Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Birth


This was central to Blake's evolving theology. It came to him at 42 and delivered him from his need to flog Old Nobodaddy; he had experienced the 'healing balm'. Henceforth he loved and adored Jesus, the bearer of Forgiveness.

In this form Blake experienced the new birth, which Baptists tell us occurs when you "accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior". For Blake (and for me) it came with recognition of God's love, and particularly in his case a feeling of being accepted (for me, too actually). 

The First Vision of Light described his jubilation at being accepted and called "thou Ram hornd with gold":
     "Soft he smild
And I heard his voice Mild Saying This is My Fold O thou Ram hornd with gold Who awakest from sleep On the sides of the Deep On the Mountains around The roarings resound Of the lion & wolf The loud sea & deep gulf These are guards of My Fold O thou Ram hornd with gold And the voice faded mild.."
(Erdman 713)

For Blake (and for me) this led to an excess of power. It appears that Blake had a sense of guilt that came to a head during his three years at Felpham (by the sea). He had been invited there by a fashionable poet and man of affairs named Hayley.

That was wonderful, but Blake soon found that Hayley proposed to "assist" him to becoming successful by producing miniatures. Blake had struggled with the temptation to pursue worldly success instead of the "main chance", by which he meant artistic integrity (no doubt something all or most artists struggle with). Blake spoke of this in a letter to Cumberland dated 2 July 1800.

The pressure of Hayley on him to conform to worldly expectations was the last straw, and he returned to London a new man, no longer concerned about the approval of those who could reward him monetarily.

His best work came then with Milton and Jerusalem, but his new life is also expressed in the last part of The Four Zoas.

This experience of Blake's strikes me as a universal, applicable to many of us. The world calls, and God calls. Happy are those who hear and respond to the second call.

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