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

Thursday, June 28, 2018


New York Public Library
Book I, Page I, Title Page
New York Public Library
Book II, Page 30, Title Page

The posts which followed Ololon's adventures in Book II of Milton have been rearranged so that they more easily are read in order. However, Blake's technique in presenting his revelation does not follow a straightforward path. What may appear to be repetition is Blake illuminating the same moment from various perspectives and from the point of view of multiple characters. Blake make his reader responsible for building up the import of the action which culminates in transcending our ordinary experience in time and space.

Susan Fox in Poetic Form in Blake's Milton on Page 127-8 gives us a short summary of the overall themes of the two books of Milton:

"Book I is concerned with the 'masculine' assertiveness of the poet, his responsibility to his vision and to his compeers; Book II is concerned with the 'feminine' portion which is his inspiration and support, the mercy he learns to exercise in Book I. The second book is an expansion of the single plate of Book I in which Ololon appears: on plate 21 she, having lamented of seven mornings her driving Milton into Ulro, repents and descends to him; Book II is an extended analysis of that act which, like all acts in Milton, is identical with its consequences. Book I is a poem of struggle, Book II of resolution.

...In Book I , the union is primarily the consolidation of the masculine forces of creativity; in Book II it is the concomitant merger of the feminine forces with the masculine." 

Letters, To Hayley, (E 767
"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
Milton, Plate 21 [23], (E 115)
"But Milton entering my Foot; I saw in the nether
Regions of the Imagination; also all men on Earth,               
And all in Heaven, saw in the nether regions of the Imagination
In Ulro beneath Beulah, the vast breach of Miltons descent.
But I knew not that it was Milton, for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive               
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments."

The Library of Congress has a large collection of Blake's Illuminated Books which were donated by Lessing J. Rosenwald. The 50 plates of Copy D of Milton can be viewed in this pdf file. Perhaps you would like to read at least part of Milton plate by plate as Blake intended it to be read



Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Annunciation to Shepherds

In the second book of Milton Ololon followed Milton out of Eternity into the world of matter. She mistakenly thought that she had forced Milton to descend from Eden into our world of Generation. She elected to enter the lowest level of decay and be exposed to depravity.

In Eternity Blake's Ololon was not an individual but a multitude of spirits. She was striped of her retinue and becomes singular in order to experience the world of mortality. Before entering she looked through the Gates of the Dead and saw the world that mankind had created without the imaginative vision which he had lost in the Fall from Eden. She saw that she must fully participate in the society which had grown out of the failure to love and nurture and forgive, and which lay in stark brutality before her. She could not avoid passing the Polypus - the ugly, grasping manifestations of 'man's inhumanity to man.' But beyond the Polypus lay Golgonooza - the efforts that man makes to live by Eternal principles in spite of what he sees happening around him. 

Milton, Plate 34 [38], (E 134)
"Seeing Miltons Shadow, some Daughters of Beulah trembling
Returnd, but Ololon remaind before the Gates of the Dead

And Ololon looked down into the Heavens of Ulro in fear
They said. How are the Wars of Man which in Great Eternity       
Appear around, in the External Spheres of Visionary Life
Here renderd Deadly within the Life & Interior Vision
How are the Beasts & Birds & Fishes, & Plants & Minerals
Here fixd into a frozen bulk subject to decay & death?
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
O dreadful Loom of Death! O piteous Female forms compelld
To weave the Woof of Death, On Camberwell Tirzahs Courts
Malahs on Blackheath, Rahab & Noah. dwell on Windsors heights
Where once the Cherubs of Jerusalem spread to Lambeths Vale      
Milcahs Pillars shine from Harrow to Hampstead where Hoglah
On Highgates heights magnificent Weaves over trembling Thames
To Shooters Hill and thence to Blackheath the dark Woof! Loud
Loud roll the Weights & Spindles over the whole Earth let down
On all sides round to the Four Quarters of the World, eastward on
Europe to Euphrates & Hindu, to Nile & back in Clouds
Of Death across the Atlantic to America North & South

So spake Ololon in reminiscence astonishd, but they
Could not behold Golgonooza without passing the Polypus
A wondrous journey not passable by Immortal feet, & none         
But the Divine Saviour can pass it without annihilation.
For Golgonooza cannot be seen till having passd the Polypus
It is viewed on all sides round by a Four-fold Vision
Or till you become Mortal & Vegetable in Sexuality
Then you behold its mighty Spires & Domes of ivory & gold" 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Illustration to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso
Night Startled by the Lark
Blake was fascinated by the writings of John Milton. Since he had begun reading Paradise Lost as a child, he has sought to understand Milton's theology and reconcile it with his own. Milton's God, his Messiah and his Satan eventually became unacceptable to Blake. He could not reconcile the God whose ways Milton tried to justify, with Jesus' benevolent God of forgiveness with whom he interacted. So Blake wrote his poem Milton about forgiveness, our need to forgive and be forgiven. Blake knew that he needed to forgive Milton and himself and God before he could be an instrument of forgiveness and healing in a confused and troubled world. It is that old conundrum of being a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

