Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Blake's Myth IV

Blake had read Taylors' translation of Apuleius' Marriage of Cupid and Psyche. (Blake could not have read Bullfinch's version , but that may be easier for us to begin on.)

In her discussion of Blake's use of Cupid and Psyche Raine refers us to a passage in Night ii of The Four Zoas:

    "And I commanded the Great deep to hide her in his hand.
    Till she became a little weeping Infant a span long
    I carried her in my bosom as a man carries a lamb
    I loved her I gave her all my soul & my delight
    I hid her in soft gardens & in secret bowers of Summer
    Weaving mazes of delight along the sunny Paradise
    Inextricable labyrinths, She bore me sons & daughters
    And they have taken her away & hid her from my sight." (E317)

This is a "paradise of shadows" (Raine 24). Blake described here the coming of an eternal soul into generation, which in Blake's myth is always a misfortune. (However in this (long!) poem Blake provided a creative rational for 'generation' (the descent of the soul).

In this passage Luvah has (more or less) created Vala, and then (for an unknown reason here) found himself shut off from her and she from him.

Cupid provides a magnificent house for Psyche, and Luvah does the same thing for Vala, just as Solomon had done (your house is traditionally a symbol of your body). Cupid, Luvah, Solomon build houses for Psyche, Vala, and the Shulamite respectively. They made a house for them, just as God makes a house for us all.Here is

Pysche's House from Apuleius

    "And when she had refreshed her selfe sufficiently with sleepe, she rose with a more quiet and pacified minde, and fortuned to espy a pleasant wood invironed with great and mighty trees. Shee espied likewise a running river as cleare as crystall : in the midst of the wood well nigh at the fall of the river was a princely Edifice, wrought and builded not by the art or hand of man, but by the mighty power of God : and you would judge at the first entry therin, that it were some pleasant and worthy mansion for the powers of heaven. For the embowings above were of Citron and Ivory, propped and undermined with pillars of gold, the walls covered and seeled with silver, divers sorts of beasts were graven and carved, that seemed to encounter with such as entered in. All things were so curiously and finely wrought, that it seemed either to be the worke of some Demy god, or of God himselfe. The pavement was all of pretious stones, divided and cut one from another, whereon was carved divers kindes of pictures, in such sort that blessed and thrice blessed were they that might goe upon such a pavement : Every part and angle of the house was so well adorned, that by reason of the pretious stones and inestimable treasure there, it glittered and shone in such sort, that the chambers, porches, and doores gave light as it had beene the Sunne."

And here are the words of Vala:

    "My Luvah here hath placd me in a Sweet & pleasant Land
    And given me fruits & pleasant waters & warm hills & cool valleys
    Here will I build myself a house & here Ill call on his name
    Here Ill return when I am weary & take my pleasant rest
    So spoke the Sinless Soul and laid her head on the downy fleece
    Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
    And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day
    Then Luvah passed by & saw the sinless Soul
    And said Let a pleasant house arise to be the dwelling place
    Of this immortal Spirit growing in lower Paradise
    He spoke & pillars were builded & walls as white as ivory
    The grass she slept upon was pavd with pavement as of pearl. Beneath her rose a downy bed & a cieling coverd all"
    (Night 9 of 4Z 128:20-33; quoted by Raine on page 26)

The pleasant house has the symbolic meaning of the Beloved's (that's us!) body. In the Song of Solomon we have this duet:

    Solomon: "If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar."
    Shulamite: "I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment." Song of Solomon 8:9-10

Each of these three ladies (Psyche, Vala, and the Shulamite) mourns the absence of her husband. Each lady's husband acts as a surrogate for God. Descending into mortal life is a downer that stays with us until the mortal end.

With a rhapsodic verse from the Song of Solomon re his "beloved" in Blake and Tradition (but not Blake and Antiquity) Raine makes for us an extremely significant revelation:

    6:4 "Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem,"
As you read 4Z it becomes more and more apparent that Tirzah is the type of Vala fallen. Jerusalem represent's Vala redeemed.
(4Z is a notebook; Jerusalem is a magnificent (and very long!) poem.)

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