The mood of rejoicing which Blake experienced when he moved to Felpham and wrote of his 'first vision of light' was shortlived. The visionary experience impelled him to continue writing prophetic poetry and follow the lead of his imagination wherever it took him. The last illuminated book he had completed was the Song of Los in 1795. Work on an epic which began as Vala and continued as the Four Zoas had been in progress for several years but was bogged down in an incomplete state. A new phase in Blake's career was about to begin, initiated by a clarifying of his vision of God and man and the prophetic role he might play.
|British Museum |
Plate 29, Copy A
Although Blake was called to a new mission and message by the new vision which he reported in his letter to Butts, it was not a turn away from Christianity but to a closer commitment to the Jesus whom he knew and loved. He experienced new conflicts as he reoriented his priorities. In November 1802 Blake reassured Butts that the challenges he was facing were being withstood. In January 1803 he expands on the battle which had been consuming his mind and energy.
Letters, (E 720) Mr Butts, Gr Marlborough Street Felpham Novr. 22: 18O2 ... "And now let me finish with assuring you that Tho I have been very unhappy I am so no longer I am again Emerged into the light of Day I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore him who is the Express image of God but I have traveld thro Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion I have Conquerd and shall still Go on Conquering Nothing can withstand the fury of my Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser My Enthusiasm is still what it was only Enlarged and confirmd" Letters, (E 724) Felpham Jany 10. 180 ... "It gives me the greatest of torments, I am not ashamed afraid or averse to tell You what Ought to be Told. That I am under the direction of Messengers from Heaven Daily & Nightly but the nature of such things is not as some suppose. without trouble or care. Temptations are on the right hand & left behind the sea of time & space roars & follows swiftly he who keeps not right onward is lost & if our footsteps slide in clay how can we do otherwise than fear & tremble. but I should not have troubled You with this account of my spiritual state unless it had been necessary in explaining the actual cause of my uneasiness into which you are so kind as to Enquire"
The vision which had been given him and his commitment to Christ tore him from worldly pursuits which might earn money and please his patron William Hayley. But he responded by incorporating the very conflicts which absorbed him into the writing of another prophetic book which he named Milton. Appropriately Jesus appears at the culmination of Milton:
Milton, Plate 49, (E 143)
"Jesus wept & walked forth From Felphams Vale clothed in Clouds of blood, to enter into Albions Bosom, the bosom of death & the Four surrounded him In the Column of Fire in Felphams Vale; then to their mouths the Four Applied their Four Trumpets & them sounded to the Four winds Terror struck in the Vale I stood at that immortal sound My bones trembled. I fell outstretchd upon the path A moment, & my Soul returnd into its mortal state To Resurrection & Judgment in the Vegetable Body"Blake commitment to Jesus is seen in these passages in the Four Zoas and Jerusalem. We see also his understanding of the suffering such commitment may bring.
Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 104 (FIRST PORTION), (E 376)
"And Enitharmon namd the Female Jerusa[le]m the holy Wondring she saw the Lamb of God within Jerusalems Veil The divine Vision seen within the inmost deep recess Of fair Jerusalems bosom in a gently beaming fire Then sang the Sons of Eden round the Lamb of God & said Glory Glory Glory to the holy Lamb of God Who now beginneth to put off the dark Satanic body Now we behold redemption Now we know that life Eternal Depends alone upon the Universal hand & not in us Is aught but death In individual weakness sorrow & pain"
Jerusalem, Plate 25, (E 170) "As the Sons of Albion have done to Luvah: so they have in him Done to the Divine Lord & Saviour, who suffers with those that suffer: For not one sparrow can suffer, & the whole Universe not suffer also, In all its Regions, & its Father & Saviour not pity and weep. But Vengeance is the destroyer of Grace & Repentance in the bosom Of the Injurer: in which the Divine Lamb is cruelly slain: Descend O Lamb of God & take away the imputation of Sin By the Creation of States & the deliverance of Individuals Evermore Amen"