As Blake saw it, the Immortals who lived in Eternity took the initiative of reaching down to him and entering the world of mortality. They sent a messenger in the form of a mighty angel, but on earth the appearance was that of a Lark:
Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"The Lark sitting upon his earthy bed: just as the morn
Appears; listens silent; then springing from the waving Corn-field! loud
He leads the Choir of Day! trill, trill, trill, trill,
Mounting upon the wings of light into the Great Expanse:
Reecchoing against the lovely blue & shining heavenly Shell:
His little throat labours with inspiration; every feather
On throat & breast & wings vibrates with the effluence Divine    
All Nature listens silent to him & the awful Sun
Stands still upon the Mountain looking on this little Bird" 
The arrival of Ololon in Blake's cottage garden at Felpham was announced by the voice of the lark. She appeared not in time and space but in a flash of illumination like lightening. Blake was describing a vision in which Ololon assumed the appearance of a prepubescent child. She was innocent - unmarred by the demands or wounds which the world inflicts. She would become a vehicle for reconciliation.

Milton 36 [40], (E 136)
"Thus are the Messengers dispatchd till they reach the Earth again
In the East Gate of Golgonooza, & the Twenty-eighth bright
Lark met the Female Ololon descending into my Garden            
Thus it appears to Mortal eyes & those of the Ulro Heavens
But not thus to Immortals, the Lark is a mighty, Angel.

For Ololon step'd into the Polypus within the Mundane Shell
They could not step into Vegetable Worlds without becoming
The enemies of Humanity except in a Female Form          
And as One Female, Ololon and all its mighty Hosts
Appear'd: a Virgin of twelve years nor time nor space was
To the perception of the Virgin Ololon but as the
Flash of lightning but more  quick the Virgin in my Garden
Before my Cottage stood for the Satanic Space is delusion        

For when Los joind with me he took me in his firy whirlwind
My Vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeths shades
He set me down in Felphams Vale & prepard a beautiful
Cottage for me that in three years I might write all these Visions
To display Natures cruel holiness: the deceits of Natural Religion" 


New York Public Library
Plate 36
In the first book of Milton, Blake had encountered Los and become one with him. On Plate 36 Blake reentered his poem. Ololon descended to Blake's garden with the appearance of a twelve year old virgin. Blake's response when he perceived her in his garden was a question, "What am I to do?" Ololon's interest was in Milton whose shadow she encountered as the Covering Cherub - the summation of all of the religious errors which plagued humanity. Ololon was shown the total range of errors which Blake lumped together as false attempts to follow God by using rituals, rules, fear and force.

One  particular error which Blake saw in Milton was his adherence to the Puritan faith which was based on a system of law and punishment. To the Puritan, man was by nature sinful and whatever adversity he experienced was God's justified punishment. Blake saw the tenets of Milton's religious faith expressed in his Paradise Lost.

It was Ololon who had been sent to complete the redemption of Milton. Blake was to be the witness to the process and to be redeemed in Milton's redemption.

Milton, Plate 36 [40], (E 137)
"Walking in my Cottage Garden, sudden I beheld
The Virgin Ololon & address'd her as a Daughter of Beulah[:]

Virgin of Providence fear not to enter into my Cottage
What is thy message to thy friend: What am I now to do
Is it again to plunge into deeper affliction? behold me          
Ready to obey, but pity thou my Shadow of Delight
Enter my Cottage, comfort her, for she is sick with fatigue
Plate 37 [41]
The Virgin answerd. Knowest thou of Milton who descended
Driven from Eternity; him I seek! terrified at my Act
In Great Eternity which thou  knowest!  I come him to seek

So Ololon utterd in words distinct the anxious thought
Mild was the voice, but more distinct than any earthly           
That Miltons Shadow heard & condensing all his Fibres
Into a strength impregnable of majesty & beauty infinite
I saw he was the Covering Cherub & within him Satan
And Rahab, in an outside which is fallacious! within
Beyond the outline of Identity, in the Selfhood deadly           
And he appeard the Wicker Man of Scandinavia in whom
Jerusalems children consume in flames among the Stars
Descending down into my Garden, a Human Wonder of God
Reaching from heaven to earth a Cloud & Human Form
I beheld Milton with astonishment & in him beheld            
The Monstrous Churches of Beulah, the Gods of Ulro dark
Twelve monstrous dishumanizd terrors Synagogues of Satan.
A Double Twelve & Thrice Nine: such their divisions.

