Tuesday, May 18, 2010


In 1904 two scholars at the Victoria and Albert Museum published the text for Blake's Jerusalem together with their introduction. Eric Maclagen and Archibald Russell had a gift for a profound understanding of Blake symbolic system. They were able to see in the poem at the beginning of the second chapter of Jerusalem a precis of the entire contents of of the book Jerusalem . I hope you will find this section as enlightening in developing an ability to read Blake with understanding as I do.

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 171)

"The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint Johns Wood:
Were builded over with pillars of gold,
And there Jerusalems pillars stood.

Her Little-ones ran on the fields
The Lamb of God among them seen
And fair Jerusalem his Bride:
Among the little meadows green.

Pancrass & Kentish-town repose
Among her golden pillars high:
Among her golden arches which
Shine upon the starry sky.

The Jews-harp-house & the Green Man;
The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight:
The fields of Cows by Willans farm:
Shine in Jerusalems pleasant sight.

She walks upon our meadows green:
The Lamb of God walks by her side:
And every English Child is seen,
Children of Jesus & his Bride,

Forgiving trespasses and sins
Lest Babylon with cruel Og,
With Moral & Self-righteous Law
Should Crucify in Satans Synagogue!

What are those golden Builders doing
Near mournful ever-weeping Paddington
Standing above that mighty Ruin
Where Satan the first victory won.

Where Albion slept beneath the Fatal Tree
And the Druids golden Knife,
Rioted in human gore,
In Offerings of Human Life

They groan'd aloud on London Stone
They groand aloud on Tyburns Brook
Albion gave his deadly groan,
And all the Atlantic Mountains shook

Albions Spectre from his Loins
Tore forth in all the pomp of War!
Satan his name: in flames of fire
He stretch'd his Druid Pillars far.

Jerusalem fell from Lambeth's Vale,
Down thro Poplar & Old Bow;
Thro Malden & acros the Sea,
In War & howling death & woe.

The Rhine was red with human blood:
The Danube rolld a purple tide:
On the Euphrates Satan stood:
And over Asia stretch'd his pride.

He witherd up sweet Zions Hill,
From every Nation of the Earth:
He witherd up Jerusalems Gates,
And in a dark Land gave her birth.

He witherd up the Human Form,
By laws of sacrifice for sin:
Till it became a Mortal Worm:
But O! translucent all within.

The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine.

And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death

And O thou Lamb of God, whom I
Slew in my dark self-righteous pride:
Art thou return'd to Albions Land!
And is Jerusalem thy Bride?

Come to my arms & never more
Depart; but dwell for ever here:
Create my Spirit to thy Love:
Subdue my Spectre to thy Fear,

Spectre of Albion! warlike Fiend!
In clouds of blood & ruin roll'd:
I here reclaim thee as my own
My Selfhood! Satan! armd in gold.

Is this thy soft Family-Love
Thy cruel Patriarchal pride
Planting thy Family alone
Destroying all the World beside.

A mans worst enemies are those
Of his own house & family;
And he who makes his law a curse,
By his own law shall surely die.

In my Exchanges every Land
Shall walk, & mine in every Land,
Mutual shall build Jerusalem:
Both heart in heart & hand in hand."

Jesus reaching down

This is the section from the introduction to Jerusalem By William Blake, Eric Robert Dalrymple Maclagan, Archibald George Blomefield Russell:

"In this unfallen state the " fields " in the north, from east to west, the regions, that is, of instinctive life both on the side of emotion and on that of sensual perception, were the supports of the holy Imagination, through the pillars of intellect (gold being the metal of Urizen). The Imagination was the Bride of the Lamb of God, happy in many lovely and innocent ways, and every idea of man was the " child of Jesus and his Bride " in the religion of forgiveness, refusing to impute sin. But the peace is broken: the intellectual powers are busied with the western region of bodily things (and in particular the sense of the Tongue, through which came the first sin): and man falls into the sleep that we call the life of the body, shadowed by the tree of mystery, and passing from inspired religion to that false faith which demands bodily instead of mental sacrifice. He enters into mortal sorrow, and his hard rational power, called by Blake "Satan," separates itself from his loins (the place of judgment), and furiously enforces its legal morality. By this separation the imagination also is forced to depart, and passing eastward through mere emotionalism it is lost in grief. Further and further the reason asserts its dominion over the emotional life, and the happinesses of man (rivers) become stained with sensuality: in every phase of mental life the place of the imagination is restricted, and the power itself is forced into the dark land of corporeal life. By such a system of religion man is convinced of his own mortality, equaling himself with the worms: but nothing can wholly obscure the glory of the divine within him, even in the weakness and transience of the life between birth and death. This state is common to all mankind; and the poet identifies himself with the man whose fall he has narrated, and calls on the Lamb of God, the Divine Image whom he crucified, but who still makes his perpetual appeal to the heart of man: he implores him to mould the spiritual and to repress the merely rational life with the love and fear of God. For the reason is to be mastered, not to be abandoned; in all its selfish cruelty and pride of intellectual war it is still a true part of man, even when it tries to claim that its own children (the logical ideas) have alone the right to exist, though such a system is bound at last to be its own destruction. The true life knows no compulsion, but consists in mutual acceptance and forgiveness: for so can man be joined with man to build up Christianity, the religion of the Imagination."
The poem leads us through sights and locations familiar to Blake, changes which he has observed, and the possibilities for further changes in a positive direction. Recognizing this as being written in symbolic language, the authors restate it in prosaic language. The restatement functions as a summation of the book Jerusalem itself. The poem makes more sense to our ordinary way of thinking when its symbols are revealed. Through the paraphrase of the poem we can see that it represents an outline of the whole book.

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