Thursday, October 18, 2018

OUROBOROS

Anyone who has followed this blog has seen many images from the watercolours which Blake painted to illustrate Young's Night Thoughts. From the time I first noticed them in the website of the British Museum I have posted many as visual images of the pictures Blake painted with poetic words. Since there are over 500 watercolours illustrating Night Thoughts, they offer a versatile source for complementing ideas implied by written words.

The image illustrating Night Three, Narcissa superficially indicates contradictory ideas since the female who represents the achievement of a state of bliss is surrounded by the serpent who epitomizes evil. The meaning was clarified by reading the explanation which was supplied when the book was published in 1797. In William Blake: Book Illustrator by Easson and Essick, the explanations are included. The serpent is in the form of a ouroboros which is a recognized ancient symbol of eternity. There is always a deeper level of meaning in Blake if one continues to dig into the depths and seek what is hidden below the surface.    


Wikimedia Commons
Night Thoughts
Engraving, Page 43
From William Blake: Book Illustrator:

"The Explanation of the Engravings...quoted in the descriptions of the plates, is occasionally found at the end of the book, after p. [96].
...Frontispiece to Night the Third. A female figure, who appears from the crescent beneath her feet to have surmounted the trials of this world, is admitted to an eternity of glory: eternity is represented by its usual emblem - a serpent with its extremities united."
 
This issue of Night Thoughts provided by Gutenberg is prefaced with a biography of Young. It elucidates some of the sources of Young's extended narrative:


 Young's Night Thoughts
       With Life, Critical Dissertation and Explanatory Notes
Author: Edward Young 
..."At length, sick of dissipation, of the stage, of bad odes, and good satires, Young determined to become wise, and enter into orders. An irresistible current had long been carrying him on, with many a convulsive recalcitration on his part, to this determination. That great intellect and heart, [x] over which, already, the shadow of the “Night Thoughts” was beginning to gather, could not be satisfied with the society of “peers, poets,” and demireps; with the applause of sweltering crowds collected in theatres; or with the ebullitions of its own giant spleen, in the shape of epigrammatic satires. The world, which once seemed to his eye so fresh and fair, had withered gradually to a skeleton, with sockets for eyes, with eternal baldness for hair, with a “stench instead of a sweet savour, and burning instead of beauty.” He resolved to proclaim the particulars of this painful yet blessed disenchantment to the ends of the earth, and to all classes of mankind. And for this purpose, he first of all mounted the pulpit, and then began to wield what was even then the mightier engine of the press.
...And, in order to be able to write the “Night Thoughts,” Young must be plunged in the deepest gloom of affliction—“Thrice flew the shaft, and thrice his peace was slain.” In 1736, a daughter of his wife, by a former husband, died. This was Mrs Temple—the Narcissa of his great poem. Her disease was a lingering one. Young accompanied her to Lyons, where she died, and where her remains were brutally denied sepulture, as the dust of a Protestant. Her husband, Mr Temple, or Philander, died four years later; and in 1741, Young’s wife, or Lucia, also expired. He now felt himself alone, and blasted in his solitude. But his grief did not sink into sullen inactivity. He made it oracular, and distilled his tears into song. The “Night Thoughts” were immediately commenced, and published between 1742 and 1744. This marvellous poem was all composed either at night, or when riding on horseback—an exercise, by the way, which gives a sense of mastery and confidence, stirs the blood, elevates the animal spirits, and has been felt by many to be eminently favourable to thought and mental composition. It inspired, we know, such men as Burns, Byron, Shelley, and Delta. We love to think of Young riding through the green lanes of his parish, and cooing out to himself his plaintive minstrelsies. We love better still to watch his lonely lamp shining at midnight, like a star, through the darkness, and seeming to answer the far signal of those mightier luminaries which are burning above in the Great Bear and Orion—the poet the while now dipping his pen to indite his ardent immortalities—now leaning his head on his widowed arm, and surrendering himself to paroxysms of uncontrollable [xvi] anguish—and now looking out upon the Night as the “Lord is abroad” on the wings of the tempest, or as He is silently shining out his name in suns and galaxies—those unwearied “Watchers” and unbaptized “Holy Ones.”


These few lines from Young's poem reveal the role Narcissa played for Young:

"Aid me, Narcissa! aid me to keep pace
With Destiny; and ere her scissors cut
My thread of life, to break this tougher thread
Of moral death, that ties me to the world."


Easson and Essick point to the early biography of Blake by Alexander Gilchrist and Anne Gilchrist as a source for Blake's involvement with Night Thoughts:

Page 135
"Edwards, of New Bond Street, at that day a leading bookseller, engaged Blake, in 1796, to illustrate an expensive edition, emulating Boydell's Shakspere and Milton, of Young's Night Thoughts. The Night Thoughts was then, as it had been for more than half a century, a living classic, which rival booksellers delighted to re-publish. Edwards paid his designer and engraver 'a despicably low sum,' says Smith, which means, I believe, a guinea a plate. And yet the prefatory Advertisement, dated December 22, 1796, tells us that the enterprise had been undertaken by the publisher not as a speculation of advantage, but as an indulgence of inclination, in which fondness and partiality would not permit him to be curiously accurate in adjusting the estimate of profit and loss;' undertaken also from the wish 'to make the arts in their most honourable agency subservient to the purposes of religion.' In the same preface, written with Johnsonian swing, by Fuseli probably—the usual literary help of fine-art publishers in those days—and who I suspect had something to do with Edwards' choice of artist, 'the merit of Mr. Blake' is spoken of in terms which show it to have been not wholly ignored then: 'to the eyes of the discerning it need not be pointed out; and while a taste for the arts of design shall continue to exist, the original conception, and the bold and masterly execution of this artist cannot be unnoticed or unadmired.' The edition, which was to have been issued in parts, never got beyond the first; public encouragement proving inadequate. This part extends to ninety-five pages,—to the end of Night the Fourth,—and includes forty-three designs. It appeared in the autumn of 1797.
These forty-three plates occupied Blake a year. A complete set of drawings for the Night Thoughts had been made, which remained in the family of Edwards, the publisher, till quite recently, when it passed into the hands of Mr. Bain, of the Haymarket. 'Altogether this enormous series reaches the aggregate of five hundred and thirty-seven designs, of which, as has been said, only forty-three were given in the Engraved Selection."
Page 137

"To each of the four Nights was prefixed an introductory design or title. The illustrations have one very acceptable aid, and that is, a written 'explanation of the engravings' at the end; drawn up or put into shape by another hand than Blake's—the same possibly which had penned the Advertisement. It would be well if all his designs had this help. For at once literal in his translation of word into line, daring and unhacknied in his manner of indicating his pregnant allegories, Blake's conceptions do not always explain themselves at a glance, and without their meaning, half their beauty too must needs be lost."



The symbol of the serpent in Blake's poetry included multiple facets. Perhaps it is most important to remember that the Serpent as a personification of evil was capable of transformation. He was not created evil. Whatever evil was in him, entered because of choices and actions. When the Divine Humanity in man is restored, all things resume the pristine state of harmonious unity. The circle which is drawn by the Golden Compass is complete.
Europe, Plate 10, (E 63) 
"In thoughts perturb'd, they rose from the bright ruins silentmfollowing     
The fiery King, who sought his ancient temple serpent-form'd
That stretches out its shady length along the Island white.
Round him roll'd his clouds of war; silent the Angel went,
Along the infinite shores of Thames to golden Verulam.           
There stand the venerable porches that high-towering rear
Their oak-surrounded pillars, form'd of massy stones, uncut
With tool; stones precious; such eternal in the heavens,
Of colours twelve, few known on earth, give light in the opake,
Plac'd in the order of the stars, when the five senses whelm'd   
In deluge o'er the earth-born man; then turn'd the fluxile eyes
Into two stationary orbs, concentrating all things.
The ever-varying spiral ascents to the heavens of heavens
Were bended downward; and the nostrils golden gates shut
Turn'd outward, barr'd and petrify'd against the infinite.       

Thought chang'd the infinite to a serpent; that which pitieth:   
To a devouring flame; and man fled from its face and hid
In forests of night; then all the eternal forests were divided
Into earths rolling in circles of space, that like an ocean rush'd
And overwhelmed all except this finite wall of flesh.            
Then was the serpent temple form'd, image of infinite
Shut up in finite revolutions, and man became an Angel;
Heaven a mighty circle turning; God a tyrant crown'd." 

