Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blake - Sexuality I


       Following his Fundamental Presuppositions Blake, like virtually every mystic and esoteric perceived sex as the primary created duality. Paracelsus may have best described his point; Percival quoted at length a summary in this respect of his viewpoint:
    Woman as such represents the will (including love and desire), and man as such represents intellect (including the imagination).Woman represents substance; man represents spirit. Man imagines; woman executes. Man creates images; woman renders them substantial.        The divine man (the angel) is male and female in one; such Adam was before the woman became separated from him. He is like the sun; the woman as such resembles the moon, receiving her light from the sun, and man without woman (in him) is a consuming fire in want of fuel.
           (This from Franz Hartman, quoted by Percival on page 91.)
       This means that Blake (and Paracelsus) in their use of sex have a primarily metaphysical rather than a physical connotation. Nevertheless Blake began working with a sexual hangup of some sort; however he satisfactorily worked it through with some 40 years of happy marriage.

       In the Christian faith marriage is a sacrament, and for many of us the primary sacrament. However living the sacrament was no more common in Blake's day than in ours. 18th and 19th century England seemed largely to view marriage more as a commercial transaction.
       Such a view led Blake to condemn the marriage hearse. He also condemned jealousy.


       Many people have deeply misunderstood Blake's doctrine of sex. It has complex roots and abounds in parodoxes that defy casual acquaintance. But like most things the subject yields to close and careful study. If we can separate the conflicting strands of thought and resolve the parodoxes, we may achieve a better understanding of Blake, the man and the thinker, than is enjoyed by most even among his interpreters.        In this chapter we start from the platform of his known personal experiences. Then we explore his early statements about sex in the light of what we know of his life. We examine the biblical and heterodox traditions and the symbology of sex and finally look at the ways in which the mature Christian poet dealt with sex in his art. In the light of all this we may begin to perceive in Blake's poetry a journal of his spiritual progress; this is especially true of The Four Zoas, where the triangle of Blake, his wife, and the Spectre bring about a reconciliation and level of understanding at the spiritual level where love finds its apogee. (Look especially at the last quatrain. Note that in this poem 'love' has a very special meaning, nothing like the use we've made of the word here.)
       A review of Blake's early life suggests the most normal and ordinary psychosexual development, to which the biographers testify. Through his refusal of formal education (See CHAPTER ONE ) Blake appears to have escaped many of the common pathologies of sex that afflicted his age as ours. In fact he systematically held some of them up to ridicule.
       Blake never tired of painting the human form, and he usually refused to hide it with clothes. Virtually his only models were his wife and himself. We read that a friend once found them naked in the garden of their home. In all probability they were planning poses and postures for his illustrations of 'Paradise Lost'.
       In his early twenties Blake formed an emotional attachment to a young woman named Polly Wood. Unfortunately Polly had other interests, and when he showed jealousy, she asked him if he were a fool. The experience seems to have cured him of jealousy; in fact the foolishness of jealousy became a life long motif; his false God received the name (among others) of "Father of Jealousy".
       On the rebound he met a beautiful girl named Catherine Boucher, a gardener's daughter. He told Catherine his mournful story, and when she pitied him, he promptly transfered his affection to her. A year later they were married, a relationship that according to all the evidence seems to have been made in heaven. Illiterate at her marriage, Catherine Blake must have been a gifted and rare person; she had a great deal to do with Blake's enormous creativity. Her high and continuous level of affirmation released Blake from the drain of domestic preoccupations. She affirmed and encouraged his gift of vision even when it meant long hours of wakefulness while he communed with heaven. She provided the appreciative audience that the world in general denied Blake and made him a happy creative artist in the same way that J.S.Bach was happy.
       One important influence on Blake's ideology of sex came from certain left wing religious dissenters. The antinomians deeply affected Blake's world of thought. They considered marriage a part of the law which they wanted to abolish. They claimed the right, living above the law, to cohabitate with whomever, whenever and wherever they felt led. We find evidence of similar excesses among fringe groups both in the New Testament and in the 20th Century:
    Remove away that black'ning church:
    Remove away that marriage hearse:
    Remove away that man of blood:
    You'll quite remove the ancient curse.
           (An Ancient Proverb; in Songs and Ballard; Erdman p. 475)
       Blake found these ideas attractive as a young man, but no one believes that he carried them very far in practice. Libertines and hedonists have at times made Blake their hero, but they simply don't know their man. All the evidence suggests that Blake lived as a faithful and loving husband for some forty five years--and a happy one as well (This is spite of a recent fanciful 'biography' of Catherine Blake).
       What Blake hated was not monogamy but jealousy and the idea of a lover or spouse as a possession:
    He who binds to himself a joy
    Doth the winged life destroy;
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in Eternity's sun rise.
           (Eternity, in Songs and Ballards; Erdman 474 or Several Questions Answered )
       We have a story to the effect that early in his marriage Blake proposed to bring home a concubine (sneaking around was futhest from his thoughts!) His young wife cried at the idea, and he dropped it(see note). In all likelihood the concubine notion came from Blake's friend, Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the earliest of liberated women.
       Blake had illustrated two of this lady's works shortly before she wrote a sensational essay called "Vindication of the Rights of Women". Mary Wollstonecraft advocated the radical equality of the sexes, which Blake endorsed. She tried to live in the freedom generally reserved for men (and claimed by few even of them!) Blake was among those who supported her in this endeavor. She lived an adventurous and tragic life and died giving birth to another Mary, who became the wife of the poet, Shelley.
       Blake had a very complex psyche one could discuss to exhaustion his various sexual attitude and points of view. According to Damon, who wrote A Blake Dictionary, Blake believed that "the domination of woman is one of the greatest forces corrupting society" (page 447); he quote as follows:
    What may Woman be
    to have power over Man from cradle to corruptible grave.
    There's a throne in every man;it's the throne of God;
    this Woman has claimed as her own and Man is no more!"
           (Jerusalem plate 30, lines 25-28)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Study of Oothoon

