Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Blake's picture titled Queen Katharine's Dream is an illustration to lines from William Shakespeare's play Henry VII. Blake choose to illustrate lines from the play which echo his own feelings. As Katharine of Aragon the first wife of Henry lies on her deathbed she reports a dream which she had of the glorious world which awaited her.

Henry VIII , Scene IV
No? Saw you not, even now, a blessed troop
Invite me to a banquet; whose bright faces
Cast thousand beams upon me, like the sun?
They promised me eternal happiness;
And brought me garlands, Griffith, which I feel
I am not worthy yet to wear: I shall, assuredly.
I am most joyful, madam, such good dreams
Possess your fancy."

Blake painted illustrations for this scene at least three times. A earliest image of the scene resides in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and is dated between 1783 and 1790. Look for motifs from Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake's lithograph of Enoch, and Plate 33 (37) of Jerusalem in this painting. Shown here are the later images.

British Museum, London (dated 1809).................
National Gallery, Washington (dated 1825)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Plate 33


Jerusalem, Plate 33 [37], (E 179)
"And One stood forth from the Divine Family &,said
I feel my Spectre rising upon me! Albion! arouze thyself! 
Why dost thou thunder with frozen Spectrous wrath against us? 
The Spectre is, in Giant Man; insane, and most deform'd. 
Thou wilt certainly provoke my Spectre against thine in fury! 
He has a Sepulcher hewn out of a Rock ready for thee: 
And a Death of Eight thousand years forg'd by thyself, upon 
The point of his Spear! if thou persistest to forbid with Laws 
Our Emanations, and to attack our secret supreme delights 
So Los spoke: But when he saw blue death in Albions feet,

Again he join'd the Divine Body, following merciful;

While Albion fled more indignant! revengeful covering
Plate 34
His face and bosom with petrific hardness,"

Notes: The text is short, but a picture calls for a detailed explanation:

Two pictures, separated by the short text:

The picture above shows a strickened Albion, his head supported  by a merciful Savior.  Below is a very dark moon.

Immediately below 'While Albion fled..' you may observe a bat-like figure...the spectre with two eyes and a sharpened beak pointed directly at the sleeping figure below.
A more detailed  image shows who seems to be Jerusalem encased in Vala's veil. This of course is a symbol of Albion's fallen condition -- in the light of a moon (full on the left and new on the right).
Below the couch is the sea, but is that bottom wave serpentine?
(Jerusalem, edited by Morton D Paley, page 188)
'The upper design shows..Albion..sunk down "between the Palm Tree and the Oak of Weeping", between the symbol of the Triumph Entry into Jerusalem and the tree in Golgotha where the Lord was crucified.
The 'winged disk' (with stars) is "an ancient symbol of divinity", and he quoted in FZ, Night Seven "thou knowest that the Spectre is in Every Man insane brutish." The original reading of 'blue death'  is 'pale death'.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Virgin & Child in Egypt

The gospel of Luke records the song Mary sang when her cousin Elizabeth recognised that the Lords's promise of salvation was to be fulfilled through the child Mary was to bear.

Luke 1
[41] And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
[42] And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
[43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
[44] For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
[45] And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
[46] And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
[47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
[48] For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
[49] For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
[50] And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
[51] He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
[52] He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
[53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
[54] He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
[55] As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

In Jerusalem Blake similarly has Mary burst into song but the occasion is the realisation that she is forgiven by God and by Joseph. Blake chooses to have Mary represent the sinner who calls upon God to forgive because it is his nature to forgive.

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"But Jehovahs Salvation
Is without Money & without Price, in the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not!"

To Blake to be forgiven was more worthy than to be pure. His Jesus was borne by a Mother who knew that she was not to be glorified. She was made pure through God's mercy. She knew that she could make no claim of virtue. Through mercy she became acquainted with the Divine Humanity, the God of Pity, compassion, and forgiveness.

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"And this is the Covenant
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:
That He Himself may Dwell among You. Fear not then to take
To thee Mary thy Wife, for she is with Child by the Holy Ghost

Then Mary burst forth into a Song! she flowed like a River of
Many Streams in the arms of Joseph & gave forth her tears of joy
Like many waters, and Emanating into gardens & palaces upon
Euphrates & to forests & floods & animals wild & tame from
Gihon to Hiddekel, & to corn fields & villages & inhabitants
Upon Pison & Arnon & Jordan. And I heard the voice among
The Reapers Saying, Am I Jerusalem the lost Adulteress? or am I
Babylon come up to Jerusalem? And another voice answerd Saying

Does the voice of my Lord call me again? am I pure thro his Mercy
And Pity. Am I become lovely as a Virgin in his sight who am
Indeed a Harlot drunken with the Sacrifice of Idols does he
Call her pure as he did in the days of her Infancy when She
Was cast out to the loathing of her person. The Chaldean took
Me from my Cradle. The Amalekite stole me away upon his Camels
Before I had ever beheld with love the Face of Jehovah; or known
That there was a God of Mercy: O Mercy O Divine Humanity!
O Forgiveness & Pity & Compassion! If I were Pure I should never
Have known Thee; If I were Unpolluted I should never have
Glorified thy Holiness, or rejoiced in thy great Salvation.

Mary leaned her side against Jerusalem, Jerusalem recieved
The Infant into her hands in the Visions of Jehovah. Times passed on
Jerusalem fainted over the Cross & Sepulcher She heard the voice
Wilt thou make Rome thy Patriarch Druid & the Kings of Europe his
Horsemen? Man in the Resurrection changes his Sexual Garments at will
Every Harlot was once a Virgin: every Criminal an Infant Love!"

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Plate 32

PLATE 46 [32]

Leaning against the pillars, & his discase rose from his skirts

Upon the Precipice he stood! ready to fall into Non-Entity.

