Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Luke 1
80] And the child [John] grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

Luke 2

33] And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him [Jesus].
34] And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35] (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36] And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37] And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38] And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39] And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40] And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Blake's illustrations to the New Testament follow his inclination to present his own response to biblical accounts. Blake includes pictures from Jesus' childhood which are not included in the Bible. Because the stage of childhood in man's life represented the age of innocence which was of particular interest to him, Blake chose to represent that stage in the life of Jesus. 

The Virgin Hushing the Young Baptist
Our Lady with the Infant Jesus Riding on a Lamb with St. John

The child John appears with the child Jesus in two pictures. These two boys would grow up to play prophetic roles for their society and meet violent deaths because of their resistance to the established culture. Mary in the two pictures may be attempting to protect her son from what she suspects may be rebelliousness in Jesus' slightly older cousin John. In the one image Mary hushes the exuberance of John as he approaches the sleeping Jesus. In the second image Mary steadies Jesus as he rides a lamb, Blake's symbol for gentleness. As an innocent Jesus clings to his mother but points to John as if desiring to join him. But not to be ignored is the reference to the eventual association of Jesus with the Lamb of God as the Divine Vision who prevents man's fall into Eternal Death.

There was reason for Mary to believe that John may grow up to be a rebellious boy because of the indulgence of his older mother and the rigid conformity of his priestly father. Her inclination was to raise her own son so that he would avoid the dangers that confrontations with the religious and military authorities would create.

Blake used Mary to represent the natural side of Jesus rather than the spiritual side in his poem
To Tirzah. On Plate 61 of Jerusalem, however, her spiritual side is shown for it is Mary who convinces Joseph that God's forgiveness does not demand purity but is through 'Continual Forgiveness of Sins In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity.'

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