Saturday, August 31, 2013

America 3

 America 3
wiki commons
                             A PROPHECY
The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent,
Sullen fires across the Atlantic glow to America's shore:
Piercing the souls of warlike men, who rise in silent night,

Washington, Franklin, Paine & Warren, Gates, Hancock & Green;
Meet on the coast glowing with blood from Albions fiery Prince.  

Washington spoke; Friends of America look over the Atlantic sea;
A bended bow is lifted in heaven, & a heavy iron chain
Descends link by link from Albions cliffs across the sea to bind
Brothers & sons of America, till our faces pale and yellow;
Heads deprest, voices weak, eyes downcast, hands work-bruis'd,  
Feet bleeding on the sultry sands, and the furrows of the whip  
Descend to generations that in future times forget.----
The strong voice ceas'd; for a terrible blast swept over the heaving sea;
The eastern cloud rent; on his cliffs stood Albions wrathful Prince              
A dragon form clashing his scales at midnight he arose,
And flam'd red meteors round the land of Albion beneath[.]      
His voice, his locks, his awful shoulders, and his glowing eye
(Erdman 52)

The 'Guardian Prince of Albion' occurs also at The
Song of Los. You may assume  
that it refers to the King of England (in a veiled way). 

He burns at the 'sullen fires' of America. What might these sullen fires mean?  Perhaps at the revolutionary fervor in America.

The 'warlike men: Washington, Franklin, Paine & Warren, Gates, Hancock & Green (probably meant Greene);We might wonder if Blake primarily knew these historical figures re the American Revolution. The one he was most familiar with was Paine.

Washington speaks explicating the oppression America has suffered from Albion.

The  statement elicits the fury of the Prince of Albion in dragon form.

                         About the Image

Note the words in the Title: 
America: straight up and down;
Prophecy: slanted. 

Note the upper and lower portions: Lightness above (Erdman calls it the 'mental realm').
In the Lightness between the two words of the title are what Erdman calls two philosophers.
I see America on the left and  the Prince of Albion on the right.
The left one is bent over reading a book assisted by a childlike figure.
The right one is also bent over and two angels above him point to AMERICA.

Below is a black area, a battlefield; a dead soldier still holding his sword and a women on him (expecting her kiss will revive him), but there are others lying around, with two severed heads.


In the 1790's there were many trials for treason in Great Britain
"over thirty radicals were initially arrested and three tried for high treason" Blake produced America a Prophecy expecting to be arrested; he wrote in his notebook "I shan't live five years. and if I live one it will be a Wonder. June 1793"(Erdman, 694) (but he lived another 35 years). 

Blake's early draft mentioned King George III by name but not in finished versions.

The Song of Los, America and Europe all describe Africa and Europe; why might that be? "in Biblical and apocalyptic tradition the dragon is defeated by the Messiah"

Friday, August 30, 2013


Courtesy of Wikimedia
Illustration to Blair's The Grave
Descent of Man into the Vale of Death

Blake is convinced that humans are not separate entities but portions of one body. Because man is a member of the one body (Albion), his every act is influenced by those with whom be interacts, and his acts impinge upon all others. If he becomes a punisher, he punishes himself as well as all of humanity. Every member of the body is responsible for caring of every other member. Only by doing so can the body provide for each member. Each member is harmed by the selfishness of another because all are necessary for the body to function optimally.     

Jerusalem, Plate 47, (E 196) 
"Hark! the mingling cries of Luvah with the Sons of Albion
Hark! & Record the terrible wonder! that the Punisher
Mingles with his Victims Spectre, enslaved and tormented         
To him whom he has murderd, bound in vengeance & enmity
Shudder not, but Write, & the hand of God will assist you!
Therefore I write Albions last words. Hope is banish'd from me."
Jerusalem, Plate 45 [31], (E 194)
"What shall I [Los] do! what could I do, if I could find these Criminals
I could not dare to take vengeance; for all things are so constructed
And builded by the Divine hand, that the sinner shall always escape,
And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray!
O Albion, if thou takest vengeance; if thou revengest thy wrongs
Thou art for ever lost! What can I do to hinder the Sons
Of Albion from taking vengeance? or how shall I them perswade.
These were his [Albion's] last words, and the merciful Saviour in his arms
Reciev'd him, in the arms of tender mercy and repos'd
The pale limbs of his Eternal Individuality
Upon the Rock of Ages."

Jerusalem, PLATE 31 [35], (E 177)
"Then the Divine hand found the Two Limits, Satan and Adam,
In Albions bosom: for in every Human bosom those Limits stand.
And the Divine voice came from the Furnaces, as multitudes without
Number! the voices of the innumerable multitudes of Eternity.
And the appearance of a Man was seen in the Furnaces;            
Saving those who have sinned from the punishment of the Law,
(In pity of the punisher whose state is eternal death,)
And keeping them from Sin by the mild counsels of his love.

