Friday, April 29, 2011

Beginning Jerusalem

(This post is owed largely to Roger Easson (309-13)).

Blake was in a strange mood when he wrote the beginning of Jerusalem. He had given up the
main chance and returned from his pleasant bungalow near the Sea. He had accepted the fact that he would never please the public taste -- and in fact given up the desire to. He and Catherine would gracefully starve like thousands of other Londoners. He decided to be confrontational; he would not attempt to write for the 'public taste'; he would attempt rather to please God (How many of us put that first?).

He owned his enthusiasm and gave every evidence of intending to remain enthusiastic.
In early 19th century culture that was a no, no , and most often used disparagingly in ours. Enthusiastic people were (and are) thought to be slightly lacking in reason, unbalanced if you will.

Blake as much as said "I'm going to be enthusiastic; if you don't like it, I'm sorry.
Even worse than enthusiasm, Blake asked for our love; they didn't use that word seriously in his day, nor ours in ordinary conversation. "Will you love me?" Say that and people will give you a funny look; like are you crazy? In the preface to Jerusalem Blake wrote:
"                      To the Public

After my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean, I
again display my Giant forms to the Public: My former Giants &
Fairies having reciev'd the highest reward possible: the
[love] and [friendship] of those with whom to
be connected, is to be [blessed]: I cannot doubt that
this more consolidated & extended Work, will be as kindly
The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes
[no Reader will think presumptuousness or arroganc[e] when he
is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their
Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who
Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly
absorb'd in their Gods.
I also hope the Reader will
be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of
] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients
look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement.
The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who
waits to be righteous before he enters into the Saviours kingdom,
the Divine Body; will never enter there. I am perhaps the most
sinful of men! I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love,
to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to
have an interest in the Friend of Sinners. Therefore
[Dear] Reader, [forgive] what you do not
approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my
talent." (Erdman 145)
He asked us to love him and his poem, but as Roger Easson points out (in Blake's Sublime Allegory; ), the Deists who made up the intelligentsia had no use for enthusiasm: "Jerusalem, by displaying in every line the heat of imagination, the violence of passion, and the actual confidence of divine communication, was a calculated affront to contemporary belief and taste."(page 311)

Plate 26 concludes Chapter One of Jerusalem; it contains four short lines, capitalized:

(Erdman 171)

By Liberty in this case Blake meant freedom from conventionality, from the polite fictions that we regale one another with, from the false persona. He entered the darkness carrying the light of Truth:

Click on Plate One from Jerusalem, for a clearer picture. The above is taken from the Rosenfeld Collection of Rare Books at the Library of Congress.

Roger Eason continues: "There are two classes of readers: the reader who is not offended by Blake's enthusiasm or his other literary offenses, or the reader who is offended and is incapable of the "continual forgiveness of sin"". The first of course receives spiritual nurture from 'Jerusalem' and the second nothing but frustration. "There's no middle ground" according to Roger.


The previous post on Blake's Emanations ended with the deterioration of the Emanations as they became wedded to materiality and lost their eternal qualities of flexibility, creativity and joy. Los turns to his furnaces as the means of returning the sons and daughters of Jerusalem to their former splendor.

Jerusalem, PLATE 10, (E 152)
"Into the Furnaces & into the valleys of the Anvils of Death
And into the mountains of the Anvils & of the heavy Hammers
Till he should bring the Sons & Daughters of Jerusalem to be
The Sons & Daughters of Los that he might protect them from
Albions dread Spectres; storming, loud, thunderous & mighty
The Bellows & the Hammers move compell'd by Los's hand."

The situation Los is attempting to correct is described in this passage:

Jerusalem , PLATE 90, (E 249)
"The Feminine separates from the Masculine & both from Man,
Ceasing to be His Emanations, Life to Themselves assuming!
And while they circumscribe his Brain, & while they circumscribe
His Heart, & while they circumscribe his Loins! a Veil & Net
Of Veins of red Blood grows around them like a scarlet robe.
Covering them from the sight of Man like the woven Veil of Sleep
Such as the Flowers of Beulah weave to be their Funeral Mantles
But dark! opake! tender to touch, & painful! & agonizing
To the embrace of love, & to the mingling of soft fibres
Of tender affection. that no more the Masculine mingles
With the Feminine. but the Sublime is shut out from the Pathos
In howling torment, to build stone walls of separation, compelling
The Pathos, to weave curtains of hiding secresy from the torment."

The separation of the Emanation from the Masculine is not the final breakdown, for Man is connected to Man in Brotherhood through his Emanation.

Jerusalem, PLATE 88, (E 246)
"Los answerd sighing like the Bellows of his Furnaces

I care not! the swing of my Hammer shall measure the starry
When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter
Into each others Bosom (which are Universes of delight)
In mutual interchange. and first their Emanations meet
Surrounded by their Children. if they embrace & comingle
The Human Four-fold Forms mingle also in thunders of Intellect
But if the Emanations mingle not; with storms & agitations
Of earthquakes & consuming fires they roll apart in fear
For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity
How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this?"

Los cannot relax his vigilance nor neglect the labor of the furnaces for it is through his agency that the scene is to be set for redemption.

Jerusalem , Plate 83, (E 242)
"The night falls thick: I go upon my watch: be attentive:
The Sons of Albion go forth; I follow from my Furnaces:
That they return no more: that a place be prepard on Euphrates
Listen to your Watchmans voice: sleep not before the Furnaces
Eternal Death stands at the door. O God pity our labours.

So Los spoke. to the Daughters of Beulah while his Emanation
Like a faint rainbow waved before him in the awful gloom"

Milton O. Percival, William Blake's Circle of Destiny, tells of Los and his furnaces:

"As the arbiter of the world of experience, the creator of its finite and changing forms, Los is Lord of the furnaces, which together constitute the cycle of experience through which man passes in the interim between Eternity and Eternity. These are the 'furnaces of affliction' in which man is tempered and refined, and out of which, after the purifying process, he is to be delivered, even as the Israelites were delivered out of the iron furnace of Egypt. The condition of deliverance is revealed in one of the concluding pages of Jerusalem. Los, peering in his furnaces, sees all the nations of the world amalgamated into one, the individual law laid aside for the law of brotherhood. The purpose of the fires has been accomplished. The corruptible has put on incorruption. The mortal has put on immortality." (Page 222)

The First Book of Urizen copy C, plate 18
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blake's Vision of God

The original post came at Tuesday, February 12, 2008:

Blake's Vision of God

Of all the Christian spiritual leaders of the past 200 years this British poet would be placed near the top by any enlightened Christian. God was the primary theme and motif of his poetry, his pictures, and his life. His poetry and pictures contained his revelations of the reality of life,
ultimate reality, which we call God.

