Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Serpent

In Chapter Three of Genesis we read:

3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the 

LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You 
shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees 
of the garden:

3:3 of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not 
eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.

3:4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:

Also in
Exodus 7:10
And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord 

had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before 
his servants, and it became a serpent.

And in
Numbers 21:6
And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; 

and much people of Israel died.

And in
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.

And in
Matthew 23:33
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of 


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

of man be lifted up:

And in
Revelation 12:9
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and 

Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and 
his angels were cast out with him.

Here are some occurrences of the serpent in Blake’s poetry:?

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

Later at E40:
But now, from between the black & white spiders a cloud and
fire burst and rolled thro the deep blackning all beneath, so
that the nether deep grew black as a sea & rolled with a terrible
noise: beneath us was nothing now to be seen but a black tempest,
till looking east between the clouds & the waves, 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.
at last to the east, distant about three degrees appeard a fiery
crest above the waves slowly it reared like a ridge of golden
rocks till we discoverd two globes of crimson fire. from which
the sea fled away in clouds of smoke, and now we saw, it was the
head of Leviathan. his forehead was divided into streaks of green
& purple like those on a tygers forehead: soon we saw his mouth &
red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep
with beams of blood, advancing toward [PL 19] us with all the
fury of a spiritual existence.

(In the Bible also Satan and the Leviathan  appear in close proximity.)

In The Four Zoas; Erdman 388:
The trumpet sounded loud
And all the Sons of Eternity Descended into Beulah

PAGE 119 (IX 67-110)
In the fierce flames the limbs of Mystery lay consuming with howling
And deep despair. Rattling go up the flames around the Synagogue
Of Satan   Loud the Serpent Orc ragd thro his twenty Seven
Folds. The tree of Mystery went up in folding flames
Blood issud out in mighty volumes pouring in whirlpools fierce
From out the flood gates of the Sky The Gates are burst down pour
The torrents black upon the Earth the blood pours down incessant
Kings in their palaces lie drownd Shepherds their flocks their tents
Roll down the mountains in black torrents Cities Villages
High spires & Castles drownd in the black deluge Shoal on Shoal
Float the dead carcases of Men & Beasts driven to & fro on waves
Of foaming blood beneath the black incessant Sky till all
Mysterys tyrants are cut off & not one left on Earth

At Plate 14  of Jerusalem (Erdman 158):

He views the Cherub at the Tree of Life, also the Serpent,
Orc the first born coild in the south: the Dragon Urizen:

There are many other references to the Serpent among Blake’s writings.


Susan J. said...

thanks so much, Larry -- I've recently been meditating on the resemblance between the serpent (esp the one in the Garden) as metaphorical for the alimentary tract... :-)

Susan J. said...

will try to print this out & sit with it... :-)