Here you may meet William Blake, join hands in a discussion, ask questions. This is your Blake Commentary. Please visit Larry's Blake Primer
Saturday, November 10, 2012
At the very beginning of Blakes' poem, Jerusalem, he makes us fully aware that the new woman represents something entirely other than the disreputable matter of earlier writing. She is just the opposite; she is Spirit or rather the manifestation of Spirit in this world. The Saviour confronts the sleeping Albion and identifies his disease, "where hast thou hidden thy Emanation, lovely Jerusalem". But the "perturbed Man" denies Christ and denies Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem is not! her daughters are indefinite: By demonstration man alone can live, and not by faith." A few lines further the poet announces that
"Jerusalem is scatter'd abroad like a cloud of smoke thro' nonentity.
Moab & Ammon & Amalek & Canaan & Egypt & Aram
Receive her little ones for sacrifices and the delights of
The place names represent the six heathen nations or the powers of evil that surround the Chosen People. The import of all this in another biblical phrase is that "He who departs from evil makes himself a prey".
Very shortly we meet the Daughters of Albion; they represent the feminine dimension of
the materialistic impulses of Man:
"Names anciently remember'd, but now contemn'd as fictions. Although in every bosom they controll our Vegetative powers".
Eventually a redemptive moment occurs when, Los having subdued and integrated his Spectre, his Sons and Daughters "come forth from the Furnaces".
Erin, like America a symbol of redemption, addresses Jerusalem:
"Vala is but thy Shadow, 0 thou loveliest among women!
A shadow animated by thy tears, 0 mournful Jerusalem!
Why wilt thou give to her a Body whose life is but a Shade?
Her joy and love, a shade, a shade of sweet repose:
But animated and vegetated she is a devouring Worm.
What shall we do for thee, 0 lovely mild Jerusalem?"
The fallen Sons of Albion express the opposite viewpoint. In Plate 18, in a prophetic
statement worthy of Isaiah in its irony, the twelve Sons of Albion describe explicitly and
in detail their relationship to Jerusalem and to Vala:
Cast, Cast ye Jerusalem forth! The Shadow of delusions!
The Harlot daughter! Mother of pity and dishonourable forgiveness!
Our Father Albion's sin and shame! But father now no more,
Nor sons, nor hateful peace & love, nor soft complacencies,
With transgressors meeting in brotherhood around the table
Or in the porch or garden. No more the sinful delights
Of age and youth, and boy and girl, and animal and herb,
And river and mountain, and city & village, and house and family,
Beneath the Oak and Palm, beneath the Vine and fig tree,
In Self-denial!--But War and deadly contention Between
Father and Son, and light and love! All bold asperities
Of Haters met in deadly strife, rending the house & garden
The unforgiving porches, the tables of enmity, and beds
And chambers of trembling & suspicion, hatreds of age & youth,
And boy & girl, & animal & herb, & river & mountain,
And city & village, and house & family, That the Perfect
May live in glory, redeem'd by Sacrifice of the Lamb
And of his children before sinful Jerusalem. To build
Babylon the City of Vala, the Goddess Virgin-Mother.
She is our Mother! Nature! Jerusalem is our Harlot-Sister
Return'd with Children of pollution to defile our House
With Sin and Shame. Cast, Cast her into the Potter's field!
Her little ones She must slay upon our Altars, and her aged
Parents must be carried into captivity: to redeem her Soul,
To be for a Shame & a Curse, and to be our Slaves for ever.
In an extended passage too long to quote here Blake gives a colloquy with the fainting, confused Albion and the two females competing for his heart. It's actually a recreation of the earlier colloquy in VDA, and infinitely richer and fuller. Albion wavers exactly like Theotormon; Vala, like Bromion, is implacably blind, and Jerusalem has the eloquence of the earlier heroine. In this scene, like the earlier one, Blake describes the eternal battle between faith and worldliness.
Look also at the passage on Plates 32-34 and remember that Albion, Vala and Los each
speaks from his own viewpoint. To understand Blake's vision the reader must
imaginatively enter the psychic state of each of the three characters. Los most often
speaks from the poet's true standpoint, and the following lines put his position about as
plainly as it can be put:
"What may Man be? who can tell! but what may Woman be
To have power over Man from Cradle to corruptible Grave?
There is a Throne in every Man, it is the Throne of God:
This, Woman has claim'd as her own, and Man is no more!
Albion is the Tabernacle of Vala and her Temple,
And not the Tabernacle and Temple of the Most High.
0 Albion, why wilt thou Create a Female Will?"
A few lines along he adds further meaning to his term:
"Is this the Female Will, 0 ye lovely Daughters of Albion, To
Converse concerning Weight & Distance in the Wilds of Newton
As the epic progresses, Blake continues to define the two women:
Man is adjoin'd to Man by his Emanative portion
Who is Jerusalem in every individual Man, and her
Shadow is Vala, builded by the Reasoning power in Man."
The idea of building Jerusalem gains prominence in Blake's poetry after the Moment of
Grace. Jerusalem, "a city, yet a woman", is builded in the heart of every man by acts of
love and kindness, and this is the work of the imagination.
As the third chapter of 'Jerusalem' begins, Blake describes Jerusalem for us once more:
In Great Eternity every particular Form gives forth or Emanates
Its own peculiar Light, and the Form is the Divine Vision
And the Light is his Garment. This is Jerusalem in every Man,
A Tent & Tabernacle of Mutual Forgiveness, Male and Female Clothings.
And Jerusalem is called Liberty among the Children of Albion.