At three he ran screaming to his mother after the sight of a grim punishing God in his window. A few years later a similar vision embraced a roomful of
angels. Brought up in a Swedenburg and/or Moravian climate he escaped the common fallacies that go by the name of Christian orthodoxy. But the first half of his life he occupied wrestling with the Old Testament God.

With The Marriage of Heaven and Hell he inverted the conventional values of good, obedient, unimaginative church goers (more likely to idolize and follow their minister than their God). Blake called them angels, and called those who ask questions, who think independently, who experiment, devils.
With Songs of Innocence and Experience he portrayed first the childlike, who have not met a judging God, and second those who have tasted that fateful experience.

In his prophetic books Blake exhaustively pictured the judging God, the Rulemaker and Enforcer worshipped today by 'fundamentalist' Christians and Muslims.

Through the years Blake gradually got free from the baleful influence of a God of Control, used only by the most powerful to control the rest of us. He came to refer to him as Old Nobodaddy.

In the fullness of time Blake met the God introduced to us by Jesus: the Loving Heavenly Father. The gospel was a matter of forgiveness. Most of us have to forgive (our) God, forgive our parents, our spouses, most of all ourselves. Blake's First Vision of Light is the moment when he came into that glad awareness.

Afterward the old negative ideas of Diety faded away to be replaced by the New Creation characterized by the Gifts of the Spirit.

Image from Songs of Innocence: Jesus and children in LITTLE BLACK BOY. Click on image for enlargement.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


In Fearful Symmetry we read:
"The word "emanation" in Blake means the object-world; creature in Eden, female in Beulah, object or nature in Generation, abstraction in Ulro.
(Page 127)
"Abstract ideas are called spectres by Blake and Spectre with a capital letter is the Selfhood. The corresponding term is "Emanation,"' which means the total form of all the things a man loves and creates. In the fallen states the Emanation is conceived as outside, and hence it becomes the source of a continuously tantalizing and elusive torment. In imaginative states it is united with and emanates from the man, hence its name."
(Page 73)

Here in Milton is an example of the Emanation of Eden "like females of sweet beauty" guarding Milton in his descent and feeding him the food of Eden.

Milton, PLATE 15 [17], (E 109)
His real and immortal Self: was as appeard to those
Who dwell in immortality, as One sleeping on a couch
Of gold; and those in immortality gave forth their Emanations
Like Females of sweet beauty, to guard round him & to feed
His lips with food of Eden in his cold and dim repose!

But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night.

Onwards his Shadow kept its course among the Spectres; call'd
Satan, but swift as lightning passing them, startled the shades
Of Hell beheld him in a trail of light as of a comet
That travels into Chaos: so Milton went guarded within."

Blake, however, reports that it was the Emanation who asked for relief from the "severe contentions of Eternity". The Emanations "who pass away in winter" and who "tremble and weep" when the "unbounded joy" becomes "terrible" to them, seek a "temporal habitation." Beulah is provided to accommodate their needs. This occasion can be seen as another account of how the "fall" began.

Milton, PLATE 30 [33], (E 129)
"In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating

But the Emanations trembled exceedingly, nor could they
Live, because the life of Man was too exceeding unbounded
His joy became terrible to them they trembled & wept
Crying with one voice. Give us a habitation & a place
In which we may be hidden under the shadow of wings
For if we who are but for a time, & who pass away in winter
Behold these wonders of Eternity we shall consume
But you O our Fathers & Brothers, remain in Eternity

But grant us a Temporal Habitation. do you speak
To us; we will obey your words as you obey Jesus
The Eternal who is blessed for ever & ever. Amen

So spake the lovely Emanations; & there appeard a pleasant
Mild Shadow above: beneath: & on all sides round,"

In Jerusalem we find another way of describing the divisions which accompany the fall. The Divine Vision fades from view and the Emanation is hidden from sight.

Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"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 hast thou hidden thy Emanation lovely Jerusalem
From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one?"

, Plate 8, (E 151)
"All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified; I took the sighs & tears, & bitter groans:
I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart:"
Jerusalem, Plate 72
"Continually Building, Continually Destroying Because of Love and Jealousy"

The eternal qualities of the Emanation had been lost; they were no longer the source of joy and creativity. It becomes the job of Los to shape them into his sons and daughters that he may protect them from further fall.

, PLATE 10, (E 152)
"Into the Furnaces & into the valleys of the Anvils of Death
And into the mountains of the Anvils & of the heavy Hammers
Till he should bring the Sons & Daughters of Jerusalem to be
The Sons & Daughters of Los that he might protect them from
Albions dread Spectres; storming, loud, thunderous & mighty
The Bellows & the Hammers move compell'd by Los's hand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blake's Whirlwind

In the Bible the whirlwind is a very common type/antitype, and it certainly is likewise in Blake. In the Four Zoas there are 5 of the whirlwinds in all of Blake.
Studying Enitharmon in Night 1 we have some of Enitharmon's Song of Death:
(Night 1 of the Four Zoas ; Erdman 305-6):
But Enitharmon answerd with Dark as a dewy morning when he
crimson light appears  To make us happy let them weary their
immortal powers While we draw in their sweet delights while
we return them scorn On scorn to feed our discontent; for
if we  grateful prove They will withhold sweet love, whose
food is thorns & bitter roots.

We hear the warlike clarions we view the turning spheres
Yet Thou in indolence reposest holding me in bonds
Hear! I will sing a Song of Death! it is a Song of Vala!
The Fallen Man takes his repose: Urizen sleeps in the porch
Luvah and Vala woke & flew up from the Human Heart
Into the Brain; from thence upon the pillow Vala slumber'd.
And Luvah siez'd the Horses of Light, & rose into the Chariot of
Sweet laughter siezd me in my sleep! silent & close I laughd
For in the visions of Vala I walkd with the mighty Fallen One
I heard his voice among the branches, & among sweet flowers.

Why is the light of Enitharmon darken'd in dewy morn
Why is the silence of Enitharmon a terror & her smile a 
Uttering this darkness in my halls, in the pillars of my

This passage in Night 1 describes a big part of the Fall.
In Albion's sleep Enitharmon sings the Song of Death in
which she describes the horror of Female Love. She calls
her smile a Whirlwind.

What does the image of the whirlwind represent in general?
Stability, order are gone (Urizen's asleep!) chaos of love,
hate,suspicion, you name it.  All the things that make the
world we live in a vale of tears

In the Bible we first meet the whirlwind in connection with
the charior and horses of fire with which Elijah went up by a
whirlwind into heaven.
we meet it again in Job when after months of fighting with God
Job in 38 and 40 heard God answer out of the whirlwind.

