Wednesday, March 31, 2010


One of Blake's better known poems treats the consequences of hiding our feelings. In A Poison Tree (click on picture for larger image) he describes a situation where negative emotions - fear, wrath, deceit - are allowed to fester and grow without being acknowledged or expressed. The neighbor and brother who is seen as the enemy, is destroyed by a plot. The external enemy is eliminated but the inner foe has been strengthened.


"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."

In another passage Blake warns against thinking that we can understand another's mind and motivation. The point is that we can't enter one another's brains. We know what has been given to us to know. But others may know more or different. Another's joy is not our joy not his suffering our suffering. Each of us is related directly to God and answers to Him.

A Poison Tree and this passage from The French Revolution are both pleas that we look on one another as equal before God deserving of tolerance, patience and compassion.

French Revolution (E 294)
"But go, merciless man! enter into the infinite labyrinth of
another's brain
Ere thou measure the circle that he shall run. Go, thou cold
recluse, into the fires
Of another's high flaming rich bosom, and return
unconsum'd, and write laws.
If thou canst not do this, doubt thy theories, learn to consider
all men as thy equals,
Thy brethren, and not as thy foot or thy hand, unless thou first
fearest to hurt them."

Unless we constantly annihilate the Selfhood, each of us falls deeper and deeper into the trap of not finding ourselves and each of our brothers equal and valuable before God.

Monday, March 29, 2010


From Blake's Notebook (E 480)

"I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth
Ive a Wife I love & that loves me
Ive all But Riches Bodily"

William Blake's wife Catherine seems to have been a reliable companion to him, a support, an assistant, and a necessary ingredient for his happiness. She is not often mentioned or alluded to in his writing. Below are quotes from his letters and the two mentions in Milton in which Blake himself appears as a character and speaks of his 'Shadow of Delight'.

In the drawing by her husband Catherine appears modest and gentle. In the video about Blake and Paine, Catherine is portrayed as feisty and protective toward William. All these characteristics (and more) must have been a part of a woman who could live in harmony with a man of such genius and such other-worldliness.

William Blake and Thomas Paine Video

(E 709):
"To William Hayley Esqre at Miss Pooles, Lavant
near Chichester, Sussex
H[ercules] B[uildings] Lambeth Sept 16. 1800
Leader of My Angels
My Dear & too careful & over joyous Woman has Exhausted her strength to such a degree with expectation & gladness added to labour in our removal that I fear it will be Thursday before we can get away from this---- City I shall not be able to avail myself of the assistance of Brunos fairies. But I invoke the Good Genii that Surround Miss Pooles Villa to shine upon my journey thro the Petworth road which by your fortunate advice I mean to take but whether I come on Wednesday or Thursday That Day shall be marked on my calendar with a Star of the first magnitude
Eartham will be my first temple & altar My wife is like a
flame of many colours of precious jewels whenever she hears it named Excuse my haste & recieve my hearty Love & Respect
I am Dear Sir
Your Sincere
My fingers Emit sparks of fire with Expectation of my future labours"

(E 723):
"[To] Mr Butts, Great Marlborough Street,
Oxford Street, London
Felpham Jany 10. 180[3] t
Dear Sir
Your very kind & affectionate Letter & the many kind things you have said in it: calld upon me for an immediate answer. but it found My Wife & Myself so Ill & My wife so very ill that till now I have not been able to do this duty. The Ague & Rheumatism have been almost her constant Enemies which she has combated in vain ever since we have been here, & her sickness is always my sorrow of course"

(E 725):
"[To] Mr Butts, Great Marlborough Street,
Oxford Street, London
Felpham Jany 10. 180[3]
My wife desires her kindest Love to Mrs Butts & I have permitted her to send it to you also. we often wish that we could unite again in Society & hope that the time is not distant when we shall do so. being determind not to remain another winter here but to return to London

I hear a voice you cannot hear that says I must not stay
I see a hand you cannot see that beckons me away

Naked we came here naked of Natural things & naked we shall return. but while clothd with the Divine Mercy we are richly clothd in Spiritual & suffer all the rest gladly
Pray give my
Love to Mrs Butts & your family I am Yours Sincerely

(E 726):
"[To James Blake]
Felpham Jany 30--1803.
Dear Brother
But My Wife has undertaken to Print the whole number of the Plates for Cowpers work which she does to admiration & being under my own eye the prints are as fine as the French prints & please every one. in short I have Got every thing so under my thumb that it is more profitable that things should be as they are than any other way, tho not so agreeable because we wish naturally for friendship in preference to interest.--The Publishers are already indebted to My Wife Twenty Guineas for work deliverd this is a small specimen of how we go on. then fear nothing & let my Sister fear nothing because it appears to me that I am now too old & have had too much experience to be any longer imposed upon only illness makes all uncomfortable & this we must prevent by every means in our power"

Milton, Plate 36, (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"

Milton, Plate 42 [49] (E 143):
"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"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Tree and the Serpent

Here is something I wrote 25 years ago in Chapter One of an earlier work:

"In Night vii of 4Z Urizen, the ice man, the great opposer of change, effects the metamorphosis of "fierce Orc" (Erdman page 382), personification of change, into a serpent who crawls up the Tree of Mystery. An earlier prophet had written about a serpent and a tree at the dawn of history, and since that day the two figures have served as the basic symbols of the Fall. But Moses had used the same combined image to symbolize healing, and Jesus harked back to it in predicting his own impending exit from the world and its purpose.

Knowledge of the full weight of meaning carried by serpent and tree alerts us to an impending climax in Blake's story. Back in Night i Los, the spirit of prophecy, the personification of creativity, was estranged from his emanation, Enitharmon. In Night v she gave birth to Orc, but Los chained him to earth with the Chain of Jealousy, a sort of reverse Oedipus myth. This left the creative selves a sorry shambles. But now in Night vii Enitharmon's shadow meets and unites with Los' spectre, and their issue is twofold, the Whore and the Lamb. The Whore will burn, and the Lamb will find a spotless bride."

