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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jerusalem & Vala

This material is from Chapter 8, section VI of Larry Clayton's book, A Blake Primer.
In the extended passage from Jerusalem which follows, Blake gives a colloquy with the fainting, confused Albion and the two females competing for his heart - Vala and Jerusalem. It's actually a recreation of the earlier colloquy in Visions of the Daughters of Albion, and infinitely richer and fuller. Albion wavers exactly like Theotormon; Vala, like Bromion, is implacably blind; and Jerusalem has the eloquence of the earlier heroine, Oothoon. In this scene, like the earlier one, Blake describes the eternal battle between faith and worldliness.
Jerusalem, Plate 20, (E 165)
"But when they saw Albion fall'n upon mild Lambeths vale:
Astonish'd! Terrified! they hover'd over his Giant limbs.
Then thus Jerusalem spoke, while Vala wove the veil of tears:
Weeping in pleadings of Love, in the web of despair.

Wherefore hast thou shut me into the winter of human life   
And clos'd up the sweet regions of youth and virgin innocence:
Where we live, forgetting error, not pondering on evil:
Among my lambs & brooks of water, among my warbling birds:
Where we delight in innocence before the face of the Lamb:
Going in and out before him in his love and sweet affection. 

Vala replied weeping & trembling, hiding in her veil.

When winter rends the hungry family and the snow falls:
Upon the ways of men hiding the paths of man and beast,
Then mourns the wanderer: then he repents his wanderings & eyes
The distant forest; then the slave groans in the dungeon of stone.    
The captive in the mill of the stranger, sold for scanty hire.
They view their former life: they number moments over and over;
Stringing them on their remembrance as on a thread of sorrow.
Thou art my sister and my daughter! thy shame is mine also!
Ask me not of my griefs! thou knowest all my griefs.             

Jerusalem answer'd with soft tears over the valleys.

O Vala what is Sin? that thou shudderest and weepest
At sight of thy once lov'd Jerusalem! What is Sin but a little
Error & fault that is soon forgiven; but mercy is not a Sin
Nor pity nor love nor kind forgiveness! O! if I have Sinned      
Forgive & pity me! O! unfold thy Veil in mercy & love!
Slay not my little ones, beloved Virgin daughter of Babylon
Slay not my infant loves & graces, beautiful daughter of Moab
I cannot put off the human form I strive but strive in vain
When Albion rent thy beautiful net of gold and silver twine;
Thou hadst woven it with art, thou hadst caught me in the bands
Of love; thou refusedst to let me go: Albion beheld thy beauty
Beautiful thro' our Love's comeliness, beautiful thro' pity.
The Veil shone with thy brightness in the eyes of Albion,
Because it inclosd pity & love; because we lov'd one-another!
Albion lov'd thee! he rent thy Veil! he embrac'd thee! he lov'd thee!
Astonish'd at his beauty & perfection, thou forgavest his furious love:
I redounded from Albions bosom in my virgin loveliness.
The Lamb of God reciev'd me in his arms he smil'd upon us:

He made me his Bride & Wife: he gave thee to Albion.             
Then was a time of love: O why is it passed away!"
Look also at the passage on Plate 31 and remember that Albion, Vala and Los each speaks from his own viewpoint. To understand Blake's vision the reader must imaginatively enter the psychic state of each of the three characters. Los most often speaks from the poet's true standpoint, and the following lines put his position about as plainly as it can be put:

Jerusalem, Plate 30 [34], (E 176)
"What may Man be? who can tell! but what may Woman be
To have power over Man from Cradle to corruptible Grave?
There is a Throne in every Man, it is the Throne of God:
This, Woman has claim'd as her own, and Man is no more!
Albion is the Tabernacle of Vala and her Temple,
And not the Tabernacle and Temple of the Most High.
0 Albion, why wilt thou Create a Female Will?
Is this the Female Will, 0 ye lovely Daughters of Albion, To
Converse concerning Weight & Distance in the Wilds of Newton & Locke?"

As the epic progresses, Blake continues to define the two women:

Jerusalem, Plate 39 [44], (E 187)
"Man is adjoin'd to Man by his Emanative portion
Who is Jerusalem in every individual Man, and her
Shadow is Vala, builded by the Reasoning power in Man."
British Museum Jerusalem Copy A, Plate 46
Omitting further detail we can begin our summary of Blake's theory of sex with Jesus' reply to the Sadducee's mocking question about the woman married to seven husbands: "for when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels which are in heaven."

Blake begins here, with the assumption that sexual division relates to this world, but not to Eternity. Sex appears in Beulah, a moony rest from the arduous creative activity of Eden. The "Female Will" condemns Man to the loss of Eternity, which Blake calls "the Sleep of Ulro". Sex signifies fallenness, and the jealous and proudly chaste female symbolizes the active principle of evil, also identified with a materialistic viewpoint whose values are coercion and love of power.

Blake's vision of Jesus humanized his theory of sex. He began to use the biblical image of Jerusalem as the bride of Christ, named his last and greatest epic Jerusalem, and ultimately was able to rationalize the heterodox doctrine of sex with the glorified female as the emanation of the Eternal Man. Blake's female thus joined all the rest of his personal images in traveling the Circle of Destiny, materializing in the Fall and etherealizing in the Return.

Through all his journey Blake had a characteristically liberal and enlightened view of womankind, an entirely different matter from the sexual symbolism that filled his pages. His true and abiding feelings about the relation between men and women appear early in his works in his "Annotations to Lavater": "Let the men do their duty and the women will be such wonders; the female life lives from the light of the male: see a man's female dependents, you know the man." Admittedly short of the high standards of present day feminism, Blake's vision of womanhood considerably surpassed that of most of his contemporaries-- and perhaps most of ours.

Luke 20
[27] Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
[28] Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
[29] There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.
[30] And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.
[31] And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.
[32] Last of all the woman died also.
[33] Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.
[34] And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
[35] But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
[36] Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
[37] Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
[38] For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
[39] Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said.
[40] And after that they durst not ask him any question at all. 

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