Los was all astonishment & terror: he trembled sitting on the


Vala and Jerusalem
Of London: but the interiors of Albions fibres & nerves were
From Los; astonishd be beheld only the petrified surfaces:
And saw his Furnaces in ruins, for Los is the Demon of the
He saw also the Four Points of Albion reversd inwards
He siezd his Hammer & Tongs, his iron Poker & his Bellows,
Upon the valleys of Middlesex, Shouting loud for aid Divine.

In stern defiance came from Albions bosom Hand, Hyle, Koban,

Gwantok, Peachy, Brertun, Slaid, Huttn, Skofeld, Kock, Kotope

- 195 -Bowen: Albions Sons: they bore him a golden couch into the porch

And on the Couch reposd his limbs, trembling from the bloody
Rearing their Druid Patriarchal rocky Temples around his limbs.
(All things begin & end, in Albions Ancient Druid Rocky Shore.)


This text obviously bears little acquaintance with the text. It seems best to discuss the picture, which is one of the most obvious contraries between Vala and Jerusalem. The veiled figure on the left is obviously Vala and the naked figure in the center Jerusalem. (Veils and nakedness have often been explained to differentiate between the garment of worldlings and the nakedness in Eternity, which is to say that Vala represents the world and materiality while Jerusalem (the bride of Christ) represents the nakedness with which we all expect to arrive at the Heavenly Gate.

Note that the church at the lower left is St. Paul, the citadel of Anglicanism, a flawed institution, especially in Blake's time, while the one on the right is Westminster Abbey, which goes back way before the Reformation. Once again, a marker between materiality and eternity.

Vala is dark- like Ulro, while Jerusalem is radiant.

The three younger figures clutched around Jerusalem might be called her daughters.

Friday, January 27, 2012


British Museum
'The Christian Triumph', illustration to Young's 'Night Thoughts'
Frontispiece to Night the Fourth

Blake seems to have lived through the 7TH and 8TH chapters of Romans. His struggles with the demonic forces in the world as well as his self-condemnation and doubt showed him the wretchedness from which only Christ could release him. Emerging into the Light gave him the strength to continue conquering.

Romans 7
[23] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
[24] O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
[25] I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Letters, 22, (E 719)

[To] Mr Butts, Gr Marlborough Street

"Felpham Novr. 22: 18O2
But You will justly enquire why I have not written All this
time to you? I answer I have been very Unhappy & could not think
of troubling you about it or any of my real Friends (I have
written many letters to you which I burnd & did not send)
And now let me finish with assuring you that Tho I have been
very unhappy I am so no longer I am again Emerged into the light
of Day I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore
him who is the Express image of God but I have traveld thro
Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion I have Conquerd and shall
still Go on Conquering Nothing can withstand the fury of my
Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser My
Enthusiasm is still what it was only Enlarged and confirmd"

Romans 8
[34] Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
[35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
[36] As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
[37] Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
[38] For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
[39] Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Post on second part of Blake's letter to Butts (Nov 22, 1802): ON THE WALK TO LAVANT.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Illustrations to the Book of Job
Linnell Set
Picture 14

Blake's famous concept of Fourfold is something of a misnomer. The fourfoldness of Blake's system is repeated at multiple levels. For instance, the Zoas each contained aspects of the three other Zoas. The mathematical concept of fractals may give us a handle on the way Blake keeps dividing his entities into replicas at more minute scales. The information contained at each level of the fractal supplies the information for other levels. Just as the hologram contains all of the information for the entire image in each particular, each iteration of the fractal is a replication of the original. Blake's multiple divisions allow us to examine the repetition of manifestations of archetypical entities as they are visible in multiple situations.

In this passage from Jerusalem, Blake is clearly inviting us to dig deeper as we explore the gates through which transitions are accomplished. I've divided the passage into sections to emphasise the repetition of four within each of the four gates. I've italicised the number four of which there are 17 occurrences.

Jerusalem , Plate 12, (E 156)

"And the
Four Points are thus beheld in Great Eternity

West, the Circumference: South, the Zenith: North,
The Nadir: East, the Center, unapproachable for ever.
These are the
four Faces towards the Four Worlds of Humanity
In every Man. Ezekiel saw them by Chebars flood.
And the Eyes are the South, and the Nostrils are the East.
And the Tongue is the West, and the Ear is the North.

And the North Gate of Golgonooza toward Generation;
four sculpturd Bulls terrible before the Gate of iron.
And iron, the Bulls: and that which looks toward Ulro,
Clay bak'd & enamel'd, eternal glowing as
four furnaces:
Turning upon the Wheels of Albions sons with enormous power.
And that toward Beulah four, gold, silver, brass, & iron:

And that toward Eden,
four, form'd of gold, silver, brass, &

The South, a golden Gate, has
four Lions terrible, living!
That toward Generation,
four, of iron carv'd wondrous:
That toward Ulro,
four, clay bak'd, laborious workmanship
That toward Eden,
four; immortal gold, silver, brass & iron.

The Western Gate
fourfold, is closd: having four Cherubim
Its guards, living, the work of elemental hands, laborious task!
Like Men, hermaphroditic, each winged with eight wings
That towards Generation, iron; that toward Beulah, stone;
That toward Ulro, clay: that toward Eden, metals.
But all clos'd up till the last day, when the graves shall yield
their dead

The Eastern Gate, fourfold: terrible & deadly its ornaments:
Taking their forms from the Wheels of Albions sons; as cogs
Are formd in a wheel, to fit the cogs of the adverse wheel.

That toward Eden, eternal ice, frozen in seven folds
Of forms of death: and that toward Beulah, stone:
The seven diseases of the earth are carved terrible.

And that toward Ulro, forms of war: seven enormities:
And that toward Generation, seven generative forms.

And every part of the City is fourfold; & every inhabitant,
And every pot & vessel & garment & utensil of the houses,
And every house,
fourfold; but the third Gate in every one
Is closd as with a threefold curtain of ivory & fine linen &
And Luban stands in middle of the City. a moat of fire,
Surrounds Luban, Los's Palace & the golden Looms of Cathedron."

Blake's symbols do not readily yield their content. This is partly because the meaning they convey can be read as viewed from afar or from close-up. We focus our eyes on the object or on a plane to which we want to give attention. Blake has written in such a way that the focus of our attention will allow us to move about his worlds in their infinite variety.

Letters , 16, to Thomas Butts, (E 712)
"Each grain of Sand
Every Stone on the Land
Each rock & each hill
Each fountain & rill
Each herb & each tree
Mountain hill Earth & Sea
Cloud Meteor & Star
Are Men Seen Afar"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Post 31

Plate 31
PLATE 45 [31]
His western heaven with rocky clouds of death & despair.

Fearing that Albion should turn his back against the Divine
Los took his globe of fire to search the interiors of Albions
Bosom, in all the terrors of friendship, entering the caves
Of despair & death, to search the tempters out, walking among
Albions rocks & precipices! caves of solitude & dark despair,
And saw every Minute Particular of Albion degraded & murderd
But saw not by whom; they were hidden within in the minute
Of which they had possessd themselves; and there they take up
The articulations of a mans soul, and laughing throw it down
Into the frame, then knock it out upon the plank, & souls are
In bricks to build the pyramids of Heber & Terah. But Los
Searchd in vain: closd from the minutia he walkd, difficult.
He came down from Highgate thro Hackney & Holloway towards London
Till he came to old Stratford & thence to Stepney & the Isle
Of Leuthas Dogs, thence thro the narrows of the Rivers side
And saw every minute particular, the jewels of Albion, running
The kennels of the streets & lanes as if they were abhorrd.
Every Universal Form, was become barren mountains of Moral
Virtue: and every Minute Particular hardend into grains of sand:
And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth & mire,
Among the winding places of deep contemplation intricate
To where the Tower of London frownd dreadful over Jerusalem:
A building of Luvah builded in Jerusalems eastern gate to be
His secluded Court: thence to Bethlehem where was builded
Dens of despair in the house of bread: enquiring in vain
Of stones and rocks he took his way, for human form was none:
And thus he spoke, looking on Albions City with many tears

What shall I do! what could I do, if I could find these
I could not dare to take vengeance; for all things are so
And builded by the Divine hand, that the sinner shall always
And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray!
O Albion, if thou takest vengeance; if thou revengest thy wrongs
Thou art for ever lost! What can I do to hinder the Sons
Of Albion from taking vengeance? or how shall I them perswade.

So spoke Los, travelling thro darkness & horrid solitude:
And he beheld Jerusalem in Westminster & Marybone,
Among the ruins of the Temple: and Vala who is her Shadow,
Jerusalems Shadow bent northward over the Island white.
At length he sat on London Stone, & heard Jerusalems voice.

Albion I cannot be thy Wife. thine own Minute Particulars,
Belong to God alone. and all thy little ones are holy
They are of Faith & not of Demonstration: wherefore is Vala
Clothd in black mourning upon my rivers currents, Vala awake!
I hear thy shuttles sing in the sky, and round my limbs
I feel the iron threads of love & jealousy & despair.

Vala reply'd. Albion is mine! Luvah gave me to Albion
And now recieves reproach & hate. Was it not said of old
Set your Son before a man & he shall take you & your sons
For slaves: but set your Daughter before a man & She
Shall make him & his sons & daughters your slaves for ever!
And is this Faith? Behold the strife of Albion, & Luvah
Is great in the east, their spears of blood rage in the eastern
Urizen is the champion of Albion, they will slay my Luvah:
And thou O harlot daughter! daughter of despair art all
This cause of these shakings of my towers on Euphrates.
Here is the House of Albion, & here is thy secluded place
And here we have found thy sins: & hence we turn thee forth,
For all to avoid thee: to be astonishd at thee for thy sins:
Because thou art the impurity & the harlot: & thy children!
Children of whoredoms: born for Sacrifice: for the meat & drink
Offering: to sustain the glorious combat & the battle & war
That Man may be purified by the death of thy delusions.

So saying she her dark threads cast over the trembling River:
And over the valleys; from the hills of Hertfordshire to the
Of Surrey across Middlesex & across Albions House
Of Eternity! pale stood Albion at his eastern gate,
(Erdman 194-5)

The bottom picture:

The figure on the left is Vala; she holds a spindle in her
right hand and in her left she passes the thread between
her legs and enmeshes Jerusalem in her vale. Reading line 48-9 Jerusalem says 'round my limbs I feel the iron threads of jealousy and despair' (Morton Paley; page 180).

'The pyramids of Heber and Terah' Heber was the son of Shem, father of the Semites(?). Terah was Abraham's father.

The post concerns Los and his globe of fire. Highgate, Hackney, and Holloway are various locations away from London as are Straford, Stepney, and the Isle of Leutha's Dogs; Blake is telling us that Los made his journey through southwestern England searching for the interiors of Albions bosom. (The man had a vivid imagination!)

The fallen Albion obviously had a dismal bosom; this may be Blake's way of commenting on Luke 16:19-26. Albion and (father) Abraham might well be compared; therefore Blake might be commenting of the iron laws of the Old Testament.

There's much more to this plate!!



Monday, January 23, 2012


Milton's Mysterious Dream,
Watercolor Illustration to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso
Wikimedia Commons

Each person creates his own universe according to Blake and he takes it with him wherever he goes. His reasoning mind provides an abstraction of a microscopic or macroscopic world,
but man lives within the cavern of his skull.

Milton, PLATE 29 [31], (E 127)

"The Sky is an immortal tent built by the Sons of Los
And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:
Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;
And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:
The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set
On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move.
Wher'eer he goes & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss:
Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension:
As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner,
As of a Globe rolling thro Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro"

In the Eternal world there is no differentiation among aspects of existence because all belong to one reality and can enter into each other through the means of mind or body. In the limited existence where we dwell, the individuality experiences itself as mind and body, internal and external, oneself and other. The imagination contains the paradigm whose shadow is projected externally and perceived as exterior worlds.

