Perhaps from the time he was a child Blake had been troubled by the Book of Job's image of a God who was distant, hidden and punishing. Blake knew the God who was accessible, revealed and accepting. In the 1780's or 90's Blake began responding to the Book of Job by creating images illuminating the Book of Job. His final work with Job was a book of twenty two engraving published in 1823.
We begin our study with an ink and wash drawing which he made in 1793. In it we see the suffering Job. He had lost his seven sons and three daughters, his flocks and herds. What he had left are his wife and his health and three friends who want to convince him that his reversal of fortune is the consequence of his own sinfulness.
|Achenbach Foundation |
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco www.famsf.org Complaint of Job
Ink and Wash, 1793
Blake followed the wash drawing with a large engraving of the same subject which he offered for sale by Prospectus along with another engraving, six illuminated books and two small books of engravings .
Prospectus, (E 692) TO THE PUBLIC October 10, 1793. ... The following are the Subjects of the several Works now published and on Sale at Mr. Blake's, No. 13, Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. 1. Job, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft.7 1/2 in. by 1 ft. 2 in.: price 12s."
"What is Man That thou shouldest Try him Every Moment? Job VII C 17 & 18 V"
 Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions:
 So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
 I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity.
 What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
 And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
 How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
 I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
 And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
Milton, Plate 18 , (E 111) "And Tharmas Demon of the Waters, & Orc, who is Luvah The Shadowy Female seeing Milton, howl'd in her lamentation Over the Deeps. outstretching her Twenty seven Heavens over Albion And thus the Shadowy Female howls in articulate howlings I will lament over Milton in the lamentations of the afflicted My Garments shall be woven of sighs & heart broken lamentations The misery of unhappy Families shall be drawn out into its border Wrought with the needle with dire sufferings poverty pain & woe Along the rocky Island & thence throughout the whole Earth There shall be the sick Father & his starving Family! there The Prisoner in the stone Dungeon & the Slave at the Mill I will have Writings written all over it in Human Words That every Infant that is born upon the Earth shall read And get by rote as a hard task of a life of sixty years I will have Kings inwoven upon it, & Councellors & Mighty Men The Famine shall clasp it together with buckles & Clasps And the Pestilence shall be its fringe & the War its girdle To divide into Rahab & Tirzah that Milton may come to our tents For I will put on the Human Form & take the Image of God Even Pity & Humanity but my Clothing shall be Cruelty And I will put on Holiness as a breastplate & as a helmet And all my ornaments shall be of the gold of broken hearts And the precious stones of anxiety & care & desperation & death And repentance for sin & sorrow & punishment & fear To defend me from thy terrors O Orc! my only beloved!"