Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Plate 7

but when he [Los' spectre] saw that Los
Was living: panting like a frighted wolf, and howling
He stood over the Immortal, in the solitude and darkness:
Upon the darkning Thames, across the whole Island westward.
A horrible Shadow of Death, among the Furnaces: beneath
The pillar of folding smoke; + by arguments of science &
by terrors:
Terrors in every Nerve, by spasms & extended pains:
While Los answer'd unterrified to the opake blackening Fiend
And thus the Spectre spoke: Wilt thou still go on to destruction?
Till thy life is all taken away by this deceitful Friendship?   
He drinks thee up like water! like wine he pours thee
Into his tuns: thy Daughters are trodden in his vintage
He makes thy Sons the trampling of his bulls, they are plow'd
And harrowd for his profit, lo! thy stolen Emanation
Is his garden of pleasure! all the Spectres of his Sons mock thee
Look how they scorn thy once admired palaces! now in ruins
Because of Albion! because of deceit and friendship! For Lo!
Hand has peopled Babel & Nineveh: Hyle, Ashur & Aram:
Cobans son is Nimrod: his son Cush is adjoind to Aram,
By the Daughter of Babel, in a woven mantle of pestilence & war.
They put forth their spectrous cloudy sails; which drive their
Constellations over the deadly deeps of indefinite Udan-Adan
Kox is the Father of Shem & Ham & Japheth, he is the Noah
Of the Flood of Udan-Adan. Hutn is the Father of the Seven
From Enoch to Adam; Schofield is Adam who was New-              
Created in Edom. I saw it indignant, & thou art not moved!
This has divided thee in sunder: and wilt thou still forgive?
O! thou seest not what I see! what is done in the Furnaces.
Listen, I will tell thee what is done in moments to thee unknown:
- 149 -
Luvah was cast into the Furnaces of
affliction and sealed,      
And Vala fed in cruel delight, the
Furnaces with fire:
Stern Urizen beheld; urgd by
necessity to keep
The evil day afar, and if perchance
with iron power
He might avert his own despair: in
woe & fear he saw
Vala incircle round the Furnaces
where Luvah was clos'd:        
With joy she heard his howlings,
& forgot he was her Luvah,
With whom she liv'd in bliss in
times of innocence & youth!
Vala comes from the Furnace in a
cloud, but wretched Luvah
Is howling in the Furnaces, in
flames among Albions Spectres,
To prepare the Spectre of Albion to reign over thee O Los,      
Forming the Spectres of Albion according to his rage:
To prepare the Spectre sons of Adam, who is Scofield: the Ninth
Of Albions sons, & the father of all his brethren in the Shadowy
Generation. Cambel & Gwendolen wove webs of war & of
Religion, to involve all Albions sons, and when they had        
Involv'd Eight; their webs roll'd outwards into darkness
And Scofield the Ninth remaind on the outside of the Eight
And Kox, Kotope, & Bowen, One in him, a Fourfold Wonder
Involv'd the Eight--Such are the Generations of the Giant Albion,
To separate a Law of Sin, to punish thee in thy members.        
Los answer'd. Altho' I know not this! I know far worse than this:
I know that Albion hath divided me, and that thou O my Spectre,
Hast just cause to be irritated: but look stedfastly upon me:
Comfort thyself in my strength the time will arrive,
When all Albions injuries shall cease, and when we shall        
Embrace him tenfold bright, rising from his tomb in immortality.
They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
Pity: let us therefore take example & warning O my Spectre,
O that I could abstain from wrath! O that the Lamb
Of God would look upon me and pity me in my fury.               
In anguish of regeneration! in terrors of self annihilation:
Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder,
And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End.
O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration!            t
O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies!
Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!
The Dead despise & scorn thee, & cast thee out as accursed:
Seeing the Lamb of God in thy gardens & thy palaces:
Where they desire to place the Abomination of Desolation.       
Hand sits before his furnace: scorn of others & furious pride:
Freeze round him to bars of steel & to iron rocks beneath
His feet: indignant self-righteousness like whirlwinds of the
               (End of Plate 7)
- 150 -
 "but when he [Los' spectre] saw that Los
Was living: panting like a frighted wolf...
and he sought by other means, To lure Los: by tears,
....While Los answer'd unterrified to the opake blackening Fiend
 And thus the Spectre spoke: Wilt thou still go on to destruction?
Here the first paragraph of the text has been condensed, leaving out
a wealth of adjectival interpolations.  A speaking knowledge of
elementary English grammar enables the reader to begin to get some
preliminary understanding of Blake's intentions.
So many English writers of every sort are fond of piling
dependent clauses into their sentences to the point where an
ordinary reader is sure to miss what they're basically trying
to say. Short sentences tell us more than long involved complex
ones.  This failing is one of the primary deficiencies in
understanding poetry (or prose for that matter).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This is Plate 2 (The Title Page)


Blake has produced a powerful image of God communicating in the form of the tablets of the law, with man in the form of Moses. Moses is bowed in humility below the feet of God occupying a separate enclosed space where he is protected from the full impact of God's presence. The account of Moses receiving the law is repeated several times in the Bible with details which emphasize various aspects. The accounts may focus on the tablets of the law themselves, but just as important is the experience of Moses in encountering God through the images of fire, cloud, symbolic periods of time, thunderings, lightnings and the noise of the trumpet. Blake incorporates many of these symbols in his picture plus many faces of humans or angels surrounding the events.

