Wednesday, March 07, 2012


The Voice of Prophecy is from God alone but the vehicles through which it is expressed are particular individuals. Blake traces the movement of the prophetic voice in Milton.

The character Milton in Blake's poem grew out of Blake's identification with John Milton as a fellow poet and prophet. A decisive moment for Blake's Milton occurs when he responds to the Bard as the Voice of Prophecy:

Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
"Say first! what mov'd Milton, who walkd about in Eternity
One hundred years, pondring the intricate mazes of Providence
Unhappy tho in heav'n, he obey'd, he murmur'd not. he was silent
Viewing his Sixfold Emanation scatter'd thro' the deep
In torment! To go into the deep her to redeem & himself perish?
What cause at length mov'd Milton to this unexampled deed[?]
A Bards prophetic Song!"

The Bard enters Milton and causes him to act decisively:

Milton, Plate 14 [15], (E 108)
"The loud voic'd Bard terrify'd took refuge in Miltons bosom

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 chain of influence and internalisation continues as Milton enters Blake:

Milton, Plate 15 [17], (E 109)
"First Milton saw Albion upon the Rock of Ages,
Deadly pale outstretchd and snowy cold, storm coverd;
A Giant form of perfect beauty outstretchd on the rock

In solemn death: the Sea of Time & Space thunderd aloud
Against the rock
With thunders loud and terrible: so Miltons shadow fell
Precipitant loud thundring into the Sea of Time & Space.
Then first I saw him in the Zenith as a falling star,
Descending perpendicular, swift as the swallow or swift;
And on my left foot falling on the tarsus, enterd there;
But from my left foot a black cloud redounding spread over

Then Milton knew that the Three Heavens of Beulah were beheld
By him on earth in his bright pilgrimage of sixty years"

Milton and Blake are mutual vehicles of prophecy: complementing, enhancing, and extending the message that they received from the Bard and pass on to those with ears to hear.

Image from New York Public Library
Milton Plate 29

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