Saturday, December 08, 2012

Blake's Sources 3

Next to the Bible John Milton most likely should be considered
Blake's primary source.  (Look at Blake's pictures of Paradise Lost.)

Of Blake's two large prophetic poems he named the first one
Milton.  He took as his source John Milton's Paradise Lost;
the story told us how (Blake's) Milton, up in Heaven,

"took off the robe of the promise, & ungirded himself from
the oath of God
And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp Of warlike
selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body
From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come?"
(erdman 114; Milton plate14)

Paradise Lost tells how Satan left Heaven; in the same way (Blake's)
Milton left Heaven, and the ultimate version of the story is that
Jesus left Heaven. The last two departures had happy

In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake told us that Milton
was "of the Devils party without knowing it." (Plate 5)

Milton in one form or another has appeared in many posts of
this blog.  Here are 72 posts,  and a portion of one:

Milton and Blake
"Blake began illustrating Milton's poetry in 1801 with a commission from Rev. Joseph Thomas to illustrate Comus, another of Milton's early works. Blake's final set of illustrations to Milton's works was to L'Allegro and Il Penseroso done for his loyal supporter Thomas Butts sometime after 1816 when he was over 60 years old. Milton wrote when he was looking forward to his own life; Blake illustrated looking back on Milton's life and work and his own. Blake had written his poem Milton between 1803 and 1810 to record the return of Milton to the land he had left a century and a quarter earlier."

And we may read from CREATION CONTINUES: 
"Near the beginning of Milton, Blake presents another perspective on the origins. This account begins with Urizen, Los, Enitharmon and Albion already in existence. First we learn that the initial splitting of the unity occurred when the unity which was Albion was slain in two aspects. His mountains (his mind or reasoning powers) were affected as well as his tent (his body or central integrity). Here we pick up on an idea from Paradise Lost which appears elsewhere in Blake; that the fall is initiated by the envy of an angelic being for the expression of divinity incorporated in the human. Blake equates the 'Human Imagination' and the 'Divine Body of the Lord Jesus'."

Here is an excerpt from another one:
 Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"In image 9 of Blake's illustrations to Paradise Regained he continues to draw upon his own methods of presenting psychological and spiritual content in illustrating Milton.
Dominating this image, titled 'Morning chasing away the phantoms', is the lovely female presence which personifies morning, an awakening from the dreams which troubled the sleep of Jesus. Blake like Milton can paint word pictures of the waking of the day in 'minute particulars' of nature coming to life."

And at  Sunday, October 16, 2011

"In the last five images for Blake's illustrations to Paradise Regained Blake availed himself of the opportunity to elaborate his ideas on Milton's text. Milton and Blake used the arrangement of the temptations of Jesus in the order of Luke's rather than Matthew's version. In Luke the final temptation involves Jesus being taken to the pinnacle of the temple.After Jesus withstood the second temptation to accept worldly power, Milton inserted this account of a night where Jesus' dreams are fraught with terrifying images."
(Paradise Regained):
"for at his head
The Tempter watched, and soon with ugly dreams
Disturbed his sleep. And either tropic now
'Gan thunder, and both ends of heaven; the clouds 

From many a horrid rift abortive poured
Fierce rain with lightning mixed, water with fire,
In ruin reconciled; nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves, but rushed abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vexed wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks,
Bowed their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st
Unshaken! Nor yet staid the terror there:
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round
Environed thee; some howled, some yelled, some shrieked,
Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou
Sat'st unappalled in calm and sinless peace.
Thus passed the night so foul,"

And  Friday, October 14, 2011
Blake's second image of his illustrations to Paradise Regained responds to these words in
Matthew 4:
"[1] Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
[2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
[3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
[4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

And these words in Paradise Regained:

"But now an aged man in rural weeds,
Following, as seemed, the quest of some stray eye,
Or withered sticks to gather,
then with words thus uttered spake: --
"Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this place,
To whom the Son of God: -- "Who brought me hither
Will bring me hence; no other guide I seek."
"By miracle he may," replied the swain;
"What other way I see not; for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inured
More than the camel, and to drink go far --
Men to much misery and hardship born.
But, if thou be the Son of God, command
That out of these hard stones be made thee bread;
So shalt thou save thyself, and us relieve
With food, whereof we wretched seldom taste."
He ended, and the Son of God replied: --
"Think'st thou such force in bread? Is it not written
(For I discern thee other than thou seem'st),
Man lives not by bread only, but each word
Proceeding from the mouth of God, who fed
Our fathers here with manna? In the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank;
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandered this barren waste; the same I now.
Why dost thou, then, suggest to me distrust
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?"

"Matthew, Milton and Blake focus attention on the essence of the scene that Jesus quotes in scripture indicating that: "Man lives not by bread only, but each word Proceeding from the mouth of God." Blake pictures Jesus pointing upwards to the heavens from which the word of God issues. By pointing to his own mouth as well Jesus indicates that the word of God is spoken by him also. In contrast the devil in disguise points downward suggesting that the words from his mouth come from below.

"The vision which Blake adds to the Bible and Milton is less obvious. The position of Christ's body, except for the arms, is an echo of the position of Milton on the title page of Milton associating with one another the two characters and the events which will be portrayed . Both figures are poised to move forward which Blake emphasizes by the position of the right foot, a position which is repeated at critical times in Blake's imagery. Blake is associating the whole of his book Milton and the place in his mythology which it represents with the critical point in the life of Jesus portrayed in Matthew and in Paradise Regained.

The disguise that the devil has assumed in this picture resembles images Blake most commonly uses for Urizen and Jehovah. Blake is drawing the viewer into connecting characters and situations which reappear throughout his myth with the temptation of Jesus.

The Bible and Milton's writings were stimuli that provoked Blake to continue to express his imagination in his unique art.

No comments: