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

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Universal Symbols

First posted by Larry on March 7, 2011, his 85TH birthday.

Yale Center for British Art
Illustrations for Young's Night Thoughts
Perhaps Blake's greatest gift to any of us may be the Faculty of perceiving the realities around us in terms of the Universal Symbols:
For example the character Jane in Jane Eyre may serve as a Christ Symbol (or in Blake's lexicon as Eternity). Rochester represents Everyman; the flossie, to whom he was considering marriage, is the Way of the World, the purely material.
The half cousin who wanted Jane to marry him and go to Africa with him represents Conventional Religion; his sisters are the Blakean Redeemed.
Rochester's wife is the victim of his accumulated moral failings, which led to spiritual blindness.
The happy ending is echoed by the ending of most Detective Stories. The crime is solved, the detective enjoys real life, the harm remains, but it no longer affects him. In the Sacred Story every tear has been wiped away.
In this post I've expressed the reality of the story in terms of the Blakean universal symbols. That's only one of many ways you might find universal meaning is a work of art.
IMO it was Northrup Frye who introduced to the Blake community (in 1947) to an understanding of Blake's use of symbols, images, metaphor; armed with that knowledge understanding of his poetry, his myth, the import of his pictures proceeded apace. But that's appropriate for another post.
Four Zoas, Night IX, PAGE 121, (E 390) 
"Urizen wept in the dark deep anxious his Scaly form
To reassume the human & he wept in the dark deep

Saying O that I had never drank the wine nor eat the bread
Of dark mortality nor cast my view into futurity nor turnd  
My back darkning the present clouding with a cloud               
And building arches high & cities turrets & towers & domes  
Whose smoke destroyd the pleasant gardens & whose running Kennels
Chokd the bright rivers burdning with my Ships the angry deep
Thro Chaos seeking for delight & in spaces remote
Seeking the Eternal which is always present to the wise          
Seeking for pleasure which unsought falls round the infants path
And on the fleeces of mild flocks who neither care nor labour
But I the labourer of ages whose unwearied hands
Are thus deformd with hardness with the sword & with the spear
And with the Chisel & the mallet I whose labours vast            
Order the nations separating family by family
Alone enjoy not   I alone in misery supreme
Ungratified give all my joy unto this Luvah & Vala    
Then Go O dark futurity I will cast thee forth from these
Heavens of my brain nor will I look upon futurity more   
I cast futurity away & turn my back upon that void       
Which I have made for lo futurity is in this moment      
Let Orc consume let Tharmas rage let dark Urthona give
All strength to Los & Enitharmon & let Los self-cursd
Rend down this fabric as a wall ruind & family extinct           
Rage Orc Rage Tharmas Urizen no longer curbs your rage

So Urizen spoke he shook his snows from off his Shoulders & arose"

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Matthew 6
[24] No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Luke 4
[5] And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
[6] And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
[7] If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
[8] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

John Linnell appreciated William Blake for his artistic ability and for his spiritual perception, but he also appreciated him for his friendship. Linnell welcomed Blake into his home and into his family circle. When Linnell and his family moved from London proper to the countryside north of the city, Blake became a frequent visitor to their farm in Hampstead. On one of these visits Linnell prevailed on Blake to pose for this sketch. Linnell knew Blake well enough to capture a likeness showing alertness, perception and good humor.

The lighthearted Blake is apparent in this poem from Blake's Notebook.

University of Adelaide
Drawings & Engravings of William Blake
by Laurence Binyon 
Portrait by John Linnell
Songs & Ballads, From Blake's Notebook, (E 481)
"I rose up at the dawn of day
Get thee away get thee away
Prayst thou for Riches away away
This is the Throne of Mammon grey

Said I this sure is very odd                                     
I took it to be the Throne of God
For every Thing besides I have
It is only for Riches that I can crave

I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth
Ive a Wife I love & that loves me
Ive all But Riches Bodily
I am in Gods presence night & day 
And he never turns his face away
The accuser of sins by my side does stand                      
And he holds my money bag in his hand

For my worldly things God makes him pay
And hed pay for more if to him I would pray
And so you may do the worst you can do
Be assurd Mr Devil I wont pray to you                         
Then If for Riches I must not Pray
God knows I little of Prayers need say
So as a Church is known by its Steeple 
If I pray it must be for other People 

He says if I do not worship him for a God                     
I shall eat coarser food & go worse shod
So as I dont value such things as these
You must do Mr Devil just as God please"
Blake's poor health in the last few years of his life prevented him from enjoying the company of Linnell as often as he would have liked. He relished his visits to Collins Farm until he was forced to curtail his activities.
Letters, To John Linnell Esqre, N 6 Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square, (E 778)
[Postmark: 2 July 1826]
"My dearest Friend
     This sudden cold weather has cut .up all my hopes by the
roots.  Everyone who knows of our intended flight into your
delightful Country concur in saying: "Do not Venture till summer
appears again".  I also feel Myself weaker than I was aware,
being not able as yet to sit up longer than six hours at a
time. & also feel the Cold too much to dare venture beyond my
present precincts.  My heartiest Thanks for your care in my
accomodation & the trouble you will yet have with me.  But I get
better & stronger every day, tho weaker in muscle & bone than I
supposed. As to pleasantness of Prospect it is All pleasant
Prospect at North End.  Mrs Hurd's I should like as well as
any--But think of the Expense & how it may be spared & never mind
     I intend to bring with me besides our necessary change of
apparel Only My Book of Drawings from Dante & one Plate shut up
in the Book.  All will go very well in the Coach. which at
present would be a rumble I fear I could not go thro.  So that
I conclude another Week must pass before I dare Venture upon what
I ardently desire--the seeing you with your happy Family once
again & that for a longer Period than I had ever hoped in my
health full hours
I am dear Sir
Yours most gratefully
WILLIAM BLAKE" Collins's Farm, North End, Hampstead: 1831 by John Linnell

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


On page 26 of Fearful Symmetry, Frye writes:
"It appears then, then, that there are not only two worlds, but three: the world of vision, the world of sight and the world of memory: the world we create, the world we live in and the world we run away to. The world of memory is an unreal world of reflection and abstract ideas; the world of sight is the potentially real world of subjects and objects; the world of vision is the world of creators and creatures. In the world  of memory we see nothing; in the world of sight we see what we have to see; in the world of vision we see what we want to see. There are not three different worlds, as in the religions which speak of a heaven and hell in addition to ordinary life; they are the egocentric, the ordinary and the visionary ways of looking at the same world."  
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

The world of vision, of creator and creatures, is Blake's world of Imagination; Jung's of Intuition. This is the mental world of which Blake writes and in which he lives. He takes up the sword for mental fight and never puts it down.
Blake is the teacher par excellence who presents his subject, asks his students to incorporate an understanding of it into their own thinking and then gives them opportunities to practice the paradigm of acting which he hopes to teach. The student has not learned anything experientially until he incorporates an altered behavior into his range of options.  

An aspect to becoming aware of the imaginative dimension in what goes on in the world around us, is finding patterns which enable us to fit together diverse pieces of our experience. If we recognize similar patterns in, for example religion and science, we expand our ability to assimilate a cohesive view rather than multiple limited views. If we look through a different window of perception, if we alter our preconceived assumptions, or back away form emotional involvement, the whole picture may begin to become visible.
When I was trying to catch site of a comet in the sky, I simply couldn't see it although I knew its location and that it was visible to the naked eye. I was trying to focus my eyes as if I would when looking for detail in a picture. When I instead gave up on seeing the comet and looked at the whole sky, the faint light of the comet came into view. Our eyes are actually constructed with special receptors to see faint light as well as receptors for bright light. Until I 'turned off' the receptors for bright light, the receptors for dim light couldn't make the comet visible.
Frye and Blake are telling us that we have receptors for peering into the mental world of vision or imagination. But if our focus of attention is occupied with sensation, emotion or rationalization, we miss the fainter light of intuition.      

Milton, Plate 1, (E 95)
"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."

A Vision of The Last Judgment, (E 555)
                   For the Year 1810
        Additions to Blakes Catalogue of Pictures &c 
"This world of Imagination is the World of
Eternity it is the Divine bosom into which we shall all go after
the death of the Vegetated body   This World of Imagination is
Infinite & Eternal whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation
is Finite & Temporal    There Exist
in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing
which we see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature
     All Things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the
Divine body of the Saviour the True Vine of Eternity
The Human Imagination who appeard to Me as Coming to Judgment.
among his Saints & throwing off the Temporal that the Eternal
might be Establishd. around him were seen the Images of
Existences according to a certain order suited to my Imaginative Eye 
     Here follows the description of the Picture" 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Revelations 14
[15] And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
[16] And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
[17] And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
[18] And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
[19] And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
[20] And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

S. Foster Damon, William Blake: Philosophy and Symbols, in commenting on the final scenes in the Four Zoas, says (Page 164):

Wikipedia Commons
"In six days heaven and earth had been created, according to Genesis, and on the seventh day the Lord rested. In six days, therefore, that work is to be reversed, before the Sabbath of the Millennium can arise. These six days are spent in a final Harvest and Vintage of the world, to make the Bread and Wine of Eternity. Urizen threshes the corn which Urthona bakes into the Bread of Philosophy, while Luvah presses the grapes into the Wine of Ecstacy; and all the chaff and refuse is cast into Non-Entity. This lovely festival in the spiritual world is the reality of what on earth seems to be the final catastrophes of the Apocalypse. During this time Orc burns himself out: Ahania and Enion rise to their former Glory; Luvah and Vala regain their original State of Innocence; while Los takes on his original form, Urthona. The terrific vision ends in a splendid peace:

[Four Zoas, PAGE 139, Night the Ninth, (E 406)]:
"How is it we have walkd thro fires & yet are not consumd
How is it that all things are changd even as in ancient times

The Sun arises from his dewy bed & the fresh airs
Play in his smiling beams giving the seeds of life to grow
And the fresh Earth beams forth ten thousand thousand springs of
Urthona is arisen in his strength no longer now
Divided from Enitharmon no longer the Spectre Los
Where is the Spectre of Prophecy where the delusive Phantom
Departed & Urthona rises from the ruinous walls
In all his ancient strength to form the golden armour of science
For intellectual War The war of swords departed now
The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns

End of The Dream"

The image of the harvest and vintage appears in Milton as well:

Milton, PLATE 25 [27] (E 121)
"The Wine-press on the Rhine groans loud, but all its central beams
Act more terrific in the central Cities of the Nations
Where Human Thought is crushd beneath the iron hand of Power.
There Los puts all into the Press, the Opressor & the Opressed
Together, ripe for the Harvest & Vintage & ready for the Loom.

They sang at the Vintage. This is the Last Vintage! & Seed
Shall no more be sown upon Earth, till all the Vintage is over
And all gatherd in, till the Plow has passd over the Nations
And the Harrow & heavy thundering Roller upon the mountains

And loud the Souls howl round the Porches of Golgonooza

Crying O God deliver us to the Heavens or to the Earths,
That we may preach righteousness & punish the sinner with death
But Los refused, till all the Vintage of Earth was gatherd in.

And Los stood & cried to the Labourers of the Vintage in voice of

Fellow Labourers! The Great Vintage & Harvest is now upon Earth
The whole extent of the Globe is explored: Every scatterd Atom
Of Human Intellect now is flocking to the sound of the Trumpet
All the Wisdom which was hidden in caves & dens, from ancient
Time; is now sought out from Animal & Vegetable & Mineral

The Awakener is come. outstretchd over Europe! the Vision of God
is fulfilled
The Ancient Man upon the Rock of Albion Awakes,
He listens to the sounds of War astonishd & ashamed;"

Milton, PLATE 27 [29] (E 124)
"This Wine-press is call'd War on Earth, it is the Printing-Press
Of Los; and here he lays his words in order above the mortal
As cogs are formd in a wheel to turn the cogs of the adverse

Milton, PLATE 43 [50], (E 144)
"To go forth to the Great Harvest & Vintage of the Nations

As Damon says, Blake wrote on multiple levels simultaneously. On the historical level the harvest and vintage appeared as the battles and wars which were taking place in his own times - the Napoleonic Wars ("Wine-press on the Rhine groans loud".) In Blake's personal experience the activities of his publishing work were his participation in the 'Great Harvest & Vintage' ("the Printing-Press Of Los; and here he lays his words in order above the mortal brain"). At the spiritual level they were the rewinding of the 'golden string' which had begun to be unwound with the material creation which Blake pictured in the Book of Urizen ("Every scatterd Atom Of Human Intellect now is flocking to the sound of the Trumpet").

Genesis 1
[5] And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
[8] And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
[12] And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
[13] And the evening and the morning were the third day.
[17] And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
[18] And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
[19] And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
[22] And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
[23] And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them
[31] And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Friday, June 17, 2016


The relationship between William Blake and William Hayley was complex. Each was well intentioned and intelligent. Hayley was interested in promoting scholarship and in assisting artists who had a hard time getting along in the harsh world. Before Hayley befriended Blake he tried to assist the hymn writer Cowper by writing a biography of the poet. But the personalities of Blake and Hayley were not compatible; each held too firmly to his own convictions. Hayley wanted to help Blake to become more affluent; Blake wanted to pursue his spiritual interests above his material interests. 

Hayley, being well intentioned, devised a scheme of writing for Blake to illustrate some trivial poetry which he thought would have popular appeal. Blake would be the illustrator and would profit from the sale of the publication. Blake made 14 engraving for this project which was issued in 1802 as the first of a series of pamphlets. Before the work was complete Blake had left Felpham and returned to London. He and Hayley maintained a cordial relationship which can be followed in Blake's letters. Like most of Blake's projects, this one involved enormous effort on Blake's part, and very little income.
Hayley wrote: "There is hardly any kind of ingenious employment in which the mind requires more to be cheared and diverted, than the slow and sometimes very irksome progress of engraving; especially when the art is exercised by a person of varied talents; and of a creative imagination. To amuse the Artist in his patient labour," Hayley provided his poems. He felt it a "duty incumbent on me to use every liberal method, in my power, to obtain for his industrious ingenuity, the notice and favour of my countrymen." (The Engravings of William Blake, by Archibald G.B. Russell, Page 86)
Blake learned to separate his difficulties in enduring the world's slights and arrows, from the benefits of his Spiritual Victories. 

Letters, (E 766)
To Hayley, Sth Molton Street
December 11, 1805
Dear Sir
"You Dear Sir are one who has my Particular Gratitude. having 
conducted me thro Three that would have been the Darkest Years 
that ever Mortal Sufferd. which were renderd thro your means a 
Mild & Pleasant Slumber. I speak of Spiritual Things. Not of 
Natural. of Things known only to Myself & to Spirits Good & 
Evil. but Not Known to Men on Earth. It is the passage thro 
these Three Years that has brought me into my Present State. & I 
know that if I had not been with You I must have 
Perish'd--Those Dangers are now Passed & I can see them beneath 
my feet It will not be long before I shall be able to present the 
full history of my Spiritual Sufferings to the Dwellers upon 
Earth. & of the Spiritual Victories obtaind for me by my 
Friends--Excuse this Effusion of the Spirit from One who cares 
little for this World which passes away. whose Happiness is 
Secure in Jesus our Lord. & who looks for Suffering till the time 
of complete Deliverance."

British Museum
Illustrations to Hayley's Ballads
The Eagle
The savage bird the kid renounc'd,
But round the cottage oft
Rapid he wheel'd, and there he pounc'd,
And bore the babe aloft.
Lo! Donald flies.--She touches earth:
O form'd on earth to shine!
O mother of unrivall'd worth,
And sav'd by aid divine!

She lives unhurt--unhurt too lies
The baby in her clasp;
And her aerial tyrant dies
Just strangled in her grasp.

What triumph swelled in Donald's breast,
And o'er his features spread.
When he his living mother prest,
And held the Eagle dead!

Angels, who left your realms of bliss.
And on this parent smil'd,
Guard every mother brave as this,
In rescuing her child!"


Saturday, June 11, 2016


Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Illustrations to The Divine Comedy
Plate 80
Lucia Carrying Dante in His Sleep
Perhaps Blake hesitated to illustrate Dante's Divine Comedy. He began the project only when he was at an advanced age and only when his friend John Linnell induced him to do so. Blake decided upon specific passages which he wished to illustrate, disproportionately settling on the punishments of the Inferno for which Dante had devised such ingenious tortures. But Blake selected other passages because of their congruence with his own inclinations and with the myth which illustrated his own understanding of God's design.

Among the latter passages is one in Canto IX in which Lucia assists Dante in achieving the transition from the Inferno to Purgatory. Dante had introduced Lucia in Canto II as a pivotal figure in Dante gaining the courage to make his initial move of entering the Inferno. Later Lucia was called upon to assist him in the final ascent from the Inferno to Purgatory.

The Divine Comedy, Inferno
Book 1, Canto II
by Dante Aligheri
Translated by Charles Eliot Norton

