Monday, May 02, 2011

Golden String

Plate 77 of Jerusalem
There are earlier posts on this subject.

The Golden String

Here's my take on it two months later:

At the top of Plate 77 of Jerusalem Blake put this little poem:
"I give you the end of a golden string
Only wind it into a ball
It will let you in at Heaven's Gate
Built in Jerusalem's Wall."

(Immediately to the left of the poem Blake wrote: "Saul Saul" "why persecutist me", q
uoting Acts 10 of course, the story of Paul's conversion. Easson pointed out that Saul is like the reader who resents Blake's style and obscurity.)

Easson has an interesting discussion of this little poem on 313 and following.
For one of the sources of the 'Golden String' look first in Bullfinch's Mythology (chapter 20) :

"The Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the tribute which they were forced to pay to Minos, king of Crete. This tribute consisted of seven youths and seven maidens, who were sent every year to be devoured by the Minotaur, a monster with a bull's body and a human head. It was exceedingly strong and fierce, and was kept in a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus, so artfully contrived that whoever was enclosed in it could by no means find his way out unassisted. Here the Minotaur roamed, and was fed with human victims.

Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this calamity, or to die in the attempt. Accordingly, when the time of sending off the tribute came, and the youths and maidens were, according to custom, drawn by lot to be sent, he offered himself as one of the victims, in spite of the entreaties of his father. The ship departed under black sails, as usual, which Theseus promised his father to change for white, in case of his returning victorious. When they arrived in Crete, the youths and maidens were exhibited before Minos; and Ariadne, the daughter of the king, being present, became deeply enamoured of Theseus, by whom her love was readily returned. She furnished him with a sword, with which to encounter the Minotaur, and with a clue of thread by which he might find his way out of the labyrinth. He was successful, slew the Minotaur, escaped from the labyrinth, and taking Ariadne as the companion of his way, with his rescued companions sailed for Athens. On their way they stopped at the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned Ariadne, leaving her asleep.* His excuse for this ungrateful treatment of his benefactress was that Minerva appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to do so."


Easson found much significance in this story, especially the 'string' and the 'Minotaur'. Just what was the 'clue of thread'? Thesus has started out with a ball of string, unwound it as he went into the maze, killed the Minotaur, and then followed his string back to the entrance (much as Becky and Tom Sawyer did in their cave). But Blake gives us a 'golden string', with which we are supposed to wind it up as we go: to? where? Nowhere unless and/or until we have killed our Minotaur, which Easson says must be our Selfhood.

Until the Selfhood is annihilated Blake's system, his myth, his poetry will be unendingly confusing and frustrating. But recall that the Selfhood isn't annihilated all at once, at least not in this mortal life. Annihilation is an everyday affair: as often as you kill the Selfhood it will pop up again in another form. He's talking about the Devil, and everybody knows the Devil never gives up.

Or he's talking about the Spectre (Spectre = Satan = Selfhood):

In Jerusalem plate 27 we read:

And O thou Lamb of God,
whom I Slew in my dark self-righteous pride:
Art thou return'd to Albions Land!
And is Jerusalem thy Bride?

Come to my arms & never more
Depart; but dwell for ever here:
Create my Spirit to thy Love:
Subdue my Spectre to thy Fear,

Spectre of Albion! warlike Fiend!
In clouds of blood & ruin roll'd:
I here reclaim thee as my own
My Selfhood! Satan! armd in gold."


"My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way
My Emanation far within Weeps incessantly for my Sin....
‘Let us agree to give up Love [Here Blake used love in a different sense.]
And root up the infernal grove;
Then we shall return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity,

‘& Throughout all Eternity
I forgive you, you forgive me.
As our dear Redeemer said,
“This the Wine & this the Bread."
(Erdman 475-7)

(This prayer we pray daily!)

The upshot of all this is that how you read Blake depends upon your level of spiritual consciousness, or if you prefer, your psyche. To the degree that your love has overcome your fear and you've put resentments and animosities away you may understand Blake's poetry. You will forgive his flaws, as you are forgiven. So you have learned to understand and speak Blake's language.

Blake's poetry is much like the Bible in this sense: you may read something a month later and get an entirely different (and usually amplified) meaning in it.

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