Exodus 20
[18] And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
[19] And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
[20] And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
[21] And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
[22] And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

Exodus 24
[12] And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
[13] And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.
[14] And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.
[15] And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
[16] And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
[17] And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
[18] And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
Exodus 32
[15] And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
[16] And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

God Writing upon the Tables of the Covenant
National Galleries of Scotland

It is not the person Moses or the written law which Blake held in high regard, it is the fact that God works in and through men. Blake saw that Moses encountered God on the mountaintop and came away with an image of God which would further the psychological and spiritual development of man.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 23, (E 43)
"if Jesus Christ is the
greatest man, you ought to love him in the greatest degree; now
hear how he has given his sanction to the law of ten
commandments: did he not mock at the sabbath, and so mock the
sabbaths God? murder those who were murderd because of him? turn
away the law from the woman taken in adultery? steal the labor of
others to support him? bear false witness when he omitted making
a defence before Pilate? covet when he pray'd for his disciples,
and when he bid them shake off the dust of their feet against
such as refused to lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist
without breaking these ten commandments: Jesus was all virtue,
and acted from impulse: not from rules."

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 556)
"beneath the falling figure of Cain is Moses casting his tables of
stone into the Deeps. it ought to be understood that the Persons
Moses & Abraham are not here meant but the States Signified by
those Names the Individuals being representatives or Visions of
those States as they were reveald to Mortal Man in the Series of
Divine Revelations. as they are written in the Bible these
various States I have seen in my Imagination when distant they
appear as One Man but as you approach they appear
Multitudes of Nations."

Jerusalem, Plate 73, (E 228)
"And all the Kings & Nobles of the Earth & all their Glories
These are Created by Rahab & Tirzah in Ulro: but around
These, to preserve them from Eternal Death Los Creates
Adam Noah Abraham Moses Samuel David Ezekiel
Dissipating the rocky forms of Death, by his thunderous Hammer
As the Pilgrim passes while the Country permanent remains
So Men pass on: but States remain permanent for ever"

Sunday, November 27, 2011


[13] And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:
[14] And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
[15] And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:
[16] And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
Chapter 2
[1] And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
[2] And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
[3] And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.
[4] And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

The infant set afloat on the Nile or the Hiding of Moses in the Tate Collection is not available for publication but here is a link to it.

Blake's picture of the infant Moses set afloat on the Nile calls our attention first to the fact that the scene took place in Egypt, the land to which the Israelites voluntarily moved to escape famine in their homeland. When their benefactor was no longer in power they became slave labor for the Egyptians. To control increase in the Israelite population the Pharaoh ordered that the male infants be killed. In order to avoid having her son killed, Moses' mother hid him in a floating basket on the edge of the Nile. In this scene the mother is leaving the infant to an unknown fate. The child is rescued by a daughter of Pharaoh and grows up in an Egyptian household.

The anxiety of the mother and father is evident in the picture. Realistically, they feared that the child would not survive. However the fears of the parents were not realized. The role that Moses played in the history of his people is well known. He secured their release from slavery, led them through the wilderness, presented them with a covenant from God and received the commandments from God which were to define and shape the people of Israel.

Images which Blake created of the infant Jesus and his parents closely resemble Moses and his parents. Blake was emphasizing that the role of Jesus in the New Testament and of Moses in the Old Testament are parallel. Both had their lives threatened by the authorities as infants, both emerged from the land of Egypt to introduce new teachings to their people. Both offered freedom to enslaved people: those enslaved in Egypt, and those enslaved to the 'law of sin and death'.

Notice the similarity in this illustration to Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.

This tempera painting of the nativity which Blake produced for Thomas Butts is available on wikipedia. The original is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The culmination of the spiritual development which was traced through the events of the Old Testament and hinged on the character of Moses, came to fruition in Jesus. Blake in his characteristic way ties together disparate events: in this case through visual rather than verbal images. 
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Engraving of Hiding of Moses

Saturday, November 26, 2011

new plate 3




To the Public

After my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean,
I again display my Giant forms to the Public:
My former Giants & Fairies having reciev'd the highest reward possible:
the [love] and friendship of those with whom to be connected, is to be blessed:
I cannot doubt that this more consolidated & extended Work, will be as kindly recieved The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes no Reader will think presumptuousness or arrogance when he is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly absorb'd in their Gods.] I also hope the Reader will be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of Fire] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement. The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who waits to be righteous before he enters into the Saviours kingdom, the Divine Body; will never enter there. I am perhaps the most sinful of men! I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love, to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to have an interest in the Friend of Sinners. Therefore [Dear] Reader, [forgive] what you do not approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my talent. Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of heaven, And of that God from whom [all books are given,] Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave, Again he speaks in thunder and in fire! Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire: Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear, Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear. Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be: Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony
Here's Plate 3 of Jerusalem
courtesy of LC banner
From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division