'Since thou wishest 
 to know so inwardly, I will tell thee briefly,' she replied to
me, 'wherefore I fear not to come here within. One ought to fear
those things only that have power of doing harm, the others not,
for they are not dreadful. I am made by God, thanks be to Him,
such that your misery toucheth me not, nor doth the flame of this
burning assail me. A gentle Lady is in heaven who hath pity
for this hindrance whereto I send thee, so that stern judgment
there above she breaketh. She summoned Lucia in her request, and
said, "Thy faithful one now hath need of thee, and unto thee I
commend him." Lucia, the foe of every cruel one, rose and came to
the place where I was, seated with the ancient Rachel. She said,
"Beatrice, true praise of God, why dost thou not succor him who
so loved thee that for thee he came forth from the vulgar throng?
Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint? Dost thou not see the
death that combats him beside the stream whereof the sea hath no
vaunt?" In the world never were persons swift to seek their good,
and to fly their harm, as I, after these words were uttered, came
here below, from my blessed seat, putting my trust in thy upright
speech, which honors thee and them who have heard it.' After she
had said this to me, weeping she turned her lucent eyes, whereby
she made me more speedy in coming. And I came to thee as she
willed. Thee have I delivered from that wild beast that took from
thee the short ascent of the beautiful mountain. What is it then?
Why, why dost thou hold back? why dost thou harbor such cowardice
in thy heart? why hast thou not daring and boldness, since three
blessed Ladies care for thee in the court of Heaven, and my
speech pledges thee such good?"
As flowerets, bent and closed by the chill of night, after the
sun shines on them straighten themselves all open on their stem,
so I became with my weak virtue, and such good daring hastened to
my heart that I began like one enfranchised: "Oh compassionate
she who succored me! and thou courteous who didst speedily obey
the true words that she addressed to thee! Thou by thy words hast
so disposed my heart with desire of going, that I have returned
unto my first intent. Go on now, for one sole will is in us both:
Thou Leader, thou Lord, and thou Master." Thus I said to him; and
when he had moved on, I entered along the deep and savage road.

The Divine Comedy, Purgatory
Book 2, Canto IX
by Dante Aligheri
Translated by Charles Eliot Norton  
At the hour near the morning when the little swallow begins her
sad lays, perchance in memory of her former woes, and when our
mind, more a wanderer from the flesh and less captive to the
thought, is in its visions almost divine, in dream it seemed
to me that I saw poised in the sky an eagle with feathers of
gold, with wings widespread, and intent to stoop. And it seemed
to me that I was there[3] where his own people were abandoned by
Ganymede, when he was rapt to the supreme consistory. In myself I
thought, "Perhaps this bird strikes only here through wont, and
perhaps from other place disdains to carry anyone upward in his
feet." Then it seemed to me that, having wheeled a little, it
descended terrible as a thunderbolt, and snatched me upwards far
as the fire.[4] There it seemed that it and I burned, and the
imagined fire so scorched that of necessity the sleep was broken.
At my side was my Comforter only, and
the sun was now more than two hours high,[2] and my face was
turned toward the sea. "Have no fear," said my Lord; "be
reassured, for we are at a good point; restrain not, but increase
all thy force. Thou art now arrived at Purgatory; see there the
cliff that closes it around; see the entrance, there where it
appears divided. A while ago in the dawn that precedes the day,
when thy soul was sleeping within thee, upon the flowers
wherewith the place down yonder is adorned, came a lady, and
said, "I am Lucia; let me take this one who is sleeping; thus
will I assist him along his way.' Sordello remained, and the
other gentle forms: she took thee, and when the day was bright,
she came upward, and I along her footprints. Here she laid thee
down: and first her beautiful eyes showed me that open entrance;
then she and slumber went away together." Like a man that in
perplexity is reassured, and that alters his fear to confidence
after the truth is disclosed to him, did I change; and when my
Leader saw me without solicitude, up along the cliff he moved on,
and I behind, toward the height.

Blake would have been pleased that it was mercy, not justice, that allowed the fictional Dante to escape the punishments of hell. Dante introduced a dream sequence, featuring an eagle, to portray the inhibiting fear which retards the progress of spiritual development. In contrast mercy, in the shape of Lucia, transported Dante in his sleep to the Gate of Purgatory without any effort on his part. Scholars tell us that Dante used the eagle as a symbol of Rome's military power, in contrast to Lucia as a symbol of the Church's spiritual power.  

Whatever Dante may have implied by his words, Blake used his picture to show Dante effortlessly being carried by loving female arms to what we might call a higher level of consciousness: one in which forgiveness begins to wipe away fear of eternal punishment.

Blake attitude to the response which should be made to the sinner was diametrically opposed to that of Dante. Blake found moral judgement to be the villain which turned man away from perceiving the Divine within himself and his brother. 

