Thursday, December 13, 2012


Image in Blake Archive

Another of Blake's pictures of the child Jesus appearing in a situation not mentioned in the bible is called the Christ Child Asleep on a Cross. The obvious implication of the picture is a reminder of the crucifixion which would befall Jesus in later life. By creating this image Blake interweaves occurrences in time with those in eternity. It was Blake's belief that provision was made for man's return to his original bliss even as he was expelled from the garden. In the New Testament letters the cross became a symbol of Jesus' submission to death as a prelude to life eternal.      

Christ Child Asleep on a Cross
Blake used this picture as a way of tying together multiple ways in which we experience God's gift of the birth to Eternal Life. First in the birth of the Christ child in our hearts and minds. Second in the symbol of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Third in a symbol of the transforming power which the cross became for believers. And fourth as an indication that through Christ and his resurrection man may gain experiential knowledge of his own Eternal Life.  

Titus 1
[1] Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
[2] In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Philippians 2
[5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
[6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
[7] But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
[8] And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
[9] Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

1st John 5
[11] And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
[13] These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
[20] And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Blake's own words add further dimensions to the meaning we may search for in this picture.

Milton, Plate 4, (E 98)
"Satan was going to reply, but Los roll'd his loud thunders.   

Anger me not! thou canst not drive the Harrow in pitys paths.
Thy Work is Eternal Death, with Mills & Ovens & Cauldrons.
Trouble me no more. thou canst not have Eternal Life

So Los spoke! Satan trembling obeyd weeping along the way.
Mark well my words, they are of your eternal Salvation      

Between South Molton Street & Stratford Place: Calvarys foot
Where the Victims were preparing for Sacrifice their Cherubim
Around their loins pourd forth their arrows & their bosoms beam
With all colours of precious stones, & their inmost palaces
Resounded with preparation of animals wild & tame          
(Mark well my words! Corporeal Friends are Spiritual Enemies)
Mocking Druidical Mathematical Proportion of Length Bredth Highth
Displaying Naked Beauty! with Flute & Harp & Song
Plate 5                                             
Palamabron with the fiery Harrow in morning returning
From breathing fields. Satan fainted beneath the artillery
Christ took on Sin in the Virgins Womb, & put it off on the Cross

All pitied the piteous & was wrath with the wrathful & Los heard it."

Everlasting Gospel [Notes], (E 877)
     "It was when Jesus said to Me
     Thy Sins are all forgiven thee
     The Christian trumpets loud proclaim
     Thro all the World in Jesus name
     Mutual forgiveness of each Vice
     And oped the Gates of Paradise
     The Moral Virtues in Great fear
     Formed the Cross & Nails & Spear
     And the Accuser standing by
     Cried out Crucify Crucify
     Our Moral Virtues neer can be
     Nor Warlike pomp & Majesty
     For Moral Virtues all begin
     In the Accusations of Sin"

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