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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

BLAKE & ELIOT

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
Plate 64

Perhaps when we read we are only allowing information to enter our brains at a superficial level. We may pick up some details of a story, or a theory, or a philosophy which we may record as a memory, or discard like rubbish in the waste paper basket. But some information we receive finds a connection with what lies deeper in the archives of fragments we have retained from earlier encounters. These are ideas that influence us because they penetrate the center of our being and lodge there to become light-bearers.

Blake had the ability to present ideas from the depths of his own being in order to reach and resonate with what was capable of responding in the depths of his reader.

In The Grammatical Man Jeremy Campbell quotes from T. S. Eliot in his essay The Frontiers of Criticism. Eliot indicates that Blake wrote from a level within himself which makes his poetry unexplainable to the natural mind.
 
T. S. Eliot:
"For myself, I can only say that knowledge of the springs which released a poem is not necessarily a help towards understanding the poem: too much information about the origins of the poem may even break my contact with it...I am ever prepared to suggest that there is, in all great poetry, something which must remain unaccountable however complete may be the knowledge of the poet, and that that is what matters most. When the poem has been made, something new has happened, something that cannot be wholly explained by anything that went before." Page 110 

In The Sacred Wood Eliot gives further insight in the mind of Blake: how it developed, how it differed from the conventional, and how it influenced his writing.
 
"... The question about Blake the man is the question of the circumstances that concurred to permit this honesty in his work, and what circumstances define its limitations. The favouring conditions probably include these two: that, being early apprenticed to a manual occupation, he was not compelled to acquire any other education in literature than he wanted, or to acquire it for any other reason than that he wanted it; and that, being a humble engraver, he had no journalistic-social career open to him.
...
It is important that the artist should be highly educated in his own art; but his education is one that is hindered rather than helped by the ordinary processes of society which constitute education for the ordinary man. For these processes consist largely in the acquisition of impersonal ideas which obscure what we really are and feel, what we really want, and what really excites our interest. It is of course not the actual information acquired, but the conformity which the accumulation of knowledge is apt to impose, that is harmful. Tennyson is a very fair example of a poet almost wholly encrusted with parasitic opinion, almost wholly merged into his environment. Blake, on the other hand, knew what interested him, and he therefore presents only the essential, only, in fact, what can be presented, and need not be explained. And because he was not distracted, or frightened, or occupied in anything but exact statement, he understood. He was naked, and saw man naked, and from the centre of his own crystal. To him there was no more reason why Swedenborg should be absurd than Locke. He accepted Swedenborg, and eventually rejected him, for reasons of his own. He approached everything with a mind unclouded by current opinions. There was nothing of the superior person about him. This makes him terrifying."

Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 136)
"Just in this Moment when the morning odours rise abroad
And first from the Wild Thyme, stands a Fountain in a rock
Of crystal flowing into two Streams, one flows thro Golgonooza   

And thro Beulah to Eden beneath Los's western Wall
The other flows thro the Aerial Void & all the Churches
Meeting again in Golgonooza beyond Satans Seat

The Wild Thyme is Los's Messenger to Eden, a mighty Demon
Terrible deadly & poisonous his presence in Ulro dark            
Therefore he appears only a small Root creeping in grass
Covering over the Rock of Odours his bright purple mantle
Beside the Fount above the Larks nest in Golgonooza
Luvah slept here in death & here is Luvahs empty Tomb
Ololon sat beside this Fountain on the Rock of Odours." 

Milton, Plate 28 [30], (E 126)
"The Sons of Ozoth within the Optic Nerve stand fiery glowing
And the number of his Sons is eight millions & eight.            
They give delights to the man unknown; artificial riches
They give to scorn, & their posessors to trouble & sorrow & care,
Shutting the sun. & moon. & stars. & trees. & clouds. & waters.
And hills. out from the Optic Nerve & hardening it into a bone
Opake. and like the black pebble on the enraged beach.        
While the poor indigent is like the diamond which tho cloth'd
In rugged covering in the mine, is open all within
And in his hallowd center holds the heavens of bright eternity
Ozoth here builds walls of rocks against the surging sea
And timbers crampt with iron cramps bar in the joys of life     
From fell destruction in the Spectrous cunning or rage."

Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 131)
"Thou percievest the Flowers put forth their precious Odours!
And none can tell how from so small a center comes such sweets
Forgetting that within that Center Eternity expands
Its ever during doors," 
Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 89 [97], (E 361)
"My Waters like a flood around thee fear not trust in me
And I will give thee all the ends of heaven for thy possession

In war shalt thou bear rule in blood shalt thou triumph for me
Because in times of Everlasting I was rent in sunder
And what I loved best was divided among my Enemies  
My little daughters were made captives & I saw them beaten
With whips along the sultry sands. I heard those whom I lovd  
Crying in secret tents at night & in the morn compelld
To labour & behold my heart sunk down beneath
In sighs & sobbings all dividing till I was divided 
In twain & lo my Crystal form that lived in my bosom
Followd her daughters to the fields of blood they left me naked
Alone & they refusd to return from the fields of the mighty
Therefore I will reward them as they have rewarded me
I will divide them in my anger & thou O my King  
Shalt gather them from out their graves & put thy fetter on them
And bind them to thee that my crystal form may come to me

So cried the Demon of the Waters in the Clouds of Los"

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 130, (E 398)
"And then she enterd her bright house leading her mighty children 

And when night came the flocks laid round the house beneath the trees
She laid the Children on the beds which she saw prepard in the house
Then last herself laid down & closd her Eyelids in soft slumbers

And in the morning when the Sun arose in the crystal sky
Vala awoke & calld the children from their gentle slumbers 

Awake O Enion awake & let thine innocent Eyes
Enlighten all the Crystal house of Vala awake awake
Awake Tharmas awake awake thou child of dewy tears
Open the orbs of thy blue eyes & smile upon my gardens"

Songs & Ballads, The Crystal Cabinet, (E 488)
"I strove to sieze the inmost Form
With ardor fierce & hands of flame
But burst the Crystal Cabinet
And like a Weeping Babe became

A weeping Babe upon the wild 
And Weeping Woman pale reclind
And in the outward air again
I filld with woes the passing Wind"

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 98[90], (E 370)
"Where the Spectrous dead wail & sighing thus he spoke to Enitharmon

Lovely delight of Men Enitharmon shady refuge from furious war 
Thy bosom translucent is a soft repose for the weeping souls
Of those piteous victims of battle there they sleep in happy obscurity
They feed upon our life we are their victims. Stern desire
I feel to fabricate embodied semblances in which the dead
May live before us in our palaces & in our gardens of labour
Which now opend within the Center we behold spread abroad
To form a world of Sacrifice of brothers & sons & daughters 
To comfort Orc in his dire sufferings; look! my fires enlume afresh
Before my face ascending with delight as in ancient times"

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 132, (E 400)
"And when Morning began to dawn upon the distant hills
a whirlwind rose up in the Center & in the Whirlwind a shriek 
And in the Shriek a rattling of bones & in the rattling of bones 
A dolorous groan & from the dolorous groan in tears
Rose Enion like a gentle light
. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

PARADISE LOST 1

Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost 
Butts Set, Illustration 1
Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels 
John Milton wrote 12 books in his epic Paradise Lost. For these 12 books Blake make 12 illustrations. Since Blake could cover only the highlights of Milton's poem in 12 pictures, he choose the most dramatic and revealing scenes as subjects for his illustrations. Milton's narrative does not move in a straight line from beginning to end of his poem since it is dealing with the interaction of time and eternity. Only in the final scene when Adam and Eve were led from the Garden of Eden did the earth as the habitation of man become real. At that point the limits of time and space became the milieu in which humanity was confined.