Jerusalem, PLATE 45 [31], (E 194)
"Fearing that Albion should turn his back against the Divine Vision
Los took his globe of fire to search the interiors of Albions
Bosom, in all the terrors of friendship, entering the caves
Of despair & death, to search the tempters out, walking among 
Albions rocks & precipices! caves of solitude & dark despair,
And saw every Minute Particular of Albion degraded & murderd
But saw not by whom; they were hidden within in the minute particulars
Every Universal Form, was become barren mountains of Moral
Virtue: and every Minute Particular hardend into grains of sand:
And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth & mire,
What shall I do! what could I do, if I could find these Criminals
I could not dare to take vengeance; for all things are so constructed    
And builded by the Divine hand, that the sinner shall always escape,
And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray!       
O Albion, if thou takest vengeance; if thou revengest thy wrongs
Thou art for ever lost! What can I do to hinder the Sons
Of Albion from taking vengeance? or how shall I them perswade.

So spoke Los, travelling thro darkness & horrid solitude:"
Lucia in song.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Genesis 2
[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
[22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
[23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

University of Adalaide
The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake
by Laurence Binyan
Looking at this picture through the natural eye we see a loving couple in an idyllic setting separated from outside influences by a flowery bower. Floating above them is a menacing figure of whom they are unaware.

We supply the identifications of Adam, Eve and Satan because we are familiar with the the story in Genesis of the first man and woman who were tempted by Satan to disobey the creator. So we see the figures as Adam, the first man; Eve the woman who was taken form the side of Adam; and Satan, or the tempter, who destroyed the tranquility of Eden.

We can also look at the figures in the picture in the light of the understanding of cosmology which Blake developed through his mythical experience. In the created world man is not unified but divided into male and female, inner and outer, spirit and body, himself and his emanation. Creation itself is the origin of this division of original unity. If man retained the ability (or desire) to return to the pleroma there would be no disunity, for he would be capable of reuniting his disparate functions. However if he forgot the condition of blissful wholeness he would relinquish the ability to return.

Now we see that man does lose his way back because when the Emanation acquires a separate existence, a third being is generated whom Blake speaks of as a Spectre. Adam's Spectre is Satan, the generate form of Urizen, who resists the return of Adam to a condition of unity. The Spectre is able to manipulate the Emanation with the promise that she may gain dominance over Adam. The Specter and the Emanation gain control of the psyche of the man causing him to lose the ability to envision perfect wholeness.

Being cast out of the Garden of Eden meant to Blake this state of alienation from the infinite, eternal reality which gradually destroyed the bonds holding together the created world.

The temporary answer to this conundrum is the limits which are set to the fall by Los. Adam and Satan are these limits: Adam of contraction; Satan of opacity. Eve provides the avenue through which experience is gained. Through her brokenness she bears a son who incarnates the completed man who transcends the constraints which prevent man from seeing within his own soul.

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 24, (E 314) 
"Mighty was the draught of Voidness to draw Existence in
Terrific Urizen strode above, in fear & pale dismay
He saw the indefinite space beneath & his soul shrunk with horror
His feet upon the verge of Non Existence; his voice went forth 

Luvah & Vala trembling & shrinking, beheld the great Work master    
And heard his Word! Divide ye bands influence by influence
Build we a Bower for heavens darling in the grizly deep
Build we the Mundane Shell around the Rock of Albion
Their eyes their ears nostrils & tongues roll outward   they behold
What is within now seen without they are raw to the hungry wind"

Jerusalem, Plate 42, 189
[Los to Albion]
"Thou wast the Image of God surrounded by the Four Zoa's
Mighty was the draught of Voidness to draw Existence in

Terrific Urizen strode above, in fear & pale dismay
He saw the indefinite space beneath & his soul shrunk with horror
His feet upon the verge of Non Existence; his voice went forth 

Luvah & Vala trembling & shrinking, beheld the great Work master    
And heard his Word! Divide ye bands influence by influence
Build we a Bower for heavens darling in the grizly deep
Build we the Mundane Shell around the Rock of Albion
Their eyes their ears nostrils & tongues roll outward   they behold
What is within now seen without they are raw to the hungry wind

Three thou hast slain! I am the Fourth: thou canst not destroy me.
Thou art in Error; trouble me not with thy righteousness.      
I have innocence to defend and ignorance to instruct:
I have no time for seeming; and little arts of compliment,
In morality and virtue: in self-glorying and pride.
There is a limit of Opakeness, and a limit of Contraction;
In every Individual Man, and the limit of Opakeness,             
Is named Satan: and the limit of Contraction is named Adam.
But when Man sleeps in Beulah, the Saviour in mercy takes
Contractions Limit, and of the Limit he forms Woman: That
Himself may in process of time be born Man to redeem
But there is no Limit of Expansion! there is no Limit of Translucence.   
In the bosom of Man for ever from eternity to eternity."