There's no way anyone can fully appreciate the joy of this moment without having participated deeply in the agony and travail which preceded it. This is but a way of saying that there's no way anyone can appreciate the salvation of the world without having first quenched the cup of the fallenness of the world. Long ago a book appeared entitled No Cross, No Crown, suggesting that we don't appreciate what God has done simply because we refuse the cup. Jesus accepted it on our behalf, and Blake did too in his way, as does every artist or prophet or saint who follows the narrow path.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


THE MARRIAGE of HEAVEN and HELL, Plate 3, (E 34):
"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence."

In the passage below we see the contraries at work personified in Los and Albion. What I see here is Los being forced into contrary positions by Albion's behavior. 'Albion sat...Brooding on evil'.

Albion was trapped in a self destructive mental state from which he could not extricate himself. Albion accuses Los and makes demands. Los' opposition begins the breaking down of the intractable disease with with Albion was afflicted. Albion begins to reflect on the consequences of his misguided decisions.

Milton, PLATE 42 (E 189)
"Thus Albion sat, studious of others in his pale disease:
Brooding on evil: but when Los opend the Furnaces before him:
He saw that the accursed things were his own affections,
And his own beloveds: then he turn'd sick! his soul died within
Also Los sick & terrified beheld the Furnaces of Death
And must have died, but the Divine Saviour descended
Among the infant loves & affections, and the Divine Vision wept
Like evening dew on every herb upon the breathing ground

Albion spoke in his dismal dreams: O thou deceitful friend
Worshipping mercy & beholding thy friend in such affliction:
Los! thou now discoverest thy turpitude to the heavens.
I demand righteousness & justice. O thou ingratitude!
Give me my Emanations back[,] food for my dying soul!
My daughters are harlots! my sons are accursed before me.
Enitharmon is my daughter: accursed with a fathers curse!
O! I have utterly been wasted! I have given my daughters to

So spoke Albion in gloomy majesty, and deepest night
Of Ulro rolld round his skirts from Dover to Cornwall."

Albion is his self righteous desire to be the object of mercy forces Los to direct his mercy to those whom Albion may harm, rejecting Albions pleas. Albion by not showing mercy, forces cruelty on Los. Albion demanded righteousness and justice for himself with no thought for the harm that his failures were causing others. Albion could not be healed of his sickness by being affirmed in the symptoms he was displaying. (Think of the alcoholic and the enabler.) Los provided the contraries so that progress might take place.

"Los answerd. Righteousness & justice I give thee in return
For thy righteousness! but I add mercy also, and bind
Thee from destroying these little ones: am I to be only
Merciful to thee and cruel to all that thou hatest[?]
Thou wast the Image of God surrounded by the Four Zoa's
Three thou hast slain! I am the Fourth: thou canst not destroy
Thou art in Error; trouble me not with thy righteousness.
I have innocence to defend and ignorance to instruct:
I have no time for seeming; and little arts of compliment,
In morality and virtue: in self-glorying and pride."

In this little tableau contrariness was the result as well as the cause of progress. Error has not been removed but progress is being made in recognizing and defining it. The process must continue because 'One Error not remov'd, will destroy a human Soul."

'Why should Punishment Weave the Veil with Iron Wheels of War When Forgiveness might it Weave with Wings of Cherubim' Jerusalem, Plate 22

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blake's Tyger

Perhaps the most often read and significant of the poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience is Tyger,Tyger. With this poem in mind Northrup Frye wrote his tremendous book called Fearful Symmetry:

"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 seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart begin to beat,
What dread hand? and 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?"

Focus on this question: "Did he who made the lamb make thee?" That's food for considerable thought! At the least it calls into question many conventional ideas about God.

This could be the fundamental spiritual issue for Blake throughout his life, and for a great many of us: What about it, God? Are you a killer as well as a lover?
What do you Think?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Little Girl Lost and Found

One key to these two poems lies in the first two verses which set the theme for what follows. We can expect to hear about a future world in which there will be an awakening from sleep. Through man's seeking God, the world will be reborn as a garden.

The main character, Lyca, has left eternity and wanders in the world of matter which is represented by sleep. Left in the non-material world are Lyca's mother and father who morn her departure. The energies of the material world which most find threatening, befriend Lyca.

Lyca's parents follow the path Lyca has chosen, seeking her in an exhausting journey. At the end of their ability to follow, they are rescued by the same forces which befriended Lyca. The father and mother are led by a vision to a place where all is peace, love and serenity. The picture at the conclusion reinforces the idea of the kingdom of God on earth where all live in peace and harmony.

When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we ask God that the Kingdom may come, and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Blake has chosen to give us this image of reconciliation, renewal and reunion as a culmination of Lyca's sojourn in the world and the loving search that her parents performed. Blake intimates the affirmation that the world of sin and decay is not the only possibility, the world of love and rebirth can be the future, peaceable kingdom.