Albion goes to Eternal Death: In Me all Eternity.
Must pass thro' condemnation, and awake beyond the Grave!
No individual can keep these Laws, for they are death
To every energy of man, and forbid the springs of life;
Albion hath enterd the State Satan! Be permanent O State!
And be thou for ever accursed! that Albion may arise again:
And be thou created into a State! I go forth to Create           
States: to deliver Individuals evermore! Amen.
So spoke the voice from the Furnaces, descending into Non-Entity
[To Govern the Evil by Good: and States abolish Systems.]"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"In Hell all is Self
Righteousness there is no such thing there as Forgiveness of Sin
he who does Forgive Sin is Crucified as an Abettor of Criminals.
& he who performs Works of Mercy in Any shape whatever is punishd
& if possible destroyd not thro Envy  or Hatred or Malice but
thro Self Righteousness that thinks it does God service which God
is Satan"
Love, mercy, forgiveness, generosity, kindness, and gratitude: when these are the measure which is given, they will be the measure which is returned.

Luke 6
[35] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
[36] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
[37] "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
[38] give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." 

Matthew 7
[1] "Judge not, that you be not judged.
[2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
[3] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
[4] Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?
[5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

America 2

Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy,
The hairy shoulders rend the links, free are the wrists of fire;
Round the terrific loins he siez'd the panting struggling womb;
It joy'd: she put aside her clouds & smiled her first-born smile;
As when a black cloud shews its lightnings to the silent deep.
Soon as she saw the terrible boy then burst the virgin cry.
I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go;
Thou art the image of God who dwells in darkness of Africa;
And thou art fall'n to give me life in regions of dark death.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions
Endur'd by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.
O what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & my frost
Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightnings rent;
This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold.
The stern Bard ceas'd, asham'd of his own song; enrag'd he swung His harp aloft sounding, then dash'd its shining frame against A ruin'd pillar in glittring fragments; silent he turn'd away, And wander'd down the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings.
His harp aloft sounding, then dash'd its shining frame against
A ruin'd pillar in glittring fragments; silent he turn'd away,
And wander'd down the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings.

What is the plant? closer inspection suggests that the branch is a root, under the earth, but the text reveals that we have to do, not with ground and underground but with a  womb. This man is being born.
So perhaps we have a double meaning here, the womb and a tree.  We may recall that the newborn Orc was taken, not up a tree, but up a mountain  (actually the Tree of Mystery). 
Choosing the earthly facet of Orc we see two plants, a straight one (tree) and a vine, indicated by the loops going up until they point to the begnning of the text. 

"Soon as she saw the terrible boy then burst the virgin cry."  The 'terrible boy' of course is Orc; but 'the virgin cry'?, what virgin might that be? Look at The Night of Enitharmon's Joy.

In America 2 'vengeance is the keynote representing Revolution.
The bard (Blake) is ashamed of his song and smashes it (metaphorically).

Regardless of the text, what is this image saying?
Starting at the bottom we see a man with legs bent and arms spread out and bent at the elbows as if to be sitting on the branch of a tree (or bush) who is he?
The text suggests that he is Orc,

Silent and strong! This is a description of Orc's birth.  It has all sorts of connotations.
'She' is presumbably Enitharmon, of whom Orc was her firstborn.  There are several accounts of the birth by Enitharmon, perhaps most definitive in Chapter VII of the Book of Urizen , already used in America 1.

That's a different side of this female:
Europe a Prophecy is said to a large extent to be " devoted to the night of Enitharmon's joy, when she establishes her Woman's World with its false religion of chastity and vengeance: a religion of eighteen hundread years, which is the error of official Christianity."[11]  In other words, it is said to represents a Feminine Will over a patriarchal Christianity.

"Thou art the image of God who dwells in darkness of Africa;
And thou art fall'n to give me life in regions of dark death.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions 
Endur'd by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away":
in Africa (as a revolution against slavery)
in America
in Canada (a serpent);
in Mexico (an eagle)
in Peru (a lion) 
in the South Seas (a whale)  
This demonstrates the vividness of Blake's imagination; he sees (the possibility) of revolution everywhere.
In the last line he reveals how sick and sorrowful he feels about the world.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


In Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington:

There follows a quote from Martin Luther King's letter written from the jail in Birmingham, Alabama in April of 1963. King had been jailed for refusing to discontinue his protests against the abuse of justice in the segregated South. He took the opportunity of his imprisonment to make a statement of the foundations of the movement to non-violently enact 'extreme' measures to replace the passive acceptance of conditions which were an outrage to the conscience of just men.  

"I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."

William Blake could be added to the list of men who were willing to advocate extreme measures to effect the changes which would reverse oppression. He spoke through his poetry especially through the prophetic voice of Los and in the following poem.

Yale Center for British Art
 America, A Prophecy

Songs and Ballads, (E 489)
          The Grey Monk                    
"I die I die the Mother said
My Children die for lack of Bread          
What more has the merciless Tyrant said
The Monk sat down on the Stony Bed         

The blood red ran from the Grey Monks side 
His hands & feet were wounded wide
His Body bent his arms & knees
Like to the roots of ancient trees

His eye was dry no tear could flow
A hollow groan first spoke his woe 
He trembled & shudderd upon the Bed        
At length with a feeble cry he said

When God commanded this hand to write
In the studious hours of deep midnight
He told me the writing I wrote should prove
The Bane of all that on Earth I lovd       

My Brother starvd between two Walls
His Childrens Cry my Soul appalls
I mockd at the wrack & griding chain    
My bent body mocks their torturing pain 

Thy Father drew his sword in the North
With his thousands strong he marched forth
Thy Brother has armd himself in Steel     
To avenge the wrongs thy Children feel    

But vain the Sword & vain the Bow 
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows tear
Alone can free the World from fear

For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing        
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King 
And the bitter groan of the Martyrs woe    
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed 
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead" 


William Blake was not the sort of person who went unnoticed. He was too gifted and too confident of his exceptional abilities not to draw attention. As a young man he was invited to the homes of some of the prominent intelligentsia of London. Through these contacts his earliest poems gained publication in 1783 in a little volume called Poetical Sketches.

