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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Kathleen Raine focused her study of Blake on tracing Blake's sources using all the clues that he left in his writings and visual imagery. She read what he was known to have read going back through the centuries. One of the outcomes of her pursuit was the realization that Greek Mythology had an enormous influence on the creation of Blake's myth of fall and redemption. Blake seamlessly wove the threads of Biblical influences with the thought revealed in the totality of Greek myth. Raine's two volume masterpiece, Blake and Tradition, plunges into the depths of esoteric and mythopoeic writings to reveal Blake's intent in the choice of his symbols. She later condensed some of her insight in Blake and Antiquity. Raine was my guide in becoming better acquainted with the following poems.

If we take a careful look at Blake's The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found from Songs of Experience, we may recognize that we are seeing a preview of characters in his later poems. After becoming acquainted with Thomas Taylor and saturating himself with the work Taylor was doing in translating Greek Mythology and philosophy into English, Blake incorporated characters and scenarios from Greek myths into his lexicon of imagery. The character Lyca in The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found, by being assigned the role of Persephone, is a precursor for Vala. The depth of meaning in the tale of Persephone which formed the structure of the Eleusinian Mysteries, is seen running through Blake's recurring tale of fall, wandering, and return. 

Persephone was among the loveliest of immortals before she plucked the flower, (as did OOthoon), that introduced her to another level of consciousness. In her tale the young woman, who represents the Soul, is abducted by Pluto, called by Raine 'material nature'. She was carried away from the world of the immortals and down into the earth.

Blake's Little Girl is not innocent to the attraction of the 'wild birds song.' In the first image we see not the child we read about, but a couple - a male and female - embracing. The call to materiality has been heard. The division between body and soul, which characterizes Ulro and Generation, has already occurred. The stage is set for the fall into our material world which is dualistic or 'sexual.'

Lyca accepts the invitation to enter the state of sleep thereby inviting the 'beasts of prey' to join her. She views the kingly lion, who Raine tells us represents the lion in the Zodiac, Pluto, king of the underworld and ruler of souls entering the afterlife. This is the traditional sleep of death when the body lies in the grave.

Blake's imagery bifurcates here representing, on the one hand, the experience of death in the material world and, on the other, exit from the eternal world to enter the world of time and space. In Lyca's sleep she is brought to a cavern where she later is joined by her parents. There is no return to Eternity in this tale. But there is no threat or fear in Lyca's cave from the wild animals with whom she plays.

Persephone represented the fertility of the earth among other things. Her disappearance underground interfered with the agricultural output. The Gods came up with a compromise in which she would send half of her time on the earth and half below the surface. Thus the cyclical rotation between the time when the fields were fallow and resting, and the time of production and harvest. Blake incorporated the fluctuation between the repose of Beulah and the activity of Eden into his system. We see here as well the symbiosis of body and soul, each in love with the other, and relinquishing itself for the other's life.

The implication in these poems is that the Soul may retain the ability to discern the Eternal in the time/space continuum. The mother of Persephone, Cerus (identified as intellect), engaged in a search similar to that undertaken by Lyca's mother which culminated in their being reunited at Eleusis. Blake's poems have the soul and intellect reunite in the unconscious. 

The task of achieving a reunion with 'her maker' is expected in the future when the desert once again is a garden. In a future time she: 
Songs of Experience, Song 34, (E 20)
"Shall arise and seek 
For her maker meek: 
And the desart wild
Become a garden mild."
But now she has a different task; she must pass through a world in which she lives in a body and knows woe as well as joy:
Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"Chap: 1
Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life."

Songs of Experience, SONGS 34, 35, 36, (E 20-21) 
"The Little Girl Lost        

In futurity
I prophetic see,
That the earth from sleep,
(Grave the sentence deep)

Shall arise and seek
For her maker meek:
And the desart wild
Become a garden mild.

In the southern clime,
Where the summers prime,
Never fades away;
Lovely Lyca lay.

Seven summers old
Lovely Lyca told,
She had wanderd long, 
Hearing wild birds song.

Sweet sleep come to me
Underneath this tree;
Do father, mother weep.--
Where can Lyca sleep.

Lost in desart wild
Is your little child.
How can Lyca sleep,
If her mother weep.

If her heart does ake, 
Then let Lyca wake;
If my mother sleep,
Lyca shall not weep.

Frowning frowning night,
O'er this desart bright,
Let thy moon arise,
While I close my eyes.

Sleeping Lyca lay;
While the beasts of prey,
Come from caverns deep, 
View'd the maid asleep

The kingly lion stood
And the virgin view'd,
Then he gambold round
O'er the hallowd ground;

Leopards, tygers play,
Round her as she lay;
While the lion old,
Bow'd his mane of gold.

And her bosom lick,
And upon her neck,
From his eyes of flame,
Ruby tears there came;

While the lioness,
Loos'd her slender dress,
And naked they convey'd
To caves the sleeping maid.

The Little Girl Found

All the night in woe,
Lyca's parents go:
Over vallies deep,
While the desarts weep.

Tired and woe-begone, 
Hoarse with making moan:
Arm in arm seven days,
They trac'd the desart ways.

Seven nights they sleep,
Among shadows deep:
And dream they see their child
Starv'd in desart wild.

Pale thro' pathless ways
The fancied image strays,

Famish'd, weeping, weak
With hollow piteous shriek

Rising from unrest,
The trembling woman prest,
With feet of weary woe;
She could no further go. 

In his arms he bore,
Her arm'd with sorrow sore;
Till before their way,
A couching lion lay.

Turning back was vain, 
Soon his heavy mane,
Bore them to the ground;
Then he stalk'd around,

Smelling to his prey.
But their fears allay,
When he licks their hands;
And silent by them stands.

They look upon his eyes
Fill'd with deep surprise:
And wondering behold,
A spirit arm'd in gold. 

On his head a crown
On his shoulders down,
Flow'd his golden hair.
Gone was all their care. 

Follow me he said,
Weep not for the maid;
In my palace deep,
Lyca lies asleep.

Then they followed, 
Where the vision led:
And saw their sleeping child,
Among tygers wild.

To this day they dwell
In a lonely dell
Nor fear the wolvish howl,
Nor the lions growl."
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Song 34, Copy B
The Little Girl Lost
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Song 35, Copy B
The Little Girl Found
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Song 36, Copy B
The Little Girl Found


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