Visions of the Daughters of Albion:
The story of Oothoon, engaged to Theotormon
raped by Bromion and lamenting her engaged husband's refusal to follow through.
It was bigger, perhaps in Blake's day than in ours, where 
virginity does not have the coinage that it had then.
However Blake also used the name, Oothoon, in Europe, Song of Los, Milton and
In Europe:
I hear the soft Oothoon in Enitharmons tents:
Why wilt thou give up womans secrecy my melancholy child?
Between two moments bliss is ripe:
O Theotormon robb'd of joy, I see thy salt tears flow
Down the steps of my crystal house.                  
(Plate 14; Erdman 65)

Here Blake pretty much repeats the ideas and thoughts of VDA.
In The Song of Los:
Plate 3
Palamabron gave an abstract Law:
To Pythagoras Socrates & Plato.
Times rolled on o'er all the sons of Har, time after time
Orc on Mount Atlas howld, chain'd down with the Chain of Jealousy
Then Oothoon hoverd over Judah & Jerusalem
And Jesus heard her voice (a man of sorrows) he recievd
A Gospel from wretched Theotormon.

Balamabron is associated here with laws, of which Blake extremely disapproved.
In the Song of Los Jesus is presented as one of the conventional concepts of Jesus, 
far from the vision of Jesus that Blake came to have.

In Milton:
Plate 13 (Erdman 107)
But Elynittria met Leutha in the place where she was hidden.
And threw aside her arrows, and laid down her sounding Bow;
She sooth'd her with soft words & brought her to Palamabrons bed
In moments new created for delusion, interwoven round about,
In dreams she bore the shadowy Spectre of Sleep, & namd him
In dreams she bore Rahab the mother of Tirzah & her sisters
In Lambeths vales; in Cambridge & in Oxford, places of Thought
Intricate labyrinths of Times and Spaces unknown, that Leutha
In Palamabrons Tent, and Oothoon was her charming guard.

Once again, as in Song of Los, Oothoon and Palamabron are shown
together.  We also see Leutha with Oothoon at the very beginning
of VDA:

"For the soft soul of America, Oothoon wanderd in woe,
Along the vales of Leutha seeking flowers to comfort her;
And thus she spoke to the bright Marygold of Leutha's vale       
   Art thou a flower! art thou a nymph! I see thee now a flower;
   Now a nymph! I dare not pluck thee from thy dewy bed!

   The Golden nymph replied; pluck thou my flower Oothoon the
   Another flower shall spring, because the soul of sweet delight
   Can never pass away. she ceas'd & closd her golden shrine.    

Then Oothoon pluck'd the flower saying, I pluck thee from thy bed
Sweet flower."
(Erdman 45-6)
Plate 14 (Erdman 66):
I hear the soft Oothoon in Enitharmons tents:
Why wilt thou give up womans secrecy my melancholy child?
Between two moments bliss is ripe:
O Theotormon robb'd of joy, I see thy salt tears flow
Down the steps of my crystal house.
Blake obviously drew on VDA for this plate in Milton. OOthoon and
Theotormon had become a symbol.
In Jerusalem:
Plate 16 (Erdman 112):
Jerusalem is his Garment & not thy Covering Cherub O lovely
Shadow of my delight who wanderest seeking for the prey.
So spoke Orc when Oothoon & Leutha hoverd over his Couch
Of fire in interchange of Beauty & Perfection in the darkness 
Opening interiorly into Jerusalem & Babylon shining glorious
In the Shadowy Females bosom.  
Plate 42 (Erdman 143):
And Los & Enitharmon rose over the Hills of Surrey
Their clouds roll over London with a south wind, soft Oothoon
Pants in the Vales of Lambeth weeping oer her Human Harvest 
Plate 37 (Erdman 183)
There is a Grain of Sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find     
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it: tis translucent & has many
But he who finds it will find Oothoons palace, for within
Opening into Beulah every angle is a lovely heaven
But should the Watch Fiends find it, they would call it Sin
And lay its Heavens & their inhabitants in blood of punishment  
Here Jerusalem & Vala were hid in soft slumberous repose
Hid from the terrible East, shut up in the South & West.
(Jerusalem Plate 37; Erdman 183)
Plate 82 (Erdman 241)
I know I am Urthona keeper of the Gates of Heaven,
And that I can at will expatiate in the Gardens of bliss;
But pangs of love draw me down to my loins which are
Become a fountain of veiny pipes: O Albion! my brother!

(erdman 241)
Corruptibility appears upon thy limbs, and never more       
Can I arise and leave thy side, but labour here incessant
Till thy awaking! yet alas I shall forget Eternity!
O when shall the Lamb of God descend among the Reprobate!     
Surrey and Sussex are Enitharmons Chamber.         
Where I will build her a Couch of repose & my pillars
Shall surround her in beautiful labyrinths: Oothoon?
Where hides my child? in Oxford hidest thou with Antamon?
In graceful hidings of error: in merciful deceit
This is the voice of "Urthona keeper of the Gates of Heaven", and
this: "So Antamon call'd up Leutha from her valleys of delight",  from the Song of Los.
Antamon is commonly thought of as the masculine seed. So we see Antamon, Leutha,
and Oothoon, all associated. Good for a post on Blake's Sexuality.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Continuation of Eternal Deed II.

