that one thing led to another. One just went on winding in the golden thread and far from its being just a few odd books, like Bryant’s mythology and antiquities and so on, it proved that this golden thread wound in the works of Plato, the works of Plotinus, and the works of Jacob Boehme (of course one knows from Blake that these were his sources) and the works of Paracelsus. I spent weeks and months and years reading dusty volumes in the North Library of the British Museum, and my eyes were opened. I simply had no idea of the richness of the tradition which modern academia and our civilization as a whole, based as it is on material process, had exploded. It was virtually the wisdom of the world that Blake had drawn on. My most important contribution, I suppose, at that time was finding the importance of Thomas Taylor, the Platonist. Blake did not read Greek. Shelley of course did, and Coleridge, but Blake read only English and French. And his acquaintance with Thomas Taylor has since been verified by scholarship in a reference to Blake and [George] Cumberland. There is a description by a member of Cumberland’s family of visiting Thomas Taylor and finding him sitting talking with William Blake and expounding to him the theorem of Pythagoras and Blake saying, “Never mind the proofs, I can see it with my own eyes,” which is very characteristic of both, because Taylor, of course, was a mathematician and Blake was not. Well, I discovered quite early on that the Arlington Court tempera is an illustration of Porphyry’s work De antro nympharum and Keynes of course accepted that, but no other professional Blake scholars have done so hitherto, but it is just a plain fact that it is, every detail. Blake would have read it in Taylor’s “Essay on the Restoration of the Greek Theology by the Late Platonists” which was known to Blake. If two people live next door to one another the critics won’t accept that as evidence, it has to be in writing. And it is known that, for example, Taylor gave six lectures on Platonic theology at the house of Flaxman. It is known that Flaxman and Blake were close friends from youth, but “Oh, no,” they say; “this is no proof that Blake knew anything about Taylor,” you see. This is the sort of blinkered mentality of those who will only accept the evidence of written text. If people see each other every day, they don’t tend to write one another letters. On the whole, one writes letters to people one does not see every day.

    Raine: What I’ve been trying to do all my life is
British Museum
after Michelangelo
Copy of engraving by Adamo Ghisi
c. 1785
to challenge and reverse the premises of modern Western materialism. That is what Blake was attempting. That is why the hippies had a sort of feeling for him—they felt there was something there—and that is what Yeats was trying to do and that is why I was taking up the torch in very frail hands myself, I don’t compare myself with Blake or Shelley or Yeats, but nevertheless that is what my life’s work has also been trying to do."


 Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 21, (E 42)
  "I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of
themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident
insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning:
  Thus Swedenborg boasts that what he writes is new; tho' it
is only the Contents or Index of already publish'd books
  A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a
little wiser than the monkey, grew vain, and conciev'd himself as
wiser than seven men.  It is so with Swedenborg; he shews the
folly of churches & exposes hypocrites, till he imagines that all
are religious. & himself the single 
Plate 22
One on earth that ever broke a net.
  Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new
truth: Now hear another: he has written all the old falshoods.
  And now hear the reason.  He conversed with Angels who are
all religious, & conversed not with Devils who all hate religion,
for he was incapable thro' his conceited notions.
  Thus Swedenborgs writings are a recapitulation of all
superficial opinions, and an analysis of the more sublime, but no
  Have now another plain fact: Any man of mechanical talents
may from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten
thousand volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's.
and from those of Dante or Shakespear, an infinite number.
  But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows
better than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine."

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Linnell Set, Page 5
This image was created by Blake for his series of Illustrations of the Book of Job. It shows Satan departing from God's presence to test the faith of Job. It represents Job's as a man who was good by the world's standards, but who was failing to develop spiritually. Satan was deployed to demonstrate to Job that success in the world was not evidence that his spirit was being nourished. Art as an activity in this world, and Imagination as the mental activity which sustains Art, are the symbols Blake uses for the level of consciousness which man must seek.