We who dwell on Earth can do nothing of ourselves, everything is conducted by Spirits, no less than Digestion or Sleep.
I consider'd a Monotonous Cadence like that used by Milton & Shakspeare & all writers of English Blank Verse, derived from the modern bondage of Rhyming; to be a necessary and indispensible part of Verse. But I soon found that in the mouth of a true Orator
such monotony was not only awkward, but as much a bondage as rhyme itself. I therefore have produced a variety in every line, both of cadences & number of syllables. Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit place: the terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific parts--the mild & gentle, for the mild & gentle parts, and the prosaic, for inferior parts: all are necessary to each other. Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race! Nations are Destroy'd, or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry Painting and Music, are Destroy'd or Flourish! The Primeval State of Man, was Wisdom, Art, and Science.

Friday, November 25, 2011


All Religions Are One
Title Page

Blake produced about eight images from the life of Moses. They were not produced as a set; they are in various media and they are is multiple locations now. Several are not available for publication on the internet but all can be viewed through links.

The infant set afloat on the Nile
Tate Collection

Pharaoh's daughter finding Moses

found on internet

Moses encounters the burning bush
Victoria & Albert Museum

He receives commandments from God
National Galleries of Scotland

Moses and the tablets of the law
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Moses raging at the golden calf
Tate Collection

Moses producing water from the rock
Lutheran Church of America, Glen Foerd at Torresdale, Philadelphia
Scroll down for thumbnail image

He erects the brazen serpent
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Satan contends for body of Moses
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jerusalem Plate 1

Frontspiece of Jerusalem

The Emanation of The Giant Albion

1804 Printed by W. Blake Sth Molton St.


This text appears in Erdman p. 144, but not in the Plates,  except in an early private collection (See Martin Butlin, p. 126).

[Above the archway:]

There is a Void, outside of Existence, which if enterd into
Englobes itself & becomes a Womb, such was 
Albions Couch
A pleasant Shadow of Repose calld Albions lovely Land

His Sublime & Pathos become Two Rocks fixd in the Earth
His Reason his Spectrous Power, covers them above
Jerusalem his Emanation is a Stone laying beneath
O [Albion behold Pitying] behold the Vision of Albion

[On right side of archway:]

Half Friendship is the bitterest Enmity said Los
As he enterd the Door of Death for Albions sake Inspired
The long sufferings of God are not for ever there is a Judgment

[On left side, in reversed writing:]

Every Thing has its Vermin O Spectre of the Sleeping Dead!

(Erdman 144)
Albions Couch sounds pleasant and comfortable, but it appears to be three rocks.  Throughout Jerusalem (the poem) Albion appears sleeping on his rock, which is a metaphor for  what is called Death or material existence.  Finally Albion awakes and materiality is replaced by Eternity.
Blake finished many other pictures that suggest much the same thing. For example
Look at this image from Gates of Paradise; Blake engraved these (For the Children) pictures in 1793 and 25 years later engraved similar ones in 'For the Sexes'.
This also appears in a May 23, 2010 post.
Although Plate 1 of Jerusalem and the old man going into the dark certainly seem very different, they symbolize the same thing: the translation from
Eternity into the material world..
Blake's Works are full of this idea. Look for example at Caverns of the Grave.

 In a fascinating way you may recognize that the Bible story of Rehab and the spies bears directly upon the story of Salvation and more basically to the secret of the Bible.

We're offered the Tree of Life, but we choose the Tree of Mystery. It happened with Joshua's military conquest of Canaan, and repeatedly throughout the Old Testament.
Finally it happed after the Crucifixion.
God and Christ had shown us the way, but Constantine changed the shape of the Church (Wars' primarily).
In the Bible story we read that Rahab hid the spies unto the flax drying on her roof. In Caverns of the Grave we're directed to this passage in Four Zoas, PAGE 115 [111], (E 385)
"But when she saw the form of Ahania weeping on the Void
And heard Enions voice sound from the caverns of the Grave
No more spirit remained in her She secretly left the Synagogue of Satan
she commund with Orc in secret She hid him with the flax"

This occurs at the end of the Eighth Night.
We see here a beautiful picture of how Blake read the Bible.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Image - Songs of Experience

Northrup Frye, in Fearful Symmetry, develops his own metaphor for reading Blake's poetry on Page 143.

"As far as the poetic effect of Blake's mythology goes, it cannot of course be denied that when a character is presented as an individual or a god and his relationship to an archetype is left to take care of itself, an advantage in vividness is often gained. Blake was, it is obvious, so conscious of the shape of his central myth that his characters become almost diagrammatic. The heroism of Orc or the ululation of Ololon do not impress us as human realities, like Achillies or Cassandra, but as intellectual ideographs. It all depends on whether the reader has a taste for this kind of metaphysical poetry or not, on whether he is willing to read so uncompromising an address to the intellectual powers. It is not necessary to assume that qualities of poetry which are certainly not in Blake are qualities which Blake tried and failed to produce. One looks at a poet for what is there, and what is there in Blake is a dialectic, an anatomy of poetry, a rigorously unified vision of the essential forms of the creative mind, piercing through its features to its articulate bones. The figure is perhaps not one that he would have approved: his own is:

I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
Built in Jerusalems wall."
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)

It might be said that Blake in these passages offered additional metaphors for reading his poetry.

