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.)

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