And these their Names & their Places within the Mundane Shell"

Plate 37 [41], (E 138)
"All these are seen in Miltons Shadow who is the Covering Cherub
The Spectre of Albion in which the Spectre of Luvah inhabits     
In the Newtonian Voids between the Substances of Creation"

Phillips Translation
Corinthians II
        This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be
        based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew
        Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer).
        For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person
        altogether - the past is finished and gone, everything
        has become fresh and new. All this is God's doing, for he
        has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ; and he
        has made us agents of the reconciliation. God was in
        Christ personally reconciling the world to himself - not
        counting their sins against them - and has commissioned
        us with the message of reconciliation. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Wikipedia Commons
Plate 16, Copy D
It is one thing to see the consequences of mistaken thinking as it is manifest in the outer world. It is quite another to look within oneself and confront the options which were available and the decisions which one made affecting how one lives. We can see things which go wrong in the world as being caused by someone else. However the mess which we make by internal failures like selfishness, greed, blame, fear, or timidity can only be corrected by internal solutions

Milton had seem in the Covering Cherub the results that misperceptions created as they influenced the society or culture. His task now was to confront the internal demons which generated the disorder in his home and family, in his city and nation, and in the countries and continents of the world. The direct attack on functions creates counterattack. Milton realized that aggressive measures would make him more like the entities which he opposed. To remove the offending qualities within himself, he needed to see them not as enemies but as friends who could be brought into the tent of love by forgiveness.
Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 138)
 "And Milton collecting all his fibres into impregnable strength  
Descended down a Paved work of all kinds of precious stones
Out from the eastern sky; descending down into my Cottage
Garden: clothed in black, severe & silent he descended.

The Spectre of Satan stood upon the roaring sea & beheld
Milton within his sleeping Humanity! trembling & shuddring
He stood upon the waves a Twenty-seven-fold mighty Demon
Gorgeous & beautiful: loud roll his thunders against Milton
Loud  Satan thunderd, loud & dark upon mild Felpham shore
Not daring to touch one fibre he howld round upon the Sea.

I also stood in Satans bosom & beheld its desolations!           
A ruind Man: a ruind building of God not made with hands;
In the Eastern porch of Satans Universe Milton stood & said

Satan! my Spectre! I know my power thee to annihilate
And be a greater in thy place, & be thy Tabernacle               
A covering for thee to do thy will, till one greater comes
And smites me as I smote thee & becomes my covering.
Such are the Laws of thy false Heavns! but Laws of Eternity
Are not such: know thou: I come to Self Annihilation
Such are the Laws of Eternity that each shall mutually     
Annihilate himself for others good, as I for thee[.]
Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches
Is to impress on men the fear of death; to teach
Trembling & fear, terror, constriction; abject selfishness
Mine is to teach Men to despise death & to go on            
In fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn
Thy Laws & terrors, shaking down thy Synagogues as webs
I come to discover before Heavn & Hell the Self righteousness
In all its Hypocritic turpitude, opening to every eye
These wonders of Satans holiness shewing to the Earth     
The Idol Virtues of the Natural Heart, & Satans Seat
Explore in all its Selfish Natural Virtue & put off
In Self annihilation all that is not of God alone:
To put off Self & all I have ever & ever Amen"

Songs of Innocence & of Experience,  (E 28)
A POISON TREE.           

"I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree."

Thessalonians 1 
5:13b-18 - Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ. 


British Museum
Plate 95, Copy A
The process of reconciliation with the false reasoning power was not unopposed. Satan did not agree to relinquish the position of dominance which he enjoyed. Instead he asserted it more emphatically. The extravagant statement of Satan revealed the error of his position. The sand had flowed past the obstruction in the hourglass; the flow could be reversed by turning the device upside down. 

Mercy could not be overridden by Satan's definition of holiness. Milton had an Epiphany. Satan, too, was the recipient of the Divine Mercy and would be brought into Albion, the representation of total Humanity. Satan was not to be destroyed but integrated by Los.