   Blake shows Job ritualistically providing charity to a poor man. Out of his abundance Job made the required donation. The confusion of the exchange of money for the practice of human values which support brotherhood is a symptom of Job's need to reach a higher level of spiritual understanding.

    On his engraving of the Laocoon sculpture Blake made several statements about Art as the fundamental principle which guides the development of consciousness in the Earthly realm. Being guided by the principle of Money stifles consciousness and thwarts spiritual development. For Blake, Art was an inclusive term which covered all those activities which nourished the body/spirit of man. 

Laocoon, (E 273)  
"For every Pleasure Money Is Useless

Where any view of Money exists Art cannot be carried on

Christianity is Art & not Money 
Money is its Curse

The whole Business of Man Is The Arts & All Things Common

Prayer is the Study of Art
Praise is the Practise of Art
Fasting &c. all relate to Art
The outward Ceremony is Antichrist
Without Unceasing Practise nothing can be done 

Practise is Art     If you leave off you are Lost

A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect: the Man 
Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian 
You must leave Fathers & Mothers & Houses & Lands 
     if they stand in the way of ART"

Mark 10
[28] Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
[29] And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
[30] But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
[31] But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.


Thursday, March 12, 2015


The container which is Gray's poem could no longer hold the vision which Blake wished to communicate. Contemplating the death of a cat could not adequately reveal the mysteries of the fall into materiality of a being whose home was Eternity. But this vision took hold of Blake's imagination and he was compelled to represent it in the last two illustration to Gray's Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat.

These are the cosmic questions which always beg for answers: Why did the material world come into being? How is the world of matter related to the creative void from which it came? How can material beings shed their bonds and return to their Eternal Abode?
   Blake never ceased to seek answers to these questions. His Art, poetic and visual, is the answer he found. 

Illustration 5
"Malignant Fate sat by & smild
The slippery verge her feet beguild
she tumbled headlong in"
Illustration 6
"Nine times emerging from the flood
"She mew'd to every watry God"

The occasion for Grey's writing Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat was the drowning of Walpole's cat Selina in a goldfish bowl in her attempt to make a meal of the fish. Blake's illustration shows, not a cat, but a woman plunging into the depths of a watery world having been pushed by Atropos. She enters the world of materiality and  bodily sensation which she attempts to exclude by covering her head with her arms. She is overwhelmed by the flood of matter as she enters the sea of time and space. A more elaborate portrayal of the cycle of leaving the heavenly realm for the earthly one is presented in Blake's Arlington Tempera.

In commenting on the Arlington Tempera in an earlier post, I made this statement:
"Represented in this section is the Soul's being born to Death, and her dying to to Life Eternal. The womb of the cave has become a tomb because the entry into this new life ends the Soul's consciousness of life Eternal. Death is the metaphor for man's journey through experience to regain awareness of the Eternal. 

Blake represents this birth/death in the metaphor of receiving a garment or body which clothes the soul in this world of mortality. The females in this section are in the process of descending or ascending; weaving a garment or receiving a woven garment; carrying their water or spilling their water; winding or unwinding the 'golden string'. Entering the world of generation is a blessing and a curse, a mercy and a trial; both aspects are suggested here."

Milton Klonsky indicates the parallel in Blake's final two illustrations of Gray's poem with the gnostic myth of Sophia being tempted by her own reflection into falling into materiality. The fish which previously have been benign are now armed and armored to imply the struggle which characterizes life in the physical world.

Man's plight in the material world is seen in the following passage. He had come to rely on his own mind and the resources of nature ignoring the Divine Vision which seeks his return.