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter
Into each others Bosom (which are Universes of delight)
In mutual interchange. and first their Emanations meet
Surrounded by their Children. if they embrace & comingle
The Human Four-fold Forms mingle also in thunders of Intellect"

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 560)
" If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow or
into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of one of these
Images of wonder which always intreats him to leave mortal things
as he must know then would he arise from his Grave then would he
meet the Lord in the Air & then he would be happy General
Knowledge is Remote Knowledge it is in Particulars that Wisdom
consists & Happiness too."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moving Up

                 Yale Center for British Art
                     Jerusalem, Plate 92

Note the four zoas sleeping around Enitharmon:
At her feet old grey beard Urizen. At the left is Los; at the right the face in the shadow is Tharmas and the other one Luvah.
At the middle sides: on the right Jerusalem; on the left the Druids. So Blake expresses the Eternal on the right and the Material on the left.
The fact that Enitharmon was clothed indicates that she is in the material world;
Beginning near the end of Plate 91 we read:
"Terrified Los sat to behold trembling & weeping & howling1

I care not whether a Man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise Man or a Fool. Go! put off Holiness
And put on Intellect: or my thundrous Hammer2 shall drive thee

To wrath which thou condemnest: till thou obey my voice
So Los terrified cries: trembling & weeping & howling!

Plate 92:
What do I see? The Briton Saxon Roman Norman amalgamating
In my Furnaces into One Nation the English: & taking refuge
In the Loins of Albion.
The Canaanite united with the fugitive Hebrew, whom she
divided into Twelve, & sold into Egypt3
Then scatterd the Egyptian & Hebrew to the four Winds!
This sinful Nation Created in our Furnaces & Looms is Albion
So Los spoke. Enitharmon answerd in great terror in Lambeths Vale4:
The Poets Song draws to its period & Enitharmon is no more.
For if he be that Albion I can never weave him in my Looms5
But when he touches the first fibrous thread, like filmy dew
My Looms will be no more & I annihilate vanish for ever
Then thou wilt Create another Female according to thy Will.
Los answerd swift as the shuttle6 of gold. Sexes must vanish &
cease To be, when Albion arises
from his dread repose O lovely
Enitharmon: When all their Crimes, their Punishments their Accusations of Sin:
All their Jealousies Revenges. Murders. hidings of Cruelty in Deceit
Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time.
In the shadows of Possibility by Mutual Forgiveness forevermore
And in the Vision & in the Prophecy, that we may Foresee & Avoid
The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment.7
Beholding them Displayd in the Emanative Visions of Canaan in Jerusalem & in
Shiloh And in the Shadows of Remembrance, & in the Chaos of the Spectre Amalek,
Edom, Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Ashur, Philistea, around Jerusalem
(Erdman 252) -
Where the Druids reard their Rocky Circles to make permanent
Remembrance Of Sin. & the Tree of Good & Evil sprang from the Rocky Circle &
Snake Of the Druid, along the Valley of Rephaim from Camberwell to Golgotha
And framed the Mundane Shell Cavernous in Length Bredth & Highth"
1Los had been listening to the horrid words of the Spectre, recorded earlier (in Plate 91)
2The hammer is "metaphorically connected to the beating of the human heart.
3Here Blake has made an obvious reference to the Book of Exodus. With "this sinful people" he included Egyptian, Canaanites, Hebrews.
4 Blake used Lambeth's Vale 9 times. He lived at Lambeth: No.13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth while he was writing Jerusalem.
5The looms are Enitharmon's equivalent of Los' hammer. (He was a blacksmith; she was a weaver.)
6Shuttle: a device used in weaving
7"terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment": what an interesting way to juxtapose those three items. Creation is a terror? well of course the new born baby cries. Redemption? it should be a joyous and happy moment like new babies--except that it involves a lifetime of struggle, annihilating the Selfhood, over and over, maybe a dozen times in a day; Judgment? Sound terrible, but look at Blake's definition of it:
"whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual" A Vision of the Last Judgment (Erdman 562)

Monday, November 21, 2011


The only way I know to get any grasp of this picture is by reading George MacDonald's Lillith which you can do online at this site. MacDonald takes one into a cavern where the dead sleep until they are healed and awake to the reality Blake calls Eternity. Like Blake, MacDonald was interested in revealing the world which is real and spiritual to those who perceive only the false and material. Both men created myths which reveal truth which cannot be contained in the forms of logic and rationality.

Descent into Death
British Museum

In the image which appears as the frontispiece of Jerusalem is shown Los entering a door leading down into a dark space which he must explore to restore Albion to wholeness. The present image could be an elaboration on Blake's image for Robert Blair's The Grave which is named The Soul exploring the recesses of the Grave.

Notice that Blake portrays the individual in multiple statuses simultaneously. The individual in a natural body is exploring or observing; as spiritual body or soul, the individual also illumines and guides; the individuals who has entered death are in repose within the various caverns.