Jerusalem, Plate 55,(E 204)
"And they Elected Seven, calld the Seven Eyes of God; 
Lucifer, Molech, Elohim, Shaddai, Pahad, Jehovah, Jesus.
They namd the Eighth. he came not, he hid in Albions Forests
But first they said: (& their Words stood in Chariots in array
Curbing their Tygers with golden bits & bridles of silver & ivory)"      

To Blake the seven Spirits or Angels elected by the Eternals to be the guardians of the created world were incomplete. They were to be joined by an Eighth whose presence was not yet fully expressed to mankind. Since Blake identifies the seventh Eye of God with Jesus, the eighth will be the revelation of God which follows that of Jesus. We know that Jesus promised to leave with us his spirit which would be with us always. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and filled them with his presence. However God's Kingdom remained within the hearts, minds and bodies of men and did not spread to cover the earth as the disciples hoped it would.

Matthew 28
[18] And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
[19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
[20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

John 14
[9] Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
[16] And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
[17] Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
[25] These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
[27] Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The Ascension 
original in Fitzwilliam Museum
found at
Acts 2
[1] And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
[2] And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
[3] And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
[4] And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

To this hoped for Kingdom of the Spirit of Christ which would come forth through the activity of the Holy Spirit, Blake gave form as the Eighth Divine Image.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Visions of the Daughters of Albion 6

This is the last plate of this series.

Red as the rosy morning, lustful as the first born beam,
Oothoon shall view his dear delight, nor e'er with jealous cloud
Come in the heavens of generous love; nor selfish blightings bring.
Does the sun walk in glorious raiment, on the secret floor (end of previous plate)

Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop
On his stone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings
Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself
Beside the ox to thy hard furrow? does not that mild beam blot
The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night.
The sea fowl takes the wintry blast. for a cov'ring to her limbs:
And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold.
And trees. & birds. & beasts, & men. behold their eternal joy.
Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss. For everything that lives is holy!

Thus every morning wails Oothoon. but Theotormon sits
Upon the margind ocean conversing with shadows dire,

The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs.

The End

(The beautiful pictures all together were posted at Purdue)

first born beam
that mild beam

The first four lines offer options for the 'cold miser'.  Does the beam bring an outbreak
of generosity? or will he 'bind' himself like an oxen (oxen are used to plow).
It all works out right for everything that lives is holy!  These are the last words of
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell--or did MHH borrow it from Visions....?)


Let the Priests of the Raven of dawn, no longer in deadly black,
with hoarse note curse the sons of joy. Nor his accepted brethren,
whom. tyrant. he calls free: lay the bound or build the roof. Nor pale
religious letchery call that virginity. that wishes but acts not!
For every thing that lives is Holy.


Friday, October 26, 2012


In the continuation of the passage from Plate 55 of Jerusalem in which 'an eternal deed was done' Blake states that the Seven Eyes of God were elected. He gives each a name used for God and mentioned in the Bible. Each name is used symbolically to recall a period of history characterised by behaviors and attitudes prevalent in the development of humanity at a particular time. Blake's insight is that cultures are progressing through phases of development which are built on previous experiences. The errors which are revealed through adherence to prevailing ideas, as well as the opportunities which become apparent through apprehending new truth, impel mankind to explore options which were formerly closed to him.  

Jerusalem, Plate 55, (E 204)
"But others said: Let us to him who only Is, & who
Walketh among us, give decision. bring forth all your fires!

So saying, an eternal deed was done: in fiery flames

The Universal Conc[l]ave raged,
Then far the greatest number were about to make a Separation
And they Elected Seven, calld the Seven Eyes of God; 
Lucifer, Molech, Elohim, Shaddai, Pahad, Jehovah, Jesus."
Blake saw the passage through these phases of development as synonymous with encountering the 'seven Spirits of God' or the Lamb 'having seven horns and seven eyes', which are two images used in the Book of Revelation. As the seven Spirits were sent forth into all the earth in the Book of Revelation, Blake's Seven Eyes were the provision that the Eternals made for the contingent that separated and '
who Walketh among us.'

[6] And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5)

Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Page 13, Linnell Set

Blake further saw that the psychological and spiritual development of the individual progressed through the stages represented by the Eyes of God. The formation of the psyche is not accomplished in a single step, but proceeds through multiple steps. Especially in Blake's set of Illustrations of the Book of Job he shows the psychological process through which an individual psyche is restructured to accommodate a real relationship with the Divine. 

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 21, (E 312)
"The Family Divine drew up the Universal tent
Above High Snowdon & closd the Messengers in clouds around 
Till the time of the End. Then they Elected Seven. called the Seven
Eyes of God & the Seven lamps of the Almighty                    
The Seven are one within the other the Seventh is named Jesus"

Other posts on Eyes of God.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Visions of the Daughters of Albion 5

(Here of course is a continuation of the text of the previous plate: Oothoon's lament.)

In happy copulation; if in evening mild, wearied with work;
Sit on a bank and draw the pleasures of this free born joy.

The moment of desire! the moment of desire! The virgin
That pines for man; shall awaken her womb to enormous joys
In the secret shadows of her chamber; the youth shut up from
The lustful joy, shall forget to generate, & create an amorous image
In the shadows of his curtains and in the folds of his silent pillow.
Are not these the places of religion? the rewards of continence!
The self enjoyings of self denial? Why dost thou seek religion?
Is it because acts are not lovely, that thou seekest solitude,
Where the horrible darkness is impressed with reflections of desire.

Father of Jealousy, be thou accursed from the earth!
Why hast thou taught my Theotormon this accursed thing?
Till beauty fades from off my shoulders darken'd and cast out,
A solitary shadow wailing on the margin of non-entity.

I cry, Love! Love! Love! happy happy Love! free as the mountain wind!
Can that be Love, that drinks another as a sponge drinks water?
That clouds with jealousy his nights, with weepings all the day:
To spin a web of age around him, grey and hoary! dark!
Till his eyes sicken at the fruit that hangs before his sight.
Such is self-love that envies all! a creeping skeleton
With lamplike eyes watching around the frozen marriage bed.

But silken nets and traps of adamant will Oothoon spread,
And catch for the girls of mild silver, or of furious gold;
I'll lie beside thee on a bank & view their wanton play
In lovely copulation bliss on bliss with Theotormon;
Red as the rosy morning, lustful as the first born beam,
Oothoon shall view his dear delight, nor e'er with jealous cloud
Come in the heavens of generous love; nor selfish blightings bring.
Does the sun walk in glorious raiment, on the secret floor


I. The Picture here is less a propos; it would be more appropriate 
where the Daughters of Albion are mentioned--at the end of the poem.

Erdman's Illuminated tells us that five of the 'daughters' are 
pictured  here, which requires considerable imagination to envision; 
a more reasonable representation of the 'daughters' is seen on the last plate.

the youth shut up from The lustful joy and
Does the sun walk in glorious raiment, on the secret floor.
Blake has many meanings for sun, but here it's associated with freedom.

The virgin and the youth alike are frustrated by the prohibitions of the conventional world. 

Blake used this idea elsewhere:

"Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!"
(Songs of Experience [Erdman 25)

A lot of data about this poem is found in an essay by william J. 

"The flower which turns its head to follow the sun's course and is 
yet rooted to the earth is Blake's symbol for all men and women whose 
lives are dominated and spoiled by a longing which they can never 
hope to satisfy and who are held down to the earth despite their 
desire for release into some brighter, freer sphere."
(Found in C.M.Bowra's The Romantic Imagination) 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Why should those who exist at a level of development higher than the turmoil of the world we know concern themselves with our petty concerns? Why not remain aloof in the ever-fluctuating world of mental delights. An awareness of an aberration comes into their field of perception: one of their own has assumed a limitation and entered a state.   

Jerusalem, Plate 55, (E 204)
"When those who disregard all Mortal Things, saw a Mighty-One
Among the Flowers of Beulah still retain his awful strength
They wonderd; checking their wild flames & Many gathering
Together into an Assembly; they said, let us go down
And see these changes! Others said, If you do so prepare         
For being drived from our fields, what have we to do with the Dead?
To be their inferiors or superiors we equally abhor;
Superior, none we know: inferior none: all equal share
Divine Benevolence & joy, for the Eternal Man
Walketh among us, calling us his Brothers & his Friends:         
Forbidding us that Veil which Satan puts between Eve & Adam
By which the Princes of the Dead enslave their Votaries
Teaching them to form the Serpent of precious stones & gold
To sieze the Sons of Jerusalem & plant them in One Mans Loins
To make One Family of Contraries: that Joseph may be sold        
Into Egypt: for Negation; a Veil the Saviour born & dying rends."

Consensus was destroyed among the Immortals: some drew back, some choose to explore. The spark had ignited the evolution of consciousness which resulted from the initiation of duality in the form of the 'Family of Contraries.'  Blake provides no fanfare for the event that shook the universe, saying only: "Let us to him who only Is, & who Walketh among us, give decision." Apparently the situation is controlled by the word 'Is' as representing a level of existence other than that of the Eternals, which has become an option that may be entered.

"But others said: Let us to him who only Is, & who
Walketh among us, give decision. bring forth all your fires!

So saying, an eternal deed was done: in fiery flames

The Universal Conc[l]ave raged, such thunderous sounds as never
Were sounded from a mortal cloud, nor on Mount Sinai old
Nor in Havilah where the Cherub rolld his redounding flame.

Loud! loud! the Mountains lifted up their voices, loud the Forests
Rivers thunderd against their banks, loud Winds furious fought
Cities & Nations contended in fires & clouds & tempests.         
The Seas raisd up their voices & lifted their hands on high
The Stars in their courses fought. the Sun! Moon! Heaven! Earth.
Contending for Albion & for Jerusalem his Emanation
And for Shiloh, the Emanation of France & for lovely Vala.

Then far the greatest number were about to make a Separation"  

Milton's Paradise Lost
Satan Calling Up His Legions

Milton's war in heaven which in Paradise Lost, led to the creation of our world resulted from the pride of Lucifer and his fear of being supplanted by the creation of mankind. Blake's fall was simply a separation: a movement to walk among those who had entered temporal existence.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Visions of the Daughters of Albion 4

Plate 6
And a palace of eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave
Over his porch these words are written. Take thy bliss O Man!
And sweet shall be thy taste & sweet thy infant joys renew!

Infancy, fearless, lustful, happy! nestling for delight
In laps of pleasure; Innocence! honest, open, seeking
The vigorous joys of morning light; open to virgin bliss.
Who taught thee modesty, subtil modesty! child of night & sleep
When thou awakest. wilt thou dissemble all thy secret joys
Or wert thou not awake when all this mystery was disclos'd!
Then com'st thou forth a modest virgin knowing to dissemble
With nets found under thy night pillow, to catch virgin joy,
And brand it with the name of whore: & sell it in the night,
In silence, ev'n without a whisper, and in seeming sleep,
Religious dream and holy vespers, light thy smoky fires:
Once were thy fires lighted by the eyes of honest morn
And does my Theotormon seek this hypocrite modesty!
This knowing, artful, secret. fearful, cautious, trembling hypocrite.
Then is Oothoon a whore indeed! and all the virgin joys
Of life are harlots: and Theotormon is a sick mans dream
And Oothoon is the crafty slave of selfish holiness.

But Oothoon is not so, a virgin fill'd with virgin fancies
Open to joy and to delight where ever beauty appears
If in the morning sun I find it; there my eyes are fix'd


This is a continuation of the questions that Oothoon put to
Urizen in her lament. The substance of her rhetorical question
was a recitation of the shameful creation that Urizen has
managed, especially concerning sexual excess.