So we see that the whirlwind introduces a theophany, the appearance
of God, sure to be a kind of unsettling experience.

It seems that Blake used it primarily as a contrary; his use of
whirlwind might be seen as the demonic equivalent or accompaniment
of the theophanies. Baptism, a great theophany was immediately
followed by the temptation of Satan in the wilderness.
(Night 1 of The Four Zoas; Erdman 305-6)
But Enitharmon answerd with a dropping tear & frowning
Dark as a dewy morning when the crimson light appears
To make us happy let them weary their immortal powers
While we draw in their sweet delights while we return them
On scorn to feed our discontent; for if we grateful prove
They will withhold sweet love, whose food is thorns & bitter
We hear the warlike clarions we view the turning spheres
Yet Thou in indolence reposest holding me in bonds
Hear! I will sing a Song of Death! it is a Song of Vala!
The Fallen Man takes his repose: Urizen sleeps in the porch
Luvah and Vala woke & flew up from the Human Heart
Into the Brain; from thence upon the pillow Vala slumber'd.
And Luvah siez'd the Horses of Light, & rose into the Chariot of
Sweet laughter siezd me in my sleep! silent & close I laughd
For in the visions of Vala I walkd with the mighty Fallen One
I heard his voice among the branches, & among sweet flowers.

Why is the light of Enitharmon darken'd in dewy morn
Why is the silence of Enitharmon a terror & her smile a
Uttering this darkness in my halls, in the pillars of my

Here is one of Blake's
Illustrations to
Dante's Divine Comedy.
It is popularly named
The Whirlwind, and that
is certainly what Blake
was thinking when he
produced it.

Blake's friend Linnel commissioned
him to do these illustrations ; this
one was called "The Circle of the

This wasn't the only whirlwind among Blake's works;

He was also commissioned by Linnel to do Illustrations
to The Book of Job. After great travail Job saw the
presence of God in the Whirlwind which is illustrated
at the beginning of this post.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Blake is fond of switching perspectives in his descriptions of his characters. In her Eternal state Enitharmon is space to Los' time but the time and space of Eternity are not the time and space we experience in the material world.

Four Zoas, Page 34, (E 322)
"For Los & Enitharmon walkd forth on the dewy Earth
Contracting or expanding their all flexible senses
At will to murmur in the flowers small as the honey bee
At will to stretch across the heavens & step from star to star
Or standing on the Earth erect, or on the stormy waves
Driving the storms before them or delighting in sunny beams
While round their heads the Elemental Gods kept harmony "

The fall of man brings about change in the "flexible senses" of Los and Enitharmon. As Kathleen Raine observes "Time and Space are now fixed and dead:"

Four Zoas, Page 57, (E 338)
"Terrific pale. Enitharmon stretchd on the dreary Earth
Felt her immortal limbs freeze stiffning pale inflexible
His feet shrink withring from the deep shrinking & withering
And Enitharmon shrunk up all their fibres withring beneath
As plants witherd by winter leaves & stems & roots decaying
Melt into thin air while the seed drivn by the furious wind
Rests on the distant Mountains top. So Los & Enitharmon
Shrunk into fixed space stood trembling on a Rocky cliff
Yet mighty bulk & majesty & beauty remaind but unexpansive
As far as highest Zenith from the lowest Nadir. so far shrunk
Los from the furnaces a Space immense & left the cold
Prince of Light bound in chains of intellect among the furnaces
But all the furnaces were out & the bellows had ceast to blow

He stood trembling & Enitharmon clung around his knees
Their senses unexpansive in one stedfast bulk remain
The night blew cold & Enitharmon shriekd on the dismal wind"

Blake has begun describing a process with the Eternal state. As it degenerates the imaginative state in which perception is not limited or fixed disappears. The loss of the infinite perception leads to further loss and failure which is associated with a continued breakdown of the ability to discern things as they are. A later stage of the breakdown of Enitharmon is described by Percival (William Blake's Circle of Destiny.)

"She is the spiritual garment of man in the Generative world, being in this respect the counterpart of Jerusalem in Eden. Now the spiritual clothing which Los desires in a troubled world is pity. But true pity, as we have seen in the discussion of Luvah and Vala, is imaginative and spontaneous, not selfish and rational. The attempt to achieve pity by false means ends in vengeance and strife, and in the character Enitharmon all too often appears." (Page 40)

"Enitharmon sinks with Los into the lethargy of the eighteen Christian centuries. During these centuries Christianity ceases to be a thing of the spirit, retaining only the Christian name. This is the "sleep" of Enitharmon - the triumph of the recalcitrant female emotions as they are personified in Vala-Rahab." (Page 41)

Europe, PLATE 9 (E 63)
"Enitharmon slept,
Eighteen hundred years: Man was a Dream!
The night of Nature and their harps unstrung:
She slept in middle of her nightly song,
Eighteen hundred years, a female dream!"

Meant to be the spiritual garment of man in the Generative world she relinquishes her role in sleep and allows man to lose the spiritual dimension to which Jesus had introduced the world.

Europe, Plate 4, Arise O Orc

, Plate 13, (E 65)
"Then Enitharmon woke, nor knew that she had slept
And eighteen hundred years were fled
As if they had not been
She calld her sons & daughters
To the sports of night,
Within her crystal house;
And thus her song proceeds.

Arise Ethinthus! tho' the earth-worm call;
Let him call in vain;
Till the night of holy shadows
And human solitude is past!"

Europe, Plate 15, (E 66)
"The Lions lash their wrathful tails!
The Tigers couch upon the prey & suck the ruddy tide:
And Enitharmon groans & cries in anguish and dismay.

Then Los arose his head he reard in snaky thunders clad:
And with a cry that shook all nature to the utmost pole,
Call'd all his sons to the strife of blood."

Blake has switched his perspective again and sees the awakening of Enitharmon in conjunction with the awakening of the revolutionary spirit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Frye V

The Mountain

Frye's first book was Fearful Symmetry (1947), and his last was Words of Power (1990). During the intervening 43 years he published some 25 books and taught English Literature at a multitude of schools, but primarily at Victoria College of the University of Toronto.

Words of Power among other things has four chapters entitled successively:
....The Mountain
....The Garden
....The Cave
....The Furnace.

All these subjects are exhaustively treated and used by our Poet, and each one deserves a post of its own.

The symbol 'mountain' has many referrents:
In general the mountain points to the sky, the highest point of Earth (Urthona?). Jerusalem was the highest point on earth; the Israelites thought so. Moses went to Sinai, sometimes referred to as Mount Horeb. Mt Horeb is thought to be the place where he saw the burning bush.