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257)
"And they conversed together in Visionary forms dramatic which bright
Redounded from their Tongues in thunderous majesty, in Visions 
In new Expanses, creating exemplars of Memory and of Intellect  
Creating Space, Creating Time according to the wonders Divine
Of Human Imagination, throughout all the Three Regions immense
Of Childhood, Manhood & Old Age[;] & the all tremendous unfathomable Non Ens
Of Death was seen in regenerations terrific or complacent varying 
According to the subject of discourse & every Word & Every Character
Was Human according to the Expansion or Contraction, the Translucence or
Opakeness of Nervous fibres such was the variation of Time & Space
Which vary according as the Organs of Perception vary & they walked
To & fro in Eternity as One Man reflecting each in each & clearly seen
And seeing: according to fitness & order. And I heard Jehovah speak 
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah. They Cry

Where is the Covenant of Priam, the Moral Virtues of the Heathen
Where is the Tree of Good & Evil that rooted beneath the cruel heel
Of Albions Spectre the Patriarch Druid! where are all his Human Sacrifices
For Sin in War & in the Druid Temples of the Accuser of Sin: beneath
The Oak Groves of Albion that coverd the whole Earth beneath his Spectre
Where are the Kingdoms of the World & all their glory that grew on Desolation"


Sunday, October 14, 2018

VISION OF ST JOHN

British Museum
Sketch for Royal Universal Family Bible
Description from British Museum:
"St John the Evangelist before a vision of Christ, an illustration from Revelation, i, 12-16 engraved by Blake for 'Royal Universal Family Bible'. c.1782 Brush drawing in grey wash, over graphite"

Revelation 1
[12] And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
[13] And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
[14] His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
[15] And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
[16] And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.


Early in William Blake's career as an engraver he was engaged to make illustrations for an ambitious publication of the Bible titled The Royal Universal Family Bible. Along with notes and commentary, there were 100 pages of illustrations included in the publication of which Blake engraved five. A single plate illustrating 'St John the Evangelist before a vision of Christ' was also designed by Blake.

The sketch for the plate Blake designed and engraved for The Royal Universal Family Bible is in the collection of the British Museum. The illustration engraved by Blake of the design is included in William Blake: Book Illustrator by Roger Easson and Robert Essick.  

The Royal Universal Family Bible
From William Blake, Book Illustrator
By Easson and Essick
Plate 1
It is apropos that one of Blake's first published engravings was based upon a scripture concerning a vision. During his long career as a visionary poet and artist, Blake would reference images which occurred in the passage which he illustrated in 1780: seven, golden, garment, flame of fire, feet, brass, furnace, stars, sword and the sun.

Examples of words from Revelation 1:12-16 included in Blake's poetry: 

Milton, Plate 14 [15], (E 108) 
"The Seven Angels of the Presence wept over Miltons Shadow!"
Milton, Plate 28 [30], (E 126)
"Antamon takes them into his beautiful flexible hands,
As the Sower takes the seed, or as the Artist his clay 
Or fine wax, to mould artful a model for golden ornaments,      
The soft hands of Antamon draw the indelible line:
Form immortal with golden pen;"
 
Milton, Plate 41 [48], (E 142)
"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"

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)
"Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!                
    Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:"

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
"And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
  Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
 And passing thro' the Gates of Death"

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 35, (E 324)
"My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night 
What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song"

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 52, (E 338)
"Limit 
Was put to Eternal Death Los felt the Limit & saw
The Finger of God touch the Seventh furnace in terror            
And Los beheld the hand of God over his furnaces"

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 33, (E 322)
"Thus were the stars of heaven created like a golden chain
To bind the Body of Man to heaven from failing into the Abyss"  

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 92, (E 364)
"They forgd the sword the chariot of war the battle ax
The trumpet fitted to the battle & the flute of summer 
And all the arts of life they changd into the arts of death"

Jerusalem, Plate 43 [29], (E 191)
"I come that I may find a way for my banished ones to return      
Fear not O little Flock I come! Albion shall rise again.

So saying, the mild Sun inclosd the Human Family."
. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

GREAT BOOKS STUDY


British Museum  
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Copy T, Plate 1

Recently I was invited to lead a Great Books Study on the Poetry of William Blake. Only an introduction to a very large subject could be included in time allotted. The participants had prepared by studying the material which was distributed ahead of time.
 
I introduced Blake with these words:
 
"Blake lived from 1757-1827. His lifespan covered a tumultuous period of history including the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial revolution and the Enlightenment. He endeavored to maintain human values in the face of the turmoil around him. To be fully human meant to be created in the image of God with all the potential for actualization which it implied. To open the minds of men to the infinite possibilities of recognizing oneself as belonging to an eternal dimension was what motivated him to create.
 
He wrote, he painted, and he engraved in unique ways which garnered little attention during his lifetime. But it has since been recognized that his thought and the individualistic ways in which he conveyed it, speak to the human condition profoundly. His work is an invitation to look within and find there a key to understanding the painful contradictions encountered in the external world."
 
