Wednesday, April 14, 2010


When Blake moved back to London from Felpham for a time he opened an exhibit of his paintings in the shop of his brother James. He wrote an extended Descriptive Catalogue of the works he was exhibiting. The quotes about Albion and Arthur in a previous post were from that catalogue. A picture which has been lost was the subject of the comments Blake made about Albion and Arthur.

Blake's picture according to his description was of three ancient Britons who were the sole survivors of a battle against the Romans. Descriptive Catalogue, NUMBER 5, (E 542-5):

" THE ANCIENT BRITONS--Three Ancient Britons overthrowing the Army of armed Romans; the Figures full as
large as Life--From the Welch Triades.
In the last Battle that Arthur fought, the most Beautiful was one
That return'd, and the most Strong another: with them also return'd
The most Ugly, and no other beside return'd from the bloody Field.

The most Beautiful, the Roman Warriors trembled before and worshipped:
The most Strong, they melted before him and dissolved in his presence:
The most Ugly they fled with outcries and contortion of their Limbs."

To Blake:

"The Strong man represents the human sublime. The Beautiful man represents the human pathetic, which was
in the wars of Eden divided into male and female. The Ugly man represents the human reason. They were originally one man, who was fourfold; he was self-divided, and his real humanity slain on the stems of generation, and the form of the fourth was like the Son of God. How he became divided is a subject of great sublimity and pathos. The Artist has written it under inspiration, and will, if God please, publish it; it is voluminous, and contains the ancient history of Britain, and the world of Satan and of Adam. In the mean time he has painted this Picture,"
"It will be necessary for the Painter to say something concerning his ideas of Beauty, Strength and Ugliness.
The Beauty that is annexed and appended to folly, is a lamentable accident and error of the mortal and perishing life; it does but seldom happen; but with this unnatural mixture the sublime Artist can have nothing to do; it is fit for the burlesque. The Beauty proper for sublime art, is lineaments, or forms and features that are capable of being the receptacles of intellect; accordingly the Painter has given in his beautiful man, his own idea of intellectual Beauty. The face and limbs that deviates or alters least, from infancy to old age, is the face and limbs of greatest Beauty and perfection.
The Ugly likewise, when accompanied and annexed to imbecility and disease, is a subject for burlesque and not for historical grandeur; the Artist has imagined his Ugly man; one approaching to the beast in features and form, his forehead small, without frontals; his jaws large; his nose high on the ridge, and narrow; his chest and he stamina of his make, comparatively little, and his joints and his extremities large; his eyes with scarce any whites, narrow and cunning, and every thing tending toward what is truly Ugly; the incapability of intellect.
The Artist has considered his strong Man as a receptacle of Wisdom, a sublime energizer; his features and limbs do not spindle out into length, without strength, nor are they too large and unwieldy for his brain and bosom. Strength consists in accumulation of power to the principal seat, and from thence a regular gradation and subordination; strength is compactness, not extent nor bulk.
The strong Man acts from conscious superiority, and marches on in fearless dependance on the divine decrees, raging with the inspirations of a prophetic mind. The Beautiful Man acts from duty, and anxious solicitude for the fates of those for whom he combats. The Ugly Man acts from love of carnage, and delight in the savage barbarities of war, rushing with sportive precipitation into the very teeth of the affrighted enemy."

Although there is no exact correlation between the three survivors and the Four Zoas, it is worth looking for some resemblances. The Strong Man is most like Tharmas, the physical body and source of man's energy. The Beautiful Man resembles Luvah who incorporates all the emotions and in his Eternal form is referred to a 'beauteous'. The Ugly man is Urizen who has become ugly through his hate, cruelty, and vengeance. The fourth man is like to the Son of God as was the fourth man in Daniel's fiery furnace. Los plays that role in Blake's myth since he is the force that initiates reunification.

Since the original picture is lost, I have tried to find images which may resemble the three men Blake describes.

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