This appears to be Blake's recognition that the religious approaches can live side by side: that justice and mercy are both aspects of the Divine Humanity. To oppose one contrary only allows the negation to flower. If the Law prevents the Gospel from being heard, Natural Religion is allowed to flourish.
Milton, Plate 38 [44], (E 139)
"Satan heard! Coming in a cloud, with trumpets & flaming fire     

Saying I am God the judge of all, the living & the dead
Fall therefore down & worship me. submit thy supreme
Dictate, to my eternal Will & to my dictate bow
I hold the Balances of Right & Just & mine the Sword
Seven Angels bear my Name & in those Seven I appear             
But I alone am God & I alone in Heavn & Earth
Of all that live dare utter this, others tremble & bow
Plate 39 [44]
Till All Things become One Great Satan, in Holiness
Oppos'd to Mercy, and the Divine Delusion Jesus be no more

Suddenly around Milton on my Path, the Starry Seven
Burnd terrible! my Path became a solid fire, as bright
As the clear Sun & Milton silent came down on my Path.           
And there went forth from the Starry limbs of the Seven: Forms
Human; with Trumpets innumerable, sounding articulate
As the Seven spake; and they stood in a mighty Column of Fire
Surrounding Felphams Vale, reaching to the Mundane Shell, Saying

Awake Albion awake! reclaim thy Reasoning Spectre. Subdue        

Him to the Divine Mercy, Cast him down into the Lake
Of Los, that ever burneth with fire, ever & ever Amen!
Let the Four Zoa's awake from Slumbers of Six Thousand Years"

Monday, June 25, 2018


Yale Center for British Art
Plate 54
Los seized his opening and make his presence known. His implements of change were his furnaces; the assistance he could count upon was the Heavens. Satan knew the threat he faced. He surrounded himself with symbols of strength and dominion which in the past had succeeded in intimidating his opponents. However 'his visionary eye' saw that Albion was awake and beginning to rise from the couch to which he had retreated.
Blake created a visual image of the Giant Albion stretched over the geography of Great Britain. Satan, like a beast of prey, circled the sleeping giant. But it was not up to Albion or Satan or Los to initiate the next stage or redemption. They set the stage, but the action depended upon Milton and Urizen entering the drama in order to release Albion from his Deadly Sleep.
Blake's Beulah was not the place of activity but of rest and repose created for relief from the 'severe contentions of friendship' which occupy the the rational masculine mind in Eden. Albion did not have the strength to rise from 'his Couch In moony Beulah' before Milton resolved his issue of annihilating his selfhood. Albion would continue in 'selfish cold repose' until the passive feminine life of Beulah was no longer expressed in a separate female will. 

Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 140)
"Then loud the Furnaces of Los were heard! & seen as Seven heavens
Stretching from south to north over the mountains of Albion     

Satan heard; trembling round his Body, he incircled it
He trembled with exceeding great trembling & astonishment
Howling in his Spectre round his Body hungring to devour
But fearing for the pain for if he touches a Vital,
His torment is unendurable: therefore he cannot devour:         
But howls round it as a lion round his prey continually
Loud Satan thunderd, loud & dark upon mild Felphams Shore
Coming in a Cloud with Trumpets & with Fiery Flame
 An awful Form eastward from midst of a bright Paved-work
Of precious stones by Cherubim surrounded: so permitted          
(Lest he should fall apart in his Eternal Death) to imitate
The Eternal Great Humanity Divine surrounded by
His Cherubim & Seraphim in ever happy Eternity
Beneath sat Chaos: Sin on his right hand Death on his left
And Ancient Night spread over all the heavn his Mantle of Laws   
He trembled with exceeding great trembling & astonishment

Then Albion rose up in the Night of Beulah on his Couch
Of dread repose seen by the visionary eye; his face is toward
The east, toward Jerusalems Gates: groaning he sat above
His rocks. London & Bath & Legions & Edinburgh                   
Are the four pillars of his Throne; his left foot near London
Covers the shades of Tyburn: his instep from Windsor
To Primrose Hill stretching to Highgate & Holloway

London is between his knees: its basements fourfold
His right foot stretches to the sea on Dover cliffs, his heel  
On Canterburys ruins; his right hand covers lofty Wales
His left Scotland; his bosom girt with gold involves
York, Edinburgh, Durham & Carlisle & on the front
Bath, Oxford, Cambridge Norwich; his right elbow
Leans on the Rocks of Erins Land, Ireland ancient nation,      
His head bends over London: he sees his embodied Spectre
Trembling before him with exceeding great trembling & fear
He views Jerusalem & Babylon, his tears flow down
He movd his right foot to Cornwall, his left to the Rocks of Bognor
He strove to rise to walk into the Deep. but strength failing    
Forbad & down with dreadful groans he sunk upon his Couch
In moony Beulah. Los his strong Guard walks round beneath the Moon"


British Museum
Copy A, Plate 41
This short section from Critical Essays on William Blake, edited by Hazard Adams, in the Afterword by Hazard Adams, prepares the way for reading about annihilation on Plate 39, of Milton.  