Jerusalem , Plate 71, (E 225)
"For all are Men in Eternity. Rivers Mountains Cities Villages,
All are Human & when you enter into their Bosoms you walk
In Heavens & Earths; as in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven
And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within
In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is but a

The confusion between the subjective and objective infects the mind which cannot distinguish between what is internal mental processing and the projected world of mind created images.

Jerusalem , PLATE 32 [36], (E 179)
"As Los bended the Senses of Reuben Reuben is Merlin
Exploring the Three States of Ulro; Creation; Redemption. &

And many of the Eternal Ones laughed after their manner

Have you known the judgment that is arisen among the
Zoa's of Albion? where a Man dare hardly to embrace
His own Wife, for the terrors of Chastity that they call
By the name of Morality. their Daughters govern all
In hidden deceit! they are Vegetable only fit for burning
Art & Science cannot exist but by Naked Beauty displayd

Then those in Great Eternity who contemplate on Death
Said thus. What seems to Be: Is: To those to whom
It seems to Be, & is productive of the most dreadful
Consequences to those to whom it seems to Be: even of
Torments, Despair, Eternal Death; but the Divine Mercy
Steps beyond and Redeems Man in the Body of Jesus Amen
And Length Bredth Highth again Obey the Divine Vision Hallelujah"

The distortion of Eternal reality which results from the assumptions made in Ulro (the exclusively material world) is seen to amuse the Eternals. But they realize that the illusions which are thought to be real produce consequences which seem to the individual to be just as real as if they were accurate descriptions of Eternal realities. The undistorted perception is reached through receiving the integration of spirit and matter achieved and made available through Christ.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Plate 29

PLATE 29 [33]
Turning his back to the Divine Vision, his Spectrous
Chaos before his face appeard: an Unformed Memory.

Then spoke the Spectrous Chaos to Albion darkning cold
From the back & loins where dwell the Spectrous Dead

I am your Rational Power O Albion & that Human Form
You call Divine, is but a Worm seventy inches long
That creeps forth in a night & is dried in the morning sun
In fortuitous concourse of memorys accumulated & lost
It plows the Earth in its own conceit, it overwhelms the Hills
Beneath its winding labyrinths, till a stone of the brook
Stops it in midst of its pride among its hills & rivers[.]
Battersea & Chelsea mourn, London & Canterbury tremble
Their place shall not be found as the wind passes over[.]
The ancient Cities of the Earth remove as a traveller
And shall Albions Cities remain when I pass over them
With my deluge of forgotten remembrances over the tablet

So spoke the Spectre to Albion. he is the Great Selfhood
Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth
Having a white Dot calld a Center from which branches out
A Circle in continual gyrations. this became a Heart
From which sprang numerous branches varying their motions
Producing many Heads three or seven or ten, & hands & feet
Innumerable at will of the unfortunate contemplator
Who becomes his food[:] such is the way of the Devouring Power

And this is the cause of the appearance in the frowning Chaos[.]
Albions Emanation which he had hidden in jealousy
Appeard now in the frowning Chaos prolific upon the Chaos
Reflecting back to Albion in Sexual Reasoning Hermaphroditic

Albion spoke. Who art thou that appearest in gloomy pomp
Involving the Divine Vision in colours of autumn ripeness
I never saw thee till this time, nor beheld life abstracted
Nor darkness immingled with light on my furrowd field
Whence camest thou! who art thou O loveliest? the Divine Vision
Is as nothing before thee, faded is all life and joy

Vala replied in clouds of tears Albions garment embracing

I was a City & a Temple built by Albions Children.
I was a Garden planted with beauty I allured on hill & valley
The River of Life to flow against my walls & among my trees
Vala was Albions Bride & Wife in great Eternity
The loveliest of the daughters of Eternity when in day-break

I emanated from Luvah over the Towers of Jerusalem
And in her Courts among her little Children offering up
The Sacrifice of fanatic love! why loved I Jerusalem!
Why was I one with her embracing in the Vision of Jesus
Wherefore did I loving create love, which never yet
Immingled God & Man, when thou & I, hid the Divine Vision
In cloud of secret gloom which behold involve me round about

Know me now Albion: look upon me I alone am Beauty
The Imaginative Human Form is but a breathing of Vala
I breathe him forth into the Heaven from my secret Cave
Born of the Woman to obey the Woman O Albion the mighty
For the Divine appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love
(Erdman 175-6)


Albion turned has back on the Divine Vision, and his Spectre was a sorry replacement (it's like going from Heaven to Hell, which many of us do much of the time, perhaps always; Albion is us!)

The Spectre tells Albion that he's his Rational Power, and Man is very inconsequential ('a worm seventy inches long living (a half life!) only during the Night.

Blake goes on to name four British places that will disappear with time, much like the biblical places that the prophets excoriated (a home of jackals!)

The Spectre goes on to tell Albion he's
the Great Selfhood Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth"; his last line is just below the picture;

Two lions seem to be pulling a plow, directed by whom? The Spectre! Erdman sees the Spectre trying to push, rather than guide the plow, and he adds that the Spectre should be pulling it 'with Los in control'. (The Illuminated Blake, P 308).

Albion spoke to Vala accusing her of prostitution of the Divine Vision, with 'darkness immingled with light' and convincing him to hide the Divine Vision.

Vala replies convincing him to hide the Divine Vision. 'For the Divine appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love'.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


There are resemblances between Blake's thought and the current theories of cognition. In Fritjof Capra's The Web of Life we read of the development of theories of cognition which go under the names such as 'dynamical systems theory', 'the theory of complexity', 'nonlinear dynamics', and 'network dynamics.' Capra has attempted to follow the change of paradigms from the mechanistic to the ecological worldview in understanding living systems.

