Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Wrath and Pity were two central facets of Blake's theology, and both words meant to him something very different from the common connotations. Re his reading of them we may exhibit one or the others of these two contraries, the critical faculty and the affirmative one.

Wrath and pity are two aspects of prophetic activity. Wrath personified by Rintrah is the energetic destructive phase. Palamabron epitomizes the gentler constructive expressions.These are the threat and promise of the Old Testament prophets. To make a difference in a world embroiled in exploitation and oppression and tyranny, the first impulse is to express anger and attempt to break down the instruments of oppression. The extreme example is to participate in riot and revolution, but there are milder forms of subversion and non-cooperation all aimed at destroying the structure that perpetuates a system of masters and slaves.

Wrath is motivated by anger at seeing injustice, pity is motivated by compassion at seeing suffering. Pity seeks to comfort and heal, to alleviate the pain of those wounded by the system. Wrath and Pity are contraries not enemies. Their activities supplement each other in fostering change but their functions are incompatible if exercised simultaneously. In a world distorted by misapprehension, wrath may fall on the oppressed and pity on the oppressor.

Wrath and pity can also be viewed in terms of punishment and forgiveness. In comparing Old and New Testament theology, wrath characterizes an aspect of the an Old Testament God who expects obedience to the law and punishes infractions. Jesus teaches in the New Testament that our relationship with the God of mercy, pity, peace and love may be renewed by forgiveness.

Wrath and pity both have creative and destructive aspects. Pity becomes destructive in the hand of Vala who uses the passive emotions as a weapon of control in her outward, feminine, material agenda.

This section from Percival explains how the feminine emotions can be used to build up or tear down; the active masculine could be used to build up as in exposing abuse or to tear down as in promoting war.

Milton O Percival, William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Page 45:
"...Blake has several sets of composite characters. Foremost among them are the Daughters of Beulah and the Daughters of Albion. They are man's feminine powers in two antithetical attitudes. In the Daughters of Beulah we have these powers devoted to the well-being of man; in the Daughters of Albion we have them, in obedience to reason, weaving the "natural" world of spiritual depravity. The one is Jerusalem seen in multiple, the other is Vala-Rahab. The Daughters of Beulah are said to guard the body of Albion during his mortal sleep on the rock of Ages; the Daughters of Albion, to bind down his perceptive powers and submit him to the corporeal illusion. The Daughters of Beulah personify a mercy and pity that is spontaneous and genuine; the Daughters of Albion, a spiritual hate masquerading as mercy and pity in the cruel and spurious forms of the moral law. The Daughters of Beulah, who by their selflessness keep man's senses open, prepare the conditions for a visionary life and are called Daughters of Inspiration. The Daughters of Albion, who in their selfishness bind down man's immortal senses, are called Daughters of Memory."

These passages will give a flavor of Blake's use of wrath and pity in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, PLATE 88, (E 247)
"The blow of his Hammer is Justice. the swing of his Hammer:
The force of Los's Hammer is eternal Forgiveness;"

Jerusalem, PLATE 65, (E 216)
"To decide Two Worlds with a great decision: a World of Mercy, and
A World of justice: the World of Mercy for Salvation
To cast Luvah into the Wrath, and Albion into the Pity
In the Two Contraries of Humanity & in the Four Regions."

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 232)
"But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life
Creating Nature from this fiery Law,
By self-denial & forgiveness of Sin."

Jerusalem, Plate 79, (E 236)
"For in our battles we the Slain men view with pity and love:
We soon revive them in the secret of our tabernacles
But I Vala, Luvahs daughter, keep his body embalmd in moral laws
With spices of sweet odours of lovely jealous stupefaction:
Within my bosom, lest he arise to life & slay my Luvah
Pity me then O Lamb of God! O Jesus pity me!
Come into Luvahs Tents, and seek not to revive the Dead!"

Jerusalem, Plate 80, (E 237)
"The Spindle turnd in blood & fire: loud sound the trumpets
Of war: the cymbals play loud before the Captains
With Cambel & Gwendolen in dance and solemn song
The Cloud of Rahab vibrating with the Daughters of Albion
Los saw terrified, melted with pity & divided in wrath
He sent them over the narrow seas in pity and love
Among the Four Forests of Albion which overspread all the Earth
They go forth & return swift as a flash of lightning.
Among the tribes of warriors: among the Stones of power!
Against Jerusalem they rage thro all the Nations of Europe
Thro Italy & Grecia, to Lebanon & Persia & India.
The dungeons burst & the Prisoners set free."

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