Saturday, December 01, 2012


In Fearful Symmetry, Northrop Frye expands and enhances our understanding of the message that Blake attempted to convey with his multi-dimensional art. Blake's work as Frye sees it is directed toward making accessible to his readers consciousness of the unifying principle which to Frye is the 'single visionary synthesis' that affords a work of art its genuineness.

All Religions are One, (E 1)

"The Religions of all Nations are derived from each

Nations different reception of the Poetic Genius which is every where call'd the Spirit of Prophecy."

Page 416
"The two Units of art, to Blake, are the audible unit, which is the word in poetry and the visible unit, which is the image or outlined form."

Page 417

"At the end of the sixth chapter we suggested that the combination of musical, pictorial and poetic characteristics in Blake's prophecies made them unified visions of the three major arts, presented to the individual as the musical drama, the Greek play with its chorus, the Elizabethan play with its songs, or the modern opera, oratorio or ballet, present them to an audience...Blake moves toward undifferentiated art, art not addressed to the sense but to the mind that opens the senses."

Page 420-21
"Such a cultural revolution would absorb not only the Classical but all other cultures into a single visionary synthesis, deepen and broaden the public response to art, deliver the artist from the bondage of a dingy and nervous naturalism called, in a term which is a little masterpiece of question-begging, 'realism', and restore him to him the catholicity of outlook that Montaigne and Shakespeare possessed. And though that one religion would be, as far as Blake is concerned, Christianity, it would be a Christianity equated with the broadest possible vision of life...
British Museum

Plate 13
Page 418
"All Blake's own art, therefore, is at the same time an attempt to achieve absolute clarity of vision and a beginners guide to the understanding of an archetypal vision of which it forms a part. We cannot understand Blake without understanding how to read the Bible, Milton, Ovid and the Prose Edda at least as he read them, on the assumption that an archetypal vision, which all great art without exception shows forth to us, really does exist. If he is wrong, we have merely distorted the meaning of these other works of prophecy; if he is right the ability we gain by deciphering him is transferable, and the value of studying him extends far beyond our personal interest in Blake himself."      
The great value of Blake is that he insists so urgently on this question of imaginative iconography, and forces us to learn so much of its grammar in reading him. He differs from other poets only in the degree to which he compels us to do this."

Page 226

" is the poetic articulation, the imaginative unity, of Blake's ideas that is important... the primary impression which the real poet makes on the reader is not that of comparative greatness, but of positive goodness or genuineness. And this sense of genuineness is the unity of the positive impression we receive. We are back at Blake's doctrine of 'Every Poem must have a perfect unity,' with which we began. When we try to express the 'quality' of a poem we usually refer to one of its attributes. Blake teaches us that a poem's quality is its whatness, the unified pattern of its words and images."

Works in Illuminated Printing, (E 269)
Every Poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homers is
peculiarly so, I cannot tell: he has told the story of
Bellerophon & omitted the judgment of Paris which is not only a
part, but a principal part of Homers subject
  But when a Work has Unity it is as much in a Part as in the
Whole. the Torso is as much a Unity as the Laocoon
  As Unity is the cloke of folly so Goodness is the cloke of
knavery  Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out
with a Moral like a sting in the tail: Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do
with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are
Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree
still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is
its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.
  It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral Goodness
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil.
  The Classics, it is the Classics! & not Goths nor Monks, that
Desolate Europe with Wars."

Contemporary thinkers too teach us that the message is the medium and that the whole is greater than the parts.

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