Illustrations to Paradise Lost
Thomas Set, Image 3
'Christ Offers to Redeem Man'
The concepts which Blake dramatized in his poem Milton took form while he was living for three years in Felpham under the patronage of William Hayley. Blake's dominant function was his imagination which he felt called to express in prophetic poetry. His mentor (in Eternity) John Milton became the vehicle through which he could explore the struggles of a poet to overcome the resistances which he encountered in his effort to deliver his message of redemption.
Blake came to realize that Satan was not a force who had power over him. Satan could be recognized as a negation which opposed the mental movements working to create his poetry. Satan could be identified as a state not an entity. One enters the state of Satan by allowing one's own selfhood to take control of one's psyche and determine one's behaviors. The state of Satan is characterized by accusation, deception, inconsistency, destructiveness, and self-righteouness. When Blake saw these qualities enacted in Hayley he knew he had to make changes. He had to acknowledge that the negation of his work as a poet was within himself as well as outwardly in Hayley. And he had to return to London in order to avoid falling away from his great task as a poet - opening the minds of men to a perception of the infinite.
W. J. T. Mitchell in his chapter Blake's Radical Comedy in Blake's Sublime Allegory, edited by Curren and Wittreich explains the challenge that faced Blake:
"Blake seems to have been more interested in understanding what it means to be a prophet in an age that does not believe in prophets than in making himself look good at the expense of Hayley. Insofar as he 'serv'd / The Mills of Satan as the easier task' and hid his wrath during his stay in Felpham he had jeopardized his whole prophetic mission. Hayley's loss of temper only redeemed Blake from the charge of ingratitude; it did not solve the problem of how to be a prophet. Like Milton, Blake must have seen that Satan was not primarily Hayley or the Establishment but his own Selfhood, that part of him that doubted his calling enough to keep him in Felpham for three years." (Page 292)
Milton, Plate 3, (E 97) "They Builded Great Golgonooza Times on Times Ages on Ages First Orc was Born then the Shadowy Female: then All Los's Family At last Enitharmon brought forth Satan Refusing Form, in vain The Miller of Eternity made subservient to the Great Harvest That he may go to his own Place Prince of the Starry Wheels Plate 4 Beneath the Plow of Rintrah & the harrow of the Almighty In the hands of Palamabron. Where the Starry Mills of Satan Are built beneath the Earth & Waters of the Mundane Shell Here the Three Classes of Men take their Sexual texture Woven The Sexual is Threefold: the Human is Fourfold If you account it Wisdom when you are angry to be silent, and Not to shew it: I do not account that Wisdom but Folly. Every Mans Wisdom is peculiar to his own Individ[u]ality O Satan my youngest born, art thou not Prince of the Starry Hosts And of the Wheels of Heaven, to turn the Mills day & night? Art thou not Newtons Pantocrator weaving the Woof of Locke To Mortals thy Mills seem every thing & the Harrow of Shaddai A scheme of Human conduct invisible & incomprehensible Get to thy Labours at the Mills & leave me to my wrath, Satan was going to reply, but Los roll'd his loud thunders." Milton, Plate 7, (E 100) "The first, The Elect from before the foundation of the World: The second, The Redeem'd. The Third, The Reprobate & form'd To destruction from the mothers womb: follow with me my plow! Of the first class was Satan: with incomparable mildness; His primitive tyrannical attempts on Los: with most endearing love He soft intreated Los to give to him Palamabrons station; For Palamabron returnd with labour wearied every evening Palamabron oft refus'd; and as often Satan offer'd His service till by repeated offers and repeated intreaties Los gave to him the Harrow of the Almighty;" Milton, Plate 7, (E 100) "What could Los do? how could be judge, when Satans self, believ'd That he had not oppres'd the horses of the Harrow, nor the servants. So Los said, Henceforth Palamabron, let each his own station Keep: nor in pity false, nor in officious brotherhood, where None needs, be active. Mean time Palamabrons horses. Rag'd with thick flames redundant, & the Harrow maddend with fury."
Milton, Plate 8, (E 102) And all the Elect & all the Redeem'd mourn'd one toward another Upon the mountains of Albion among the cliffs of the Dead. They Plow'd in tears! incessant pourd Jehovahs rain, & Molechs Thick fires contending with the rain, thunder'd above rolling Terrible over their heads; Satan wept over Palamabron Theotormon & Bromion contended on the side of Satan Pitying his youth and beauty; trembling at eternal death: Michael contended against Satan in the rolling thunder Thulloh the friend of Satan also reprovd him; faint their reproof." Milton, Plate 9, (E 103) "For Satan flaming with Rintrahs fury hidden beneath his own mildness Accus'd Palamabron before the Assembly of ingratitude! of malice: He created Seven deadly Sins drawing out his infernal scroll, Of Moral laws and cruel punishments upon the clouds of Jehovah To pervert the Divine voice in its entrance to the earth With thunder of war & trumpets sound, with armies of disease Punisbments & deaths musterd & number'd; Saying I am God alone There is no other! let all obey my principles of moral individuality I have brought them from the uppermost innermost recesses Of my Eternal Mind, transgressors I will rend off for ever, As now I rend this accursed Family from my covering. Thus Satan rag'd amidst the Assembly! and his bosom grew Opake against the Divine Vision: the paved terraces of His bosom inwards shone with fires, but the stones becoming opake! Hid him from sight, in an extreme blackness and darkness, And there a World of deeper Ulro was open'd, in the midst Of the Assembly. In Satans bosom a vast unfathomable Abyss." Milton, Plate 11 , (E 104) "And the Mills of Satan were separated into a moony Space Among the rocks of Albions Temples, and Satans Druid sons Offer the Human Victims throughout all the Earth, and Albions Dread Tomb immortal on his Rock, overshadowd the whole Earth: Where Satan making to himself Laws from his own identity. Compell'd others to serve him in moral gratitude & submission Being call'd God: setting himself above all that is called God. And all the Spectres of the Dead calling themselves Sons of God In his Synagogues worship Satan under the Unutterable Name" Milton, Plate 14 , (E 108) "I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death, Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood The Lamb of God is seen thro' mists & shadows, hov'ring Over the sepulchers in clouds of Jehovah & winds of Elohim A disk of blood, distant; & heav'ns & earth's roll dark between What do I here before the Judgment? without my Emanation? With the daughters of memory, & not with the daughters of inspiration[?] I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One! He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death."
Milton, Plate 32 , (E 132) "Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States. States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease: You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die. Satan & Adam are States Created into Twenty-seven Churches And thou O Milton art a State about to be Created Called Eternal Annihilation that none but the Living shall Dare to enter: & they shall enter triumphant over Death And Hell & the Grave! States that are not, but ah! Seem to be."