The mountain is associated with two stories in Genesis:
In Genesis 11 we read of the Confusion of Tongues when people at Babel attempted to build a tower reaching up into the sky. It wasn't to be.

From Blake we have Plate 61 of Jerusalem containing
"But the Divine Lamb stood beside Jerusalem. oft she saw
The lineaments Divine & oft the Voice heard, & oft she said:

O Lord & Saviour, have the Gods of the Heathen pierced thee?
Or hast thou been pierced in the House of thy Friends?
Art thou alive! & livest thou for-evermore? or art thou
Not: but a delusive shadow, a thought that liveth not.
Babel mocks saying, 'there is no God nor Son of God
That thou O Human Imagination, O Divine Body art all
A delusion.' but I know thee O Lord when thou arisest upon
My weary eyes even in this dungeon & this iron mill.
The Stars of Albion cruel rise; thou bindest to sweet influences:
For thou also sufferest with me altho I behold thee not;
And altho I sin & blaspheme thy holy name, thou pitiest me;
Because thou knowest I am deluded by the turning mills.
And by these visions of pity & love because of Albions death.

Thus spake Jerusalem, & thus the Divine Voice replied."

In Genesis 28:12-13 we have the story of Jacob's ladder:
"28:12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

28:13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;"

Here is Jacob's Ladder in Gates of Paradise.

We think of climbing Jacob's ladder, but that's not exactly what the scripture said: "the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Frye points out that Jacob didn't build the ladder like the builders at Babel tried to, he dreamed it came down from heaven. Blake (like Frye) understood that we cannot build the kingdom. Los built Golgonooza, the City of Imagination, but not quite the same as the City of God (Jerusalem!).

Blake mentioned the mountain 216 times, 70 of them in Jerusalem. In general his positive use of the mountain was about the Mountain of God, the holy mountain; in contrast he has what may be called demonic parodies of the mountain, and these as usual occur more frequently than the holy ones.

It isn't easy to find in Blake something that refers to what Frye has said in 'The Mountain', but in Plate 38 of Jerusalem I found this, a demonic parody:

"Those alone are his friends, who admire his minutest powers[.]

Instead of Albions lovely mountains & the curtains of Jerusalem
I see a Cave, a Rock, a Tree deadly and poisonous, unimaginative:
Instead of the Mutual Forgivenesses, the Minute Particulars, I

see Pits of bitumen ever burning: artificial Riches of the Canaanite"
(These are the false mountains of Ulro, what Frye might call a demonic parody of the sacred mountain.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Following the pattern Blake uses to set forth the Zoas and the emanations as they become divided as a result of the fall, Vala is the counterpart of Luvah the emotions of man. Taking on the emotional life as a facet of the outer material world she is a veil of appearances or illusions.

In this passage we see Vala's positive view of nature which contrasts emphatically with the view of the natural world perceived by Enion or Ahania. She bends the material world to her pleasure and covers it with her soft and gentle emotions.

Four Zoas, PAGE 94, (E 367)
"And she went forth & saw the forms of Life & of delight
Walking on Mountains or flying in the open expanse of heaven
She heard sweet voices in the winds & in the voices of birds
That rose from waters for the waters were as the voice of Luvah
Not seen to her like waters or like this dark world of death
Tho all those fair perfections which men know only by name
In beautiful substantial forms appeard & served her
As food or drink or ornament or in delightful works
To build her bowers for the Elements brought forth abundantly
The living soul in glorious forms & every One came forth
Walking before her Shadowy face & bowing at her feet
But in vain delights were poured forth on the howling melancholy
For her delight the horse his proud neck bowd & his white mane
And the Strong Lion deignd in his mouth to wear the golden bit
While the far beaming Peacock waited on the fragrant wind
To bring her fruits of sweet delight from trees of richest wonders
And the strong piniond Eagle bore the fire of heaven in the night season
Wood & subdud into Eternal Death the Demon Lay
In rage against the dark despair. the howling Melancholy "

But her delights result from the imposition of her will all around her. Her own material beauty, the illusion of the materialized world is used to lure Albion from the Divine Image.

Jerusalem, PLATE 29 [33], (E 175)
"Know me now, Albion : look upon me. I alone am Beauty.
The Imaginative Human Form is but a breathing of Vala.
I breathe him forth into the Heaven from my secret Cave,
Born of the Woman to obey the Woman, O Albion the mighty.
For the Divine appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love".

In William Blake: Poet and Mystic, Pierre Berger sheds light on Vala and her downfall:

"The beauty that has ceased to be desired and loved is no longer beauty in the eyes of the human spirit. And this brings upon Vala a new fall, and death.
Death means complete materialisation. Urizen takes her ashes and mingles them with the Mundane Shell. She is no longer even the soul of material beauty : she has become a part of the physical world, perceived only by the senses, and not by the spirit. She can no longer be seen apart from the world of matter. Every time that Luvah thinks he has seized her, and tries to possess her, " the vast form of Nature, like a serpent, rolled between."

"Love will be henceforth a material thing, an act of the senses, the desire for generation, leading to the production of physical beings, creating and loving the creatures of nature that are born of it, forming ever-repeated circles, like the coils of the serpent, in an endless series of conceptions and births. Vala is the object of this passion, the beauty which attracts sensual desire, the mother of our bodies of death. " Vala produced the Bodies : Jerusalem gave the Souls." Lastly, when man contracted and subdivided into distinct individuals, each with a body of his own, Vala became Woman, the goddess and the temptress, manifold and eternal." (Page 148)

"Albion recognises her. Though he knows well that in Eternity there is neither love of woman, nor natural beauty, nor sensual passion he yet feels himself enveloped and dominated by her. All his masculine strength goes from him. The throne of God, which is in every man, has been claimed and usurped by woman. Man, as man, no longer exists. He has become the Tabernacle of Vala and her Temple, And not the Tabernacle and Temple of the Most High." (Page 149)

In irony the Spectre Sons of Albion address Vala:

Jerusalem, PLATE 65, (E 216)
"Now now the Battle rages round thy tender limbs O Vala
Now smile among thy bitter tears now put on all thy beauty
Is not the wound of the sword Sweet & the broken bone delightful
Wilt thou now smile among the slain when the wounded groan in the field"

The depth of Vala's fallen state is the religion called by Blake - Mystery - a religion of the passive, outward, feminine emotions designed through deceit and hypocrisy to dominate the active, inward, masculine energies. Percival (William Blake's Circle of Destiny) sees that: "everything that Mystery offers is unreal. It pretends to love, but practices hate. It pretends to forgiveness, but practices envy, revenge, and cruelty. Nevertheless, the rational mind, weary of the long and futile struggle to subdue energy which cannot be subdued turns eagerly to the new Mystery religions..." (Page 34)

Vala is the veil that hides and disguises, that deceives and distorts, that redirects the energies of man from the perception of the infinite to the pursuit of materialism.

