Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 11 Again

Creative and welcome criticism of the first "Picture 11" led to much further thought of the image, especially of its import in Blake's development.

1. The young Blake was actually a flaming liberal (like most such he was eventually mugged). At 23 he was present in the crowd at the Newgate riots, like quite a few liberal minded Englishmen who could be called "American patriots".

Blake wrote America celebrating the independence of the colonies. (Some of his finest poetry can be seen at Plate 8 of this poem.) When the French Revolution broke out in the nineties, he wore a red cap (of Liberty) (he was "mugged" by the outbreak of the Reign of Terror); at that point "Red Orc" had lost some of its attraction for the poet. He wrote a little poem called The Grey Monk describing a new attitude:
"The hand of Vengeance found the bed
To which the Purple Tyrant fled;
The iron hand crush'd the Tyrant's head
And became a Tyrant in his stead."

Back in 1779, when he was 22 Blake had become part of the Royal Academy, but he expressed great distaste for the 'head knocker' there, Sir Joshua Reynolds. He wrote numerous expressions of depreciation in his Annotations to Reynold's Discourses , (Erdman 635-62)

You may recall that in the Four Zoas Blake defined these functions of the psyche:
Tharmas -- the physical or (as in Jung) sensation
Urizen -- obviously related to reason
Luvah -- feeling, emotion
Los (Urthona in Eternity) -- Imagination (Intuition)

It appears to me that the old man in Aged Ignorance was a prototype of Urizen while the youth in the picture is the prototype of Orc/Luvah. Urizen is generally pictured as an old man surrounded by his books - the lawgiver, the demiruge who created this mess - while Orc is a symbol of bloody revolution.

Unfallen Urizen was the Prince of Light, but on Night 9 of the Four Zoas, page 119-20 (Erdman 388-9) the Eternal Man (Albion) lifts "his Eyes (from slumber) and cries (to Urizen) with heavenly voice.......O Prince of Light.....
"Come forth from slumbers of thy cold abstraction come forth
Arise to Eternal births shake off thy cold repose
Schoolmaster of souls great opposer of change......
Arise O stony form of death O dragon of the Deeps", etc.
The paragon of conservatism! (Blake had no truck with schoolmasters!)

Before the next function (feeling) was Luvah, he was Red Orc , the flame of violent revolution. As Blake's mind progressed he became Luvah ("clothed in robes of blood"). Ultimately he became Jesus, the crown and climax of Blake's system; no one ever had such an odyssey finding his way to the Lord.

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