Thursday, October 04, 2012


In his manuscript notes accompanying his watercolors Blake singles out these verses from Milton for his fifth illustration to Il Penseroso

Descriptions of Illustrations to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso (E 684)

"There in close covert by some Brook 
Where no profaner Eye may look 
With such concert as they keep 
Entice the dewy featherd Sleep 
And let some strange mysterous 
Dream Wave on his Wings in airy stream 
Of liveliest Portraiture displayd 
On my Sleeping eyelids laid 
And as I wake sweet Music breathe 
Above; about: or underneath: 
Sent by some Spirit to Mortals good 
Or the unseen Genius of the Wood" 

Blake wrote: 
"Milton sleeping on a Bank. Sleep descending with a Strange Mysterious Dream upon his Wings of Scrolls & Nets & Webs unfolded by Spirits in the Air & in the Brook around Milton are Six Spirits or Fairies hovering on the air with Instruments of Music" 

The wing of sleep dips into the water of materiality to bring images to Milton's dreaming self. Milton sleeps in what appears to be a grave; his hands cover his genitals warding off sexual involvement. 

The upper part of the picture is dominated by a circular rainbow in the center of which are the four fallen Zoas. The angel who brings the dream to Milton bears the Seven Eyes of God on his wings.

This illustration attempts to show a process of integration taking place. The dreaming man is receiving images from his unconscious which may resolve the conflicts which divide his psyche. He has the protection of the numinous forces to provide assistance in assimilating the experiences which have created entanglements in 'Scrolls & Nets & Webs'. He is surrounded in his sleep by 'his Sixfold Emanation' as 'Six Spirits or Fairies hovering on the air with Instruments of Music.'

The symbolic meaning of this illustration is closely related the conclusion of Blake's Milton and can be contrasted with the Epilogue to Gates of Paradise.
Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
"Say first! what mov'd Milton, who walkd about in Eternity
One hundred years, pondring the intricate mazes of Providence
Unhappy tho in heav'n, he obey'd, he murmur'd not. he was silent
Viewing his Sixfold Emanation scatter'd thro' the deep In torment!" 
Milton, Plate 33 [36], (E 132)
"Behold Milton descended to Redeem the Female Shade
From Death Eternal; such your lot, to be continually Redeem'd
By death & misery of those you love & by Annihilation
When the Sixfold Female percieves that Milton annihilates
Himself: that seeing all his loves by her cut off: he leaves     
Her also: intirely abstracting himself from Female loves
She shall relent in fear of death: She shall begin to give
Her maidens to her husband: delighting in his delight
And then & then alone begins the happy Female joy"
Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
"Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon."
Milton, Plate 41 [48], (E 143)
"Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair

Is this our Femin[in]e Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female      
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro.
Hence arose all our terrors in Eternity! & now remembrance
Returns upon us! are we Contraries O Milton, Thou & I            
O Immortal! how were we led to War the Wars of Death
Is this the Void Outside of Existence, which if enterd into

Plate 42 [49]       
Becomes a Womb? & is this the Death Couch of Albion
Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee

So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder! 
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths              
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea.

Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became 
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a Garment dipped in blood
Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years 

And I beheld the Twenty-four Cities of Albion
Arise upon their Thrones to Judge the Nations of the Earth
And the Immortal Four in whom the Twenty-four appear Four-fold
Arose around Albions body: 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" 


We went to the tennis court early this morning as usual but found something unusual: a moth clinging to the fence behind the court. Since I remembered from long ago that this was a particularly beautiful species of moth, I went for a closer look. I remembered the color - a pale luminous green, and the form - graceful wings with extended tails, but I had forgotten another feature - small well articulated 'eyes' on the wings. Since I had been looking at the wings of sleep covered with the Eyes of God, I was astonished to find eyes on the wings of a Luna moth. The name of the moth connects it with the moon, the feminine and Beulah. So Milton's Mysterious Dream is not far removed from the commonplace of ordinary life.

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