Milton, Plate 23 [25], (E 119)
"But Los dispersd the clouds even as the strong winds of Jehovah, 

And Los thus spoke. O noble Sons, be patient yet a little
I have embracd the falling Death, he is become One with me
O Sons we live not by wrath. by mercy alone we live!
I recollect an old Prophecy in Eden recorded in gold; and oft
Sung to the harp: That Milton of the land of Albion.
Should up ascend forward from Felphams Vale & break the Chain
Of jealousy from all its roots; be patient therefore O my Sons
These lovely Females form sweet night and silence and secret
Obscurities to hide from Satans Watch-Fiends. Human loves        
And graces; lest they write them in their Books, & in the Scroll
Of mortal life, to condemn the accused: who at Satans Bar
Tremble in Spectrous Bodies continually day and night
While on the Earth they live in sorrowful Vegetations
O when shall we tread our Wine-presses in heaven; and Reap      
Our wheat with shoutings of joy, and leave the Earth in peace"

Sunday, June 5, 2016


You may have noticed a number of links on our pages have recently led nowhere. This is because the University of Georgia is no longer supporting the material by Nelson Hilton which was provided through their domain. Professor Hilton gave us access to many resources including his work on the Blake Digital Text Project. Our links on our sidebar to Blake's Contents, Blake's Index and the Concordance to Complete Works have disappeared because of the loss of links to his works. 
I personally am most disappointed because the links Hilton provided to images in the Four Zoas are not longer available. The page images on a number of pages of the Four Zoas which I posted, no longer have images because the files they were linked to are unavailable. I can replace the images with those which the crawler picked up when the posts were published, but the images there are of lower resolution. Hilton's images allowed us to read Blake's text as he wrote and edited it, as well as view the sketches which illuminated his pages.
The manuscript for the Four Zoas resides in the British Library. The library provides digital imagery for a portion of the book starting at page 44. Using Professor Hilton's files for the early pages of the manuscript and the British Library's images for later pages, I published posts on 80 of the 138 pages of the Four Zoas. There is always more work to be done but there are many hands and minds who are contributing to the effort.
Professor Hilton graciously replied to my plea for help with a copy of his file for the 4ZS.
Keep watching for further developments.
British Library
Four Zoas Manuscript
Page 94

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 94, (E 367)
"Tho all those fair perfections which men know only by name
In beautiful substantial forms appeard & served her
As food or drink or ornament or in delightful works
To build her bowers for the Elements brought forth abundantly    
The living soul in glorious forms & every One came forth
Walking before her Shadowy face & bowing at her feet" 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Blake's Bible

First published by Larry on February 07, 2010.

Genesis 3
[22] And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
[23] Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
[24] So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Northrup Frye referred to Blake as a 'Bible soaked Protestant.' He was certainly that-- and much more. He read the Bible like no other scholar I've come across. He read it uninhibited by conventions.

In his last years Frye published two large volumes with subtitles: The Bible and Literature. He had started out as a young minister, but made the fatal mistake of studying Blake, after which he became a literary critic - a real change for the better, IMO.

Working on his thesis (called Fearful Symmetry) Frye had discovered that Blake read the Bible very freely; so he became, like Blake, a Bible soaked Protestant but not (NO, NO!) a bibliolater. He read it with more freedom to go beyond the literal meaning than any conforming establishmentarian would dare to do.

In his visions Blake talked to Isaiah and Ezekiel. Re the cherub God put before the Gate of Eden with a flaming sword Blake had this to say:

"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 where as it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment."  (MHH, Plate 14)

University of Adalaide
The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake
by Laurence Binyan
River of Life
Blake's desire was that the gate leading back into Eden be left open and unguarded because only a God of Vengeance would expel his children from his presence. Blake preferred to picture the River of Life drawing mankind back into the Garden where he may serve the Lord with joy. The Angel with the flaming sword is not among Blake's pictures, because his God empowered his children to re-enter Eden whenever they found their way back to the Gate.