And a palace of Eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave

This of course is a pseudo eternity.

And Blake goes on he exposes the "miserable practices of the

solitary girl and lad" (Damon 438).

It also relates to a married woman chained to a loveless husband.

Their relationship is supposedly love and marriage, but actually

nothing of that sort, most likely just a business arrangement.

And does my Theotormon seek this hypocrite modesty!
Oothoon continues her lament, and Blake points out the falsity
of placing such a priceless value on "virginity".

Modesty is not a virtue according to Blake, but a pretentious denial
of natural desire. (Damon; on page 283 gives a detailed interpretation
of most of this plate.  Look also at the text of Jerusalem Plate 83:
"Where hides my child? in Oxford hidest thou with Antamon?
In graceful hidings of error: in merciful deceit
Lest Hand the terrible destroy his Affection, thou hidest her:
In chaste appearances for sweet deceits of love & modesty
Immingled, interwoven, glistening to the sickening sight."
(Don't ask me to interpret this passage, but it shows clearly
what Blake thought of modesty.

Much later Blake used the "virgin" Mary, suggesting that Mary
was no such thing and her husband, Joseph (unlike Theotormon)
wasn't bothered about it. (See The Everlasting Gospel).

In the picture Theotormon rests on a cloud with a whip over his

head while Oothoon walks by with her head in her hands
(From Erdman page 134)

Monday, October 22, 2012


British Museum
Plate 85, Copy A
We read in Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry of the origin of the form of a woman when the 'active creative energy' becomes passive. The exteriorized object is seen as a woman and may become an object of worship. The power ceded to the object creates a destructive scenario. 

Frye states on Page 126:

"There are several accounts of the Fall in Blake which we shall summarize later, but the invariable characteristic of them is Albion's relapse from active creative  energy to passivity. This passivity takes the form of wonder or awe at the world he has created, which in eternity he sees as a woman. The Fall thus begins in Beulah, the divine garden identified with Eden in Genesis. Once he takes the fatal step of thinking the object-world independent of him, Albion sinks into a sleep symbolising the passivity of his mind, and his creation separates and becomes the 'female will' or Mother Nature, the remote and inaccessible universe of tantalizing  mystery we now see. Love, or the transformation of the objective into the beloved, and art, or the transformation of the objective into the created, are the two activities pursued on this earth to repair the damage of the Fall and they raise our state to Beulah and Eden respectively.

On earth the cult of worshipping the independent object or female will takes two chief forms. One is the superstitious reverence for a Mother God, the primitive fear of the sibyl or prophetess whom the Teutons called Vala. This is the symbolic form of nature-worship, and Blake gives the name Vala to nature in his symbolism. The other form is the worship not so much of vegetative nature as of the Queen of Heaven, the remote, mysterious beauty of the starry heavens. This produces on earth the blind devotion to a mistress who is expected to elude and tantalize the lover, the basis for the Troubadour code. The Queen of Heaven's name in Blake is Enitharmon." 

When we consider the role of Enitharmon we find ambivalence. She is both an attractive and admired entity and a destructive force who diminishes her male counterpart. Enitharmon and Los without cooperation from the other continue to fall into vengeance and strife.

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246) 
"For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations 
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity
How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this?    

Enitharmon answerd: This is Womans World, nor need she any
Spectre to defend her from Man. I will Create secret places
And the masculine names of the places Merlin & Arthur.
A triple Female Tabernacle for Moral Law I weave
That he who loves Jesus may loathe terrified Female love  
Till God himself become a Male subservient to the Female.

She spoke in scorn & jealousy, alternate torments; and
So speaking she sat down on Sussex shore singing lulling
Cadences, & playing in sweet intoxication among the glistening
Fibres of Los: sending them over the Ocean eastward into  
The realms of dark death; O perverse to thyself, contrarious
To thy own purposes; for when she began to weave
Shooting out in sweet pleasure her bosom in milky Love
Flowd into the aching fibres of Los. yet contending against him
In pride sending his Fibres over to her objects of jealousy  
In the little lovely Allegoric Night of Albions Daughters
Which stretchd abroad, expanding east & west & north & south
Thro' all the World of Erin & of Los & all their Children

A sullen Smile broke from the Spectre in mockery & scorn
Knowing himself the author of their divisions & shrinkings, gratified    
At their contentions, he wiped his tears he washd his visage.

The Man who respects Woman shall be despised by Woman
And deadly cunning & mean abjectness only, shall enjoy them
For I will make their places of joy & love, excrementitious[.]
Continually building, continually destroying in Family feuds   
While you are under the dominion of a jealous Female
Unpermanent for ever because of love & jealousy.
You shall want all the Minute Particulars of Life

Thus joyd the Spectre in the dusky fires of Los's Forge, eyeing
Enitharmon who at her shining Looms sings lulling cadences     
While Los stood at his Anvil in wrath the victim of their love
And hate; dividing the Space of Love with brazen Compasses
In Golgonooza & in Udan-Adan & in Entuthon of Urizen."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Visions of the Daughters of Albion 3

Plate 5
LC Rarebooks

But when the morn arose, her lamentation renewd,
The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs.
O Urizen! Creator of men! Mistaken Demon of heaven: 
Thy joys are tears! thy labour vain,to form men to thine image. 
How can one joy absorb another? are not different joys 
Holy, eternal, infinite! and each joy is a Love. 
Does not the great mouth laugh at a gift? & the narrow eyelids mock 
at the labour that is above payment, and wilt thou take the ape 
For thy councellor? or the dog, for a schoolmaster to thy children?