In the Commentary for The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, Harold Bloom tells us that the volume can be 'viewed as a workshop of Blake's developing imaginative ambitions.' Bloom recognizes that these early works of the poet 'give definite form to the strong workings of imagination.' The pursuit of engraving and painting represented one thrust of Blake's lifelong ambition of giving form to imagination; Poetical Sketches demonstrates that the second thrust of communicating through poetry was well developed at an early age.

British Museum
Copy D, Plate 11
Poetical Sketches, (E 413)
Love and harmony combine,
And around our souls intwine,
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.

Joys upon our branches sit,    
Chirping loud, and singing sweet;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet
Innocence and virtue meet.

Thou the golden fruit dost bear,
I am clad in flowers fair;    
Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
And the turtle buildeth there.

There she sits and feeds her young,
Sweet I hear her mournful song;
And thy lovely leaves among,
There is love: I hear his tongue.

There his charming nest doth lay,
There he sleeps the night away;
There he sports along the day,
And doth among our branches play." 

Much that is developed in Blake's later poetry is present in these joyful verses. We are challenged to see that disparate items are not separable but 'combine' and 'intwine'. The state of innocence is portrayed in which the imagination is free to play because love and harmony reign.

Perhaps Blake had already formulated the desire that his poetry and illuminations would combine and intertwine as his imagination gained expression in multiple forms which harmonized.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


AMERICA a PROPHECY LAMBETH Printed by William Blake in the year 1793
                                                         PLATE i
America plate i
Rosenwald LC
The shadowy daughter of Urthona stood before red Orc.
When fourteen suns had faintly journey'd o'er his dark abode;
His food she brought in iron baskets, his drink in cups of iron;
 Crown'd with a helmet & dark hair the nameless female stood;
A quiver with its burning stores, a bow like that of night,
When pestilence is shot from heaven; no other arms she need:
 Invulnerable tho' naked, save where clouds roll round her loins,
Their awful folds in the dark air; silent she stood as night;
 For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise;
But dumb till that dread day when Orc assay'd his fierce embrace.
Dark virgin; said the hairy youth, thy father stern abhorr'd;
Rivets my tenfold chains while still on high my spirit soars;
Sometimes an eagle screaming in the sky, sometimes a lion,
Stalking upon the mountains, & sometimes a whale I lash
The raging fathomless abyss, anon a serpent folding
Around the pillars of Urthona, and round thy dark limbs,
On the Canadian wilds I fold, feeble my spirit folds.
For chaind beneath I rend these caverns; when thou bringest food
I howl my joy! and my red eyes seek to behold thy face
In vain! these clouds roll to & fro, & hide thee from my sight.

(taken from saylor):
America, A Prophecy, was first engraved in 1793, in eighteen plates, and deals with Blake's interpretation of the American Revolution. 

Orc (partly from Latin orcus, hell) is the spirit of freedom inspiring the American revolt. He is associated with the classical Titans, with the Norse god Loki, also imprisoned in a "cavern" (line 18) under a mountain, and with Esau, the rightful heir of Isaac (cf. "hairy youth" in line 11 with Gen. 27: 11). 

The "Daughter of Urthona" is the land of America; a new civilization is taking possession

Urthona: the creative power of the imagination, later identified with Los, the hero of most of Blake's prophecies.

fourteen: the age of puberty. 

Iron: Urthona or Los in Blake is a blacksmith: (cf. Isa. 54.16.12] tenfold: 
an allusion to the ten commandments of the moral law, used to restrain the impetus toward freedom.13] 

Eagle: The four animals mentioned here and below represent both the four elements and the four quarters of America.

The two characters here are 'Red Orc' and Enitharmon?  The story of the birth of Orc is elaborated in the Book of Urizen.: 

Chapter VII.  In this plate Orc takes the form of an eagle, a lion, a whale, a serpent. All these figures are elaborated in various places of Blake's poetry.

