Saturday, March 17, 2012


Milton and Blake aligned themselves with nonconformity rather than with the established Church of England which resulted from the break with Rome by King Henry the VIII in 1534. As adults neither Milton nor Blake was known to have joined a church or have been a regular church attender. Milton trusted scripture, read and interpreted by the individual, as the means through which knowledge of God might be acquired. Blake too was emphatically dependant on the Bible but only as the vehicle in which the living word is incorporate.

Annotations to Watson, (E 615)

"The Bible or Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience
or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the
Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may
converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house"

Yale Center for British Art
Book of Urizen
Plate 21

Northrop Frye enlightens us on the relationship of the church to vision in Fearful Symmetry. He sees that escaping from the bonds of nature and reason are requirements for entering the visionary world.

"If Milton or Blake had joined or formed a church, therefore, they would have lost the real Church, the total vision which is the city of God and gained a sect. No visible church will ever identify with civilized art, purge itself all legal and historical conception of truth, and attain the absolute clarity of present vision.
The place of honor in art goes to the artist who has passed through religion and come out on the other side. Such an artist, in Blake's symbolism, has gone with the church to the upper limit of Beulah, where it visualizes itself as the Bride of Christ and man as a creature of God, and has then burst through the ring of fire into the Eden where man is no longer a creature but a creator and is one with God. Here he is a citizen of the free city which all human life strives to realize in this world, and which is the Word of God or the Body of Jesus; and whenever he speaks to other men in the language of the creating mind he recreates that Word in time. Anything short of this will drive him back from the ring of purging visionary fire into the mundane shell, the world of nature and reason, where all religions attempt to include the natural religion which is an "Impossible Absurdity." (Pages 344-5)

Milton , PLATE 40 [46], (E 141)
"Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
Become in their Femin[in]e portions the causes & promoters
Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem
Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation."

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