The Little Girl Lost, SONGS 34,(E 20)
In futurity I prophetic see,
That the earth from sleep,
(Grave the sentence deep)
Shall arise and seek
For her maker meek:
And the desart wild
Become a garden mild.
In the southern clime,
Where the summers prime,
Never fades away;
Lovely Lyca lay.
Seven summers old
Lovely Lyca told,
She had wanderd long,
Hearing wild birds song.
Sweet sleep come to me
Underneath this tree;
Do father, mother weep.--
Where can Lyca sleep.
Lost in desart wildIs your little child.
How can Lyca sleep,
If her mother weep.
If her heart does ake,
Then let Lyca wake;
If my mother sleep,
Lyca shall not weep.
Frowning frowning night,
O'er this desart bright,
Let thy moon arise,
While I close my eyes.
Sleeping Lyca lay;
While the beasts of prey,
Come from caverns deep,
View'd the maid asleep
The kingly lion stood
And the virgin view'd,
Then he gambold round
O'er the hallowd ground;
Leopards, tygers play,
Round her as she lay;
While the lion old,
Bow'd his mane of gold.
And her bosom lick,
And upon her neck,>
From his eyes of flame,
Ruby tears there came;
While the lioness,
Loos'd her slender dress,
And naked they convey'd
To caves the sleeping maid.
The Little Girl Found
All the night in woe,
Lyca's parents go:
Over vallies deep,
While the desarts weep.
Tired and woe-begone,
Hoarse with making moan:
Arm in arm seven days,
They trac'd the desart ways.
Seven nights they sleep,
Among shadows deep:
And dream they see their child
Starv'd in desart wild.
Pale thro' pathless ways
The fancied image strays,
Famish'd, weeping, weak
With hollow piteous shriek
Rising from unrest,
The trembling woman prest,
With feet of weary woe;
She could no further go.
In his arms he bore,
Her arm'd with sorrow sore;
Till before their way,
A couching lion lay.
Turning back was vain,
Soon his heavy mane,
Bore them to the ground;
Then he stalk'd around,
Smelling to his prey.
But their fears allay,
When he licks their hands;
And silent by them stands.
They look upon his eyes
Fill'd with deep surprise:
And wondering behold,
A spirit arm'd in gold.
On his head a crown
On his shoulders down,
Flow'd his golden hair.
Gone was all their care.
Follow me he said,
Weep not for the maid;
In my palace deep,
Lyca lies asleep.
Then they followed,
Where the vision led:
And saw their sleeping child,
Among tygers wild.
To this day they dwellIn a lonely dell
Nor fear the wolvish howl,
Nor the lions growl.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blake's Last Judgment

  If this fantastic picture comes up, you may likely find it more interesting than any words I could put here. If not here is a poor substitute (Raising the font on your display will give a larger image.)

Blake considered this painting a climax of his art. Erdman 552-66 contains what Blake had to say about it.To study A Vision of the Last Judgment is worthwhile for anyone especially interested in Blake's theology. Here is one of the passages I found most notable:
"What are all the Gifts of the Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual" (E561).

There are many others.

The Last Judgment for Blake is the annihilating Moment when the Selfhood is no more, the Eternal Moment that overlays all that Satan can do, the Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find (Milton line 42; Erdman )136| :
"There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
this Moment & it multiply and when it once is found
it renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly placed"
(Blake was industrious- imo an early riser.)

Consciousness waxes and wanes; the last judgment is the moment of maximum expansion-- a foretaste of the All that is to come.  There are many such moments in our lives.  Happy are we if one comes every day; in the quiet time the inconsequentials fall away to be replaced by Worship.

It's said that the old Hindu gives up everything and everyone. He retreats from life as it has been known to advance to the Eternal-- like Odysseus or Luvah or whoever he is standing on the shore of the Sea of Time and Space with the Angel beckoning him onward.

Blake "descry[ed] the immortal man who cannot die" by commiting his life to Jesus (whom he called the Forgiveness); he "closed the labors of his day" and found himself in Beulah, right on his way to Eternity. On his last day he's said to have died with a song on his lips.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


William Blake by John Linnell, 1821, Frontispiece for Gilchrist's Life of Blake (1863)

Unlike many artists, Blake did not often make himself the subject of his paintings. Nor was he often drawn or painted by others. There is one self-portrait, a pencil and wash drawing from 1803, the year in which the Blakes returned to London from Felpham in reduced circumstances. A formal portrait was made of him by Thomas Phillips for the frontispiece of Blair's, The Grave (published 1808), for which Blake designed illustrations.
When Blake was over 60 years old, a group of younger artists gathered about him to encourage and support one another (much as the Inklings gathered around CS Lewis more than 100 years later). John Linnell, a friend of Blake from this group, called The Ancients, did a pencil sketch of him, apparently as he was busily at work over his own drawing board in 1820.

A friend of mine has pointed out to me that in one of the watercolors Blake painted to illustrate John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, there appears to be a resemblance between Blake and Pilgrim.

Although we may not have many pictures of Blake to look at in order to form our own image of him, we are assured by Blake that nothing from this world will be lost. Everything that is happening in the 'here and now' is making a permanent record in Eternity.

Milton, PLATE 22 [24], (E 117):
"for not one Moment
Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent
But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years
Remains permanent: tho' on the Earth where Satan
Fell, and was cut off all things vanish & are seen no more
They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last
The generations of men run on in the tide of Time
But leave their destind lineaments permanent for ever & ever.
So spoke Los as we went along to his supreme abode."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blake's Boehme

All religious bodies are cursed with dissensions, but some more or less than others. Unfortunately all too often they center around doctrine or polity. All such bodies in the course of time become tribes.

A priceless gem came from an ex-Catholic named Joseph Campbell to the effect that everyone belongs to some tribe: the smalll child to the family; students to their peer group; churches to their denomination; doctors to the AMA, etc. A primary characteristic of every tribe is that members are affirmed and others not. All good and pleasant things emanate from the tribe, all negative affect (from dislike to murder) to those outside the tribe. Joseph's dictum applies in some degree to all tribes: families, schools, locations, countries especially-- most especially our country: "America has the best of ......everything!!!" This is called provincialism.

Europe suffered a century of religious wars; with the Enlightenment some level of tolerance took the place of war, but religious controversy remained (even until today!)

Blake addressed this misfortune in Plate 23 of Milton:
"Remember how Calvin and Luther in fury premature sowed War and stern division between Papists and Protestants".

In early days Blake was exposed (like Wesley before him) to Moravian ecumenism and Behmenist mysticism. In a letter to Flaxman he showed that he considered Boehme one of his primary teachers:
"Now my lot in the Heavens is this, Milton lov'd me in
childhood & shew'd me his face. "Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand;
Paracelsus & Behmen l appear' d to me, terrors appeared
in the Heavens above And in Hell beneath, & a mighty & awful change threatened the Earth."

Just try a sample of Boehme's works to see how closely the religious values and language were of Boehme and his disciple, William Blake.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


During the three years that the Blakes lived at Felpham, (out of the city of London or its outskirts for the only time in their lives), he was writing Milton and Jerusalem as well as working on more trivial projects dreamed up by his sponsor and 'corporeal' friend Hayley. In this letter to Thomas Butts he addresses the difficulty in writing to a level of understanding that is opaque to those who haven't the intellect or spiritual development to receive it. Jesus taught in parables which were meant to teach spiritual truths which were opaque to those without spiritual discernment. Blake wants to lay bare his understanding of cosmic events as spiritual teaching which can't be perceived without receptivity through the spirit. He recognizes God as the source of the truth which has come to him and which he has written in his poetry. He knows that people like Hayley who care nothing about nurturing a relationship with God will turn away from his writing. But if the parables of Jesus or the poetry of Blake can make a little crack in that wall which men erect to hide from God, the seed may be planted, germinate, flourish, blossom and eventually bear fruit.

Letter 27, To Thomas Butts, Felpham' July 6. 1803, (E 730):
Thus I hope that all our three years trouble Ends in Good Luck at last & shall be forgot by my affections & only rememberd by my Understanding to be a Memento in time to come & to speak to future generations by a Sublime Allegory which is now perfectly completed into a Grand Poem[.] I may praise it since I dare not pretend to be any other than the Secretary the Authors are in Eternity I consider it as the Grandest Poem that This World Contains. Allegory addressd to the Intellectual powers while it is altogether hidden from the Corporeal Understanding is My Definition of the Most Sublime Poetry. it is also somewhat in the same manner defind by Plato. This Poem shall by Divine Assistance be progressively Printed & Ornamented with Prints & given to the Public--But of this work I take care to say little to Mr H. since he is as much averse to my poetry as he is to a Chapter in the Bible"

When we find the poetry difficult to understand, we may also remember what Blake wrote to Dr. Truxler (E 702) concerning the way wise writers seek to get a response from their readers.
"The wisest of the Ancients considerd what is not too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction because it rouzes the faculties to act."

'not too Explicit'

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blake's Orc

In the Book of Urizen, to the great dismay of the Eternals, Los and Enitharmon had managed to bring about offspring (their further offspring is the subject for another post).

Their first born, Orc, was the apple of his mother's eye. Her husband got tired of that and took firm measures:
Book of Urizen, Plate 19.48-9, (E 79):
"The Eternals, closed the tent
They beat down the stakes the cords
Stretch'd for a work of eternity;"

Book of Urizen, Plate 20:1-26, (Erdman 80):
"No more Los beheld Eternity.
In his hands he siez'd the infant
He bathed him in springs of sorrow
He gave him to Enitharmon. "

Book of Urizen; (E 80):
"They named the child Orc, he grew
Fed with milk of Enitharmon

Los awoke her; O sorrow & pain!
A tight'ning girdle grew,
Around his bosom. In sobbings
He burst the girdle in twain,
But still another girdle
Opressd his bosom, In sobbings
Again he burst it. Again
Another girdle succeeds
The girdle was form'd by day;
By night was burst in twain.

These falling down on the rock
Into an iron Chain
In each other link by link lock'd
They took Orc to the top of a mountain.
O how Enitharmon wept!
They chain'd his young limbs to the rock
With the Chain of Jealousy
Beneath Urizens deathful shadow"

Among other things Blake gives us here a pretty vivid, not to say lurid, description of one of the common fates of our young people marrying in haste. He also plots the course of jealousy, how the mind-forg'd manacles take possession of us; he called it the Chain of Jealousy, cursing alike in this case father and son. In Gates of Paradise he further explicated that theme:

"11 In Aged Ignorance profound,
Holy and cold, I clipp'd the wings
Of all sublunary things,
12. And in depths of my dungeons
Closed the Father and the Sons."

In the course of his career Blake used Orc for higher and better purposes: Red Orc introduced the American Revolution (I wonder if Tom Paine had read hair.) If you wanted to study Orc extensively, you could read all 114 of its occurrences.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Integral to Blake's myth is the idea that entering the material world, the world of generation, is a mercy provided so that man may be regenerated through forgiveness and annihilation. Entering the material requires that a spectre must receive a garment or body to clothe him in the world of generation. Just as Jesus was clothed in a body when he came to earth, so are all who descend from Eternity. Thel refused to enter the material world, Milton and Ololon voluntarily leave Eternity and descend in order to heal unhealed wounds. Blake uses the image of the weaver to describe the process of providing bodies for those naked souls who enter the world of "joy and woe."

Here is a painting which Blake made for Blair's The Grave, said to have been rediscovered in 2001.
It is a perfect illustration for Enitharmon's work as described in The Four Zoas.