Jerusalem, Plate 28, (E 175)
"Then spoke the Spectrous Chaos to Albion darkning cold
From the back & loins where dwell the Spectrous Dead 

I am your Rational Power O Albion & that Human Form              
You call Divine, is but a Worm seventy inches long
That creeps forth in a night & is dried in the morning sun
In fortuitous concourse of memorys accumulated & lost
It plows the Earth in its own conceit, it overwhelms the Hills
Beneath its winding labyrinths, till a stone of the brook        
Stops it in midst of its pride among its hills & rivers[.] 
Battersea & Chelsea mourn, London & Canterbury tremble
Their place shall not be found as the wind passes over[.]
The ancient Cities of the Earth remove as a traveller
And shall Albions Cities remain when I pass over them            
With my deluge of forgotten remembrances over the tablet

So spoke the Spectre to Albion. he is the Great Selfhood
Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth
Having a white Dot calld a Center from which branches out
A Circle in continual gyrations. this became a Heart           
From which sprang numerous branches varying their motions
Producing many Heads three or seven or ten, & hands & feet
Innumerable at will of the unfortunate contemplator
Who becomes his food[:] such is the way of the Devouring Power

And this is the cause of the appearance in the frowning Chaos[.] 
Albions Emanation which he had hidden in jealousy
Appeard now in the frowning Chaos prolific upon the Chaos
Reflecting back to Albion in Sexual Reasoning Hermaphroditic

Albion spoke. Who art thou that appearest in gloomy pomp
Involving the Divine Vision in colours of autumn ripeness        
I never saw thee till this time, nor beheld life abstracted
Nor darkness immingled with light on my furrowd field
Whence camest thou! who art thou O loveliest? the Divine Vision
Is as nothing before thee, faded is all life and joy

Vala replied in clouds of tears Albions garment embracing"
Becoming free from the illusion that man is trapped in his mortal body can set him free from perceiving time and space as the totality. Man is released to his true home which is Eternal and Infinite.
Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 52, (E 30)
To Tirzah  
"Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart. 
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free, 
Then what have I to do with thee?

[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]


Tuesday, March 10, 2015


To see detail in pictures, right click with mouse, select open in a new window, left click on picture to enlarge.

First post for Gray & Blake.

Yale Center for British Art
In illustration 1 for Gray's Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat, Blake created an image of a cat with vestiges of a woman; in illustration 3 he reverses his strategy creating a woman with vestiges of a cat. We are now invited to look at the poem and pictures as commenting on the human situation of the woman, not as a fable of a cat drowning in a fishbowl. The cat-like woman becomes enamored with the fully-human woman looking back at her from the watery world into which she gazes. This world is populated by flowers and fruit and embracing lovers, to which the fish have been transformed.

Blake tells us that Eternity is in love with the creations of time. If the cat or woman were dwelling in Eden and gazing into Beulah this picture might represent her experience. Her inner mental constructs are seen here as outer physical phenomena. She is still outside of the world of time and space, but she can enjoy it as a possibility into which she may enter through imagination. Perhaps the appeal is too great.

Blake chose these lines from Gray as the inscription for this picture:

3.    "The pensive Selima
      Her Ears of Jet & Emrald  Eyes
      She saw & purr'd applause"

Illustration 4 brings us back to the situation which impelled Gray to construct his poetic account of the death of Walpole's cat. Selina is at her most cat-like, intent on catching the fish who have assumed an angelic disguise. Only her hind feet and scarf reveal her human identity. Fate makes her appearance in the upper right-hand corner of the picture to seal the destiny of the predator who is about to become prey. Atropos is prepared to cut the thread of Selina's life.
These are lines from Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat selected by Blake for this illustration:

4.    "Still had she gazd but midst the tide
      Two Angel forms were seen to glide.
      The hapless nymph with wonder saw
      A Whisker first & then a Claw &c"

Book of Thel, Plate 1, (E 3)
"The daughters of Mne Seraphim led round their sunny flocks.  
All but the youngest; she in paleness sought the secret air.
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard:
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew.          

O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring? born but to smile & fall.
Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud.
Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water.
Like dreams of infants. like a smile upon an infants face,       
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air;
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head.          
And gentle sleep the sleep of death. and gentle hear the voice 
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time."

Monday, March 9, 2015


Earlier post
Included among the poems of Thomas Gray which Blake illustrated for Ann Flaxman, wife of Blake's friend and fellow artist, John Flaxman, was one entitled Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat. Gray had written his poem for the amusement of the friends of Sir Horace Walpole whose cat Selina had drowned in a container for goldfish. The topic would seem unpromising material for either a poem by Gray, illustrations by Blake, or a post to this blog.
Gray turned the cat's misfortune into an opportunity to comment on the danger to which a woman may fall prey by pursuing 'glitter' which was not 'gold'. Gray's juxtaposition of the fate of the cat and the woman gave Blake the chance to include additional layers of meaning. The situation of humankind and the possibility of redemption are given pictorial representation in Blake's series of six images.

In his book of illustrations Blake gives an intimation that nothing will be what it seems on the initial page for the poem. The lines from Gray which Blake illustrates on the title page are:

1. "Midst the tide Two Angel forms were seen to glide"

Selina is a cross between a cat a woman; she wears a scarf and a corset and reaches with a human hand although she is a cat stalking her prey. The fish are a strange combination of human, demonic and aquatic creatures. The body of water Blake pictures is definitely not a fishbowl; its wide expanse suggests the 'sea of time and space.' The fish-people appear to luring the cat-person into the depths of their watery world.
In Blake's second image which serves as an index to the lines of the poem referenced in the six illustrations, he shifts his emphasis. This page is associated with:

2. "Demurest of the Tabby kind"

Faithful to the line of poetry Blake shows a natural looking cat and natural looking fish. However, present here as well are forces of the natural world through which imagination makes an appearance. Perched on the backs of the three animals are genii.

Inscriptions, List of Designs for Poems by Mr Gray (1790), (E 676)

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat
1.    "Midst the tide
      Two Angel forms were seen to glide"
2.    "Demurest of the Tabby kind"
3.    "The pensive Selima
      Her Ears of Jet & Emrald  Eyes
      She saw & purr'd applause"
4.    "Still had she gazd but midst the tide
      Two Angel forms were seen to glide.
      The hapless nymph with wonder saw
      A Whisker first & then a Claw &c"
5.    "Malignant Fate sat by & smild
      The slippery verge her feet beguild
      She tumbled headlong in"
6.    "Nine times emerging from the flood
      "She mew'd to every watry God"

Thomas Gray's poem Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat with lines Blake illustrated in bold: 
1 "'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
2 Where China's gayest art had dyed
3     The azure flowers, that blow;
4 Demurest of the tabby kind,
5 The pensive Selima reclined,
6     Gazed on the lake below.

7 Her conscious tail her joy declared;
8 The fair round face, the snowy beard,
9     The velvet of her paws,
10 Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
11 Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
12     She saw; and purred applause.

13 Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
14 Two angel forms were seen to glide,
15     The genii of the stream:
16 Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
17 Through richest purple to the view
18     Betrayed a golden gleam.
19 The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
20 A whisker first and then a claw,
21     With many an ardent wish,
22 She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
23 What female heart can gold despise?
24     What cat's averse to fish?
25 Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
26 Again she stretched, again she bent,
27     Nor knew the gulf between.
28 (Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
29 The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
30     She tumbled headlong in.

31 Eight times emerging from the flood
32 She mewed to every watery god,
33     Some speedy aid to send.
34 No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred:
35 Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
36     A favourite has no friend!

37 From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
38 Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved,
39     And be with caution bold.
40 Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
41 And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
42     Nor all that glisters gold."

The six illustrations are included in Milton Klonsky's book William Blake, The Seer and His Visions. Because Klonsky had an intense interest in Blake's visionary abilities, he was able to use these images to shed light on Blake's perchant for transforming the mundane into the profound.

Klonsky states:
"To Blake the allegory implicit in the poem was irresistible catnip, enabling him to employ fully his satirical genius as an illustrator and, in addition, to point a transcendent moral of his own. What Gray intended as metaphorical, Blake, with his 'fourfold vision,' makes literal, and vice versa, in a contrapuntal, playful irony."