"Blake's world-view, therefore, can be characterized as symbolical, though symbolizing nothing existent (that would be allegory in his language), but what is yet to exist, desirable both individually and socially. This symbolized does not exist somewhere like Platonic form or idea. Blake's symbols do not have objects to which they refer or previous ideas which they signify. They are radical possibilities in themselves, without attachment to things in themselves. In this sense, Blake's world-view is not view but is itself a sort of world, a world of language and design which does not copy nature, he declares, but projects a 'vision.'" (Page 196)

In this critical passage from Milton we can recognize Blake's method of building a symbolic image through a process which is beyond description. Blake brings together elements which have been formulated through events which have occurred in varied settings among interrelated mental aspects. There is no attempt to define entities or specify processes. We are not asked to follow events in time or recall events in space. We are asked to experience in ourselves eternity being expressed.

Annihilation is not a process we should attempt to avoid. But, because it does not take place without a struggle, it is not entered into lightly. It is not foreknown what will be annihilated when one consents to annihilation. Blake's Milton struggled to reassemble his mental structure, his self-perception, the identity around which his Zoas were ordered. His emanation, Ololon, observed the process until she realized that she must be involved. If Milton eliminated the errors in his perception, the outward manifestation of those perceptions would be eliminated as well. Natural Religion could not survive without the thought patterns which gave it form. But if the expressions of Natural Religion were allowed to survive, the process which had been so painfully achieved would fail to achieve its goal.

Blake struggled to present his vision in such a way that it could penetrate the human psyche. He took as his example the ministry of Jesus whose vision was beyond the psychic development of his followers. Blake was aware that those who followed Jesus did not produce the transformed humanity which Jesus attempted to introduce. The failure was not of Vision but was an inability to transcend the attachment to habitual ways of acting. Blake knew that annihilation was not complete until it resulted in the destruction of outer forms as well as inner attitudes. 

Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 141)
"Urizen faints in terror striving among the Brooks of Arnon
With Miltons Spirit: as the Plowman or Artificer or Shepherd
While in the labours of his Calling sends his Thought abroad 
To labour in the ocean or in the starry heaven. So Milton
Labourd in Chasms of the Mundane Shell, tho here before
My Cottage midst the Starry Seven, where the Virgin Ololon
Stood trembling in the Porch: loud Satan thunderd on the stormy Sea
Circling Albions Cliffs in which the Four-fold World resides     
Tho seen in fallacy outside: a fallacy of Satans Churches
Plate 40[46]
Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.   
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
Become in their Feminine portions the causes & promoters       
Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem  
Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation.

No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War          
Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw

And all beneath the Nations innumerable of Ulro
Appeard, the Seven Kingdoms of Canaan & Five Baalim
Of Philistea. into Twelve divided, calld after the Names      
Of Israel: as they are in Eden. Mountain. River & Plain
City & sandy Desart intermingled beyond mortal ken

But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated"  

Sunday, June 24, 2018


New York Public Library

Plate 43
Blake continued to work out the process of annihilation on plate 41. The implication was that when the contraries have been reconciled there was still a residue of false reasoning which must be removed. A process of shedding the masks which obscure the Face of the Spirit must be undergone by casting off layers of error through  bathing in the Waters of Life.

The virgin form of Ololon was a false representation of her true nature. As Milton's contrary she was a woman and a wife not an innocent child who has not not endured the suffering of experience. Ololon saw that the virgin form in her could not endure the contentions of eternity. To truly be Milton's emanation, his contrary, she must go with him to Eternal Death - that is to annihilation.

When Milton and Ololon together enter the void outside of existence they find that they have entered the womb which is the Death Couch of Albion. Blake is bringing together all that has been dispersed into the one Body: Albion who is the total humanity.

The womb is a place of preparation, of building a new being from the potential which has found a home in it. Regeneration takes place in the womb, but not before Generation is 'swallowed up.' The 'Sexual Garment' must be surrendered before the 'Human Powers' evolve. 

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 142)
"That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery
there is a Negation, & there is a Contrary
The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal           
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
Plate 41 [48]
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering          
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration
That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of Madness
Cast on the Inspired, by the tame high finisher of paltry Blots,
Indefinite, or paltry Rhymes; or paltry Harmonies.               
Who creeps into State Government like a catterpiller to destroy
To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,
But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin
Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;
Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge; whose Science is Despair   
Whose pretence to knowledge is Envy, whose whole Science is
To destroy the wisdom of ages to gratify ravenous Envy;
That rages round him like a Wolf day & night without rest
He smiles with condescension; he talks of Benevolence & Virtue
And those who act with Benevolence & Virtue, they murder time on time
These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.

Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair

Is this our Feminine Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female      
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro.
Hence arose all our terrors in Eternity! & now remembrance
Returns upon us! are we Contraries O Milton, Thou & I            
O Immortal! how were we led to War the Wars of Death
Is this the Void Outside of Existence, which if enterd into
Plate 42 [49]             
Becomes a Womb? & is this the Death Couch of Albion
Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee."