Our Time is Fix'd, and All Our Days Are Numbered

Four Zoas, Night the Eighth, Page 100, (E 372):
"Then Enitharmon erected Looms in Lubans Gate
And calld the Looms Cathedron in these Looms She wove
the Spectres
Bodies of Vegetation Singing lulling Cadences to drive away
Despair from the poor wandering spectres and Los loved them
With a parental love for the Divine hand was upon him
And upon Enitharmon & the Divine Countenance shone
In Golgonooza Looking down the Daughters of Beulah saw
With joy the bright Light & in it a Human form
And knew he was the Saviour Even Jesus & they worshipped

Astonishd Comforted Delighted in notes of Rapturous Extacy
All Beulah stood astonishd Looking down to Eternal Death
They saw the Saviour beyond the Pit of death & destruction
For whether they lookd upward they saw the Divine Vision
Or whether they lookd downward still they saw the Divine Vision
Surrounding them on all sides beyond sin & death & hell

Enitharmon wove in tears singing Songs of Lamentation
And pitying comfort as she sighd forth on the wind the Spectres
Also the Vegetated bodies which Enitharmon wove"

Enitharmon and the lovely 'Daughters of Beulah' assisting her in the picture reflect the two prospects for the souls being vegetated: that they may go 'weeping in the evening dew' and 'that they may learn to bear the beams of love'. The weavers exhibit the quiet joy of accomplishing merciful work.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blake's Pity

Wikimedia Commons
Large Color Printed Drawings 

We're told that as a youth Blake had an unfortunate love affair with the young woman of a higher (social? economic?) class. On the rebound Catherine expressed pity for him, which led to their marriage.

Like most good words in English Pity has been badly degraded in the past couple of centuries. In Blake's day it meant something more respectable. "Pity evokes a tender or sometimes slightly contemptuous sorrow or empathy for people, a person, or an animal in misery, pain, or distress"(wikipedia). Through the years the contempuous dimension of the word has increased to the point where in the 21st Century pity is no longer reputable. Blake saw it altogether otherwise.

Here is the Divine Image:
To Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is God our father dear:
And Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is Man his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine
Love Mercy Pity Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too."
from Notebook], "I_heard An Angel"3; E470:

"I heard an Angel singing
When the day was springing,
"Mercy, Pity, Peace
Is the world's release."
Thus he sung all day
Over the new mown hay,
Till the sun went down
And haycocks looked brown.
I heard a Devil curse
Over the heath and the furze,
"Mercy could be no more,
If there was nobody poor,
And pity no more could be,
If all were as happy as we."
At his curse the sun went down,
And the heavens gave a frown.
Down pour'd the heavy rain
Over the new reap'd grain ...
And Miseries' increase
Is Mercy, Pity, Peace."

(The Tate Collection cites a passage from Shakespeare's Macbeth related to the above picture; Blake shows a female cherub leaning down to snatch the baby from its mother. His image refers closely to Shakespeare's text:

"And Pity, like a naked new-born babe
Striding the blast, or heav'n's cherubim hors'd
Upon the sightless couriers of the air"

(Macbeth Act 1 Scene 7)

Besides helping me with the picture my dear wife added this to the post: the grace of the transcendent God reaches down to us; in pity that of God in you or me reaches out to those in need (of all sorts).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Jung developed a technique he called 'active imagination' which put him in touch with facets of his inner world.

You might say that Blake had experienced altered states of consciousness by exploring his inner world. Blake seems to be applying an understanding of various states of consciousness when describing Milton's entry into multiple levels of awareness of inner and outer realities.

Milton, PLATE 15 [17], (E 109)
"As when a man dreams, he reflects not that his body sleeps,
Else he would wake; so seem'd he entering his Shadow: but
With him the Spirits of the Seven Angels of the Presence
Entering; they gave him still perceptions of his Sleeping Body;
Which now arose and walk'd with them in Eden, as an Eighth
Image Divine tho' darken'd; and tho walking as one walks
In sleep; and the Seven comforted and supported him.

Like as a Polypus that vegetates beneath the deep!
They saw his Shadow vegetated underneath the Couch
Of death: for when he enterd into his Shadow: Himself:
His real and immortal Self: was as appeard to those
Who dwell in immortality, as One sleeping on a couch
Of gold; and those in immortality gave forth their Emanations
Like Females of sweet beauty, to guard round him & to feed
His lips with food of Eden in his cold and dim repose!

But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night."

Blake talks about the dream state, the waking state, consciousness of the Shadow, awareness of the inner guide or protector, and becoming conscious of the 'immortal Self' (which Jung call the Self). Finally there is recognition of the Emanations or Jung's Anima.
Wikipedia CommonsIllustrations to the Book of Job
Linnell Set, Page 11
Job's Evil Dreams
Blake portrays another dream state in the Book of Job, Plate 11.

According to Edinger in Encounter with the Self, this picture illustrates Job's remark in the Book of Job, 7:13-14:

"If I say, 'My bed will comfort me,
my couch will soothe my pain,'
you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions."

Aspects of Job's unconscious of which he was previously unaware have been activated. Likewise the scene in Milton portrays the activation of facets of his unconscious which will play a role in Milton's exploration of his psychic depths as the poem unfolds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blake's Apocalypse

Plate 6 of America:
"The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry'd,
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!
Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst.
Let the slave grinding at the mill run out into the field:
Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air;
Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years,
Rise and look out; his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open.
And let his wife and children return from the opressor's scourge.
They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream,
Singing, 'The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning
And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night;
For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease.' "

This might well be called Blake's Apocalypse, certainly a more hopefull account of the End of Time than John's apocalypse.  America, a Prophecy   is an early work (1793) that deals with America's war for independence. (Incidentally a fairly large number of liberal minded Englishmen supported the American Revolution, as did Blake here.) He used American figures as well as French ones in a paean to revolution.
(Two lines of the passage reappear in The Four Zoas [Nt 9], 138.20-21; E406.)

Tom Paine was perhaps the  chief propagandistic instigator of the American Revolution with his Common Sense, and Blake probably agreed with what he said (although not with his deistic faith).  With Blake and Paine the relationship between the two men is imaginatively portrayed.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Damon says of Blake on page 397 of A Blake Dictionary that 'as was his custom, he helped himself to whatever he wished and transformed it into his own.' He is referring here to the influence on Blake of his friend Thomas Taylor, who helped to introduce Blake to Plato and the Neo-Platonists. Blake continued to demonstrate the influence of classical ideas and images even after he turned decidedly toward Christianity.