Image from Blake's Water-Colours for the Poems of Thomas Gray

Friday, April 22, 2011

Frye IV


In The Bible and Literature: The Great Code, Chapter Four is entitled typology. This was a great discovery for me; in large part it unlocked the secret of Blake's use of the Bible (and of every other poet's use of it for that matter). Once you outgrow the naive notion of 'Biblical inerrancy' and the idea that every word of it is historically true, you are to some degree on your own. I long ago settled on the awareness that
1. 'every word of the Bible is poetry' (you may certainly debate that if you wish)
2 'poetry is the highest form of truth."

Truth is in the mind of the believer. Our belief is a function of our psyche, and everyone's psyche is unique (unless you believe that we're all lemmings). So what does the Bible mean? Not history! History is subjective; everyone has his own history. Poetry is subjective in a more creative way; to a large degree it's a function of your experience (and mine: very different). What it boils down to is that one man's truth may (appear to) be another man's lie.

Poetry doesn't claim to be the whole complete exclusive truth; it's not rigid; it's allusive. One of the most important truths about the Bible (and all subsequent literature) is that it uses typology.

In a few words the type is the earliest occurrence (of an idea); psychologists may call it an archetype. Subsequent occurrences Frye calls antitypes:

Type: Moses delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
Antitype: Jesus delivered human beings from slavery to sin.
Antitype: Lincoln delivered black people from slaves of their southern 'owners'.
Antitype: Pope John delivered Catholics from outmoded legalities like the Latin Mass.

The type and all subsequent antitypes are incomplete. Hence there must and will be more.

Type: Elijah used a stony altar, flooded with water, and then fire, to finish off the 450 propets of Baal (1st Kings, 18).
Antitype: Jesus used stone jars, full of water, which became wine to bring Spirit to a wedding party (John 2).

Many events in the Bible have multiple occurrences. Many Old Testament events recur in the New Testament; some of them reoccur later in the Old Testament.

The New Testament writers found O.T. types for many events in the O.T.: Psalm 22 practically describes the Crucifixion. N.T. writers often quoted O.T. sources: "What happens in the N.T. , a realized form of something foreshadowed in the O.T., Christian baptism, is called the antitypos of the saving of mankind from the flood of Noah.

In Romans 1:17 Paul wrote "the just shall live by faith", quoting Habbakuk 2:4.

Blake adopted this kind of typology for his own verbal creations; he frequently quoted Holy Scripture, and more often used it allusively. All this boils down to the simple fact that his poetry found its main source in the Bible. As for Blake, so for Milton, so for Shakespeare and for the other handful of sources that he mentioned in his letter to Flaxman.

Letters, to Flaxman, (E 707) 
Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood &
    shewd me his face
Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years
     gave me his hand
Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me. terrors appeard in the Heavens

Here's an assignment for a Blake student:
You need these two resources: Complete Works and a Complete Bible.
Now read Blake (wherever you're interested, pick out a key word, go to your Bible, select Search and put your 'Blake word' in the search window. You may find 'a Blake type' and a 'Bible antitype' or vice verse. You may also find types and antitypes by searching the Complete Works with a word from the Bible.

Frye devoted two chapters of The Great Code to typology. An advanced Blake student might do well to absorb them as well as he can.

This may be hard to believe, but someone said that in Western culture all discourse, religious, secular, atheist, a foul-mouthed sailor are using antitypes to the King James Bible. That's worth thinking about.

Welcome to Blake Studies.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


When the Zoas fall from the unity of the Eternal Man, the Zoa becomes the manifestation of what is inner and spiritual and the Emmanation of what is outer and material. This is the condition of fallenness. Tharmas as the Zoa of the body in his fallen state is not matter but spirit with no expression in matter. Enion, the emanation of Tharmas becomes matter without association with spirit. Kathleen Raine calls Enion the "first matter out of which all things are generated."

Tharmas as the Zoa of the body is seen in this description:

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 4, (E 34)
"Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age"

Raine (Blake and Traditiion) finds the antecedents for Enion in Platonic metaphysics. She quotes Plotinus: "matter is neither soul nor intellect, nor life, nor form, nor reason nor bound, but a certain indefiniteness ... of itself invisible, and avoiding the desire of him who wishes to perceive its nature." In a reversal of the way we may have been trained to perceive, spirit is substantial and matter has no substance. Enion in her fallen state neither sees nor is seen; she resides close to non entity which she fears.

Enion is the mother of Time and Space, Los and Enitharmon who promptly dissociate themselves from their mother. The populated world of generation follows in the work of her children. She perceives that the movement which she initiated cannot be reversed but must continue until its resolution. Tharmas reinforces the process by turning the Circle of Destiny.

The response of Enion to becoming the embodiment of the material world is to lament the conditions in which "life lives on life" and the price of experience is suffering and woe.

Four Zoas, Page 4, (E 301)
"Enion said--Thy fear has made me tremble thy terrors have surrounded me
All Love is lost Terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love
And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty.
Once thou wast to Me the loveliest son of heaven--But now

Why art thou Terrible and yet I love thee in thy terror till
I am almost Extinct & soon shall be a Shadow in Oblivion
Unless some way can be found that I may look upon thee & live

Hide me some Shadowy semblance. secret whispring in my Ear
In secret of soft wings. in mazes of delusive beauty
I have lookd into the secret soul of him I lovd
And in the Dark recesses found Sin & cannot return

Trembling & pale sat Tharmas weeping in his clouds"

Four Zoas, Plate 5,(E 3O3)
"A Frowning Continent appeard Where Enion in the Desart
Terrified in her own Creation viewing her woven shadow
Sat in a dread intoxication of Repentance & Contrition"
"The Circle of Destiny complete they gave to it a Space
And namd the Space Ulro & brooded over it in care & love
What have I done! said Enion accursed wretch! What deed.
Is this a deed of Love I know what I have done. I know
Too late now to repent. Love is changd to deadly Hate
A [ll] life is blotted out & I alone remain possessd with Fears
I see the Shadow of the dead within my Soul wandering
In darkness & solitude forming Seas of Doubt & rocks of Repentance
Already are my Eyes reverted. all that I behold
Within my Soul has lost its splendor & a brooding Fear
Shadows me oer & drives me outward to a world of woe
So waild she trembling before her own Created Phantasm"

Four Zoas, Page 45, (E330)
"The bounds of Destiny were broken & hatred now began
Instead of love to Enion. Enion blind & age bent
Plungd into the cold billows living a life in midst of waters
In terrors she witherd away to Entuthon Benithon
A world of deep darkness where all things in horrors are rooted

