Friday, January 11, 2013

The Serpent

The serpent appears often in the Bible and just as often in Blake: 

Eve Tempted
Victoria and Albert Museum
Look also at this post
Genesis 3 King James Version (KJV)
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord 
God had made. And he said unto the woman, 
Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, 
Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be 
opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Exodus 4 (Moses meets God at the Burning Bush)

 1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor 
hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.
And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became 
a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.

Numbers 21
 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye 
brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, 
neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; 
and much people of Israel died.
 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have 
 spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take 
away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a 
pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh 
upon it, shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to 
pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, 
he lived.
 Isaiah 27:1
In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the 
piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. 

Job 26 
 12 He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.
  13 By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.

Matthew 10
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise 
as serpents, and harmless as doves.
At the end of Mark (16) Jesus said 
Go ye into all the world, and preach the 

gospel to every creature..........
 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt 
 them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 

John 3:14
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 

Here's how Blake used the Serpent: 

Blake began The Marriage of Heaven and Hell with: 
Now the sneaking serpent walks In mild humility. And the just man rages in the wilds Where lions roam.
(Erdman 33)

And then: 
we saw a cataract of blood mixed with fire and not many stones throw from us appeard and sunk again the scaly fold of a monstrous serpent..
(Erdman 40 )

In America, a Prophecy (at Erdman 51):
Sometimes an eagle screaming in the sky, sometimes a lion,
Stalking upon the mountains, & sometimes a whale I lash
The raging fathomless abyss, anon a serpent folding 
In The Book of Urizen,  (Erdman 79)
5. All day the worm lay on her bosom
All night within her womb                                        
The worm lay till it grew to a serpent
With dolorous hissings & poisons
Round Enitharmons loins folding,

6. Coild within Enitharmons womb
The serpent grew casting its scales,                             
With sharp pangs the hissings began
To change to a grating cry,
Many sorrows and dismal throes,
Many forms of fish, bird & beast,
Brought forth an Infant form                                     
Where was a worm before.

In Europe, a Prophecy

The fiery King, who sought his ancient temple serpent-form'd That stretches 
out its shady length along the Island white. .... Thought chang'd the infinite to a 
serpent; that which pitieth: To a devouring flame; and man fled from its face 
and hid In forests of night; then all the eternal forests were divided Into earths 
rolling in circles of space, that like an ocean 
And overwhelmed all except this finite wall of flesh.            
Then was the serpent temple form'd, image of infinite
Shut up in finite revolutions, and man became an Angel;
Heaven a mighty circle turning; God a tyrant crown'd.

Taking a note from the original family,
In the Song of Los (Erdman 69)
Then the thunders of Urizen bellow'd aloud
From his woven darkness above.

Orc raging in European darkness
Arose like a pillar of fire above the Alps
Like a serpent of fiery flame!
The sullen Earth Shrunk!

Milton Plate 12 (Erdman 106) 
 Which now gird round us (O eternal torment) I form'd the Serpent Of precious stones & gold 
turn'd poisons on the sultry wastes The Gnomes in all that day spar'd not; they curs'd Satan 
bitterly. To do unkind things in kindness! with power armd, to say The most irritating things in 
the midst of tears and love These are the stings of the Serpent! thus did we by them; till thus 
They in return retaliated, and the Living Creatures maddend.
They gave Satan their wine: indignant at the burning wrath.
Wild with prophetic fury his former life became like a dream     
Cloth'd in the Serpents folds, in selfish holiness demanding 
Being Most impure, self-condemn'd to eternal tears, he drove
Me from his inmost Brain & the doors clos'd with thunders sound 

In Milton Plate 27 (Erdman 124) 
This Wine-press is call'd War on Earth, it is the Printing-Press
Of Los; 
The Toad & venomous Newt; the Serpent clothd in gems & gold:
They throw off their gorgeous raiment: they rejoice with loud
Around the Wine-presses of Luvah, naked & drunk with wine.

Vision of the Last Judgment (Erdman 556)
Satan is seen falling headlong wound round by the tail of the
serpent whose bulk naild to the Cross round which he wreathes is
falling into the Abyss Sin is also represented as a female bound
in one of the Serpents folds surrounded by her fiends 

We have omitted voluminous references to the serpent in
The Four Zoas and Jerusalem.  To really understand what
the serpent meant to Blake you will need to address them

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