Saturday, October 03, 2009


Perhaps it is inevitable that archetypal images appear in many settings with varied associations. The archetype of the shepherd and the sheep fits that description. In Blake the shepherd recurs as a metaphor for more than one of his characters. For instance Tharmas is the shepherd, just as Urthona is the blacksmith, Urizen is the plowman and Luvah is the weaver. The ram and the lion appear as protectors of the fold which is the role usually assigned to the shepherd.

In Night IX of the Four Zoas which is a culmination of the myth of the fall and division of Albion and his redemption and reunification, there is a passage describing
the ram in that protective role midst some of Blake's loveliest poetic images. This passage deals not with Tharmas but with Luvah and his emanation Vala.

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 128, (E 397)   
"So spoke the Sinless Soul & laid her head on the downy fleece
Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day"

The poetic image of Vala asleep beside the ram recalls a visual image from America A Prophecy, a scene of great peace and pastoral beauty. This image is ironically in the midst of an account of outbreak of revolution, the activity of Orc who is best known as Los's son.

Yale Center for British Art
America. A Prophecy
Plate 7, Copy M
This brings us to the poem from which Larry named this blog. In a letter to his friend Thomas Butts, Blake enclosed a poem know as 'My First Vision of Light' which included these lines:

" ...And I heard his voice Mild
Saying This is My Fold
O thou Ram hornd with gold
Who awakest from sleep
On the sides of the Deep
On the Mountains around
The roarings resound
Of the lion & wolf
The loud sea & deep gulf
These are guards of My Fold
O thou Ram hornd with gold"

Here Blake himself became the 'Ram hornd with Gold' and identified his 'fold' and the protective elements around it. It was a transforming experience for him, encouraging him to overcome the temptation to write for a popular audience and henceforth to speak only from the internal, eternal Imagination.


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