Monday, October 28, 2013

The Word

Northrup Frye was a famous literary critic and a great deal can be found about him on the
web. A Canadian,  Frye went to seminary and became a parish minister; then  he went to 
Oxford and got an M.A. in English Literature. He wrote his thesis on William Blake.

Many books came from his pen; the first one was Fearful Symmetry (1944). Frye opens the
door to a depth understanding of Blake's poetry (and pictures).  It took five readings of Fearful 
Symmetry (30 years ago) to begin to open my mind to William Blake.

In the eighties, near the end of his life, Frye published two monumental volumes of  "The Bible as
Literature";  they speak directly to the depth understanding of our poet.

Some of the statements in 'The Word with the Word' (chapter five of Fearful Symmetry) may sound
enigmatic;  just stay with them, and light will come.  This chapter is a lucid description of Frye's 
primary gift to literature, to meaning and religion.

All words are metaphors; the meanings they convey depend upon the author's mind - and frame 
of mind when he writes them; and upon the reader's (or hearer's) mind when he reads or hears 
them. (Most of the purposeless arguments over virtually anything stem from failure to understand 
this basic  fact.)

For Western culture the Bible is the Great Code of Art; it embodies the Universal Myth, basically
fourfold: Creation, The Fall, Redemption, Apocalypse. Blake believed that it was the guiding 
myth undergirding virtually all discourse.
(From Fearful Symmetry, p. 109):
"Blake's poetry is all related to a central myth... and the primary basis of this myth is the Bible.
The Bible is  the archetype of Western culture, and the Bible...provides the basis for most
of our major art."

The word of God was Jesus (cf John 1). Anything that you say or write may be the Word of   God--  the Jesus in you (Paul).

In Plate 3 of Jerusalem (Erdman p. 145) we may read: "I also hope the Reader will be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of Fire and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling &  amazement. The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of sin".
This is the Word in Blake's consciousness.

From Jerusalem, (Erdman p. 180):
"Saying. Albion! Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:
Mutual in one anothers love and wrath all renewing
We live as One Man; for contracting our infinite senses
We behold multitude; or expanding: we behold as one,
As One Man all the Universal Family; and that One Man
We call Jesus the Christ: and he in us, and we in him,
Live in perfect harmony in Eden the land of life,
Giving, receiving, and forgiving each others trespasses.
He is the Good shepherd, he is the Lord and master:
He is the Shepherd of Albion, he is all in all,
In Eden: in the garden of God: and in heavenly Jerusalem."

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