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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ANGUISHED ALBION

Yale Center for British Art Jerusalem Plate 62
In the introduction to William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Percival presents the overall theme of his book: that when the long cycle comes to an end, it renews (repeats) itself if error is not cast off, or it reaches the Last Judgment which ends all temporal things. Percival sees Blake presenting the whole of the cycle: from the undifferentiated status of Eternity to the Apocalypse where time ends - in all its aspects of politics, science, history, sociology, psychology and religion.

Through the images incorporated in this picture of Albion, Blake may be suggesting a turning point in cosmic events. The ouroboros (seen as a snake around Albion's head), as a representation of cyclical experience reminds us that Albion may break the cycle or repeat it. The peacock feathers surrounding the head remind us that this is a point of transition. The Seven Eyes of God tell us that Albion is under the protection of the Eternals though he has not returned from the world of time. Adding the five fainter eyes we arrive at the number twelve which points to the Zodiac, another image of cyclical movement. (Percival is able to correlate the stages traversed in Blake's myth with passage through the signs of the Zodiac in Chapter VIII of his book.)

Using alchemical symbolism, Percival makes this observation, "The feminine mercury passes from black to white through an intermediate stage in which all the colors assert themselves. The symbol of this stage is the peacock's tail. The appearance of this symbol is a good omen; it means that the fire is doing its work, that death is awakening into life, or, as Paracelsus puts it alchemically, "it showeth the workings of the philosopher's mercury on the vulgar mercury."
(Milton O. Percival, William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Page 206.)

Just as Blake wanted us to think of the events of the Old and New Testaments as we read the words of the text, in the illumination he is calling to our minds the seven days of creation, the twelve tribes of Israel, and whatever associations with the numbers seven and twelve which we may have from our reading of history, literature and numerology. The feet, cold to the point of blue death, are surrounded by the fires of destruction and redemption. Albion grasps the stone tenaciously. The face of fear, anguish and confusion suggests an agonizing decision taking process like that undergone by Jesus in the Garden.

Between the giant feet of Albion is Los, the one who 'stood forth' to watch over Albion until his dark nightmare was over. 

Blake bombards us with images, as he makes us ask the question, "Which direction will Albion choose?"

Jerusalem, Plate 33 [37], (E 179)
"And One stood forth from the Divine Family &,said    

I feel my Spectre rising upon me! Albion! arouze thyself!
Why dost thou thunder with frozen Spectrous wrath against us?
The Spectre is, in Giant Man; insane, and most deform'd.
Thou wilt certainly provoke my Spectre against thine in fury!    
He has a Sepulcher hewn out of a Rock ready for thee:
And a Death of Eight thousand years forg'd by thyself, upon
The point of his Spear! if thou persistest to forbid with Laws
Our Emanations, and to attack our secret supreme delights

So Los spoke: But when he saw blue death in Albions feet,  
Again he join'd the Divine Body, following merciful;
While Albion fled more indignant! revengeful covering

Jerusalem, Plate 62, (E 212)
"Repose on me till the morning of the Grave. I am thy life.

Jerusalem replied. I am an outcast: Albion is dead!
I am left to the trampling foot & the spurning heel!
A Harlot I am calld. I am sold from street to street!
I am defaced with blows & with the dirt of the Prison!           

And wilt thou become my Husband O my Lord & Saviour?
Shall Vala bring thee forth! shall the Chaste be ashamed also?
I see the Maternal Line, I behold the Seed of the Woman!
Cainah, & Ada & Zillah & Naamah Wife of Noah.
Shuahs daughter & Tamar & Rahab the Canaanites:                  
Ruth the Moabite & Bathsheba of the daughters of Heth
Naamah the Ammonite, Zibeah the Philistine, & Mary
These are the Daughters of Vala, Mother of the Body of death
But I thy Magdalen behold thy Spiritual Risen Body
Shall Albion arise? I know he shall arise at the Last Day!
I know that in my flesh I shall see God: but Emanations
Are weak. they know not whence they are, nor whither tend.

Jesus replied. I am the Resurrection & the Life.
I Die & pass the limits of possibility, as it appears
To individual perception. Luvah must be Created                  
And Vala; for I cannot leave them in the gnawing Grave.
But will prepare a way for my banished-ones to return
Come now with me into the villages. walk thro all the cities.
Tho thou art taken to prison & judgment, starved in the streets
I will command the cloud to give thee food & the hard rock       
To flow with milk & wine, tho thou seest me not a season
Even a long season & a hard journey & a howling wilderness!
Tho Valas cloud hide thee & Luvahs fires follow thee!
Only believe & trust in me, Lo. I am always with thee!

So spoke the Lamb of God while Luvahs Cloud reddening above      
Burst forth in streams of blood upon the heavens & dark night
Involvd Jerusalem. & the Wheels of Albions Sons turnd hoarse
Over the Mountains & the fires blaz'd on Druid Altars
And the Sun set in Tyburns Brook where Victims howl & cry.

But Los beheld the Divine Vision among the flames of the Furnaces
Therefore he lived & breathed in hope. but his tears fell incessant
Because his Children were closd from him apart: & Enitharmon
Dividing in fierce pain: also the Vision of God was closd in clouds
Of Albions Spectres, that Los in despair oft sat, & often ponderd
On Death Eternal in fierce shudders upon the mountains of Albion 
Walking: & in the vales in howlings fierce, then to his Anvils
Turning, anew began his labours, tho in terrible pains!"
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