Homer's tale of the incident that led to the Trojan War is depicted in this painting called Judgment of Paris, which Blake produced for his friend and patron Thomas Butts. To reacquaint yourself with the tale read this file from the web site Living Myths, Greek Myth, or here is an excerpt:

"The contest which Eris initiates sets the three goddesses against each other. In myth, goddesses frequently appear in threes, representing aspects of a single deity. Thus, although Hera, Athene and Aphrodite represent quite different forces, the competition may reflect a time when they were less divided. Paris has a difficult choice. Hera, wife of Zeus, is the goddess of marriage and the home, and as such is always smarting from her husband’s sexual adventures. Athene is a virgin goddess of war and wisdom. Aphrodite is the goddess of sexual love, also associated with physical beauty in all its forms. Yet her affairs with the war god Ares, and her engineering of the Trojan War (as well as lesser conflicts), suggest the close relationship between sexual love and conflict.
The apple thrown by Eris is perhaps related to Eve’s apple, representing a Fall from unity to disunity."

I have been given permission by the British Museum to publish this image to the Blake blog. Link to British Museum

Judgment of Paris, (click on picture to enlarge)Blake has covered the whole scene and added a bit of his own myth perhaps. Discord, Fall, Temptation, Jealousy, Troublesome Females, Dog at the Wintry Door, Shepherd -
these include a lot of Blake's themes. Perhaps Blake thought of Ahania, Vala and Enitharmon, instead of Athena, Aphrodite and Hera as he painted the three lovely ladies. Eris takes the role of Satan. If we look for Blake's fourfold, his Zoas, we might find Urizen in Eris, Tharmas in the shepherd, Los in Hermes, and Luvah in Cupid.

Kathleen Raine in Blake and Antiquity points out that Thomas Taylor "quotes a long passage from On the Gods and the World [by Sallust, a fourth century Latin writer] on the four kinds of meaning found in myth." Raine adds "Sallust uses as an illustration the story of the Judgment of Paris; and it may be more than coincidence that Blake painted the subject, introducing the figure of Eris, whom Sallust describes, but who does not commonly appear in paintings of this theme."

From Sallust:

"The mixed kind of myth may be seen in many instances: for example they say that in a banquet of the Gods Discord threw down a golden apple; the Goddesses contended for it, and were sent by Zeus to Paris to be judged. Paris saw Aphrodite to be beautiful and gave her the apple. Here the banquet signifies the hypercosmic powers of the Gods; that is why they are all together. The golden apple is the world, which being formed out of opposites, is naturally said to be 'thrown by Discord'. The different Gods bestow different gifts upon the world, and are thus said to 'contend for the apple'. And the soul which lives according to sense -- for that is what Paris is -- not seeing the other powers in the world but only beauty, declares that the apple belongs to Aphrodite."

Eclectic is a good word to describe Blake's source material and the way he used it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Infant Joy

'I have no name;
I am but two days old.'
What shall I call thee?
'I happy am,
Joy is my name.'
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

Blake must have been thinking about a passage in Spenser's The Faerie Queen when he wrote this. If you click this link, you come up with a google copy of Blake and Tradition by Kathleen Raine (Amazon offers this book for $50, but you have to persevere in your search for that). However google seems to offer a lot of access to this book, one of the first and best Blake books I found.

In Spencer's story there were thousand thousands of these infants, and the "keeper of the northern bar" admits them one by one. Raine sees here Urthona/Los. Relate this passage in Spencer to The Arlington Tempera, and you get a glimpse of Blake's total myth: the unborn coming down the northern passage, where the babe is clothed with flesh and mortality for a sojourn in the Sea of Time and Space; at the conclusion of mortality one arrives back on terra firma prepared to ascend the southern passage to the realm of Eternity.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Lets consider one of the many pictures on biblical subjects which Blake created : David Delivered out of Many Waters, (circa 1805). This picture illustrates Psalm 18 and II Samuel 2 which present the same poem of David.

Verses from Psalm 18
/4/ The sorrows of death compassed me,
and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
/5/ The sorrows of hell compassed me about:
the snares of death prevented me.
/6/ In my distress I called upon the LORD,
and cried unto my God:
/9/ He bowed the heavens also, and came down:
and darkness /was/ under his feet.
/10/ And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly:
yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
/11/ He made darkness his secret place;
his pavilion round about him /were/ dark waters /and/ thick clouds of the skies.
/12/ At the brightness /that was/ before him his thick clouds passed,
hail /stones/ and coals of fire.
/16/ He sent from above, he took me,
he drew me out of many waters.
/17/ He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from them which hated me:
for they were too strong for me.
/19/ He brought me forth also into a large place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
/20/ The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
/21/ For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.

This image which Blake produced in response to the 18th Psalm demonstrates his habit of commenting on, as well as illustrating the material he was portraying. The most obvious impression the picture makes is that of the rejoicing and gratitude expressed in the Psalm. God has given David protection and a great deliverance when he was in great need. However when we look for David himself in the picture we find him inconspicuous at the very bottom of the picture, submerged in water, arms outstretched, bound in ropes.

David Delivered out of Many Waters

The rejoicing, the waters, the cherubim are clearly from the Psalm. What Blake adds is David being in the posture of Christ crucified, which reminds us that Jesus was a descendant of David. The restraining ropes must come from Blake's own concepts. Blake uses the ropes elsewhere to represent the net of religion whose misconceptions bind man to the material rather than the spiritual. How might the ropes have been appropriate to represent David's condition? Immediately after David expresses his gratitude to God he declares his own righteousness and claims that God's deliverance is a reward for his goodness. Blake objected to the Old Testament paradigm that obedience to the Law can earn salvation. So we return to David in the posture of the crucifixion as a reminder that God through Christ, freely gives salvation through faith. The net of religion is represented by the ropes binding David. The water, in which David is immersed, Blake uses as a symbol of the material world.

