Central figures of Arlington Tempera
Kathleen Raine has much more to say about the Arlington Tempera from the perspective of one immersed in the classic literature. She traced the influences on Blake from the ancients on through the wisdom handed down through the ages which is known as the perennial philosophy. Because she was conversant with Blake's sources she was able to recognise both the minute detail and the complete design in Blake's symbolism.
Quotes from Blake and Tradition:
"Behind Odysseus, Athena's hand reaches to the lowest steps of the staircase that ascends to the sun's shining realm. Both godesses are pointing the way to the eternal world, though for the moment Odysseus sees neither of them - Leucothea by her own command, Athena because (as Homer tells) he has not yet recognized her. The body, like the soul, returns to eternity, the one as a dissolving cloud, the other as 'the true man.'"
"Porphyry's cave is the womb by which man enters life; but, seen otherwise, it is the grave in which he dies to eternity. However, for those who leave it by the southern gate, it is, conversely, the grave of this world, from which returning souls are born into the world of immortals."
"Homer speaks of the northern and southern entrances of the Cave of the Nymphs; and in explaining these Porphyry passes to astronomical symbolism...by the logic of astrological symbolism it follows that souls enter generation by the moon-governed gate of Cancer, since the moon is the ruler of generation and also of the waters. Conversely, souls leaving this world through the gate of Capricorn enter Saturn's golden country of eternity...These two entrances Blake faithfully depicted in the vital downward current of generation and the radiant staircase rising from the distant extremity of the cave into the golden world."
"Blake is suggesting the contrasting states of life in this world as death in the other; or, in this case, the waking in the one as sleep in the other, for the symbolic meaning of sleep and death is the same: the lost vision becomes, in psychological terms, the 'unconscious.'"
"Job is the traveler who enters Experience, the state in which the divine in man sleeps, of dies; when the lost traveller returns, the God awakes. The contrasting states of sleep and waking, a death into life and a reawakening into eternity, form the very substance of Blake's thought."
Just as the consciousness of Odysseus developed through the experiences of his travels, the consciousness of the soul is altered by its passage through materiality. The individual psyche is not static; it is given the opportunity to evolve. The process can be thought of as cyclical. The old is discarded in order that it may be replaced by the new. The awakening is a consequence of going to sleep. Entering into the feminine or projected (externalised) status provides the means of gaining experience. When a new level of development has been assimilated, the psyche returns to the unified wholeness called eternity. Although eternity may not be altered in its completeness by the return of the psyche, the patterns of expression are modified.
Europe, Plate 3, (E 61)
"The deep of winter came;
What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:
War ceas'd, & all the troops like shadows fled to their abodes.
Then Enitharmon saw her sons & daughters rise around.
Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house:
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:
Thus speaking while his num'rous sons shook their bright fiery wings
Again the night is come
That strong Urthona takes his rest,
And Urizen unloos'd from chains
Glows like a meteor in the distant north
Stretch forth your hands and strike the elemental strings!
Awake the thunders of the deep."
Here is an earlier post based on the Arlington Tempera.