Friday, April 23, 2010

Gates of Paradise Pictures 1


Here is the first of the sixteen pictures used in Gates of Paradise to illustrate the gnomic content of Blake's text. Associated with this picture Blake wrote three couplets:

"My Eternal Man set in repose,
The Female from his darkness rose;
And she found me beneath a Tree,
A Mandrake, and in her Veil hid me.
Serpent Reasonings us entice
Of good and evil, virtue and vice"
'My Eternal Man is Blake's perception
of himself before the Fall or of Albion (who fell asleep) or of you or me in our spiritual essence.

The darkness of his sleep leads to the rise (within him) of the female, the age old symbol of materialist 'reality' under the moon, and of the dust. So the Eternal Man symbolizes the image of God within us and the 'female', the dust from which we are made.

"she found me beneath a Tree,
A Mandrake, and in her Veil hid me."

The mandrake is associated with sexual activity; the 'woman' is associated with generation or clothing mortals with materiality. The Tree represents here our ancestry, our biological inheritance, the culture in which we are born. Remember there were two trees in the Garden. Blake has a lot to say about trees throughout his works.

The veil is another ubiquitous symbol in Blake's poetry. Remember Vala, veiled, as she stands beside Jerusalem. Jerusalem of course represents the Eternal and Vala the mortal.

"Serpent Reasonings us entice
Of good and evil, virtue and vice"
An apt description of what happened in the Garden. We eat the apple; we become dominated by our ideas of good and evil, very often far from the mark. Blake had no use of good and evil; he preferred truth and error, to confess our errors and undergo the 'Last Judgment' (this may come up very slowly or not at all); forgiven we move up higher:

"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).

(All of the above summarizes Digby pages 20-24.)

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