Five poems were read aloud and discussed freely and honestly. The goal of sharing Blake's thought in order to become open to alternative ways of relating to the world, to one another and God was realized. These are the poems explored in the study:
 
Songs of Innocence, Songs 9 and 10, (E 9)
 "The Little Black Boy

 My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child:
But I am black as if bereav'd of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree
And sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say.

Look on the rising sun: there God does live
And gives his light, and gives his heat away.      
And flowers and trees and beasts and men recieve
Comfort in morning joy in the noon day.

And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face      
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

Song 10  
For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.
Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

Thus  did my mother say and kissed me,
And thus I say to little English boy;
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear,
To lean in joy upon our fathers knee.
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me."
Songs of Experience, Song 30, (E 18)
"Introduction
Hear the voice of the Bard!

Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk'd among the ancient trees.

Calling the lapsed Soul
And weeping in the evening dew:
That might controll,
The starry pole;
And fallen fallen light renew! 

O Earth O Earth return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass, 
 
Turn away no more:
Why wilt thou turn away
The starry floor
The watry shore
Is giv'n thee till the break of day."

Songs of Experience, Song 32, (E 19)
"The CLOD & the PEBBLE              

Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care;
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hells despair.

     So sang a little Clod of Clay,      
     Trodden with the cattles feet:
     But a Pebble of the brook,
     Warbled out these metres meet.

Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight:
Joys in anothers loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heavens despite."

Songs of Experience, Song 25, (E 18)
"The Tyger.                                        

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,            
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 

In what distant deeps or skies.        
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?            
On what wings dare he aspire?      
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?   
 
What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,          
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!                  

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?                 
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:                       
What immortal hand or eye,                    
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

Poetical Sketches, (E 415)
"  MAD SONG.

The wild winds weep,
  And the night is a-cold;
Come hither, Sleep,
  And my griefs infold:                  
But lo! the morning peeps          
  Over the eastern steeps,
And the rustling birds of dawn     
The earth do scorn.

Lo! to the vault
  Of paved heaven,              
With sorrow fraught
  My notes are driven:
They strike the ear of night,
  Make weep the eyes of day;
They make mad the roaring winds,      
  And with tempests play.

Like a fiend in a cloud
  With howling woe,
After night I do croud,
  And with night will go;         
I turn my back to the east,

From whence comforts have increas'd;
For light doth seize my brain
With frantic pain."
. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

GREATEST HITS 19

INTRODUCTION  
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"Mental Things are alone Real"
Wikipedia Commons
Milton's L'Allegro
Page 3
Phrase in context: 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
     "The Last Judgment is an Overwhelming of Bad Art & Science. 
Mental Things are alone Real what is Calld Corporeal Nobody Knows
of its Dwelling Place <it> is in Fallacy & its Existence an
Imposture  Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought Where is
it but in the Mind of a Fool.  Some People flatter themselves
that there will be No Last Judgment & [P 95] that Bad Art will be
adopted & mixed with Good Art That Error or Experiment will make
a Part of Truth & they Boast that it is its Foundation these
People flatter themselves   I will not Flatter them Error is
Created Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up &
then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up
the Moment Men cease to behold it I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it
will be Questiond When the Sun rises  do  you  not  see  a  round
Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable
company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord
God Almighty I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any
more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight I look
thro it & not with it."

Sunday, October 07, 2018

GREATEST HITS 18

INTRODUCTION 
THE GATES of PARADISE, For The Sexes (E 268) 
THE KEYS of the GATES
   "But when once I did descry 
   The Immortal Man that cannot Die
   Thro evening shades I haste away 
   To close the Labours of my Day"
Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Phrase in context:

THE GATES of PARADISE, For The Sexes (E 268) 
THE KEYS of the GATES
   "But when once I did descry 
   The Immortal Man that cannot Die
   Thro evening shades I haste away 
   To close the Labours of my Day"
   The Door of Death I open found                             
   And the Worm Weaving in the Ground
   Thou'rt my Mother from the Womb 
   Wife, Sister, Daughter to the Tomb 
   Weaving to Dreams the Sexual strife
   And weeping over the Web of Life" 
. 