Jerusalem, Plate 1, (E 144)
[Above the archway:]

"There is a Void, outside of Existence, which if enterd into
Englobes itself & becomes a Womb, such was Albions Couch
A pleasant Shadow of Repose calld Albions lovely Land

His Sublime & Pathos become Two Rocks fixd in the Earth
His Reason his Spectrous Power, covers them above                
Jerusalem his Emanation is a Stone laying beneath
O [Albion behold Pitying] behold the Vision of Albion" 

John 17
[9] I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
[10] And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
[11] And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 


New York Public Library
Copy C, Plate 45
The culmination of Blake's myth of regeneration was the bringing together of the broken parts. Under the domination of the Fall from Eternity divisions were created. Through the loss of relationship of the individual parts, they evolved into selfish parts jealous of the roles which were allocated to other parts. At the end of Milton various pieces confront their errors and become capable of fitting themselves together with the piece to which they were meant to be conjoined. Even the most fallen pieces can be redeemed if they are matched with their missing counterpart.

So it was that the Virgin form of Ololon found the Shadow of Milton. Together they portend a new beginning as was made by the ark of Noah which preserved a remnant. When the waters of materiality overwhelmed the dry land of a state of diffused consciousness, a detente was reached allowing the two to exist within limits. A means of moving forward was provided when the contrary states admitted the validity of the other.

Jesus entered the world not to be redeemed but to be the vehicle for redemption. He took on the garment of human life in order to walk upon the earth and enter into man by partaking of human experience. Blake reported that in the vision he was receiving, he heard and felt the total impact of Jesus entering 'Albions Bosom, the bosom of death.' The experience knocked him off his feet and he was left lying on his garden path, but ready for the new life he was entering.

Milton Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths             
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea.

Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a Garment dipped in blood

Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years

And I beheld the Twenty-four Cities of Albion
Arise upon their Thrones to Judge the Nations of the Earth
And the Immortal Four in whom the Twenty-four appear Four-fold
Arose around Albions body: Jesus wept & walked forth
From Felphams Vale clothed in Clouds of blood, to enter into    
Albions Bosom, the bosom of death
& the Four surrounded him
In the Column of Fire in Felphams Vale; then to their mouths the Four
Applied their Four Trumpets & them sounded to the Four winds

Terror struck in the Vale I stood at that immortal sound
My bones trembled. I fell outstretchd upon the path             
A moment, & my Soul returnd into its mortal state

To Resurrection & Judgment in the Vegetable Body
And my sweet Shadow of Delight stood trembling by my side"

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Wikimedia Commons
Copy C, Plate 46
There is cause for rejoicing. The days of preparation are complete but Milton ends with work still to be done. Seeds have been planted and watered. The wheat and grapes have flourished in the summer heat. The harvesting is yet to be.

The masculine and feminine aspects of Milton unite to form an undivided human. Milton's Shadow or his Selfhood, had accepted annihilation preparing him to assimilate Ololon, his feminine portion. Ololon relinquished her Eternal form to become the human from that carries life. If we push this imagery further we might say that the spirit of Milton has cleansed itself of error and Ololon has accepted her role as Milton's contrary. Ololon had become Body to Milton's Soul and vice versa. This implies that Milton/Ololon together represent incarnation.

In the final image Ololon spreads the garment dipped in blood about her body. Milton is present in the vegetating stalks of wheat. Together they appear as 'The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight' - the body and blood of Christ.

Matthew 26
[26] And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
[27] And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
[28] For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
[29] But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.

W. J. T. Mitchell contributed a chapter named Blake's Radical Comedy to the book Blake's Sublime Allegory, edited by Stuart Curran & Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr., On page 305 he wrote: 

"The meeting of Milton and Ololon, then is simultaneously a revelation of the archetypal errors of masculine and feminine consciousness and a redemption of those errors. ... [T]he courage required for self-annihilation is not in itself sufficient to redeem either the self or the world. Milton's act would remain within the fruitless cycle of creation and destruction which continues to trap the male imagination, even after his descent, if it were not for Ololon's response, her renewal of life to balance his descent to death. Ololon's final transformation into an ark and a dove, the bearer and messenger of life amidst the annihilating flood, occurs when she casts off her false femininity... [S]he sees that the stereotypes ruling the behavior of both sexes are the basis for the vicious cycle which entraps the best efforts of Milton and the Sons of Los, and these roles must be annihilated and recreated as human relationships before the cycle can be broken and transormed into the fruitful, liberating dialectic of contraries." 
Milton, Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"Immediately the Lark mounted with a loud trill from Felphams Vale
And the Wild Thyme from Wimbletons green & impurpled Hills       

And Los & Enitharmon rose over the Hills of Surrey
Their clouds roll over London with a south wind, soft Oothoon
Pants in the Vales of Lambeth weeping oer her Human Harvest
Los listens to the Cry of the Poor Man: his Cloud
Over London in volume terrific, low bended in anger.             

