First Posted in April 2013
Persephone in Visions of the Daughters of Albion
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 1, (E 46)
"Over the waves she went in wing'd exulting swift delight; And over Theotormons reign, took her impetuous course.
Persephone in Visions of the Daughters of Albion Bromion rent her with his thunders. on his stormy bed Lay the faint maid, and soon her woes appalld his thunders hoarse Bromion spoke. behold this harlot here on Bromions bed, And let the jealous dolphins sport around the lovely maid; Thy soft American plains are mine, and mine thy north & south: Stampt with my signet are the swarthy children of the sun: They are obedient, they resist not, they obey the scourge: Their daughters worship terrors and obey the violent: Plate 2 Now thou maist marry Bromions harlot, and protect the child Of Bromions rage, that Oothoon shall put forth in nine moons time"
Visions of the Daughters of Albion
Copy O, Plate 3
In Oothoon's myth Blake looks at more complex implications of the soul's relationship to the body. By plucking the flower Oothoon enters the world of generation or sexual division. She is assaulted by Bromion who is said to be both Reason and the Law. The attack is perhaps implies that she has acknowledged her sexuality and has chosen as her mate Theotormon who represents Desire. The two males both reject Oothoon, now considering her to have been defiled by sexual experience. Oothoon however knows herself to be the Soul which cannot be contaminated by outer events. The males are bound by appearances which prevent them from seeing the situation from a spiritual or eternal perspective. Oothoon knowing her own purity urges that they change their perspective:
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 51) "And trees. & birds. & beasts. & men. behold their eternal joy. Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy! Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy! Thus every morning wails Oothoon. but Theotormon sits Upon the margind ocean conversing with shadows dire. The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs."
Here's a Blakean twist on the ubiquitous eternal triangle of all the love stories.
Although Blake is making a statement about the descent of the soul into materality he is also addressing the moral situation of the treatment of women. Here we see clearly the moral approach. Blake used Visions of the Daughters of Albion to express his emphatic displeasure at the notion that a raped girl is 'damaged goods' and no longer worthy of the love of her erswhile lover. He considered that to be a high degree of immorality, another expression of the Jealousy that was for Blake the primary sin. To perceive a woman as property, all too prevalent in Blake's day and still quite common in ours, is repugnant to Blake.
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 7, (E 50) "The moment of desire! the moment of desire! The virgin That pines for man; shall awaken her womb to enormous joys In the secret shadows of her chamber; the youth shut up from The lustful joy. shall forget to generate. & create an amorous image In the shadows of his curtains and in the folds of his silent pillow. Are not these the places of religion? the rewards of continence? The self enjoyings of self denial? Why dost thou seek religion? Is it because acts are not lovely, that thou seekest solitude, Where the horrible darkness is impressed with reflections of desire. Father of jealousy. be thou accursed from the earth! Why hast thou taught my Theotormon this accursed thing?"
"Are not these the places of religion, the rewards of continence?" - A poke at conventional religion in which women are considered the property of men!
In contrast the metaphysical (or mythological) 'approach' presents an early (1793) version of the myth of the Kore. Oothoon is of course Persephone who likewise plucked a flower and was forced into a relationship not of her own choosing:
"The Golden nymph replied; pluck thou my flower Oothoon the mild." Oothoon, like Persephone was trapped in "Pluto's realm", the material world without escape, but she never joined it. Hurrah!
Although most of us who are religious types may struggle our whole lives for those precious moments of God consciousness, William Blake had a direct pipeline to the Beyond. Heavenly visions dominated his mind in an overwhelming way. His wife had only one fault to find, "Mr. Blake spends too much time in Heaven."
Those 'heavenly' moments he could best (or only) describe in the symbolic terms of the ages, a language that has been largely forgotten since the Enlightenment by our materialistic culture, which despises anything other than the 'hard reality' of dollars and cents.