Saturday, July 17, 2010


I like this passage from Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, because it shows how the material or literal can be transformed into the poetic or mythopoeic:

"I tell you these things because my methods of approaching the past have scarcely changed since childhood and adolescence. I assemble what pieces there are, contrast and compare, and try to remain in their presence till I can begin to see and hear what living men and women once saw and heard and loved, till from these scraps and fragments living men and women begin to emerge and live and move again - and then I try to communicate these sensations to my reader...For me the historians principle task should be to raise the dead to life."

The picture that the Bible builds of the reality of existence, is presented in the context of the progress of specific individuals as they work out their relationships with God and man (and woman). The meaning of various episodes is unclear or confusing when seen outside of the context of the whole body of the collected books. The impression of false starts and repeated failures in the lives of the characters portrayed, interferes with understanding the direction which is being pursued. Perhaps the image of wandering epitomizes the path we follow as we read our way through the multiple books. It takes concerted effort to discern patterns which will provide an overview of the message which the Bible incorporates.

Blake worked under the influence of the Bible. We can see in the body of his work the same unifying conceptualization which leads to meaning being discernible only as an aspect of the complete picture. There are patterns to be uncovered in Blake's work but they are not neatly or consistently presented in a single place or form. We look at the same events from multiple perspective until they congeal into a living image that enhances views of the other living images from which we are constructing the big picture.

Blake will eventually show us the form in Eternity of which he carefully portrays the 'lineaments' of the Identity expressed temporally in the world of Generation.

Milton, Plate 21 [23], (E 115)
"for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments."

Jerusalem, Plate 71, (E 224)
"As the Soul is to the Body, so Jerusalems Sons,
Are to the Sons of Albion: and Jerusalem is Albions Emanation
What is Above is Within, for every-thing in Eternity is translucent:
The Circumference is Within: Without, is formed the Selfish Center
And the Circumference still expands going forward to Eternity.
And the Center has Eternal States! these States we now explore."
The picture is from Blake's illustrations to Milton's Paradise Regained.
Thanks to wikimedia commons for providing this image and many others from Blake's work. You can always right click on the pictures we post to copy the link location and learn the source of the images.

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