These are the words of Enion heard from the cold waves of despair

O Tharmas I had lost thee. & when I hoped I had found thee
O Tharmas do not thou destroy me quite but let
A little shadow. but a little showery form of Enion
Be near thee loved Terror. let me still remain & then do thou
Thy righteous doom upon me. only let me hear thy voice
Driven by thy rage I wander like a cloud into the deep
Where never yet Existence came, there losing all my life
I back return weaker & weaker, consume me not away
In thy great wrath. tho I have sinned. tho I have rebelld
Make me not like the things forgotten as they had not been
Make not the thing that loveth thee. a tear wiped away"

Kathleen Raine: "As the voice of matter in a universe from which spirit has been blotted out, the lament takes on not only meaning but tragedy and horror."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Albion has a composite character second to none. It means (originally) England, but at a deeper level it means the cosmos, which is a man!. (In this Blake agrees with the Adam Kadmon of the Kabbalah, the Heavenly Man of Philo, St. Paul's heavenly man, the second Adam, and the cosmic man of Gnostic mythology, and the Hindu god, Krishna.) These are all facets of what Blake meant by Albion.

Albion, the eternal man, fell asleep into mortality in Beulah. We read at the beginning of Night 2 of The Four Zoas these ominous words:

    "Rising upon his Couch of Death Albion beheld his Sons
    Turning his Eyes outward to Self, losing the Divine Vision. Albion called Urizen & said: "Take thou possession! take this Scepter! go forth in my might
    For I am weary, & must sleep in the dark sleep of Death."
He divides and divides into four parts, the four zoas (strangely similar to the four functions promulgated a hundred years later by Carl Jung).

This dissolution of the cosmic man, described at the beginning of The Four Zoas, passes through the Circle of Destiny, and at the end of The Four Zoas he awakens from his mortal sleep and resumes his place in Eternity. That in essence is a thumbnail account of Blake's myth: descent from Eternity, struggle, and eventual return.

Albion was present in the beginning, coming down from Eternity into Beulah for R and R, sleeping through the who drama and awakening at the end:

PLATE 96 (of Jerusalem; Erdman 255-6) "As the Sun & Moon lead forward the Visions of Heaven & Earth
England who is Brittannia entered Albions bosom rejoicing
hen Jesus appeared standing by Albion as the Good Shepherd
By the lost Sheep that he hath found & Albion knew that it
Was the Lord the Universal Humanity, & Albion saw his Form

A Man. & they conversed as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness & similitude of Los
Albion said. O Lord what can I do!
my Selfhood cruel Marches against thee deceitful from Sinai &
rom Edom Into the Wilderness of Judah to meet thee in his pride
I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years
Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones &
gold I know it is my Self. O my Divine Creator & Redeemer
Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not
So Jesus spoke! the Covering Cherub coming on in darkness Overshadowd them &
Jesus said Thus do Men in Eternity
One for another to put off by forgiveness, every sin
- 255 -
Albion replyd. Cannot Man exist without Mysterious
Offering of Self for Another, is this Friendship &
Brotherhood I see thee in the likeness & similitude of Los my Friend
Jesus said. Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee or ever die for one who had not died for thee
And if God dieth not for Man & giveth not himself
Eternally for Man Man could not exist. for Man is Love:
As God is Love: every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood
So saying. the Cloud overshadowing divided them asunder
Albion stood in terror: not for himself but for his Friend
Divine, & Self was lost in the contemplation of faith
And wonder at the Divine Mercy & at Los's sublime honour
Do I sleep amidst danger to Friends! O my Cities &
Counties Do you sleep! rouze up! rouze up. Eternal Death is abroad
So Albion spoke & threw himself into the Furnaces of affliction
All was a Vision, all a Dream: the Furnaces became Fountains of Living Waters
Howing from the Humanity Divine
And all the Cities of Albion rose from their Slumbers,
and All The Sons & Daughters of Albion on soft clouds
Waking from Sleep Soon all around remote the Heavens burnt with flaming fires
And Urizen & Luvah & Tharmas & Urthona arose into Albions Bosom:
Then Albion stood before Jesus in the Clouds Of Heaven
ourfold among the Visions of God in Eternity"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


___________________Book of Ahania, Sketch and Frontispiece

Although Los, Luvah and Tharmas seek reunion with their
emanations, Urizen actively rejects and casts out his emanation Ahania. Ironically Blake provides us with a picture of the two intimately bonded in poses of repentance and forgiveness. Considering their mutual history the image may remind us that each of the two is incomplete without what the other brings to the relationship. The loss of Ahania drove Urizen to the false reasoning which replaced the complete intellect of the 'first born Son of Light.'

In the Book of Ahania Urizen casts out his gentler self and names her 'sin'.

Book of Ahania , Plate 2, (E 84)
"7: Dire shriek'd his invisible Lust
Deep groan'd Urizen! stretching his awful hand
Ahania (so name his parted soul)
He siez'd on his mountains of jealousy.
He groand anguishd & called her Sin,"

She laments the loss of the pleasure and joy which the two had formerly experienced together.

Book of Ahania , Plate 5, (E 89)
"But I wander on the rocks
With hard necessity.

6: Where is my golden palace
Where my ivory bed
Where the joy of my morning hour
Where the sons of eternity, singing

7: To awake bright Urizen my king!
To arise to the mountain sport,
To the bliss of eternal valleys:"

We learn in the Four Zoas events which led to the casting out of Ahania. It began with Urizen's inflation in which he declares himself the only God.

Four Zoas , Page 42, (E 328)
"Am I not God said Urizen. Who is Equal to me
Do I not stretch the heavens abroad or fold them up like a garment

He spoke mustering his heavy clouds around him black opake
PAGE 43,
Then thunders rolld around & lightnings darted to & fro
His visage changd to darkness & his strong right hand came forth
To cast Ahania to the Earth be siezd her by the hair
And threw her from the steps of ice that froze around his throne

Saying Art thou also become like Vala. thus I cast thee out
Shall the feminine indolent bliss. the indulgent self of weariness

The passive idle sleep the enormous night & darkness of Death
Set herself up to give her laws to the active masculine virtue
Thou little diminutive portion that darst be a counterpart
Thy passivity thy laws of obedience & insincerity
Are my abhorrence. Wherefore hast thou taken that fair form
Whence is this power given to thee! once thou wast in my breast
A sluggish current of dim waters. on whose verdant margin
A cavern shaggd with horrid shades. dark cool & deadly. where
I laid my head in the hot noon after the broken clods
Had wearied me. there I laid my plow & there my horses fed
And thou hast risen with thy moist locks into a watry image
Reflecting all my indolence my weakness & my death
To weigh me down beneath the grave into non Entity

Shrinking & shrinking from her Lord & calling him the Tempter
And art thou also become like Vala thus I cast thee out."

