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"


Susan J. said...

could you maybe comment on the picture, or the quote being illustrated, Ellie?

I looked for Edward Young on the internet, found this interesting factoid in the Wikipedia entry, perhaps relevant to your Young quote:

"Young, living in a time when patronage was slowly fading out, was notable for urgently seeking patronage for his poetry, his theatrical works, and his career in the church: he failed in each area. He never received the degree of patronage that he felt his work had earned, largely because he picked patrons whose fortunes were about to turn downward."

Blake's illustration reminds me of what a friend of mine thinks, that the Serpent represents the alimentary canal -- we take in the good things, the food we like, the food that nourishes us; we digest what we can and poop out the remainder, the useless and smelly and undesirable: good in, evil out. That's Satan for you...

Susan J. said...

The "Rahab" in the Blake quote is Rahab from Job 9:13 and 26:12, not from Joshua chapters 2 & 6, right?

I'm just trying to sift through what these 2 guys are talking about. It's hard to get to the visionary if the outward metaphors don't lead me to some sort of meaning...

Livin' in the material world, as I am...


ellie said...

The man climbing the forbidden tree is transformed into a serpent. The human identity is lost in the fallen state and the serpent gains expression.

Since Blake made more than 500 watercolors for publication in NIGHT THOUGHTS and only about 40 were published, there is A wealth of unpublished images.

The picture is so striking that it can spark the mental fires.


ellie said...

I don't see Rahab in Job.

Blake developed his character Rahab going beyond Joshua's account. Since Blake's Rahab was unable to distinguish between a man's identity and the state he was in, she imputed sin and started a chain reaction of degradation.

Moral Virtue & Rahab:


Susan J. said...

thanks, Ellie -- the image is indeed evocative -- I appreciate your help. What an elegant turn of phrase: "The human identity is lost in the fallen state and the serpent gains expression."


Here's a random assortment of Rahab reference in various English translations... Rahab the sea monster, not Rahab the harlot. I wish I had my copy of Damon here...

Psalm 89:10 (NIV) You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

Isaiah 51:9 (KJV) Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generaions of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?

Job 9:13 (NRSV) God will not turn back his anger; the helpers of Rahab bowed beneath him.

Job 26:12 (NET) By his power he stills the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab the great sea monster to pieces.

And, from the NET Bible notes on Job:26:12 --

tn Heb "Rahab", the mythical sea monster that represents the forces of chaos in ancient Near Eastern literature. In the translation the words "the great sea monster" have been supplied appositionally in order to clarify "Rahab."

sn Here again there are possible mythological allusions or polemics. The god Yam, "Sea," was important in Ugaritic as a god of chaos. And Rahab is another name for the monster of the deep (see Job 9:13).


Maybe Blake had in mind both Rahab the harlot from Joshua, AND Rahab the mythical sea-monster from ancient creation stories?

I could see that, in this Milton passage I found in your "ahab & Tirzah" post, Aug 10, 2010:

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
"No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War
Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw


Are you familiar with the NET Bible? It's a wonderful on-line resource. It has good "Rahab" notes on if not all of the above Bible verses, concerning Rahab-the-mythological-character:


as always -- thanks so much!!

Susan J. said...

Sorry for the typos.. should be generations not generaions, and Rahab not ahab...

Here's one more NETbible note:

Job 9:13 “Rahab” is not to be confused with the harlot of the same name from Jericho. “Rahab” is identified with Tiamat of the Babylonian creation epic, or Leviathan of the Canaanite myths. It is also used in parallelism to the sea (26:12), or the Red Sea (Ps 74:13), and so comes to symbolize Egypt (Isa 30:7). In the Babylonian Creation Epic there is reference to the helpers of Tiamat. In the Bible the reference is only to the raging sea, which the Lord controlled at creation.

Susan J. said...

ooh.. ooh.. check this out! Rahab(Blake) = Rahab (harlot) + Rahab (sea monster) by way of Sea Monster (Revelation). :-)

ellie said...

The Bloom book is a real find.

Blake's Leviathan in Illustrations to Job:

Many thanks for your help,