Saturday, July 02, 2011

Blake and Dante

Blake considered Dante to be one of the greatest writers; however as explained in Illustrating Dante, he disagreed with Dante's orthodox theology. In fact he disagreed with all manner of 'orthodox theology'; to agree with any such thing would be for Blake being "enslaved by another man's system". He felt that we all must create our own system. Like George Fox Blake believed 'there was that of God' in everyone.

That of God in you is not the same as that of God in me (or in anyone else). It is the 'poetic genius':

"He who Loves feels love descend into him & if he has wisdom may percieve it is from the Poetic Genius which is the Lord" (Annotations to Swedenborg; Erdman 603)

According to my system love is God; Blake has called it here 'the Poetic Genius which is the Lord'.

The term Lord is a generic one. In the days of Jesus it was used generally for any person of higher status. It has come (in some orthodoxies) to be used for Jesus, while for others it is God.

God is within and without. I think Blake understood that. Dante had wisdom, and Blake respected him as such, but his wisdom was based on the general Catholic orthodoxy, for which Blake had little use.

Very early in his writings (E43) Blake showed his evaluation of Dante's poetry (MHH plate 21):
"..................Any man of mechanical talents
may from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten thousand volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's.
And from those of Dante or Shakespear, an infinite number."

In Jerusalem (Plate 73) he gave another listing of Great Men created by Los:
"..................................................................Los Creates Adam Noah Abraham Moses Samuel David Ezekiel
[Pythagoras Socrates Euripedes Virgil Dante Milton]"
(although we're told that on reflection he deleted Dante from the list).

In E634 he wrote: "Dante was an Emperors Man", by that he meant of course a hireling.

In seven letters to Linnell, who had commissioned him to do the Illustrations to Dante's Inferno he described his progress.

The Blake can be found at the Works

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