Monday, June 11, 2012

Plate 81

I have mockd those who refused cruelty & I have admired
The cruel Warrior. I have refused to give love to Merlin the
He brings to me the Images of his Love & I reject in chastity
And turn them out into the streets for Harlots to be food
To the stern Warrior. I am become perfect in beauty over my
For Men are caught by Love: Woman is caught by Pride
That Love may only be obtaind in the passages of Death.

[In Heaven the only Art of Living
is Forgetting & Forgiving
Especially to the Female
But if you on Earth Forgive
You shall not find where to Live]                                                    

Let us look! let us examine! is the Cruel become an Infant
Or is he still a cruel Warrior? look Sisters, look! O piteous
I have destroyd Wandring Reuben who strove to bind my Will
I have stripd off Josephs beautiful integument for my Beloved,
The Cruel-one of Albion: to clothe him in gems of my Zone
I have Named him Jehovah of Hosts. Humanity is become
A weeping Infant in ruind lovely Jerusalems folding Cloud:
In Heaven Love begets Love! but Fear is the Parent of Earthly
And he who will not bend to Love must be subdud by Fear,
(Erdman 238-39)

This short but poignant plate has an unusual (for Blake) coincidence between text and picture. Another unusual feature of the plate is the prominent reversed text.  You could hold it up to a mirror to get the words, or you can read Erdman’s text for Jerusalem 81.
As the text begins Vala, with the voice of her daughter, Gwendolen, laments and confesses her ‘sins’, which are many. Some people may refuse ‘cruelty’, so she mocks them.  She admires the ‘cruel Warrior’ and has only contempt for weakness or gentility. (Sounds like some people we know in 2012.) in general men are outgoing, while women are obsessed with their Selfhood.
(that’s not my opinion, but a mythopoeic one.)

That Love may only be obtaind in the passages of Death.
(Will somebody tell me what he means by ‘the passages of Death’?)

Plate 81

In Heaven Love begets Love; but Fear is the Parent of Earthly Love!
And he who will not bend to Love must be subdud by Fear
This little homely adage suggests that Heaven is loving and Earth is fearful, which calls to mind the conventional reality (at least until the 21st century) that ‘hellfire and brimstone’ preachers filled the pews of the churches.

In the picture Gwendolen with legs crossed and a ‘falsehood’ hidden with her left hand behind her is said to be accusing Cambel.  Cambel is said to be Venus with loose hair (like that of Venus in the Judgment of Paris or Judgment of Paris in the watercolor that Blake made for his friend, Thomas Butts).

The four sisters on the right might be considered an amen chorus to Gwendolen’s accusation. The speech of Gwendolen began in Plate 80 and continues on into Plate 82.

I have stripd off Joseph’s beautiful integument for my Beloved.
Two scriptures support this line: Joseph’s ‘coat of many colors’ in Genesis 37:3 and the Beloved from Song of Solomon.


ellie said...

Judging from the content of the plate with its deceits, falsehoods and reversals, Blake may be using 'passages of Death' to refer to brothels. The 'Love' found in brothels may enhance the woman's 'pride' because she gains control of the man and makes him a 'sinner'.

All mortal life may be a passage of death to Blake for in it man (at least partially) is separated from Eternity.

urthona2 said...

page 470 plate 81