Does he who contemns poverty, and he who turns with abhorrence  
From usury: feel the same passion or are they moved alike?
How can the giver of gifts experience the delights of the  merchant?
How the industrious citizen the pains of the husbandman.
How different far the fat fed hireling with hollow drum;
Who buys whole corn fields into wastes, and sings upon the heath:

How different their eye and ear! how different the world to them!
With what sense does the parson claim the labour of the farmer?
What are his nets & gins & traps. & how does he surround him
With cold floods of abstraction, and with forests of solitude,
To build him castles and high spires. where kings & priests may
Till she who burns with youth. and knows no fixed lot; is bound
In spells of law to one she loaths: and must she drag the chain
Of life, in weary lust! must chilling murderous thoughts. obscure
The clear heaven of her eternal spring? to bear the wintry rage
Of a harsh terror driv'n to madness, bound to hold a rod     
Over her shrinking shoulders all the day; & all the night
To turn the wheel of false desire: and longings that wake her
To the abhorred birth of cherubs in the human form
That live a pestilence & die a meteor & are no more.
Till the child dwell with one he hates. and do the deed he loaths
And the impure scourge force his seed into its unripe birth
E'er yet his eyelids can behold the arrows of the day.

Does the whale worship at thy footsteps as the hungry dog?
Or does he scent the mountain prey, because his nostrils wide
Draw in the ocean? does his eye discern the flying cloud     
As the ravens eye? or does he measure the expanse like the
Does the still spider view the cliffs where eagles hide their
Or does the fly rejoice. because the harvest is brought in?
Does not the eagle scorn the earth & despise the treasures
But the mole knoweth what is there, & the worm shall tell it
Does not the worm erect a pillar in the mouldering church yard?
(Erdman 48-9)


In Works (click on compare) the wavy line can be seen as a grape vine with flowers
but no fruit, which emphasizes the general futility of the lamentation of Oothoon addressed to Urizen. 
It's made up of a series of questions:

How can one joy absorb another? a good question: the rich man's 
joy is at the cost of any chance for joy to the poor, whom he has cheated.

wilt thou take the ape For thy councellor?  Oh boy! Isn't that what our American voters do in their choices?

How can the giver of gifts experience the delights of the  merchant?
Short answer: he can't.
With what sense does the parson claim the labour of the farmer?
Boy! that's a good one; as a parson I couldn't.

The paragraph beginning Till she who burns with youth.. more clearly
addresses the subject of the poem, but it expands into an indictment
of British marriage customs, where the wife serves at (and only at) 
the pleasure of her husband (her Lord and Master). Blake fought for 
the rights of women.
Of the two images in this plate the upper one can be seen as a grapevine (mentioned above).
The lower image can be seen as a reclining woman. Erdman (page 133) says it addresses the 'till she who burns..' passage. Is it Oothoon?
She is covered below the waist.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Enitharmon is said to be the spiritual dimension of man in the world of generation, as Jerusalem is in Eden. As such she is a reflection of  the real, true and permanent Eternal existence. Our world, although vegetated not humanised, is not disconnected from the Divine Providence. When we view a reflection the light does not come from the object we see but from the source which emanates its own light. The light in the vegetated world comes from the Eternal but not directly. It encounters matter, the watery world, where it is diminished but not extinguished. In this reflected, looking glass world there are distortions and loss of intensity and clarity.

But what we see dimly reflected deserves close attention. In the Marriage of Heaven & Hell we read: 'Eternity is in love with the productions of time'. If we reciprocate and are in love with Eternity, we will seek to be aware of every attempt Eternity makes to be revealed. The trick is look not at the glass but through to the reality.
Thel, Plate 1,(E 3)
"Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud.
Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water."

Jerusalem, Plate 63, (E 214) 
"Los knew not yet what was done: he thought it was all in Visions
In Visions of the Dreams of Beulah among the Daughters of Albion
Therefore the Murder was put apart in the Looking-Glass of Enitharmon

He saw in Vala's hand the Druid Knife of Revenge & the Poison Cup
Of Jealousy, and thought it a Poetic Vision of the Atmospheres   
Till Canaan rolld apart from Albion across the Rhine: along the Danube

And all the Land of Canaan suspended over the Valley of Cheviot
From Bashan to Tyre & from Troy to Gaza of the Amalekite
And Reuben fled with his head downwards among the Caverns"

Four Zoas, Page 129, (E 398)
"And on the rivers margin she [Enion] ungirded her golden girdle
She stood in the river & viewd herself within the watry glass
And her bright hair was wet with the waters She rose up from the river
And as she rose her Eyes were opend to the world of waters 
She saw Tharmas sitting upon the rocks beside the wavy sea"

Miscellaneous Poems, (E 415)
"Memory, hither come,
  And tune your merry notes;
And, while upon the wind,
  Your music floats,
I'll pore upon the stream,
Where sighing lovers dream,      
And fish for fancies as they pass
Within the watery glass.

I'll drink of the clear stream,
  And hear the linnet's song;      
And there I'll lie and dream
  The day along:
And, when night comes, I'll go
  To places fit for woe;
Walking along the darken'd valley,   
  With silent Melancholy."

Jerusalem, Plate 63, (E 214)
"The Giants & the Witches & the Ghosts of Albion dance with
Thor & Friga, & the Fairies lead the Moon along the Valley of Cherubim
Bleeding in torrents from Mountain to Mountain, a lovely Victim  
And Jehovah stood in the Gates of the Victim, & he appeared
A weeping Infant in the Gates of Birth in the midst of Heaven

The Cities & Villages of Albion became Rock & Sand Unhumanized
The Druid Sons of Albion & the Heavens a Void around unfathomable
No Human Form but Sexual & a little weeping Infant pale reflected
Multitudinous in the Looking Glass of Enitharmon, on all sides
Around in the clouds of the Female, on Albions Cliffs of the Dead

Such the appearance in Cheviot: in the Divisions of Reuben
When the Cherubim hid their heads under their wings in deep
When the Druids demanded Chastity from Woman & all was lost."    

