King James Version (KJV)
18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
For centuries the “curse of Ham” was used to justify slavery, especially in the Southern states.
Unfortunately that superstition is still devoutly believed by many people to justify racism.
In the Bible Canaan was a ‘cursed land’ until through occupation it became the Promised Land,another example of the way Blake (and the Bible) use a word with different meanings.
A peculiar thing about Blake was his proclivity to use names
of people or places to express entirely different realities or
ideas. For example Ham, one of the three sons of Noah.
Here's the first biblical reference
King James Version (KJV) Genesis 5:32
And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
In Plate 7 of Jerusalem (Erdman 149) the Specter reproaches Los:
And thus the Spectre spoke: Wilt thou still go on to destruction?
Till thy life is all taken away by this deceitful Friendship?
He drinks thee up like water! like wine he pours thee
Into his tuns: thy Daughters are trodden in his vintage
He makes thy Sons the trampling of his bulls, they are plow'd
And harrowd for his profit, lo! thy stolen Emanation
Is his garden of pleasure! all the Spectres of his Sons mock thee
Look how they scorn thy once admired palaces! now in ruins
Because of Albion! because of deceit and friendship! For Lo!
Hand has peopled Babel & Nineveh: Hyle, Ashur & Aram:
Cobans son is Nimrod: his son Cush is adjoind to Aram,
By the Daughter of Babel, in a woven mantle of pestilence & war.
They put forth their spectrous cloudy sails; which drive their
Constellations over the deadly deeps of indefinite Udan-Adan
Kox is the Father of Shem & Ham & Japheth, he is the Noah
Of the Flood of Udan-Adan.
(Kox is a synonym of Kock, who joined with Scofield's
accusation, two soldiers Blake had kicked out of his
garden; they took Blake to court, charged with treason
or something of that sort.)
(This is the way Blake had of making names delegate ideas of his myth.
He used ‘Ham’ once in 'The Song of the Lamb (Plate 60 of Jerusalem;
I gave thee liberty and life O lovely Jerusalem
And thou hast bound me down upon the Stems of Vegetation
I gave thee Sheep-walks upon the Spanish Mountains Jerusalem
I gave thee Priams City and the Isles of Grecia lovely!
I gave thee Hand & Scofield & the Counties of Albion:
They spread forth like a lovely root into the Garden of God:
They were as Adam before me: united into One Man,
They stood in innocence & their skiey tent reachd over Asia
To Nimrods Tower to Ham & Canaan walking with Mizraim
Upon the Egyptian Nile, with solemn songs to Grecia
And sweet Hesperia even to Great Chaldea & Tesshina
Following thee as a Shepherd by the Four Rivers of Eden
Why wilt thou rend thyself apart, Jerusalem?
And build this Babylon & sacrifice in secret Groves,
Among the Gods of Asia: among the fountains of pitch & nitre
Therefore thy Mountains are become barren Jerusalem!
Thy Valleys, Plains of burning sand. thy Rivers: waters of death
Thy Villages die of the Famine and thy Cities
Beg bread from house to house, lovely Jerusalem
Why wilt thou deface thy beauty & the beauty of thy little-ones
To please thy Idols, in the pretended chastities of
Thy Sons are lovelier than Egypt or Assyria; wherefore
Dost thou blacken their beauty by a Secluded place of rest.
And a peculiar Tabernacle, to cut the integuments of beauty
Into veils of tears and sorrows O lovely Jerusalem!
They have perswaded thee to this, therefore their end shall come
And I will lead thee thro the Wilderness in shadow of my cloud
And in my love I will lead thee, lovely Shadow of Sleeping
This is the Song of the Lamb, sung by Slaves in evening time.
All this is strange enough, but what seems most strange is his omission of
'Ham' where it seems most appropriate.
In Blake's Vision of the Last Judgment (Erdman 559):
"The Persons who ascend to Meet the Lord coming in the Clouds
with power & great Glory. are representations of those States
described in the Bible under the Names of the Fathers before &
after the Flood Noah is seen in the Midst of these Canopied by a
Rainbow. on his right hand Shem & on his Left Japhet these three
Persons represent Poetry Painting & Music the three Powers
of conversing with Paradise which the flood did not Sweep
Strange that in he did not include Ham.