The shifting meanings of death, the grave, sleep, awakening and annihilation are seen in this passage from Milton. The image of descending into the recesses of the grave, and poetry from Milton complement one another and shed light for understanding both.

, Plate 14 [15], (E 108)
"Then Milton rose up from the heavens of Albion ardorous!
The whole Assembly wept prophetic, seeing in Miltons face
And in his lineaments divine the shades of Death & Ulro
He took off the robe of the promise, & ungirded himself from the
oath of God

And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp
Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body
From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come?
Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death.
I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave.
I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!
I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death,
Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate
And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood
The Lamb of God is seen thro' mists & shadows, hov'ring
Over the sepulchers in clouds of Jehovah & winds of Elohim
A disk of blood, distant; & heav'ns & earth's roll dark between
What do I here before the Judgment? without my Emanation?
With the daughters of memory, & not with the daughters of
I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!
He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells
To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death."

Another post.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Blake Saw

He saw things that most of us don't, and he urgently needed to show them to us, to show us how to see them.

There are many kinds of seeing and many levels of consciousness, but with the natural proclivity to resort to the dialectic we might say there are two:

1. The sense-based, natural, materialistic time and space consciousness lacking anything that cannot be weighed or measured (Blake called this Ulro; Jesus called it Hell. In circles of academic philosophy it used to go by the name of logical positivism.) I would opine that most of us spend most of our time in the 'sense-based, natural, materialistic time and space consciousness'.

2. Vision, coming forth from the inner man, the Light, the Now. It's a different kind of consciousness, a perception of the infinite (Blake called it Eden; Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God).

Jesus showed us with his life how to live eternally; and he told us we could do it. Blake did it, periodically at least, and like Jesus he wanted us to share that heavenly gift.

He called it Vision; that's what he lived for, those eternal moments were all that mattered (and matters!). If you can't do it continuously, then you can talk about it, write about it, draw it, paint it. He did (and you can) show us how to see.


"...I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought, into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination."
(Jerusalem Plate 5: line 17ff)

The most striking tenet of Blake's faith was his vision of the Eternal; it was also his primary gift to mankind. Blake lived in an age when the realm of spirit had virtually disappeared from the intellectual horizon. This single fact explains why he stood out like a sore thumb in late 18th Century England and why for most of his contemporaries he could never be more than an irritant, an eccentric, a madman; their most common term of depreciation was 'enthusiast'. His primary concern was a world whose existence they not only denied, but held in derision.

The task of the Enlightenment had been to emancipate man from superstition, and Voltaire, Gibbon, and their associates had done this with great distinction. Blake was born emancipated, but he knew that closed off from vision, from the individuality of genius, from the spontaneous spiritual dimension, from what Jesus had called the kingdom of God, mankind will regress to a level beneath the human. In his prophetic writings he predicted 1940 and its aftermath. Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Blake was blessed with vision from his earliest days; his visions were immediate and concrete. He found the eternal inward worlds of thought more real than the objective nature exalted by John Locke and Joshua Reynolds. Their depreciation of vision, genius, the eternal never failed to infuriate Blake. This fury strongly colored his work and often threatened to overwhelm it. It also led to his deprecatory view of nature, which was their God.

(Taken from the Blake Primer.)


Although he depreciated 'nature' as an object of worship and in the deistic view, he loved natural objects; he was an outdoor person, especially in his youth when he wrote this in Poetical Sketches (E 408).

To Spring
      O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
      Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
      Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
      Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

      The hills tell one another, and the listening
      Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn'd
      Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
      And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

      Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds
      Kiss thy perfumèd garments; let us taste
      Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
      Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.

      O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
      Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
      Thy golden crown upon her languish'd head,
      Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Young's 'Night Thoughts'Night VIII, page 23
The British Museum

The quote from Young which Blake was illustrating:
'When, through Death's Straits Earth's subtil Serpents creep,
Which wiggle into Wealth, or climb Renown,
As crooked Satan the Forbidden Tree,
They leave their party-coloured Robe behind,'

Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 107 [115], (E 380)
"And this is the manner in which Satan became the Tempter

There is a State namd Satan learn distinct to know O Rahab
The Difference between States & Individuals of those States
The State namd Satan never can be redeemd in all Eternity
But when Luvah in Orc became a Serpent he des[c]ended into
That State calld Satan"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blakes Priests

"The first priest was the first knave who met the first fool."

Voltaire may or may not have said that. As far as we know Blake did't say it, but it aptly expressed the feelings of both men. The two had very little else in common.

(As for Voltaire word came that in a visit to England he had been very positively impressed with the Quakers: they didn't have 'hireling priests'.

Blake was born a dissenter; dissenters didn't have priests, but when he came to the age of reason he understood that 'priest' is a generic word embracing all faiths. To propagate (and perhaps live by??) the Law made one a priest in Blake's book. A priest by any name was still a priest, waving the law at people and financially profiting thereby.

Jesus also had problems with priests; the four gospels are full of accounts of that. Eventually the priests killed him.

Perhaps the first thing Blake said about priests is found in Plate 11 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:
"The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations,
and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve. And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity. Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects; thus began Priesthood.

Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.

And a length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things.Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast."

Back in Plate 9 we read"As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys. (Erdman 37)

In Plate 5 of Visions of the Daughters of Albion:"The doors of marriage are open, and the Priests in rustling scales Rush into reptile coverts, hiding from the fires of Orc" (Erdman 49)

Or read A Little Boy Lost, Song 50 of Songs of Experience at Erdman 28 (that's a wow!) and on and on it goes. In Jerusalem, plate 69 at Erdman 223:

"Embraces are Comminglings: from the Head even to the Feet: And not a pompous High Priest entering by a Secret Place."


The zoa, Urizen, was the form with which Blake explicated the defiencies of priesthood. The priest of necessity puts himself in place of God, violating the first Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me"

Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;
And gave him a place in the north,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary"(Erdman 70).

Blake hated priests, and he hated what Urizen represented to him in his myth (his System).

The Elect are the priests (discussed in Blake's Milton).
Speaking of the Daughters of Albion:
"the Elect cannot be Redeemed, but Created continually
By Offering & Atonement in the cruelties of Moral Law" (Erdman 98).

Blake organized Mankind into three categories:
The Elect, the Redeemed, and the Reprobate. The Elect were the Priests:
"And the Three Classes of Men.....The first,
the Elect from before the foundation of the World;
The second, the Redeemed.
The Reprobate & form'd to destruction from the Mothers' womb" Erdman 100).

Thursday, November 17, 2011


The Compassion of Pharoah's Daughter
The Finding of Moses
from Victoria & Albert Museum


Songs & Ballads, (E 491)
"Auguries of Innocence

The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight"

[1] And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
[2] And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
[3] And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.
[4] And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
[5] And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
6] And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children.
[7] Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
[8] And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother.
[9] And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
[10] And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.

In the light of Blake's system of thought the babe in the picture of the finding of Moses means more than a simple illustration of an event. The appearance of the babe signals a transition to altered circumstances. The babe Moses became a seminal figure in the development of the culture of the Israelites. The sojourn and slavery on the Israelites in Egypt was brought to an end through the instrument of Moses. But the child was to absorb much from the culture of Egypt by being raised by the daughter of Pharoah.

Blake's poem The Mental Traveller can be seen to be related to the situation which Moses exemplified. He was taken in by the Egyptian culture, grew strong, overcame the ties which held him, and led his people to a new freedom. Blake sees the transformations which must occur in individual and societies in the symbol of the birth of the vigorous, insistent babe.

Songs & Ballads, (E 483)
"The Mental Traveller

I traveld thro' a Land of Men
A Land of Men & Women too
And heard & saw such dreadful things
As cold Earth wanderers never knew

For there the Babe is born in joy
That was begotten in dire woe
Just as we Reap in joy the fruit
Which we in bitter tears did sow

And if the Babe is born a Boy
He's given to a Woman Old
Who nails him down upon a rock
Catches his Shrieks in Cups of gold"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blake's Childhood

At the age of four young William ran screaming from his nursery to report to his mother that he had seen God looking in the window. That was the first of many such bizarre confrontations. (They went on for forty years before he satisfactorily and definitively identified God.) A happier event occurred at the age of eight when he sighted a tree full of angels. Eagerly he reported this vision as well; this would have earned him paternal chastisement except for the intercession of a compassionate mother. No doubt he learned from the experience that in social intercourse one must take into account differences of perceptibility.
    Thank God I never was sent to school
    To be Flogd into following the Style of a Fool
    (Satiric Verses Erdman 510)

We know little about Blake's parents, but their care of him proves unusual understanding; they must have been fully aware that they had a genius on their hands. Perhaps their most important decision came on William's first day in school. In accordance with prevailing pedagogical custom the schoolmaster severely birched a student. Young Blake, acting upon his keen sense of moral outrage, rose from his desk and made an immediate exit. It was his first and last experience with formal education. His father showed amazing respect for the child's judgment.

That decision meant that Blake missed the usual brainwashing, or call it social conditioning, that modern psychologists understand as the primary function of general education. It meant that he never learned to think society's way. Instead he thought, he saw, heard, tasted, and touched through his own doors of perception, and they retained their childlike clarity throughout his life. Child, youth, or old man he always knew whether or not the emperor had clothes on.

Instead of school he directed his own education, primarily centered in the Bible. In the place of ordinary social conditioning Blake was Bible soaked. The stories of Ezra and Ezekiel were as real to him as childhood games. He must have known large portions of the Bible word for word because line after line, digested, assimilated, and recreated, appear in the poetry he wrote throughout his life. You can bet that made a difference!

Although by no means wealthy Blake's father enrolled him at the age of ten in Pars Drawing School. He intended to give the boy first class training as an artist, but William with characteristic sensitivity declined to be favored this way at the expense of his brothers. Instead he proposed apprenticeship to an engraver, a more modest financial undertaking. His father took him to see William Ryland, the Royal engraver, and prepared to put down a princely sum for the apprenticeship, but the child objected on the basis of Ryland's looks; he told his father that he thought the man would live to be hanged. Once again the elder Blake respected the child's judgment, and sure enough, twelve years later Ryland was hanged for forgery.