Saturday, October 06, 2018

GREATEST HITS 17

INTRODUCTION 
THE GATES of PARADISE, For The Sexes, Prologue, (E 259) 
"Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice
Such are the Gates of Paradise"
Wikimedia Commons
Mercy and Truth are Met Together Righteousness and Peace Have Kissed Each Other
 Phrase in context:

THE GATES of PARADISE, For The Sexes, Prologue, (E 259)

"Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice
Such are the Gates of Paradise
Against the Accusers chief desire
Who walkd among the Stones of Fire
Jehovahs Finger Wrote the Law   
Then Wept! then rose in Zeal & Awe
And the Dead Corpse from Sinais heat
Buried beneath his Mercy Seat            
O Christians Christians! tell me Why
You rear it on your Altars high"    

Friday, October 05, 2018

GREATEST HITS 16

INTRODUCTION 
Jerusalem, Plate  34 [38], (E 180)
"We live as One Man" 
Phrase in context:

Jerusalem, Plate  34 [38], (E 180)
"Displaying the Eternal Vision! the Divine Similitude!
In loves and tears of brothers, sisters, sons, fathers, and friends
Which if Man ceases to behold, he ceases to exist:

Saying. Albion! Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:       
Mutual in one anothers love and wrath all renewing
We live as One Man; for contracting our infinite senses
We behold multitude; or expanding: we behold as one,
As One Man all the Universal Family; and that One Man
We call Jesus the Christ: and he in us, and we in him,        
Live in perfect harmony in Eden the land of life,
Giving, recieving, and forgiving each others trespasses.
He is the Good shepherd, he is the Lord and master:
He is the Shepherd of Albion, he is all in all,
In Eden: in the garden of God: and in heavenly Jerusalem.        
If we have offended, forgive us, take not vengeance against us.

Thus speaking; the Divine Family follow Albion:"
. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

GREATEST HITS 15

INTRODUCTION
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."
Songs of Innocence
Frontispiece
Copy B
Phrase in context:
Milton, Plate 1, (E 95) 
     "And did those feet in ancient time,
     Walk upon Englands mountains green:
     And was the holy Lamb of God,
     On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

     And did the Countenance Divine,             
     Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
     And was Jerusalem builded here,
     Among these dark Satanic Mills?

     Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
     Bring me my Arrows of desire:                     
     Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
     Bring me my Chariot of fire!

     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."
. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

GREATEST HITS 14

INTRODUCTION  
Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 722)
     "Now I a fourfold vision see
     And a fourfold vision is given to me
     Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
     And three fold in soft Beulahs night
     And twofold Always.  May God us keep
     From Single vision & Newtons sleep" 
Wikimedia Commons 
Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Verse in context:

Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 722)
     "When I had my Defiance given
     The Sun stood trembling in heaven
     The Moon that glowd remote below
     Became leprous & white as snow
     And every Soul of men on the Earth
     Felt affliction & sorrow & sickness & dearth
     Los flamd in my path & the Sun was hot
     With the bows of my Mind & the Arrows of Thought
     My bowstring fierce with Ardour breathes
     My arrows glow in their golden sheaves
     My brothers & father march before
     The heavens drop with human gore

     Now I a fourfold vision see
     And a fourfold vision is given to me
     Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
     And three fold in soft Beulahs night
     And twofold Always.  May God us keep
     From Single vision & Newtons sleep"

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

GREATEST HITS 13

INTRODUCTION 
Milton, Plate 20 [22], (E 114)
"Seest thou the little winged fly, smaller than a grain of sand?
It has a heart like thee; a brain open to heaven & hell,"
British Museum
Hayley's "Designs to a Series of Ballads"
Frontispiece 
Phrase in context:

Milton, Plate 20 [22], (E 114)
"Seest thou the little winged fly, smaller than a grain of sand?
It has a heart like thee; a brain open to heaven & hell,
Withinside wondrous & expansive; its gates are not clos'd,
I hope thine are not: hence it clothes itself in rich array;     
Hence thou art cloth'd with human beauty O thou mortal man.
Seek not thy heavenly father then beyond the skies:
There Chaos dwells & ancient Night & Og & Anak old:
For every human heart has gates of brass & bars of adamant,
Which few dare unbar because dread Og & Anak guard the gates     
Terrific! and each mortal brain is walld and moated round Within:"

Monday, October 01, 2018

GREATEST HITS 12

INTRODUCTION 
Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought."
Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Linnell Set
Phrase in context:

Jerusalem, Plate 91,(E 251)
"Go, tell them that the Worship of God, is honouring his gifts
In other men: & loving the greatest men best, each according
To his Genius: which is the Holy Ghost in Man; there is no other
God, than that God who is the intellectual fountain of Humanity; 
He who envies or calumniates: which is murder & cruelty,
Murders the Holy-one: Go tell them this & overthrow their cup,
Their bread, their altar-table, their incense & their oath:
Their marriage & their baptism, their burial & consecration:
I have tried to make friends by corporeal gifts but have only    
Made enemies: I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought.
He who would see the Divinity must see him in his Children
One first, in friendship & love; then a Divine Family, & in the midst
Jesus will appear; so he who wishes to see a Vision; a perfect Whole        
Must see it in its Minute Particulars;"

