Sunday, October 16, 2011


In the last five images for Blake's illustrations to Paradise Regained Blake availed himself of the opportunity to elaborate his ideas on Milton's text. Milton and Blake used the arrangement of the temptations of Jesus in the order of Luke's rather than Matthew's version. In Luke the final temptation involves Jesus being taken to the pinnacle of the temple.

After Jesus withstood the second temptation to accept worldly power, Milton inserted this account of a night where Jesus' dreams are fraught with terrifying images.

Paradise Regained
"for at his head
The Tempter watched, and soon with ugly dreams
Disturbed his sleep. And either tropic now
'Gan thunder, and both ends of heaven; the clouds [410]
From many a horrid rift abortive poured
Fierce rain with lightning mixed, water with fire,
In ruin reconciled; nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves, but rushed abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vexed wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks,
Bowed their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st [420]
Unshaken! Nor yet staid the terror there:
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round
Environed thee; some howled, some yelled, some shrieked,
Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou
Sat'st unappalled in calm and sinless peace.
Thus passed the night so foul,"

Blake portrays the calmly sleeping Jesus surrounded by serpents indicating that the storms and destruction described by Milton are works of the serpent form of Satan. Most terrifying is that the serpents appear to be emerging from the image of God at the top of the page. Blake was aware of distorted images of the Divine which resulted from man projecting his own vengefulness, anger and deceit upon his God. Jesus could sleep in peace in spite of these dreams because his vision of God was not the weak, worn out, distracted creature with darkened wings and halo which emerged in the dream state.

The appearance of the serpents and the image at the top of the page, which seems to be a combination of Satan and Jehovah, is Blake's own response to the night of troubling dreams. The final plate of Gates of Paradise: for the Sexes, comments on the illusion from which man must awake to be freed from the "God of this World."

The dream state is portrayed in Blake's Milton but in these passages the Seven Angels of the Presence provide the protection which create a '
dream beatific.'

Milton, Plate 15 [17], (E 109)
"The Seven Angels of the Presence wept over Miltons Shadow!

As when a man dreams, he reflects not that his body sleeps,
Else he would wake; so seem'd he entering his Shadow: but
With him the Spirits of the Seven Angels of the Presence
Entering; they gave him still perceptions of his Sleeping Body;
Which now arose and walk'd with them in Eden, as an Eighth
Image Divine tho' darken'd; and tho walking as one walks
In sleep; and the Seven comforted and supported him."

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E 131)
"Such is a Vision of the lamentation of Beulah over Ololon

And Milton oft sat up on the Couch of Death & oft conversed
In vision & dream beatific with the Seven Angels of the Presence

I have turned my back upon these Heavens builded on cruelty
My Spectre still wandering thro' them follows my Emanation
He hunts her footsteps thro' the snow & the wintry hail & rain
The idiot Reasoner laughs at the Man of Imagination
And from laughter proceeds to murder by undervaluing calumny"

Geoge W. Digby, in Symbol and Image in William Blake states:
"This projected image, call it by what name you will, is ultimately man's greatest enemy. It is a mental phenomenon, which spring from the mind and is limited by the mind. It is the dream of the traveller who has gone astray, who has lost his way. It is necessary to realize the illusion of this." (Page 53)

Blake is illustrating his perception that Jesus has freed himself from the illusion that he can be harmed by the a projected image of serpents or the tempter.

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