In the Book of Urizen, Blake express his views of the Old Testament concept of the law which, with its threat and punishment, traps man in a cycle of sin and death.

Book of Urizen, Plate 23, (E 81); Plate 25 (E 82):

"4. He in darkness clos'd, view'd all his race,
And his soul sicken'd! he curs'd
Both sons & daughters; for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment.

Where ever the footsteps of Urizen
Walk'd over the cities in sorrow.
7. Till a Web dark & cold, throughout all
The tormented element stretch'd
From the sorrows of Urizens soul
And the Web is a Female in embrio
None could break the Web, no wings of fire.

8. So twisted the cords, & so knotted
The meshes: twisted like to the human brain

9. And all calld it, The Net of Religion

5. For he saw that life liv'd upon death"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blake's worm

Blake used the worm as a minor but important symbol in his poetry; you may find 87 occurrences of the word in his Complete Works. He used it to express many different, contrasting or even opposite things. Let's begin with Thel:

Thel, Plate 3, (E 5)
" ...Every thing that lives

Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice,
Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen."
The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lily's leaf,
And the bright Cloud sail'd on, to find his partner in the vale.
Then Thel astonish'd view'd the Worm upon its dewy bed.
"Art thou a Worm? Image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?
I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lily's leaf
Ah! weep not, little voice, thou canst not speak, but thou canst weep.
Is this a Worm? I see thee lay helpless and naked, weeping,
And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother's smiles."
The Clod of Clay heard the Worm's voice and rais'd her pitying head:
She bow'd over the weeping infant, and her life exhal'd
In milky fondness: then on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes.
'O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves.' "

Blake has been telling us something about ourselves, our psyche, our community, nation, world.

Another important facet of Blake's worm occurs in the Gates of Paradise: (E 269)

"15. The Door of Death I open found, And the Worm weaving in the ground:
16. Thou'rt my Mother, from the womb; Wife, Sister, Daughter, to the tomb;

Among other ideas this evokes something Jesus said about his mother at Matthew 12:46-50:

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

But here we find worm used in a virtually opposite sense,.
Look at Jerusalem Plate 29, (Erdman 175) where the Spectre of Albion pronounces this:

"I am your Rational Power O Albion & that Human Form
You call Divine, is but a Worm seventy inches long
That creeps forth in a night & is dried in the morning sun"

What does the big worm suggest? a purely conventional life, with no imagination or creativity, a kind of man in whom Los and Luvah are simply absent. A man ruled body and soul by the Selfhood.

In Genesis we read that God created Man in his own image, and also that he formed man out of the dust. And following Digby we have two kinds of men: the one represented by Glad Day and the one represented by the worm of 70 inches. But God includes 'Men' and 'worms' as part of the 'whole Creation' that will be redeemed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Blake had a fourfold vision but the system of fourfold was not exclusive to Blake. Have a look at this chart and see how well Blake's system holds up when comparing it to Greek Mythology and modern Psychology.

Greek Mythology ...Jung............. Blake

Hesperus/Hestia = sensation . = Tharmas/Enion

Apollo/Artemis.... = reason...... = Urizen/Ahania

Ares/Aphrodite... = feeling....... = Luvah/Vala

Hermes/Athena.. = imagination,= Los/Enithrarmon,
...............................intuition......... Urthona

Blake..................... Activity...... Psychology... Psyche

Tharmas/Enion.. = Shepherd . = id............ = unconscious

Urizen/Ahania ... = Plowman... = superego = subconscious

Luvah/Vala .........= Weaver..... = ego..........= conscious

Los/Enithrarmon, = Blacksmith = self...........= collective
Urthona........................................................... unconscious

Level............ Element.. Vision

Ulro........... = Water.. = Single

Generation = Air....... = Twofold

Beulah....... = Fire..... = Threefold

Eden.......... = Earth... = Fourfold

As you can see from the quotations in the previous post about fourfold, Blake has also given each Zoa a sense, a metal, a direction and much more. By using this symbolic language Blake brings forth a rich and diverse pattern of associations which speak to the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels of our minds.

If you don't think these associations are a good fit, come up with your own system.

Water, Earth, Air, and Fire are shown on pages 4 through 8 of this pdf file of Gates of Paradise.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


The way I remember Larry first developing an interest in studying Blake was from a book we borrowed from the Arlington County Public Library. He had been studying Jung and this book on symbols mentioned that Jung's four functions corresponded to Blake's Four Zoas. With his attention directed to Blake, Larry seemed to 'fall in love'. Although at times he has pursued other interests, studying Blake has since been one of the constants in his life.

The book he originally read, I believe to be George Wingfield Digby's, Symbol and Image in William Blake. On page 26-27 Digby writes: "The 'Four Mighty Ones in every Man' (a phrase taken from 'The Four Zoas'), correspond with the four psychological functions as studied in analytical psychology. The correspondence is as follows. Water represents the body, that is the function of Sensation, Blake's 'Tharmas'; Earth stands for the Intuitive function, Blake's 'Los'; Air for the Thinking function, 'Urizen'; Fire for the feeling function, 'Luvah'. These four functions, or principles, or 'Living Creatures', are called by Blake the 'Four Zoas'. Their rivalries, combats, deprivations, and distress constitute a large part of Blake's myths as they unfold in the prophetic books, especially in 'The Four Zoas'. Blake throughout is  intent on describing, by means of symbols and images, psychological states and conflicts, and their solution. The understanding of the Four Elements in this symbolic, psychological way is not peculiar to Blake but has a long tradition behind it, both in Western and Eastern thought."