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 555)
"This world of Imagination is the World of
Eternity it is the Divine bosom into which we shall all go after
the death of the Vegetated body   This World  is
Infinite & Eternal whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation
is Finite & [for a small moment] Temporal    There Exist
in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing
which we see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature" 
Corinthians I, 13:12
"At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!" 

Friday, October 19, 2012


This post is based on pages 6-10 of Percival's Circle of Destiny.

Our psyche is dualistic; everything is an either or. Blake understood
this as well as the next man.

From Plate 3 of the Marriage of Heaven and Earth:
"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are
necessary to Human existence."
  From these contraries spring what the religious
call Good & Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys Reason[.] Evil is the active
springing from Energy.
  Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."

(The work is ironic; it comes from an ’angry young man.' In
later years Blake used an entirely different language.)

Here are some of the commonplace contraries:
Reason            Imagination
The Zoa,Urizen attempted to dominate the world, but made a
sorry mess of it.

The Zoa for Imagination was Los, the fallen name for Urthona;
he hammered into existence many attempts to fix the world, all
of them in some way fallen.

Down              Up   (This is sometimes reversed.)

Outer             Inner

The outer life is about things, facts,
thoughtless activity; the inner life is about reflection, spirit.

Material          Spiritual

Temporal          Eternal

Selfhood          Christ

The Pebble demonstrated the Selfhood;
It must be annihilated to achieve  the eternal immortality
of Christ.

Earth, Beulah     Paradise, Heaven, Eden

Beulah is the dusty halfway station between Heaven and Ulro (Hell)

Fallen            Redeemed

Night             Day

Hate              Love

Death             Life

Fruit             Root

Vala              Jerusalem

There are many others that you might hit upon
by using your imagination.

Blake's system, his myth, the fullest expression
of his values, is expressed through these

As Percival said, Blake's system, myth, etc is based upon
Scripture (p.4).

The Bible myth is Creation, Fall, Salvation, Apocalypse.
Blake's myth is Fall, Creation, Ulro (Hell), Redemption.
It was Man who created after the Fall of the Eternal Albion.
(Albion was Blake's term for Mankind.)

Urizen (Reason) 'created' a dismal world;
Los (Imagination) did somewhat better; he created
Golgonooza (like the Church bringing in the Kingdom
of God; but only God can do that).

Vala ('female love') represents fallen creation.
Jerusalem (the bride of Christ) represents the New
Age (for which we are all waiting).

Jerusalem  plate 81
(Pictures from LC Rare Books)

Study Jerusalem plate 81. A
nicer copy  may be found at

Vala and Jerusalem are
pictured here.

As usual Jerusalem is naked;
Vala is veiled.

(Truth is naked, but men veil
themselves with lies.)

You may research the rest of the contraries in like manner.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


How unlike Blake's usual method of writing is this fragment of a manuscript. Here he strings together abstractions instead of weaving a net of images. If this is a reflection of our poet's own psychic state he identifies his own envy as the root of his discontent as well as a motivation for his creativity. 
He departs from the litany of abstractions to present Hecate as an image of Envy and the mother of melancholy. Our understanding of Blake's evaluation of melancholy is enhanced by his associating it with 'heaven' and 'true joy.' The list of characteristics as it continues is long and depressing and ends with the ubiquitousness of Self love.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Fragment, (E 447)
 "My Cup is fill'd with Envy's Rankest  
Draught a miracle No less can set me Right. Desire Still
Pines but for
one Cooling Drop and tis Deny'd, while others in Contentments
downy Nest do sleep, it is the Cursed thorn wounding my breast
that makes me sing. however sweet tis Envy that Inspires my Song.
prickt. by the fame of others how I mourn and my complaints are
Sweeter than their Joys but O could I at Envy Shake my hands. my
notes Should Rise to meet the New born Day. Hate Meager hag Sets
Envy on unable to Do ought herself. but Worn away a Bloodless 
Daemon  The Gods all Serve her at her will so great her Power
is[.] like. fabled hecate She doth bind them to her law. Far in a
Direful Cave She lives unseen Closd from the Eye of Day. to the
hard Rock transfixt by fate and here She works her witcheries
that when She Groans She Shakes the Solid Ground Now Envy She
controlls with numming trance & Melancholy Sprung from her dark
womb There is a Melancholy, O how lovely tis whose heaven is in
the heavenly Mind for she from heaven came, and where She goes
heaven still doth follow her. She brings true joy once
fled. & Contemplation is her Daughter. Sweet Contemplation. She
brings humility to man Take her She Says & wear her in thine
heart lord of thy Self thou then art lord of all. Tis
Contemplation teacheth knowledge truly how to know. and
Reinstates him on his throne once lost how lost I'll tell. But
Stop the motley Song I'll Shew. how Conscience Came from heaven.
But O who listens to his Voice. T'was Conscience who brought
Melancholy down Conscience was sent a Guard to Reason. Reason
once fairer than the light till fould in Knowledges dark Prison
house. For knowledge drove sweet Innocence away. and Reason would
have followd but fate sufferd not. Then down Came conscience With
his lovely band The Eager Song Goes on telling how Pride against
her father Warrd & Overcame.
hate Controlls all the Gods. at will. Policy brought forth Guile
& fraud. these Gods last namd live in the Smoke of Cities. on
Dusky wing breathing forth Clamour & Destruction. alas in Cities
wheres the man whose face is not a mask unto his heart Pride made
a Goddess. fair     or Image rather till knowledge animated it.
'twas Calld Selflove. The Gods admiring loaded her with Gifts as
once Pandora She 'mongst men was Sent. and worser ills attended
her by far. She was a Goddess Powerful & bore Conceit and Shame
bore honour & made league with Pride & Policy doth dwell with
her by whom she [had] Mistrust & Suspition. Then bore a Daughter
called Emulation. who. married. honour these follow her around
the World[.] Go See the City friends Joind Hand in Hand. Go See.
the Natural the of flesh & blood. Go See more strong the ties of
marriage love, thou Scarce Shall find but Self love Stands

