A young man with his hat in his hand stands before dense vegetation as if he intends to capture the flying human figure who is fleeing from him. At his feet lies another small figure appearing lifeless. If we see the two small figures as female we could interpret the image as an adolescent who has freed himself from a devouring mother and is in pursuit of his anima who would lead him into the next stage of his development. But the caption and the Key to the plate indicate Blake may have been saying something more complex.
|British Museum |
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 9, (E 263)
"7 What are these? Alas! the Female Martyr
Is She also the Divine Image"
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268)
"7 One Dies! Alas! the Living & Dead
One is slain & One is fled"
The role of the female in Blake is ambivalent because of the differences between life in Eternity and life in the natural world. The image which represents man's Soul or his 'perception of the infinite' in Eternity becomes in the Generative world the force which struggles to prevent him from returning to Eternity. Jerusalem is the most constructive force in man; Jerusalem's shadow Vala is the most destructive.
Vala must die that Jerusalem might live. By doing so she may become the Female Martyr who is the Divine Image. But if Vala were slain, Jerusalem would flee. The two are contraries and complete one another. One of Blake's great insights was the enemy could only be annihilated by accepting it as a brother/sister.
This Plate is early in the journey toward wholeness. The young man is only now learning that by slaying one contrary he will cause the other to flee.
Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 104 (SECOND PORTION), (E 377) "The war roard round Jerusalems Gates it took a hideous form Seen in the aggregate a Vast Hermaphroditic form Heavd like an Earthquake labring with convulsive groans Intolerable at length an awful wonder burst From the Hermaphroditic bosom Satan he was namd Son of Perdition terrible his form dishumanizd monstrous A male without a female counterpart a howling fiend Fo[r]lorn of Eden & repugnant to the forms of life Yet hiding the shadowy female Vala as in an ark & Curtains Abhorrd accursed ever dying an Eternal death Being multitudes of tyrant Men in union blasphemous Against the divine image. Congregated Assemblies of wicked men Los said to Enitbarmon Pitying I saw Pitying the Lamb of God Descended thro Jerusalems gates To put off Mystery time after time & as a Man Is born on Earth so was he born of Fair Jerusalem In mysterys woven mantle & in the Robes of Luvah He stood in fair Jerusalem to awake up into Eden The fallen Man but first to Give his vegetated body To be cut off & separated that the Spiritual body may be Reveald"