Milton, Plate 34 [38], (E 135)
"Those Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge
PLATE 35 [39]
Are here frozen to unexpansive deadly destroying terrors[.]
And War & Hunting: the Two Fountains of the River of Life
Are become Fountains of bitter Death & of corroding Hell

Till Brotherhood is changd into a Curse & a Flattery
By Differences between Ideas, that Ideas themselves, (which are
The Divine Members) may be slain in offerings for sin"

Revelation 22
[1] And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
[2] In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
[3] And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
[4] And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
[5] And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Just poetry! you might say. Yes, but a fountain of life to non-authoritarians, free spirits who don't feel bound by the inerrancy-of-the-bible crowd. Blake sought Meaning in the Bible, not Law. Bible students divide along that line between free spirits and authoritarian types. Blake belonged to the first category, and so do I, and (hopefully) so do you. Let me know.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Quote from Larry Clayton's Blake Primer - Chapter Two - Style.
To think and speak eternally is no small achievement for Blake or for us. Pursuing this aim he floundered for many years.
The words of Los in The Four Zoas record the moment when Blake got a firm grip on what he sought for himself and for us: "I already feel a World within Opening its gates, & in it all the real substances Of which these in the outward World are shadows which pass away." (E368) After twenty years in the visionary wilderness that "World within" opened its gates into the mind of the mature artist and poet.
Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 86, (E 368)
"Los furious answerd. Spectre horrible thy words astound my Ear 
With irresistible conviction I feel I am not one of those
Who when convincd can still persist. tho furious.controllable
By Reasons power. Even I already feel a World within
Opening its gates & in it all the real substances
Of which these in the outward World are shadows which pass away
Come then into my Bosom & in thy shadowy arms bring with thee   
My lovely Enitharmon. I will quell my fury & teach
Peace to the Soul of dark revenge & repentance to Cruelty

So spoke Los & Embracing Enitharmon & the Spectre
Clouds would have folded round in Extacy & Love uniting"
Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
Ode to Adversity
Then he began to exercise the greatest freedom in his artistic use of the shadows.
They served him in every conceivable way to elucidate the real world within. All the shadows, all natural phenomena, all historical events, all works of art, his own included, he treated as fluctuating insubstantials which illustrate or point to the eternal reality.
Blake thought so much of Infinity that he learned to take great liberties with time and space. In this he followed the style of the most imaginative books of the Bible. As a young man sitting at the feet of Swedenborg he had learned the doctrine of correspondences which had come down from the Bible through the heterodox tradition. As Blake applied it, every material thing has a spiritual or eternal referrent. In the words of the alchemical tradition, "As above, so below".
In the Book of Revelation for example Babylon, a code word for Rome, more generally connotes the citadel of worldly power and evil. Blake of course used it in the same way. He used geographical locations of all sorts to point to spiritual realities. Africa symbolizes slavery in all its forms, particularly the "mind forg'd manacles" (from London) of the moral law. America symbolizes the hope of freedom. In the 16th plate of 'Jerusalem' (E 160) Blake went to extremes with this sort of symbolization; he superimposed the territorial tribes of Israel upon the map of England. The lapse into obscurantism was an unfortunate attempt to evoke spiritual values from a very prosaic material reality.
He more often succeeded in translating historical events and personages into spiritual realities. Constantine and Charlemagne symbolize war with religion as its handmaid. Albion is Blake's master symbol for Man, but sometimes Moses symbolizes Man; Michael and Satan then symbolize the forces of light and darkness in contest for Man. In Blake's last great work Job became the archetypal man.
Some of his symbols (Orc, Urizen, Los) Blake elaborated into the dramatis personae of his complete myth. Their identities, not immediately apparent, grow and take on new and fuller meaning throughout a life time of reading Blake. The fascination of the prophecies lies in watching these strange symbols come forth from the mists of confusion and speak with ever increasing authority to the reader about himself and his world. Beginning with the traditional language of symbolic discourse Blake learned to translate every facet of man's experience into a symbol of the ultimate:

    Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 712)
    "...Each grain of Sand,
    Every Stone on the Land,
    Each rock & each hill,
    Each fountain & rill,
    Each herb & each tree,
    Mountain, hill, earth & sea,
    Cloud, Meteor & Star,
    Are Men Seen Afar."

And two years later, in another letter poem:
 Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 722)
"For double the vision my Eyes do see,
And a double vision is always with me.
With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey;
With my outward, a Thistle across my way."

Blake used earlier works of art as symbols which he put together to convey his thoughts about the eternal struggle and flux of values. He used the Bible, Milton, earlier Blake in the same way, all as a reservoir of ideational symbols combined into new forms to convey spiritual truth. This habit of mind can be described awkwardly at best. But it can be experienced vividly by the reader who will live into Blake's poetry. It's one of the ways in which he expressed his "desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite".