Friday, January 21, 2011

BLAKE AS PILGRIM

Blake made one illustration to Pilgrim's Progress which is not considered to be a part of the 28 plate series which Norvig focused her attention on. It belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC rather than to the Frick Collection in New York. It was once called A Warrior with Angels but now goes by the name of Christian with the Shield of Faith, Taking Leave of His Companions.



















A friend has made the observation that the central character in this image which represents Christian, has the appearance of William Blake himself as a young man. Perhaps Blake cast himself and his loved ones or his characters in the roles of Christian and his companions. The appearance of Christian in this image does not resemble Christian in the series, and these companions don't appear elsewhere in the illustration to Pilgrim's Progress.

If Blake identified with Bunyan's Christian and inserted himself in an illustration, who would be the lovely ladies who accompany him? Could one be Catherine (the one to Blake's left), his companion in life, his Enitharmon? I suggest that the woman to Christian's (Blake's) right is his Jerusalem the source of his inspiration and imagination, the Divine Vision which he recognized in every individual. Vala the shadow of Jerusalem is shown perhaps as the woman behind Jerusalem in the second tier. The fourth woman who is reaching upward as if a connecting link to the Celestial City may be Enion of whom Damon says "The eternal [not the temporal] Enion rises in the dawn of the third day, in a whirlwind...she casts off her death-clothes, for the winter is gone, and all nature is rejuvenated. Tharmas embraces her and raises her through the heavens, sounding his trumpet to wake the dead." These identifications would turn the image into an illustration for Blake's life and myth rather than for Bunyan's allegory.

Jerusalem, PLATE 54 (E 203)
"In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives forth or Emanates
Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine Vision
And the Light is his Garment This is Jerusalem in every Man
A Tent & Tabernacle of Mutual Forgiveness Male & Female
Clothings.
And Jerusalem is called Liberty among the Children of Albion"

Jerusalem, PLATE 39 [44],(E 187)
"Man is adjoind to Man by his Emanative portion:
Who is Jerusalem in every individual Man: and her
Shadow is Vala, builded by the Reasoning power in Man
O search & see: turn your eyes inward: open O thou World
Of Love & Harmony in Man: expand thy ever lovely Gates."

If Blake broke away from the overall structure of his series, it is understandable that he would withdraw the illustration from the series. It would have become his personal record of his role as a pilgrim or traveller to Eternity.

Blake's ideas about the destination of the traveller are different from Bunyan's since Bunyan was a Puritan who adhered to the doctrine of predestination including eternal damnation. Bake's traveller's journey would not be measured by moral virtue or inclusion in the class of the elect. Blake would not be receptive to the accumulation of doctrine through which the Puritans sought to regulate and demonstrate their status as among the saved. Bunyan stopped short of the entry into the divine province by his dreamer, although the pilgrims entered the city after crossing the river of death. Bunyan's Celestial City was to be the destiny in the afterlife of those who followed the path outlined for the repentant sinner. One of Bunyan's final scenes shows that one ignorant of the requirements of that route would find himself destined for hell. In contrast Blake's teaching was that error would be annihilated so that all may experience Eternity through connecting with the inner Divinity (that of God in every man as Quakers say.)

Consider the words in the following passage from the beginning of Jerusalem as Blake's response to Bunyan's dreamer who followed the journey of the pilgrim. Awake from the dream that 'states' through which men pass are human existence. Awake from the image of God as afar rather than within. Awake from the idea that Evil must be punished rather than forgiven. Awake to the idea that the Emanation is to be interiorized not projected or rejected.

Jerusalem, Plate 4,(E 146)
"Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine:
Fibres of love from man to man thro Albions pleasant land.
In all the dark Atlantic vale down from the hills of Surrey
A black water accumulates, return Albion! return!
Thy brethren call thee, and thy fathers, and thy sons,
Thy nurses and thy mothers, thy sisters and thy daughters
Weep at thy souls disease, and the Divine Vision is darkend:
Thy Emanation that was wont to play before thy face,
Beaming forth with her daughters into the Divine bosom
[Where!!]
Where hast thou hidden thy Emanation lovely Jerusalem
From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one?
I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!"

No comments: