Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Wild Beast

Readers familiar with numerous posts on the Spectre may recognize "the Wild Beast".
(My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way;)

Many of Blake's metaphors are involved in the same concept: the Selfhood, this World ('this vale of tears', Ulro, Woe, the Tyger, Errors (rather than Sin), and others; they all connote the dark side of life; we might call it the 'Devil Within'; Blake called it the Main Chance.

"I cannot love my enemy for my enemy is not man but beast & devil if I have any. I can love him as a beast & wish to beat him." (Annotations to Lavater; E 589)
(This quote certainly relates to the Spectre poem.)

"The Beast & the Whore rule without controls" (Annotations to Watson; E 611)

"Bacon supposes that the Dragon Beast & Harlot are worthy of a Place in the New Jerusalem" (Scornfully); Annotations to Bacon; E 627)

"Then wrath burst round the Eternal Man was wrath again he cried
Arise O stony form of death O dragon of the Deeps
Lie down before my feet O Dragon
He calld[;] the deep buried his voice & answer none returnd
Then wrath burst round the Eternal Man was wrath again he cried
Arise O stony form of death O dragon of the Deeps
Lie down before my feet O Dragon let Urizen arise
O how couldst thou deform those beautiful proportions
Of life & person for as the Person so is his life proportiond......
if thou darest obstinate refuse my stern behest
Thy crown & scepter I will sieze & regulate all my members
In stern severity & cast thee out into the indefinite
Where nothing lives, there to wander. & if thou returnst weary
eeping at the threshold of Existence I will steel my heart
Against thee to Eternity & never recieve thee more
Thy self-destroying beast formd Science shall be thy eternal lot"
(Four Zoas; Night Nine; E389)
(This certainly relates to the annihilation of the Specter (Selfhood, Satan).)
Among Blake's sources the Beast of the Bible ranks first.

Revelation 12

1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron:
9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him..........
Revelation 13:

1And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
2And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
4And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
(If you want fuller understanding, read Rev 12 and 13 en toto. These two chapters meant a great deal to Blake and strongly affected many of his works.)

Pilgrims Progress also has a Beast as I recall. And Blake reminds us that Nebuchadnezzar became a beast and ate grass. The Lord's Prayer is largely positive, but we're to pray for deliverance from Evil.

Nebu's tiger doesn't appear very threatening; from which we might suppose Blake portrayed it after he had dealt creatively with the 'Main Chance'.

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