Here is a passage from Jerusalem which presents some of the symbols Blake associated with his Four Zoas.

Jerusalem, Plate 97, (E 256)
"So spake the Vision of Albion & in him so spake in my hearing
The Universal Father. Then Albion stretchd his hand into
And took his Bow. Fourfold the Vision for bright beaming Urizen
Layd his hand on the South & took a breathing Bow of carved Gold

Luvah his hand stretch'd to the East & bore a Silver Bow bright shining

Tharmas Westward a Bow of Brass pure flaming richly wrought

Urthona Northward in thick storms a Bow of Iron terrible thundering."

On Plate 92 of Jerusalem we find Jerusalem awakening in human form, surrounded by four sleeping heads: the Four Zoas, almost ready for their resurrection to properly functioning parts of the giant Albion.

And from Milton, Plate 1, (E 95):

"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!"

In a later post I'll chart some the correspondences of Blake's Fourfold Vision and characters in Greek mythology, and correspondences of other aspects of modern psychological categories.

Other posts on fourfold in Blake include these: Fourfold.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Blake's Moment of Grace

(This subject was also dealt with in Blake's Life.
The mind form'd manacles that he dealt with in various ways suggest that (in his own mind at least) he was largely free of them.)

With the Gnostics Blake believed that the Creator was an inferior (false) God; he had messed up the world pretty good. (You could find many people nowadays who might agree with that idea.):

Vision of The Last Judgment, E565):
"Thinking as I do that the Creator of this World is a very
Cruel Being & being a Worshipper of Christ I cannot help saying the Son O how unlike the Father
First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the Head
Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it."

Blake put these words in the mouth of Urizen:
"I am God from Eternity to Eternity"
(FZ1-12.23; E307)
( This is a fundamental archetype of Mankind, at least for Blake's culture and for ours.)

A mind form'd manacle indeed, but the one he struggled with for a long time was what he called the main chance. By that I think he meant the need for recognition of his gifts accompanied by an adequate income:
" I myself remember when I thought my pursuits of Art a kind of Criminal Dissipation & neglect of the main chance which I hid my face for not being able to abandon as a Passion which is forbidden by Law & Religion"

He rocked along for twenty years writing jewels and painting masterpieces--both of them rather uniformly ignored by the public; also by other poets and painters.

In 1800 an affluent poet named Hayley offered a house near the sea for Blake and his wife, a real beneficence! He hoped to make a successful artist of Blake painting miniatures; he discouraged Blake's poetry. Blake had already suffered similar attitudes from many, but none had been more beneficent.

We might consider this Blake's last temptation, and he passed it. Note in this letter to Hayley:
"Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a door and by window-shutters.."

The letter reveals that Blake had "annihilated the Selfhood" to the point where he could forgive Hayley for his insensitive insistence that Blake follow his (inferior!!) artistic direction. For Blake it led to the moment of grace, where, his negativities overcome, he could simply appreciate Hayley's hospitality.

Henceforth the 'inferior God' no longer had terrors for Blake; he was too filled with the new God he had found: Jesus, the Forgiveness. He changed from the stern prophet to the happy bearer of good news; he became the ram horn'd with gold.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


In the last 20 years of his life, after the completion of Jerusalem, Blake became more of a painter than a poet. He attempted to initiate a project which would have placed murals and tempers in public places and private homes. When this was unsuccessful he turned to creating illustrations for the literature he loved, Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Shakespeare, Dante, Chaucer, Bunyan and the Bible. Blake began "to illustrate other poets' visions so the their readers may more easily understand their archetypal significance." (Fearful Symmetry, by Northrup Frye, Page 415)

This illustration for the Book of Revelation is an example of attention he paid to the text he was illustrating and the freedom he used to clarify the significance by his imaginative presentation.

Revelation or the apocalypse was of particular interest to Blake. The Orc cycle or the Circle of Destiny would end when the new age of the spirit begins. The imagery of the Book of Revelation is frightening and hopeful as would be expected when a new age is being born.

Near the climax of Jerusalem we find these words which relate to the image and words from Revelation:
Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257)

"And every Man stood Fourfold, each Four Faces had. One
to the  West
One toward the East One to the South One to the North.
the Horses  Fourfold
And the dim Chaos brightend beneath, above, around! Eyed
as the  Peacock
According to the Human Nerves of Sensation, the Four
Rivers of the Water of Life"
This watercolor represents the vision in the fifth and sixth chapters of the Book of Revelation. Two of the horses of the apocalypse and their riders are represented. Above is the Lamb opening the scroll. The threat of death and destruction is represented in the dark lower half of the picture with Death Riding on a Pale Horse. The hope and promise of the new Jerusalem appears in the Lamb of God surrounded by the light of the sun and the feathers of protection.

Blake's image captures the contrast between the threat and the promise.

Book of Revelations5:10 They sang a new song and these are the words they sang, "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."
6:1 - Then I watched while the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice of thunder, "Come out!"
6:2 - I looked, and before my eyes was a white horse. Its rider carried a bow, and he was given a crown. He rode out conquering and bent on conquest.
6:3 - Then, when the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature, cry, "Come out!"
6:4 - And another horse came forth, red in colour. Its rider was given power to deprive the earth of peace, so that men should kill each other. A huge sword was put into his hand.
6:5a - When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come out!"
6:5b-6 - I looked again and there before my eyes was a black horse. Its rider had a pair of scales in his hand, and I heard a voice which seemed to come from the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a shilling, and three quarts of barley for a shilling - but no tampering with the oil or the wine!"
6:7 - Then, when he broke the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth living creature cry, "Come out!"
6:8 - Again I looked, and there appeared a horse sickly green in colour. The name of its rider was death, and the grave followed close behind him. A quarter of the earth was put into their power, to kill with the sword, by famine, by violence, and through the wild beasts of the earth.