Rintrah & Palamabron view the Human Harvest beneath 
Their Wine-presses & Barns stand open; the Ovens are prepar'd 
The Waggons ready: terrific Lions & Tygers sport & play 
All Animals upon the Earth, are prepard in all their strength

PLATE 43 [50]         
To go forth to the Great Harvest & Vintage of the Nations
Letters, (E 709)
    "You stand in the village & look up to heaven
     The precious stones glitter on flights seventy seven
     And My Brother is there & My Friend & Thine
     Descend & Ascend with the Bread & the Wine

     The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight
     Feeds the Village of Felpham by day & by night"

Matthew 13
[27] So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
[28] He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
[29] But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
[30] Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
[37] He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
[38] The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
[39] The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
[40] As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
[41] The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
[42] And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
[43] Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Wikimedia Commons
Copy D, Plate 42
Many scholars have studied Blake's Milton and drawn conclusions about what Blake was saying in his poem. However, it is incumbent upon each reader to discern meaning by using his own imagination and to assemble his image of Blake's message which is congruent with his perception. I look at the above picture as speaking of many themes which were woven together in Blake's composition. The couple speaks of Milton and Ololon who have been united through forgiveness and self-sacrifice. They lie on the hard unforgiving stone of experience in the world of generation which they have voluntarily entered to become united. Milton has annihilated all within that can be annihilated and Ololon has relinquished the virginity which prevented her from accepting Milton's manhood. The waters that surround them signifies the world of matter and the eagle above represents world of spirit which amalgamate when the fully human emerges.

Fearful Symmetry by Northrop Frye page 346

"Blake is, therefore, trying to do for Milton what the prophets and Jesus did for Moses, isolate what is poetic and imaginative, and annihilate what is legal and historical. This is also what he is to do for himself, and there will always be a curse on any critic who tries to see the Christianity and radicalism of Blake as a dichotomy instead of a unity.
What we have here is a vision of mankind united in peace and brotherhood, their unity sustained not only by law, commerce and international science, but by a common understanding of that view of life from which all religions and arts derive their meaning."

Milton, A Poem by William Blake by Kay Parkhurst Easson and Roger R. Easson, Page 135

"To read William Blake's illuminated books is to participate in a spiritual education. To read Blake's Milton is to discover the nature of that spiritual education concurrent with the education itself. Consequently, Blake's Milton does not exist solely as an object of admiration or study. Although Milton is incredibly beautiful in its combination of word and illustration, and although its complexity stimulates intellectual scrutiny, it is a prophecy and like all prophecy, it provides spiritual instruction... In Milton Blake defines the spiritual journey which renews prophecy in every moment of human time."

The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, Commentary by Harold Bloom, Page 908

"Milton centers itself on the consciousness of the poet himself. The struggle is clearly an internal one, between the qualities in Blake that would compel him to surrender his prophetic function, and everything in him that desires to follow Milton's heroic dedication as a poet. Blake is the Job of his own poem, and confronts a tempting Satan, who he overcomes only by following Milton's example. Milton, in the poem, is shown a casting off his own selfhood and moving toward a visionary emancipation that Blake desires as his own." 

William Blake by John Middleton Murry, Page 236

"Milton is permeated through and through, with the doctrine of Self-annihilation, conceived as a constant and unending process. This is proclaimed in a hundred varying forms; and the poem might be described as one long effort toward Self-annihilation in Blake himself.
...The Negation is, of course, not to be 'destroyed' in the ordinary sense of the word...The Negation is destroyed by being loved; it is destroyed in the sense that its nature is changed, and it ceases to be a Negation... What he demanded was that it should be made the servant and not the master."

Poetic Form in Blake's Milton by Susan Fox, Page 191

"The range of these styles illustrates the basic concern of Milton, the perfection of a literary art through which eternity may be realized and time abolished... In the course of Milton both poets recognize their error; each 'collecting all the fibers of their impregnable strength' (38:5) in Blake's Felpham garden, begins the renovation of time by infusing it with eternal vision."

Milton, Plate 20 [21], (E 115)
"At last when desperation almost tore his heart in twain
He [Los] collected an old Prophecy in Eden recorded,
And often sung to the loud harp at the immortal feasts
That Milton of the Land of Albion should up ascend
Forwards from Ulro from the Vale of Felpham; and set free        
Orc from his Chain of Jealousy, he started at the thought
Plate 21 [23]
And down descended into Udan-Adan; it was night:
And Satan sat sleeping upon his Couch in Udan-Adan:
His Spectre slept, his Shadow woke; when one sleeps th'other wakes

But Milton entering my Foot; [Blake] I saw in the nether
Regions of the Imagination; also all men on Earth,               
And all in Heaven, saw in the nether regions of the Imagination
In Ulro beneath Beulah, the vast breach of Miltons descent.
But I knew not that it was Milton, for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive               
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments.