There are many ways in which the 'fall' is described by Blake and one of them is the separation of the emanation. The fall may be seen to take place in stages. The first described by Blake takes place when reason and emotion separate themselves from the totality. As each of the aspects of the personality establishes a discrete identity, it further divides into its active and receptive modes (contraries). The 'feminine' receptive mode is the emanation. Problems result from the attempts of the receptive to dominate the active. Urizen's problem, however, is not domination by the feminine but her loss and absence.
The repose which Ahania had provided to Urizen was sought and valued by him until he saw the gift she offered as reflecting his own indolence, weakness and death. The qualities he rejected in himself were projected onto Ahania and he rejected her. The repose of the emanation is required by the intellect to maintain its vitality.
Four Zoas, PAGE 52, (E 335)
"But Urizen slept in a stoned stupor in the nether Abyss
A dreamful horrible State in tossings on his icy bed
Freezing to solid all beneath, his grey oblivious form
Stretchd over the immense heaves in strong shudders. silent his voice
In brooding contemplation stretching out from North to South
In mighty power."


Monday, April 18, 2011

Blake's Trees

Like most of Blake's images you may find a source for them in the Good Book. Looking there we find two particular trees in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, and several other trees scattered throughout.

The Tree of Life:

"For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to

leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole
creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas
it now appears finite & corrupt."
MHH 14 Erdman 39 (read on!) "

"He views the Cherub at the Tree of Life, also the Serpent,
Orc the first born coild in the south: the Dragon Urizen:
Tharmas the Vegetated Tongue even the Devouring Tongue:
A threefold region, a false brain: a false heart:
And false bowels: altogether composing the False Tongue,
Beneath Beulah......"
Jerusalem 14:2 E158

And Jerusalem plate 86, line 18; E244:
"I see thy Form O lovely mild Jerusalem, Wingd with Six Wings....

here all the Tribes of Israel I behold
Upon the Holy Land: I see the River of Life & Tree of Life
I see the New Jerusalem descending out of Heaven"

Lacoon prose at E274:
"ART is the Tree of LIFE GOD is JESUS"

A Vision of the Last Judgment (Erdman 562):
The Temple stands on the Mount of God from it flows on each
side the River of Life on whose banks Grows the tree of Life
among whose branches temples & Pinnacles tents & pavilions
Gardens & Groves Display Paradise with its Inhabitants walking up
& down in Conversations concerning Mental Delights"

And on and on!

Turning now to the other tree in Genesis:

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Bible scholars have dealt in various ways with this one. ("But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." [Genesis 2:17]

Some have referred to 'the original sin' as the feliz culpa ("the fortunate Fall).

Here's Blake:
"Self Evident Truth is one Thing and Truth the result of

Reasoning is another Thing Rational Truth is not the Truth of
Christ but of Pilate It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil"
(Annotations of Bacon; E621)

The Tree of Mystery

The early Blake used this metaphor 14 times, 13 of them in The Four Zoas, but never in the large prophetic works (or anywhere after ca 1800).

In The Book of Ahania Blake gave us a clue of what he meant by Mystery and the Tree of Mystery:

Here's chapter III of The Book of Ahania:

"I: The Globe shook; and Urizen seated
On black clouds his sore wound anointed
The ointment flow'd down on the void
Mix'd with blood; here the snake gets her poison

2: With difficulty & great pain; Urizen
Lifted on high the dead corse:
On his shoulders he bore it to where
A Tree hung over the Immensity

3: For when Urizen shrunk away
From Eternals, he sat on a rock
Barren; a rock which himself
From redounding fancies had petrified
Many tears fell on the rock,
Many sparks of vegetation;
Soon shot the pained root
Of Mystery, under his heel:
It grew a thick tree; he wrote
In silence his book of iron:

Till the horrid plant bending its boughs
Grew to roots when it felt the earth
And again sprung to many a tree.

4: Amaz'd started Urizen! when
He beheld himself compassed round
And high roofed over with trees
He arose but the stems stood so thick
He with difficulty and great pain
Brought his Books, all but the Book

Of iron, from the dismal shade

5: The Tree still grows over the Void
Enrooting itself all around
An endless labyrinth of woe!

6: The corse of his first begotten
On the accursed Tree of MYSTERY:
On the topmost stem of this Tree
Urizen nail'd Fuzons corse."
(Erdman 86-87)

Would you like to guess what he meant with the Tree of Mystery?
I would suppose that he was talking about the tree with the
cursed 'apple'
, otherwise referred to as the Tree of the Knowledge
of Good and Evil.

For Blake 'Mystery' connoted (false) Religion, those who chose what
is good and what is evil and coerced the gullible into believing they
represented the authority of God:

We started with MHH 14. So here are the words of Plate 11:
"The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or
Geniuses calling them by the names and adorning them with the
properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations,
and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve.
And particularly they studied the genius of each city &
country. placing it under its mental deity.
Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of &
enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the
mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood.
Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
And at length they pronounced that the Gods had orderd such things
Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast."

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Gates of Paradise, Plate 18

Of the Shadowy Female, Damon (A Blake Dictionary) writes:

"The Shadowy Female is this material world, a fallen form of Vala ... She is the voice of the Darwinian world, the struggle for life, "consumed and consuming ... howling terrors ... devouring & devoured.'"

The Shadowy Female gains power through an abdication by Tharmas and Urthona. She binds all mortal things into permanent forms. But the purpose served is that 'the Divine Lamb who died for all And all in him died' may put off Death.

It is Ahania, the emanation of Urizen, who describes the sorry world which the Shadowy Female represents.

