Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Word within the Word

Northrup Frye was a very famous literary critic,
and a great deal can be found about him on the
web. A Canadian, Frye went to seminary and became
a parish minister; then he went to Oxford and got
an M.A. in English Literature. He wrote his
thesis on William Blake.

A great many books came from his pen; the first
one was Fearful Symmetry (1944). Frye opens the
door to a depth understanding of Blake's poetry (and
pictures). It took five readings of Fearful Symetry
(30 years ago) to open my mind to William Blake.

In the eighties, near the end of his life, Frye
published two monumental volumes of "The Bible as
Literature"; they speak directly to the depth
understanding of our poet.

Some of the statements in 'The Word with the Word'
(chapter five of Fearful Symmetry) may sound
enigmatic; just stay with them, and light will come.
This chapter is a lucid description of Frye's primary
gift to literature, to meaning and religion.

All words are metaphors; the meanings they convey
depend upon the author's mind - and frame of mind
when he writes them; and upon the reader's (or
hearer's) mind when he reads or hears them. (Most
of the purposeless arguments over virtually anything
stem from failure to understand this basic fact.)

For Western culture the Bible is the Great Code of
Art; it embodies the Universal Myth, basically
fourfold: Creation, The Fall, Redemption,
Apocalypse. Blake believed that it was the
guiding myth undergirding virtually all discourse.

"Blake's poetry is all related to a central myth...
and the primary basis of this myth is the Bible.
The Bible is therefore the archetype of Western
culture, and the Bible...provides the basis for most
of our major art" (Fearful Symmetry, p. 109).

The word of God was Jesus (cf John 1). Anything
that you say or write may be the Word of God-- the
Jesus in you (Paul).

In Plate 3 of Jerusalem (Erdman p. 145) we can read:
"I also hope the Reader will be with me, wholly One in
Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of Fire] and Lord [of
Love] to whom the Ancients look'd and saw his day afar off,
with trembling & amazement. The Spirit of Jesus is continual
forgiveness of sin"

This is the Word in Blake's consciousness.
Jerusalem, (Erdman p. 180):
"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, receiving, 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."

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