Saturday, September 24, 2011

IMAGE OF PITY

Although Blake recognized the possibility that pity may become a false, destructive emotion, he acknowledged the Eternal dimension of pity. In the large colour print called Pity he is portraying pity as an expression of caring and compassion which is the Soul's response to another Soul in need.

The pity of Los and Enitharmon in giving bodies to the dead from the ranks of Urizen's war is an expression of the healing which results from Enitharmon's sorrow over her sons and Los' moderating his fury. Pity and wrath become constructive rather than destructive forces.

Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 98 [90], (E 370)
"Then I can sigh forth on the winds of Golgonooza piteous forms
That vanish again into my bosom but if thou my Los
Wilt in sweet moderated fury. fabricate forms sublime
Such as the piteous spectres may assimilate themselves into
They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live"

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 98 [90], (E 371)
"But Los loved them & refusd to Sacrifice their infant limbs
And Enitharmons smiles & tears prevaild over self protection
They rather chose to meet Eternal death than to destroy
The offspring of their Care & Pity Urthonas spectre was comforted
But Tharmas most rejoicd in hope of Enions return
For he beheld new Female forms born forth upon the air
Who wove soft silken veils of covering in sweet rapturd trance
Mortal & not as Enitharmon without a covering veil"
...
Night 8
"Then Los said I behold the Divine Vision thro the broken Gates
Of thy poor broken heart astonishd melted into Compassion & Love
And Enitharmon said I see the Lamb of God upon Mount Zion
Wondring with love & Awe they felt the divine hand upon them
For nothing could restrain the dead in Beulah from descending
Unto Ulros night tempted by the Shadowy females sweet
Delusive cruelty they descend away from the Daughters of Beulah
And Enter Urizens temple Enitharmon pitying & her heart
Gates broken down. they descend thro the Gate of Pity
The broken heart Gate of Enitharmon She sighs them forth upon the wind
Of Golgonooza Los stood recieving them
For Los could enter into Enitharmons bosom & explore
Its intricate Labyrinths now the Obdurate heart was broken"

Pity
image from wikimedia

This pity which expresses the Divine Vision results from absorbing suffering into the psyche and embracing it as thread from which Life Eternal is woven. In Blake's image pity is not a one way street from those who have to those who have not. It is involvement in an organic relationship among the breath of God, the incarnate spirit, newborn babe and the receptive human.

If this picture is approached by the Reasoning Spectre, it fails to communicate a coherent message. The Spectre may ask exactly which figure is pity and what is the nature of the pity expressed. To ask whose baby it is and why the lady is lying alone is trying to explain the picture by 'analytics' which yields only confusion. Entering into the picture through imagination invites the various figures to act as a whole which can speak to one intuitively.

Psalms 34
[18] The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Another post on Pity.
Pity at the Metropolitan.

3 comments:

Susan J. said...

thanks for this beautiful post, Ellie. I read it and the other "pity" post you linked. It's so interesting the way a term can shift from neutral or positive to pejorative, over time...

"In Blake's image pity is not a one way street from those who have to those who have not. It is involvement in an organic relationship among the breath of God, the incarnate spirit, newborn babe and the receptive human."

Lovely!

Susan J. said...

Are you familiar with Marshall Rosenberg's "Non-Violent Communication" methodology? He often refers to compassion and compassionate communication, which in turn reminds me of Buddhists who speak of compassion. Do you suppose "compassion" is the word we use nowadays, for what Blake has in mind by "pity"?

http://www.cnvc.org/Training/nvc-chapter-1

ellie said...

Ironically the picture was unnamed by Blake as far as I can tell. I think the name was attached because of the affinity with the quote from Shakespeare. It is easy to believe that Pity is portrayed so that is what it is called.

Compassion or empathy could be used to name the picture just as well.

I looked at the link to CNVC and found there the same inclusive approach to communication as I see in looking at Blake's image. We learn to speak and listen at multiple levels, recognising 'where others are coming from' and forgiving offences.

Have a Blessed Day