Saturday, January 08, 2011

Blake's Sex III

What Blake hated was not monogamy but jealousy and the idea of a lover or spouse as a possession:

    "He who binds to himself a joy
    Doth the winged life destroy;
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in Eternity's sun rise."
    (Eternity, in Songs and Ballards; Erdman 474 or Several Questions Answered )

We have a story to the effect that early in his marriage Blake proposed to bring home a concubine (sneaking around was futhest from his thoughts!) His young wife cried at the idea, and he dropped it. In all likelihood the concubine notion came from Blake's friend, Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the earliest of liberated women.

Blake had illustrated two of this lady's works shortly before she wrote a sensational essay called "Vindication of the Rights of Women". Mary Wollstonecraft advocated the radical equality of the sexes, which Blake endorsed. She tried to live in the freedom generally reserved for men (and claimed by few even of them!) Blake was among those who supported her in this endeavor. She lived an adventurous and tragic life and died giving birth to another Mary, who became the wife of the poet, Shelley.

Blake had a very complex psyche; one could discuss to exhaustion his various sexual attitudes and points of view. According to Damon, who wrote A Blake Dictionary, Blake believed that "the domination of woman is one of the greatest forces corrupting society" (page 447); he quoted as follows:

    "What may Woman be?
    To have power over Man from cradle to corruptible grave.
    There's a throne in every man; it's the throne of God;
    This Woman has claimed as her own & Man is no more!"
    (Jerusalem plate 30 [34], lines 25-28, (E 176 )


Susan J. said...

I wonder what Blake would think of gender relations nowadays....

Larry said...

Susan, that's a $64 dollar question. Gender relations nowadays are infinitely diverse; for that matter so was Blake's.

I think he would approve of the sexual freedom, so pervasive today, especially the young Blake; he believed that sexual activity is the fount of energy. But I think he would also agree with me that sex is not a recreation, but a sacrament.

Thanks for the comment, Susan.