At fourteen Blake began a seven year apprenticeship with James Basire, an old fashioned but respectable engraver. Blessed with understanding parents the young artist was equally fortunate in his choice of a master. Basire, too, carefully preserved the boy's individuality and sensitivity against the downward drag of the world. When he found his other apprentices exploiting Blake's innocence, he sent the child to Westminster Abbey to sketch the gothic art found there.

For the next five years Blake spent his days in this and other religious monuments communing with the images of legend and history. His imagination was nurtured and strengthened by the spiritual treasures of his country. One day he saw Jesus walking with the Twelve--and painted them. On another occasion he was present, the sole artist as it happened, when the embalmed body of a King Edward of the 15th Century was exhumed for inspection by the Antiquary Society.

Some of Blake's formative experiences he shared with his contemporaries but not with us. For example 18th Century measures against crime were rather repressive by modern standards; petty crimes such as picking pockets were punished by hanging. A few blocks from Blake's home was Tyburn, the public gallows. In all likelihood on at least one occasion the impressionable lad witnessed a ten year old child being hung for his crimes. Tyburn became one of the mature poet's continually recurring symbols; he often equated it with Calvary, and he conceived of Satan as Accuser and Avenger.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


After the death of his beloved younger brother Robert at the age of 19, Blake kept the notebook in which his brother had sketched. He continued to use the pages until they were crowded with poems, sketches and fragments of ideas. After Blake's death the book was in the possession of his friend Samuel Palmer; later it was purchased by Dante Gabriel Rossetti at which time it became known as the Rossetti Manuscript.

A late poem in the notebook sums up much of the character of our poet: his defiance, his faith and his all encompassing vision.

Songs & Ballads , Blake's Notebook, (E 477)
"Mock on Mock on Voltaire Rousseau
Mock on Mock on! tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind
And the wind blows it back again

And every sand becomes a Gem
Reflected in the beams divine
Blown back they blind the mocking Eye
But still in Israels paths they shine

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newtons Particles of light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israels tents do shine so bright"

Page from Blake's Notebook
BBC News Website

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blake's Bible III


Here is an Introductory post on this subject. What we know today as the Bible crystallized into the sacred book of Christianity in the fourth century. At that time the bishops set the canon and closed it. In the ages that followed it was carefully guarded, copied, studied and used by those who controlled the destiny of the Christian Church; it remained largely unavaliable to non-professionals.

The development of vernacular languages and the invention of printing put the Bible for the first time in the hands of ordinary laymen. The Protestant Reformation increased the availability of scripture to all believers. The resulting proliferation of interpretations dismayed Luther and Calvin as well as the old Church authorities. The reaction of the religious establishment to the wide use and diverse interpretations of the Bible caused a century of turmoil and violence (See CHAPTER SEVEN)

In England this instability reached its crisis in the l7th Century Civil War with the beheading of Charles I and the establishment of a commonwealth under non-Conformist direction. For a few brief years government censorship of printing stopped, which led to an explosion of spiritual creativity, largely inspired by non-Conformist biblical interpretations.

The fascinating story of the radical groups active in the years l640-50 is vividly and ably recounted by Christopher Hill in A World Turned Upside Down. His title is apt; the radical social, political, and spiritual ideas of the various religious groups shook the fabric of English society much as the New Testament church had turned the Roman world upside down.

Look at three of these radical ideas:
1. The Levellers and Diggers took the Hebrew doctrine of the Jubilee as biblical guidance for breaking up the land enclosures which had disinherited and made homeless thousands of English yeomen; Isaiah had also condemned the immoral amassing of real property to control wealth.
2. The New Light Quakers emphasized the direct creative relationship between man and God without intermediaries; all the Lord's people were prophets as Moses had wished.
3. The Ranters understood Paul's doctrine of justification by faith to signal the end of all laws. They gave a radical freedom to the believer to follow his conscience in every particular of conduct; their spiritual descendants are the modern anarchists A.L.Morton in The Everlasting Gospel claimed that Blake was the last and best of the Ranters.

People have called Blake many things; Northrup Frye called him a "Bible soaked Protestant". He descended from the line of English non-Conformists who refused to read the Bible in the establishment way and insisted on attaching their own interpretation to it.

(A good example of Blake's commentary on the Bible comes at the beginning of the little book of Thel:

Where might the golden bowl come from? Look here. What is Blake saying here? Can you find love in a golden bowl? To grasp this lesson you have to understand that Revelations is poetry and Thel is poetry, which means the Lord may give us a great variety of meanings of Revelations 5 and of Thel, and of how they relate to one another. Think about it. If you get an idea, a new vision, share it. That's the way we learn Blake-- and the Bible.

Continuing on a few lines we come to The Lilly of the valley? Well who might that be? Look at an old hymn :

Look again at the context: "and gentle hear the voice Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time: The Lilly of the valley". Without question Blake speaks of the saviour, talking to our heroine and opening the spiritual and material realms to her. Blake has shared with us his vision of Christ-- one of many that came to him through his long life. Does he enrich our understanding of Christ? Yes, yes, I say.

With the Restoration in 1660 the contest in England over the biblical meaning of the Christian faith slowed to a virtual halt. Society came to attach less and less importance to such matters. In the century that followed the shapers of opinion fell increasingly under the influence of the materialism of Newton and Locke--faith in the five senses rather than in the metaphysical visions of the past.

Francis Bacon had written of a second scripture to which men might more fruitfully address their attention. Paine called it the Bible of Nature; writing his Age of Reason in the language of the common man he demolished the Hebrew Bible as a tissue of fabrications, which it certainly is to a reason confined to the five senses.

Since that time the Bible has remained a best seller, but used more often as an item of household furniture than as a book. In our day it has become unfashionable even for that purpose. But for Blake the Bible was the primary and continuous fountain for the ideas contained in his art.

He used it more liberally than any other student of the Bible I know. He consider it literature, and a source for creative ideas. The Bible was the chief intellectual source of all Blake's work, but he interpreted it unlike anyone else I know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Numbers 21
[5] And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
[6] And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
[7] Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
[8] And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
[9] And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
[10] And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.

                                                                                                                                                  The pole on which Blake pictures the fiery serpent erected by Moses is in the
Wikimedia Commons
Moses & the Brazen Serpent
shape of a cross. The serpent draped around the shoulders of Moses appears to be lifeless as are two other serpents on the right side of the picture. The two figures falling headfirst are encircled by serpents, a common symbol Blake uses for Satan or for Zoas being split from their unity. Several figures are in the position of penitent prayer.

The image of the serpent wrapped around a pole became the symbol of healing. Christ to whom we look for healing was raised upon the pole of the cross himself.

Although Blake considered Moses to be an inspired prophet he disagreed with Moses' accounts of God as vengeful. That God would send the fiery serpents on the people of Israel because they complained of their hardships, does not agree with the picture of the loving, forgiving God of the New Testament. A benevolent God could lead the people into finding a way to deal with a disease they encountered without having sent the disease as punishment.

Is this passage from Blake we find the right/left symbolism he used, and 'Satan wound round by the Serpent & falling headlong', in association with Moses and the Tables of Stone.

" To Ozias Humphry Esqre

The right hand of the Design is appropriated to the
Resurrection of the Just the left hand of the Design is
appropriated to the Resurrection & Fall of the Wicked
Immediately before the Throne of Christ is Adam & Eve
kneeling in humiliation as representatives of the whole Human
Race Abraham & Moses kneel on each side beneath them from the
cloud on which Eve kneels [ & beneath Moses & from the Tables
of Stone which utter lightnings] is seen Satan wound round
by the Serpent & falling headlong the Pharisees appear on the
left hand pleading their own righteousness before the Throne of

The fiery serpent in contemporary news is available in these articles: CNN, Carter Center, Health Media.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

All of Thel

All six of the individual posts re Thel have been brought into composite form, with some improvement. This file may be viewed at Thel. (Click on open link: tab or window.)

Friday, November 11, 2011


Moses receiving law
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

To Blake the law resulted from the fall of man. It was given as a temporary measure by Urizen to exercise control over desire in the absence of the Eternal Vision. What Murry calls the 'disastrous separation of Desire and Reason' causes true reason to become false reason (Urizen) which holds desire in chains. "But in the symbolic figure of Orc 'desire is not weak enough to be restrained', and does not sink into the shadow of Desire. It is not indeed pure Desire, because of the fatal separation has occurred. But it is desire with enough memory of its former state of grace to be in rebellion against the bondage of false reason."

Quote is from John Middleton Murry's William Blake, Page 86.

Here is some of what Blake wrote about Moses and about the law.

Song of Los, Plate 3, (E 67)
"Moses beheld upon Mount Sinai forms of dark delusion"

The Everlasting Gospel, PAGES 48-52, (E 521)
"Jesus was sitting in
Moses Chair
They brought the trembling Woman There

commands she be stoned to Death
What was the sound of Jesus breath
He laid his hand on
Moses Law
The Ancient Heavens in Silent Awe
Writ with Curses from Pole to Pole
All away began to roll"

Annotations to Watson, (E 618)
"All Penal Laws court Transgression & therefore are cruelty & Murder
The laws of the Jews were (both ceremonial & real) the
basest & most oppressive of human codes. & being like all other
codes given under pretence of divine command were what Christ
pronouncd them The Abomination that maketh desolate. i.e State
Religion which is the Source of all Cruelty"

America, Plate 8, (E 54)
"The terror answerd: I am Orc, wreath'd round the accursed tree:
The times are ended; shadows pass the morning gins to break;
The fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands,
What night he led the starry hosts thro' the wide wilderness:
That stony law I stamp to dust: and scatter religion abroad
To the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves;
But they shall rot on desart sands, & consume in bottomless deeps;
To make the desarts blossom, & the deeps shrink to their fountains,
And to renew the fiery joy, and burst the stony roof."

Blake is entirely Biblical in his understanding that the law of sin and death, the law of commandments and retribution, is transcended through living in Jesus whom he calls the Imagination.

[1] There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
[2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.