Four Zoas, PAGE 111 [107], (E 383)
"And Tharmas gave his Power to Los Urthona gave his strength
Into the youthful prophet for the Love of Enitharmon
And of the nameless Shadowy female in the nether deep
And for the dread of the dark terrors of Orc & Urizen

Thus in a living Death the nameless shadow all things bound
All mortal things made permanent that they may be put off
Time after time by the Divine Lamb who died for all
And all in him died. & he put off all mortality

PAGE 122 [108]
Tharmas on high rode furious thro the afflicted worlds
Pursuing the Vain Shadow of Hope fleeing from identity
In abstract false Expanses that he may not hear the Voice
Of Ahania wailing on the winds in vain he flies for still
The voice incessant calls on all the children of Men
For she spoke of all in heaven & all upon the Earth
Saw not as yet the Divine vision her Eyes are Toward Urizen
And thus Ahania cries aloud to the Caverns of the Grave

Will you keep a flock of wolves & lead them will you take the wintry blast
For a covering to your limbs or the summer pestilence for a tent to abide in
Will you erect a lasting habitation in the mouldering Church yard
Or a pillar & palace of Eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave
Will you seek pleasure from the festering wound or marry for a Wife
The ancient Leprosy that the King & Priest may still feast on your decay
And the grave mock & laugh at the plowd field saying
I am the nourisher thou the destroyer in my bosom is milk & wine
And a fountain from my breasts to me come all multitudes
To my breath they obey they worship me I am a goddess & queen
But listen to Ahania O ye sons of the Murderd one
Listen to her whose memory beholds your ancient days
Listen to her whose eyes behold the dark body of corruptible
Looking for Urizen in vain. in vain I seek for morning
The Eternal Man sleeps in the Earth nor feels the vigrous sun
And the Strong Eagle now with num[m]ing cold blighted of feathers
Once like the pride of the sun now flagging in cold night
Hovers with blasted wings aloft watching with Eager Eye
Till Man shall leave a corruptible body he famishd hears him groan
And now he fixes his strong talons in the pointed rock
And now he beats the heavy air with his enormous wings
Beside him lies the Lion dead & in his belly worms
Feast on his death till universal death devours all
And the pale horse seeks for the pool to lie him down & die
But finds the pools filled with serpents devouring one another
He droops his head & trembling stands & his bright eyes decay
These are the Visions of My Eyes the Visions of Ahania

Thus cries Ahania Enion replies from the Caverns of the Grave"

The role which Ahania plays is similar to that of the chorus of Greek plays; she observes, she comments, she doesn't participate, but she helps us understand the action. Without Ahania's speech the Shadowy Female would not make the vivid impression which it does.

Frye III

The labels in this blog point to 23 posts which include Frye in some way.

Frye I contained a comprehensive introduction to Northrup Frye including a detailed personal biography and a short summary of his major works and influence in the field of Literary Criticism.

In Frye II I discussed several of Frye's volumes that I've found pertinent to my Blake studies.

Here is some additional material you may find of interest.
Jean O'Grady, the associate editor of the Collected Works of Northrop Frye project, offers a description of Northrup Frye as a human being in a speech she made at the University of Toronto, where Frye spent most of his life.

Fearful Symmetry set the tone of Frye's life as a literary critique. It led seamlessly to the principles of literary criticism; you might say that Fearful Symmetry was the particular case (for Blake), which led into the general case with Anatomy of Criticism.

In his last decade Frye (after teaching literature at Victoria College of the University of Toronto for 40 years) focused on a large book called The Bible and Literature in two Volumes; the first one, called The Great Code introduced me to the Bible case for what he called types. Types are the earliest occurrence of a metaphor or symbol, followed by antitypes as time goes on. For example Exodus is the type for Deliverance while Jesus' life was the antitype (cf Luke 9:27-36). Blake's mind of course was saturated with the Bible; it would be interesting to investigate what use he may have made with that metaphor, one of course of a great many that he used.

Steven Marx is a noted interpreter and critique of William Blake, where he teaches, at California Polytechnic University. He has written a good bit about William Blake, and Northrup Frye as well, ncluding Youth against Age. (Edmund Spence is the primary subject of this book , but it includes two chapters dealing with Blake.)

Marx's "Northrup Frye's Bible" concludes with this statement:

"In the introduction to Words With Power, Frye confides that "at the age of seventy five,discovery can only come from reversing one's direction, going upstream to one's source." (xxiv) In the course of this book, as he reverses direction from secularizing sacred scriptures to spiritualizing secular ones, his own language moves from the descriptive, the conceptual and the rhetorical to the language of proclamation and prophecy. This confirms a sense that he is returning to his early vocation as a preacher and also suggests that like the authors he prefers, in interpreting the Bible, Northrop Frye is remaking it as his own."

Thus it was also with Blake who went back to early ideas as his life concluded.

This blog (or a succession of blogs) appears to continue quite a number of
Professor Frye's addresses made here and there. Many of them involve interpretation of Blake's work.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Most agree that the literary and spiritual source which had the most influence on Blake was the Bible - both the Old and New Testaments. Some wish to discount the Greek influence on Blake without acknowledging that the Bible itself was influenced by Greek thought. The language in which the New Testament was written was Greek. In all likelihood Jesus was conversant in Greek. The Jewish people of New Testament times were scattered through the Roman Empire and therefore exposed to Greek thought, Greek literature, Greek religion and the legacy of Greek culture which pervaded the Roman culture in whose empire they lived. The Greek culture had far more effect on Jewish culture than visa versa. The New Testament is a Jewish and Greek document.

An aspect of Greek culture with which many people in contemporary culture are familiar is their mythology. Myth making came to Blake not solely from the Greeks but they were one source. The Hebrews took history as the account of man's relationship with God but the Greeks took mythology to fill that role. Psychology as well as religion was understood by the Greeks as a dimension of mythology.

Jerusalem, Plate 54
Blake's Four Zoas
When Blake chose his method of communicating, it was myth which best suited his mental proclivities. The aspects of Blake's psychic struggles became not the Gods of the Greeks but the giant Zoas of his poetry. Fragments of the Greek tales appear as episodes in the Blake epics along side characters and events from the Bible. Like most mythologists he wrote not to amuse or entertain but to explain the mysteries of life and death, of good and evil, of beginnings and endings.

The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology, Edward F. Edinger states:
"The Greek myths are sacred scripture, no less than the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Certainly the Greek myths and what was built on them - the science and philosophy and literature - form some of the basic roots of the Western Unconscious. Myths are not simple tales of happenings in the remote past but eternal dramas that are living themselves out repeatedly in our own personal lives and in what we see all around us. To be aware of this adds a dimension to existence that is usually reserved for the poets. To the extent that we can cultivate awareness of this transpersonal dimension, life is enlarged and broadened. Just as Moses is eternally bringing down the law and Jesus is forever being crucified and resurrected, so Heracles is eternally performing his labors, Perseus is confronting Medusa, and Theseus is forever stalking the Minotaur. All these dramas are happening in us and around us constantly. They are eternal patterns of the way life happens below the surface, if only we can see it." (Page 3)

The 'Eternal Drama' was more real to Blake than was his earthly life: he lived it in his visions, he assimilated it from multiple sources, he expressed it through his imagination and he urged his readers to learn to recognize it.

Letters, (E 727)
Felpham Jany 30--1803.
Dear Brother
"I go on Merrily with my Greek & Latin: am very sorry that I did not begin to learn languages early in life as I find it very Easy. am now learning my Hebrew I read Greek as fluently as an Oxford scholar & the Testament is my chief master."