And all this Vegetable World appeard on my left Foot,
As a bright sandal formd immortal of precious stones & gold:
I stooped down & bound it on to walk forward thro' Eternity."    

Thanks to Milton a Poem, edited by Robert N. Essick and Joseph Viscomi for the following:
Proverbs 30
[18] There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
[19] The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


First published Monday, February 22, 2010
New York Public Library 
Plate 8
Palamabron, Rintrah and Satan

From Milton, Plate 25, (E 121):
"The Elect is one Class: You 

Shall bind them separate: they cannot Believe in Eternal Life 
Except by Miracle & a New Birth. The other two Classes;
The Reprobate who never cease to Believe, and the Redeemed, 

Who live in doubts & fears, perpetually tormented by the Elect"
Blake in his characteristic way, uses familiar words in unfamiliar ways. He takes three words from religion: Elect, Redeemed and Reprobate, and redefines them to make us reconsider how God relates to man and how man's psyche functions.
The Elect whom we think of as the chosen who have won God's approval become those who "cannot Believe in Eternal Life Except by Miracle & a New Birth".
The Reprobate whom we think of as failures and outcasts become those "who never cease to Believe."
The Redeemed whom we think of as knowing that they have been forgiven for their sins become those "Who live in doubts & fears perpetually tormented by the Elect."

From Ellie:
When I try to connect the Three Classes of Men with aspects of the psyche, this is what I see.The Elect wants to preserve the status quo. The Elect can be equated with the Ego which has charge of the personality, negotiating among the Id, the Superego and the reality principle. The Ego is the boss and decides how to express the personality. (The self-appointed Top Dog.)

The Reprobate are the outsiders, the aspects of the personality which are unrecognized or unacceptable.
The Reprobate is parallel to the Shadow in Jung which contains whatever the Ego has rejected and denies expression to. The Shadow contains undiscovered but valuable material.

The expanding or awakening consciousness which is the true human,
sometimes referred to as the Identity by Blake, or the Self by Jung, is the Redeemed. The Self connects the Ego, the Shadow and the collective unconscious. The Identity connects Albion, the wholeness of the individual with Eternal wholeness. The process of developing the Self or the Identity is a long struggle of gradually bringing to light hidden material and realigning internal and external relationships.

The psychological approach to studying Blake asks us to look within for
congruence between Blake's ideas and the dynamics of our psyches. Blake's myths and images can reveal to us aspects of ourselves; our self-understanding can enrich our reading of Blake.

From Larry: 
In Marriage of Heaven and Hell we met two classes: angels and devils. Blake ironically names free spirits as devils and good dutiful church goers (and other establishment types) as angels.

Los and his 'emanation', Enitharmon "bore an enormous race" (not only mankind, but every other created thing as well). But in particular Enitharmon's progeny consists of three classes:

From Milton Plate 7:
The first the Elect from the foundation of the World, symbolized here by Satan.
The second, the Redeem'd, symbolized by Palamabron.
The third, the Reprobate, symbolized by Rintrah.

The Bard's Song begins Blake's description of how these three classes of men relate.

To Rintrah (the just man) was assigned the plow.

To Palamabron, a kind and gentle boy (not a strong minded one), was assigned the harrow.

Satan (Selfhood) was assigned to the mills.

Rintrah and Palamabron are contraries; Satan is a negation.

In the Bard's Song those were the three assignments of Enitharmon's three sons.

A post could be written about the plow (See Damon 329); the plow of Rintrah might be the heated words of the prophet that denounces and breaks up the corrupt establishment. (It might be several other things as well.)

The harrow follows the plow; for Blake it was a metaphor for redemptive poetry.

The Mill symbolizes Reason - conservative: reducing the creative to the commonplace. But it may have been related in Blake's mind with the insidious mills brought about by the Industrial Revolution which impoverished so many people.

Los of course was the father of these three boys, a farmer-- the World being his field. He had expressly forbidden Satan from using the harrow. But Satan wheedled his amicable brother Palamabron into letting him use the harrow.

This led to disaster (the kind of disaster we have all lived under most of our lives).

All this was part of the tale told by the Bard at an Eternal gathering. The Bard's Song induced Milton to forsake heaven and return to the Earth to correct the errors of his mortal life. Milton's adventures in the World with Los and Blake is the subject of Blake's Milton.

There is much more to the Bard's Song, but this will give you a beginning. Learn the Bard's Song, and you will find it much easier to enjoy Milton, the first of Blake's two major works.