Thursday, October 13, 2011

America Introduction to Commentary

Material taken from David Erdman's Prophet Against Empire:

Glad Day

In 1780 Blake was 22, and the War in America was approaching an end; he produced a picture that came to be called Glad Day. England was about to recognize America's independence. It was a joyous moment for our poet and artist.

In England anti-war people were an overwhelming majority; there may have been as many patriots in England as there were in America. But the bloodshed was about over (it's never been entirely over!) Many of King George's German mercenaries had become good Americans.

In 1776 England's green and pleasant land which had meant so much to Blake as a youth had turned to a nightmare; but the nightmare was ending.
Many different meanings have been attached to this picture.
Look at the William Blake Page.
Look at
Look at Wiki-Albion
"engraving (revised and inscribed ca 1803-10) WB inv 1780:
Albion rose from where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves Giving himself for the Nations he danc'd the dance of Eternal Death"
(Erdman 671)

Erdman tells us that the poem, America is not so much about America, the country; it's about the reactions of England to the American Revolution:

The 'King's friends' dominated the political scene and opted for war with the colonies (the nations according to Blake). But the merchants, the commercial centers and the people in general opposed the war.

There were open demonstrations against the war: in London and in Bristol.
From Plate 15:
"The millions sent up a howl of anguish and threw off their hammerd mail, And cast their swords & spears to earth, & stood a naked multitude." (Blake refers here to the English people.)

In June of the year Glad Day was done the Gordon Riots occurred. Ostensibly against Papists, it was actually more against the economic hardships resulting from the Revolution. Blake was in the forefront of a mob that freed the inmates from Newgate Prison, although as a participant or simple bystander is uncertain.

"But all rush together in the night in wrath and
raging fire The red fires rag'd! the plagues
recoil'd! then rolld they back with fury"

PLATE 15 (Erdman 56-7):

"On Albions Angels; then
the Pestilence began in
streaks of red Across the
limbs of Albions Guardian,
the spotted plague smote
And the Leprosy Londons
Spirit, sickening all their
The millions sent up a howl
of anguish and threw off
their hammerd mail, And
cast their swords & spears
to earth, & stood a naked
Albions Guardian [the King]
writhed in torment on the
eastern sky
Pale quivring toward the brain his glimmering eyes,
teeth chattering Howling & shuddering his legs
quivering; convuls'd each muscle & sinew
Sick'ning lay Londons Guardian, and the ancient
miter'd York
Their heads on snowy hills, their ensigns sick'ning
in the sky
The plagues creep on the burning winds driven by
flames of Orc
And by the fierce Americans rushing together in
the night
Driven o'er the Guardians of Ireland and Scotland
and Wales
They spotted with plagues forsook the frontiers &
their banners
seard With fires of hell, deform their ancient
ion felt the enormous plagues.
nd a cowl of flesh grew o'er his head & scales on
his back & ribs;
And rough with black scales all his Angels fright
their ancient heavens"

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