When I read of nonlinear thinking, feedback loops, and bringing forth a world, I am reminded that Blake spoke of these things in his own language of symbolic poetry 200 years ago.

p 264
"In the emerging theory of living systems mind is not a thing, but a process. It is cognition, the process of knowing, it is identified with the process of life itself. This is the essence of the Santiago theory of cognition, proposed by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela.
In ancient times the rational human mind was seen as merely one aspect of the immaterial soul, or spirit. The basic distinction was not between body and mind, but between body and soul, or body and spirit. While the differentiation between soul and spirit was fluid and fluctuated over time, both originally unified in themselves two concepts - that of the force of life and the activity of consciousness.
In the languages of ancient times both of these ideas are expressed through the metaphor of the breath of life. Indeed, the etymological roots of 'soul' and 'spirit' mean 'breath' in many antique languages."

p 267
"Since cognition traditionally is defined as the process of knowing, we must be able to describe it in terms of an organism's interactions with its environment. Indeed, this is what the Santiago theory does. The specific phenomena underlying the process of cognition is structural coupling. As we have seen, an autopoietic system undergoes continual structural change while preserving its weblike pattern of organization. It couples to its environment structurally in other words, through recurrent interactions, each of which triggers structural changes in the system. The living system is autonomous, however. The environment only triggers the structural changes, it does not specify or direct them.
Now, the living system not only specifies these structural changes, it also specifies which perturbations from the environment trigger them. This is the key to the Santiago theory of cognition. The structural changes in the system constitute acts of cognition. By specifying which perturbations from the environment trigger its changes, the system 'brings forth a world', as Maturana and Varela put it. Cognition, then, is then not a recognition of an independently existing world, but a continual bring forth of a world through the process of living."

p 271
"Maturana and Varela do not maintain that there is a void out there, out of which we create matter. There is a material world, but it does not have any predetermined features. The authors of the Santiago theory do not assert that 'nothing exists'; they assert that 'no things exist' independent to the process of cognition."

Image from New York Public Library Digital Gallery
Milton, Plate 45

Songs of Experience , Song 40, (E 23)


"Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath:
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die."

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
" He witherd up the Human Form,
By laws of sacrifice for sin:
Till it became a Mortal Worm:
But O! translucent all within.

The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine.

And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death"

Milton, Plate 26 [28], (E 122)
"These are the Sons of Los, & these the Labourers of the Vintage
Thou seest the gorgeous clothed Flies that dance & sport in
Upon the sunny brooks & meadows: every one the dance
Knows in its intricate mazes of delight artful to weave:
Each one to sound his instruments of music in the dance,
To touch each other & recede; to cross & change & return
These are the Children of Los; thou seest the Trees on mountains
The wind blows heavy, loud they thunder thro' the darksom sky
Uttering prophecies & speaking instructive words to the sons
Of men: These are the Sons of Los! These the Visions of Eternity

But we see only as it were the hem of their garments
When with our vegetable eyes we view these wond'rous Visions"

Friday, January 20, 2012

Plate 28

PLATE 28 [This is the beginning of Chapter 2 (To the Jews),
but the previous Plate directly addressed the Jews.]

                 Chap: 2.

Every ornament of perfection, and every labour of love,
In all the Garden of Eden, & in all the golden mountains
Was become an envied horror, and a remembrance of jealousy:
And every Act a Crime, and Albion the punisher & judge.

And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said                   

All these ornaments are crimes, they are made by the labours
Of loves: of unnatural consanguinities and friendships
Horrid to think of when enquired deeply into; and all
These hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin
I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!         
A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:
That Man be separate from Man, & here I plant my seat.

Cold snows drifted around him: ice coverd his loins around
He sat by Tyburns brook, and underneath his heel, shot up!
A deadly Tree, he nam'd it Moral Virtue, and the Law             
Of God who dwells in Chaos hidden from the human sight.

The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groand)
They bent down, they felt the earth and again enrooting
Shot into many a Tree! an endless labyrinth of woe!

From willing sacrifice of Self, to sacrifice of (miscall'd)
For Atonement: Albion began to erect twelve Altars,
Of rough unhewn rocks, before the Potters Furnace
He nam'd them Justice, and Truth. And Albions Sons
Must have become the first Victims, being the first 
But they fled to the mountains to seek ransom: building A 
Fortification against the Divine Humanity and Mercy,
In Shame & Jealousy to annihilate Jerusalem!
(Erdman 174)

Every ornament of perfection: The two paragraphs describe the  natural sequence of events in the world (or more properly in  Ulro when the Fall happened: this life is a Vale of Tears. The fallen Albion condemns everything good and beautiful to be Sin, condensed into hard rock and that 'Man be separate from Man'.   
  'Cold Snows': it's an Ice Age.
'Tyburns brook': As a boy Blake lived close to Tyburn, where frequent public hangings took place (often including small children). That was emphatically burned into his consciousness and may have led to his frequent mention of Druidic practices.  
'A deadly Tree': the Tree of Mystery, where Christ was crucified. (The Tree was mentioned in the Old Testament.) It was related to the Law of Moses, with all its 'thou shalt nots'. The Tree grew and turned into a banyan, 'an endless labyrinth of woe'.  

The Eternal mode is 'self-sacrifice', but after the Fall it  became sacrifice of (miscall'd) Enemies.  You and I may struggle with the last paragraph. 

The Picture: (Click on this picture, and it will enlarge
many fold. 
The two lovers in the lilly are lovely, but notice the snake that's coiled around them. The two lovers of course are Adam and Eve, The first paragraph of the text shows the lilly as the Garden of Eden. (Some people interpret the long rope as a veil.)

In later copies of this plate the lovers can be seen as
two females, namely Vala and Jerusalem; it's like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Erdman (307) thought the background to be the Thames.

There appear four fish, the second one (where Albion 'plants his seat' thought to be a kind of shrimp.)


Thursday, January 19, 2012


The mental world in which the imagination lives is the world to which Blake invites us. In one of his first illuminated works, There is no Natural Religion, he teaches that the sense organs do not provide the totality of perception. The mind processes the input which the senses receive. Art and science which depend on presenting descriptions of the material world as perceived by the senses, without seeking the element of the Eternal which is revealed through Imagination, is to Blake bad art and science. The exterior world receives its meaning from the mind that perceives it - not the reverse. Thought for Blake is ever active: engaging in intellectual conflict which creates 'Mental forms" which build the 'Universe stupendous.'

There is No Natural Religion , Series b, Plate 2, (E 2)
"I . Mans perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception. he
percieves more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover."

A Vision of the Last Judgment , (E 565)
"The Last Judgment is an Overwhelming of Bad Art & Science.
Mental Things are alone Real what is Calld Corporeal Nobody Knows
of its Dwelling Place is in Fallacy & its Existence an
Imposture Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought Where is
it but in the Mind of a Fool. Some People flatter themselves
that there will be No Last Judgment & that Bad Art will be
adopted & mixed with Good Art That Error or Experiment will make
a Part of Truth & they Boast that it is its Foundation these
People flatter themselves I will not Flatter them Error is
Created Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up &
then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up
the Moment Men cease to behold it I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it
will be Questiond When the Sun rises do you not see a round
Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable
company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord
God Almighty I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any
more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight I look
thro it & not with it.

Milton , Plate 1, (E 95)
"Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for
ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War. Painters! on you I
call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fash[i]onable Fools
to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for
contemptible works or the expensive advertizing boasts that they
make of such works; believe Christ & his Apostles that there is a
Class of Men whose whole delight is in Destroying. We do not
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord."

Milton , PLATE 30 [33], (E 129)
"Lo the Eternal Great Humanity
To whom be Glory & Dominion Evermore Amen
Walks among all his awful Family seen in every face
As the breath of the Almighty. such are the words of man to man
In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Plate 27

 The length of the text in this plate is monumental. You could usually use 10
posts to show it all. Here we can only make a few scattered remards; I will
only touch on somed words that might seem mysterious to the reader:

Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion! I wonder if Blake wasn't
expressing amazement at the idea: Jerusalem is a place in Palestine for most
of us, but it meant something very differenent to Blake; for him it
poetically connotes the better side of Abion (Mankind), the spiritual or
Eternal side. In the same way Vala expressed the material, temporal side
of Albion.

The idea that Jerusalem was the 'Seat' of universal religion; it was the
The Religion of Jesus! (This he said to the Jews.)

Jerusalem was also a song at the beginning of Milton, a song that voters in
the Labor party in England considered their national anthem.

To study and enjoy Blake, or any meaningful poetry you have to be willing
to entertain (in your imagination at least) multiple meanings or
connotations of words. Jerusalem became the name of Blake's epic poem and

It goes on to relate the Old Testament patriarches to Druidism, and he
equates the patriarches with oak groves. (That's poetry!!)
What follows is a beautiful nature poem, reminiscent of the time when the
boy went gamboling over the environs of London, filled with pleasant
memories, among the boys was the lamb of God with Jerusalem, his bride:
(exquisite!) with forgiveness for all.

But it's interrupted by the 'mighty ruin' (the fallen Garden of Eden)
with the 'fatal tree' of mystery (often thought of as an apple tree)
that Adam and Eve disobediently ate, the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

And here we have one of so many pointed and succinct oppositions
between Innocence and Experience. It's the fate of all to begin in
Innocence and proceed to Experience.

Blake's work is poetic, philosophic and sermonic.

Albion's Spectre brings forth Satan and cataclysm.

Beginning on page 173, after a paragraph of woe we find
"The Divine Vision still was seen" in the form of Jesus, who
'entered through the Gates of Birth' and passed through
'the Gates of Death' (pure gospel).

Then Blake(?) confesses that he killed Jesus in his self-righteous
pride and asks for the 'Spirit of his Love' and claims the
Spectre as his own Selfhood (Satan)

(Satan is not a person, but a State we may at any time enter.)

Text of PLATE 27

To the Jews.

Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion! Can it be? Is it a
Truth that the Learned have explored? Was Britain the Primitive
Seat of the Patriarchal Religion? If it is true: my title-page is
also True, that Jerusalem was & is the Emanation of the Giant
Albion. It is True, and cannot be controverted. Ye are united O
ye Inhabitants of Earth in One Religion. The Religion of Jesus:
the most Ancient, the Eternal: & the Everlasting Gospel--The
Wicked will turn it to Wickedness,
the Righteous to Righteousness. Amen! Huzza! Selah!
"All things Begin & End in Albions Ancient Druid Rocky Shore."

Your Ancestors derived their origin from Abraham, Heber, Shem,
and Noah, who were Druids: as the Druid Temples (which are the
Patriarchal Pillars & Oak Groves) over the whole Earth witness to
this day.
You have a tradition, that Man anciently containd in his mighty
limbs all things in Heaven & Earth: this you recieved from the
"But now the Starry Heavens are fled from the mighty limbs of

Albion was the Parent of the Druids; & in his Chaotic State of
Sleep Satan & Adam & the whole World was Created by the Elohim.

The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint Johns Wood:
Were builded over with pillars of gold,
And there Jerusalems pillars stood.

Her Little-ones ran on the fields
The Lamb of God among them seen
And fair Jerusalem his Bride:
Among the little meadows green.

- 171 -

Pancrass & Kentish-town repose
Among her golden pillars high:
Among her golden arches which
Shine upon the starry sky.

The Jews-harp-house & the Green Man;
The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight:
The fields of Cows by Willans farm:
Shine in Jerusalems pleasant sight.

She walks upon our meadows green:
The Lamb of God walks by her side:
And every English Child is seen,
Children of Jesus & his Bride,

Forgiving trespasses and sins
Lest Babylon with cruel Og,
With Moral & Self-righteous Law
Should Crucify in Satans Synagogue!

What are those golden Builders doing
Near mournful ever-weeping Paddington
Standing above that mighty Ruin
Where Satan the first victory won.

Where Albion slept beneath the Fatal Tree
And the Druids golden Knife,
Rioted in human gore,
In Offerings of Human Life

They groan'd aloud on London Stone
They groand aloud on Tyburns Brook
Albion gave his deadly groan,
And all the Atlantic Mountains shook

Albions Spectre from his Loins
Tore forth in all the pomp of War!
Satan his name: in flames of fire
He stretch'd his Druid Pillars far.

