Wednesday, October 10, 2012


It is easy to get discouraged when reading Blake's longer poems because of the lack of continuity and the introduction of multiple unfamiliar metaphors in close proximity. Jerome McGann in his chapter in Blake's Sublime Allegory, Essays on The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem, Edited by Curran and Wittreich, gives an explanation of the reasoning behind the unfamiliar structure and composition encountered in the Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem. But we have to assume that Blake did not arrive at his way of writing poetry through his reasoning power but through the faculty he is trying to develop in his reader - the Imagination.

Quoting Jerome McGann on page 16:
"Fourfold vision is not rest but activity. Its first demand is that all things be forsaken, since only by fostering a condition of total perceptual indigence can one begin the preparation for infinite vision. Possessing nothing one finds that all things are possible. But to describe fourfold vision in this way is almost to parody it, Blake's poems resort to enactment and dramatization. However this is done it always comes in the "Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find" (M 35: 42). (Note how Blake's statement assures us that such visionary, timeless moments are continually borne to us through fallen time, even by Satan's 'Watch Fiends' themselves.) Between the pulsation of an artery, suspended from time in time, such a moment contains an experience of dying to an old form of thought and gaining a new world of perception.

New York Public Library
Plate 16
Blake's poems aim to establish the conditions which will rouse the faculties of his readers to this very death and release. He sets out contrarious perceptions of the universe, and by violent acts of juxtaposition forces us to 'To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating' (M 30: 20). The demand is that we set the poem's terms into successively different types of relations with each other. Blake's art is a sort of Glass-Bead Game. To 'make sense' of his words we establish in and for them different forms of order based on shifting sets of dissociations and associations, contrasts and analogies. To cease the act of creating these sets of relations, or of ironically unbuilding them again, is to lapse into single vision...As far as Blake is concerned, the process is infinite."   

Milton, PLATE 35 [39], (E 135)
"O how the Starry Eight rejoic'd to see Ololon descended!
And now that a wide road was open to Eternity,                   

By Ololons descent thro Beulah to Los & Enitharmon,

For mighty were the multitudes of Ololon, vast the extent
Of their great sway, reaching from Ulro to Eternity

Surrounding the Mundane Shell outside in its Caverns
And through Beulah. and all silent forbore to contend            
With Ololon for they saw the Lord in the Clouds of Ololon

There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
This Moment & it multiply. & when it once is found
It renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly placed[.]        
In this Moment Ololon descended to Los & Enitharmon
Unseen beyond the Mundane Shell Southward in Miltons track"

Milton, PLATE 30 [33], (E 129)
"Lo the Eternal Great Humanity            
To whom be Glory & Dominion Evermore Amen
Walks among all his awful Family seen in every face
As the breath of the Almighty. such are the words of man to man
In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating          

But the Emanations trembled exceedingly, nor could they
Live, because the life of Man was too exceeding unbounded
His joy became terrible to them they trembled & wept
Crying with one voice. Give us a habitation & a place
In which we may be hidden under the shadow of wings              
For if we who are but for a time, & who pass away in winter
Behold these wonders of Eternity we shall consume
But you O our Fathers & Brothers, remain in Eternity
But grant us a Temporal Habitation."
Perhaps we have a tendency to plead along with the Emanations for a temporal habitation when the Wars of Eternity become too intense for our comprehension.

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