Friday, April 06, 2012


One of Blake's pictures which first was located in 1947, incorporates imagery from a large number of sources. Blake did not attach a name to the picture but it is known by various names such as the Arlington Tempera, the Sea of Time and Space, and the Circle of Destiny. Blake was not illustrating a particular myth or a single incident. He was asking the viewer to scan the picture for multiple meanings and relate individual images to one's own life experiences. Of course a pattern emerges as we enter into the entire portrayal.

Image of Arlington Tempera from Myspace
Link to National Trust Image

In his book, Symbol and Image in William Blake, George Wingfield Digby, devotes a chapter to developing an understanding of the picture both as a whole and as individual parts. Here is a sample of his analysis or the activity which is illustrated on the right side of the picture. Digby's statement focuses our attention on aspects of the meaning incorporated in Enitharmon's looms and Los' furnaces:

"The weavers and spinners on the hillside, from which the flames are issuing, remain to be considered. Here is depicted the work of Los and Enitharmon - Los labouring at his forge, Enitharmon at the looms and spindles - a theme which runs as a refrain throughout all Blake's major Prophetic Books. Los, with his intuitive imagination, works at his furnaces, melting down the ores and metals, recasting them,and shaping them at his forge. The flames playing around the hill show that Los is at work within. Enitharmon and her daughters ply the looms and spinning wheels, preparing the threads of fate and the garments for the Spectrous Souls of the Dead. What does this signify? It means that the experience of day-to-day existence, which is the material of life, can be shaped and woven in a creative way; it is this day-to-day experience which is the means of amending life." (Page 89)

Digby points out in the above passage that two kinds of work go on simultaneously. The inner work done by Los in his fiery furnace and at his anvil; the outer work done by Enitharmon with her looms and spindles.

Blake's poetry expands on the visual image with words which can take us deeper into the work of redemption:

Four Zoas , Night VIII, PAGE 113 (FIRST PORTION), (E 376)
We behold with wonder Enitharmons Looms & Los's Forges
And the Spindles of Tirzah & Rahab and the Mills of Satan & Beelzeboul
In Golgonooza Los's anvils stand & his Furnaces rage
Ten thousand demons labour at the forges Creating Continually
The times & spaces of Mortal Life the Sun the Moon the Stars
In periods of Pulsative furor beating into wedges & bars
Then drawing into wires the terrific Passions & Affections
Of Spectrous dead. Thence to the Looms of Cathedron conveyd
The Daughters of Enitharmon weave the ovarium & the integument
In soft silk drawn from their own bowels in lascivious delight
With songs of sweetest cadence to the turning spindle & reel
Lulling the weeping spectres of the dead. Clothing their limbs
With gifts & gold of Eden. Astonishd stupefied with delight
The terrors put on their sweet clothing on the banks of Arnon
Whence they plunge into the river of space for a period till
The dread Sleep of Ulro is past. But Satan Og & Sihon
Build Mills of resistless wheels to unwind the soft threads & reveal
Naked of their clothing the poor spectres before the accusing heavens
While Rahab & Tirzah far different mantles prepare webs of torture
Mantles of despair girdles of bitter compunction shoes of indolence
Veils of ignorance covering from head to feet with a cold web

We look down into Ulro we behold the Wonders of the Grave
Eastward of Golgonooza stands the Lake of Udan Adan In
Entuthon Benithon a Lake not of Waters but of Spaces
Perturbd black & deadly on its Islands & its Margins
The Mills of Satan and Beelzeboul stand round the roots of Urizens tree
For this Lake is formd from the tears & sighs & death sweat of the Victims
Of Urizens laws. to irrigate the roots of the tree of Mystery
They unweave the soft threads then they weave them anew in the forms
Of dark death & despair & none from Eternity to Eternity could Escape
But thou O Universal Humanity who is One Man blessed for Ever
Recievest the Integuments woven Rahab beholds the Lamb of God
She smites with her knife of flint She destroys her own work
Times upon times thinking to destroy the Lamb blessed for Ever
He puts off the clothing of blood he redeems the spectres from their bonds
He awakes the sleepers in Ulro the Daughters of Beulah praise him
They anoint his feet with ointment they wipe them with the hair of their head

We now behold the Ends of Beulah & we now behold
Where Death Eternal is put off Eternally
Assume the dark Satanic body in the Virgins womb
O Lamb divin[e] it cannot thee annoy O pitying one
Thy pity is from the foundation of the World & thy Redemption
Begun Already in Eternity Come then O Lamb of God
Come Lord Jesus come quickly

So sang they in Eternity looking down into Beulah."

Additional posts on Arlington Tempera

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