Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Illustration 4 for Paradise Lost
Thomas Set, 1807

Blake painted two sets of twelve illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost. The second set duplicates the first except for one image. This is the image which appears only in  the Thomas Set from 1807.

This illustration include God the creator in the upper part of the picture with the unusual feature of wings. The central figure is an androgynous angel who separates the tempter from the tempted and the upper  level from the lower.

As pointed out by Robert N Essick in William Blake at the Huntington:

"The fallen angel [left figure] gestures in consternation, his face 'dim'd' ([PL] 4:114) and brow knitted as he 'falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy and despair' ([PL] Argument to Book 4). Blake captures this sense of self-division (an important theme in his own poetry of this period) and degeneration into a lesser form of being by entwining Satan's winged body with the serpent he will become and by placing the serpent's head in ascendancy over Satan's residual angelic countenance.
The mutual self-involvement of Adam and Eve, staring into each other's eyes adds another warning note. Limited vision, even if an  aspect of innocence, is one of the fundamental errors Blake exposes in his writings." (Page 112)

The most fascinating thing about this picture is that it captures a moment of potential resolution. A decision is hanging in the balance. A moment such as this is not in time but in eternity. This moment is 'less than the pulsation of the artery', the moment when the 'poet's work is done'. Our poet has shown us the choice being made between remaining in Eden and requiring 'six thousand years' of experience to return to Eden. The fall of Eve and Adam can still be avoided.

Milton, Plate 28 [30], (E 127)
"Each has its Guard. each Moment Minute Hour Day Month & Year.
All are the work of Fairy hands of the Four Elements             
The Guard are Angels of Providence on duty evermore
Every Time less than a pulsation of the artery
Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.
Plate 29 [31]
For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery."
Milton, Plate 22 [24], (E 117)
"I am that Shadowy Prophet who Six Thousand Years ago    
Fell from my station in the Eternal bosom. Six Thousand Years
Are finishd. I return! both Time & Space obey my will.
I in Six Thousand Years walk up and down: for not one Moment
Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent
But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years               
Remains permanent: tho' on the Earth where Satan
Fell, and was cut off all things vanish & are seen no more
They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last
The generations of men run on in the tide of Time
But leave their destind lineaments permanent for ever & ever."    

Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 136)
"Just in this Moment when the morning odours rise abroad
And first from the Wild Thyme, stands a Fountain in a rock
Of crystal flowing into two Streams, one flows thro Golgonooza   

And thro Beulah to Eden beneath Los's western Wall
The other flows thro the Aerial Void & all the Churches
Meeting again in Golgonooza beyond Satans Seat
So spoke Los as we went along to his supreme abode."

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