Sunday, September 30, 2018

GREATEST HITS 11

INTRODUCTION
Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye"
British Museum
Large Colour Prints
Pity
Phrase in context: 
Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"When the Soul fell into Sleep
And Archangels round it weep
Shooting out against the Light
Fibres of a deadly night        
Reasoning upon its own Dark Fiction
In Doubt which is Self Contradiction
Humility is only Doubt
And does the Sun & Moon blot out
Rooting over with thorns & stems     
The buried Soul & all its Gems
This Lifes dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye   
That was born in a night to perish in a night
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light."

Saturday, September 29, 2018

GREATEST HITS 10

INTRODUCTION 
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E 47) 
"They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle," 
British Museum
Small Book of Designs
From Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 4
Phrase in context: 
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E 47) 
"They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;     
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning
Till all from life I was obliterated and erased.
Instead of morn arises a bright shadow, like an eye              
In the eastern cloud: instead of night a sickly charnel house;
That Theotormon hears me not! to him the night and morn
Are both alike: a night of sighs, a morning of fresh tears;"

Friday, September 28, 2018

GREATEST HITS 9

INTRODUCTION
Jerusalem, Plate 10, (E 153)
"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans           
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create"
Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
Plate 54
Phrase in context: 
Jerusalem, Plate 10, (E 153)
"Therefore Los stands in London building Golgonooza
Compelling his Spectre to labours mighty; trembling in fear
The Spectre weeps, but Los unmovd by tears or threats remains

I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans           
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create

So Los, in fury & strength: in indignation & burning wrath
Shuddring the Spectre howls. his howlings terrify the night
He stamps around the Anvil, beating blows of stern despair
He curses Heaven & Earth, Day & Night & Sun & Moon               
He curses Forest Spring & River, Desart & sandy Waste
Cities & Nations, Families & Peoples, Tongues & Laws
Driven to desperation by Los's terrors & threatning fears

Los cries, Obey my voice & never deviate from my will
And I will be merciful to thee: be thou invisible to all         
To whom I make thee invisible, but chief to my own Children
O Spectre of Urthona: Reason not against their dear approach
Nor them obstruct with thy temptations of doubt & despair
O Shame O strong & mighty Shame I break thy brazen fetters
If thou refuse, thy present torments will seem southern breezes  
To what thou shalt endure if thou obey not my great will."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

GREATEST HITS 8

INTRODUCTION 
Song and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 489) 
"The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead
British Museum
Ink and Watercolor Drawing 
Whore of Babylon 
Phrase in context:  
Song and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 489) 
The Grey Monk
...
"But vain the Sword & vain the Bow 
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows tear
Alone can free the World from fear

For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing       
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King 
And the bitter groan of the Martyrs woe    
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed        
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead
. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

GREATEST HITS 7

INTRODUCTION 

Songs and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 476) 
"Throughout all Eternity         
I forgive you you forgive me
                   As our dear Redeemer said                    
This the Wine & this the Bread"

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 
Phrase in context:
 
Songs and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 476)
My Spectre 
...
"Till I turn from Female Love    
And root up the Infernal Grove  
I shall never worthy be         
To Step into Eternity

And to end thy cruel mocks        
Annihilate thee on the rocks
And another form create
To be subservient to my Fate

Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove                                 
Then shall we return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity

& Throughout all Eternity         
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said                    
This the Wine & this the Bread"
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

GREATEST HITS 6

INTRODUCTION  
Auguries of Innocence, (E 493)
"God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day"
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Phrase in context: 
Auguries of Innocence, (E 493)
"Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye 

Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day"

Monday, September 24, 2018

GREATEST HITS 5

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 7, (E 35)
 "How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"
Wikimedia Commons 
Illustration to Poems of Thomas Gray
Ode to Spring
The phrase in context:
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 6 & 7, (E 35)
 "A Memorable Fancy.                        

   As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the 
enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and
insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs: thinking that as
the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs
of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any
description of buildings or garments.
   When I came home; on the abyss of the five senses, where a
flat  sided steep frowns over the present world. I saw a mighty
Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock,
with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now
percieved by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.   

   How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"

Sunday, September 23, 2018

GREATEST HITS 4

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 50)
"Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!"  
Wikipedia Commons  
Illustrations to Blair's The Grave
The phrase in context: 
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7 & 8, (E 50)
"Oothoon shall view his dear delight, nor e'er with jealous cloud
Come in the heaven of generous love; nor selfish blightings bring.

Does the sun walk in glorious raiment. on the secret floor  
Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop
On his stone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings
Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself
Beside the ox to thy hard furrow?  does not that mild beam blot
The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night.      
The sea fowl takes the wintry blast. for a cov'ring to her limbs:
And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold.
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!"
 
Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34, (323)
"At the first Sound the Golden sun arises from the Deep
And shakes his awful hair
The Eccho wakes the moon to unbind her silver locks              
The golden sun bears on my song
And nine bright spheres of harmony rise round the fiery King

The joy of woman is the Death of her most best beloved
Who dies for Love of her
In torments of fierce jealousy & pangs of adoration.             
The Lovers night bears on my song
And the nine Spheres rejoice beneath my powerful controll

They sing unceasing to the notes of my immortal hand
The solemn silent moon
Reverberates the living harmony upon my limbs                   
The birds & beasts rejoice & play
And every one seeks for his mate to prove his inmost joy

Furious & terrible they sport & rend the nether deeps
The deep lifts up his rugged head
And lost in infinite humming wings vanishes with a cry         
The fading cry is ever dying
The living voice is ever living in its inmost joy

Arise you little glancing wings & sing your infant joy
Arise & drink your bliss
For every thing that lives is holy for the source of life        
Descends to be a weeping babe
For the Earthworm renews the moisture of the sandy plain

Now my left hand I stretch to earth beneath
And strike the terrible string
I wake sweet joy in dens of sorrow & I plant a smile             
In forests of affliction
And wake the bubbling springs of life in regions of dark death"

Saturday, September 22, 2018

GREATEST HITS 3

INTRODUCTION 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 7, (E 35) 
"Eternity is in love with the productions of time."
   
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 
  

Friday, September 21, 2018

GREATEST HITS 2

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 14 (E 39) 
 "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite.
   For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
narrow chinks of his cavern." 
Wikipedia Commons
Large Book of Designs 
Albion Rose

Thursday, September 20, 2018

GREATEST HITS 1

There are various short passages in Blake (as there are in the Bible, in Shakespeare, in Dickens and in other favorite pieces of literature) which lodge in our memories and are recalled at appropriated times to lead us, to strengthen us or to reinforce our resolve. I've chosen some of these statement and added an image to each to further reinforce their power to be a part of the intuitive resources which influence our living.

 Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
Built in Jerusalems wall." 
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Monday, September 17, 2018

JOY & SORROW


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

It is impossible to avoid adversity. In every life rain falls, pain is experienced, struggles are encountered, disappointments threaten to overwhelm. If something can't be avoided, it must be assimilated and integrated.

The fabric of life is woven from multiple threads which come from diverse sources. It is not ours to select the threads which form the warp and woof providing the texture of the fabric. The woof is the basic ingredients which are given as the individual's inherited circumstances. The warp is the path that the individual travels as he moves along through life. From these threads we weave those outward appearances from which our self-perception is formed. We present this to the world as our persona but it is only a covering for the essential being which is the Eternal Soul. 
Letters, To William Hayley, October 7. 1803 (E 736)
"Yet I laugh & sing for if on Earth neglected I am in
heaven a Prince among Princes & even on Earth beloved by the Good
as a Good Man   this I should be perfectly contented with but at
certain periods a blaze of reputation arises round me in which I
am considerd as one distinguishd by some mental perfection but
the flame 
soon dies again & I am left stupified & astonishd   O that I
could live as others do in a regular succession of Employment
this wish I fear is not to be accomplishd to me--Forgive this
Dirge-like lamentation over a dead horse & now I have lamented
over the dead horse let me laugh & be merry with my friends till
Christmas for as Man liveth not by bread alone I shall live altho
I should want bread--nothing is necessary to me but to do my Duty
& to rejoice in the exceeding joy that is always poured out on my
Spirit. to pray that my friends & you above the rest may be made
partakers of the joy that the world cannot conceive that you may
still be replenishd with the same & be as you always have been a
glorious & triumphant Dweller in immortality.  Please to pay for
me my best thanks to Miss Poole tell her that I wish her a
continued Excess of Happiness--some say that Happiness is not
Good for Mortals & they ought to be answerd that Sorrow is not
fit for Immortals & is utterly useless to any one a blight never
does good to a tree & if a blight kill not a tree but it still
bear fruit let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the
blight."

Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)
"It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine 
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands 
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight"
. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

PLOT OF JERUSALEM

Library of Congress
Jerusalem
Plate 81

 If we find ourselves getting bogged down in details reading Blake's complex poetry it is helpful to find a passage which presents a larger picture from which we visualize an overall concept of Blake's intention. In Discussions of William Blake, Edited by John E Grant, the chapter Intellectual Symbolism in Blake's later Prophetic Writings, by Karl Kiralis, presents such an outline:

"The meaning of some of the symbols, Los and Albion for example, is obvious with only a cursory reading. Los (cf Sol) is the poet, the creative man, and . Albion is both the universal and individual man, the most extraordinary average man of English literature. The sons of Albion represent civilization and all its cruelties; the daughters, its female principles. 

These definitions and the ones that follow might mean to the uninitiated reader of Jerusalem if he knew its basic 'plot,' which is revealed through the interactions of the symbolic characters. Very simply, man (or Albion) is dead to eternity because he has accepted certain delusions as reality. Two of his basic false beliefs are in moral virtue or a strict moral code (Rahab), and in reason alone (the spectre) as the guide to his life. The overall delusion is Vala, who represents earthly standards of truth and beauty as opposed to the eternal ones of Jerusalem. Vala constantly struggles to preserve her illusion of reality to keep Jerusalem subjugated. It is the self-imposed and difficult task of the poet (Los) to help man to eternity by ridding him of delusion throughout the course of mankind's history, to free him from the errors present in Judaism, deism, and even Christianity. Man gradually becomes aware of his various misconceptions by recognizing Vala-Rahab for what she is. Then once he has learned the lessons of liberty and forgiveness (Jerusalem), and of the primal innocence and beauty of the body and love (Erin), he becomes balanced fourfold (with reason in its proper place) and lives in eternity." (Page 104)
...
"The female will also acts through her component parts, the twelve daughters of Albion, especially Tirzah and Gwendolen." (Page 106) 

Plate 81 of Jerusalem focuses attention on the type of deception and delusion which Kiralis associated with Vala in his description.

Jerusalem, Plate 81, (E 238)  
[Gwendolen speaks]
"I have mockd those who refused cruelty & I have admired 
The cruel Warrior. I have refused to give love to Merlin the piteous.
He brings to me the Images of his Love & I reject in chastity
And turn them out into the streets for Harlots to be food
To the stern Warrior. I am become perfect in beauty over my Warrior  
For Men are caught by Love: Woman is caught by Pride
That Love may only be obtaind in the passages of Death.
[Reversed writing] 
In Heaven the only Art of Living 
Is Forgetting & Forgiving 
Especially to the Female 
But if you on Earth Forgive
You shall not find where to Live 
Let us look! let us examine! is the Cruel become an Infant
Or is he still a cruel Warrior? look Sisters, look! O piteous
I have destroyd Wandring Reuben who strove to bind my Will     
I have stripd off Josephs beautiful integument for my Beloved,
The Cruel-one of Albion: to clothe him in gems of my Zone
I have Named him Jehovah of Hosts. Humanity is become
A weeping Infant in ruind lovely Jerusalems folding Cloud: 
In Heaven Love begets Love! but Fear is the Parent of Earthly Love!    
And he who will not bend to Love must be subdud by Fear,"
Jerusalem, Plate 82, (E 239)
"The Twelve Daughters of Albion attentive listen in secret shades 
On Cambridge and Oxford beaming soft uniting with Rahabs cloud
While Gwendolen spoke to Cambel turning soft the spinning reel:
Or throwing the wingd shuttle; or drawing the cords with softest songs
The golden cords of the Looms animate beneath their touches soft,
Along the Island white, among the Druid Temples, while Gwendolen 
Spoke to the Daughters of Albion standing on Skiddaws top.

So saying she took a Falshood & hid it in her left hand:
To entice her Sisters away to Babylon on Euphrates.
And thus she closed her left hand and utterd her Falshood:
Forgetting that Falshood is prophetic, she hid her hand behind her,   
Upon her back behind her loins & thus utterd her Deceit."
 From The Illuminated Blake, David V Erdman, Page 60.
"The point of course is the falsehood we come to expect from worldly wisdom, is only the truth turned inside out. It consists of the second half of Gwendolen's quatrain in mirror writing, 'But if you on Earth Forgive, You shall not find where to Live.' The true message? If you want to live in heaven, then start 'Forgetting & Forgiving,' which 'In Heaven [is] the only Art of Living' - the first half of the quatrain."