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Visions of the Daughters of Albion 2

                                        Visions of the Daughters of Albion

 Since the 'Vision' represents several themes (America, the 'slave empire', marriage customs in England) and is closely associated with Thel (and perhaps several other long poems), perhaps the best thing we can do is to guess what Blake was thinking about with his use of each of these symbols and metaphors.

In one sense the Daughters of Albion is a metaphor for the African slaves.                                                                                                         

Plate 2
Now thou maist marry Bromions harlot, and protect the child
Of Bromions rage, that Oothoon shall put forth in nine moons time
Then storms rent Theotormons limbs; he rolld his waves around.
And folded his black jealous waters round the adulterate pair
Bound back to back in Bromions caves terror & meekness dwell
At entrance Theotormon sits wearing the threshold hard
With secret tears; beneath him sound like waves on a desart shore
The voice of slaves beneath the sun, and children bought with money,
That shiver in religious caves beneath the burning fores
Of lust, that belch incessant from the summits of the earth

Oothoon weeps not. she cannot weep! her tears are locked up;
But she can howl incessant writhing her soft snowy limbs.
And calling Theotormons Eagles to prey upon her flesh.
I call with holy voice! kings of the sounding air,
Rend away this defiled bosom that I may reflect,
The image of Theotormon on my pure transparent breast.
The Eagles at her call descend & rend their bleeding prey;
Theotormon severely smiles. Her soul reflects the smile;
As the clear spring muddled with feet of beasts grows pure & smiles
The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs.

Why does Theotormon sit weeping upon the threshold:
And Oothoon hovers by his side, perswading him in vain:
I cry arise O Theotormon for the village dog
Barks at the breaking day. the nightingale has done lamenting
The lark does rustle in the ripe corn, and the Eagle returns
From nightly prey, and lifts his golden beak to the pure east;
Shaking the dust from his immortal points to awake
The sun that sleeps too long. Arise my Theotormon I am pure.
Because the night is gone that closed me in its deadly black.
They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning
That Theotormon hears me not! to him the night and morn
Are both alike: A night of sighs, a morning of fresh tears;
And none but Bromion can hear my lamentations.
Silent I hover all the night, and all day could be silent,
If Theotormon once would turn his loved eyes upon me;
How can I be defild when I reflect my image pure?
Sweetest the fruit that the worms feeds on. & the soul prey'd on by woe,
The new wash'd lamb ting'd with the village smoke & the bright swan
By the red earth of our immortal river: I bathe my wings,
And I am white and pure to hover round Theotormons breast.

Then Theotormon broke his silence, and he answered.
Tell me what is the night or day to one o'erflowd with woe?
Tell me what is a thought? & of what substance is it made?
Tell me what is a joy? & in what gardens do joys grow?
And in what rivers swim the sorrows? and upon what mountains 

                   Plate 3
Wave shadows of discontent? and in what houses dwell the wretched
Drunken with a woe forgotten. and shut up from cold despair,
Tell me where dwell the thoughts forgotten till thou call them forth
Tell me where dwell the joys of old! & where the ancient loves?
And when will they renew again & the night of oblivion past?
That I might traverse times and spaces far remote and bring
Comforts into a pre[s]ent sorrow and a night of pain
Where goest thou O thought! to what remote land is thy flight?
If thou returnest to the present moment of affliction
Wilt thou bring comforts on thy wings, and dews and honey and balm;
Or poison from the desart wilds, from the eyes of the envier.
Then Bromion said: and shook the cavern with his lamentation
Thou knowest that the ancient trees seen by thy eyes have fruit;
But knowest thou that trees and fruit flourish upon the earth
.......To gratify senses unknown? 
Then Oothoon waited silent all the day, and all the night
But when the morn arose, her lamentation renewd,
The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs.
Urizen! Creator of men! mistaken Demon of heaven;
Thy joys are tears! thy labour vain, to form men to thine image.
How can one absorb another? are not different joys
Holy, eternal, infinite! and each joy is a Love.

The outcome of this tragic triangle appears in Jerusalem Plate 61.

Here's a fragments;  it begins:
Plate 61 of Jerusalem:
"Behold: in the Visions of Elohim Jehovah, behold Joseph & Mary
And be comforted O Jerusalem in the Visions of Jehovah Elohim

She looked & saw Joseph the Carpenter in Nazareth & Mary
His espoused Wife. And Mary said, If thou put me away from thee
Dost thou not murder me? Joseph spoke in anger & fury. Should I
Marry a Harlot & an Adulteress? Mary answerd, Art thou more pure
Than thy Maker who forgiveth Sins & calls again Her that is Lost
Tho She hates. he calls her again in love. I love my dear Joseph
But he driveth me away from his presence. yet I hear the voice of
In the voice of my Husband. tho he is angry for a moment, he not
Utterly cast me away. if I were pure, never could I taste the
Of the Forgive[ne]ss of Sins! if I were holy! I never could behold the tears
Of love! of him who loves me in the midst of his anger in furnace of fire.

Ah my Mary: said Joseph: weeping over & embracing her closely in his arms"


If Theotormon loved God, he might have done what Joseph did in this story. You may find a closely related theme in the Book of Hosea.