Milton chose to begin his epic in the midst of action. Satan, one of the heavenly hosts, had already rebelled against God. He had attracted as his followers a third of the angels into a battle against the remaining angels loyal to God. Blake's first illustration pictures Satan and his army after they have been defeated and expelled from heaven. The angels, not being mortal, were alive in hell and suffering regrets. Satan had not accepted defeat but was rousing his troops to further mischief.

When Milton wrote, he was not thinking only of God and the angels who opposed his leadership but of Cromwell (in whose government Milton had served) and the opposing military and political forces which brought down his government. When Blake illustrated, he was thinking also of events in his own times. The American and French revolutions had upended the prevailing order. Napoleon had led his military forces against the governments of Europe and prevailed.

The rebellion of Satan and the war in heaven are mentioned in the Book of Revelation. However as they appear in Paradise Lost, they were invented by Milton as explanations of the entry of evil into the world. In Blake's myth it was the disobedience of Urizen which initiated the appearance of Satan and the fall from heaven of a portion of the starry host.

Revelation
Chapter 12
[1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
[2] And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
[3] And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
[4] And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
[5] And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
[6] And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
[7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
[8] And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
[9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Paradise Lost
John Milton
 

Book 1, lines 81-127
"To whom the arch-enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence thus began.
If thou beest he; But oh how fallen! how changed
From him, who in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness didst outshine
Myriads though bright: If he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise,
Joined with me once, now misery hath joined
In equal ruin: into what pit thou seest
From what heighth fallen, so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? yet not for those,
Nor what the Potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent or change,

Though changed in outward luster; that fixed mind
And high disdain, from sense of injured merit,
That with the mightiest raised me to contend,

And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of spirits armed
That durst dislike his reign, and me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power,
Who from the terror of this arm so late
Doubted his empire, that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since by fate the strength of gods
And this empyreal substance cannot fail,

Since through experience of this great event
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war
Irreconcilable, to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in the excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.
So spake the apostate angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair:"



Four Zoas, Night V, Page 64, (E 343)
[Urizen speaks]
"My songs are turned to cries of Lamentation              
Heard on my Mountains & deep sighs under my palace roofs         
Because the Steeds of Urizen once swifter than the light
Were kept back from my Lord & from his chariot of mercies

O did I keep the horses of the day in silver pastures
O I refusd the Lord of day the horses of his prince
O did I close my treasuries with roofs of solid stone            
And darken all my Palace walls with envyings & hate

O Fool to think that I could hide from his all piercing eyes
The gold & silver & costly stones his holy workmanship
O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep          

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep 
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean      

I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath       
I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark
The stars threw down their spears & fled naked away
We fell. I siezd thee dark Urthona In my left hand falling

I siezd thee beauteous Luvah thou art faded like a flower
And like a lilly is thy wife Vala witherd by winds               
When thou didst bear the golden cup at the immortal tables
Thy children smote their fiery wings crownd with the gold of heaven

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 101, (E 374)
"Terrified & astonishd Urizen beheld the battle take a form  
Which he intended not a Shadowy hermaphrodite black & opake 
The Soldiers namd it Satan but he was yet unformd & vast
Hermaphroditic it at length became hiding the Male
Within as in a Tabernacle Abominable Deadly

The battle howls the terrors fird rage in the work of death
Enormous Works Los Contemplated inspird by the holy Spirit
Los builds the Walls of Golgonooza against the stirring battle 
That only thro the Gates of Death they can enter to Enitharmon
Raging they take the human visage & the human form

Feeling the hand of Los in Golgonooza & the force
Attractive of his hammers beating & the Silver looms
Of Enitharmon singing lulling cadences on the wind 
They humanize in the fierce battle where in direful pain
Troop by troop the beastial droves rend one another sounding loud
The instruments of sound & troop by troop in human forms they urge

PAGE 102 
The dire confusion till the battle faints those that remain
Return in pangs & horrible convulsions to their beastial state"