Book of Urizen  (from The works of William Blake)
1. They namèd the child Orc; he grew,
Fed with milk of Enitharmon.
2. Los awoke her. O sorrow and pain!
A tight'ning girdle grew
Around his bosom. In sobbings
He burst the girdle in twain;
But still another girdle
Oppress'd his bosom. In sobbings
Again he burst it. Again
Another girdle succeeds.
The girdle was form'd by day;
By night was burst in twain.
3. These falling down on the Rock
Into an iron Chain,
In each other link by link lock'd.
4. They took Orc to the top of a mountain.
O how Enitharmon wept!
They chain'd his young limbs to the Rock
With the Chain of Jealousy,
Beneath Urizen's deathful Shadow.
5. The Dead heard the voice of the Child,
And began to awake from sleep;
All things heard the voice of the Child,
And began to awake to life.
6. And Urizen, craving with hunger,
Stung with the odours of Nature,
Explor'd his dens around.
7. He form'd a line and a plummet
To divide the Abyss beneath;
He form'd a dividing rule;
8. He formèd scales to weigh,
He formèd massy weights;
He formèd a brazen quadrant;
He formèd golden compasses,
And began to explore the Abyss;
And he planted a garden of fruits.
9. But Los encircled Enitharmon
With fires of Prophecy
From the sight of Urizen and Orc.
10. And she bore an enormous race.

Monday, August 26, 2013


A spiritual friend whom we met on the internet commented on Larry's recent post Blake's Main Chance. His comment was about people who lead ordinary lives as William Blake did, and accomplish extraordinary things. Larry replied by commenting that he like Whitman had written his book on government time. I followed that hint by searching for a connection between Blake and Whitman. I found a few literary and historical associations which led to Whitman's grave in New Jersey which was patterned after Death's Door in Blake's image for Blair's The Grave. Through a video on YouTube I was able to make a visit to Whitman's home in Camden NJ and his grave which is recognizable as Blake's portrayal of the door through which one passes to reach another dimension. I passed through that door and saw in Camden all the agony in Blake's London which led him to call it Babylon, a place of captivity and oppression. The woe of perceiving the deteriorated city was followed by the joy of hearing the background music and reading that the lyrics were by Woody Guthrie. I wound up hearing the voices and guitar music of my two sons back in the day when we were under the same roof, singing and playing Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, John Lennon, etc. . 

Morgan Library
Plate 14, Copy A 
When the mind is open (or opened) to receiving multiple intimations of images of truth, the connections with the brotherhood of man and with the cosmos are achieved. The wall is breached. We become members of the one body which to Blake is Albion animated by Jesus. 


David Erdman on Page 587 of Blake's Poetry and Designs is attempting to convey a similar idea:

"In other words, when we wind up the thread of  the illuminated poem into the golden ball of a single, dynamic, visualizable orb, we are ready to enter into new expanses, through heaven's gate, built in Jerusalem's wall - or in this instance, through the 'breach in the city ... after the battle.' It may be as Frye says, that Blake 'hardly seems to have noticed that he had perfected a radically new form of mixed art.' He hardly seem to have  cared, any more than he cared to question a window concerning his sight. It mattered little to him whether picture penetrated poem or poem penetrated picture, if only their  human, apocalyptic meaning would penetrate our hearts and minds."

Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)
"It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine"
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 37)
"Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."
Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this?" 
Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me            
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not"
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
Built in Jerusalems wall."
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it
will be Questiond When the Sun rises  do  you  not  see  a  round 
Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable
company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord
God Almighty I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any
more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight I look
thro it & not with it."    

Sunday, August 25, 2013

america 0

Ruler and Oppressed

David Erdman, who wrote Prophet Against Empire. told us that 'Gwin, King of Norway', a poem written several years before America a Prophecy was a very apt precursor to Blake's America a Prophecy. Gwin might be considered a type, of which there are many antitypes in Blake's poetry. The second antitype might be 'Europe a Prophecy, but there are many others.  Gwin might be considered a pattern for the old story of this 'vale of tears'.
The shrewd 'gets ahead' and all too often at the expense of his less gifted brothers.  That's the story of life beginning with Genesis and coming right down to the 21st century (look also at Amos).

The outcome is also everlasting:
The Grey Monk:
"The hand of Vengeance found the Bed
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head
And became a Tyrant in his stead."
(Erdman 490)


 Come, kings, and listen to my song,
When Gwin, the son of Nore,
Over the nations of the North His cruel sceptre bore:
 The Nobles of the land did feed Upon the hungry Poor;
They tear the poor man's lamb, and drive The needy from their door!
 The land is desolate; our wives And children cry for bread;
 Arise, and pull the tyrant down; Let Gwin be humbled.

Gordred the giant rous'd himself From sleeping in his cave;
Erdman (page 21) related Gordred to George Washington.)
He shook the hills, and in the clouds The troubl'd banners wave.
Beneath them roll'd, like tempests black, The num'rous sons of blood;
Like lions' whelps, roaring abroad, Seeking their nightly food.
 Down Bleron's hills they dreadful rush, Their cry ascends the clouds;
The trampling horse, and clanging arms Like rushing mighty floods!
 Their wives and children, weeping loud, Follow in wild array,
Howling like ghosts, furious as wolves In the bleak wintry day.

 "Pull down the tyrant to the dust, "Let Gwin be humbled," They cry;
"and let ten thousand lives Pay for the tyrant's head."
Ten thousand lives is modest when compared to what it cost to put
down, Hitler for example.
 From tow'r to tow'r the watchmen cry, "O Gwin, the son of Nore,
"Arouse thyself! the nations black, "Like clouds, come rolling o'er!"
 Gwin rear'd his shield, his palace shakes, His chiefs come rushing round;
... They stand around the King;
Then suddenly each seiz'd his spear, And clashing steel does ring,
 The husbandman does leave his plow, To wade thro' fields of gore;
The merchant binds his brows in steel, And leaves the trading shore:
 The shepherd leaves his mellow pipe, And sounds the trumpet shrill;
 The workman throws his hammer down To heave the bloody bill.
...Gwin leads his host as black as night, When pestilence does fly.
 With horses and with chariots-- And all his spearmen bold,
March to the sound of mournful song, Like clouds around him roll'd.
 Gwin lifts his hand--the nations halt; "Prepare for war," he cries--
Gordred appears!--his frowning brow  Troubles our northern skies.
The armies stand, like balances Held in th' Almighty's hand;--

 "Gwin, thou hast fill'd thy measure up, "Thou'rt swept from out the land."
(like Blake's Nebuchadnezzar)
wiki common
Blake's comment on Daniel

Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Rosenwald LC

 And now the raging armies rush'd, Like warring mighty seas;
 The Heav'ns are shook with roaring war, The dust ascends the skies!
 Earth smokes with blood, and groans, and shakes, To drink her childrens' gore,
A sea of blood; nor can the eye See to the trembling shore!
 And on the verge of this wild sea Famine and death doth cry;
The cries of women and of babes. Over the field doth fly.
 The King is seen raging afar; With all his men of might;
Like blazing comets, scattering death Thro' the red fev'rous night.
 Beneath his arm like sheep they die, And groan upon the plain;
The battle faints, and bloody men Fight upon hills of slain.
 Now death is sick, and riven men Labour and toil for life;
 Steed rolls on steed, and shield on shield, Sunk in this sea of strife!
 The god of war is drunk with blood, The earth doth faint and fail;
 The stench of blood makes sick the heav'ns; Ghosts glut the throat of hell!
 O what have Kings to answer for, Before that awful throne!
When thousand deaths for vengeance cry, And ghosts accusing groan!
 Like blazing comets in the sky, That shake the stars of light,
Which drop like fruit unto the earth, Thro' the fierce burning night;
 Like these did Gwin and Gordred meet, And the first blow decides;
Down from the brow unto the breast Gordred his head divides! Gwin fell;
the Sons of Norway fled, All that remain'd alive;
..Who mourn'd his sons, and overwhelm'd The pleasant south country.
(Erdman 417-20) .

Saturday, August 24, 2013


The congruence in the thought of William Blake and Walt Whitman noted in Swinburne's publication of 1868 draws attention in current studies.
From William Blake: A Critical Essay, 1868, by Algernon Charles Swinburne:

"Their casual audacities of expression or speculation are in effect wellnigh identical. Their outlooks and theories are evidently the same on all points of intellectual and social life. The divine devotion and selfless love which make men martyrs and prophets are alike visible and palpable in each. It is no secret now, but a matter of public knowledge, that both these men, being poor in the sight and the sense of the world, have given what they had of time or of money, of labour or of love, to comfort and support all the suffering and sick, all the afflicted and misused, whom they had the chance or the right to succour and to serve. The noble and gentle labours of the one are known to those who live in his time; the similar deeds of the other deserve and demand a late recognition. No man so poor and so obscure as Blake appeared in the eyes of his generation ever did more good works in a more noble and simple spirit. It seems that in each of these men at their birth pity and passion, and relief and redress of wrong, became incarnate and innate. That may well be said of the one which was said of the other: that “he looks like a man.” And in externals and details the work of these two constantly and inevitably coheres and coincides. A sound as of a sweeping wind; a prospect as over dawning continents at the fiery instant of a sudden sunrise; a splendour now of stars and now of storms; an expanse and exultation of wing across strange spaces of air and above shoreless stretches of sea; a resolute and reflective love of liberty in all times and in all things where it should be;...these are qualities common to the work of either."

Sarah Ferguson-Wagstaffe of Harvard University published an article titled: "Points of Contact": Blake and Whitman in the University of Maryland's Romantic Circles. The author demonstrates the connection Whitman had with Blake and comments on the similarities between the style and content of their poetry. A specific reference by Whitman to an influence by William Blake is not found. 

Here is  a passage showing how the fluidity of experience in the non-material world is portrayed by both Blake and Whitman:  
"16 - While the mythic characters in Blake’s poems contract and expand through perception, Whitman, or a version of Whitman, in Song of Myself, contracts and expands through touch. Whitman’s lexicon of expansion is extensive: for example, in Song of Myself, he "chant[s] a new chant of dilation" (428), he is "Partaker of influx and efflux," (462), and flies as "the fluid and swallowing soul" (799). It is also important to note that Whitman, as the subject of Song of Myself, is multiple: he incorporates "other" voices through and as his own. Ronald Beck explains that "At times the speaker seems to be a persona named Walt Whitman, at other times the voice of all mankind, at other times the voice of the mystical unity at the center of all being. Not only does the point of view shift, but it is often difficult to tell exactly when it shifts, and it is sometimes impossible to tell which voice is speaking" (35). The speaker in Song of Myself expands into a kosmos: "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, / Disorderly fleshy and sensual" (499-500). "Many long dumb" and "forbidden voices" filter out through his expansive body, and then, in a moment reminiscent of Blake’s "Human Form Divine" and his assertion that "every Minute Particular is Holy: / Embraces are Cominglings: From the Head even to the Feet," Whitman proclaims, "Divine I am inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from" (Jerusalem 69.42-3, Song of Myself 526)"

The Everlasting Gospel, (E 522)
"Love too long from Me has fled.
Twas dark deceit to Earn my bread      
Twas Covet or twas Custom or
Some trifle not worth caring for 
That they may call a shame & Sin 
Loves Temple that God dwelleth in
And hide in secret hidden Shrine      
The Naked Human form divine
.And render that a Lawless thing
On which the Soul Expands its wing"
Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 223) 
"Hence the Infernal Veil grows in the disobedient Female:
Which Jesus rends & the whole Druid Law removes away
From the Inner Sanctuary: a False Holiness hid within the Center,
For the Sanctuary of Eden. is in the Camp: in the Outline,
In the Circumference: & every Minute Particular is Holy:
Embraces are Cominglings: from the Head even to the Feet;
And not a pompous High Priest entering by a Secret Place.

Jerusalem pined in her inmost soul over Wandering Reuben         
As she slept in Beulahs Night hid by the Daughters of Beulah"

The Library of Congress collection is a source for extensive material concerning Walt Whitman as well as a repository for an impressive collection of William Blake's Illuminated Books. Their Exhibition, Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass includes a letter from Whitman in which Blake is discussed:

This letter's envelope bears the address, "William D. O'Connor, | Light House Bureau, | Treasury Department, | Washington, | D.C." It is postmarked: "New York | Sep | 28."

"Swinton has lately been posting himself about William Blake, his poems—has the new London edition of W. B. in two vols.8 He, Swinton, gives me rather new information in one respect—says that the formal resemblance between several pieces of Blake, & my pieces, is so marked that he, S, has, with persons that partially know me, passed them off temporarily for mine, & read them aloud as such. He asked me pointedly whether I had not met with Blake's productions in my youth, &c—said that Swinburne's idea of resemblance &c was not so wild, after all. Quite funny, isn't it?9"

The sketch of Whitman's burial vault which he designed in the form of Blake's illustration to Robert Blair's The Grave is included in this exhibition:
Illustration for Blair's The Grave
Death's Door

Sites familiar to Whitman and his burial vault are visited in this video.
In his final writings to be included in Leaves of Grass, written in 1891 and titled Good-Bye My Fancy, Whitman wrote these lines which which express Blake's sentiments as well:

"In its highest aspect, and striking its grandest average, essential Poetry expresses and goes along with essential Religion--has been and is more the adjunct and more serviceable to that true religion (for of course there is a false one, and plenty of it,) than all the priests and creeds and churches that now exist or have ever existed-"

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thel all

From wikipedia:
"The daughters of Mne Seraphim are all shepherdesses in the Vales of Har, apart from the youngest, Thel. She spends her time wandering on her own, trying to find the answer to the question that torments her: why does the springtime of life inevitably fade so that all things must end? She meets the Lily of the Valley who tries to comfort her. When Thel remains uncomforted, the Lily sends her on to ask the Cloud. The Cloud explains that he is part of a natural process and, although he sometimes disappears, he is never gone forever. Thel replies that she is not like the Cloud and when she disappears she will not return. So the Cloud suggests asking the same question of the Worm. The Worm is still a child and cannot answer. Instead it is the Worm’s mother, the Clod of Clay, who answers. The Clod explains that we do not live for ourselves, but for others. She invites Thel to enter into her underground realm and see the dark prison of the dead where Thel herself will one day reside. However, Thel is assailed by mysterious voices asking a whole series of yet more terrible questions about existence. Uttering a shriek, she flees back to her home in the Vales of Har. The pit represents sex and mortality of life, while the Vales of Har represent virginity and eternity. The first part of the poem shows the good part of life as in Songs of Innocence whereas the concluding part shows that life is full of sorrows where smiles are never seen, as in Songs of Experience.
The question is 'Why the physical senses darken the soul by excluding it from the wisdom and joy of eternity?'.Thel is the allegory of the unborn spirit who has gathered experience from her own discoveries and has decided to remain forever innocent."
From Damon:
"The Book of Thel is best understood as a rewriting of Milton's Comus..
Blake tells the same story, but in biological terms, not moral ones."


      The Author & Printer Willm Blake, 1789.

            THEL'S Motto,

 Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
 Or wilt thou go ask the Mole:
 Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
 Or Love in a golden bowl?

Rosenwald LC

Rosenwald LC

Thel 1
Rosenwald LC



The daughters of Mne Seraphim led round their sunny flocks.     
All but the youngest; she in paleness sought the secret air.
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard:
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew.          

O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring? born but to smile & fall.
Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud.
Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water.
Like dreams of infants. like a smile upon an infants face,       
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air;
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head.          
And gentle sleep the sleep of death. and gentle hear the voice  
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time.

The Lilly of the valley breathing in the humble grass            
Answer'd the lovely maid and said; I am a watry weed,
And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head.
Yet I am visited from heaven and he that smiles on all.
Walks in the valley. and each morn over me spreads his hand      
Saying, rejoice thou humble grass, thou new-born lilly flower,
Thou gentle maid of silent valleys. and of modest brooks;
For thou shalt be clothed in light, and fed with morning manna:
Till summers heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs
To flourish in eternal vales: then why should Thel complain, 

Five human figures soar around the title-word "Thel" (line 1): a nude man reaching toward a large eagle, a nude man holding a sword and shield, and a gowned woman holding a small child in her outstretched arms. Below, a nude man rests on the branch of a tree (or perhaps a tassel of grain) and looks up toward the child. Spiraling vines and stylized flowers, perhaps lilies, spring from several of the title letters. The design does not represent any specific incident in the text, but the man with shield and spear may be one of the "thousand fighting men" referred to near the end of the poem (plate 8, line 16).
(From Blake Archive)

Thel Plate 2
Why should the mistress of the vales of Har, utter a sigh.
She ceasd & smild in tears, then sat down in her silver shrine.
Thel answerd. O thou little virgin of the peaceful valley.
Giving to those that cannot crave, the voiceless, the 
Thy breath doth nourish the innocent lamb, he smells thy milky

He crops thy flowers. while thou sittest smiling in his face,
Wiping his mild and meekin mouth from all contagious taints.
Thy wine doth purify the golden honey, thy perfume,
Which thou dost scatter on every little blade of grass that
Revives the milked cow, & tames the fire-breathing steed.        
But Thel is like a faint cloud kindled at the rising sun:
I vanish from my pearly throne, and who shall find my place.

Queen of the vales the Lilly answerd, ask the tender cloud,
And it shall tell thee why it glitters in the morning sky,
And why it scatters its bright beauty thro' the humid air.       
Descend O little cloud & hover before the eyes of Thel.

The Cloud descended, and the Lilly bowd her modest head:
And went to mind her numerous charge among the verdant grass.

We meet Har in a previously written Blake poem called Tiriel,
where he is said to correspond to old Adam before the apple was eaten.
In Thel Har may be thought to be the Heaven of the nymphs awaiting mortal birth.
The Lilly of the Valley, who has lived corporeally as well as 
eternally, addresses the question To Thel which begins Plate 2.
Thel answers describing the Lilly's activities on the Earth. 
And she describes her fears of vanishing (with mortal death of course).
This early work of Blake's is a discussion of life and death. 
Thel fears to live mortally because she fears death and after 
hearing of the four facets of mortal life she chose not to live 
mortally, but continue in the vale of Har, which has been variously 
interpreted as selfcenteredness or simply fear to take a chance about life. 
It is only the daring souls who choose Experience.
The birch tree is said to be the queen of the forest; this one has a single
branch and under it Thel stands in a regal way.  In front are a small
group of lilies, the main (largest one bowing deeply as to a queen). Smaller 
stems are waiting for their turn.

Thel Plate 3

O little Cloud the virgin said, I charge thee tell to me,
Why thou complainest not when in one hour thou fade away:
Then we shall seek thee but not find; ah Thel is like to thee.
I pass away. yet I complain, and no one hears my voice.

The Cloud then shew'd his golden bead & his bright form emerg'd, 
Hovering and glittering on the air before the face of Thel.

O virgin know'st thou not. our steeds drink of the golden springs
Where Luvah doth renew his horses: look'st thou on my youth,  
And fearest thou because I vanish and am seen no more.
Nothing remains; O maid I tell thee, when I pass away,           
It is to tenfold life, to love, to peace, and raptures holy:
Unseen descending, weigh my light wings upon balmy flowers;
And court the fair eyed dew. to take me to her shining tent;
The weeping virgin, trembling kneels before the risen sun,
Till we arise link'd in a golden band, and never part;           
But walk united, bearing food to all our tender flowers

Dost thou O little Cloud? I fear that I am not like thee;
For I walk through the vales of Har. and smell the sweetest
But I feed not the little flowers: I hear the warbling birds,
But I feed not the warbling birds. they fly and seek their food; 
But Thel delights in these no more because I fade away,
And all shall say, without a use this shining woman liv'd,
Or did she only live. to be at death the food of worms.

The Cloud reclind upon his airy throne and answer'd thus:
Then if thou art the food of worms. O virgin of the skies,       
How great thy use. how great thy blessing; every thing that
Lives not alone, nor for itself: fear not and I will call
The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice.
Come forth worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen.

The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lillys leaf,           
And the bright Cloud saild on, to find his partner in the vale.

There is little or nothing pictorial in this plate. Erdman, in The
Illuminated Blake tells us that it is "a curving branch of the seven
flowered lilly stem" of the previous plate.

The cloud is a very common symbol in Blake's poetry. Look for example at the
Introduction to Songs of Innocence. From this we might surmise that the
Cloud is a general symbol for dreams and visions.

The virgin speaking is of course Thel. 'Virgin' in this context suggests that
she has never beeen exposed to Experience or Mortal Life; she doesn't
understand why anything else would.

The cloud understands and tells Thel that though she pass away she will be
renewed tenfold.

Thel says it's not like that for her; she will fade away; she will eventually
be food for worms.

The (masculine) cloud returns: "How great thy use".  That's reminiscent of Walt
Whitmans statement to the dying soldier:  "I do not commiserate—I congratulate 

Thel Plate 4
Rosenwald LC

Then Thel astonish'd view'd the Worm upon its dewy bed.

Art thou a Worm? image of weakness. art thou but a Worm?
I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lillys leaf:
Ah weep not little voice, thou can'st not speak. but thou can'st
Is this a Worm? I see thee lay helpless & naked: weeping,      
And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mothers smiles.

The Clod of Clay heard the Worms voice, & raisd her pitying head;
She bowd over the weeping infant, and her life exhal'd
In milky fondness, then on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes.

O beauty of the vales of Har. we live not for ourselves,         
Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed;
My bosom of itself is cold. and of itself is dark,

There are three figures here: in the top is the cloud like a naked male
flying and waving goodbye to Thel, the larger figure taking up most of
of the picture. The cloud has just introduced the worm, the small figure
at the bottom of the picture; it's in the middle of the lily cluster.

Thel sees the worm like a weeping infant.

The Clod of Clay also sees the (infant) worm and hears it weeping.  She
provides a motherly 'milky fondness' (worms generally live in clay). Then
she looked at Thel and told her "we live not for ourselves".
We might suppose that the life of a clod of clay must be pretty attenuated, and we 
might well conclude that generosity and love must be the foundation of the world.
Thel explains again, this time to the Clod of Clay why she had complained, and the 
Clod invites her to come on and live (mortally): 
"Wilt thou O Queen enter my house," 
By 'house' Blake meant of course the earth, the mortal world.

But he that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head.
And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast.

And says; Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee.
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away
But how this is sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know,       
I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.

The daughter of beauty wip'd her pitying tears with her white
And said. Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep:
That God would love a Worm I knew, and punish the evil foot
That wilful, bruis'd its helpless form: but that he cherish'd it 
With milk and oil, I never knew; and therefore did I weep,
And I complaind in the mild air, because I fade away,
And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot.
Queen of the vales, the matron Clay answerd; I heard thy sighs.
And all thy moans flew o'er my roof. but I have call'd them down:
Wilt thou O Queen enter my house. 'tis given thee to enter,
And to return; fear nothing. enter with thy virgin feet.

The words of the Clod of Clay or the matron Clay fill the first paragraph.

She describes the blessed role that she has in God's plan; she understands that she is the mother of all those who come into mortal life.

Thel sits in a group of flowers, her arms folded over her breasts and watches the matron clay and the infant worm.

On the left above Thel's head is a large bud and on the right a large flower.

Finally the Cloud of Clay (the world) invites the Queen to come in and to return; that is an invitation we all have heard and responded to.
(See post.)


The eternal gates terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel enter'd in & saw the secrets of the land unknown;
She saw the couches of the dead, & where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows & of tears where never smile was seen.

She wanderd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, listning
Dolours & lamentations: waiting oft beside a dewy grave
She stood in silence. listning to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave plot she came, & there she sat down.
And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit.     

Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
Or the glistning Eye to the poison of a smile!
Why are Eyelids stord with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
Or an Eye of gifts & graces, show'ring fruits & coined gold!  
Why a Tongue impress'd with honey from every wind?
Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror trembling & affright.
Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy!
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?          

The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek.
Fled back unhinderd till she came into the vales of Har
                  The End

(Erdman 3-6)

The northern bar: From the beginning of time Eternity and
Time are the primary divisions of kinds of reality. Materalists
have considered Reality to be in Time, while spiritually minded
people consider that the primary Reality resides in Eternity.

Thel has been living in 'Paradise' (called the 'vales of Har'),
but she wants to have a look at the other side. The 'Northern
Bar' opened the 'eternal gates' allowing Thel to 'have a look'

Blake likely had several sources for the 'northern bar', but
none better than one of his favorite English poets. The Faerie
Queene by Edmund Spenser includes these lines:

"It cited was in fruitful soul of old
And girt in with two walls on either side
The one of iron, the other of bright gold
That none might thorough breake, nor over-stride;
And double gates it had which opened wide,
By which both in and out men might pass.
The one faire and fresh, the other old and dride:"

This has been described as the northern and southern bar.

Plate 6 of Thel describes what she saw there and how she reacted.
She saw the '
the land unknown', the 'land of sorrows & of tears'(commonly known as 'this vale of tears'), 'the land of clouds'.
Well she didn't think much of it.

Blake gave another instance of that (nymphatic) reaction in the
Sea of Time and Space; there you see the northern stairway with
one nymph vigorously climbing the stairs against the stream of
those headed for the 'sea'.

Thel came many years before the Arlington Tempera, but the idea,
the concept had not changed. In Blake's myth those in Eternity
may choose to come down into material life. In fact the story
(like the story of the Bible) concerns the Fall and the Return.
You might say that Thel chose not to fall. The rest of us are
here because we fell.


This poem came very early in Blake's career while the Arlington Tempera came much later.
But if you have access to a larger image you may discern among the naiads descending into mortal life one who is going against the stream.  Like Thel she has tasted the sorrow of The Sea of Time and Space and chose not to partake.
     Here is a full explanation.