Jerusalem fell from Lambeth's Vale,
Down thro Poplar & Old Bow;
Thro Malden & acros the Sea,
In War & howling death & woe.

The Rhine was red with human blood:
The Danube rolld a purple tide:
On the Euphrates Satan stood:
And over Asia stretch'd his pride.

- 172 -

He witherd up sweet Zions Hill,
From every Nation of the Earth:
He witherd up Jerusalems Gates,
And in a dark Land gave her birth.

He witherd up the Human Form,
By laws of sacrifice for sin:
Till it became a Mortal Worm:
But O! translucent all within.

The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine.

And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death

And O thou Lamb of God, whom I
Slew in my dark self-righteous pride:
Art thou return'd to Albions Land!
And is Jerusalem thy Bride?

Come to my arms & never more
Depart; but dwell for ever here:
Create my Spirit to thy Love:
Subdue my Spectre to thy Fear,

Spectre of Albion! warlike Fiend!
In clouds of blood & ruin roll'd:
I here reclaim thee as my own
My Selfhood! Satan! armd in gold.

Is this thy soft Family-Love
Thy cruel Patriarchal pride
Planting thy Family alone
Destroying all the World beside.

A mans worst enemies are those
Of his own house & family;
And he who makes his law a curse,
By his own law shall surely die.

In my Exchanges every Land
Shall walk, & mine in every Land,
Mutual shall build Jerusalem:
Both heart in heart & hand in hand.

- 173 -

If Humility is Christianity; you O Jews are the true
Christians; If your tradition that Man contained in his Limbs,
all Animals, is True & they were separated from him by cruel
Sacrifices: and when compulsory cruel Sacrifices had brought
Humanity into a Feminine Tabernacle, in the loins of Abraham &
David: the Lamb of God, the Saviour became apparent on Earth as
the Prophets had foretold? The Return of Israel is a Return to

Mental Sacrifice & War. Take up the Cross O Israel & follow

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Blake's engraving of Death's Door for Blair's Grave

Blake's watercolor of Death's Door from which the engraving was made (courtesy of Blake Archive).
Click on image to see the perfection of Blake's line and the delicate use of color.

Schiavonetti's engraving of Blake's image as published in Cromek's edition of Blair's Grave

Illustrations to the Grave eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library

W. J. T. Mitchell's chapter Blake's Composite Art in the anthology Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic edited by Erdman and Grant, attempts to enlighten us on how the relationship of the two sides of Blake's genius, painting and poetry, can best be understood. He sees the resolution of contraries including line and color in the images, to be the exercise which Blake continually repeats.

Page 75
"In spite of his theoretical preference for outline and form, Blake often obscures his outlines with opaque pigments and heavy drapery.
The resolution of this apparent contradiction between theory and practice lies in a fuller understanding of the theory. The subservience of light to form is, for Blake, a visual equivalent of an ideal condition:

Jerusalem, PLATE 54, (E 203)
In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives forth Emanates
Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine Vision
And the Light is his Garment

The relation of form to light is defined as that of the individual and his Emanation, or of consciousness and the external world which it projects. With the fall, however, consciousness becomes egotism (male will) and the external world becomes an independent Nature (female will). Form and light become, in this world, sexual principles working in opposition. The resolution of this opposition is attained by a procedure rather similar to the one we observed in the relation of text and design, a dialectic of contraries. When female nature, for instance, assumes an independent existence, it becomes 'An outside shadowy surface super-added to the real Surface; Which is unchangeable' (Jerusalem, Plate 83, E 241); that is color freed from outline and obscuring it is the visual equivalent of nature's obfuscating the imagination. The veil or garment is often used as a metaphor for this idea of this idea of color, and disposition of drapery in Blake's pictures can be seen to follow the same principles as his treatment of color... Blake clothes many of his figures to exhibit their immersion into the fallen world of time and space... In the 'Death's Door' illustration to Blair's Grave Blake similarly contrasts the entry into death (i.e., the fallen world) with the 'awakening to Eternal life' by setting the clothed figure who enters the grave against the naked figure atop the grave."

Jerusalem, Plate 83, (E 241)
[Voice of Los]
"That whatever is seen upon the Mundane Shell, the same
Be seen upon the Fluctuating Earth woven by the Sisters
And sometimes the Earth shall roll in the Abyss & sometimes
Stand in the Center & sometimes stretch flat in the Expanse,
According to the will of the lovely Daughters of Albion.
Sometimes it shall assimilate with mighty Golgonooza:
Touching its summits: & sometimes divided roll apart.
As a beautiful Veil so these Females shall fold & unfold
According to their will the outside surface of the Earth
An outside shadowy Surface superadded to the real Surface;
Which is unchangeable for ever & ever Amen
: so be it!
Separate Albions Sons gently from their Emanations,
Weaving bowers of delight on the current of infant Thames
Where the old Parent still retains his youth as I alas!
Retain my youth eight thousand and five hundred years.
The labourer of ages in the Valleys of Despair!"

Near the conclusion of his chapter Mitchell states:

"Significance is located in the dialectic between the permanence of outline and the mutability and momentary reality of color, just as in the poetry the continuity of consciousness is affirmed and realized in its ability persistently to give form to the changing manifestations of itself and the world it perceives." (Page 80)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Plate 19 of Jerusalem

Plate 19


His [Albion's] Children exil'd from his breast pass to and fro before him

His birds are silent on his hills, flocks die beneath his
His tents are fall'n! his trumpets, and the sweet sound of his
Are silent on his clouded hills, that belch forth storms & fire.
His milk of Cows, & honey of Bees, & fruit of golden harvest,
Is gather'd in the scorching heat, & in the driving rain:
Where once he sat he weary walks in misery and pain:
His Giant beauty and perfection fallen into dust:
Till from within his witherd breast grown narrow with his woes:
The corn is turn'd to thistles & the apples into poison:
The birds of song to murderous crows, his joys to bitter groans!
The voices of children in his tents, to cries of helpless
And self-exiled from the face of light & shine of morning,
In the dark world a narrow house! he wanders up and down,
Seeking for rest and finding none! and hidden far within,
His Eon weeping in the cold and desolated Earth.

All his Affections now appear withoutside: all his Sons,
Hand, Hyle & Coban, Guantok, Peachey, Brereton, Slayd & Hutton,
Scofeld, Kox, Kotope & Bowen; his Twelve Sons: Satanic Mill!
Who are the Spectres of the Twentyfour, each Double-form'd:
Revolve upon his mountains groaning in pain: beneath
The dark incessant sky, seeking for rest and finding none:
Raging against their Human natures, ravning to gormandize
The Human majesty and beauty of the Twentyfour.
Condensing them into solid rocks with cruelty and abborrence
Suspition & revenge, & the seven discases of the Soul
Settled around Albion and around Luvah in his secret cloud[.]
Willing the Friends endur'd, for Albions sake, and for
Jerusalem his Emanation shut within his bosom;
Which hardend against them more and more; as he builded onwards
On the Gulph of Death in self-righteousness, that roll'd
Before his awful feet, in pride of virtue for victory:
And Los was roofd in from Eternity in Albions Cliffs
Which stand upon the ends of Beulah, and withoutside, all
Appear'd a rocky form against the Divine Humanity.

Albions Circumference was clos'd: his Center began darkning
Into the Night of Beulah, and the Moon of Beulah rose
Clouded with storms: Los his strong Guard walkd round beneath the
And Albion fled inward among the currents of his rivers.
He found Jerusalem upon the River of his City soft repos'd
In the arms of Vala, assimilating in one with Vala
The Lilly of Havilah: and they sang soft thro' Lambeths vales,
In a sweet moony night & silence that they had created
With a blue sky spread over with wings and a mild moon,
Dividing & uniting into many female forms: Jerusalem
Trembling! then in one comingling in eternal tears,
Sighing to melt his Giant beauty, on the moony river.
(Erdman 163-65)

This plate is an example of Albion's fundamental fallenness.
(Much of it is taken from Night 9 of The Four Zoas. Look
especially at Erdman 388-89))

"Where once he sat...." Our older readers will feel that
intensely. (cf Isaiah 40:31)

"All his Affections now appear without...."
His sons (listed here) are all the reprehensible figures in
Blake's corpus

"The corn is turned to thistes": here we find an echo of
Enion's Song, one of the most eloquent poems Blake ever
wrote (at Erdman at the end of 324:

"I am made to sow the thistle for wheat; the nettle for a
     nourishing dainty
I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a
     poison tree
I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog
For a schoolmaster to my children
I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale    
And I have caused the earth worm to beg from door to door
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night 

What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain

It is an easy thing to triumph in the summers sun
And in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer
To listen to the hungry ravens cry in wintry season
When the red blood is filld with wine & with the marrow of lambs

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter
     house moan
To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast           
To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our
     enemies house
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness 
     that cuts off his children
While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children
     bring fruits & flowers

Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave
     grinding at the mill
And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier
     in the field
When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity
Thus could I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me!"
(Erdman 324-25) 

Sunday, January 15, 2012



Laocoon as it appeared with restorations in Blake's day and his image with inscriptions

Blake's Laocoon was the continuation of his attempt to present his ideas on life, art, imagination and spirituality in a condensed and concentrated form. Believed to have been printed in 1826, existing in only two copies, it is a summation of the lessons he had learned through a long life of exercising his imagination in the continual practice of art.

In Volume 5 of the Blake Trust's series on Blake's Illuminated Books comments are made about Blake's Laocoon print. From The Illuminated Books of William Blake, Volume 5: Milton, A Poem, Edited by Robert N. Essick and Joseph Viscomi:

"The distinguishing feature of the engraving is of course the wall of aphorisms, epigrams, and mini-narratives on subjects ranging from Jesus to economics. They express Blake's personal struggle as a visionary artist in a commercial age, and thus the struggle of all inspired artist to make art in countries devoted to money, moral law, war, and imitations." Page 231

"In his other treatises on art, including On Homer Poetry, A Descriptive Catalogue and the Public Address, Blake locates the primary obstacles to the creation of true and inspired art in the perverted taste of his day. Copies and translations were preferred to original engravings, blots and blurs were preferred to line, and unity and morality were preferred to works predicated on the unity of the imagination expressed in the part as much as the whole. In his epics, Blake examines the struggle between imagination and the moral law, forgiveness and the accusation of sin, annihilation and the assertion of selfhood. In Laocoon, Blake consolidates many of his ideas about art and society, now more polarized than ever before, and continues to pursue the problems of taste and perception. Whereas 'Art' manifests 'Jesus', 'War' and 'Dominion' manifest 'Money' and false moral virtue. Cultures like his own and those of Greece and Rome, so thoroughly permeated by false ideas of 'Good' and 'Evil', see with the natural eye only and are incapable of recognizing that their vision is limited." Page 232

A few succinct quotes from the Plate:

Laocoon , (E 273)
"Art Degraded Imagination Denied War Governed the Nations"

"Adam is only The Natural Man & not the Soul or Imagination"

"Christianity is Art & not Money
Money is its Curse"

"For every Pleasure Money Is Useless"

"All is not Sin that Satan calls so all the Loves & Graces of Eternity."

There are many answers to the question of why Blake chose to display his wisdom about art alongside his portrayal of the Laocoon statue. Suggested answers:
His way of working was combining words with pictures.
The statue at multiple levels represents struggle between contraries.
The reader/viewer would be challenged to reconcile the messages conveyed by the words and picture.
Blake could speak to rational and emotional mental processes simultaneously by combining verbal and visual means.
The long history of the Laocoon myth and statue and those who had interacted with them would enhance the message he wished to convey about art.
Or, he wanted to provoke his reader into working out his own way of integrating the role of art into the development of his imagination.