Sunday, March 24, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Plate 25, Copy E
Blake's little poem, The Golden Net, from his notebook (which came to be called The Pickering Manuscript) comments on the circumstances of man fallen from Eternity into the world of time and space. The outward, feminine world of matter is represented by the 'Three Virgins': chaste and cruel but presenting an appealing, exciting exterior.  They hold the very Golden String which may lead man through 'Heavens Gate built in Jerusalem's wall', but it has been woven into a net for entrapment. The Soul of our young man is 'melted away'; that is his ability to perceive the Eternal (the Fourfold) has been lost in his focus on the illusions of 'love & beauty' which have been materialized in the Threefold sexual world of these three virgins.
The process through which the three beautiful virgins have become visible as reflections in the water of materiality rather than as mental images created by the imagination or reasoning is stated, then it is repeated as the young man turns away from the perception of the infinite. This is imaged as the young man straying underneath the net. By involving himself emotionally with the illusions which appear to him, he creates a world exterior to his mind and assigns to it the substance which belongs to the infinite, eternal existence of imagination.
The three virgins appear in Blake mythopoeic system under the names of Vala, Rahab, and the Shadowy Female. Vala's daughter Tirzah is part of the family too. They exist as long as the mind cedes primary reality to the images it creates instead of the ability to create images.

The Pickering Manuscript, (E 483)
"     The Golden Net    
Three Virgins at the break of day
Whither young Man whither away
Alas for woe! alas for woe!
They cry & tears for ever flow
The one was Clothd in flames of fire    
The other Clothd in iron wire           
The other Clothd in tears & sighs       
Dazling bright before my Eyes
They bore a Net of Golden twine
To hang upon the Branches fine    
Pitying I wept to see the woe           
That Love & Beauty undergo
To be consumd in burning Fires
And in ungratified Desires
And in tears clothd Night & day    
Melted all my Soul away
When they saw my Tears a Smile
That did Heaven itself beguile
Bore the Golden Net aloft
As on downy Pinions soft                
Over the Morning of my Day              
Underneath the Net I stray
Now intreating Burning Fire             
Now intreating Iron Wire  
Now intreating Tears & Sighs   
O when will the morning rise"   

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